How Steelers’ revamped offense will benefit Big Ben; plus, QB-coach combos under pressure - Bucky Brooks
Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh
Jackson has posted a 30-7 career regular-season record and claimed an MVP award in 2019 while dazzling as an electric dual-threat playmaker. But questions persist about his pocket-passing ability after observers watched the Ravens’ run-heavy offense fizzle in three straight early playoff exits. With Jackson and Co. underperforming in the postseason, the pressure is mounting on Harbaugh to diversify the offense to give the Ravens a better chance of advancing in the tournament. Will the Super Bowl-winning head coach stick to the unorthodox script that has made the Ravens perennial title contenders in the Jackson era? Or will he scrap the plan in favor of a traditional approach that could produce better results in the postseason? The outcome of the decision could make or break the Ravens’ next few seasons.
50 Words or Less - John Eisenberg
Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are entrenched as the starters at safety and seldom left the field in 2020, but the Ravens would love a third player with a range of skills at the position and they’re looking hard at rookie Brandon Stephens, who seemingly performed well in spring practices.
Josh Oliver seemingly is the leading contender for the No. 3 tight end job. But the situation could change when players don pads and start hitting each other in training camp. Spring practices in shorts were not the ideal place for hard-hitters Ben Mason and Eric Tomlinson to shine.
The league still hasn’t announced its rules for practice squads in 2021, but according to media reports, it’s likely to keep the expanded 16-man limit and also continue making it easier to bring players back from injured reserve. Those are almost a must now that the season lasts 17 games.
Which AFC North team has Best Non-QB Roster? - Ryan Fowler
The Ravens are a bit of an interesting group of talent, as they moved on from Orlando Brown this offseason but signed guard Kevin Zeitler and veteran stop-gap Alejandro Villanueva while also stealing pass-catcher Sammy Watkins away from the Chiefs to bolster an underperforming receiving corps outside of tight end Mark Andrews.
General manager Eric DeCosta didn’t rest on his laurels, however, drafting both Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace to round out what is now an impressive group of talent on the boundary for Lamar Jackson. In the backfield, Baltimore heads into the campaign rather unchanged as J.K. Dobbins looks to serve as the bell-cow back in a two-man system with Gus Edwards.
Defensively, Wink Martindale’s group is one built around veteran prowess. With just one first-year player set to make an immediate impact on defense (Odafe Oweh), the Ravens tout one of the more aging defensive groups in all of football—but don’t let that take away from the overall impact they could have in their dynamic 3-4 base. Littered with dynamic talent in the secondary in ball-hawking corners Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, the onus on safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott to sway from their assignments at times near the LOS or on patented Baltimore blitzes from the top.
The Ravens’ biggest progression, on paper, came via the offensive side of the ball this spring. DeCosta’s overhaul of the offensive line and wideout group has the Ravens in prime position to battle their way back to the postseason.
Ravens Positional Battle: Left Guard - Todd Karpovich
Powers was selected by the Ravens in the fourth round (123rd overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. Powers appeared in all 16 games, including seven starts, and helped block for the NFL’s No. 1 rushing attack (191.9 ypg), which produced the third-most yards (3,071) ever in a 16-game NFL season. He also started at right guard in the postseason.
Outlook: Powers might have the inside track to start because he has experience.
Cleveland was selected by the Ravens in the third round (94th overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft. Cleveland has impressive size — 6-foot-6, 343-pounds — and comes from a solid college program at Georgia. Last season, he was named a second‐team All‐America by The Athletic and made the Third Team for the Associated Press.
Outlook: Cleveland is still getting acclimated to the pro game and looked a bit stiff during OTAs. However, the technique will get better with experience and he’ll have a starting job at some point during the season if he does not take over a job for the opener.
Best value NFL draft picks for all 32 teams since 2006: Dak Prescott, Tyreek Hill, George Kittle and more - Michael Renner
If PFF had a Hall of Fame vote, Yanda would be a lock. He was quite simply the best guard of his generation. In 13 seasons, he never earned a grade below 80.0. The crazy thing is, two of those seasons came at right tackle, where he earned an 85.9 grade as a rookie and an 80.5 grade in 2010.