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Ravens News 5/29: The most explosive runner and more

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS Luis M. Alvarez/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Lamar Jackson, Dalvin Cook among NFL’s 10 most explosive runners - Nick Shook

1. Lamar Jackson

Runs of 10-plus yards: 47. 10-plus run pct: 26.7. 15-plus mph pct: 52.8.

Sure, it shows up on television every week, but to see the statistical divide between Jackson and the rest of the league is breathtaking. Jackson carried the ball 176 times in 2019, and he hit a speed of 15 mph or faster on over half of those runs. Add in his ability to stop on a dime, and you see why defenses were so incredibly flummoxed by him for the majority of the season, and why he ended up sprinting (literally) to the MVP award. Jackson’s total of 15-plus mph runs crept toward 100 (93), which is 20 more than the next closest runner on this list — Dalvin Cook, who had 73 — and was by far the most in the entire NFL, regardless of the criteria we listed above. No one was more explosive than Jackson in 2019, and it wasn’t even close.

Baltimore Ravens’ John Harbaugh explains how aspects of new-look defense could shape up - Aaron Kasinitz

Smith at safety?

A logjam at cornerback isn’t an issue for the Ravens. Rather, Harbaugh views the surplus of talent in the secondary as a product of a careful design — Baltimore planned several years ago to begin building its defense “from back to front,” Harbaugh said.

And that could mean the Ravens shift corners to unfamiliar spots to get their best players on the field together in 2020.

Harbaugh said for the first time Thursday that veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith might try his hand at a new position in certain situations.

“Jimmy, his role will probably be to move in there and play some safety also,” Harbaugh said.

Last season, the Ravens found success sliding longtime cornerback Brandon Carr to safety, which allowed Chuck Clark to creep forward and play as a dime linebacker. The overflow of established starters in the secondary could lead to Smith follow suit.

With standout slot cornerback Tavon Young in line to return from a neck injury this year, and All-Pro corners Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters on the roster, Smith doesn’t have a surefire starting job waiting for him this fall. But his presence gives the Ravens great versatility, Harbaugh said.

Baltimore can decide how best to matchup with an opposing offense. Like Young, Humphrey has experienced defending slot receivers, which could allow Smith a path onto the field at cornerback. And if he occasionally plays safety, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale would have another way to tinker with his lineup.

That fits with how the Ravens prefer to play defense.

“We really try to keep the offense off-balance and not understanding who’s where and what so they’re looking at structures they’re not used to looking at,” Harbaugh said. “[We] just try to surprise them, basically.”

John Harbaugh lays out plan for Ravens rookie linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison - Jordan Dajani

During a recent virtual press conference with reporters, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh spoke about what kind of roles Queen would be playing on his defense, and also spoke on third-round pick and fellow linebacker Malik Harrison — who he also expects to be a starter. According to Harbaugh, Queen will likely play at MIKE (inside) linebacker and will indeed be a three-down player. Harrison on the other hand could start on the weak-side, and will also get some reps at MIKE linebacker.

“We expect them to play a lot of football this year,” Harbaugh said, via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

Ray Lewis Says He’d Dedicate This Offseason to Derrick Henry - Clifton Brown

“If I’m anybody that’s playing linebacker right now, I’m saying, ‘Listen here man, Derrick Henry got to deal with me,’” Lewis said on “The Lounge Podcast”. “That’s a personal thing for me. I don’t like the way it went down and I got to see him. I’m going to dedicate this whole offseason to the person that ended my dreams. That’s what we did with (Tom) Brady. Prepare ourselves enough to get me back to that one position and lock that door and throw away the key. You ain’t getting out of here this time. It’s the process of never getting comfortable with losing.”

Last season, the Chiefs prevailed. Next season, Lewis believes it can be the Ravens’ turn.

“We have to get better all the way across the board to finish it next time,” Lewis said. “And it’s the same things we went through. Whether it was ‘99 and didn’t make the playoffs, or whether it was 2011 and a kick way, a catch away, a tackle away.

“What you do next defines who you are. I lost to Pittsburgh, I lost to New England, I lost to a lot of people. The key is, you’ve got to be okay with knowing that you’re in a business that you won’t win every game. That’s factual. Kick yourself and let’s go back to work. There’s going to be one champ. There’s going to be one person crowned at the end of this year. When it’s your year, it’s your year.”