Mink: Lamar Jackson has nine touchdown passes so far this season. That puts him on pace for about 18. While I believe Jackson is playing at a higher level than he was during his MVP season, he's on pace to throw for half as many touchdowns as he did in 2019, when he led the league with 36.
First of all, Jackson was insanely efficient that year in the red zone. Expecting a repeat isn't very realistic. He's throwing the ball better this season and there's no reason to believe that doesn't translate to the red zone. Let's also not forget that Jackson has had multiple touchdown passes dropped in the Week 5 loss in Pittsburgh, which was a one-game issue.
I expect Jackson will throw more touchdowns in the second half of the season because of the success the Ravens have been having running the ball in over the first half. Gus Edwards has scored five rushing touchdowns the past couple weeks. Teams are going to start devoting more resources to taking that away.
As Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken has said multiple times, the best way to score in the red zone is to run it in. As long as the Ravens continue to have success doing that, he's not going to change (because it's not about padding Jackson's stats). But all this ground success is going to open chances to flip the script on defense and catch them off guard. I expect we'll see more of a correction in the second half of the season and Jackson will throw more in.
Downing: This is a popular question this week after Keaton Mitchell's breakout performance Sunday. He showed game-breaking ability when he rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and now all the fantasy football players are wondering if Mitchell will be a go-to option for the Ravens for the second half of the season. I discussed this topic on Final Drive yesterday (check out the video below), and my expectation is for this to be a shared workload between Mitchell, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. Let's not forget that Edwards also scored a pair of touchdowns against Seattle and has five touchdowns over the last two games. He's going to continue to get his carries, especially in tight games where the Ravens want to use him as the closer.
I do expect Mitchell to cut into the snap count for Edwards and Hill, as he showed he's deserving of more carries. But I don't see him suddenly stepping into a role where he's the bell cow running back. The Ravens want to divide carries to keep everyone fresh, and Mitchell has been banged up with different injuries for much of his rookie season. My best guess is that Edwards and Mitchell will get the bulk of the carries, with Hill playing an important role on passing downs and as a receiver out of the backfield. The Ravens will continue to share the workload in the backfield, and they could have a different back leading the way each week.
Mink: Ed Reed had nine interceptions in 2004 and again in 2008. Geno Stone has six with eight games to go. So to break Reed's record, he would need a pick in half of his remaining games.
The fact that Stone leads the league in picks through the first half of the season is already one of the most surprising storylines in all of football. Nobody could have predicted that. So I'm unfortunately going to have to stay the course and predict that he will not break the record (and hope I'm wrong again).
One factor that will hurt Stone's chances somewhat is the pending return of Marcus Williams. While I still think Stone will have a big role in this defense, he will see fewer snaps, and thus pick opportunities, once that happens.
Downing: Williams returned to practice last week and participated in a limited capacity as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Williams has missed three straight games with the injury, and that comes after he missed three games earlier in the season with a pectoral injury. The fact that he practiced last week was an encouraging sign about his status, and the injury report this week will be a good indication about whether he's ready to play against the Browns on Sunday. If Williams is a full participant in practice this week, then he likely has a good chance to make his return to the lineup.
The question for the Ravens is how they use Williams in the secondary based on the emergence of Stone. Stone stepped into the lineup when Williams went down, and he's certainly done enough to stay on the field even with Williams healthy. Do the Ravens move Kyle Hamilton down into the slot role like they primarily did last season? Has Stone done enough to stay on the field for 100 percent of the snaps? Quality depth is a good problem to have, and Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald will have another way to get creative as Williams returns to full strength.