Here we are again. A loud contingent of Ravens fans wanted Harbaugh to fire Roman after last season. Their gripes — unimaginative passing attack, overreliance on the power game, poorly conceived routes for the wide receivers — have become a chorus echoing behind everything the Ravens do (or don’t do) on offense. Brown reinforced their discontent when, after his trade to Arizona, he said Roman’s system “wasn’t for me.”
All this bile for a coordinator whose offense ran all over the league in 2019 and still managed to finish sixth in total yardage last season. Have the Ravens calcified under Roman, who was so lauded three years ago for tailoring an attack around Jackson’s unique abilities? It’s a reasonable question after they averaged just 18 points over their last nine games in 2021. He has promised new wrinkles in 2022, and better health — the Ravens operated without their projected backfield, their All-Pro left tackle and eventually, Jackson, last season — would provide a boost.
Given the Ravens’ lack of investment in wide receivers and their stockpiling of tight ends, many have wondered if Roman is aiming to recapture his formula from 2019, when the Ravens rolled up rushing yards at a historic rate and thrived on low-volume, high-efficiency passing. Regardless of his approach, Roman, and the hot seat he occupies, will be a story from Week 1 on.
Reasons for confidence: Moses, the eight-year pro who has been a model of consistency and durability, is a significant upgrade at the right tackle spot. The Ravens also believe Linderbaum will be an impact plug-and-play starter at center. Add in the healthy return of James and the drafting of a developmental tackle in Faalele and it appears that DeCosta significantly improved the depth up front this offseason.
Reasons for concern: The Ravens are not only lacking in experience, they’re lacking in proven production and depth. An injury to one of their top wide receivers would be a major problem. While Brown battled consistency issues, he was a bona fide threat, particularly in the red zone, where he had 21 touchdowns in three seasons, and the Ravens did nothing to replace his production.
Outlook: Not everybody is of the belief that Brown is a big loss for the Ravens. However, until a few of the team’s young receivers step up and become consistent producers and legitimate threats, it’s hard not to conclude that his departure doesn’t create a void of some significance. It still feels likely that the Ravens bring in a veteran receiver at some point. However, unless DeCosta has a major surprise up his sleeve, it’s hard to believe that the player will alter what the Ravens do offensively.
PFF50: The 50 best players in the NFL right now - Sam Monson
Williams has posted 70.0-plus overall PFF grades in each of his five NFL seasons and 80.0-plus coverage grades in three. He was remarkably consistent inside New Orleans’ defense, and in 2022, we will get to see him in a Ravens system that asks a little more from its safeties.
Training Camp Competition: Safety - Clifton Brown
The Ravens have at least three starting-caliber safeties in Clark, Williams and Hamilton. Williams was Baltimore’s biggest acquisition in free agency and is fully expected to take over one starting spot. Clark has been a major piece in Baltimore’s defense, starting every game the past two seasons and wearing the green dot helmet to relay the defensive calls to his teammates. Clark has far more experience than Hamilton, but the 14th overall pick has the talent and versatility to make an immediate impact. Baltimore’s coaching staff will have some intriguing choices, deciding which safeties to play in certain situations. Regardless of who starts, expect new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald to show a variety of looks, including a potential increase in three-safety packages that feature Clark, Williams and Hamilton on the field together.
Jefferson and Stone are hard-nosed, smart players who also play special teams. But it remains to be seen if four, five, or even six safeties will make the 53-man roster. Jefferson brings a physical mentality and eight seasons of NFL experience. Stone was a seventh-round pick in 2020 who has improved each season. The Ravens will have some tough decisions to make regarding playing time and roster spots, but Jefferson and Stone hope to solidify a role with a strong training camp.
Tale of the Tape: Lamar Jackson Vs. Joe Burrow - Todd Karpovich
Jackson is only 1-3 in the playoffs, but two of those losses came in his first two seasons. Burrow also gets more credit for his passing accuracy, but he has more weapons at wide receiver than Jackson.
Burrow played two of his finest games against the Ravens, throwing for 941 yards with seven touchdowns.
Jackson is 5-2 against the Bengals over his career and had one of the NFL’s most iconic plays when he orchestrated a spin move en route to a long touchdown in the 2019 season.
Burrow had a great year in 2021 but Jackson is still one of the NFL’s most dangerous players.