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Ravens News 3/29: Atypical Success and more

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Baltimore Ravens Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Rating NFL offseasons for all 32 teams: Goals, top moves and biggest remaining questions - Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens

Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Take next step. The Ravens, who are 1-3 in the postseason with Lamar Jackson, upgraded his supporting cast in the draft and free agency in an effort to make an extended Super Bowl run.

Offseason goals: Improve the NFL’s 32nd-ranked passing attack. With limited cap room, the Ravens did their best to help Jackson develop into a more consistent passer. Jackson got a couple of new weapons at wide receiver when Baltimore drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round and signed Sammy Watkins in free agency. The Ravens also revamped their offensive line — bringing in free agents Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva as well as drafting Ben Cleveland in the third round — after they allowed their quarterbacks to be pressured on 35% of their dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the league in 2020.

Biggest question still to be answered: Which edge rusher is getting to the quarterback? The Ravens lost their two most accomplished pass-rushers in Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Baltimore’s top returning outside linebackers — Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee — are known more for their run stopping and pass coverage. The Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh in the first round, but he didn’t have a sack in his last season at Penn State. No one would be surprised if Baltimore signed Justin Houston or Melvin Ingram before the start of training camp.

PFF50: 12 players who just missed the cut - Sam Monson

QB LAMAR JACKSON, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Lamar Jackson is the player who most deserves a spot on the PFF50. Recently an NFL MVP, Jackson remains one of the most dynamic players in the league, but he is also a cautionary tale about expecting someone to continue to develop onward and upward each year. Jackson was a unanimous MVP one year and the No. 15-graded quarterback in the league in terms of overall PFF grade (81.5) the next. That’s still a very good mark, but it’s obviously a regression.

Jackson, of course, has the difficult-to-quantify bonus of a unique importance to the Ravens’ offense. The threat he brings as an athlete and playmaker allows the running backs to produce atypical success. It makes life easier for the offensive line, which doesn’t have to pass block as often. And even when the unit does block in the passing game, it’s facing rushers who must keep one eye on Jackson to avoid him ripping off a big run.

Jackson allows that offense to function. It is built around his skill set. But in a list projecting forward, it’s debatable that he will have a better 2021 season than the six quarterbacks who made the list. It wouldn’t be surprising if he did, but that was the decision made.

2021 NFL head coach rankings: Andy Reid edges Bill Belichick as No. 1, Bruce Arians, Matt LaFleur crack top 10 - Cody Benjamin

3. John Harbaugh (Ravens)

Season: 14th with Ravens and as HC

Career record: 129-79 (.620)

Playoff record: 11-8 (1-0 in Super Bowl)

Critics may compare him to his current star QB, Lamar Jackson: Undeniably good, but can he win it all? Let’s not forget Harbaugh already has. No, he hasn’t returned to an AFC title game since 2012, but his team has also gotten incrementally better since Jackson entered the picture. Few coaches are as reliable and so willing to adapt their approach. Another ring is certainly within reach.

Devin Duvernay Is Expecting ‘Great Things’ in Year 2 - Ryan Mink

Duvernay didn’t have a large offensive role as a rookie, catching just 20 passes for 201 yards and zero touchdowns, but after the departure of Willie Snead IV, Duvernay could be in line for more.

“I’ve been feeling great – ball-wise, physically, mentally,” Duvernay said on the latest episode of “The Lounge” podcast. “I’m excited for the season and expecting great things.”

“Everybody definitely wants that bigger role and to have that bigger impact,” Duvernay said. “But you learn patience and wait your turn. I just keep faith that it will come. I never lose faith, never lose patience. I just keep my head down and keep working.

“I have no complaints. I’m just excited to work and get better, develop and continue to be a bigger player.”

“We’re improving every day tremendously,” Duvernay said. “You can see it on the field, you can see it on the tape. They just keep encouraging us to keep going.”

Ranking the top 10 NFL kickers and top 10 punters heading into the 2021 regular season - John Breech

1. Justin Tucker, Ravens

It’s not often that you talk about a kicker being a lock for the Hall of Fame, but Justin Tucker is getting close to being in that category after nine NFL seasons. Although the Pro Football Hall of Fame has only inducted two true kickers — Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen — in its 58-year existence, Tucker is making a strong case for being the third (or fourth, if Adam Vinatieri gets in), so needless to say, he’s at the top of our best kicker list.

Being a great kicker in the NFL comes down to one main thing and that’s the ability to make field goals and no one does that better than Tucker. Over the course of his career, he’s made 90.7% of his kicks, which makes him the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Tucker’s accuracy numbers would be even higher if the Ravens didn’t regularly trot him out for crazy kicks. Over the course of his career, the Ravens have asked him to attempt five field goals of 61 yards or more (he’s 1 of 5 on those kicks).

No one’s more clutch than Tucker and he proved that last season when he hit a 55-yarder as time expired to beat the Browns in a wild Monday night game played in Week 14.

Tucker also has the highest accuracy rate on extra points among active kickers (98.9%).