Qadry Ismail: Free-Agent Wide Receivers Who Rejected Ravens Made Bad Mistake
Because the Ravens have had a run-heavy offense the past few seasons, there was a perception that free-agent wide receivers did not want to sign with them.
That perception intensified this offseason when Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster and Indianapolis' T.Y. Hilton said they turned down offers from the Ravens to re-sign one-year deals with their respective teams (for reportedly less money).
WJZ analyst and former Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail said any receiver who had trepidations about playing in the Ravens offense was misguided and should be having second thoughts.
"All those free agents made a critical error in judgement, and whoever their agent is should be replaced," Ismail said on “Fox Sports Radio’s The Odd Couple” podcast. "Look, Lamar [Jackson]'s only going to get better. No. 2, you have a guy that is dictating to the defense [that] we're going to run it down your throat. Any defensive coordinator, any D-lineman, any defensive guy worth their weight, they're going to try to stop the run. So with that, now you've got one-on-one coverage on the outside or you've got a one single-high safety. To me, that's pitch and catch, and you should be licking your chops.
"I would have jumped at the opportunity [to sign in Baltimore]. All of those guys, I think they made a bad mistake."
After finishing last in passing yards last season, the Ravens are 11th after six weeks this season. Jackson threw for a franchise-record 442 yards in the come-from-behind win over the Colts in Week 5 and is on pace for 4,777 passing yards (in a 17-game season), which also would be a franchise record.
Jackson's two favorite targets — tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown — also are on pace for career years.
Ismail said the presence of first-round wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who made his NFL debut in this past Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Chargers, is going to make the passing offense even more potent.
"He looked the part," Ismail said. "There's work to be done, but I like the way he played. I like the way he ran routes. I like his decisiveness. He's only going to get better the more he gets his opportunities in the games."
Jackson Continues to Dispel Doubters
Even though Jackson didn't have his best game statistically against the Chargers, the fact that he outplayed fellow MVP candidate Justin Herbert was not lost on the pundits.
Jackson surged to No. 2 in NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha’s MVP Watch (behind the Cowboys' Dak Prescott) after not being in the top five last week despite his huge game against the Colts.
"Nobody can diminish what Jackson is doing," Chadiha wrote. "There isn't a team in the league that is asking more of its quarterback each week and being rewarded with production and victories. What Jackson is proving is that timing really does matter. He's always been a great talent. But he's at his best when his team desperately needs him to deliver."
ESPN's Mina Kimes said Jackson continues to dispel his doubters' criticisms about his game.
"It's like the goal posts on Lamar Jackson get moved so many damn times they're in the bleachers at this point," Kimes said on "First Take." "I feel like we can't just appreciate his greatness."
Fox Sports Radio’s Colin Cowherd made it clear that he appreciates Jackson's greatness.
"He loves the game. He can confront his weaknesses. He wants to get better. The game matters so much to him and winning matters so much. I would love Lamar Jackson as my quarterback," Cowherd said. "Every time I watch him, I like him more. … He keeps getting better. His passion is through the roof. At this point, if you're doubting him, go ahead, because next year he could be 15 percent better than he is now, and I don't even know what that looks like."
Should Ravens Trade Devonta Freeman or Feed Him?
ESPN asked its beat reporters to identify one potential trade candidate for the team they cover. Jamison Hensley went with running back Devonta Freeman.
"A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter earlier this month that Baltimore has received trade inquiries from teams interested in its current group of running backs," Hensley wrote. "Freeman's playing time has been limited behind Latavius Murray. If Baltimore traded Freeman, Ty'Son Williams or Le'Veon Bell could receive increased snaps."
Russell Street Report’s Rob Shields had a much different take on Freeman. He contends the former two-time Pro Bowl running back should be getting more carries.
Freeman has just 19 touches, well behind Murray (63) and Williams (38). Although the sample size is small, Freeman (16 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown, three receptions for 34 yards) is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and 11.3 yards per reception.
"Latavius Murray is able to bang for the tough yards and Le'Veon Bell does a good job in pass protection and perhaps he will get some more carries and, maybe more importantly, some catches out of the backfield, but it appears that Devonta Freeman has the most burst of the three," Shields wrote. "I am not sure how much he really has left but for right now, try to use those legs as much as you can. He still has some big play upside and he showed good vision against the Chargers."
Freeman, 29, displayed his explosiveness on his first carry as a Raven when he gained 31 yards in Week 2 against the Chiefs. After totaling seven carries in his first four games, Freeman had a team-leading 53 yards and a touchdown on nine carries against the Chargers.
With Murray's status unclear for this Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals after he left Sunday's game with an ankle injury, Freeman could be in store for a heavier workload.