Jackson and Flacco Produced Similar Results As Rookies
Lamar Jackson and Joe Flacco couldn't be more different in regard to their style of play.
However, the Ravens' current starting quarterback and their former franchise QB were comparative passers as rookies, in the opinion of Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler, who says Ravens fans should be filled with optimism over that revelation.
Schislser noted that Flacco's passing statistics during his rookie season in 2008 were modest (186 passing yards per game, 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 80.3 rating), and he threw just one touchdown pass through the first five games. Still, Flacco helped the Ravens go 11-5 and reach the AFC Championship Game.
"Flacco had success behind a strong running game and a top-notch defense," Schisler wrote. "He stepped up in big moments."
Jackson went 6-1 as a starter last season, averaging 172 passing yards with six touchdown passes, three interceptions and an 84.5 passer rating. The Ravens won the AFC North behind a strong running game and the league's top-ranked defense.
As for Jackson stepping up in big moments, Schisler wrote: "When Jackson hit Mark Andrews for a long touchdown that ended up being a game-winner in Los Angeles [against the Chargers], that was a big moment. When Jackson's Ravens went toe to toe with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, that was a big moment (even in defeat)."
It goes without saying that Jackson has big shoes to fill. He's following a quarterback who played in Baltimore for 11 seasons, won a Super Bowl MVP award, went 10-5 in the playoffs and is the franchise leader in career passing yards and touchdown passes by a ridiculously wide margin.
"The point to take home here is that Lamar Jackson's rookie passing stats look a lot like Flacco's. If the Ravens had the confidence that Flacco could become their franchise quarterback in 2008, they have to be over the moon with Jackson," Schisler wrote. "Jackson has Olympic-worthy speed to go along with his talents as a passer. Jackson has strengths to counter-balance his weaknesses. Flacco's first touchdown may have been on a long scramble, but he wasn't going to make it as a dual threat quarterback.
"The 2008 Ravens started out with a quarterback who was solid but needed a great defense and a great run game. When Flacco became a more NFL-proven passer, the Ravens continued to take steps toward a championship. Five years later, the Ravens had been to five playoff trips and had hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. [Ravens Head Coach John] Harbaugh knows how to win with a quarterback learning the job and his team is equipped to win with the run game and great defense. This could be the start of another great run for the Ravens, this time with a super-fast quarterback."
On a side note, Jackson is ranked 19th on USA Today’s Barry Werner’s quarterback rankings heading into the 2019 season.
Of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round last year, Jackson is ranked above the New York Jets' Sam Darnold (24), Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen (27) and Miami Dolphins' Josh Rosen (28), and behind the Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield (13).
Hurst, Hill, Wesley Among Players to Watch at Minicamp
Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz identified six players (other than Jackson) who will be interesting to watch during Ravens mandatory minicamp, which got underway this morning.
In addition to veterans Earl Thomas, Brandon Williams and Matthew Judon, Kasinitz listed second-year tight end Hayden Hurst, rookie running back Justice Hill and undrafted rookie wide receiver Antoine Wesley.
Hurst, a first-round draft pick by the Ravens last year, had his rookie season derailed by a foot injury, which limited him to 13 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.
"This offseason, Hurst said he packed on 20 pounds and gained a layer of confidence along with that muscle. Then came a hamstring injury that kept him out of a practice last week and raised a few eyebrows," Kasinitz wrote. "Fans might want to know whether Hurst is healthy enough to see the field at minicamp and if he can begin to put injury troubles behind him."
Hill, who the Ravens selected in the fourth round, can use minicamp to establish his place in a backfield rotation that has power runners Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards at the top of the depth chart, Kasinitz said.
"So far this offseason, he's displayed impressive burst but has consistently shined as a pass-catcher or ball-carrier," Kasinitz wrote. "With three straight practices open to the media, it'll be interesting to see whether Hill can do more to prove himself as a bona fide offensive threat."
Wesley turned heads during OTAs last month and is one of several unheralded young receivers with an opportunity to impress at minicamp with first-round pick Marquise Brown (foot) and third-round pick Miles Boykin (hamstring) dealing with injuries.
"Any of the four undrafted Ravens receivers could have landed on this list, but Wesley gets the nod because he looked impressive during the first open OTAs practice in May, hauling in a one-handed catch and burning the defense at another point for a long touchdown," Kasinitz wrote.
Ravens' 'Loaded Secondary' Lauded
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox listed the biggest revelation from every team's OTAs, and for the Ravens it was that "the secondary is loaded."
"The Baltimore Ravens have invested heavily in their secondary over the last few seasons," Knox wrote. "Their latest addition, safety Earl Thomas, is the molten fudge on perhaps the best secondary sundae in the league. With players such as Thomas, Marlon Humphrey, Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr in the starting secondary, the Ravens indeed appear to have an elite unit."
Our own columnist John Eisenberg expressed similar thoughts earlier this month following two weeks of OTAs.
"No NFL team is spending more on cornerbacks and safeties in 2019," Eisenberg wrote. "They're so deep at those positions that a few players who belong on the field in the NFL will be hard-pressed to make the roster."
Where Would Ravens Be in Hypothetical Realignment?
Behind The Steel Curtain’s Jeff Hartman took a look at how the NFL divisions might look if they were realigned more strictly by geographical location. In his projected realignment, the Ravens would no longer share a division with their fiercest rival, but they would renew an old AFC Central rivalry.
The Ravens would move to the AFC East, where they'd be joined by the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans. The realigned AFC North would see holdovers the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers joined by the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills.
The Ravens-Steelers rivalry has developed into one of the NFL's best, so it would be hard to imagine them not battling each other twice every season. On the other hand, the Ravens and Titans had a pretty good rivalry going in the old AFC Central, especially between 1999-2001.
"We didn't like them," former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley before last season's Ravens-Titans game. "They were the pretty ones. They were the darlings of the league. We wanted to go and punch them in the mouth. It was always a fistfight."
- Yeah, this still doesn't look right.
- We can get used to this, though.