Case for: Lamar Jackson is a winner and will only get better as an NFL quarterback with experience. I loved Eric DeCosta’s highest-profile moves this offseason: signing RB Mark Ingram and S Earl Thomas in free agency and then drafting blazing WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown in the first round. John Harbaugh is one of the league’s better coaches. And new offensive coordinator Greg Roman knows exactly how to maximize Jackson’s explosive skill set.
Early take: I expect the Ravens to hit nine wins. I am a huge Lamar Jackson fan, and believe he can take this league by storm with more refinement on the passing front. Still, I’ll have to monitor Jackson’s progress in camp and the preseason before I decide whether or not to put Baltimore in the playoffs.
Predictions Offer Ravens Plenty of Motivation - John Eisenberg
Projections for the Ravens are, quite simply, all over the map. They’re going to win. They’re going to lose. They’re going to the playoffs. They’re going to crater.
Along similar lines, the odds on the Ravens winning Super Bowl 54 have fluctuated little during the offseason at most Las Vegas and online sports books. You might think their prospects have gone up and down as various subtractions and additions have unfolded, but their odds were around 40-1 in February and they’re still around 40-1, a middle-of-the pack figure.
Decades ago, when asked about his inability to predict what a military opponent would do, Winston Churchill famously said it was “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
That seems like an appropriate summation of how football’s chattering class sees the Ravens in 2019.
Personally, I don’t think they’re that mysterious. They’ve gotten younger. They’ve got a ton of speed. They’ve experienced some change. We’ll see how it all works out, but I think they look like a winning team, a playoff contender.
The 2019 All-New-Team Team - Danny Heifetz
Safety: Earl Thomas
Old team: Seattle Seahawks
New team: Baltimore Ravens
Of all the defenders to switch teams this offseason, Thomas will be the strangest to see in a new jersey. His tenure in Seattle alone is Hall of Fame–worthy. For years, the ground Thomas was able to cover was so large that Seattle was able to try things on defense other teams simply could not. He was the axle on which the Legion of Boom wheel spun, and without him, the wheels often came off. As the Football Outsiders Almanac noted in its breakdown of the Ravens, the Seahawks were a different defense when Thomas was hurt.
Baltimore won’t have as fierce of a linebacking corp or pass rush after losing Za’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley in free agency, but inserting Thomas into defensive coordinator Don Martindale’s defense might more than make up for it.
If he returns to previous form, he could do for Baltimore’s defense what he once did for Seattle’s, and the Ravens could be a serious contender.
Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson: Using advanced stats to address perceptions about QB’s rookie year - Aaron Kasinitz
Perception 3: Jackson struggled to make sound decisions and read NFL defenses
Jackson threw three interceptions on 170 (1.76 percent) regular-season passing attempts, a rate that ranked as the 12th best among qualifying quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Nick Foles all threw picks at a higher rate last season than Jackson.
Though defenses often try to confuse quarterbacks with creative blitzes or disguised coverages on third downs, the Ravens converted better than 44 percent of third downs during Jackson’s seven starts, among the best rates in the league.
Verdict: This perception is invalid. Jackson underwent a learning process as a rookie, but his low interception rate and the team’s success on third downs paint the picture of a quarterback who was prepared and rarely fooled. The Ravens reworked the playbook this spring and winter to better suit Jackson’s talents, and an entire offseason in the system should only improve his understanding of the offense.
There’ll Be No New CBA Without an 18-Game Season - Andrew Brandt
CBA? Only if 18 games
My wish that the NFL and NFLPA move on CBA negotiations appears to have been answered. Reports indicate that talks are happening, even with some momentum. Parallel reports have the NFL raising the issue of a potential 18-game season, with predictable pushback from the union. While the 18-game season will draw much debate, I don’t know see how a CBA is negotiated without it.
Negotiations, by necessity, require concessions by both sides, and each party’s strategy of having “gives” in their arsenal to achieve “gets.”
What if, say, the NFLPA agrees to an 18-game season in return for the players’ revenue share going up two percentage points, from 47% to 49%? These two points would not only, over the life of the deal, move billions of dollars from the owners’ side to the players’ side, but also give the players 49% (not 47%) of the incremental revenue from two extra games per season. There is no other “give” the NFLPA has that is nearly as valuable.