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Late for Work 6/1: Lamar Jackson Back in MVP Talk; Five Bold Predictions for Ravens

QB Lamar Jackson

Big Predictions for the Ravens in 2022

Yesterday, the NFL world celebrated the regular season being a mere 100 days away.

As a part of being 100 days away, Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr gave 100 predictions for the 2022 season, and the Ravens were involved in three, and have a connection with another pair.

Lamar Jackson will set a career high in passing yards and reenter the MVP conversation

"With an offense doubling down on the best of what Jackson does, the quarterback will be more comfortable than he's been in years. While he won't top 36 passing touchdowns, he will score more than 40 combined rushing and passing touchdowns."

One of the more exciting predictions in Orr's piece is one all Ravens fans would sign onto. If Jackson were to eclipse 40 total touchdowns, he'd almost surely be in the league MVP conversation.

The Ravens will win 12 or more games.

"No team had a more targeted and successful draft. Few NFL clubs have found a way to adequately defend the Ravens at full health. Now they appear better and stronger than ever. Outside of Joe Burrow's transcendent excellence, we know very little for sure about the rest of the AFC North."

Just about everybody is beginning to realize the Ravens' turbulent 2021 season wasn't due to the players or coaching, but rather the massive injuries. With all of them slated to be back, and a few fresh faces to accompany them, big things are expected for the Ravens.

A rookie will finish in the top three in interceptions.

"This year's rookie class has a ton of promise. Kyle Hamilton, Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., Trent McDuffie, Kaiir Elam, Andrew Booth Jr., Kyler Gordon … someone will get picked on and make other teams pay for the mistake."

Hamilton's shown his ability to generate interceptions throughout his college tenure, where he boasted eight in three college seasons. If he's on the field for the majority of the defensive snaps and quarterbacks test him, Hamilton could quickly become a defender who will make offenses pay.

The Ravens will have two 1,000-yard rushers.

"Hey, the prediction business is rough. Sometimes we need a tap-in to keep us going. An easy completion."

As Orr said, this isn't super bold as long as Baltimore's top running backs return healthy. The Ravens didn't have any 1,000-yard rushers last season because Jackson missed the final five games and J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were both lost to knee injuries. From there, it was a timeshare between mostly veterans for the entire season.

In 2020, Jackson cracked 1,000 yards (1,005) while Dobbins had 805 and Edwards 723. In 2019, however, Jackson ran for a quarterback-record 1,206 yards and Mark Ingram posted 1,018. That kind of production is certainly possible if Dobbins and Edwards are back.

The Browns will win fewer than 10 games.

"I think we're underestimating just how much of a meat grinder the AFC North is going to be. The Steelers will still hover dangerously around .500. The Ravens will be vastly improved. The Bengals, like most post–Super Bowl teams, will deal with a hangover but still maintain relevance."

If Orr's predicting the Ravens to win 12 or more games and Jackson to find his pass-catchers or himself in the end zone 40-plus times, he expects them to contend for the division title. With the Browns' quarterback situation in flux, the Ravens could be a part of why Cleveland's win column remains in the single digits for a second-straight year.

2022 will become the year of the fullback.

"Mike McDaniel said this week what we've been writing for two years now: A fullback forces defenses into their base package, which is where you want them. It also gives teams a distinct numbers advantage on one side of the ball. Look for this to be a discussion point during broadcasts this year."

While Sports Illustrated may have been writing about it for the past two years, there's been a consistent utilization the fullback position in the Ravens' offense for years. For the past three, the Ravens have sent fullback Patrick Ricard to the Pro Bowl, and accompanying Ricard from the NFC has been none other than former Raven Kyle Juszczyk.

Ravens' Trio Ranked No. 8

The Ravens offense will be returning two of their expected stars from injury in 2022 in Jackson and Dobbins. If both come back healthy, they, along with tight end Mark Andrews, are expected to be a force.

CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin ranked the group No. 8 among "NFL triplets."

"The Ravens are the lowest-ranked of our eight teams that received at least one top-five vote," Dubin wrote. "This ranking reflects a confidence that Jackson's inconsistency last season was likely the result of injuries to both himself and the offensive line, and that Andrews' monster season was just the beginning of him solidifying himself as one of the NFL's best tight ends. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are each coming off torn ACLs, but Dobbins was expected to be the lead ball-carrier last season, so we expect that to be the case in 2022."

It's a bit surprising the Ravens aren't higher on the list, but with Dobbins coming off a major knee injury, Dubin and the voters appear hesitant. However, if Dobbins reaches the expectations the media placed on him last year, which was anywhere between 1,400-2,105+ rushing yards, this "triplet" could be No. 1.

Mark Andrews Among 'Elite' Tier of Tight Ends

Last season, the Ravens offense operated through Andrews, who set franchise records in single-season receptions (107) and yards (1,361) and earned First-Team All-Pro honors.

According to PFF's Anthony Treash, that's good enough to earn an 'Elite' ranking on their 2022 tight end ranking list, but Andrews isn't leading the pack. Treash has Andrews at No. 4, behind Chiefs' Travis Kelce, 49ers' George Kittle and Raiders' Darren Waller.

"Andrews took his game to another level in 2021 and became even more of the go-to option for quarterback Lamar Jackson," Treash wrote. "He posted a career-high 91.5 PFF grade in 2021, the highest among tight ends. The 6-foot-5, 256-pound tight end boasts top-tier ball skills, provides a physical element as a receiver and makes difficult grabs over the middle in traffic look routine. Andrews ranked top five at the position in drop rate (2.6%) and contested catch rate (60%, 18-of-30) while producing more 15-plus yard receptions than any other tight end in the NFL (33). He's essentially a big slot in the Ravens' offense, as he played over 50% of his snaps on the inside. And Andrews isn't a slouch when blocking inline, either, ranking third among tight ends in run-blocking grade for 2021."

It's a bit odd ranking Andrews No. 4 when, by their own metrics, Andrews earned their top grade of any tight end last season. Andrews also did so with Jackson missing the final five games, and yet Andrews' production only increased.

Ravens Given 'Could Be Their Year' Label in Latest Power Rankings

The latest power rankings from PFF were released on Monday, and rather than a simple 1-32 ranking, PFF's Sam Monson also broke them down into categories. The Ravens, who ranked No. 11 on Monson's list, were under the "true contenders" label, but a tier below "could be their year."

"Few teams were as ravaged by injuries as the Ravens last season, and it propelled them from the top seed in the AFC at one point in the year to outside of the playoffs by the end of the season," Monson wrote. "Just getting healthy again makes the Ravens a real playoff team once again, and they can go on stretches of dominant play that scares any team in the league."

According to Monson's list, the Ravens are the No. 7 team in the AFC and third in the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals topped the AFC North at No. 8, with the Browns one spot above the Ravens at No. 10. But The Draft Network’s Jack McKessy doesn't agree.

"On top of the strong offense is their incredible defense, which only got stronger with the addition of safety Marcus Williams in free agency," McKessy wrote. "The Ravens added safety Kyle Hamilton, edge rusher David Ojabo and defensive tackle Travis Jones in the draft. Given that defense plus an offensive setup reminiscent of the Ravens' 2019 campaign—which featured a 14-2 finish and Jackson's unanimous MVP season—their roster looks even better than Cincinnati's."

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