NFL summer subplots: One burning question for each AFC team - Jeremy Bergman
Baltimore Ravens: Will John Harbaugh’s team continue to run it up?
No team last year experienced a more jarring midseason change in philosophy than Baltimore, which swapped Joe Flacco out for Lamar Jackson and immediately became the most feared ground attack in football. Over their final seven regular-season games, during which they crawled back from sub.-500 to a division title, the Ravens averaged 229.6 rushing yards per game with Jackson leading the charge (logging 17 attempts and 79.4 yards per game). Baltimore doubled down on that ground-and-pound approach this offseason by signing Mark Ingram and drafting Justice Hill. Meanwhile, the Ravens lost aging receiving talent (Michael Crabtree, John Brown) but added rookie standouts Hollywood Brown and Miles Boykin to pair with a trio of useful tight ends. The Ravens are Lamar’s team now, but as the first three quarters of their wild-card defeat to the Chargers exposed, Baltimore’s reliance on the run might not hold up over a full campaign -- or against teams that now have half a season’s worth of tape on how the Ravens use their dynamic QB. Baltimore has the personnel to pace the league in rushing attempts again. Whether, in Jackson’s sophomore season, the Ravens change their course will be something to monitor early on in 2019.
NFL offseason agendas: To-do lists for all 16 AFC teams - Bill Barnwell
Add defensive help. The Ravens have shed front-seven pieces this offseason, and in return, they’ve ... brought back Pernell McPhee and signed former Broncos first-rounder Shane Ray. They already had plenty of talent and will promote from within, but they could sorely use veteran help. They can already line up a pair of fearsome defensive linemen in Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, but I admit I find the idea of the Ravens signing Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy and threatening teams with interior pressure to be extremely enticing. With $14.5 million in cap space, the Ravens could make a short-term deal work.
Work on re-signing Pierce, Matt Judon, and Patrick Onwuasor. I wasn’t kidding about the front-seven thing. The Ravens lost four of their top five defenders there in terms of 2018 snap count in C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and Brent Urban, and they can’t afford to keep shedding that talent. Pierce, Judon and Onwuasor are all unrestricted free agents in 2020, and with Joe Flacco’s contract finally coming off of the books, the Ravens will have nearly $40 million in cap space. The goal should be to re-sign two of their three young stars.
Offensive Line Is Mostly Unchanged, And That’s OK - John Eisenberg
The analytic gurus at Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders generally liked what they saw from the O-line in 2018. The Ravens ranked No. 10 in PFF’s O-line power rankings. Football Outsiders rated them No. 9 in run blocking and No. 8 in pass protection.
Those are high grades. But my two cents, they’re countered to a degree by what happened in the Ravens’ playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The line got pushed around, especially up the middle.
Ronnie Stanley is “one of the best left tackles in the league,” according to PFF. Orlando Brown Jr. has taken command at right tackle. Marshal Yanda was the NFL’s third-highest-rated guard in 2018, according to PFF.
That’s a solid foundation. And Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta doesn’t sound too worried about the other slots.