GM: Eric DeCosta · Coach: John Harbaugh
The Ravens have been a postseason one-and-done in each of the past two campaigns, but the team is well-positioned to remain a title contender for the foreseeable future. Baltimore has drafted a league-best six Pro Bowlers since 2016 while also utilizing free agency (Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram) and the trade market (Calais Campbell and Marcus Peters) to add veteran leadership and experience. Harbaugh has taken the ingredients and baked a championship-caliber cake by being adaptable and flexible with the team’s schemes (see: transitioning to a run-heavy attack with Lamar Jackson at QB). With a young, hungry core in place, the Ravens have a chance to own the AFC in the next few seasons.
Five Storylines as Ravens Begin Padded Practices - Clifton Brown
Matt Skura’s return
The starting center began training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but he passed his physical Sunday and is expected to be on the field Monday when the Ravens have their first padded practice of training camp. Skura has made an impressive recovery from his ACL, MCL, and PCL injury on Nov. 26.
Patrick Mekari was solid after he took over for Skura, but everyone is eager to see what Skura looks like on the practice field. He had become one of the league’s top centers before his injury. If Skura is healthy enough to play Week 1, it stabilizes the offensive line.
“He’s a very intelligent player,” Roman said. “His understanding of the game made his communication process almost utterly seamless at times. A center is so important as far as getting everybody on the same page in today’s NFL.”
Defensive line (5): Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington
The loser in this numbers game is veteran Justin Ellis, who’d be the most natural back-up to Williams at nose tackle. The Ravens re-signed Ellis after he helped cover for an injured Michael Pierce last season. And they probably need some support for Williams, who isn’t an every-snap player. Do they believe the powerful Washington is ready to cover that role, with help from Campbell and Wolfe, both of whom can slide inside? Given the team’s past preferences for defensive-line depth, no one should be surprised if Ellis ends up in the final 53. It’s just not easy to find a spot for him given the needs at other positions.
Cornerback (5): Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett
We know how much the Ravens prize secondary depth given their past injury woes at these positions. But they’re so loaded in the defensive backfield that they might have to make a difficult decision between Averett and Iman Marshall, a fourth-round pick in 2019. In an ideal world, they’d probably like to keep both players and forego a third quarterback, but the pandemic will make such luxuries less feasible. If Averett and Marshall are pitted for one spot, the nod goes to Averett, who’s faster and more battle-tested.
Defense by Number of Pass-Rushers 2019 - Vincent Verhei
The Baltimore Ravens loved the five-man blitz, using it on 37% of opponents’ dropbacks. That’s the highest rate since at least 2011, surpassing the 36% mark of the 2011 Packers. As it turns out, they were not alone — the five-man blitz was a staple of football in the AFC North, where the Steelers ranked second, the Browns sixth, and the Bengals seventh.
We’re nearly 2,000 words into this story and we’ve kind of buried the lede, but Baltimore absolutely destroyed the record for DB blitz rate at 28.4%. The prior record was just 21.8% by the 2012 New York Jets. Only three other teams this decade have even topped 20%, none since 2015. The Ravens called a raw total of 153 DB blitzes last season, nearly 10 per game. The Jets were the only other team in triple digits, and they just got there with 101. There were 11 DBs last season who had at least 10 pressures; four of them (Brandon Carr, Chuck Clark, Marlon Humphrey, and Earl Thomas) were Ravens. And that’s not even counting the half-dozen sacks Baltimore defensive backs had.
The Ravens won a league-high 14 games in 2019, and they did it by asking players on both sides of the ball to perform outside the typical confines of their position. You’re probably aware that the offense was built around a quarterback who ran like none ever has before, but let’s not forget that the defense revolved around a secondary that was as effective rushing the passer as it was in coverage.