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Late for Work 1/14: Lamar Jackson Is One of the 'Most Confusing Great Players'

QB Lamar Jackson

Walker: Lamar Jackson Is One of the Most Confusing Great Players in the NFL

Like the Ravens as a whole, Lamar Jackson experienced his share of highs and lows this season. Jackson's uneven performance prompted The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker to refer to the quarterback as "one of the most confusing great players in the NFL."

"Which part of Jackson's season tells the story of where he's headed?" Walker wrote. "Do we focus on the first six games, when he led brilliant comebacks and was perhaps the most prolific deep passer and deadliest runner in the league? Do we dwell on the run of disappointing performances that began with an upset loss to the Miami Dolphins, which highlighted his inability to punish the blitz and seemed to shake his on-field composure? Do we worry about the 5½ games he missed because of recurring illnesses and a bone bruise on his ankle?

"These are questions the Ravens must ask as they contemplate how to maximize Jackson's performance in 2022 and how much to invest in him as their franchise centerpiece for the years beyond."

Walker said it makes the most sense for the Ravens to move forward with a lucrative contract extension for Jackson rather than taking a "wait-and-see approach."

"Jackson is, after all, a former Most Valuable Player and proven winner who played at an elite level for parts of the 2021 season," Walker wrote. "Quarterbacks who fit that description don't tend to get less expensive if you put off signing them."

That's not to say the Ravens should ignore Jackson's struggles in the second half of the season, Walker said.

"The Ravens can help by fortifying their talent at offensive tackle," Walker wrote. "Their running game will become more dynamic again with the returns of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Rashod Bateman could provide a third trusted target to go with Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown.

"But will a better context mean a better Jackson? Or does someone, either inside or outside the building, need to help him unlock his confidence as a field commander?"

Which Defensive Positional Group Received a D+?

In Wednesday’s Late for Work, we looked at Jeff Zrebiec's positional grades for the offense. Today's we'll focus on his grades for the defense and special teams.

The defensive line received the highest grade among the defensive positional groups, while cornerbacks got the lowest. The special teams unit was at the head of the class.

Here are some excerpts from The Athletic:

Defensive line: B-

"The first thing the Ravens ask of their interior defensive line is to shut down the opposing run game. It did that well. The Ravens finished with the top rush defense in the NFL, allowing just 84.5 yards per game on the ground. They also were second in yards allowed per carry (3.8) and tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns surrendered (13). The Ravens could have used more quarterback pressure from this group and more game-changing plans. The Ravens defensive line combined for just 4½ sacks and one of those was by practice-squad player Isaiah Mack."

Cornerbacks: D+

"In fairness, this grade should probably be an 'I' for injuries, because it's tough to kill the cornerbacks when the Ravens played much of the season without so many key guys. Marcus Peters missed all 17 games. Marlon Humphrey was sidelined for the final five. Anthony Averett, Jimmy Smith and Chris Westry missed three, seven and 11 games, respectively. Tavon Young went the distance, but nagging things made him a limited participant in practice pretty much all year and knocked him out for stretches in games. But it's also impossible to get away from the fact that the Ravens finished last in the NFL in defending the pass and gave up the most passing yards in franchise history."

Specialists: A

"The Ravens have the AFC's Pro Bowl kicker in Justin Tucker and the Pro Bowl returner in Devin Duvernay. Their special teams were ranked at the top of the league all year despite a revolving door of personnel on their kick, punt and return units. There was the occasional lapse, but Chris Horton's units were the most consistent aspect of the team."

The Big-Name Wide Receiver Ravens Should Avoid in Free Agency

If you search Allen Robinson's name on this website, you'll see that the veteran wide receiver has been discussed as a player the Ravens could or should target via trade or free agency going back to 2018.

Robinson was one of the top pending free-agent wide receivers this past offseason, but he agreed to play with the Chicago Bears on the franchise tag, which means he is set to hit free agency again this offseason.

Robinson is again being mentioned in the same sentence as the Ravens, but in a much different way. Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay named one free agent each team should avoid, and Robinson was his choice for the Ravens.

Robinson, 28, is coming off the worst season of his career. He had 38 receptions for 410 yards and one touchdown in 12 games after posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

"Robinson's lack of chemistry with rookie quarterback Justin Fields was concerning," Kay wrote. "The wideout didn't seem to fit in Chicago's offense with the mobile signal-caller at the helm either, which is a major reason why Baltimore shouldn't consider the eight-year veteran. The Ravens have utilized one of the NFL's most run-heavy schemes since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback.

"Robinson has a chance to rehabilitate his career in 2022, but Baltimore isn't the club that can maximize his talents."

Ravens Wire’s Kevin Oestreicher agreed that Robinson would not be a good fit for the Ravens.

"The Ravens have a plethora of young receiving talent that includes players such as Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, Tylan Wallace and others, and don't need to shell out big money to someone who could be a pricy option at the position when they have other needs to fill," Oestreicher wrote.

ESPN Writer Says Texans Hired Former Ravens Assistant David Culley to Fail

Former Ravens assistant coach David Culley, who was fired yesterday as head coach of the Houston Texans after one season, was put in a no-win situation. Literally.

The Texans entered the season as underdogs in all 17 of their games, according to Westgate Sportsbook via Pro Football Talk, and Sportsnaut predicted the Texans to go 0-17.

Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, who requested a trade after the 2020 season before 22 women filed lawsuits alleging sexual harassment or assault, was a healthy scratch all season.

However, under Culley, who spent the previous two seasons as the Ravens Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach, the Texans went 4-13, including wins over the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers.

ESPN’s Sarah Barshop said the Texans hired Culley, 66, to fail.

"By firing Culley, who was coaching a roster turned over by [General Manager Nick] Caserio and without quarterback Deshaun Watson, the organization showed it never intended to give Culley a real shot at making it through this rebuilding period," Barshop wrote. "That, or they didn't understand the quality of the roster put together for Culley. You can guess the most likely answer, but either is damning evidence against the current ownership and front office."

As for the Ravens, Culley's firing does not affect the third-round compensatory pick in the 2022 draft they received when Culley was hired by the Texans.

Quick Hits

  • NFL Throwback looked at the career of former Ravens and Chiefs running back Priest Holmes.

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