Stood out: DeCosta’s decision to go get Smith before the trade deadline, at the cost of a second- and fifth-round pick, solidified the defense and helped the Ravens get into the playoffs. Then, he was able to extend Smith, which makes it easier to accept the loss of two draft picks. DeCosta delivered in a big way on his vow to improve the offensive line. He also added much-needed depth at running back, tight end and outside linebacker, which paid dividends.
Needed improvement: It seemed inevitable that DeCosta would make a significant move for a wide receiver after he traded Marquise Brown during the first night of the draft. He never did, and picked up a couple of veterans (Robinson, Watkins) who had been released by their teams at different points of the seasons and signed DeSean Jackson off the street. That proved to be a major gaffe. The injuries to Bateman and Duvernay exposed the team’s lack of wide receiver depth and held the offense back.
Final grade: C+
The scrutiny on DeCosta has intensified, but a good number of his offseason decisions paid off. He got a handful of free agents at modest price tags, most notably Moses and Houston, who proved to be key contributors. The signing of Marcus Williams looked like a home run until the safety’s injury. Guys such as Robinson, Drake and Pierre-Paul were nice depth pickups late in the summer or early in the season. The team got reasonably good production out of its draft class. So far, so good on the Smith trade. However, the lack of wide receiver help is impossible to ignore, only because it seemed so obvious that the Ravens needed another legitimate pass catcher after trading Brown — and yet that piece wasn’t acquired. That’s a major blemish on an offseason that otherwise featured far more good than bad.
Ravens 2022 superlatives: Most valuable player, most improved, worst play and everything in between - Childs Walker
Most Valuable Raven: Marlon Humphrey
Baltimore media members voted for Roquan Smith as the team’s Most Valuable Player, understandable given the linebacker’s immediate and immense impact on the Ravens’ defense after he arrived via trade from the Chicago Bears. But Smith played just 10 games in Baltimore. Humphrey played all 18, including the playoffs, and was on the field for almost every defensive snap after his 2021 season was cut short by a pectoral injury.
Humphrey would be a delight to coach. He’s not the No. 1 cover cornerback in the league, but he’s in the top tier. He shifts seamlessly to the slot whenever asked. He tackles with aplomb, forced four turnovers this season and even added three sacks. He always shows up in terrific condition and rarely misses a practice. The Ravens extended him for almost $100 million to be one of their cornerstones, and he was just that in 2022. As they try to build an even nastier defense for 2023, with Smith now locked up on a five-year extension, they will know they can count on Humphrey.
Best individual game: Lamar Jackson’s five-touchdown evisceration of the Patriots
Given the Ravens’ offensive woes in the second half, we might forget just how hot Jackson was in the early weeks of the season. He had thrown for 318 yards and three touchdowns in the home opener only to watch the Miami Dolphins wipe away his great work with a 28-3 fourth quarter. He and the Ravens needed to get back on track against a Patriots defense that would finish the season third in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Well, the Patriots found no answer for Jackson, who threw for 218 yards and a season-high four touchdowns and added 107 rushing yards on 11 carries. He scored on a 9-yard keeper with three minutes left in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. At that moment, fleeting as it turned out, he appeared ready to chase a second MVP award.
Most importantly, an offensive line that was a source of frustration over the previous two seasons finished 2022 as one of the roster’s greatest strengths and one of the NFL’s top groups, according to multiple outlets. Pro Football Focus ranked the Ravens as its second-best offensive line by year’s end — they were 21st in 2021 — while ESPN ranked Baltimore sixth in team pass block win rate and first in team run block win rate for the 2022 season.
With the winds of change surrounding other elements of the offense, the Ravens want the offensive line to look very similar to the one that excelled for much of 2022. Of the nine linemen to finish the season on the 53-man roster, Powers is the only one scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return. If Powers indeed proves too expensive as most anticipate, Baltimore could turn to restricted free agent Trystan Colon, 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland, or Mekari to take over at left guard.
Salary cap concerns may prompt attempts by DeCosta to adjust the existing contracts for Moses and Zeitler, but the Ravens would certainly like to avoid having to fix something that wasn’t broken for the first time in a few years. They have more than enough to address with the rest of the offense.
One of John Harbaugh’s Greatest Hiring Strengths - Ryan Mink
Harbaugh isn’t hurrying to beat the hiring rush. He’s more interested in getting it right. Three hot names linked to Baltimore, the Chiefs’ Eric Bieniemy, Eagles’ Brian Johnson and 49ers’ Bobby Slowick, are still in the playoffs, so the Ravens cannot submit interview requests. The search may heat up soon.
The Ravens’ reported interviews so far have skewed towards pass game coordinators and quarterback coaches that suggest a shift toward a more aerial attack moving forward. Improving that is paramount. But the key will be marrying the passing game with what Baltimore will continue to do on the ground.
Whether Johnson leaves Philadelphia is another question entirely, though. Johnson hasn’t taken any interviews as of yet, and sources believe he’s waiting to see whether current Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen gets a head-coaching job. If that happens, it’s believed that Johnson would be the top candidate to replace Steichen as OC in Philly.
Johnson is in his second year as the Eagles QBs coach. A former star quarterback at Utah, Johnson worked as a quarterbacks coach and/or offensive coordinator at Utah, Mississippi, Houston and Florida during the 2010s before joining Nick Sirianni’s staff in 2021.