Jamison Hensley, ESPN
Biggest question: Will Lamar Jackson return to MVP form with a new deal, a new OC and more WR weapons?
The Ravens have given their franchise quarterback pretty much everything he wanted this offseason — a huge new contract, new wide receivers and a new offensive coordinator. Now, it’s up to Jackson to live up to the expectations of being the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback at $52 million per season.
There have been increasing questions about Jackson, from his durability to his ability to pass the ball. Over the last two seasons, he’s missed a total of 11 games (including playoffs) and he’s thrown 33 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. Now, Baltimore has put Jackson in the best position possible by providing a more pass-friendly offense under new coordinator Todd Monken and adding more targets on the outside with Odell Beckham Jr. and first-round pick Zay Flowers.
Breakout player to watch: David Ojabo, OLB
He was the steal of the Ravens’ 2022 draft after a torn Achilles on his pro day caused him to slide to the second round. Ojabo was limited to 21 snaps last year because of his recovery and a lack of opportunity due to veterans Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul, but he still managed a strip sack of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
This offseason, Ojabo has bulked up by adding 10 pounds of muscle and said he feels “more explosive” than he did before the injury. He’s been the Ravens’ best defensive player in the spring, constantly disrupting plays in the backfield. Ojabo was unsuccessful in getting Terrell Suggs’ No. 55 jersey number, but he could become the first Ravens player since Suggs in 2017 to record double-digit sacks in a season.
Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
Defensive line (5)
Biggest question: Did the Ravens do enough to effectively replace Calais Campbell, who was let go in the offseason and signed with Atlanta? The Ravens are putting a lot of faith in Madubuike and Washington to fill the void, and in Jones to take a significant step forward in his second season.
Outlook: The Ravens could get away with keeping just five defensive linemen if they need a spot elsewhere. That’s what they did last year and could also bump one of the outside linebackers inside in certain situations. However, they do prefer maintaining a deep defensive line rotation and won’t want to wear any of them out early in the season. Pierce has also played just 11 games over the past three NFL seasons, so keeping a veteran around, such as Blackson, for insurance would make sense.
Outside linebacker (4*)
Biggest question: How determined are the Ravens to add a veteran edge rusher? It’s been treated like a formality that they will, but it hasn’t happened yet. There are still quite a few quality free-agent outside linebackers available, a group that includes Justin Houston, Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram, Yannick Ngakoue and Kyle Van Noy.
Outlook: You can only judge what the Ravens currently have, and that’s four outside linebackers who figure to make the initial 53-man roster if healthy. However, there’s an asterisk next to the four because it seems probable in the coming days or weeks that Baltimore will add a veteran at the position and have five at the start of the regular season. Not only do the Ravens need more depth here, they also need more experience.
Gordon McGuinness, PFF
It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the Ravens add to the position here, with Bryce Callahan a current free agent who would essentially claim the starting spot just by signing. However, if the Ravens stick with this list of names, Damarion Williams should probably be viewed as the favorite. He played 189 of his 225 snaps as a rookie in the slot but earned a lowly 41.0 PFF coverage grade, allowing 25 of the 36 passes thrown into his coverage to be caught for 290 yards and three touchdowns. Kevon Seymour earned just a 37.9 PFF coverage grade in 2021, seeing 118 snaps in the slot that year.
Trayvon Mullen and Daryl Worley have played sparingly in the slot in the NFL, and the same is true of Kyu Blu Kelly and Jalyn Armour-Davis in college. The alternative here would be one of those four being a top-three cornerback on the roster and then the Ravens kicking Marlon Humphrey inside to the slot. Humphrey has earned an 84.4 PFF coverage grade from the slot over the past four seasons, the best mark in the league. But the trade-off is Baltimore losing its best outside cornerback, which doesn’t feel like a wise move unless the team is forced into it.
Ranking NFL’s top 10 clutch QBs: No surprise at No. 1, Tua Tagovailoa high on list, Jared Goff makes cut
Douglas Clawson, CBS Sports
4. Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson’s electrifying play has yet to translate to the postseason, where he doesn’t have much of a sample size, but it has been among the league’s best during the regular season. He’s converted on 51% of potential game-tying or go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter or overtime of his regular season career. The only current starting QBs with higher rates are Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes.
He flashed his dual-threat value in clutch situations early in 2021, beating the Chiefs in Week 2 primarily with his legs (two fourth-quarter touchdown runs and sealed game with fourth-down run) and the Colts in Week 5 with his arm (three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and OT of a 19-point comeback win).
He didn’t perform well enough in these situations in 2022, as Baltimore blew big leads to the Dolphins, Bills, Giants and Jaguars, but that should change in 2023 with a better supporting cast and new offensive coordinator.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has relationship with QB Lamar Jackson built on understanding: ‘We’re both very competitive about football’
Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun
This season and probably the next two are particularly important for Harbaugh, Jackson and the organization. Since the franchise’s second Super Bowl title in 2012, Baltimore is just 2-7 in the playoffs, which includes a 1-4 mark with Jackson under center. The Ravens shoved all their chips to the center of the table this offseason by hiring a dynamic offensive coordinator (Todd Monken), adding star power at wide receiver (Odell Beckham Jr., first-round pick Zay Flowers) and signing their franchise quarterback to a long-term deal. If Jackson and Harbaugh are ever going to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for rule of the AFC, now is the time.
“We both recognize that we’re both very competitive about football, both have really big dreams and an understanding,” Harbaugh said of his relationship with Jackson as he sat down for an interview with The Baltimore Sun ahead of training camp. “Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we don’t, but there’s an understanding about what’s possible, and we’re very determined to make it happen.
“Whether it happens or not, we’ll see, but I don’t think either one of us are willing to say we’re not willing to do everything in our power to do our part.”