John Harbaugh Says if the Ravens Do This, 'The Division Is Ours'
One of the initial takeaways from the Ravens' 2023 schedule is that three of their first five games are against AFC North rivals on the road. It's a daunting challenge, but Head Coach John Harbaugh said it's also an opportunity.
During an appearance on The 33rd Team podcast hosted by former Colts Head Coach and Ravens Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano, Harbaugh said: "To me, that is nothing but a chance to take control of the division. If we win all those, the division's ours. If we win two out of three, we're in control. Even one out of those three, you're in good shape. We plan on winning them all."
Last season, the Ravens' three road divisional games all occurred during the final five weeks of the season. With Lamar Jackson sidelined for all of them, the Ravens won at Pittsburgh but lost at Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Harbaugh also revealed whether he ever doubted if Jackson would re-sign with the Ravens.
"I was just living in that world of basically faith and trust, knowing that it was going to work out the right way as long as we were doing the right things, treating people the right way," Harbaugh said. "…If it didn't work out, like at times it looked like it wasn't going to, then it wasn't going to work out and there is another plan, and that was going to be a great plan."
The second part of Harbaugh's appearance on former Oriole Adam Jones' podcast also dropped yesterday. Here are some highlights:
On his longevity as a head coach: "I remember back when I first was here and someone asked me, 'How do you plan on keeping the job?' And it was really an easy answer for me, it came right to me. We were fighting all the battles and trying to change the culture here in a lot of ways, and I just said, 'I'm not trying to keep the job; I'm trying to do the job.' If you try to do the job as well as you can to the best of your ability, in the end it gives you the best chance to keep the job."
On the failed two-point conversions in 2021 and whether he will be as aggressive this season: "There's a bunch of those I want back. Because when you don't get them it's like (puts his hands on his head in exasperation). Two years ago when we didn't get them, I was kind of playing to the fact that we were underdogs. I didn't have as much confidence that we were going to win in overtime, or that we were even going to get them stopped on the next series in the case of the Packers game. I just felt like this is our shot, let's try to win it right now. And then I felt like we could get the two-point reasonably well. The analytics are part of it, but that's overblown. Yes, we look at it, but it's do you think you're going to get it and does it give you the best chance to win the game, and it's still a gut decision at the end.
"Now with the team that we've got coming in this year, it's probably going to be a little more conservative, because I do think we're going to have the kind of team like we had toward the end of last year that is going to be able to punt it back down in there, get them stopped, keep them in there, finish the drive, or kick the field goal, tie the game, win in overtime if you have to. That's my instinct about the way it's gonna go. Maybe also being stung a couple times like we all were, the fact that we lost those games, I gotta be honest, yeah, you do remember that. That's just being human."
Roquan Smith Doesn't Crack Top Five in PFF's Linebacker Rankings
Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema revealed his linebacker rankings, and Ravens fans will likely take issue with them.
Sikkema divided his top 32 linebackers into seven tiers. Surprisingly, All-Pro Roquan Smith was not among the three Tier 1 linebackers. Smith was ranked sixth overall and placed in Tier 2.
Despite not putting Smith in the top tier, Sikkema acknowledged that "Smith elevated the entire Ravens' defense once he arrived in Baltimore this past season via trade."
The three Tier 1 linebackers were San Francisco's Fred Warner, Tampa Bay's Lavonte David, and New Orleans' Demario Davis.
Sikkema didn't show much love for Patrick Queen either. Queen, who has improved every season as he enters his fourth year, was placed in Tier 6 and ranked 26th overall.
Rankings aside, a case can be made that Smith and Queen are the top linebacker duo in the league.
Rashod Bateman is a Breakout Candidate
Wide receiver Rashod Bateman was expected to have a breakout season last year, but after showing flashes early, a foot injury ended his season after six games. The 2021 first-round pick has returned to the field, and PFF’s Gordon McGuinness believes this will be the year Bateman breaks out.
"Before an injury wrecked his second season in the league, Bateman was on pace for a 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown season and averaged 2.38 yards per route run from 120 receiving snaps in 2022," McGuinness wrote. "Quarterback Lamar Jackson has hinted that the 2023 version of the Ravens' offense will feature 'less running and more throwing' and that Bateman is his WR1. So, while the additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers give him more competition, the offense itself should provide him with plenty of opportunities, as long as he can stay on the field."
Ravens Named Best Fit for Jadeveon Clowney
Over the past few years, whenever Jadeveon Clowney has been available, pundits have linked him to the Ravens. ESPN's Matt Bowen is the latest to do so, as he named Baltimore the best fit for the outside linebacker/defensive end.
"Clowney is a straight-line power rusher who can set a hard edge versus the run game, and he would fit in coordinator Mike Macdonald's defensive scheme in Baltimore," Bowen wrote. "Yes, his production declined in Cleveland last season — he had just two sacks — but the 30-year-old can still create disruption in both the run and pass game. Clowney can play off the edge or align inside as a stand-up defensive tackle in the Ravens' multiple fronts. Baltimore turned over its front seven, and I see a part-time role for Clowney there."