In 2018, the Ravens surrounded Lamar Jackson with a collection of tight ends and seemed content to attack the middle of the field with their play-action-heavy passing game. Rookie Mark Andrews emerged as the team’s best pass-catching option, and first-round pick Hayden Hurst also played into the equation after returning from injury four games into the season.
This offseason, though, the Ravens have shown that they’re interested in finding potential stars on the outside as well. Baltimore took Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown in the first round before adding Notre Dame product Miles Boykin in the third. The unifying trait among those picks is pure speed. The 220-pound Boykin ran a 4.42 in the 40 at the combine, and even though Brown missed the combine with a foot injury, he was considered the fastest player in the entire draft. Players like Boykin and Brown would be vertical threats in most offenses, but for the Ravens, they should also get to show off their burners on screens and other short passes.
The same should go for rookie running back Justice Hill, who blazed a 4.4 40 time at the combine. To go along with all that speed, the Ravens also signed Mark Ingram to a three-year, $15 million deal. Ingram will occupy the role Gus Edwards did in last year’s Baltimore offense—the downhill battering ram that can take advantage of the space Jackson’s running ability provides. Baltimore’s system is unlike any other in the league, and with Brown, Boykin, and Hill now in the fold, the athleticism of this team makes this approach as scary as it is novel.
When he joined the Ravens as an undrafted inside linebacker last year, Board was a longshot to make the team. Then practices started, and Board kept having one strong day after another. Then the preseason started, and Board kept making plays at linebacker and on special teams.
Board led the Ravens with 30 preseason tackles in 2018, and instead of getting cut, he became a Raven.
“Wink spoke with me about coming in, stepping up and expanding my role, especially compared to last year. He definitely told me I’ll have a bigger role on defense. My biggest stride would be in my communication. I definitely am more vocal this year. It’s not just knowing my position but knowing everyone else’s position as well.”
“You definitely have to pay your dues on special teams before you can think about stepping onto the field on defense,” Board said. “I feel like I’m one of the guys that could be next in the lineage of free agent linebackers that have done really well here. I’m ready to see what happens.”
Baltimore Ravens’ undrafted rookies: Assessing the path onto the 53-man roster at each position - Aaron Kasinitz
Undrafted players: Silas Stewart (Incarnate Word), E.J. Ejiya (North Texas), Otaro Alaka (Texas A&M)
Path to the roster: Open
Skinny: Two of the top three inside linebackers on Baltimore’s depth chart — Onwuasor and Chris Board — joined the team as undrafted rookies in the past four years. The Ravens’ history of unearthing productive linebackers on the undrafted free agent market extends well beyond that, to Zach Orr, Albert McClellan and Dannell Ellerbe, among others. So any of the new faces will have a chance to carve out space on the 53-man roster, especially if they can offer aid on special teams.
If Lamar Jackson is still ahead of the curve, Ravens will be hard to stop this season - Kenneth Arthur
Since winning the Super Bowl in 2000, their fifth season as a Baltimore franchise, the Ravens have been to the playoffs 11 times in 19 years. Harbaugh helped lead them to the postseason in five of his first six seasons but since their surprising 2012 Super Bowl win, Baltimore has been to the postseason in only two of six opportunities with only one victory. Much of that failure has to fall on the commitment to Joe Flacco, who turned a good postseason run into over $100 million and a six-season run in which he had a rating of 82.3, averaging 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions per year.
And finally, Flacco is gone from Baltimore. The Ravens turned to Lamar Jackson after their Week 10 Bye and won six of their last seven games, turning from 4-5 into a wild card game against the LA Chargers. Jackson helped make a game of it, throwing two touchdowns in the final seven minutes and driving with under a minute to go and a six-point deficit, but fumbled away hopes of a comeback win. Still, fans were enthralled by the possibility of an NFL offense that could be centered around a quarterback of Jackson’s unique skills and I think we’re all pretty curious ....