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Late for Work 5/18: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Say Lamar Jackson Is Under Pressure to Bounce Back

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Say Lamar Jackson Is Under Pressure to Bounce Back This Season

The last time Joe Buck and Troy Aikman called a Ravens game, Lamar Jackson was getting blitzed early and often as the Miami Dolphins pulled off a stunning upset in Week 10 last year.

During a media call on Monday with Buck and Aikman, "Monday Night Football's" new broadcasting duo for ESPN, Buck said Jackson will be under a different type of pressure this season.

A month after the 22-10 loss to the Dolphins, Jackson suffered a season-ending ankle injury. The Ravens, who were decimated by injuries, ended the season on a six-game losing streak to finish 8-9. It was just their second losing campaign in 14 seasons under Head Coach John Harbaugh.

"This is a big year for [Jackson]," Buck said. "It's obviously a big year for the Ravens. They're a really good team, and by all accounts, time will tell. They had a great draft and have added a lot of talent. They did lose [wide receiver Marquise Brown], so we'll see how that all shakes out.

"But I think there's a bit of pressure on him to kind of erase what happened in the second half of last year, and who knows how healthy he was."

Buck and Aikman, who will call the Ravens-Saints game on Monday, Nov. 7 in New Orleans, both said they expect Jackson to return to form this season.

"Standing in that booth and watching him do what he does when he's right, there's only one Lamar Jackson," Buck said. "And to see his speed, his ability to cut, I mean, it just looks like there's somebody playing at a different speed. I for one as a football fan, and as a John Harbaugh fan, hope that he gets back to that. I assume he will."

Aikman said: "When we've covered Baltimore, Lamar is just one of those players that's just so different than everybody else. We've seen great players at that position who can do great things running and throwing the ball. But this guy is special, and we've seen it when we've covered those games."

Meeting With Rival Tom Brady Is Named Ravens' Must-Watch Game of 2022

For a stretch of about six weeks earlier this year, the Ravens thought someone other than longtime rival Tom Brady would be under center when they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.

When Brady announced in March that he was coming out of his brief retirement to return for his 23rd season, the 13th meeting between the Ravens and Brady was back on.

The Athletic asked its beat writers to pick one must-watch game from their team's schedule, and the Ravens-Buccaneers game on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 8 was Jeff Zrebiec's choice.

"During Tom Brady's long and storied run in New England, the Ravens were one of the quarterback's top rivals," Zrebiec wrote. "From his chess matches with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to his trash talk with Terrell Suggs, Brady and the Ravens defense proved worthy adversaries.

"Brady will be facing the Ravens for the first time as a Buccaneer and it could be the final time a franchise long defined by its defense will oppose an all-time great. That, in itself, should make the Thursday prime-time game must-see TV."

The Ravens are 2-6 against Brady in the regular season, but 2-2 in the playoffs. Baltimore outscored Brady's Patriots 61-27 in its two playoff victories. The Ravens won their last meeting against Brady, 37-20, during Jackson's MVP season in 2019.

On the day Brady announced his retirement in February, he endorsed Jackson via Twitter.

Looking at Potential Trap Games for the Ravens

Ten of the Ravens' 17 games this season are against teams that did not make the playoffs in 2021, so at this point it appears likely they'll be favored more often than not.

With that in mind, Ebony Bird’s Kristen Wong identified three potential trap games on the Ravens' schedule. Two of them are against the New York teams.

The Ravens open the season on the road against a Jets team that figures to be more competitive than last year's 4-13 squad.

"Both the Ravens and Jets enjoyed incredibly successful offseasons, making crucial roster additions in both the 2022 draft and free agency," Wong wrote. "Pound for pound, the Ravens boast more talent and experience in Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and their elite defense, but the team was also heavily injured in 2021, and several rehabilitating starters (J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, etc.) may not perform well out of the gate."

In Week 6, the Ravens go on the road to face former defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and the Giants.

"Prior to the Giants, the Ravens play the Patriots, Bills, and Bengals. After the Giants, the Ravens play the Browns, Buccaneers, and Saints," Wong wrote. "If the Ravens don't defeat the Giants, they could be looking at a pretty nasty hole in the middle of the season. Compared to all those other playoff contenders, the Giants appear to be the weakest of the bunch, but they could have a secret weapon in former Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale."

Wong also listed the Ravens' home game against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos in Week 13 as a potential trap game, but I don't think a December meeting between two teams expected to be contenders falls into that category.

Bleacher Report Gives Ravens a B+ for Offseason Moves

Thanks in large part to their impressive draft haul, the Ravens received a B+ in Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox’s offseason report cards.

In his breakdown, Knox gave the Ravens an A+ for the draft and a B- for free agency.

"The Baltimore Ravens might have had a better offseason than any other team in their division," Knox wrote. "They landed a premier safety in Marcus Williams in free agency and managed to retain one of their key defenders in Calais Campbell. They also did a fine job of replacing starting center Bradley Bozeman with Tyler Linderbaum in the draft."

Knox praised the Ravens for landing safety Kyle Hamilton with the 14th-overall pick and outside linebacker David Ojabo, a first-round talent, in the second round.

"The Ravens also deserve a ton of credit for getting a first-round pick for wideout Marquise Brown, who has only one 1,000-yard campaign on his resume," Knox wrote. "He had moments of brilliance during his three seasons in Baltimore but never quite emerged as a reliable No. 1 target. Even though the Ravens had to send a third-round pick with Brown to Arizona, getting the No. 23 overall pick in exchange for him was a masterstroke.

"The only real knock on the Ravens' offseason is that they have less receiver depth than they had before. That might not be a major factor, though, as quarterback Lamar Jackson is expected to again lead a heavily run-oriented attack under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. If the Ravens can stay healthy, they should be back in the playoff mix this season."

ESPN Football Power Index Gives Ravens Second-Best Odds to Win AFC North

ESPN released its Football Index preseason rankings and the Ravens came in at No. 11. The FPI is a predictive model that includes ratings and projections for every NFL team.

"The Ravens were derailed by injuries a year ago, but with a healthy Lamar Jackson and healthy secondary, they could be quite the threat," ESPN's Seth Walder wrote.

Baltimore was given a 32-percent chance of winning the AFC North, behind only the Cleveland Browns (35 percent). The defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals had the third-best odds at 24 percent.

"The model still isn't all the way in on quarterback Joe Burrow," Walder wrote. "He ranked 12th in Total QBR last season, and despite leading a postseason run, his QBR was still middle-of-the-road during the playoffs. The Bengals' excellent receiving corps and an upgraded offensive line help, but the team's defense is expected to be just OK."

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