Will Lamar Jackson Compete for League MVP in Todd Monken's Offense?
In 2019, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense set numerous NFL records on their way to a 14-2 record and Jackson earned the NFL's second-ever unanimous league MVP award. Since then, Jackson and the offense have pursued a repeat of such dominance but haven't quite found that final gear.
Now with a full set of weapons and new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken at the helm, The Athletic's Mike Jones asks, "Can Monken help Jackson regain his MVP form and reach another level as a passer?"
"Monken knows how to design championship-caliber offenses, at least on the college level, where he helped guide Georgia to back-to-back national titles," Jones wrote. "But Jackson is a far different athlete than the quarterbacks at Georgia, and questions remain about the Ravens' skill players despite the addition of Odell Beckham Jr."
It's interesting Jones notes the "questions surrounding the Ravens' skill players." Pundits have unanimously praised General Manager Eric DeCosta for supplying Jackson with the best wide receiver group of his NFL career, and that's before mentioning the tight ends and running backs on the roster. That's not to say it's without complete merit, as there is the question of health, but it's a bit exacerbated.
While Jones ponders if Monken and the new offense can help Jackson regain MVP form, Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay shares what he's expecting from Jackson in 2023, and he's confident in the offenses' direction.
"Thanks to his dual-threat capabilities, Jackson has the potential to put up some of the gaudiest statistics of any player at his position," Kay wrote. "That additional firepower combined with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken's arrival from Georgia may result in a career-best passing display from the 26-year-old signal-caller."
Kay gave a projection for Jackson's 2023 stat total and it's above the 3,000-yard passing mark Jackson hasn't eclipsed since 2019.
Kay's projection: 63 percent completion rate, 3,302 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 142 carries, 987 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns.
DraftKings also projects Jackson to have a strong passing season, with their passing yards prop being the highest line they've set for Jackson entering the season. The DraftKings passing prop lines are 3,625.5 yards with 24.5 touchdowns.
Jackson the No. 4 Most Explosive NFL Runner; Fair to Doubt He'll Run Less?
Entering the 2022 season, Jackson was the No. 7 most explosive runner, according to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats. A year later, Jackson has climbed a few places, ranking No. 4, according to NFL.com’s Nick Shook.
"Surprisingly, Jackson didn't threaten the leaders in top speed reached as a ball-carrier, but that didn't keep him from earning the fourth spot on this list," Shook wrote. "Jackson still recorded 15 gains of 10-plus yards over expected, and his ability to pick up chunks of yards saw him break 10 yards on 27.7 percent of attempts. A 15-plus-mph percentage of nearly 37 fueled a good portion of his explosive score, reminding us of what we already knew: Jackson is a big-play threat on every down."
While Jackson is among the NFL's most dynamic rushing threats, it's worth noting that Jackson, Monken and Head Coach John Harbaugh have said to varying degrees that they expect Jackson to run less this season, which Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine isn't ready to buy into.
"… Monken still understands the importance of the run game," Ballentine wrote. "Monken's offense is still going to be built around Jackson's unique traits and qualities as a runner. They'll be better at passing the ball, but the volume is likely to remain the same or comparable to last season."
What Have the Ravens Done with Their Compensatory Picks?
The Ravens have been at the forefront of the NFL compensatory pick formula since its inception, leading the NFL with 53 compensatory picks since 1995. With an extra 53 draft picks over the past 18 possible seasons, Hogs Haven broke down what the Ravens have done with their extra selections.
"Six of these players – including three fullbacks – were Pro Bowlers at least once in their career," they wrote. "An additional 17 of them had careers at least 5 years long in the league, either as consistent starters or reliable back-ups. Several from the past few years are still too young to evaluate, but guys like Isaiah Likely and Ben Bredeson appear on track for solid careers. That would make around half of these picks either high-end contributors, reliable starters, or back-end depth pieces that made it to a second contract in the NFL, which is a notable benchmark."
Something also taken into consideration was the Ravens' ability to draft players late, develop them into starting-caliber talents and earn themselves a higher draft selection when they depart.
"For instance, Pernell McPhee, taken in the 5th round of the 2011 draft, was allowed to walk in 2015 and generate a 2016 4th round comp pick," they wrote. "Similarly, when Kyle Juszczyk walked and was picked up by the 49ers in 2017, that loss helped shield the Ravens from losing a 6th round comp pick in 2018."
While the Ravens have found a formula to help consistently retool their roster, the conclusion isn't that compensatory picks are the main goal. However, it's telling when comparing how other teams have put their focus on it.
"No, compensatory picks are not a silver bullet for success in the NFL, but well-run teams can use them to dampen the salary cap implications of players occupying the middle and bottom of roster, as well as a mechanism to generate more lottery tickets in the annual rookie draft," they write.
Pundit Expects Ravens to Reunite With Justin Houston
The Ravens' pass rushers hold a lot of potential, with outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo both entering the 2023 season healthy and with a full offseason of NFL training. But these two, paired with veteran Tyus Bowser, may not be enough, writes Last Word on Sports’ David Latham, who thinks the Ravens should bring back veteran pass rusher Justin Houston.
"The Ravens could use another veteran edge rusher to provide some stability, and Justin Houston is the ideal guy for the job," Latham wrote. "Entering his age-34 season, he is considerably closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but last year proved that he can still play at a high level."
Last season, Houston led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks; Ojabo and Bowser combined for five.
Latham believes the Ravens have a talented unit, and with sky-high potential they could make waves. But that's a lot to rely on with two young players at such a critical position.
"On paper, there is a lot of talent, and if everyone plays up to their ability, the Ravens won't really need Justin Houston. However, that is a big 'if,'" Latham wrote. "While Bowser is a relatively safe bet, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Oweh and Ojabo."
With wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins now available, Latham sees the Ravens only being capable of signing one or the other.
"The only hurdle here is the presence of free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins," Latham wrote. "The three-time All-Pro is going to earn a pretty penny on the open market, and the Ravens are linked to the wide receiver. If Baltimore signs him, they might not be able to afford Houston. However, assuming that doesn't happen, you can pencil in Justin Houston reuniting with the Ravens."
· NFLPA study shows Zay Flowers No. 33 in "Most Marketable Draftees of 2023"
· CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr ranks AFC North No. 3 in division rankings, writing "all four teams should compete for a playoff berth."
· PFF ranked Kevin Zeitler the No. 8 guard in the NFL, with Gordon McGuinness writing, "[Zeitler] was still one of the best guards in the NFL with the Ravens a year ago."