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Ravens News 5/12: Schedule Takeaways and more

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NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Early 2023 NFL roster rankings for all 32 teams: Strengths, weaknesses, rookies to watch and more

Wasserman & Wyman, PFF


Biggest strength in 2023: Ground game

Retaining Lamar Jackson was huge for this Ravens offense as they continue to boast one of the game’s top rushing attacks. Not only is Jackson among the best running quarterbacks in football, but the team is also deep at the running back position with the likes of J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill set to return in 2023.

Biggest weakness in 2023: Pass Rush

The only returning Ravens defensive linemen to record a 70.0-plus pass-rush grade last season are David Ojabo and Michael Pierce, neither of whom reached 100 total snaps due to injury. The Ravens are banking on developmental players like Ojabo and 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh to take big leaps forward in 2023.

X-Factor for 2023: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Having had a full season to recover from a torn ACL suffered in Super Bowl 56, Beckham looks to become the first true No. 1 receiving threat for Lamar Jackson. That being said, the 30-year-old Beckham hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game since Week 6 of 2019, so it’s fair to wonder if his best years are behind him.

Rookie to watch: WR Zay Flowers

The 22nd pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Flowers may be undersized but brings a lot of speed and elusiveness to the Ravens’ receiver room, something that’s been missing since the team traded Hollywood Brown to the Cardinals.

Over/Under 8.5 win total: Over

With Lamar Jackson back in the fold, the Ravens will once again have one of the most dynamic offenses in the game. And with a full season of Roquan Smith on the defensive side of the ball, yards will be hard to come by against the team.

2023 NFL All-Paid Team: Lamar Jackson, Tyreek Hill and Aaron Donald headline top earners by position

Anthony Holzman-Escareno,


Lamar Jackson

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $52 million

Without hiring an agent, Jackson negotiated a five-year, $260 million contract that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history at $52 million per season. The 2019 unanimous NFL MVP bet on himself last season — playing out his fifth-year option and forcing the Ravens to franchise tag him this offseason — and won.

Despite having logged just 70 NFL games thus far, Jackson ranks fifth on the all-time quarterback rushing list with 4,437 career yards. Each of the players ahead of him has played more than twice as many games: Michael Vick (143 games), Cam Newton (148), Russell Wilson (173) and Randall Cunningham (161). As far as throwing the football, last year was supposedly a down season for Jackson, but he still led all qualified QBs with a 124.7 passer rating on intermediate tosses (10-19 air yards, per Next Gen Stats).

At the end of the day, this game is about wins and losses; since 1970, only Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Roger Staubach have won a higher percentage of their career games (minimum 25 starts) than Jackson, who boasts a .738 mark (45-16).


Roquan Smith

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20 million

The linebacker market has seen some movement in recent years, and players at the position can thank C.J. Mosley and his $17 million-per-year deal in 2019 for a large share of that progress.

It took requesting (and ultimately being granted) a trade to get a new contract, but Roquan Smith found the Brinks truck in the parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore made Smith the first traditional linebacker in NFL history to sign a contract worth $20 million per year or $100 million in total value. The Ravens very well might’ve seen flashes of an iconic Raven in Smith. He’s one of two players since 1995 to record at least 100 tackles, multiple sacks and an interception in each of his first five seasons. The other is Pro Football Hall of Famer and Ravens legend Ray Lewis.

The Ravens have stockpiled speed on offense. Will coordinator Todd Monken finally spread it out?

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

“You’d like to be able to spread the field, use every blade of grass. What dictates that? Your ability to function doing that, having enough players that a defense would have to respect using all that, which is true. You’d love to be able to have weapons where they have to defend every skill player that you have. So that’s exactly right, but then what takes you out of that?”

“The more spread out you get, the more you have to put on your quarterback in terms of issues in the run game or RPOs [run-pass options],” Monken said. “So the more condensed you are, sometimes you can protect gaps and protect the quarterback a little bit more. So some of that is reliant on the players that you have and the abilities that they have.”

If the Ravens need a proof of concept for Jackson’s potential in a spread attack, they need only look at 2019, his NFL Most Valuable Player season. For all the dynamism that Jackson brought to a smashmouth rushing offense, his contributions in obvious passing situations often went overlooked.

In 119 drop-backs in empty formations — no running backs by his side, five receivers typically spread out around him — Jackson went 70-for-101 (69.3%) for 11 touchdowns and two interceptions, according to Sports Info Solutions, good for a passer rating of 123.7. Just for good measure, he also scrambled 13 times in empty formations for 149 yards.

Baltimore Ravens schedule 2023: Takeaways, predictions

Jamison Hensley, ESPN

Biggest takeaway

A brutal road stretch to begin the season. In the first six weeks, the Ravens play their three AFC North rivals on the road and then play in London, where they suffered their worst loss of the 15-year John Harbaugh era in 2017 (a 44-17 loss to the Jaguars). But the travel is the most daunting part. Baltimore faces one 2022 playoff team in the first eight weeks and could go against two rookie QBs drafted in the top 5 in the first three weeks in the Houston TexansC.J. Stroud (picked second) and the Indianapolis ColtsAnthony Richardson (picked fourth). The Ravens chose not to take their bye after their international game after doing some research. Baltimore’s bye comes in Week 13, which provides an extended rest. After a Thursday night game against the Bengals (Nov. 16), the Ravens play one game in a 23-day stretch before finishing out the final five games of the regular season.

Bold prediction

Jackson not only plays in December but goes undefeated in the month.

Baltimore Ravens schedule 2023: Division-heavy start, challenging stretch to close season

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

One game the Ravens can’t afford to lose: vs. Rams, Week 14

The better answer is probably the season opener against Houston, particularly with the rough six weeks that follow. However, it feels like a cop-out to pick the first game. Instead, look at what precedes and follows the Dec. 12 home game versus the Rams.

The Ravens are home against the Bengals in Week 11 and on the road against the Chargers in Week 12. After a Week 13 bye, the Ravens get the Rams, followed by the season-closing stretch against the Jaguars, 49ers, Dolphins and Steelers. It’s not that the Rams are a pushover, but dropping that game would give the Ravens little margin for error.

Predicted record: 10-7

The Ravens should be a much-improved team, but there are still so many questions. How quickly will Jackson adapt to Todd Monken’s offense? Can Jackson stay healthy? Will young defensive players emerge at key positions like edge rusher and cornerback? This schedule doesn’t do Baltimore any favors. Still, as long as Jackson is on the field, the Ravens are good enough to beat anybody.