In just 9 games with Ravens, do-it-all ILB Roquan Smith proved he’s worth every penny - Mike Preston
He can run sideline to sideline and cover almost any running back out of the backfield. At 6 feet 1 and 236 pounds, he can shock and shed blockers and is relentless in pursuing ball carriers to the other side of the field.
This deal wasn’t just about his athleticism and instincts to make plays; it was also about his character. Most veterans don’t want to become leaders in their first year — especially after arriving in the middle of the season — for fear of becoming too dominant a personality or shaking things up, but Smith settled in well in Charm City. His teammates raved about his leadership in film study and how his unselfishness has made other players around him, like Queen, better.
Smith wanted to come to the Ravens, a winning franchise that consistently challenges for a Super Bowl, but team officials also sent out several messages Tuesday with the deal.
In recent years, the Ravens have allowed strong defensive players such as outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon to leave and sign free-agent contracts elsewhere.
In the past two years, they have failed to reach a contract extension with Pro Bowl quarterback Lamar Jackson, and there was speculation the Ravens weren’t willing to pay big money to retain quality players, ignoring the lucrative deals left tackle Ronnie Stanley, tight end Mark Andrews and cornerback Marlon Humphrey have signed.
But that perception might have changed Tuesday.
Final 2022 NFL offensive line rankings - Sam Monson
2. BALTIMORE RAVENS (UP 2)
Week 18 Starters:
LG Ben Powers
RT Morgan Moses
Cincinnati’s defensive front caused some issues for the Ravens in Week 18. Baltimore’s tackles combined to allow eight total pressures.
With just 24 penalties all season, this was the least penalized offensive line in football during the regular season.
Best Player: Ronnie Stanley
Ronnie Stanley returning from a longtime injury was a huge boost to this offensive line. Stanley allowed 16 total pressures and one sack across 298 pass-blocking snaps during the regular season. Other Ravens left tackles allowed six sacks combined.
The 14 NFL Playoff QBs, Ranked - Steven Ruiz
5. LAMAR JACKSON
WHAT’S AT STAKE
I’m not sure Jackson has anything to prove at this point. At least not to the Ravens, whose offense has cratered since he suffered a knee injury in early December. Had Jackson, and the offense at large, stayed healthy this season, the postseason may have carried more significance for the 2019 MVP. Given his own injury and the dearth of options in the Ravens receiving corps, expectations for this team are low heading into the postseason. I suppose Jackson could show that he really is the only reason Baltimore’s offense is viable, but he’s already proved that many times over the past three years.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: CREATIVITY
Lamar breaks the creativity scale. He is a one-man offensive starter pack. The Ravens haven’t surrounded him with a lot of star talent—the man won a unanimous MVP in 2019 with Marquise Brown as his top wideout—yet Baltimore’s offense has never been below average with no. 8 on the field. Jackson’s running ability is a big reason why, but don’t sleep on his creativity as a passer. He knows how to manipulate a defender to open up a void in zone coverage, and he can throw from any arm angle. As long as Lamar is upright, he’s capable of creating a big play.
Jackson joins Danny Dimes as the only quarterback on this list. However, Jackson’s dual-threat excellence goes even further considering just how lethal he was pre-injury this season. Overall, only Jaylen Waddle and A.J. Brown managed to post a higher playmaker rate than Jackson among all players with at least 100 combined carries and targets.
This is thanks to Jackson’s ridiculous ability to rack up forced missed tackles. Nobody was better than Jackson (0.31) in broken tackles per carry. This rate was easily a career-high mark for Jackson, and his total 34 missed tackles forced were tied for the second-highest total of his young career.
Ravens-Bengals Playoff Game Takes Their Rivalry to Another Level - Clifton Brown
The Ravens say that facing an AFC North opponent on back-to-back weeks, with the season on the line, will only raise the heat in an already intense rivalry that has been building to a boil the past couple years.
“It’s definitely picking up for sure,” safety Chuck Clark said. “With some of the players that know each other from before and things that have happened within the game over the years between the two teams, it’s definitely picking up.”
Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said Wednesday that he didn’t appreciate Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith giving him a bump in the end zone after Daryl Worley broke up a pass intended for Chase.
“He was the only one trying to do messy stuff,” Chase said, via Ben Baby of ESPN.com. “He did it on purpose. We got something for that.”
Smith surely wasn’t bothered. Told that some of the Bengals complained about how the Ravens played in Week 18, Smith broke out smiling.
“See you Sunday,” Smith said.
“They have a young team that is talented,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I feel like they had a big chip on their shoulder. In 2019, I wasn’t here yet, but the Baltimore Ravens were spectacular. In 2020, we were still very, very good and we played some good ballgames against them. Last year, they came through, and two games getting swept like that, that’s rare. It kind of created that mentality where you know you have to be on point or they will embarrass you. It created a rivalry that’s probably going to last for awhile.”
NFL Super Wild Card Weekend picks - Pete Prisco
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
The big issue here is whether Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson can play. I will make the assumption that he does play here. He certainly will be rusty coming off missing five weeks, but he’s better than the alternative of him not playing. The Bengals have ripped off eight straight victories, not counting the canceled game, and they’ve looked every bit as good as the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. They beat up the Ravens last week, but that doesn’t matter. What will matter is Joe Burrow having a big day. The Bengals will move on.
Pick: Bengals 26, Ravens 19