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Ravens News 12/1: Looming Questions

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Five things we still need to learn about the 2023 Ravens

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

How much can the Ravens ride Keaton Mitchell as they search for a consistent offensive identity?

The Ravens have generally lived up to the lofty expectations fans set when the team hired Monken to replace beleaguered Greg Roman, ranking sixth in points per game, fourth in offensive DVOA and third in red zone efficiency. But they have fallen out of rhythm at times and failed to build on leads in the second half, creating lingering doubts about how they’ll look against elite opponents in December and January.

The surprise, perhaps, is that their efficiency still flows more from the run — with more spread and zone concepts built in under Monken — than the pass. Jackson remains a unique gravitational force, even when he’s handing the ball to someone else. Gus Edwards is the team’s best finisher near the goal line. But it’s Mitchell who has streaked onto the scene as an X factor.

If the Ravens are to avoid the fourth-quarter meltdowns that led to three defeats, this ground game — equal parts power, elusiveness and deception — will be their chief weapon.

“As he gets more and more comfortable, we get more and more comfortable with him and certain personnel groupings when we get him in there,” Monken said Monday. “He’s certainly going to only continue to get better with reps, especially … in terms of the pass protections [and] some of the detail things. Handing the ball off to him is probably the least of that.”

How the Ravens Could Go in a Different Direction at Tight End

Ryan Mink, BaltimoreRavens.com

In the first test case of life without Andrews, the Ravens got the ball to Likely in space and let him do damage with his legs. He wasn’t always the first read, but Likely was a strong check-down option for Lamar Jackson.

“[Likely] probably has a little more twitch. He probably has a little bit, as he develops as a player, to break tackles. He can get to an edge a little bit more than Mark,” Monken said.

While the Ravens will use Likely in different ways, they’ll still need him to come up with some contested catches like Andrews. Part of that requires trust from Jackson to give him those chances.

The other part is chemistry. The connection that Jackson and Andrews had isn’t developed overnight, but it’s something the Ravens want to work on establishing with Jackson and his other targets.

“What happens when that guy is not there, [and] someone else is doing it, is, ‘How much time do I have working with him doing it, to where I can read his body language? Does it look like he’s stopping or still continuing on? Is he going up [the] field [or] is he flattening it out?’” Quarterbacks Coach Tee Martin said.

Ravens need LT Ronnie Stanley in top form heading into late-season stretch

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

If you’re looking for a reason for concern, though, Stanley’s form might be one place to start. He’s been called for eight penalties and allowed four sacks this season in eight games, and he left two of those games early with a knee sprain.

Since signing the deal, Stanley has been unable to play in 36 of Baltimore’s last 63 games. He’s admirably persisted through the knee injury, initially sustained in Week 1 and aggravated in Week 10, but the results have been mixed.

Veteran Patrick Mekari has been solid when filling in for Stanley, but he’s probably better suited for that sixth offensive lineman role, where he can enter the game at a moment’s notice and play any of the five positions up front. Second-year fourth-round pick Daniel Faalele has not shown he’s capable of starting at left tackle on a regular basis.

That means the Ravens’ best bet is to hope Stanley gets healthier and steadies himself down the stretch, at a time when the team will be facing a list of dangerous edge rushers that includes T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Josh Allen and Bradley Chubb.

Redrafting every first-round pick from 2023 NFL Draft: Going through all 31 selections 3 months into season

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports

22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Zay Flowers

Zay Flowers

BAL • WR • #4

Actual pick: WR Zay Flowers

Flowers and the Ravens have been a near-perfect match, and because of varying circumstances in this exercise, teams above Baltimore that would’ve loved Flowers had to go in other directions.

As Ravens gear up for late-season run, offseason questions loom in the distance

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

DL Justin Madubuike

Status: Pending free agent

Projected contract: Three years, $55.4 million ($18.5 million annually)

Big question: How desperate are the Ravens to keep Madubuike for another year? He leads all interior linemen in sacks (10) and, according to PFF, ranks fourth in pressures, behind only the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald, New York Giants’ Dexter Lawrence and Buffalo Bills’ Ed Oliver. That’s an upscale neighborhood for NFL general managers; Donald’s deal averages $31.7 million annually, Lawrence’s averages $22.5 million and Oliver’s averages $17 million.

A franchise tag wouldn’t offer a heavy discount, either. According to Over The Cap, the 2024 tag for a defensive tackle would cost about $20.9 million. And, if Madubuike had another Pro Bowl-level season on the tag next year, his market value would only increase. The value of a compensatory pick if he left, however, would remain relatively unchanged.

OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Status: Pending free agent

2023 valuation: $9.6 million

Big question: How much does Clowney want to stay in Baltimore? When he signed with the Ravens in August, coach John Harbaugh called it a “perfect fit.” No one could’ve imagined Clowney’s fit would’ve been this perfect, though. The former No. 1 overall pick is on pace for career highs in sacks (7.5 in 12 games) and quarterback hits (17) and is eighth among edge rushers in ESPN’s pass rush win rate, ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt and Cincinnati Bengals’ Trey Hendrickson. With a $2.5 million cap hit, Clowney’s been one of the NFL’s best bargains.

It might not be a long stay in Baltimore, though. The Ravens are the fourth team the 30-year-old Clowney has played for since leaving the Houston Texans in the 2019 offseason, and his injury history could make DeCosta hesitant to re-sign him. Clowney has not been shy about expressing his admiration for the organization, from its culture to his teammates to the Ravens’ defensive coaches he’s known for years, but how much will that be worth in free agency? With a double-digit-sack season, he’d generate the kind of interest he didn’t have this past offseason.

The same goes for fellow one-year rental Kyle Van Noy (six sacks), who’s one sack shy of a career high.