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Ravens News 1/12: Passing Advantage

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Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

NFL playoffs: One X-factor on each of the 14 teams

Bucky Brooks, NFL.com

Baltimore Ravens

Odell Beckham

WR · Year 10

Though Beckham is no longer regarded as a superstar, the three-time Pro Bowler is a “bright lights, big stage” performer. The veteran led the Ravens with an average of 16.1 yards per catch this season, proving he remains a serious threat to deliver a big play in the passing game on a crafty double move or catch-and-run concept. With many opponents still uncertain how to best defend Baltimore’s multi-faceted attack, OBJ could turn back the clock during the postseason with a sensational run that reminds the football world of his insane playmaking ability in his prime.

Ravens WR Rashod Bateman hasn’t had his breakout, but he’s made several breakthroughs

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

“I’m not going to say it’s been easy, but that’s because I’m hungry, I know my abilities, I know what I’m capable of,” Bateman said. “As a competitive player, it’s easy to get frustrated. I feel like I’ve been there, but I’ve matured. What we’re chasing this year is bigger than how many targets I get. You just have to be able to put the organization first, put the team first and trust the process of what’s going on. I’ve kind of fallen in love with that. Being able to be in the position that we’re in now has helped me fall in love more so with the process and just enjoying my time here.”

“Dealing with injuries, this business will have you lose confidence in yourself,” said Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has been a sounding board for Bateman. “There’s a lot of things that go on. Just to see him have a smile on his face, to see him make plays and to see him have the confidence in himself, that’s probably the biggest blessing. I’m just truly happy for him. It feels good to see people that you spend most of your day with happy and loving what they do.”

“This game isn’t easy,” said Ravens wide receiver Nelson Agholor. “He’s super talented, and sometimes when you get so caught up in statistics, you forget how much you impact the game. He impacts the game for us. He has the speed, route-running ability, separation, clutch plays. He’s got the ability to change a game at any moment, and I think he’s at his best when he’s at peace and happy.”

RB Dalvin Cook calls decision to join Ravens ‘no-brainer,’ says opportunity ‘presents everything’

Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun

“It was a no-brainer,” Cook, 28, said in his first meeting with reporters since Baltimore signed the 2017 second-round draft pick to its practice squad last week.

Asked about the opportunity of joining the AFC’s top seed ahead of the playoffs, he said, “It presents everything. Obviously the situation speaks for itself.

“For me, it’s a new breath, a new opportunity.”

Cook, who is from South Florida and friendly with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Zay Flowers, said Thursday that he was “close, real close” to signing with Baltimore before choosing the Jets.

“Knowing how [Lamar] is, knowing how he operates, a competitor, we just playing ball like we’re back home back in South Florida playing ball. It’s gonna be a great experience.

“I appreciate Harbaugh so much. For me, I’m just gonna work my tail off. Every opportunity that comes my way I’m gonna give it my all for these guys.”

Will the 2023 Ravens go further than the 2019 team? Let’s compare them.

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Passing

Jackson’s 2019 is the best passing season in franchise history: an NFL-high and team-record 36 touchdowns, six interceptions, two games with a perfect passer rating, and a remarkable 0.38 expected points added per pass attempt (second best in the NFL). The Ravens just didn’t need Jackson to pass very often; he averaged 26.7 throws per game, 35th of 42 qualifying quarterbacks.

This year, Jackson has been less efficient but more in control, more accurate. Under coordinator Todd Monken, he has greater authority at the line of scrimmage to audible out of unfavorable play calls. He’s also completed a career-high 67.2% of his passes. Few quarterbacks have been better in big games. On one of the Ravens’ most important drives of the season, they turned to Jackson over and over again, who found wide receiver Zay Flowers for a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter of an eventual overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams. With more experience has come more wisdom about how to beat whatever defenses test him with.

Advantage: 2023

Pass rush

The 2023 Ravens attack from every angle. They led the NFL with 60 sacks, tying their franchise record, and finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in sack rate and pressure rate. Sixteen Ravens finished the year with a sack, led by defensive lineman Justin Madubuike (13) and outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney (9.5) and Kyle Van Noy (nine). Just as impressive as their production was how rarely they relied on blitzes to get home; only six defenses finished with a lower blitz rate.

Advantage: 2023

The Ringer Staff’s 2023-24 NFL Playoff and Super Bowl Predictions

Nora Princiotti & Ben Solak, The Ringer

Nora Princiotti: A battle between the two most complete teams in the NFL comes down to the superior quarterback. That’s Lamar Jackson, the presumptive MVP, who’ll complete his improbable run from almost castoff last offseason to Super Bowl champion. We’ve seen this game before, on Christmas night, when the Ravens won 33-19. I don’t think the rematch will be all that different—even with the 49ers’ superlative skill position players, Mike MacDonald’s defense is custom fit to put Brock Purdy in a blender, and Jackson and the rest of Baltimore’s new-look offense have more than enough firepower to take advantage. The big question: If Kyle Shanahan loses a third Super Bowl to an elite passer while he’s working with a game manager quarterback (including in his tenure as coordinator in Atlanta), how will he respond?

Ben Solak: I am not fearful of a Ravens playoff disappointment. Not the way Lamar is playing this season—as a mature passer and choosy runner who seems to have a solution for every problem a defense can pose. Not the way this defense is playing, as it can dictate matchups against any offense and has depth and role players galore. The Ravens are balanced, well coached, and peaking.