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Ravens News 9/7: Diverse Expectations and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Washington Football Team Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

MMQB: Lamar Jackson on the Work He’s Doing to Prevent the NFL From Catching Up to Him - Albert Breer

And while his production last year didn’t quite match his MVP year of 2019, he did manage to maintain a 99.3 passer rating, complete 64% of his throws, rush for 1,005 yards and win his first playoff game.

Yet, doubts still linger: Has the NFL caught up to Jackson?

The interesting thing is that the question doesn’t get asked of many other quarterbacks like it does of Jackson, as if Jackson’s success is rooted in some sort of schematic shell game that’ll be up once defensive coaches figure out which walnut the pea is under. And as if Jackson can’t work, like other quarterbacks famously do, to stay ahead of all that.

“You know I don’t let anything like that bother me,” Jackson said, laughing, over the phone late last week. “They’ve been saying stuff like that, I’ve been hearing stuff like that for a long time. Everything we have going on here, I’m just trying to win games.”

The best way to do that, he knows, is getting better individually. And the blip in practice that ended in Jackson’s pick masked two days of work that had the Panthers people here walking away impressed, the same way the Ravens are, with Jackson’s progress.

So if you want to say the league’s figuring Jackson out, just know that he’s figuring out a few things, too, and the guys in Baltimore are quietly excited. About where it might take him and about where it might take them.

Simulating the 2021 NFL season: Projecting 285 games, biggest storylines and a Super Bowl winner - Seth Walder

Lost season in Baltimore

As it turned out, the league did figure out quarterback Lamar Jackson. Or at least it figured out Jackson when he is without any receiving weapons and his starting running back J.K. Dobbins. The injury woes that plagued the Baltimore Ravens’ receiving corps in the preseason continued all through the year, as the team scuffled to a 2-5 start and couldn’t recover to save the season.

A 7-10 lost season means GM Eric DeCosta enters the 2022 offseason with the same mission he had entering this past one: Get Jackson more receiving weapons, and keep them healthy.

The Ravens’ 53 plus: A look at each player on their roster, their role and the expectations - Jeff Zrebiec

Marquise Brown, WR: Brown missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, a setback for a player who seemed primed for a breakout year. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t flirt with a 1,000-yard season. Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman needs to focus on getting the ball in Brown’s hands, as he seems to in the playoffs.

Devin Duvernay, WR: Duvernay is the favorite to return punts and kicks after he excelled in both areas last season. The Ravens want to get him more involved on offense, so expect to see plenty of Duvernay in the slot. He wasn’t consistent enough this summer to forecast a breakout season, but there’s no reason he can’t be a steady contributor and make some big plays.

Tylan Wallace, WR: The rookie fourth-round pick had an uneven summer although he did finish the preseason strong. He could get a few opportunities early with Bateman and Boykin down, but based on what we’ve seen so far, he could have a limited role as a rookie.

Sammy Watkins, WR: A strong start to training camp for the veteran receiver acquisition gave way to the annual injury concerns as Watkins practiced sparingly down the stretch with a lower leg injury. Getting 17 games, plus the playoffs, out of Watkins might be unrealistic. However, Watkins would more than justify his signing by making tough catches in the intermediate areas, taking attention off Andrews and Brown and coming up big in the postseason.

Harbaugh Not Concerned About Ravens Youth On Special Teams - Todd Karpovich

“It’s not like we’ve gone in there with some loaded veteran special teams group every single year,” Harbaugh said. “I guess I can go back and compare, but I don’t feel like it’s a lot different than any other year. I like the guys. I like the young guys, [and] I like the old guys. I like where we’re at with special teams. I look forward to seeing how they do. It’ll be highly competitive. The [assistant head coach/] special teams coordinator for the Raiders, Coach [Rich] Bisaccia does a great job. He’s been around forever. We’re just looking forward to all the challenges this year.”

In addition, the Ravens still have their top three tacklers on special teams from last season — Justice Hill, Malik Harrison and Chris Board. In addition, they have the experienced Anthony Levine and Jordan Richards on the practice squad and available to be called up on the game day.

The Ravens have one of the top special teams units in the league and that will not change this season.

2021 NFL season: Bold predictions, final record for every team, playoff and Super Bowl LVI picks - John Breech

AFC North

1. *Steelers: 10-7

2. *Browns: 10-7

3. Ravens: 10-7

4. Bengals: 7-10

AFC North bold prediction: Ravens miss the playoffs

The AFC is so loaded this year that I think we’re going to see a 10-win team miss the playoffs and unfortunately for everyone in Baltimore, I think it’s going to be the Ravens. Although the AFC North sent three teams to the playoffs last season, I don’t think that’s going to happen again in 2021 and that’s because I think everyone in the division is going to take a small step back. On the Ravens’ end, they struggled against good teams last year: They went 3-4 against teams that finished above .500 and I won’t be surprised if that trend continues. I don’t think the Ravens are going to fall off a cliff, but I do think they’re going to be the odd-man out in a multi-way tie for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. Also, we saw a 10-win team miss the playoffs in the AFC last year (the Dolphins) and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again in 2021.

2021 NFL Preseason Power Rankings - Danny Kelly

4. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens will have to weather a spate of preseason injuries on offense (J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL and is out for the year, and rookie Rashod Bateman will start the season on the injured reserve with a groin injury), and the defense will be relying on an aging pass rush group, but Baltimore is still among the league’s best-coached and most-balanced teams. They’ve also got a pretty good cheat code in quarterback Lamar Jackson, whose unique dual-threat skill set makes the team’s offense go. The Ravens offense could start slow, but I think Jackson will bounce back to his MVP-level performance from 2019.