Ravens Are Built to Beat Chiefs
As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs are the team to beat, and beating the Chiefs is one of the few things the Ravens haven't been able to accomplish since Jackson took over as starting quarterback midway through the 2018 season.
After losing to Patrick Mahomes and company in Kansas City the past two seasons by a combined eight points, the Ravens will get another shot at them this year in a home game during Week 3 on "Monday Night Football." NFL Network's Kyle Brandt of "Good Morning Football" said games against the Chiefs are now bigger than those in the AFC North.
"We all hope that we have a decade and a half of Lamar [Jackson] vs. Mahomes to look forward to, but Baltimore has to start beating this guy," Brandt said. "Your division is going to be your division. I get it, there's a lot to handle there. But the high end, want to get to the Super Bowl and win the AFC, it's that maniac in Kansas City. You guys have got to take him out."
Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler believes the Ravens have constructed a team in the offseason that is better equipped to take down the champs.
Slowing down the Chiefs' high-octane offense is a daunting task for any team, but the Ravens have the personnel to do it, Schisler wrote, thanks to having the best secondary in the league and a vastly improved front seven.
"The Chiefs attack the middle of the field better than any team in the league. That has a lot to do with Travis Kelce being the best tight end in football," Schisler wrote. "It's not going to get easier to stop Kansas City when Clyde Edwards-Helaire starts making an impact as a receiver out of the backfield. That's why the Ravens' commitment to the middle of the defense is going to pay off this season."
Offensively, the Ravens are perhaps the only team who can keep up with the Chiefs.
"It's unrealistic to expect the Chiefs to stop the Ravens rushing attack, and containing Jackson is something that rarely works for NFL defenses," Schisler wrote. "Mark Andrews went into last year's battle a little banged up and wasn't much of a factor. The fact that Nick Boyle had four receptions and averaged 14.5 yards per catch showed you Andrews could have done some damage with this match up in different circumstances.
"The speed the Ravens have at receiver should be able to give Kansas City a bit of their own medicine. Matching up with Andrews and keeping up with Marquise Brown, Devin Duvernay and company is going to require the Chiefs to play mostly in sub packages. This means more defensive backs on the field and more opportunities for a run game we already know Kansas City can't stop."
There's at least one pundit who believes the Ravens will beat the Chiefs this season. In USA Today’s Nate Davis’ 2020 predictions, he has Baltimore going 13-3, capturing the No. 1 seed in the AFC and defeating Kansas City in the conference championship game. (Davis predicts the Ravens to lose to the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl.)
Patrick Queen, J.K. Dobbins Among NFL Rookies in Best Position to Succeed
The Ravens have been universally praised for their draft haul this year, and two of the main reasons for the high marks are their first two selections: LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen and Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins.
Both players made NFL.com’s rankings of the top 25 rookies in the best position to succeed in 2020.
Queen came in at No. 7 on the list and was placed in the "greatness within reach" category.
"Somehow, the rest of the NFL let Queen fall to the Ravens with the 28th pick in Round 1, and now those teams must pay the price," NFL.com's Dan Parr wrote. "Baltimore filled its biggest need with a spark plug for the second level of the defense, a player with the instincts and athleticism to start from Day 1.
"It's not yet clear whether he'll play on the weak side or in the middle, but I'm not sure it matters much. Queen has a good defensive line in front of him, the burst to close running lanes in a hurry and is smooth dropping into coverage, too. DC Don 'Wink' Martindale had to be smiling when Baltimore made this pick."
Draft Wire’s Justin Melo agrees that Queen fits perfectly in the Ravens defense, referring to him as "one of the better picks of the first round."
"Queen is joining a fast and free-flowing defense that already features playmakers such as the recently acquired Calais Campbell, Matthew Judon, Marcus Peters and Earl Thomas III just to name a few," Melo wrote. "Queen's versatility and play-style should fit right in with the Ravens' talented group of defenders."
While Queen fills a need, Dobbins makes one of the Ravens' strongest units even stronger.
Dobbins was ranked 18th on Parr's list as part of the "don't sleep on 'em" category. The Ravens believe they got a first-round talent in Dobbins in the second round with the 55th-overall pick. He was drafted later than anyone in NFL.com's rankings, which speaks to the value Baltimore got with the selection.
"Dobbins' inclusion on the list might raise some eyebrows considering the Ravens still have Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and Lamar Jackson to split carries between. Then again, Baltimore wants to run the ball down people's throats," Parr wrote. "There's going to be a significant workload for the former Buckeye, and no one should be surprised if he becomes the reigning AFC North champs' most effective back in 2020 with Ingram entering his age-30 season. He's the perfect grind-it-out runner for this offense."
Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew told The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer that he understands why the Ravens drafted Dobbins despite returning their top three running backs from last season's unit, which set an NFL single-season rushing record.
Jones-Drew found himself in a similar situation as Dobbins when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him 60th overall in 2006 despite having a formidable group of running backs, including Fred Taylor, who was entering his age-30 season and had rushed for 1,000 yards five times.
"I've always been a big proponent of: Just get as much talent as possible, then let those guys compete," Jones-Drew said. "And whoever's the starter is the starter, and then the other guys rotate in and they make plays. And I think that is, from the organizational standpoint, 'We're just trying to get as many good running backs as possible because, [in] the AFC North, we have to run the ball down your throat.' And you have to beat people up. And that's what Baltimore wants to do."
Re-Signing Pernell McPhee May Be Ravens' Best Offseason Move
Re-signing veteran Pernell McPhee to a one-year deal wasn't the splashiest move the Ravens made this offseason, but it could be one of the most impactful.
"The Baltimore Ravens were fairly busy this offseason, pulling off trades, signing their own players to long-term extensions, and grabbing some free-agent additions," Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens wrote. "But Baltimore's latest move to re-sign outside linebacker Pernell McPhee might just be its best one.
"A lot will ride on the development of young outside linebackers like [Jaylon] Ferguson and Tyus Bowser. If one or both of them can take a step up in 2020, McPhee's signing will be nothing more than cheap depth. But in the off chance neither takes a leap forward this season, McPhee has proven he can be an absolute steal as a starting option. If, in that case, McPhee can stay healthy, Baltimore might finally have a competent and consistent pass rush once again, making its defense about as perfect as one can get on paper."
McPhee, who was drafted by the Ravens in 2011 and had four solid seasons with them, returned to Baltimore last year and recorded three sacks in seven games before suffering a season-ending triceps injury. Beyond the statistics, McPhee is a respected leader who knows the defense, which could prove to be especially invaluable during an atypical offseason.
"Guys like Pernell — he's a guy that can set the standard," General Manager Eric DeCosta said during a conference call with season-ticket holders, per Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz. "He understands what it takes to be a professional on and off the field, in the weight room and such. Having guys like that is extremely valuable, not only because they can play for you right away, but because they can help the younger players acclimate more quickly."
Ray Lewis Can Identify With Michael Jordan's Leadership Style
During Ray Lewis' appearance on "The Rich Eisen Show" this week, the Ravens great said he sees similarities between his leadership style and that of Michael Jordan, whose demanding demeanor was chronicled in "The Last Dance," a documentary mini-series on the NBA legend's career.
Like Jordan, Lewis said he held his teammates to a very high standard, which can sometimes be misinterpreted.
"Sometimes, you can look at it as being a dictator and really being harsh, and some of it can be viewed that way," Lewis said. " … But if you get results the way [the Chicago Bulls] had, they got results. I don't ever condone disrespecting a man, but there are certain leaders that were built with one mentality, and that is, 'I don't have a second option.'
"Everybody in the locker room don't have your same drive, don't have your same opportunities, don't have your same ability. So now, you have to find it differently. You have to find a way to push their buttons and hopefully you don't do it to where they look at you and say, 'I hated him.'"
Eisen noted that several of Lewis' teammates had told him that they were afraid to look the Hall of Fame linebacker in the eye after they blew an assignment.
"That was a different point of accountability. That was me saying, 'I'm going to hold you accountable. Me and you went over this, so I'm going to hold you accountable to that'," Lewis said. "So, when you come to the sideline, don't give me no excuse. Are you going to blow a coverage? Absolutely. Are you going to forget something? Absolutely. But I'm talking about pure effort. My standard was I'm going to set the bar so high that when you look at your leader, this is the way your leader leans."
Lewis said his leadership approach evolved over the years to where he wanted to make his teammates better men in addition to being better football players.
"True leadership on the court or on the football field is only to obtain the goal of winning a championship or a game. My leadership changed to wanting to make men better men," Lewis said. "Because if you have a better man, you have a better football player, you have a better teammate, you have a better husband, you have a better father," Lewis said. "You have all of these things if you make the man better. But you must make him hold himself accountable."