Some May Have Forgotten Lamar Jackson is One of the NFL's Scariest Quarterbacks
It's been two seasons since Lamar Jackson set the NFL ablaze and won league MVP. Since then, Jackson's continued to dominate on the field and in the win column, but NFL.com's Bucky Brooks thinks observers may "have amnesia when recalling Jackson's impact as a playmaker," and called Jackson one of the NFL's "scariest quarterbacks."
"After tallying a pair of 1,000-yard seasons as a rusher, defensive coordinators are well aware of [Jackson's] ability to take over the game on the ground. No. 8 is an explosive runner with superb ball-handling skills as an option quarterback executing a variety of power-read and counter-read plays," Brooks wrote. "He has shown the ability to take it the distance as a runner from anywhere on the field and that forces opponents to pay extra attention to him in the box. With the fifth-year pro displaying enough proficiency as a passer down the middle of the field to punish opponents for overplaying the run, defensive coordinators have to pick and choose when to ratchet up the pressure against a quarterback who possesses the athleticism and arm talent to counter aggressive tactics."
Brooks isn't alone in thinking fans are forgetful of Jackson's on-field authority; CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr believes Jackson is one of the most underappreciated players in the NFL.
"What does Lamar Jackson have to do to earn the respect he deserves? Since Jackson took over as the Ravens' starter in Week 11 of the 2018 season, Baltimore is 37-12 -- a .755 winning percentage," Kerr wrote. "He's the first quarterback in league history to reach 35 career victories before the age of 25 and is already seventh all-time in rushing yards (3,673) among NFL quarterbacks. When Jackson is on the field, the Ravens win. He's highly underappreciated around the league."
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta Labeled 'Offseason MVP'
The Ravens—with General Manager Eric DeCosta at the helm, have done considerable work this offseason to improve. The moves made by DeCosta, in particular a highly regarded 2022 draft class, has Sports Illustrated's Connor Orr naming DeCosta his NFL offseason MVP.
"If [the Ravens'] draft class pans out the way I think it will, DeCosta could have two of the best draft classes of the past 20 years since 2018 (the last being Lamar Jackson, Orlando Brown Jr., Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst, Bradley Bozeman)," Orr wrote. "The '22 class of Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum and David Ojabo has a nice ring to it at the moment."
Though the Ravens' draft was heavily appreciated across all media outlets, it wasn't the only significant part of the Ravens' offseason. They also signed a few big-name free agents, which led to Orr selecting the Ravens as his most improved team.
"I wrote this a week ago, but to reiterate: The Ravens saw an opportunity with everyone clamoring for corners, wide receivers and tackles to get players who can be elite, just not at premium positions such as safety (Marcus Williams), center (No. 1 pick Tyler Linderbaum) and tight end (Mark Andrews)," Orr wrote. "In the end, overall talent will win. Lamar Jackson didn't like losing his No. 1 wide receiver, Hollywood Brown, but has to understand it's for the best."
Early Roster Projections Show Tough Decisions Lie Ahead
After a successful and healthy completion of organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, media has begun to speculate how the Ravens' 53-man roster will shake out. The Ravens, after signing or re-signing 10 free agents and coming away from the draft with 11 rookies, will have some tough decisions when cutdown day arrives. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec thinks the secondary and offensive line are among the more difficult areas to keep their talented depth.
In: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Kyle Fuller, Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion Williams
Right in the mix: Kevon Seymour
Long shots: Iman Marshall, Robert Jackson, Denzel Williams, David Vereen
"The Fuller signing completes this group, assuming health cooperates," Zrebiec wrote. "Harbaugh has said that the Ravens will get a good look at Stephens at cornerback this summer and that's been evident in offseason practices. That's why he's here and not at safety. Seymour is a guy the Ravens like and it wouldn't be at all surprising if they find room for him. However, the first impressions of rookies Armour-Davis and Williams suggest that they could contribute immediately and lessen the importance of keeping another corner."
In: Marcus Williams, Chuck Clark, Kyle Hamilton, Geno Stone, Tony Jefferson
Right in the mix: Ar'Darius Washington
"Trading Clark, which still seems possible, would open up another spot," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens also could get away with keeping just four safeties with Stephens' ability to play the position, but it would be tough to leave off a guy like Stone, who has really improved, and Jefferson, who brings a lot to the table both on the field and in the locker room. Washington, who might be best suited for the nickel role, has a nice skill set. However, it's tough to reserve a spot for him until he returns to the field and shows that he's healthy."
Offensive line (9)
In: Ronnie Stanley, Tyre Phillips, Tyler Linderbaum, Kevin Zeitler, Morgan Moses, Patrick Mekari, Ja'Wuan James, Ben Cleveland, Daniel Faalele
Right in the mix: Ben Powers, Trystan Colon
Long shots: Jaryd Jones-Smith, Jimmy Murray, Kahlil McKenzie
"If Stanley is ready and the Ravens enjoy good health up front around him, this will be one of the most spirited position battles all summer," Zrebiec wrote. "It would also put the team in a pretty good position because it'll have the luxury of trading an offensive lineman late in the summer when about a third of the league will probably be looking for help at the position. If the Ravens keep nine, it could very well come down to James, Powers and Colon for one spot. Stanley's ongoing injury concerns should make tackle depth more of a priority, which bodes well for James. Powers has a chance to win the starting left guard spot, so it's tough to leave him off the list. However, the Ravens have quality interior depth and they'll have to make a tough call there."
Ravens Boast Two of the Top 5 Rookie Tight Ends
Among the six fourth-round draft picks the Ravens possessed in the 2022 NFL draft, the Ravens spent two taking tight ends Charlie Kolar (No. 128 overall) and Isaiah Likely (No. 139 overall). The picks were considered good when they occurred, but now it's the players that are being recognized, with both Kolar and Likely landing on CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso's top 5 2022 rookie tight ends list.
"Funny how things work out sometimes in the NFL Draft, because my comparison for Kolar was Mark Andrews. Now he's Andrews' understudy," Trapasso wrote. "The nearly 6-foot-7, 250-pound tight end was a star pass-catcher at Iowa State for the past three seasons, when he caught a total of 20 touchdowns and had over 40 receptions and 590 yards in each campaign. Kolar's productivity was mostly due to unusual flexibility for his height, which allowed him to snap in and out of his breaks as a route runner, and he caught everything. Basically. Kolar only had two drops in 2021."
"Yes, back-to-back Ravens. And, yes, it feels unlikely two rookie tight ends contribute on the same offense. But this isn't any offense. This is a Baltimore attack that saw Marquise Brown get traded away this offseason and was at its best in 2019 -- when Lamar Jackson was the league's unanimous MVP -- when it led the NFL in "22 personnel" which is a two-back, two-tight end set. In short, there'll be plenty of targets to go around from Jackson even with the superstar presence of Andrews at the same position."
Trapasso's list is weighted toward who will be most productive in Year 1, and Trapasso thinks even with Andrews above both, they can still be productive.
"Kolar and Likely are two different types of tight ends with unique talents to threaten underneath, at the intermediate level, and down the field," Trapasso wrote. "Likely projects as a more capable Deebo Samuel YAC treat. He's higher than Kolar on this list because Kolar is much like Andrews. Likely provides more suddenness underneath to be targeted on high-percentage throws for Jackson."