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Ravens News 7/4: Fireworks and more

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Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Football fireworks: Five NFL teams that could be more explosive in 2023

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA Today

Baltimore Ravens

Amid a rash of injuries that at different points claimed former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and top running back JK Dobbins, among others, Baltimore’s offense bottomed out, posting its worst per-game averages for total offense (338.8 yards) and scoring (20.6 points) in six years. Beyond that, however, were troubling signs for Greg Roman’s stodgy attack. While Jackson’s absence in the final five weeks of the season left the unit in survival mode, the Ravens still finished second only to the Giants with 33 pass plays of 20-plus yards on the year.

But with Todd Monken taking over as offensive coordinator after Roman’s resignation, a sea change looks to be ahead for this group. The plodding pace of previous years is set to be replaced by a much more up-tempo approach. Jackson has said to expect “less running and more throwing” from him, a sensible recalibration after the offseason investment made in overhauling the receiving corps. In bringing on Odell Beckham Jr., first-round pick Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor to join three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews and former first-round receiver Rashod Bateman, the Ravens have given Jackson what easily will be his most talented supporting cast.

The exact shape of Monken’s offense remains to be determined, as he has proven highly adaptable to the available talent in his previous NFL stops with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as the last three years at Georgia. Given what Beckham and Flowers can create after the catch, the unit might not need to rely merely on deep passing in order to pick up yardage in big chunks. No matter what the final product is, it should be far more electric than what the franchise has offered up in the last few years.

10 Questions: Will Lamar Jackson Thrive in Todd Monken’s Offense?

Clifton Brown,

Some things must still be proven.

Jackson has longed for an offense that would allow him more freedom to make changes at the line of scrimmage and to pass more aggressively downfield. Now he has it, and the onus is on him to flourish in it.

Jackson must be more consistent capitalizing on deep throws when his targets gain an advantage.

If Jackson changes more protections and adjusts more routes at the line of scrimmage, he’ll also have more responsibility to get the Ravens into the right looks. Meanwhile, the Ravens haven’t had all of their expected starters practicing together yet, and learning the offense is still a work in progress. Will the Ravens be in sync with the new offensive system by Week 1 and catch opponents off guard as they did in 2019? Or will there be growing pains that cost them early in the season?

It’s a challenge that Jackson is looking forward to. He found his comfort level quickly when the Ravens changed offensive coordinators in 2019 and plans to do the same with Monken.

“G-Ro [Greg Roman]’s offense, it didn’t take that long,” Jackson said. “I believe 2019, that’s when he got the OC job, and I feel like we went 14-2. The sky [is] the limit with this offense. We’re going to see.”

Ranking the Ravens’ undrafted rookies: Who’s most likely to make the team?

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

1. RB Keaton Mitchell

Mitchell was considered a top-200 prospect coming out of East Carolina, according to Pro Football Network’s consensus big board. His rushing production improved over each of his three years with the Pirates, from 443 yards (5.0 per carry) as a true freshman to 1,132 yards (6.5 per carry) as a sophomore to 1,452 yards (7.2 per carry) last year. He also had over 250 yards receiving each of the past two seasons.

The 5-foot-8, 191-pound Mitchell makes up for his smaller stature with breakaway speed. His 40-yard-dash time (4.37 seconds) and broad jump rank in the 95th and 91st percentiles, respectively, among running back prospects. According to Pro Football Focus, Mitchell had the second-best explosive-run rate of his draft class, gaining at least 10 yards on 20.5% of carries over his career. His acceleration stood out during organized team activities and mandatory minicamp.

In Baltimore, Mitchell will enter training camp behind a well-established top three. But J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill all faced season-ending injuries in 2021, and neither Dobbins nor Edwards was at full strength last year or earlier this offseason. Given the churn at the position, Mitchell could find a place in the Ravens’ long-term plans with a standout preseason.

Ravens mailbag, part 1: Roster holes, breakout candidates, D-line depth

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

Who are some dark horse candidates to make the 53, and who are some guys from the 53 last year who stand to lose their spot this year? — Jay R.

Do they add an outside linebacker in the next five or six weeks? If they don’t, I’d include Malik Hamm, an undrafted rookie out of Lafayette, as a potential dark horse. Hamm was a highly productive player in the Patriot League with 32 career sacks and 50 tackles for loss. He was noticeable in the minicamps. Undrafted rookie running back Keaton Mitchell has gotten a good amount of attention, so I’m not sure he’s a dark horse. I do think there’s an opening for him to make the roster if he has a big summer. Trayvon Mullen, the 2019 second-round pick of the Raiders, also has a chance to stick, but the odds will get longer if the Ravens add a veteran corner in the coming weeks. As for the other part of the question, unless there are injuries in front of them, James Proche II and Tylan Wallace might be competing for just one spot. It’s also hard to imagine there’s room for more than one of Kristian Welch, Del’Shawn Phillips and Josh Ross at inside linebacker, especially with the new special teams rules.