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Ravens News 2/2: On the Cusp and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl timelines for all 32 NFL teams: Who’s in mix, getting closer and years away? - Jamison Hensley

ON THE CUSP OF CONTENDING

Baltimore Ravens

Last Super Bowl appearance: 2012

2020 FPI rank: No. 5

Strategy to become a Super Bowl contender: The Ravens need to bolster the supporting cast around quarterback Lamar Jackson, from improving the offensive line to adding another top target in the passing game. Baltimore has averaged 30 points per game with Jackson as its starter, but the Ravens have failed to score more than 20 points in any of his four playoff games. The Ravens aren’t going to change their identity of being a dominant running team. Baltimore knows the key from going from Super Bowl contender to a Super Bowl champion means being less one-dimensional in the postseason.

Biggest X factor: Jackson. In two full seasons before his arrival, the Ravens were a middle-of-the-pack team with a 17-15 record (.531). In two full seasons with Jackson as the starter, Baltimore has been among the NFL’s best at 25-7 (.781). He’s a dynamic playmaker who is a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands. The next step for Jackson is having consistent success in the playoffs, where he has lost three of four games.

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are running out of time - Brad Washington

All of these questions are what head coach John Harbaugh needs to ask himself this offseason. The Ravens ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards but dead last in passing. That is not a balanced attack. As the offense has figured out the past three seasons in the NFL Playoffs, this imbalance means that a competent run game means nothing without a passing game to complement it.

Jackson is a good NFL quarterback. He has thrown for 62 touchdowns while completing 65.25 percent of his passes in the last two seasons. And we cannot forget that he won the NFL MVP in 2019. However, has the scheme maximized his real potential? Or does he need more wide receivers outside of Hollywood Brown? Jackson can play the position, but there may be a need for restructuring to get the wide receivers more open. Perhaps a more experienced play-caller who can design more creative plays.

Or, the Ravens can ride this wave for another year or two and take the Harbaugh approach that nothing needs to change, but things need to improve. Ironically, Jackson’s stats give him some credibility that this notion can be banked on.

Relying on Jackson to improve as a passer to remedy the issue is a dangerous game for Harbaugh. Not saying it could not happen, but falling into that mindset makes it easier to live with status quo and hoping for Jackson to figure it all out.

10 biggest stories to watch in the 2021 NFL offseason - Mike Tanier

Wide Receiver Spending Spree!

Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Curtis Samuel. The 2021 free agent class is loaded with talented young wide receivers. Many of whom are likely to change teams due to the wide disparity between the salary cap haves and have-nots this offseason.

Even a team that sits out the Robinson-Godwin sweepstakes can potentially bargain hunt for someone with untapped potential like Corey Davis. Valuable role players like rugged-blocking Kendrick Bourne and slot speedster Isaiah McKenzie will also garner interest this NFL offseason.

Contenders in need of a jolt at wide receiver — the Baltimore Ravens and (ahem) Green Bay Packers — leap to mind. Teams could find just what they need on the free agent market. A team like the Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Jets with cap space to burn and (probably) rookie quarterbacks to develop could find something, too!

PFF 2021 NFL Draft Guide: PFF’s top interior offensive line prospect, plus a wild card to watch - Michael Renner

BIGGEST RISER: LANDON DICKERSON, ALABAMA

Dickerson played his way into a five-star ranking from 247Sports as the second-best prospect in the state. He hails from Hudson, North Carolina and was a student at South Caldwell. He received 21 offers, according to 247Sports, and signed with the Florida State Seminoles over his future team, the Alabama Crimson Tide and others.

The NFL team that drafts Dickerson will immediately be lauded by draft analysts — including myself. That’s simply the brand of football the Alabama center plays and the leadership qualities he brings to the table. This is a man who suited up for the national championship game and took the kneel-down snaps at center despite tearing his ACL in the SEC title game. He’s a burly 6-foot-6, 325-pound center who proved to be scheme-diverse in his time with the Tide. He’s lined up at every single offensive-line position at one point in his career between Florida State and Alabama, although he’s likely interior only in the NFL.

Biggest strength: Grown man strength

Biggest weakness: Torn ACL

Projection: Second-round pick

Bottom line: If Dickerson comes back fully healthy from his ACL tear, he’s a long-term quality starter in the NFL.

2021 NFL mock draft 1.0: Jets start new era at QB with Justin Fields - Bucky Brooks

Pick 27

Baltimore Ravens

Jaelan Phillips · Edge rusher

School: Miami | Year: Junior (RS)

The Ravens have decisions to make at the edge rusher position with Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue due to hit the free-agent market. Phillips could step right in as a pass-rush specialist with freaky athleticism.