Late for Work 6/1: Peter King Predicts Ravens Will Finish 13-3 or Better

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Head coach John Harbaugh talks to the team

Peter King Predicts Ravens Will Finish 13-3 or Better

The Ravens finished with an NFL-best 14-2 record last year, and head into the 2020 season even stronger.

NBC Sports' Peter King ranked the Ravens second in his offseason power rankings behind the Kansas City Chiefs and believes Baltimore can replicate nearly the same success.

"Baltimore has a favorable end of season: Dallas at home on a Thursday, at Cleveland on a Monday, Jacksonville and the Giants at home, and at Cincinnati," King wrote. "Five straight games to finish against teams that didn't make the playoffs last year. Baltimore should be 13-3 or better."

The last time the Ravens won 12 games or more in back-to-back seasons was in 2010 and 2011. The following year, they went on to win the Lombardi Trophy.

Like many pundits, King's prediction is centered around the improvement of Lamar Jackson. The expectation is the reigning MVP can be even better than he was last season.

"Jackson could be better at 23 than he was at 22 if the Ravens can somewhat ably replace one of the best guards of this century, the retired Marshal Yanda; either of the last fourth-round picks, guards Ben Powers or Ben Bredeson, will likely win Yanda's spot at [right] guard," King wrote.

"In the draft, Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins was a gift at 55 overall—it's almost ridiculous to think a team that averaged 5.53 yards per rush last year could be improved—and wideout Devin Duvernay a good get at 92 overall. Both should be significant year-one contributors. Hollywood Brown, the wideout plagued by playing with a bum foot last year, should be the flyer the Ravens drafted first in 2019. Trade of the Offseason: Baltimore dealt the 157th pick in the draft for defensive end Calais Campbell, PFF's top-rated DE against the run last year; Campbell should have two solid years left."

King stood by his prediction while acknowledging the AFC North will be better. Still, the Ravens have the best strength of schedule based on their opponent's winning percentages from last season.

CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin predicted an 11-5 record for the Ravens, with their losses coming against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns.

"The AFC North contenders had an early exit in the postseason, but that doesn't mean they aren't among the top-billed candidates for a Lombardi Trophy run this year," Benjamin wrote.

Pundits Expect Matthew Judon to Remain a Raven

Back in January, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Matthew Judon could be a tag-and-trade candidate.

Fast forward to last week, Judon and the Ravens took the next step towards a potential long-term deal when the outside linebacker signed his one-year franchise tag.

Now the expectation from pundits is that Judon will remain a Raven for this season.

"It's looking like Judon is going to be a Raven," NFL Network's Mike Garafolo said. "There won't be a trade here. He will continue to rush the passer, and they hope they can reach a long-term deal at some point.

"Given the uncertainty surrounding the season, in Judon's mind and the mind of his representatives, it was better for him to have a signed contract in place rather than just a tender."

The tag-and-trade market was more active last year. Players such as Frank Clark and Jadaveon Clowney were dealt, but that hasn't been the case this offseason.

Judon was the Ravens' top pass rusher last season, and the goal has always been to keep him. General Manager Eric DeCosta said in May that the team has had dialogue with Judon's agent about a long-term deal.

Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw believes Judon is a franchise cornerstone Baltimore needs to keep.

"Quality pass rushers are hard to find, and the Ravens need to ensure that they retain their guy in Judon for the long haul," Bradshaw wrote. "Judon is worthy of a long-term deal and can be an elite player and leader for this team for years to come."

"Judon was an absolute force off the edge, pressuring and knocking down quarterbacks as often as he brought them down. … [He] was every bit as valuable to the defense as other franchise cornerstone edge rushers are."

PFF: Ravens' Man-Coverage Defense Was Historic

The Ravens' defense was one of the most dominant units last season under Wink Martindale.

According to Pro Football Focus' Seth Galina, their success playing Cover 1 was historic.

"[D]own in Baltimore — with the addition of centerfielder Earl Thomas — the Ravens also put together an absurdly good Cover 1 unit," Galina wrote. "... The Ravens blitzed 60% of the time when playing Cover 1, so their man-coverage defenders did not have the benefit of a player designed to take away short inside routes. Their techniques had to change."

In the Cover 1 scheme, defensive backs are in man-to-man coverage, leaving the safety (Thomas) free to react to the play.

The Ravens had the ability to trust their 1-on-1 coverage with All-Pros Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, and Jimmy Smith. After re-signing Smith, Baltimore remains one of the deepest secondaries in the NFL.

Paired with a stout pass rush, the defense that allowed just 207.2 passing yards per game should be strong again.

Dom Maggio Eager to Prove He Belongs With Ravens

The road to make the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie is an uphill battle. It's even tougher when the player you're competing against has been one of the best at his position the last 14 seasons.

But for undrafted punter Dom Maggio, the Baltimore native is eager to prove himself at the next level.

"We were looking for any opportunity where I could get a foot in the door and compete," Maggio told WJZ's Mark Viviano. "I'm super excited because [Special Teams] coach Randy Brown is known for developing elite pros in the NFL and I'll be able to learn and compete alongside Sam [Koch], who's been a great veteran."

Maggio was one of the ACC's top punters at Wake Forest. As a senior, he finished second in the conference in punting average (46.8 yards) and led the ACC with 30 punts of 50 or more yards.

Maggio, who went to Boys' Latin, said he's back in Baltimore living with his parents during the pandemic. As restrictions continue to ease in states around the country, the NFL still hasn't designated a date when players and coaches can return to team facilities.

Maggio said he's reached out to Koch, Justin Tucker, and the special teams group to plan workouts.

The Ravens have a strong track record for developing special teams talent. Last season, they traded undrafted kicker Kaare Vedvik to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 2020 5th-round draft pick.  

At least one undrafted rookie has made the Ravens' roster for 16 straight seasons. While it would be difficult for Maggio to be that guy in Baltimore, he could certainly land somewhere.

"I just want to get in there and prove that I can belong to an NFL team," Maggio said. "Hopefully it's with the Ravens. … I'm just excited for the opportunity."

Quick Hits

  • NFL.com's Bucky Brooks ranked the Ravens' defensive line as his second-most improved unit in the NFL. "The additional beef along the line will help the Ravens slow down punishing rushing attacks while adding more pop to the pass rush. Campbell, in particular, gives the unit an interior pass-rushing presence that should enable Matt Judon to get more one-on-one opportunities to hunt the quarterback on obvious passing downs."

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