It is Bateman’s game, though—at least in theory. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound wideout played like a traditional “X receiver” both at Minnesota and in limited appearances during his rookie year. He can deal with press coverage, make contested catches in traffic, and be relied upon to get open against man coverage. Having one of those receivers is almost a prerequisite for fielding an effective passing game in today’s NFL.
“Guys like that are real gems,” Roman said of those true no. 1 receivers. “As [Bateman] develops, it’s going to become a real situation where any time he’s in a one-on-one situation with no help, we can go to him. … It’s invaluable.”
And those isolated opportunities Roman alluded to earlier? Bateman didn’t get them very often, as a majority of them went to Brown. Still, in limited time, Bateman was able to prove he is a chain mover. The rookie just narrowly edged out Mark Andrews for the team lead in third-down success rate, per the nflfastR database. More importantly, his rate of success on those plays was 20 percentage points higher than Brown’s.
The goal with Bateman is to force defenses to cover more ground, which means more space in the run game and clearer throwing lanes over the middle. The Ravens enjoyed both in 2019, when they steamrolled the league and Lamar had his best statistical year as a passer, so for Jackson, the benefits are obvious. He is already the league’s most dangerous player in space, and his issues with accuracy or timing (which are overblown) would be mitigated by those bigger passer windows. But Bateman isn’t just going to step out on the field in Week 1 and command safety help right away. He has to prove he is a threat first.
How Justin Tucker Became the Greatest Kicker in N.F.L. History - Wil S. Hylton
The details of that choreography are specific to his body. He has spent the bulk of his adult life searching for ways to improve them: adjusting his angle of approach to the ball, tinkering with the timing of each step, perfecting the orientation of his plant foot and making fractional changes to the arc and trajectory of his swing. He has considered the effect of a three-degree increase in the rotation of his hip on the backswing. He has trained the joints of his leg to move in opposite directions simultaneously, so his thigh can begin its advance toward the ball while his knee is still drawing back. He has carefully calibrated the sequence of his proximal-to-distal movements to exploit the kinematic potential of his own proportions.
It’s easy to look back on that rise as if it were preordained, an inevitable result of incomparable but inexplicable talent. In fact, what has distinguished Tucker from his first day with the Ravens is a relentless effort to get better. He has kept tinkering with his technique, week after week and season after season, as if he were still a rookie gunning for a spot on the team. Most of that tinkering is nearly undetectable. Even legendary N.F.L. kickers are sometimes astonished by his consistency. “He’s the most in-rhythm kicker that I’ve ever seen,” says Stephen Gostkowski, a former place-kicker for the New England Patriots. “He’s got the muscle memory to do the same thing every time. The guy is just absolutely amazing.”
The Ravens appear to have more versatile linemen as opposed to the one-dimensional pass rushers or basic run-stoppers of the past. The team has traditionally been strong against the run — they were ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season, allowing an average of 84.5 rushing yards per game — but it was almost meaningless when they allowed a league-high 278.9 passing yards per game.
Maybe that has changed. The Ravens now have two nose tackles who can rush the passer. Veteran Michael Pierce is strong and powerful enough to collapse the pocket, while rookie Travis Jones has quick feet, strong hands and loads of potential. Like Pierce, he should be able to force quarterbacks to move or step up in the pocket.
Madubuike has done everything well in his first two seasons to earn a starting job at tackle. He reshaped his body — no more baby fat — and his exceptional quickness can disrupt running plays and allow him to gain a step on offensive linemen in pass protection. This should be Madubuike’s breakout season.
Ravens Fact or Fiction - Ryan Mink
Fact: The Ravens need more outside linebackers.
Harbaugh said Baltimore has more options than meets the eye at outside linebacker and Steven Means could be elevated early in the season, but I’m not ruling out an outside addition. Baltimore doesn’t want to wear down Justin Houston or Odafe Oweh until Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo are back.
Fact: Baltimore will get more turnovers.
The Ravens’ last place ranking in pass defense has been countlessly regurgitated but the lack of takeaways (only two teams had fewer) was also a major problem. Marcus Peters’ return and the Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton additions should solve that. Bonus: more turnovers also boost the offense.
Fiction: The offense is going back to 2019.
We’d all love to relive the 2019 offense again with MVP Lamar Jackson and a record-setting rushing attack. It ain’t happening. The Ravens will be more in that direction this year than last, but Baltimore won’t rank last in passing attempts like it did then. The passing game has advanced.
Ceiling and floor for all 32 NFL teams: Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, Bucs, Packers looking to dethrone Rams - Jeff Kerr
Ceiling: 13-4, win AFC Championship
The Ravens do have a talented roster, as they displayed last season in having the AFC’s best record heading into December despite over a dozen players on injured reserve. They didn’t win a game after that as Lamar Jackson’s ankle injury was the final straw in stopping Baltimore from reaching the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
The offense is tailor-made for Jackson to succeed running the football, back to the system that aided him in leading the league in touchdown passes and winning MVP honors in 2019. J.K. Dobbins is also back, a major boost for the ground game.
Mike MacDonald has the defense set for a major turnaround and a revamped secondary, with Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey back on the field, should have Baltimore back toward the top of the AFC North in 2022.
The Ravens are contenders in the AFC.
Floor: 9-8, miss playoffs
Even if Jackson suffers an injury, the Ravens should be fine on offense with Tyler Huntley. “Fine” isn’t good enough in a loaded conference. The Ravens need Jackson on the field and playing toward MVP level every week, similar toward how he was in the first month of last season.
The wide receiver corps, outside of Rashod Bateman, is a concern and could significantly hurt Baltimore through a 17-game season, even if the Ravens are stacked at tight end. The Ravens also need the All-Pro version of Ronnie Stanley back to keep the offense at a high level and Gus Edwards healthy for the stretch run.