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Ravens News 3/24: Extraordinary Injury Numbers and more

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

AGL Injury Numbers Point to Ravens Rebound in 2022 - Scott Spratt

Coming off back-to-back seasons in the top seven in total DVOA, the Ravens were poised to test the true value of running backs when they lost J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill—the three members of their expected backfield committee—to preseason ACL and Achilles injuries. But instead, those losses proved to be the tip of an injury iceberg that sank the Ravens’ 2021 season.

September signees Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray staved off the decline most backs see as they enter their thirties with above-average rushing DVOA rates. But by November, running backs were the least of the Ravens’ injury worries. All-Pro players Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey missed time with ankle and pectoral injuries. First-round rookie Rashod Bateman had a groin injury that delayed his debut until mid-October. Twelve expected starters, replacement starters, and important situational players landed on the non-COVID injured reserve at some point in the regular season. And in Weeks 15 and 16, the team was missing nine defensive backs, including each of their four expected starters. They lost both games as part of seven straight losses to end their season. All told, the Ravens racked up 191.2 AGL. It was the most by a team in our database, and it remains the most when prorated to 16 games.

Aided by the easiest projected schedule by DVOA, the Ravens are a good bet to bounce back to contention in 2022 with better injury fortune even after Cincinnati’s maturation and Cleveland’s offseason additions in their division.

NFL Power Rankings: Bills hit No. 1! Buccaneers, Broncos up 14 spots after first wave of free agency - Dan Hanzus

Rank. 15

Baltimore Ravens

Previous rank: No. 12

We imagine the Ravens have another reason to dislike the rival Browns after Cleveland made the striking decision to trade for Deshaun Watson and then gave the quarterback a fully guaranteed $230 million contract. If Watson can command that fee with all the baggage now permanently affixed to his name, what is a former MVP like Lamar Jackson worth? The Ravens made a big splash in free agency, addressing an area of need by signing safety Marcus Williams to a rich deal. Looking ahead, the draft could pay big dividends: Baltimore has nine picks in the first four rounds. According to ESPN, it is the most picks in the first four rounds by any team in the last six years.

NFL free agency 2022: Most improved teams, best and worst signings, value deals, gut reactions and more - Kevin Seifert

Which is the most improved team after free agency and other moves over the past two weeks?

Baltimore Ravens. I thought about the Browns but wondered how much quarterback Deshaun Watson will impact them considering he could serve a suspension. The Broncos made the Wilson deal but play in the toughest division in football. The Ravens, meanwhile, have addressed big needs with good players — safety Marcus Williams and right tackle Morgan Moses, among others — and should be right back in the AFC North mix this season.

Ravens roster reset: What they have and what they still need as free agency continues - Jeff Zrebiec

Outside linebacker

Projected starters: Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser

Top reserve: Jaylon Ferguson

Depth: Daelin Hayes

It’s time to move on from the Za’Darius Smith disappointment, but it’s not too early to question how the Ravens are going to add a legitimate in-his-prime edge rusher to their outside linebacker group. The free-agent market mostly includes accomplished pass rushers nearing their mid-30s and in the twilight of their careers. The draft is loaded with edge-rushing prospects, but it’s hard to bank on a rookie coming in and getting eight-to-10 sacks. The Ravens probably need to sign or trade for one and then draft one. It would be tough to say that they’ve made the needed improvements here, particularly with Oweh and Bowser rehabbing from offseason surgeries, if the plan is just to re-sign Houston and then draft an outside linebacker.

Cornerback

Projected starters: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters

Top reserve: Kevon Seymour

Depth: Iman Marshall, Robert Jackson, Kevin Toliver

There’s still time and you can probably guarantee that the Ravens will take at least one cornerback in the draft, but their lack of current depth at the position is glaring. Cornerback is right up there with edge rusher and offensive tackle as the team’s biggest need. At some point over the next four months, the Ravens need to add two starting-caliber corners and that’s at a minimum. With the way injuries seem to tear through the cornerback group every year, the Ravens can’t take any chances here. Even re-signing Westry seems necessary at the moment.

Ravens Need Depth at Inside & Outside Linebacker - Todd Karpovich

Inside linebacker

Players under contract: Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, Kristian Welch

Free agents: Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort, and Otaro Alaka

Analysis: Bynes had 76 tackles and could be re-signed at a reasonable price. Queen played much better when moved to the weakside and led the team with 97 tackles. Harrison and Welch should continue to improve after showing flashes of potential. The Ravens could consider bringing back Fort and/or Bynes for cost-friendly deals. This unit needs more depth, especially after losing Chris Board to the Lions via free agency.

Potential draft picks: Troy Andersen (Montana State), Devin Lloyd (Utah)

Mel Kiper Doesn’t See Ravens Picking a Cornerback at No. 14 - Clifton Brown

“They invest more money in defensive backs than just about any team in the NFL,” Kiper said during a national conference call Wednesday. “They’re in the top five in DB spending. To take another corner? In the first round, when you have all that investment in defensive backs?

“McDuffie’s going to go around that (No. 12) area. If you want to say Stingley? If he gets there, would you take him? It’d be hard to pass him up, but you’ve got all that money invested in defensive backs.”

“They need a center like Tyler Linderbaum,” Kiper said. ”They could certainly use, even though they brought in Moses, a guy like Trevor Penning. They could use a defensive lineman like Travon Walker, but he will certainly be gone by the time they pick. Jordan Davis doesn’t give you enough pass rush in my opinion. Devante Wyatt, a little high for him out of Georgia. But I think Linderbaum.”

“You need at least probably seven or eight really good defensive backs on the team that can play, and you probably need a strong eight offensive linemen,” DeCosta said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “You know those guys are going to get hurt at some point. So the idea of having deep depth is critical, and that’s just going to be a point of emphasis for us moving forward.”