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Roundtable: Reflections on the 2020 Ravens

Wild Card Round - Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2020 campaign was a rollercoaster ride for the Baltimore Ravens, with plenty of twists, turns, ups and downs. Our reflections on the past season before an important offseason begins:

Given the club’s position at this time last year, the 2020 season can be viewed as a missed opportunity. Baltimore entered the offseason with several premium position All-Pros playing on below market rookie contracts, a collection of returning Pro Bowlers, the cap space and draft capital to add even more talent and an intact coaching staff. Oddsmakers believed the Ravens, along with the Chiefs, were the favorites to win the Super Bowl, so failing to advance past the divisional round of the postseason again was a disappointment.

Nonetheless, the 2020 team battled through significant adversity during the season, won a memorable primetime contest in December and notched the franchise’s first playoff victory in six long years. Overall, the 2020 campaign was a moderate success considering the expectations.

Looking forward, the Ravens might be on the verge of a philosophical shift. After zagging against the grain by cultivating a prolific rush offense in a league that has become increasingly pass centric, three consecutive January letdowns should prompt a recalibration that seeks to strike more balance on offense. Perhaps defunding run defense to some extent will enable the front office to provide Lamar Jackson with the passing game personnel he needs to thrive in the postseason.

Baltimore is fortunate to have a team as consistently competitive as the Ravens have been. Judging from this organization’s track record, fans should have confidence that this franchise is willing and able to conquer their next challenge.

- Vasilis Lericos

The Ravens must remain on the course of sustainability. They enter this offseason with a little financial freedom, plus first and second round draft picks. The Ravens should prioritize solidifying their interior offensive line and adding another tackle. Successful postseason teams win in the trenches year after year.

Greg Roman has taken intense scrutiny despite the Ravens being the No. 1 scoring team in the NFL (999 points) since he took over as offensive coordinator. The passing game could use a veteran addition like Kenny Golladay or Allen Robinson, but there’s a delicate balance in maintaining depth to prevent injuries from derailing a season.

It would be nice to see the Ravens add a younger, inspired offensive-minded coach to take on some assistant duties and eventually take the reigns from Roman, like Brennan Marion who has conjured up the Go-Go offense. Harbaugh’s Ravens typically only hire staff that have been around the league or the Harbaugh family coaching tree, but a breath of fresh air is needed.

Overall, the Ravens are in great shape. They have another year to weigh their options with Orlando Brown Jr. and Mark Andrews. They’ve been in the postseason for three consecutive years, have the ability to return a good portion of their coaching staff and make some tweaks.

Eric DeCosta prioritized solidifying the front seven to prevent a dominant rushing attack from sending them home. Now, the all-seeing eye will turn to the passing offense. After sniffing around DeAndre Hopkins, I believe DeCosta will strike and acquire a veteran pass catcher to create more balance in the Ravens offense. It doesn’t have to be someone who costs $100 million, just a receiver who provides more stability. Doing so and finding a real center, a lifelong center, will take the Ravens over the hump and propel them to the next level.

They’re in a good place, with a good quarterback and good coach. They finished a playoff game. Keep moving forward steadily and a Lombardi is within reach.

- Spencer Schultz

Despite another brutal collapse for the offense in the playoffs, it’s hard to call this season anything but a success for the Ravens. Many fans (including myself) had loftier goals in mind, but we just saw a young and battered team claw their way out of midseason hole by rattling off five straight to get the 5 seed and exorcise some playoff demons in Nashville. Not to mention the fact they essentially had to forfeit a division game. There are plenty of teams desperate to be in the Ravens position.

Other takeaways: Hollywood Brown is legit, he needs a veteran wideout who demands attention on the opposite side, as does Lamar. The offensive line needs to be addressed in the draft and free agency. Lamar needs to take steps forward in anticipation, mechanical consistency, and probably reading defenses. He left alot of throws on the field this season. More young depth on the defensive line and at safety is needed. The pass game must improve, in both design and execution. Mark Andrews needs a complementary tight end if we expect him to show up big in the postseason. Worth mentioning, losing Earl Thomas, a player many consider to be a future Hall of Famer with juice left in the tank, did not really have a negative impact on the season. DeShon Elliott performed well in Thomas’ place. The outside linebacker situation, with Tyus Bowser, Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon all set to his free agency, will be interesting to watch.

- Cassidy Higdon

In a vacuum, the 2020 season was a bit of a disappointment. For a Ravens team that began the season with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, they won three less games than last year and failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs again. However, when adjusting expectations for what happened in-season, the season can be viewed as a success.

The Ravens won six of their first seven games before a midseason slide saw them drop out of the postseason picture after a three-game losing streak. During this stretch, the Ravens lost Ronnie Stanley and Nick Boyle to season-ending injuries and saw nearly half of their roster gutted by COVID-19. It was at this point that my hopes for a deep postseason run all but subsided, I believed simply making the playoffs would be a mark of success. A five-game winning streak to end the season saw them do just that.

For the first time since 2014, the Ravens won a playoff game and exorcised their demons against the Titans in the process. As a fan, this sparked long-awaited feelings of joy and excitement. Yes, it was disappointing to see them follow it up by falling flat against the Bills in the Divisional Round — especially when the defense gave them a legitimate shot to win.

However, I still believe the Ravens are positioned well for another run in 2021. The weaknesses of the team are clear and can be addressed in the offseason. On top of this, the strengths of this roster outweigh them. From the front office to the coaching staff and on both sides of the ball, the Ravens are in a better position than most of the NFL.

At the end of the day, I like to remind myself often that I’m fortunate to be rooting for a team that wins double-digit games and makes the playoffs on a consistent basis.

- Frank Platko

Although the Ravens finally won their first playoff game in the Lamar Jackson era, I have to say that the campaign overall was a failure for the 2020 season. While it’s true that Derrick Henry played a large role in sending Baltimore home in the playoffs last season, the failures of the passing attack, including several drops from the wide receivers, played as big of a role in the playoff loss to the Titans. The Ravens fully attacked fixing the run defense, trading for All-Pro Calais Campbell, signing Derek Wolfe, and drafting Patrick Queen in the first round. They did not, however, attack their passing deficiencies with nearly the same ferocity, when it was possibly an even bigger need. Failing to properly address the losses of Marshal Yanda and Hayden Hurst also proved to be a mistake.

Both the Bills and Cardinals found a way to get their young quarterbacks a superstar wideout last offseason and the results were a massive success. Eric DeCosta needs to focus on doing the same for Jackson. DeCosta must also make strengthening the offensive line a priority this offseason.

- Dustin Cox

This season was still a success for the Ravens. With the victory over the Titans, the “Lamar Jackson can’t win in the playoffs” narrative was finally put to bed.

Some of the issues against the Bills were odd. Justin Tucker missed field goals. Patrick Mekari struggled snapping the ball. Lamar Jackson left with a concussion. Nothing fell in their favor. Those particular issues do not appear to be indications of future problems. Yes, the roster needs work, but the Ravens are still trending in the right direction overall.

My biggest takeaway from the loss to the Bills was that the offensive line needed to be upgraded. Stanley’s injury was very impactful. Rookie Tyre Phillips really struggled in the playoffs. It is risky to count on Phillips to start at guard next season. The front office will also have to make some decisions at center. Mekari actually played well before that horrible game against the Bills. I was impressed by his versatility; Mekari played center, guard, and right tackle during the regular season. At the very least, he’s a solid piece to have for depth. Still, there are a few great veteran options on the free agent market (Corey Linsley, Alex Mack). Trystan Colon-Castillo is another player to watch. The undrafted rookie played surprisingly well in his limited snaps at center. Overall, fortifying the interior offensive line may be the biggest need this offseason.

Wide receiver, of course, is another need. Miles Boykin did not take a leap forward this season, and Dez Bryant is not a long-term solution. Rookie Devin Duvernay showed some promise in his limited snaps, it was bizarre how underutilized he was. He needs to take on a larger role in the offense next season. It would be great if the Ravens can sign Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, or Chris Godwin. However, the draft features a strong wide receiver class yet again. The Ravens could draft a wide receiver (Tylan Wallace, Rashod Bateman, etc.) and preserve cap space for other needs. Lastly, the edge rusher situation is intriguing. Yannick Ngakoue was underwhelming this season, and the Ravens’ pass rush never quite elevated to the sum of it’s parts. Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser, and Ngakoue are all set to become free agents. Judon and Ngakoue should both command big contracts, and that may not be the best use of resources for the Ravens right now. If both of those players walk, edge rusher will become a major need.

- Jakob Ashlin