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Ravens News 5/24: Real Weapons and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

AFC North projected starters for 2023 NFL season: Lamar flanked by playmakers; Bengals’ time is NOW

Gregg Rosenthal,

As an unrepentant Lamar Jackson fan, I thoroughly enjoyed perusing the skill-position group at his disposal in 2023. It includes five real weapons for Jackson to throw to, more than he’s had at any time in his career.

J.K. Dobbins should be better this season, another year removed from the ACL tear he suffered in August 2021. His vision and instincts are what make him a great runner, and those skills were still noticeable last season; he just lacked explosion.

I wasn’t huge on Zay Flowers ahead of the draft, because he profiled as a supporting piece who was going to be selected too early. But the No. 22 overall pick doesn’t have to be the No. 1 receiver — or even the No. 3 pass catcher in Baltimore, if you count Mark Andrews. Flowers just needs to make plays after the catch, and he can absolutely do that.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman both need to show they can stay on the field. If so, they are versatile pieces that complement each other well. Bateman was a big-play machine early last season before being lost to a foot injury in November.

Devin Duvernay and Nelson Agholor provide quality WR depth if there is an injury. They would have been starters on most Ravens squads in the Lamar Jackson era.

Isaiah Likely made a lot of plays for a rookie tight end last season and adds another element to the offense. He’s explosive.

Despite all the changes, the biggest X-factor on this offense is whether left tackle Ronnie Stanley can stay on the field. He started 11 games in 2022 after logging just seven combined appearances the previous two seasons. Stanley wasn’t quite the same player as he was before injuring his ankle in November 2020, but he helped a lot.

These are the Bizarro Ravens. They are deep at receiver and thin on the defensive line.

It’s not just a dearth of difference-makers on the defensive front, but also a lack of backups. We can expect general manager Eric DeCosta to keep looking for veteran options. Justin Houston again?

This will probably be Patrick Queen’s last season with the Ravens; his tenure since being selected in the first round in 2020 has been a roller coaster, and the team declined his fifth-year option.

Baltimore’s defense continues to be built back to front. Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton comprise what could be one of the most dynamic safety combinations in the league. Rock Ya-Sin is one of the best post-draft signing values.

This is a below-average defensive roster compared to the standard set by recent Ravens teams. But defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald got into a groove late last season, and the unit performed well.

It’s a new day in Baltimore. The offense is more stacked than the defense and will be expected to lead the way.

Ranking the Four AFC North Rosters, From Worst to Best

Matt Verderame, Sports Illustrated

2. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens will look a bit different than the run-heavy, defensive teams of the past. Out is corner Marcus Peters, as well as edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Houston. In are receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers, along with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken.

While Baltimore is changing different parts of its roster and coaching staff, the team’s fortunes still come down to quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson, fresh off his five-year, $260 million extension, has new toys in Beckham and Flowers to pair with third-year receiver Rashod Bateman on the outside. Add in tight end Mark Andrews and running back J.K. Dobbins, and Baltimore is flush with weapons.

Defensively, the unit will revolve around corner Marlon Humphrey and All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith. Baltimore will also hope to see improvements from youngsters like linebacker Patrick Queen and edge rusher Odafe Oweh; the former had his fifth-year option declined this offseason, while the latter is playing to secure one next year.

If things break right for Baltimore and Jackson stays healthy for the first time in three years, there’s reason to see the Ravens as a real contender. However, no team has more volatility in their 2023 outcome than Baltimore, with a multitude of unknowns remaining.

One reason each AFC team will or won’t make the playoffs in 2023

Trevor Sikkema, PFF


Playoffs: Yes

Reason: Todd Monken

Lamar Jackson is back, paid and healthy. When that is the case, his team will always have a shot at the postseason. But the reason I’m even more in on the Ravens this upcoming season is because of their new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken.

As offensive coordinator of the Oklahoma State Cowboys back in 2011 and 2012, Monken spearheaded offenses that ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the country in points scored. As offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2016 to 2018, he helped the team place in the top 20, top 10 and then top three in total yards per game. And from 2020-2022 as Georgia’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Monken won back-to-back national championships while helping quarterback Stetson Bennett go from being a walk-on to a notable name in college football.

Monken knows offense. I’m excited to see what he’ll cook up with Jackson as his quarterback.

NFL’s top storylines at 2023 OTAs: Aaron Rodgers takes flight with Jets, Lamar Jackson rejoins new-look Ravens

Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports

Lamar Jackson begins post-contract tour

After skipping the first day of OTAs, the Ravens’ star QB reported for duty on Tuesday. It marks the first time Jackson has taken the field on something under than a rookie contract in Baltimore. Now sporting a record $260 million deal that (at least briefly) makes him the league’s highest-paid player at his position, the former MVP is facing pressure not only to live up to the money but rebound from back-to-back injury-riddled seasons — all while learning a new system from coordinator Todd Monken, alongside new weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie receiver Zay Flowers.

Which NFL players are ones to watch at offseason workouts? One pick for all 32 teams

Mike Jones, The Athletic

Baltimore Ravens: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

After spending last season recovering from a torn ACL, OBJ is back in the NFL on a one-year, $15.75 million contract. He’ll spend the offseason knocking off the rust and trying to prove to the Ravens that he is still a game-changing talent, despite questions around the league about a loss of explosiveness.