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Ravens News 7/10: Dangerous Attack and more

Baltimore Ravens v New York Jets Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

32 Teams in 32 Days: New and Old Come Together in Revamped Ravens Offense

Gilberto Manzano, Sports Illustrated

Position of strength: Offensive line

The offensive line has been one of Baltimore’s strengths the past few seasons, despite the injuries to left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who hasn’t played more than 11 games in a season since his All-Pro year in 2019. But if Stanley stays healthy, this could be one of the best units in the league, especially with how well center Tyler Linderbaum played as a rookie. The right side played at a high level last season as well, with tackle Morgan Moses and guard Kevin Zeitler. But there is a vacancy at left guard after Ben Powers joined the Broncos in free agency.

X-factor: WR Zay Flowers

The Ravens took another swing at drafting a wide receiver in this year’s first round. They’re counting on Flowers to end the team’s streak of whiffing on wideouts, hoping he can make an immediate impact under Monken, who’s looking to push the ball downfield. At this stage in his career, Beckham may no longer be a downfield threat, and, while Rashod Bateman has shown flashes of making plays in the vertical game, the 2021 first-round pick has struggled with staying on the field. Flowers has plenty of pressure to help this passing game improve this season.

Final record: 11–6, second in AFC North

Ravens feeling ‘dangerous’ with new, improved offense

Jamison Hensley, ESPN

“I think it’s going to be a dangerous offense,” tight end Mark Andrews said.

Under Monken, Baltimore is expected to throw the ball more and spread out teams. The biggest change, however, should be the pace.

“It’s going to be pretty fast,” guard Kevin Zeitler said. “We’re going to attack and attack and attack.”

Wide receiver

Returnees: Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, James Proche II, Tarik Black, Andy Isabella, Shemar Bridges, Mike Thomas

Losses: Demarcus Robinson (Rams), Sammy Watkins

Additions: Odell Beckham Jr. (Rams), Zay Flowers, Nelson Agholor (Patriots), Laquon Treadwell (Seahawks), Dontay Demus, Sean Ryan,

Better, worse or the same: Much better

It’s hard to remember the last time the Ravens upgraded a position group as significantly as this one. Baltimore spent more than it ever has by signing Beckham to a one-year, $15 million deal and then drafted Flowers in the first round.

There really is no comparison between the top four projected wide receivers this year (Beckham, Flowers, Bateman and Agholor) to the end of last season (Robinson, Watkins, Duvernay and Proche).

Tight end

Returnees: Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar

Losses: Nick Boyle, Josh Oliver (Vikings)

Additions: Travis Vokolek

Better, worse or the same: Same

With all of the new additions at wide receiver, let’s not forget that Andrews returns as Jackson’s top target. Baltimore will miss Boyle’s leadership and Oliver’s blocking, but all of that should be negated by the growth of second-year players Likely and Kolar.

10 Questions: Who Will Win the Left Guard Battle?

Ryan Mink,

John Simpson seems to have a leg up.

The Ravens signed Simpson to their practice squad on Dec. 19 of last season. They didn’t have much of a need for him then, but perhaps saw the writing on the wall that Powers could leave in free agency. The Ravens inked Simpson to a reserve/future contract after the season ended and now have an experienced veteran in the fold.

Simpson started all 17 games for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021. He’s a big-bodied (6-foot-4, 330 pounds) blocker who was a fourth-round pick out of Clemson in 2020. Simpson is still young and a player on the rise, but his experience gives him a leg up on his competition. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Simpson “has done a great job in there” during offseason practices so far.

“He’s another [player who’s] played a lot of football,” Harbaugh said. “He’s really moving his feet well, working on his balance and his platform a little bit, and I think [he’s] getting better every day at that. And he’s a big, strong guy, a good athlete. I’m excited about him.”

Ten NFL defensive players who could have biggest impact on 2023 season, including three AFC East stars

Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports

Roquan Smith

Smith was already a top-shelf linebacker with the Bears, but he played with added menace upon his midseason trade to Baltimore, quickly taking over as the heart and soul of the defense. Still just 26, he should be even more comfortable with his teammates this time around. If he even comes close to replicating his debut impact, he’ll help Baltimore back to the playoffs.

Ravens film study: Free agent Justin Houston still has plenty to offer a pass rush, especially in Baltimore

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Houston was a runaway No. 1 last year, even after a second-half drop-off. According to Pro Football Focus, he led the Ravens in overall pass-rush win rate (16.3%) and in win rate on “true pass sets” (19.9%), a sample that excludes plays with play-action passes, screens, short drop-backs, a time to throw of less than two seconds or fewer than four pass rushers. Oweh was a distant second in both metrics, finishing at 12.6% and 15.8%, respectively.

Among all edge rushers with at least 250 pass-rush snaps last season, Houston ranked 14th in overall win rate, ahead of stars such as the Las Vegas Raiders’ Maxx Crosby and Buffalo Bills’ Von Miller. Even more impressive was how often he converted those wins into sacks. Houston had a sack on 3.1% of his pass-rush snaps, or about one for every 32 snaps, a mark that compares favorably with the NFL’s most productive edge rushers from last season.

Houston still has more to give, even if it’s in a reduced role. As a pass rusher, he had one of the NFL’s fastest get-offs through early November last season, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. As a teammate, Houston’s become a veteran leader to the team’s younger players, who watched how his maniacal work ethic last offseason — three-a-day workouts, sometimes five or six days a week — set up his resurgent 2022.