Baltimore’s decision to add Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe might’ve been about adding productive players with the right intangibles. Sure, the veterans are still disruptive pass rushers with solid resumes, but it is their character and work ethic that could really enhance the roster.
These upgrades in personnel will certainly add some leadership to the locker room, but the Ravens still need to discover why they sleep-walked through a playoff game. Rust might’ve played a factor in the 28-12 loss to the Titans. Baltimore rampaged to easy wins over the sub-.500 Jets and Browns in Weeks 15 and 16, before essentially treating the Week 17 contest vs. Pittsburgh like a preseason game. With a bye on Wild Card Weekend, the Ravens had been on cruise control for over a month when they entered the Divisional Round. If Baltimore earns another first-round bye this season, Harbaugh will have to remember how the 2019 group lost its edge. For a young team without significant experience and some potential immaturity woes, the long layoff can enable bad habits to creep in. Newbies might not truly understand the increased intensity and focus required to advance in the postseason. Cutting corners in the film room, weight room or on the practice field can negatively impact game performance when pressure exposes a team’s training habits.
“Guys might’ve let their foot off the gas a little bit,” a Ravens executive told me a few months ago at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Things came so easy that we might’ve let up a bit and lost our focus.
“The little things matter when you get into the playoffs.”
Ranking top 10 QBs for 2020 NFL season: Aaron Rodgers misses cut, Matthew Stafford poised for career year - Sean Wagner-McGough
2. Ravens’ Lamar Jackson
What a first full season as a starting quarterback it was for Jackson, who emerged with a well-deserved MVP trophy after leading the Ravens to the top seed in the AFC. There’s no doubt that Jackson, unlike Wilson, was set up to thrive with an innovative coaching staff that catered the offense to his unique skillset and a top-five defense, but there’s also no doubt that the vast majority of the Ravens’ success came down to Jackson. In 15 games, he went 13-2 while completing 66.1 percent of his passes, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, leading the league in touchdown passes with 36 despite attempting only 401 passes (26th), throwing six interceptions, and posting a 113.3 passer rating. And oh yeah, he broke the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 yards (and seven scores). There’s just not another quarterback like him in the NFL right now — maybe ever.
While some have posited that Jackson could struggle next season now that teams have film on the Ravens’ offense, I lean the other way. I think he might still improve as a passer. This was Jackson’s first full season as an NFL starting quarterback in a new offense with young targets around him. The receivers, like Hollywood Brown and Miles Boykin, should improve in Year 2. Jackson himself should grow more comfortable in the offense. And offensive coordinator Greg Roman should continue to innovate the offense.
Don’t let one bad playoff game lull you into thinking the Ravens are a gimmick. Jackson is poised to terrorize the NFL for the next decade.
Queen, Harrison need to make a quick adjustment for Ravens - Todd Karpovich
Fellow linebacker Matthew Judon said the team will need both players to have key roles.
“I think they both can play. I think those were good picks. I think they’re both solid players, and I think they both can play MIKE and WILL,” Judon said. “They both can run, obviously, you look at their tape. They move all around the field. They can do a lot of things, and we just have to get them adapted quick. We need them. We have a good linebacking corps.
“They’re coming into a great position with [defensive coordinator] ‘Wink’ [Don Martindale] as the DC and Mike [Macdonald] as the linebackers coach. But I feel like they’ve got to come on strong for us, and we’re going to need those young guys to produce and kind of be the middle of the defense. I think they were great picks.”
50 Words or Less - John Eisenberg
No one wants this, but who would replace Ronnie Stanley or Orlando Brown Jr. if either tackle missed a game due to injury? I’m sure the Ravens’ decision-makers are asking that question with James Hurst gone. The top candidates are rookie Tyre Phillips and veterans D.J. Fluker and Andre Smith.
By re-signing veteran Justin Ellis and drafting Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington, the Ravens wound up with a surplus of defensive line depth behind starters Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Brandon Williams. Second-year player Daylon Mack gives them four candidates for, what, three spots at the most?