Votes: 3-4-3-7-3 | Avg: 4.0 | Median: 3
One voter anticipating a monster season from Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins knocked down Baltimore from second to fourth after Dobbins’ season-ending injury.
“The sky is falling because the back got hurt?” another voter said. “Dobbins was their No. 2 running back behind the quarterback anyway. All their offensive ills are cured by their strong culture of defense.”
A different voter thought the Ravens’ pass-rush would slip without Matthew Judon. Another thought newcomers Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh would provide sufficient rush for cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters to excel.
“The last time Baltimore had a bad defense, it was the Colts,” another voter said.
One voter raised concerns about the drop from starting quarterbacks to backups among AFC contenders whose starters remain unvaccinated. Baltimore, Buffalo and Indianapolis make that list.
“It’s a huge drop from (Lamar) Jackson to (Tyler) Huntley,” this voter said.
AFC North Preview: Cleveland’s Time Has Arrived - Conor Orr
Even though Cleveland looks to be on track at long last, the path to its first division title since 1989 is rocky and rooted. For the first time in the Lamar Jackson era, the Ravens have a formidable wide receiver group, featuring Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins and first-round pick Rashod Bateman, who was viewed as a consensus top-15 choice before complications due to a symptomatic case of COVID-19 sidetracked his final season at Minnesota. Baltimore’s offense could expand beyond the downhill running attack that took advantage of defenses who were thrown off by the triple-option-type concepts that were so different than what they saw from other opponents.
2. RAVENS (11–6, Wild-Card)
Best Case: The Ravens introduce new wrinkles to an offense that surprised the league in 2019. Jackson successfully challenges opponents vertically, and especially down the sidelines, where he has historically shied from attempting high-risk throws.
Worst Case: The Ravens still lean on the run, and the risk finally catches up with them. As injuries mount, Baltimore suffers from a lack of depth at running back and at tight end. LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and TE Nick Boyle (knee, leg) struggle to regain form as they return from season-ending injuries from 2020.
The running game will still excel as long as Jackson’s healthy, but Dobbins brought a greater ceiling and margin for error that would have been helpful as this offense tries to hit its stride early. His loss only reinforces what we already knew about the passing game needing to grow.
Recent signs have pointed to Ben Powers being the Week 1 left guard, but I’m reminded how the 2019 competition played out when Powers and Jermaine Eluemunor appeared more likely to win the job until Bradley Bozeman prevailed late in summer. Don’t write off Tyre Phillips or Ben Cleveland yet.
Outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins said it best describing expectations for Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes. “We want them to play fast early on. There are going to be mistakes and we’ll learn from those mistakes, but play fast and don’t let that same mistake beat you twice.”
50 Words or Less - John Eisenberg
The Ravens are dealing with multiple injuries and their potential impact, but one stands out in advance of the season opener. Jimmy Smith was penciled in to cover tight ends in 2021 and the Raiders have a good one, Darren Waller. The status of Smith’s injured ankle could prove critical.
It says a lot about the Ravens’ player development program that Stone, quarterback Tyler Huntley, long snapper Nick Moore, linebacker Kristian Welch, running back Ty’son Williams and offensive lineman Trystan Colon were on the practice squad at the start of last season and made the initial 53-man roster this season.
My best guess for the Week 1 lineup at receiver is Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown starting out wide, with Devin Duvernay and James Proche II splitting time in the slot. It might not be what the Ravens envisioned but there’s still plenty of talent and potential playmaking.
As Week 1 of the college football season kicks off this weekend, the Ravens have a projected 10 picks in next year’s draft, including nine in the first four rounds. That draft capital reflects not only the ripple effects of quarterback Lamar Jackson’s looming megadeal, but also perhaps the aftershocks of a coronavirus-altered 2021 draft and the expectations for a more normal predraft process in 2022.
It didn’t take long for DeCosta to start stockpiling 2022 picks, even if that meant moving on from 2020 and 2021 picks. During the draft, the Ravens traded a fourth- and sixth-round pick for a 2021 fifth-round pick and 2022 fourth-round pick. That added to their collection of fourth-round choices in next year’s draft, which is expected to grow with compensatory picks for the offseason departures of pass rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.
Barring a trade that ships off picks this season, the Ravens should enter the 2022 draft with double-digit selections. That won’t necessarily guarantee a bountiful haul. As DeCosta acknowledged in April, the draft is a “luck-driven process.” But the more picks a team has, the more contributors they’re likely to acquire. And with the 2022 draft having what Edwards called a “deeper talent pool,” the Ravens could find far greater value in the middle to late rounds than in this year’s class.