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Ravens News 9/6: Jets Advantages and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Ronnie Stanley Makes Debut at Ravens Practice - Ryan Mink

Ronnie Stanley is back on the field for the first time since Week 1 of last season.

Stanley passed his physical on Aug. 26. He was back on the field 10 days later, six days before the Ravens’ season kicks off.

It remains to be seen whether Stanley will be able to face the New York Jets in the regular-season opener. Head Coach John Harbaugh previously said “there’s a chance” Stanley could play Week 1, but “I wouldn’t comment on what the number is for strategic reasons.”

Harbaugh said last week that he’d ideally like players coming back from major injuries to have three weeks of practice before playing in a game. However, exceptions can be made.

Stanley’s ankle was originally injured on Nov. 1 of 2020 when Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt landed on the back of his leg. Stanley had signed a five-year contract extension two days prior. He has played just one game since.

The Ravens’ 2021 season was unpredictable. Here are 10 predictions for 2022. - Shaffer & Walker

Isaiah Likely will finish third on the team in receptions and receiving yards

Sometimes, we have to believe our eyes. Andrews is Jackson’s top target. Bateman is a clear No. 1 among the wide receivers. No other pass catcher came close to matching the productivity or “wow” factor we saw from Likely, a fourth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina, in training camp and the preseason. The rookie has every tool you’d want from a catch-first tight end: reliable hands in traffic, an inherent feel for sliding into open spaces, strength and balance to run through tackles. Ravens coaches had seen enough after he torched the Arizona Cardinals for 100 yards in one half; he didn’t play again over their next six quarters of preseason action.

The Ravens will finish in the top five in defensive DVOA

Defensive efficiency is inherently less stable than offensive efficiency from year to year, which is what made Don “Wink” Martindale’s tenure in Baltimore so remarkable. In his first three seasons as defensive coordinator, the Ravens ranked fourth, fifth and ninth in the NFL in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, Football Outsiders’ metric for relative efficiency. 2021 was supposed to be more of the same. Then the Ravens’ secondary struggled, and the pass rush never arrived, and injuries doomed the whole enterprise — and perhaps Martindale’s job security, too.

A year after setting a bunch of unwanted records on its way to a 28th-place finish in DVOA, the unit should bounce back nicely. The Ravens already have one of the NFL’s stingiest defensive lines. Their group of edge rushers could have four real threats by season’s end. And the secondary, with its collection of chess pieces and ballhawks, should have a more unpredictable array of coverages under new coordinator Mike Macdonald. There could be early struggles, especially against high-octane offenses like the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals’. But the potential is immense.

Ravens news, notes and opinions: Is a slow start a legitimate concern? - Jeff Zrebiec

Every year around draft time, there is a portion of Ravens fans who balk at the idea of using a first- or second-round pick on an offensive lineman because Baltimore has been able to find quality O-linemen in later rounds. There’s obviously some truth to that. In 2018, the Ravens selected Orlando Brown Jr. in the third round and Bradley Bozeman in the sixth. You can go back further and find other examples. However, last week’s relatively surprising cut of guard Tyre Phillips, a third-round pick in 2020, is the latest reminder of how difficult it is to continually rely on the middle-to-late rounds to find starting offensive linemen.

It’s also extremely telling — and probably disappointing to the team’s decision-makers — that the Ravens still have questions about their starting left guard spot despite drafting Ben Powers in the fourth round in 2019, Phillips and Ben Bredeson in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, in 2020 and Ben Cleveland in the third round in 2021. Add in the free-agent signing of Zeitler and that’s a ton of inventory to have spent on guard over a three-year span. Zeitler has delivered and then some, but Phillips and Bredeson are both gone, Cleveland has been a disappointment so far and Powers has always looked more like a serviceable stand-in than a long-term starter. With every team in the league annually looking for quality young offensive linemen, it’s only getting harder to make a living finding them in mid-to-late rounds.

Jimmy Kempski, who covers the Eagles for PhillyVoice, put out his annual rankings of the initial 53-man rosters in terms of age last week. The Ravens had the 13th-youngest roster in the NFL with an average age of 25.8. That’s the same exact age as their season-opening roster last year, although that ranked 18th.

NFL Power Rankings: Who Is Hot Heading Into Week 1? - Austin Gayle

Division Contenders

8. Baltimore Ravens (-156)

Baltimore missed the playoffs for the first time in the Lamar Jackson era last season after the roster, particularly the running back group and the secondary, was decimated by injuries. I’m here to remind you that Jackson is still the NFL’s most dynamic player and the primary reason the Ravens remain a deep postseason contender. Health permitting, which is far from a guarantee, Jackson should reassert himself as one of the league’s most prolific signal callers on his way back to the playoffs.

2 major advantages the NY Jets have over the Baltimore Ravens - Michael Nania

Jets’ TEs and RBs vs. Ravens’ TE/RB pass defense

The Jets figure to use their tight ends and running backs in the passing game quite frequently. They paid a combined $15 million per year to the free agent duo of C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin. In the backfield, Breece Hall and Michael Carter are each oozing with pass-catching upside.

Baltimore had enormous issues with covering TEs and RBs last year. In 2021, the Ravens ranked second-worst with 109.8 receiving yards allowed per game to TEs and RBs.

According to Pro Football Focus, Queen had the fourth-worst coverage grade among 60 qualified linebackers at 35.1. Clark ranked 42nd out of 64 qualified safeties with a 61.1 coverage grade.

Clark is a magnet for aerial production as he tied for eighth among safeties in yards allowed (448) and touchdowns allowed (4). Tyler Conklin should be able to beat Clark using his slick route-running ability. The Jets have to prioritize targeting Conklin if they catch Clark on him in man-to-man.

Additionally, the Ravens have a rookie safety in Kyle Hamilton who should get some snaps. Singling out a young defensive back in his first career game is always a good idea. If you see him out there, put the pressure on him.