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Ravens News 12/13: Proven Asset

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Marlon Humphrey is least of Ravens’ concerns, and OBJ proving to be an asset

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

OBJ again proving his worth

It’s probably not the best example, because Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. ran the wrong route. Yet, when Beckham used a double move to get behind both cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Jordan Fuller for a 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter Sunday, it was further affirmation of what the Ravens were getting for their money.

They didn’t know how well Beckham could still run after his knee issues. But they knew he still was a precise route runner. They knew he’d still be able to make adjustments to the ball in the air. And they knew he’d catch just about everything that hit his hands. The nifty touchdown catch Sunday displayed all those examples and showed he can still run a little bit, too.

The other thing the Ravens knew? That Beckham loves the stage and can be counted on in big moments. Beckham had four catches for 97 yards on Sunday. The 46-yard touchdown gave the Ravens a 14-10 lead. His three other receptions gave Baltimore first downs. His final catch, a 14-yarder, was on the Ravens’ go-ahead scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.

Twelve Ravens Thoughts following Week 14 win over Rams

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

Look no further than Sunday’s poor defensive performance to understand how valuable the versatile Kyle Hamilton is. I wrote a couple weeks ago that Hamilton might be the second-best player on this defense behind Roquan Smith, and Sunday supported that opinion. Fortunately, Hamilton isn’t expected to be out for long.

The defense got little pressure on Matthew Stafford and allowed season highs in yards, yards per play, passing touchdowns, and passing yards. The similarities between the Rams offense and those of upcoming opponents San Francisco and Miami are noteworthy, but Mike Macdonald’s defense is entitled to have one bad day.

Though Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses account for nearly $30 million on the 2023 salary cap, rotating them out for Patrick Mekari (14 snaps for Stanley) and Daniel Faalele (eight snaps for Moses) coincided with strong performances from both. We’ll see if offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris continues this approach.

Ravens’ Lamar Jackson spurs Super Bowl aspirations

Jamison Hensley, ESPN

For the third straight year, the Ravens head into Week 15 atop the AFC North with a chance to capture the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But, unlike the past two years, Baltimore (10-3) is seen as a legitimate Super Bowl contender at this time of the year.

The difference: a healthy Lamar Jackson. Heading into Monday night’s games, Baltimore was the projected favorite to earn to the No. 1 seed in the AFC at 53%, according to ESPN Analytics.

Jackson is one of the NFL’s best at this point in the season. He improved to 14-3 (.824) in December, which is the NFL’s second-best mark since 2018 behind Aaron Rodgers (17-3).

Before this week, Jackson had struggled in the fourth quarter. He ranked 27th with a 33.7 Total QBR, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions in the fourth.

On Sunday, Jackson stepped up on Baltimore’s final drive of regulation, when the Ravens trailed the Rams 28-23 late in the fourth. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 73 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Flowers.

The weakest part of Jackson’s game has been his downfield throwing, but he made strides in the right direction against the Rams.

He averaged a season-high 11.4 air yards per attempt Sunday, throwing his two deepest touchdown passes of the season. There were 27 air yards to tight end Isaiah Likely (on a 54-yard TD) and 43 air yards to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (on a 46-yard TD).

Tylan Wallace’s heroics bring to light how Ravens’ role players are helping fuel Baltimore’s push for AFC’s top seed

Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun

That everybody includes defensive end Brent Urban.

A one-time starter for the Ravens in 2018, injuries have taken their toll on the now 32-year-old Canadian, who bounced around the NFL before rejoining Baltimore in 2022. He was released twice by the Ravens each of the past two years but re-signed both times and been a solid contributor. Last season, he had 21 tackles, including two for loss, and a quarterback hit. This year, he has 18 tackles, including two for loss, and three quarterback hits. He also had the first fumble recovery of his career late in the first half of the Ravens’ win three weeks ago against the Los Angeles Chargers that ultimately led to a field goal.

“I’ve kind of embraced this role where I’m coming off the bench,” Urban said. “I’m able to stay fresh and come off with a little more energy. I can go all out knowing I’m only going to get my certain amount of reps.

“You can get annoyed you’re not starting, but at the end of the day, you need depth to do anything. You look at the best D-lines around the league and there’s guys coming off the bench who are producing. You have to make the most of every opportunity. It’s not the easiest role because if you mess up one play and you’re only getting so many, you’ve had a bad game. It definitely takes some getting used to.”

Grading all 31 first-round picks after Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season

Dalton Wasserman, PFF

PICK NO. 22: BALTIMORE RAVENS: WR ZAY FLOWERS

Overall Rookie Grade: 74.7 (Rank: 5/15)

Principal Opponent: Ahkello Witherspoon

Week 14 Snaps: 70

Week 14 Grade: 65.6

Flowers continues to come through for Baltimore. He caught a late go-ahead touchdown and the subsequent two-point conversion with just over a minute to go in regulation. He finished the day with six catches and 60 yards but also dropped two passes. Regardless, he has now scored three crucial touchdowns in Baltimore’s past two games and leads the team in receiving yards by a wide margin.

NFL Week 15 picks: Bills stun Cowboys to stay in AFC playoff race, Steelers and Lions both lose Saturday games

John Breech, CBS Sports

Baltimore (10-3) at Jacksonville (8-5)

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

Heading into Week 15, the Jags have surrendered 265.2 yards per game through the air this year, which ranks 31st in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have a 90.9 QB rating against the Jaguars defense this season. To put that in perspective, Joe Montana’s career QB rating was 92.3, which means the Jags are so bad on defense that they make every QB they face look like Joe Montana. Now imagine if Joe Montana could run like Lamar Jackson and you’ll understand what kind of trouble Jacksonville might be in on Sunday.

I feel like the Ravens are going to score a lot of points and I can’t imagine the Jaguars keeping up, especially with Trevor Lawrence still playing on a slightly hobbled ankle. This will mark the fourth time this season that Lawerence has faced a top-8 defense in the NFL and the Jags are 0-3 in the previous three games with losses to the Chiefs, Browns and 49ers. I don’t think this game is going to go any better for them.

The pick: Ravens 34-20 over Jaguars