Ravens Are Following Blueprint of Super Bowl-Winning Seahawks, Chiefs Teams
The 2012 Seattle Seahawks ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak in which their average margin of victory was nearly 27 points. They fell short in the playoffs but won the Super Bowl the following year.
The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs led the NFL in scoring at more than 35 points per game en route to securing the top seed in the AFC. They fell short in the playoffs but won the Super Bowl the following year.
The 2019 Baltimore Ravens went a franchise-best 14-2 and rolled into the playoffs on a 12-game winning streak. They fell short in the playoffs. Will they win the Super Bowl the following year?
Time will tell, but The Ringer's Robert Mays says the 2020 Ravens have followed the same blueprint this offseason as the 2013 Seahawks and 2019 Chiefs.
"The roster tweaks that Seattle and Kansas City made in the wake of their playoff letdowns offer a couple of lessons that Baltimore has followed this offseason," Mays wrote. "The first is that it's important to fortify and refresh areas of the roster that are already considered strengths."
In 2019, the Chiefs used their first pick in the draft (No. 56 overall) on speedy wide receiver Mecole Hardman despite having Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins on the roster. Hardman scored six touchdowns (second on the team to Hill, who had seven).
Similarly, the Ravens drafted Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round at No. 55 despite returning quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, who all helped Baltimore set a single-season rushing record in 2019.
"A team's rushing success is typically tied more to scheme and its talent up front than the skills of an individual running back, but with potential regression looming for the Ravens offense and questions about the interior of the offensive line following stalwart guard Marshal Yanda's retirement, it's possible that [General Manager Eric] DeCosta believed Dobbins gives Baltimore's running game a better chance of sustaining last year's success than whatever guard was available late in the second round," Mays wrote.
The 2012 Seahawks led the league in scoring defense but still signed coveted free agents Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to boost their pass rush. Both played significant roles in Seattle again finishing No. 1 in scoring defense and holding the Denver Broncos to eight points in the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs addressed a shaky defense last offseason by signing All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu and trading for defensive end Frank Clark and signing him to a huge five-year deal. Both moves paid dividends.
Baltimore had a top five defense in 2019, but getting pressure on the quarterback without sending extra rushers was an issue, so the team traded for five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell and signed him to a contract extension and added defensive end Derek Wolfe in free agency.
"Similar to the 2012 Seahawks, the Ravens defense was by no means a weakness last year. Baltimore finished second in weighted defensive DVOA after trading for Marcus Peters midseason and coming on strong during the second half of the year," Mays wrote. "But just like the 2013 Seahawks, the Ravens' defensive additions will ideally allow them to improve on an already solid blueprint."
In addition to acquiring Campbell and Wolfe, the Ravens further fortified the defense by drafting LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen in the first round.
"He should step in as a day-one starter who can stay on the field for all three downs — and even if he's slow to develop as a coverage linebacker (which is the case for most rookies), he should give Baltimore's pressure packages even more explosiveness," Mays wrote.
No one ever knows how a season will play out, but on paper DeCosta appears to have made all the right moves for the Ravens to build off last year's success.
"The mind-set that DeCosta and Baltimore's front office took this offseason aligns with that of other teams who've gotten over the finish line in the recent past," Mays wrote. "The Chiefs' late-season run last year and the ascension of Patrick Mahomes made it easy to forget that Baltimore ruled the league for most of 2019. But by applying a similarly aggressive approach to their moves this spring, the Ravens now have a chance to remedy that one year after the Chiefs did the same."
Should It Be Lamar Jackson or Joe Flacco for Ravens Franchise Five QB?
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora selected the Ravens Franchise Five (the most important quarterback, coach and three players who aren't quarterbacks in team history), and no one can argue with four of his selections.
Three of his picks are in the Hall of Fame: Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Ed Reed.
"Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden became, arguably, the greatest to ever man their positions in the history of the game. A few years later they added Ed Reed, who many believe to be the greatest in the history of the game at his position," La Canfora wrote. "We're talking GOATS here, people. Not much to squabble about."
John Harbaugh, the winningest and longest-tenured coach in Ravens history, has a resume that includes a Super Bowl championship and 10 playoff victories, so he certainly is deserving of his spot on the Franchise Five.
The other player on La Canfora's list has sparked some debate. He went with 2019 NFL MVP Jackson over Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco as the quarterback.
Even though Jackson has only had one full season as a starter, what he accomplished during that season was so spectacular that he had to be the pick, La Canfora wrote.
"Jackson had one of the most historically significant seasons in NFL history with a limited cast around him," La Canfora wrote. "He is a threat unlike anything we have seen before and has done nothing but win since taking over for Flacco midway through the 2018 season, saving the franchise by leading the 4-5 team to the playoffs. He is just scratching the surface."
La Canfora's colleague, Bryant McFadden, made the case for Flacco, citing his 98-67 record as a starter in Baltimore and 10-5 mark in the playoffs, including a magical Super Bowl run in which he threw 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
"In time, no question Lamar Jackson will be on the list. I don't see him slowing down any time soon," McFadden said. "I think he's one of the top-tier players at his position; I think he's one of the top-tier players in the National Football League. But right now, to date … at the quarterback position it has to be Joe Flacco."
There is no wrong answer on this one.
Analytics Say Willie Snead IV Is 10th-Most Valuable Wide Receiver in NFL
Willie Snead IV may not have posted gaudy statistics during his two seasons in Baltimore, but a deeper dive into the analytics indicate he is the 10th-most valuable wide receiver in the league, according to Pro Football Network's Lucas Ellinas.
Ellinas used two metrics: Offensive Share Metric (OSM) and Relative Athletic Score (RAS). The OSM measures how much influence a player had over their own statistics, and therefore how much impact they had on the offense overall. The RAS measures the athleticism of NFL prospects by combining their pre-draft measurements, such as their height and weight, and their 40-yard dash times, into a single score.
Based on those metrics, Snead made it onto a list that included wide receivers such as Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods of the Los Angeles Rams, Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tyler Lockett of the Seahawks.
"What the statistics do show is that a player can have a great deal of influence on their offense even if they aren't the most athletic," Ellinas wrote. "Players like [Hunter] Renfrow and Snead might never rack up 1,000-yard seasons or make multiple Pro Bowls, but they can still be incredibly valuable pieces for their teams. More importantly, they show that an athletic receiver can only have a similar amount of value if they can back up their physical prowess with technical skill."
Snead's inclusion on the list surely doesn't come as a surprise to his coaches and teammates, who have praised his work ethic and unselfish attitude. A sure-handed possession receiver and strong blocker in the run game, Snead caught a career-high five touchdown passes last season. He signed a one-year contract extension in October.
Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters Named NFL's Top Cornerback Duo
Is there a better cornerback duo than Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters?
Bleacher Report's Maurice Morton is among those who don't think so. He ranked the Baltimore All-Pros as the No. 1 cornerback tandem in the NFL.
"With Peters and Humphrey on the outside, few quarterbacks will have success targeting their starting wide receivers," Morton wrote. "Baltimore has a pair of cornerbacks at the top of their games, and the younger of the two is a budding star going into his age-24 term."
That would be Humphrey, who allowed just 8.6 yards per reception last season, had three interceptions, 14 passes defensed and returned two fumbles for touchdowns. NBC Sports' Andrew Gillis wondered whether Humphrey will become the highest-paid cornerback in the league.
Peters, 27, made an immediate impact after joining the Ravens in Week 7 via trade. He recorded three interceptions with the Ravens, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
"Before Peters' arrival, the Ravens pass defense ranked 29th in yards (1,858) and sixth in allowed passer rating (83.0). From Week 7 through the end of the term, Baltimore listed second (1,698) and first (71.8) in those respective categories," Morton wrote.
A couple months ago, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks also named Humphrey and Peters as the league's best cornerback duo.
- The Ravens were named one of the top five defenses to watch this season by Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.
- The 2008 Ravens and 1975 Baltimore Colts made NFL.com's list of the top 25 team turnarounds in NFL history