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Ravens News 5/24: Unresolved Questions and more

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Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Ravens will start OTAs this week with multiple unresolved questions - Jeff Zrebiec

The Ravens would much rather have guys like Ben Cleveland and Tyre Phillips getting guard reps over Kevin Zeitler at this time of year, or Daniel Faalele playing right tackle over Morgan Moses, or Travis Jones seeing more time rather than Calais Campbell. It will be interesting to see whether Clark is on hand this week. DeCosta has spoken to several teams about a potential deal for Clark and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the safety opted to stay away from the facility until he has a better sense of his future in Baltimore.

Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum, the team’s pair of first-rounders, are essentially plug-and-play guys, and there’s an expectation that they’ll hit the ground running and establish themselves early. The OTAs could be pretty important for fourth-round corners Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams as well. Cornerback doesn’t present itself as such a significant need if the two Day 3 rookies look ready to contribute from the jump.

Tight end Josh Oliver, offensive linemen Trystan Colon, Ben Powers and Ja’Wuan James, inside linebacker Malik Harrison, outside linebackers Jaylon Ferguson and Daelin Hayes and defensive back Ar’Darius Washington are among the players who come to mind when talking about guys who could find themselves on the proverbial bubble in a couple of months. They may attack the OTAs with a bit more urgency than other returners.

Six NFL players poised for a breakout 2022 season: Tua Tagovailoa among those ready to make a leap - Jason La Canfora

Rashod Bateman, Ravens

He is in position to be the lead dog of this receiving group by a large margin. Trading Hollywood Brown will prove to be addition by subtraction in part because of Bateman’s superior frame, hands, strength and catch radius. Lamar Jackson does his best work with bigger targets and Bateman will have every chance to shine in the red zone. Even if Baltimore does lean back into more 13 personnel (like they did in Jackson’s MVP season of 2019), this kid will be on the field in all critical situations. Don’t get caught up in the yardage (the Ravens will run the ball more than anyone else); I could see double-digit TD totals.

How the Ravens’ safeties can save their new-look defense - Doug Farrar

Baltimore ranked 28th in Defensive DVOA, the worst such ranking since the inaugural season of 1996. The Ravens ranked fourth in run defense… and 30th against the pass.

In 2021, the Ravens blitzed on 31.1% of their defensive snaps, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. That was a serious downturn in blitzing frequency for the team under former defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. Baltimore led the league in blitz frequency in 2020 with a 44.1% rate, and they did the same in 2019, blitzing on 54.9% (!!!) of their snaps.

Going to a business in front/party in the back methodology requires safeties who can do all kinds of things, and can also nail the specific assignments that best match their skill sets. That’s why the Ravens signed Williams and selected Hamilton. But let’s start with Chuck Clark, the lone true holdover from last season.

“We’ve got Chuck Clark. Chuck’s been here for a long time. He he’s one of our best players on defense. He wore the green dot, he’s a leader, he’s a play-caller, and I know Kyle is excited to work with Chuck and learn from him. And then we just signed Marcus Williams. He’s one of the best safeties in football, and he’s got his unique style, and Kyle will learn from him too, and they’ll feed off each other and play with each other, create some versatility, some flexibility for Brandon Stephens. He can still continue to play safety, he can play a nickel role for us, he can maybe play some corner, as well, and he’s a very versatile player. And then you’ve got young guys like Geno [Stone]. Geno is in there doing well.

The Baltimore Ravens Are NFL’s Biggest Boom-or-Bust Team of 2022 - Ian Wharton

Sink or Swim with Greg Roman

The 2021 season continued the Ravens’ descent from their astonishing 14-2 finish in 2019, dipping to 11-5 in 2020 and down to 8-9 last season.

After two disappointing divisional-round losses in the two prior seasons where the offense was exposed as one-dimensional, offensive coordinator Greg Roman had to get away from his run-heavy game plans with Jackson. Unfortunately, injuries to left tackle Ronnie Stanley and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards erased the explosive element of the run game.

Roman responded with a vastly different offensive attack after accounting for the limited personnel. The Ravens finished last in the NFL in both 2019 and 2020 in passing attempts and first in the run game. Baltimore still had the third-most attempts and yards in 2021, but its passing attempts swelled to the ninth-highest in the league.

The result was predictable, considering the Ravens’ issues along their offensive line and an uninspiring receiving group. Jackson was sacked a career-high 38 times at a career-high nine percent sack rate.

The good news is the offensive line should be much better. Getting Stanley back is massive, and the addition of right tackle Morgan Moses provides stability and much-improved pass protection. Joining them will be first-round center Tyler Linderbaum.

2022 NFL season: Ranking the most vulnerable division winners, from shaky Bengals to sturdy Buccaneers - Cody Benjamin

1. Bengals (AFC North)

2021 record: 10-7 | Division title streak: 1 season

It’s not that we’re down on the Bengals. Joe Burrow and their play-makers are the real deal, and they wisely addressed the O-line. The defense is also underrated. But they’ve got a tough schedule with an absolutely brutal finish (their final eight are against projected playoff teams), and the division is always tight. It’d be a surprise if at least two of their rivals didn’t challenge for the title; the Ravens should be much healthier, the Steelers are never losers under Mike Tomlin, and the Browns still have lots of talent.