Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
With distractions seemingly gone, how will Lamar Jackson perform?
Jackson may not have gotten everything he wanted this offseason, but he sure got plenty. The Ravens made him the highest-paid player in the league with a five-year, $260 million contract extension. They upgraded the wide receiver room, signing veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor and using a first-round pick on Zay Flowers. They replaced a run-oriented Roman with Monken, who has vowed to give Jackson more control of Baltimore’s offense.
If he remains healthy, the stage is set for Jackson to have a strong bounce-back year and thrive in an offense that is more in line with the type of attack he wants to lead. The pressure on Jackson, though, will be significant. Being the highest-paid player in the NFL comes with expectations. With more flexibility at the line of scrimmage, Jackson will also assume more responsibility in the game-planning process. Having a more talented group of wide receivers creates the challenge of keeping them all happy, a job that will fall largely on the quarterback.
Much of Jackson’s inconsistency over the past two seasons has been attributed to Roman’s struggles designing a nuanced passing game, a lack of talent in the receiver room and the quarterback’s injury issues. All were legitimate factors. The narrative surrounding this year’s offensive coaching staff and skill position players has changed. There will be plenty of blame to go around if the offense struggles and Jackson will undoubtedly shoulder his share of it.
A strong training camp for Jackson, who probably won’t play much, if at all, in the preseason, could set the tone.
Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun
Justin Madubuike, Michael Pierce, Broderick Washington, Travis Jones, Brent Urban, Angelo Blackson
The Ravens had six defensive linemen on last year’s roster and given the expectations and contributions of this group, they will likely have the same number this season. Madubuike, Pierce, Washington and Jones will carry the load up front, but Urban and Blackson, who signed as a free agent after spending the past two seasons with the Bears, will also be contributors.
Odafe Oweh, David Ojabo, Patrick Queen, Roquan Smith, Tyus Bowser, Tavius Robinson, Malik Harrison, Trenton Simpson, Kristian Welch, Del’Shawn Phillips
The expectations are high for Oweh and Ojabo this season, especially after the Ravens lost Justin Houston to free agency and Calais Campbell signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Houston and Campbell accounted for a combined 15 sacks last season, so Bowser will need to return to his 2021 form to help make up the difference. Still, there’s a chance the Ravens could bring Houston back or add another veteran edge rusher.
Marlon Humphrey, Rock Ya-Sin, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion Williams, Kyu Blu Kelly, Kevon Seymour
The Ravens would like to add another cornerback if they can with Armour-Davis still working his way back from a hip injury and Williams also returning from injury. Kelly was solid in the offseason but is a rookie and hasn’t faced much in the way of first-team competition yet. Ya-Sin’s addition at least shores things up opposite Humphrey.
Ryan Mink, BaltimoreRavens.com
There could be a significant defensive role to carve out between Stone, Stephens and Washington. The Ravens used three safeties a considerable amount last season with Hamilton playing 53% of the defensive snaps. If Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald opts to deploy a third safety frequently again this year, it remains to be seen who he will call on. Stephens is a versatile safety/cornerback hybrid who has been lining up mostly at safety in practices so far this summer. Stone stepped in and played well when Williams was sidelined last season. The Ravens are still looking to determine their slot cornerback. Washington lined up there often during summer practices so far. If Hamilton sometimes gets the call again, either Stone or Stephens would have to take his place on the back end.
Under the Radar
Washington is an intriguing player. He was a prized undrafted rookie pickup in the 2021 class, and he played in three games that year before a late-season foot injury ended his rookie campaign. Washington spent most of last season on the practice squad. Standing at 5-foot-8, 177 pounds, Washington is scrappy, rangy and has good instincts. If he proves to be a quality slot cornerback in training camp and the preseason, he could win a very important job.
Jonathan Alfano, Sports Illustrated
As a first-round pick, expectations were always going to be high for Flowers. However, the rookie has received some lofty praise before even stepping foot on an NFL field. According to NFL Rookie Watch, one executive even reportedly claimed that Flowers has similar potential to Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs, a former All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler.
Furthermore, scouts reportedly believe that Flowers could surpass the 1,000-yard mark in his rookie season, which would be a smashing success. The Ravens have had just one 1,000-yard receiver in the last eight years (not including tight end Mark Andrews who had 1,361 in 2021), so Flowers breaking that mark in his first season would be huge.
Flowers will have to compete with Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman and more for targets, but the Ravens’ scheme should ensure he gets his share. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken strongly emphasizes the passing game in his offense, as opposed to the more run-heavy scheme the Ravens run under Greg Roman. So even with plenty of talented receivers around him, Flowers will have his own distinct role in the offense.
Every NFL team’s greatest free agent signing: DeAndre Hopkins joins Tom Brady, Peyton Manning on all-time list
Bryan DeArdo, CBS Sports
Baltimore Ravens — DE Michael McCrary
McCrary beat out former teammates Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson for the Ravens’ top spot. A former seventh-round pick, McCrary was a backup in Seattle for three years before breaking out with 13.5 sacks in 1996. McCrary’s big year earned him a three-year contract with the Ravens, who were in the process of putting together a championship defense. After tallying a career-high 14.5 sacks in 1998, McCrary earned a five-year extension in 1999. The following season, McCrary helped the Ravens win their first Super Bowl. He tallied six sacks during the 2000 playoffs that included two sacks in Super Bowl XXXV. A member of the Ravens’ Ring of Honor, McCrary totaled 51 regular season sacks, 299 tackles and 42 tackles for loss during his six seasons in Baltimore.