Skip to main content
Presented by

Late for Work: Dan Orlovsky Says Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman Need to Take the 'Next Step'

(From left to right) WR Zay Flowers & WR Rashod Bateman
(From left to right) WR Zay Flowers & WR Rashod Bateman

Dan Orlovsky: With Odell Beckham Jr. Gone, Zay Flowers and Rashod Bateman Need to Step Up

ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky said that even though the Ravens have two superstars in Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry, the key for the offense is for wide receivers Zay Flowers and Rashod Bateman to take the next step, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. no longer on the team.

"I know everyone probably is underselling Odell to Miami and no longer in Baltimore, but Odell was a relatively solid piece for them when it came to winning one-on-ones and possessions," Orlovsky said on "The Pat McAfee Show." "I have very little doubt that Lamar is gonna play at an incredibly high level, but they gotta bank on Zay Flowers taking the next step, and they gotta bank on Bateman staying healthy. When Bateman is on the field, he's a good player.

"Again, I know Odell isn't maybe what Odell used to be, but him not being there just for that possession element or, 'Hey, it's one-on-one, try to win,' I am going to be interested to see how that pass game takes the next step this year."

There is reason to believe Flowers and Bateman can make a leap. Flowers is coming off a season in which he set franchise rookie records for receptions (77) and receiving yards (858). Bateman, who has flashed at times, said recently that he is fully healthy.

As for Orlovsky saying that the Ravens need a receiver to win possession battles, McAfee said they already have them in tight ends Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely.

"You're talking about [how] they need a possession receiver — they got a couple of them," McAfee said.

Robert Griffin III Believes Schedule Could Help Ravens 'Get Over the Hump'

We know the Ravens have the second-toughest schedule in the league (based on opponents' winning percentage in 2023), which includes a brutal stretch to start the season that has some pundits believing they could be in last place after the first five weeks.

We also know the Ravens have the largest net rest edge (plus 16 days) of any team in 35 years.

So, does the schedule help them or hurt them? Or is it a wash?

ESPN analyst and former Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III firmly believes the schedule benefits the Ravens. In fact, he suggested – perhaps facetiously – that the NFL schedule-makers intentionally made it favorable for them.

"At this point in Lamar Jackson's career, every season is Super Bowl or bust," Griffin said. "That's how special the two-time MVP has been. And the only thing the NFL likes more than a dynasty like the Chiefs is a team or a player that gets over the hump, and that's exactly what the NFL schedule-makers are trying to help the Ravens do.

"They gave them an additional 16 days of rest over their opponents. That's three more days than any other team in the league. And not only that, they made sure that they're not away from home more than two weeks in a row. I call that the Sleep Number-bed schedule, because they want to make sure that they're well-rested. Their opponents are gonna hate it. But you got a new duo of Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry. These dudes are dynamic playmakers. Why wouldn't the NFL want them to be well-rested? And then they don't want them to be away from [M&T Bank Stadium] too long, which I know Ravens fans will absolutely love."

Griffin shot down the notion that the Ravens will get off to a slow start despite the first five games (at Kansas City, vs. Las Vegas, at Dallas, vs. Buffalo, at Cincinnati) being "a gauntlet."

"The Ravens have a better defense than every single one of those teams, and you could even call the Chiefs a wash," Griffin said. "Don't be so quick to discredit who the Baltimore Ravens are. Understand that in that building when they see the schedule come out, they don't ever say, 'Oh my goodness, we gotta play that team, and that team, and that team, and that team?' They're saying, 'Those teams have to play the Ravens.' And that is a big difference in their mindset compared to the rest of the league."

Ravens Given Second-Best Chance of Replacing Chiefs As Super Bowl Champions columnist Jeffri Chadiha also believes the Ravens have what it takes to get over the hump. He ranked the seven teams he sees as having the best chance of preventing the Chiefs from winning an unprecedented third consecutive Super Bowl, and the Ravens were No. 2.

"The Ravens open the NFL season in Kansas City, so we'll have an early read on how ready this team is to make another run at supplanting the Chiefs as conference champs," Chadiha wrote. "It's also a safe bet that Baltimore won't beat itself like it did in last year's AFC Championship Game loss. It's still impossible to understand why the Ravens would veer so far from their identity in that contest — by essentially ignoring their vaunted running attack — but what's done is done. Baltimore now must prove that it can create another shot at a championship after being the top seed in last year's AFC postseason. Lamar Jackson won the league's Most Valuable Player award by maturing in a diversified offense that is flush with weapons. The arrival of running back Derrick Henry gives the Ravens a monstrous threat in the backfield (even if he is 30 years old), while the eventual return of speedy ball-carrier Keaton Mitchell (who tore his ACL in December) will also make Jackson's job that much easier.

"There's an obvious loss on defense with former coordinator Mike Macdonald becoming the head coach in Seattle, but his replacement, Zach Orr, was coaching the team's inside linebackers prior to his promotion. There shouldn't be much change in a unit that was the best in the league last season. Really, the only thing keeping the Ravens from overtaking Kansas City is the mental aspect. The Chiefs usually have found ways to overcome Baltimore in the past, which tends to get in the heads of opponents. The Ravens were the better team on paper when the 2023 regular season ended. They need to find a way to prove that on the field when it matters most."

Chadiha put the San Francisco 49ers, who lost to the Chiefs in overtime in the Super Bowl, at No. 1. Ravens' AFC North rival Cincinnati was No. 4.

Keaton Mitchell Named Comeback Player of the Year Candidate

Pro Football Focus’ Bradley Locker identified 10 players returning from injury who could challenge for Comeback Player of the Year, including running back Keaton Mitchell.

"Mitchell became a late-season revelation during Baltimore's quest for the AFC North throne," Locker wrote. "Despite not playing until Week 7, the former UDFA exploded to the tune of 8.4 yards per carry. His 92.5 rushing grade ranked second in the NFL.

"Yet, Mitchell tore his ACL in Week 15, putting his short-lived rise on the back burner. Even with Baltimore adding legend Derrick Henry in free agency, there's almost no way Head Coach John Harbaugh will be able to keep Mitchell off the field if he looks anything like his 2024 form, creating a terrific tandem for the Ravens."

When General Manager Eric DeCosta was asked about Mitchell's progress in March, he said: "I think Keaton is doing really well. We'll see. Obviously, [it was a] significant knee injury, but we have some experience with that. I've gotten some updates from our trainers and doctors, and we feel like he's on path to come back at some point this season."

Two Ravens Ranked Among NFL's 25 Fastest Players

The 33rd Team’s Marcus Mosher ranked the 25 fastest players in the NFL, and two Ravens made the list.

First-round cornerback Nate Wiggins was No. 13 and Henry was No. 17. (Curiously, Jackson wasn't ranked.)

"If it weren't for Xavier Worthy, Nate Wiggins would have gotten much more attention at this year's combine," Mosher wrote. "The former Clemson cornerback ran a 4.28 40-yard dash, the second-best time in the class. He'll instantly be one of the fastest cornerbacks in the league and landed in an ideal situation in Baltimore.

"Derrick Henry is getting older and isn't quite as fast as he used to be, but no one is catching him from behind in the open field. Henry had a run in the 2023 season where his max speed topped out at 21.68 mph, the eighth-fastest among all ball carriers. Considering he's running that speed at 250 pounds, it makes it even more impressive."

Mosher used a combination of timed speed via the NFL's Next Gen Stats and 40-yard dash times to compile the rankings.

Quick Hits

Related Content