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Ravens News 2/9: Most Valuable

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AFC Divisional Playoffs - Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images

A second MVP for Lamar Jackson would put him in elite company: ‘He’s a phenomenal success’

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

What Jackson did produce this season was more evidence that he’s the league’s single most important player to his team’s success. As Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Troy Aikman said before a Baltimore Ravens broadcast this past season, there’s no quarterback asked to do more for his team.

In 2023, Jackson delivered. He showed his growth as a passer, decision-maker and leader, all while learning a completely new offense under first-year Ravens coordinator Todd Monken. He stayed healthy and remained as dangerous as ever as a dual-threat quarterback.

“We talked to Coach Harbaugh when we had the game in London, just about why they made the offensive coordinator change. Really, the idea was to tap into the full potential of Lamar,” said Warner, an analyst for NFL Network. “That’s been the great thing. You have certain quarterbacks over the years that have been more athletes and they could never really be that passer. But we’ve seen glimpses over the first few years of, ‘I think this guy has a chance to be as good as we’ve ever seen at the combination of both.’ With the way their offense was built, it was hard to showcase that. This year, the idea was to play to Lamar’s strength, but let’s play to all of his strengths, let’s find out if he can be that guy. That’s kind of what I’ve seen throughout the year. He’s shown me that he can be that guy.”

Lamar Jackson’s 2023 showed why he’s the NFL MVP — and why he’s capable of so much more

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Four years after powering one of the game’s greatest-ever rushing attacks, Jackson set career highs in completion percentage (67.2), passing yards (3,678) and yards per attempt (8.0), the brightest star on a stellar team. Until the playoffs, no one was better than the Ravens, whose point differential against winning teams (plus-178) was the best in league history. In Baltimore, no one was more important than Jackson, who at age 27 is poised to become only the 11th NFL player to win multiple MVPs and the second youngest to win his second, behind only Jim Brown.

But if Jackson’s 2023 revealed how far he can take a modern, pass-first offense, it also pointed toward how much further he can go. That was the pain of the Ravens’ AFC championship game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s also the promise of 2024 and beyond for Jackson.

Few players in NFL history have his alchemical qualities, that prodigious ability to turn nothing into something, and make it something special. Jackson not only led the NFL in scramble yards (448) but also in passing efficiency on extended plays; on drop-backs of at least five seconds, according to TruMedia, he went 17-for-29 (58.6%) for 285 yards and three touchdowns.

The challenge for Ravens officials this offseason, as it has been for every offseason since Jackson’s arrival, is stoking development without disruption. Jackson thrived in coordinator Greg Roman’s run-first offense, but he needed Todd Monken’s more nuanced system. Jackson set passing records with tight end-heavy personnel groupings, but he needed upgrades at wide receiver. Jackson was always a promising field general, but he needed presnap empowerment.

RB Index: Ranking all 72 starting running backs from the 2023 NFL season

Maurice Jones-Drew, NFL.com

Rank 20

Gus Edwards

Edwards, a free agent this offseason, provided the Ravens’ rushing attack with a physical, downhill runner, while Lamar Jackson dizzied defenders with his elusive rushing ability and Keaton Mitchell and Justice Hill operated as change-of-pace guys more than capable of ripping off the big one. Edwards’ 13 rushing touchdowns this season led Baltimore and tied for fifth in the NFL.

Rank 48

Keaton Mitchell

Mitchell was a revelation in the middle of the NFL season, ripping off long touchdown runs in back-to-back November games, his first two contests of notable action. The undrafted rookie posted seven runs of 20-plus yards before his season abruptly came to an end due to knee injury in mid-December.

Rank 50

Justice Hill

Baltimore’s go-to running back in obvious passing situations, Hill enjoyed a career year in 2023. He played a career-high 47 percent of the team’s offensive snaps this season and posted numerous highlight-reel plays, including the 78-yard kickoff return that basically put the Dolphins to rest in Week 17. The fifth-year pro helped Baltimore finish the season as the league’s top rushing attack.

Ranking 15 greatest endings in Super Bowl history: Rams-Titans wild finish, Giants-Patriots games make cut

Brian DeArdo, CBS Sports

15. Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens 34, 49ers 31

Feb. 3, 2013

The 35-minute power outage seemed to change the complexion of the game. Trailing 28-6 before the outage, the 49ers were a 2-point conversion away from tying the score with 10 minutes left. Down 34-29, they got down to the Ravens’ 5-yard line and were in position to win the game. As good as he was in leading the 49ers back, Colin Kaepernick was a little off on his fourth-down pass to Michael Crabtree that was slightly overthrown. The 49ers’ last-gasp attempt at a win was extinguished when Josh Bynes tackled Ted Ginn Jr. just short of midfield on the game’s final play.

Count the 2023 Ravens among the 10 best teams not to make the Super Bowl

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Aaron Schatz created defense-adjusted value over average — DVOA — as a means of measuring team efficiency relative to competition, and by his reckoning, the Ravens are the second best team since 1981 not to make the Super Bowl, behind only the 2010 New England Patriots.

“The best indicator of a championship team is big, dominating wins, and the Ravens had a series of big, dominating wins, but not against bad teams, against good teams,” Schatz explained. “Also, they were tremendously well-balanced — good at passing and running, good against the pass and the run and good on special teams. There are not a lot of teams in history that have been top eight in all five.”

These teams come in many varieties. Some fell short for one year in the middle of glorious runs. Others were slightly lesser editions of previous champions. Still others never did reach the summit.

The Ravens hope they don’t fall into the last category, but as Schatz noted, there’s no guarantee. Many of the best teams not to reach the Super Bowl did not bounce back to do better the following season.

“There’s just a lot of randomness in a sport where you play only one game [to avoid elimination] in the playoffs instead of seven,” he said.