DeShon Elliott Was Ravens' Most Improved Player
There were questions as to how the Ravens would fill the void at safety following the release of Earl Thomas III, but it opened the door for DeShon Elliott, who Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey says was the Ravens' most improved player this season.
"Elliott gets the nod not because his quality of play significantly improved – his PFF grade actually fell slightly from 69.7 in 2019 to 69.6 this past season – but because he delivered a solid performance in a full-time starting role after playing just 40 defensive snaps across his first two seasons in the NFL," Linsey wrote. "The Earl Thomas saga opened up a starting safety job, and Elliott claimed it, playing over 1,000 snaps over the course of the year."
There was never a question about Elliott's talent. The sixth-round pick was an All-American and Thorpe Award finalist as one of college football's top defensive backs coming out of Texas.
The question was Elliott's health, after he suffered season-ending injuries both of his first two years in the league.
That didn't turn out to be a problem as Elliott stepped into the starting safety role alongside Chuck Clark and started all 16 games during the regular season. He finished with 80 tackles, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks, ranking as PFF's 27th best safety out of 93 qualifying players.
Teammates raved about Elliott's potential in pass coverage, but he also showed his big-hit ability on some of the league's biggest ball carriers.
With one starting season under his belt, there's reason to believe Elliott will continue to improve. His versatility in coverage and tackling ability is important for Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale, who is creative scheming up defensive backs.
Still, pundits like Ebony Bird's Michael Natelli think adding a third safety would help the secondary.
"Having a true ball hawk in the defensive backfield would allow Baltimore to play receivers tight while having the necessary help over the top that will allow corners like Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters to be tough and aggressive without getting burned for big plays," Natelli wrote. "This would also allow Elliot to play in his more natural strong safety position, and let Martindale deploy Clark in the box and as a matchup piece against tight ends like Travis Kelce."
Multiple Teams are Reportedly Interested in Trading for Orlando Brown
With a growing expectation from pundits that Orlando Brown Jr. could be traded, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported on Tuesday that multiple teams are interested in the Pro Bowl tackle.
According to La Canfora, Brown has received permission to seek a trade "that makes sense for both parties."
The Ravens have not confirmed this.
After the Texans traded two first-round picks, a second-round pick and players to the Dolphins in exchange for Laremy Tunsil, what kind of return could the Ravens get if they traded Brown?
"It's tough to judge what exactly the Ravens will receive, but knowing Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, the expectation should be high," Baltimore Beatdown's Kyle Barber wrote. "After all, this is the GM who landed both Marcus Peters and Calais Campbell for fifth-round draft picks.
"Either way, this only further solidifies Zeus Jr. will be playing left tackle elsewhere and Baltimore will need serious offensive line help heading into 2021. As of now, only two positions along the Ravens' line feel secure with Ronnie Stanley returning to play left tackle and Bradley Bozeman at left guard. With Brown Jr. out at right tackle and moving on, expect the team to address this all throughout the offseason."
Offensive line, specifically left tackle, is a premium position in today's NFL. Fansided's Cole Thompson listed the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, and Kansas City Chiefs as three teams who should trade for Brown.
Tee Martin: Joining the Ravens is an 'Excellent Opportunity'
The Ravens hope new additions to the coaching staff will help the passing game take the next step, and one coach in particular is excited to get started.
Newly-hired Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin spoke to The Athletic's David Ubben about the opportunity to join Baltimore's staff, and the respect he's had for the organization.
"You never know where you're going to be drafted, but the Ravens were an organization I communicated with a lot during my draft process," Martin said. "So I knew how good the people were there. And because of my time with the Steelers in the AFC (Central), I know what the standard is there, the expectations there and things of that nature. It's just good people. Their staff, you start with the head coach and all you hear from your NFL friends and people in the NFL business is how great of an organization the Baltimore Ravens are. This was just an excellent opportunity to not only go into the National Football League, but go into the National Football League and be with a great organization."
Martin said he accepted the offer on the spot after interviewing and speaking with Head Coach John Harbaugh. The two had ties back to Philadelphia as Harbaugh was the special teams coordinator for the Eagles when Martin was a player.
Pundits praised the additions of Martin and Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams, who have a wealth of experience developing and working with some of the NFL's top receivers.
"If you were to ask me, 'Who are two of maybe the top four guys who are the most respected in the college ranks in terms of developing receivers?' These would be the guys highest on the list," Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman told Glenn Clark Radio.
Ravens Finish as Top Ten Team In Post*-*Super Bowl Power Rankings
Despite losing to the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round of the playoffs, pundits are still optimistic about the Ravens heading into the 2021 season.
After looking at the Super Bowl LVI odds, you know we had to include the power rankings as well. The outlook is strong for Baltimore, who finished as a top 10 team in all seven of the post-Super Bowl power rankings we looked at.
"It was always going to be hard for the Ravens to match their 2019 record, but nobody will be taking them lightly after going on another run late in 2020," Sports Illustrated wrote.
"Despite some stretches of dysfunction this season, I'm bullish on the Ravens' offense, which can always rely on its dynamic and explosive run game as a foundation," The Ringer's Danny Kelly wrote. "I'll be doubly optimistic for this group next year, though, if the team can go out and add a few pass-catching weapons for quarterback Lamar Jackson."
Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, and Yahoo! Sports ranked Ravens the highest at No. 5, while they weren't far behind on ESPN, USA Today, and The Ringer's rankings at No. 6.
Like we've talked about plenty of times already, pundits' biggest concern is making sure the Ravens surround Jackson with offensive weapons.
"After another disappointing postseason exit, it's time for the Ravens braintrust to put the best possible offense on the field around Lamar Jackson," NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote. "That should mean adding a dynamic talent to a wide receiver group that managed just 137 receptions and 1,729 yards receiving this past season (both easily league lows). The pending free-agent market could include names such as Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson and Kenny Golladay. Any of those players would provide a much-needed boost to Baltimore's attack."
|Source||End of Season Ranking||Comments|
|ESPN||No. 6||“The Ravens spent most of their resources last offseason fixing the defensive front seven. This year, the focus has to be upgrading the supporting cast around Lamar Jackson and helping him progress throwing the ball.”|
|NFL.com||No. 5||“After another disappointing postseason exit, it’s time for the Ravens braintrust to put the best possible offense on the field around Lamar Jackson.”|
|Sports Illustrated||No. 5||“It was always going to be hard for the Ravens to match their 2019 record, but nobody will be taking them lightly after going on another run late in 2020.”|
|USA Today||No. 6||“Next orders of business? Extending Lamar Jackson's contract and getting him a No. 1 receiver ... though maybe not in that order.”|
|CBS Sports||No. 8||“This has to be the offseason where they improve the passing game. Lamar Jackson needs to be better, but he needs help outside.”|
|The Ringer||No. 6||“Despite some stretches of dysfunction this season, I’m bullish on the Ravens’ offense, which can always rely on its dynamic and explosive run game as a foundation. I’ll be doubly optimistic for this group next year, though, if the team can go out and add a few pass-catching weapons for quarterback Lamar Jackson.”|
|Yahoo! Sports||No. 5||“The Ravens still need to get Lamar Jackson at least one more impact receiver, but they should have the cap space to do so.”|