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Ravens News 7/25: Efficiency Framework and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Ravens Double Down On 2019 Framework - Bo Smolka

Despite a shocking 28-12 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans in January 2020, the Ravens remain convinced that their run-first approach can work in an NFL that has skewed heavily toward the passing game in the past two decades.

In the most obvious endorsement of their 2019 framework, the Ravens retained embattled offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the architect of their record-setting run game but also the target of intense criticism when the offense has scuffled, most notably in early postseason exits in 2019 and 2020.

Can that 2019 formula work again?

In a loaded AFC featuring Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and other quarterbacks who can light up the scoreboard, can the Ravens keep pace? After trading away Marquise Brown, the Ravens’ returning wide receivers have a combined total of 1,227 career yards — 228 fewer than Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase tallied last season alone.

That 2019 team, though, didn’t rely on fireworks from wide receivers. No wide receiver on that team had more than 600 yards. Their success was built on offensive efficiency, particularly in the red zone. It was built on getting a lead and holding it with a clock-swallowing drive that left the opposing quarterback watching helplessly from the sideline. In 2019, the Ravens had five scoring drives of at least nine minutes; no other team had more than one.

Steelers QBs, Kyle Hamilton’s impact, Jessie Bates’ saga: AFC North Whiparound - Jeff Zrebiec

Which are the most prominent players on your team who are perceived as being on the bubble at the start of camp?

The Ravens’ perceived “bubble” heading into camp includes plenty of names, although not too many that will resonate outside the Baltimore fan base. A few that might: former first-round offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, veteran safety Tony Jefferson, guard Ben Powers and running backs Justice Hill and Mike Davis. James was signed last year while he was rehabbing an Achilles injury, but the Ravens have since added two right tackles in Moses and fourth-round pick Daniel Faalele. Moving on from James would create $3 million of cap savings for a team that is tight against the cap. The Ravens love Jefferson, but they are loaded with young defensive backs. It’s hard to imagine there’s 53-man space for Phillips, Cleveland and Powers, who has started 19 games over the past two seasons. Depending on the health of Dobbins and Edwards, there might be only one or two running back spots available between Hill, Davis and sixth-round rookie Tyler Badie.

Training Camp Competition: Defensive Line - Clifton Brown

Best Battle

There should be a healthy training camp battle between Jones and Washington to earn snaps as part of the defensive line rotation. Jones is a rookie to watch, a third-round pick who had 8 ½ sacks during his career at Connecticut. He has promise as a run-stopper who can also bring inside pressure. Washington’s playing time increased during his second season in Baltimore and the departures of Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe have given younger linemen an opportunity to emerge. The Ravens wanted to get younger on the defensive line and Washington is vying for a bigger role.

Under the Radar

Urban is a former Ravens fourth-round pick (2014) who had four solid seasons in Baltimore before moving on in free agency. After stints with the Bears, Titans and Cowboys, Urban has returned to where his career started. He’s a veteran who knows that stopping the run is always a top priority in Baltimore. The Ravens gave up the fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL last season and hope Urban’s presence in the rotation helps them remain one of the toughest teams to run against.

Don’t Bet Against J.K. Dobbins Making a Big Return - Ryan Mink

Don’t fret about the six rehabbing Ravens starting camp on PUP. They aren’t going to rush Ronnie Stanley, Marcus Peters, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Ar’Darius Washington and Tyus Bowser back just to get practice reps. A huge factor in Baltimore’s 2022 success is how close those players get to their former selves.

I’m not into whining about “Madden” ratings because they don’t matter. But not having Marcus Williams in the top 10 safeties with Tyrann Mathieu, who hung out on the free-agent market until May, at No. 1 is quite odd. Mathieu is great, but Williams is being majorly slept on.

The Ravens bringing back offensive tackle David Sharpe shows they want to keep their guards playing guard in training camp. Tyre Phillips has bounced outside to tackle the past couple years to fill in for injuries. His best position has always been at guard, and he’ll get to show it.

Lamar Jackson contract update: The latest on where things stand with Baltimore Ravens - Aaron Wilson

What’s next for Lamar Jackson and his contract?

The Ravens and Jackson are talking. However, no deal is imminent, per a league source. And Jackson, who has no agent and is advised by his mother and outside counsel, is in no rush to sign a contract at this time, per league sources.

“Kyler’s deal is basically the floor for Lamar, and he is going to want more money than Kyler,” said a league source not involved in the talks. “Every big-time quarterback is going to ask for the Watson deal or more, but I view that one as an exception, not the rule.

“Could that change? Of course, but teams are going to be hesitant to start making this like Major League Baseball with huge guaranteed contracts. Whatever Jackson winds up getting is likely going to be topped by the other quarterback deals down the road.”

There’s no sense of urgency on Jackson’s part to sign now because the money will only keep going up as long as he remains healthy and productive. The Ravens aren’t expected to want to rent Jackson under the franchise tag.

He’s due $23.016 million this year under a fifth-year club option the team exercised a year ago. He could make roughly $47 million next season under a franchise tender, but that would crush the Ravens’ salary cap because none of the money would be prorated.

A former NFL Most Valuable Player, Jackson is incredibly valuable to the Ravens. Their once-promising season flamed out when he was injured last year.