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Ravens News 7/28: A strong baseline and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

NFL quarterback rankings: All 32 starters entering the 2020 NFL season - Steve Palazzolo

TIER 2

Quarterbacks who are more likely to elevate teammates and achieve top-end production, even with lesser supporting casts. Tier 2 quarterbacks have a good chance to rank among the NFL’s top-eight quarterbacks — or even finish as the NFL’s top signal-caller — in any given year.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

It may be difficult for Jackson to duplicate his incredible statistics from a year ago, as a touchdown rate of 9.0% is not sustainable, but he’ll still be one of the league’s most dangerous quarterbacks. His improved accuracy puts defenses in a bind, and the next step in his development will be finding success with passing in come-from-behind situations where conditions are less favorable. Jackson’s rushing ability gives him a high floor in any game, as he can make up for bad days as a passer with chunk plays on the ground, and that gives the Baltimore offense a strong baseline from which to work.

2020 NFL training camp: Biggest question for all 32 teams, from Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow to 49ers hangover - Pete Prisco

Baltimore Ravens

How does Lamar Jackson build on his MVP season?

The scary thing for opposing defenses is that Jackson is just scratching the surface as a passer. Yes, he had a good season throwing the football in 2019, but he can be much better – especially as the young receivers improve. If that happens this season, look for Jackson’s passing numbers to rise in a big way.

Around the AFC North: Biggest Training Camp Questions - Clifton Brown

Cleveland Browns: Can Head Coach Kevin Stefanski unlock the offense?

Cleveland has one of the league’s most talented offenses on paper, featuring quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and new tight end Austin Hooper.

Getting that talent to gel during training camp will be a major a goal for new Head Coach Kevin Stefanski. As the former offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, Stefanski ran a balanced offense and is expected to use Chubb and Hunt’s talents to set up the passing game. That should take pressure off Mayfield, who needs to have a bounce back season in his third year.

2020 NFL season: Saints, Falcons headline 10 most talented teams - Maurice Jones-Drew

3. Baltimore Ravens

Last season, the Ravens had a league-leading 13 Pro Browlers and five first-team All-Pro selections, including MVP QB Lamar Jackson, LT Ronnie Stanley, CBs Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey and K Justin Tucker. As good as Jackson and the offense were, the powerful offensive line deserves more credit than it gets for paving the way for the league’s most dynamic run game and a passing game that developed with its young quarterback. The Ravens are deep at the tight end position even after trading away Hayden Hurst, but they’re missing consistent production from the wide receivers. The defense could vie for top honors, by the look of the starting 11. With Calais Campbell leading the way up front, first-round pick Patrick Queen and Matt Judon manning the middle and Humphrey, Peters and Earl Thomas featured in the secondary, this unit could give any offense fits.

Ravens training camp preview: With top talent at cornerback and safety, secondary has rare potential - Jonas Shaffer

What to watch

Despite a disastrous September, the Ravens, by one metric, actually had a better pass defense last season than their league-leading defense did in 2018. They finished tied for third in the NFL in efficiency, according to Football Outsiders, the rock of a unit that was hampered at times by inconsistent run stopping.

And now, in 2020, the secondary should be even stronger.

Peters will be on the roster for Week 1, not Week 7. Humphrey can return to outside cornerback, his more natural position. Young’s return turns Smith into maybe the NFL’s top dime cornerback. Thomas had a rehab-free offseason. Clark now has 12 games as a starter to study. With ample depth at cornerback and safety, along with more pass-rush juice up front, pass defense coordinator Chris Hewitt has to be one of the happiest men in the NFL.

Expectations are high. No NFL defense has allowed fewer than 2,400 passing yards since 1980 — a rate of 150 yards per game. Over the Ravens’ final nine games last season, including their playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, they gave up just 141.3 passing yards per game.