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Late for Work 8/15: Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes Will Be 'Neck and Neck' in MVP Race

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

ESPN Pundit Predicts Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes Will Be 'Neck and Neck' in MVP Race

In 2019, Lamar Jackson became just the second player in NFL history to be unanimous league MVP, but ESPN's Marcus Spears believes the Ravens quarterback is poised to have an even better season in 2023.

In new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken's system, Jackson will show that "he can throw the ball at a high clip like all of these top quarterbacks that we see in the NFL," Spears said on "First Take."

Spears predicted Jackson will be "neck and neck" with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the MVP race.

"He's been the league MVP playing in a condensed-space offense. Lamar has operated in heavy boxes for a large majority of his career, meaning eight or more guys loaded down at the interior of the line of scrimmage or people bringing more guys, safety help, in to make plays against him," Spears said. "The fact that he's going to be able to play on a spread-out field now is going to change how you have to defend Lamar Jackson. And they couldn't defend him [before]."

Spears went on to say that the Ravens will be the biggest threat in the AFC to the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

"[The Ravens] will be the team in the AFC that at the end of the season we're like, 'Damn, we should have saw this coming,' as long as they stay healthy," Spears said.

Pass Rush Remains Ravens' Biggest Flaw, Pundit Says

ESPN's Bill Barnwell identified a potential problem for each playoff contender and ranked them from most concerning to least concerning. He sees the Ravens' pass rush as the biggest flaw of them all.

Barnwell noted that the Ravens will be counting on Odafe Oweh, who has eight sacks in two seasons, and David Ojabo, who only played 21 defensive snaps last season in his return from a torn Achilles, to shoulder the bulk of the pass-rushing workload on the edge.

"If any team deserves the benefit of the doubt for developing young talent on defense, it might be the Ravens, so I'm willing to believe one of these two guys impresses in 2023. Given the stakes, though, this could end up being a glaring weakness on Baltimore's roster," Barnwell wrote. "With the Ravens turning over two of their three starting cornerback spots around star Marlon Humphrey, they are going to need all the pass-rushing help they can get against the best teams in the AFC."

Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi said the first preseason game did nothing to quell the concern over a lack of depth at edge rusher.

"In limited action, David Ojabo looked relatively pedestrian," Lombardi wrote. "The only edge rusher that consistently threatened was Malik Hamm, who registered one of the team's four sacks. The others came from a CB (Daryl Worley with two) and off-the-ball LB Malik Harrison. It's early, but judging from one fake game, edge is still a concern. The lack of pure pass rushers will force DC Mike Macdonald to manufacture a pass rush, and when that happens, it can open up vulnerable areas and lead to big plays by the offense."

Ojabo did some good things in the game, as he was quick off the snap and used his hands well in pass-rush opportunities. Head Coach John Harbaugh said that he was pleased with Ojabo's physicality.

The Ravens might bolster the pass rush by signing a veteran. Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy reportedly made visits, and Clowney was reportedly offered a contract.

'Good Morning Football' Looks Back at Ravens' Last Preseason Loss

As you know, it's been a while since the Ravens lost a preseason game.

An 18-year-old Jackson was two days away from making his college football debut with Louisville when the Ravens lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 20-19, in the final preseason game of 2015 on Sept. 3. Baltimore has won a record 24 consecutive preseason games since.

The “Good Morning Football” crew looked back at that game and discussed the merits of the streak.

"Harbaugh loves this stuff, and some people get really annoyed, like, 'Who cares, it could be a hundred-game streak, it's preseason," Kyle Brandt said. "But he likes it, and I actually think it speaks well to their players that they draft late or that they sign as undrafted guys."

Trailing the Falcons 20-6 in the fourth quarter, Bryn Renner threw two touchdown passes in the final two minutes to give the Ravens a chance for the win. After tight end Daniel Brown's 10-yard touchdown catch pulled the Ravens to within one point with 40 seconds left, Renner's pass to running back Kiero Small on the two-point conversion attempt failed.

Peter Schrager noted that the game ended on a kneel-down by Rex Grossman, a first-round draft pick in 2003.

Yeah, it's definitely been a minute.

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