Polian Leaves Jackson Off His All-Pro Ballot
Lamar Jackson was one of five Ravens named to the Associated Press 2019 First-Team All-Pro list, and the soon-to-be NFL MVP received 47 of the 50 votes. But one exclusion is garnering plenty of attention given the voter.
Hall of Fame Executive and ESPN analyst Bill Polian was one of three voters who voted for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson instead of Jackson.
"To most, Jackson was an obvious choice," Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith wrote. "Then again, to most, Jackson was obviously a quarterback, and not a wide receiver, coming out of college."
Polian made headlines before the 2018 NFL Draft when he suggested Jackson should switch positions from quarterback to wide receiver. He later admitted he was wrong, but the long-standing criticism is the reason why the omission made headlines.
Pundits like Smith and Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens expressed their displeasure.
"Jackson isn't ever going to be able to convince everyone he's a special talent or even a good quarterback, and that's fine," Stevens wrote. "But anyone who legitimately watched all 15 of Jackson's games and still doesn't view him as the best quarterback of the season is apparently out of touch with the game in its current form and shouldn't be allowed to take part in awarding the best players in the league."
Both Jackson and Wilson had outstanding seasons, but NBC Sports' Ethan Cadeaux believes the second-year quarterback should've been a unanimous vote.
"To be fair, Wilson has had an exceptional season and was the MVP favorite earlier this year. But what Jackson has done for Baltimore in 2019 is unprecedented, and very deserving of earning almost every first-team All-Pro vote."
Jackson's MVP campaign has been fueled by doubt and naysayers. For one of the league's most dynamic players, this just adds more fuel for the fire.
Titans Pose a Raven-Like Challenge
It's officially playoff week in Baltimore, and the No. 6 seed Tennessee Titans come into town to face the Ravens on Saturday night.
But don't let the seeding fool you. Pundits believe Mike Vrabel's team could pose a tough challenge for the Ravens, even more than the Buffalo Bills or Houston Texans.
"The Ravens are going to have their hands full on Saturday night," PFT's Mike Florio told WBAL's Bobby Trosset. "I assume that anyone in the organization was rooting hard for the Patriots [Saturday] night … [The Titans] love to play gritty and dirty football … It makes for a very compelling matchup."
"The wild-card Titans earned the right to play in the divisional round next weekend at M&T Bank Stadium — and they did it the hard way," The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck wrote. "No one should assume that game will be a formality for the Ravens, even if they will be well-rested and a nearly double-digit favorite."
In some ways, Tennessee's wild-card win in New England was reminiscent of the Ravens' 2009 wild-card win against the Patriots. Ryan Tannehill only threw for 72 yards in the win as the Titans relied on 182 rushing yards from Derrick Henry.
The only quarterback to throw for less yards in a playoff win was Joe Flacco against the Patriots in 2009 (34). Ray Rice rushed for 159 yards in that game, including an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler sees a similar style team to what Harbaugh has built in Baltimore.
"The Titans are an opponent that the Ravens can truly understand," Schisler wrote. "The Titans look like they could be a year or two away from a championship, and they're trying to steal one as the sixth seed in the playoffs. The Ravens have been in that position in the not too distant past. The Ravens made the playoffs five straight years to finally win the whole thing. The Ravens know what makes the Titans tick, because it's the same thing that has always fueled the infamous chip on the Ravens' collective shoulders."
As NBC Sports' Peter King pointed out, Henry is on a historic run (literally). He's rushed for 1,078 yards in the last seven games, averaging 6.23 yards per carry.
"The Ravens' three-man front averages 328 pounds, which is good, because they'll need that beef," King wrote.
That poses a challenge for the Ravens, who, at times, have struggled to contain the edge in the run game. But Baltimore's most significant advantage in the eyes of pundits? The fact that the Titans haven't faced Jackson this season.
"That could be viewed as an advantage, because Tennessee hasn't seen Jackson and the Ravens' revolutionary offense up close," Schmuck wrote. "It could also be viewed from the opposite perspective, since the Ravens have not seen the new and improved Ryan Tannehill, who replaced struggling quarterback Marcus Mariota in Week 6 and came into the playoffs on quite a roll."
Ravens Projected Two Compensatory Picks
The kings of the compensatory picks are expected to have even more this offseason. Over The Cap's Nick Korte projects that the Ravens will receive two fourth-round comp picks for the losses of C.J. Mosley and John Brown.
According to Korte, Mosley and Brown's projections are on the compensatory "cutoff bubbles." That means there's a chance Baltimore could recoup either a third or fourth-round pick for Mosley and a fourth or fifth-round pick for Brown.
The comp pick formula has never been revealed. Still, Korte and other contract experts have determined that the average annual value of the contract, playing time, and other adjustments factor in. It makes things especially interesting for the Ravens since Mosley only played two games with the New York Jets this season before being placed on injured reserve.
The Ravens lead the NFL in comp picks since the system was introduced in 1994, and the picks are even more valuable now that they can be traded.
"Although the initial idea behind compensatory picks was to help the weaker teams that get their top players signed away in free agency, it hasn't really worked out that way," Smith wrote. "What has actually happened is the smartest, most forward-thinking teams, the teams with stability and a long-term plan in their front offices, have consistently acquired the most compensatory picks. The 2020 draft will be no different."
PFF: Ravens Have No. 2 Ranked Offensive Line
The offensive line is always one of the most underappreciated groups because they don't show up in the box score, but Pro Football Focus made sure to show the big men in Baltimore some love. The Ravens were second in PFF's offensive line rankings, only behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Jackson the Ravens exceeded all expectations on their way to the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and the offensive line has been a big part of that success," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote. "Ronnie Stanley has had had perhaps the best pass-blocking season we've ever seen from an offensive tackle since PFF began tracking players in 2006, allowing just six pressures in 443 pass-blocking snaps. It hasn't just been Stanley, either. Jackson has been pressured at the ninth-lowest rate of any qualifying quarterback despite being the only passer to hold onto the ball for over three seconds on average. Whether letting Jackson work his magic or paving the way for the league's best rushing offense, the Ravens' offensive line has gotten the job done in 2019."
Stanley and Marshal Yanda earned First and Second-Team All-Pro honors. Orlando Brown Jr. and Bradley Bozeman have been the definition of consistency in their second seasons, playing every offensive snap.
After losing Matt Skura, undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari has stepped in and played at a high level. He is PFF's "11th-highest-graded center in the NFL, and he has yet to allow a single sack." The Ravens' offensive line also has the most wins above replacement (WAR) of any team in the NFL.
Ebony Bird's Darin McCann picked Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris as his Coach of the Year among the Ravens staff.
"This was a tight competition, as the Ravens coaching staff has been remarkable this season, from Head Coach John Harbaugh down to his coordinators and position coaches," McCann wrote. "But the line exceeded every expectation placed on it, so we give D'Alessandris the nod."