Where does Baltimore Ravens’ offense have room to improve? Stats give us three clues - Aaron Kasinitz
3) Take fewer sacks
Jackson took sacks on 5.4 percent of his dropbacks last season, which isn’t an awful rate. It was 14th lowest among quarterbacks with at least 50 pass attempts in 2019.
Keep in mind, however, that Jackson is one of the shiftiest, most athletic players to ever take snaps as a quarterback in an NFL game and that the Ravens sent three offensive lineman to the Pro Bowl in January. There’s reason to believe defenses should sack Jackson less frequently than they sack Tom Brady, Jared Goff or Drew Brees, but that wasn’t the case last season.
Some veteran quarterbacks master the art of quick and short throws, which can neutralize an opposing pass rush. The Ravens often prefer to let Jackson keep the ball in his hands to dodge would-be tacklers and try to make big plays down the field, a risk that resulted in several big plays and the occasional sack.
In each of the Ravens’ three losses last season, including a divisional round playoff shocker against the Titans, Jackson went down for at least three sacks. During games in which opponents sacked Jackson two or fewer times last season, Baltimore went 12-0.
Drafted: No. 85 overall (Round 3).
Ferguson technically plays outside linebacker, but he spends enough time up front that we’re going to make an exception for him here. Ferguson left Louisiana Tech as the all-time FBS sacks leader with 45, but he faced a steep learning curve in the NFL. Still, Ferguson showed promise in nine starts, logging 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks and nine QB hits after filling in for injured veteran Pernell McPhee. Ferguson will pose strong competition for first-team defensive snaps and will have a chance to learn from proven veteran acquisitions Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
Projecting future Hall of Famers for all 32 NFL teams - Bill Barnwell
Likely (70% to 99%): S Earl Thomas. He was nearly a lock after making four Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro nods across his first five seasons, but injuries have cost Thomas 20 games over the subsequent four years. Returning to form and earning a seventh Pro Bowl nod in his first season with the Ravens got Thomas back on track.
In the running (40% to 69%): QB Lamar Jackson, CB Marcus Peters, K Justin Tucker. Winning an MVP in Year 2 obviously leaps Jackson into consideration on its own, but it doesn’t seal it. Quarterbacks like Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason and Steve McNair won league MVP without earning enshrinement. Jackson does an incredible job of avoiding hits and getting out of bounds, but there’s naturally going to be questions about whether a quarterback can run the ball 10 times per game in the modern NFL and have a 15-year career as a starter. If he can follow in Patrick Mahomes’ footsteps and win a Super Bowl this year, Jackson will have an impeccable résumé to start his career.
Peters might look better in the long term than he does now. Ten years after he retires, we’re more likely to look at his two first-team All-Pro nods and forget those times he guessed wrong and gave up touchdowns with the Chiefs and Rams. It’s tough to rack up interceptions in the modern NFL, but Peters has 27 since entering the league, nine more than any other player. He has a stronger case than you think.
While Tucker would be the overwhelming choice as the best kicker in football, the Hall has elected just two full-time kickers in its history. Adam Vinatieri will eventually join Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen, but those guys averaged 22 seasons in the league. Tucker is only nine years in, and while he can kick for a long time if he stays healthy, asking anyone in the NFL to do anything for 13 more seasons is risky.
Work to do (10% to 39%): RB Mark Ingram, OT Ronnie Stanley, DE Calais Campbell. Ingram wasn’t very good for extended stretches of time until his fourth season in the league in New Orleans, and while he has made three Pro Bowls since, he hasn’t had a top-five season in terms of production or won a Super Bowl. Stanley was a first-team All-Pro last season, which was his first serious recognition as a superstar. He could roll off a string of these nods in the years to come.
Campbell, who turns 34 next month, is probably going to miss out, which is a shame given how good he has been. He made only two Pro Bowls with the Cardinals, which was a farce. The big deal he signed with the Jags and the subsequent 14.5-sack campaign he posted in leading them to the AFC Championship Game turned the tide, as Campbell was a first-team All-Pro and made three consecutive Pro Bowl trips with Jacksonville.
Power ranking the NFL divisions from first to last: NFC West dominates while NFC East brings up the rear - Jason La Canfora
3. AFC North
Baltimore won 14 games with a 22-year old MVP and appears to be significantly better on both sides of the ball on paper. Rebuilt the defensive line, amassed the best and deepest secondary in the league, and added more speed and twitch to the offense, which will also get a full-strength Hollywood Brown this season, too. Flip a coin between them and KC for the conference title. Pittsburgh nearly made the playoffs last year without a QB and gets back a Hall of Famer. That defense can win anywhere and the Steelers have a distinct chip on their shoulder that I believe will carry them well.
I’m buying the Browns, again. Not to be a juggernaut, but to be in the thick of the Wild Card race until the end and maybe even reach the postseason. Ton of talent and the right coaching staff to balance out the errors of a year ago. They will keep Baker within himself and get him back to playing winning football and Myles Garrett isn’t going to get suspended for half the year. A modicum of better discipline all around and this is a dangerous team. The Bengals will be impacted greatly by the drastically altered offseason, but Joe Burrow is legit and by the second half of the season this offense is going to be a problem. Not sure they can play a lick of defense but I could see them pulling some upsets in December with nothing to lose.