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Ravens News 1/31: Uncertain Future

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AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

5 things we learned from the Baltimore Ravens’ AFC Championship game loss to the Chiefs

Gordon McGuinness, PFF

RAVENS FAIL TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS IN THE PASSING GAME

Baltimore expertly adjusted its passing offense against the Houston Texans in the divisional round. Lamar Jackson’s average time to throw was 3.9 seconds in the first half but just 2.5 seconds in the second half. They were in rhythm, and it allowed them to take over the game.

The Ravens started similarly against the Chiefs, with Jackson averaging 3.1 seconds to throw in the first half — the highest of any quarterback during the conference championship games. This time, however, they didn’t adjust, with Jackson’s average going up to 3.9 seconds in the second half.

Jackson is the highest-graded quarterback in the NFL on plays with a time to throw of 2.6 seconds or more, which makes sense, given his ability to make things happen when players are covered. But his sweet spot is in the half-second between 2.6 and 3.0 seconds. Including the playoffs, he went 66-of-94 for 951 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions with a 91.1 PFF passing grade on such plays. On plays when Jackson took 3.1 seconds or longer to throw, his PFF passing grade ranked ninth (79.5).

Getting the ball out of Jackson’s hand quicker In 2024 will be a top priority.

One Big Question for the 12 NFL Playoff Teams That Didn’t Make the Super Bowl

Austin Gayle, The Ringer

Baltimore Ravens

How much better do Lamar Jackson and the Ravens need to be to beat Mahomes?

I get it. Lamar Jackson has struggled in the postseason throughout his career. The fourth-quarter interception he threw into triple coverage in the AFC championship game loss to Kansas City didn’t help that narrative, nor does the fact that now he ranks dead last in playoff EPA per dropback among quarterbacks with five postseason games played in the last 10 years. But none of that changes the fact that the sample size of Jackson being stoppable is a whole lot smaller than his sample size of being unstoppable. He’s a soon-to-be two-time league MVP at 27 years old. He’s coming out of only his first year with a new offensive play caller, Todd Monken. And his best receiver, Zay Flowers, just finished his rookie year (and made some rookie mistakes).

As good as Jackson and Monken and Flowers all are, there’s still so much meat on the bone for them to improve. We’re letting a small sample size of underwhelming Jackson performances prevent us from tiering the Ravens in the same spot as the Bills. The truth is that both the Ravens and Bills will be legitimate Super Bowl contenders next season; the question is when they’ll actually beat Mahomes.

2024 NFL free agency: Ranking top 50 players, QBs available

Matt Bowen, ESPN

4. Justin Madubuike, DT, Baltimore Ravens

Age entering 2024 season: 26

Madubuike had a career-high 13 sacks this season after posting 5.5 in 2022. The foot quickness and short-area juice jump off the tape, which allow him to leverage blockers and create interior pressure. The arrow is pointing up on him; he can win one-on-one or push the pocket in schemed fronts, and he pursues to the ball consistently. He also had 12 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles last season.

33. Patrick Queen, LB, Baltimore Ravens

Age entering 2024 season: 25

Queen can clean up in the run game, blitz or drop into coverage. In addition to 133 tackles, Queen chipped in 3.5 sacks and 18 pressures this season. He hits those blitzes hard, too, challenging running backs in protection. And with an interception and six pass breakups, Queen can produce in zone coverage.

40. Kevin Zeitler, G, Baltimore Ravens

Age entering 2024 season: 34

Zeitler is a physical inside presence with the power to displace defensive tackles and the movement ability to pull on gap schemes. He wins in pass pro, using his strong base to hold off interior rushers. In 2023, Zeitler had a solid pass block win rate of 93.8%, 26th in the NFL among all offensive linemen.

45. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Baltimore Ravens

Age entering 2024 season: 31

Clowney’s 9.5 sacks tied a career high, and he ranked fifth in pass rush win rate (24.2%). He has straight-line juice when he’s schemed in pass rush matchups, and Clowney can close off stunts and loops. With 43 tackles on the season, he can still set an edge versus the run, too.

With 23 Pending Unrestricted Free Agents, Ravens Know Turnover Could Be High

Ryan Mink, BaltimoreRavens.com

Queen said he would “of course” like to be back in Baltimore, but he hung around the Ravens locker room longer than just about anyone else after Sunday’s loss and again Monday, chatting with teammates and exchanging goodbyes.

“This is where it started,” Queen said. “But at the same time, I have to do what’s best for me and my family.”

Stone emerged as a playmaker, leading the AFC with seven interceptions. But with Kyle Hamilton’s emergence and Marcus Williams still under the contract, he would be signing up for another non-starting role in Baltimore if he returns.

“I feel like I showed what I can do in this league. I feel like this was my breakout year,” Stone said.

“I felt like we had the squad to win it,” Clowney said.

Ravens’ free agents, and some well-paid veterans, face uncertain future

Giana Han, The Baltimore Banner

To make matters more difficult, the Ravens have six players on PFF’s list of Top-100 free agents, and many are starters. Among the team’s free agents are 11 defensive, six offensive players, three major special teams contributors, five depth players and one who spent the season on injured reserve.

“Kinda [realized] this is my last shot,” Zeitler said of signing with the Ravens in 2021. “If I screw up here, it’s probably over. This place being a career resurgence, I’d say, being competitive again, is everything I could ever want. They see the big picture well here. It’s a dream to play here. And definitely don’t want to go anywhere else.”

“Thank God I don’t have to worry about those situations, those are not situations that I need to figure out,” Moses said with a laugh. “That’s for upstairs. We’ll leave that up to them. But just like they did this year, bringing in guys like Clowney and Van Noy, guys to contribute, Darby, guys midway through training camp ... I’m pretty sure, whatever may happen, we’ll figure it out.”

NFL 2024 playoffs: Ranking 12 losing teams’ chances of reaching Super Bowl in 2025, including Lions, Ravens

Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports

1. Ravens

They were out of sync and undisciplined in their shot to reach the Super Bowl this year, which makes two times Lamar Jackson has earned the No. 1 seed but failed to reach the big game. But Jackson looked like a different animal under Todd Monken this year, finally pairing more efficient passing with his trademark scrambling. The defense, meanwhile, was elite and has young leaders like Kyle Hamilton. If they can restock out wide, where Zay Flowers could use more help, they’ll go into 2024 not only with AFC Championship experience but a better opportunity to unseat the Chiefs as the conference’s top dog.