Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
The receiver corps really is the most exciting around these parts since at least 2012.
Flowers’ name quickly rang out beyond Baltimore when out-of-town analysts showed up to watch him roast teammates in one-on-one drills. He did not play a lot in the preseason but only added to this impression with his performance against the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders. We don’t know the scope of how Monken will use Flowers, but it’s easy to envision the rookie turning innocuous 8-yard passes into 50-yard gains with his rare ability to stop in a blink and then accelerate in a different direction.
If anything, Beckham was an even clearer winner during training camp, wiping away concerns about his surgically repaired knee with his dependable presence at practice, establishing immediate chemistry with fans and beating defenders for big plays with his nuanced sense of timing and body positioning. The freaky one-handed grabs are a nifty bonus.
Rashod Bateman, the team’s 2021 first-round pick, remains the greatest wild card in the group as he recovers from Lisfranc surgery on his foot. He created real optimism, however, with the downfield explosiveness he flashed as soon as he ramped up his practice participation in mid-August. Like Beckham, Bateman possesses gifts you cannot teach for outmaneuvering a defender when the ball is in the air. Will his foot allow him to excel week after week? That’s the big question after Bateman endured a year of physical and emotional swings.
Gordon McGuinness, PFF
MORE PASSING ON FIRST DOWN
In Greg Roman’s final season as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, the offense ran the ball on 53.4% of first-down plays. That dropped to 42.2% this preseason. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken called 13 more dropbacks than run plays on first down over those three games in August. Baltimore also passed the ball more in general, dropping back on 61.1% of base plays (not counting two-minute drills, red-zone possessions and goal-line situations) compared to 54.5% in the 2022 regular season and a playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. For all plays, the Ravens were at a 62.6% passing clip, up from 54.4% in 2022.
Those numbers aren’t huge swings but, if replicated in the regular season, would see the Ravens drop back to pass 87 more times in 2023 versus 2022 if they ran the same number of plays.
MUCH MORE 11 PERSONNEL
The Ravens were in 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end on the field) on just 12.0% of plays across 18 games last season. That increased dramatically this preseason, with Baltimore lining up like that on 59.8% of all offensive snaps.
It fits well with the team’s front office decisions this offseason — namely, the additions of Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor and rookie first-rounder Zay Flowers. With Rashod Bateman getting back to full fitness, expect the Ravens to have three wide receivers on the field significantly more than when Greg Roman was at the helm.
Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
Queen speaks almost matter-of-factly now about his offseason of uncertainty and discontent. If there are any lingering hard feelings about the breakdown in contract talks, declining his fifth-year option and drafting Simpson, he’s doing a really good job of disguising them. He’s been all smiles since he reported to team headquarters in July.
Throughout training camp, there was a calmness about Queen after his initial emotional storm earlier in the offseason. There was also a palpable feeling of satisfaction, not only with where he is but also with what he believes he can do when the regular season starts Sunday for the Ravens against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.
The 24-year-old is coming off the best training camp of his young career. He played with urgency, physicality and joy. He added more polish to the rapport he shares with his middle linebacker running mate, Roquan Smith. Even though this wasn’t his intention, he sent a clear message to his teammates and coaches that he’s all-in on this season, even if his future in Baltimore is very much murky.
Judy Battista, NFL.com
Scoring down: Scoring averaged 43.8 points per game in 2022, a five-year low — which is definitely not the direction the NFL prefers. Not coincidentally, roughing the passer and defensive pass interference — the two calls that make the biggest impact on offense — were also at five-year lows in 2022, with roughing down 40 percent and defensive pass interference down 30 percent. There were a few controversial roughing calls early last season; this year, it is a point of emphasis for officials to call it correctly and with uniformity across all the crews.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals | Week 2, Sept. 17: Lamar Jackson is back to good health with the best group of receivers he has ever played with and a new offensive coordinator (Todd Monken) he seems to be meshing with. Is that enough to threaten the current kings of the AFC North?
Seth Walker, ESPN
Bengals, Ravens battle it out for AFC North before postseason showdown
In Week 2, the Ravens took an early edge in the division race by winning an 18-12 defensive struggle against the Bengals that dropped Cincy to 0-2. By Week 8, the Bengals had fought back, taking a half-game lead over Baltimore. But that’s when Jackson really got hot and engineered a four-game winning streak — including a 19-17 victory over the Bengals — reminding us of the Jackson who was once league MVP.
In the end, the Bengals couldn’t catch them. The Ravens won the division as an 11-win No. 3 seed, while the Bengals finished one game back as the No. 6 seed. The rivals squared off a third time in the playoffs, with the result mirroring the first two. Jackson flourished and the Ravens sacked Joe Burrow five times in a 31-19 defeat to send Cincinnati home.
Here’s how the first three rounds of the postseason played out:
(AFC) No. 2 Titans defeated No. 7 Dolphins 32-25
(AFC) No. 3 Ravens defeated No. 6 Bengals 31-19
(AFC) No. 5 Bills defeated No. 4 Jets 30-17
(NFC) No. 2 Eagles defeated No. 7 Commanders 29-20
(NFC) No. 6 Seahawks defeated No. 3 Panthers 38-7
(NFC) No. 4 49ers defeated No. 5 Lions 23-10
(AFC) No. 1 Chiefs defeated No. 5 Bills 39-17
(AFC) No. 3 Ravens defeated No. 2 Titans 24-14
(NFC) No. 1 Vikings defeated No. 6 Seahawks 23-16
(NFC) No. 2 Eagles defeated No. 4 49ers 32-23
(AFC) No. 3 Ravens defeated No. 1 Chiefs 24-20
(NFC) No. 2 Eagles defeated No. 1 Vikings 38-31