What Will It Take for the Ravens to Win a Super Bowl?
Last season, the Ravens overcame a significant hump in the Lamar Jackson-era by winning a playoff game, but there are higher expectations in 2021.
The Ravens have been one of the best regular-season teams since Jackson took over as the starting quarterback in 2018. In fact, they've been nothing short of dominant during that stretch.
But the question that was posed to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec is what many have asked.
What will it take for the Ravens to win the Super Bowl?
"They need to be at their best when their best is required in January and February," Zrebiec wrote. "Obviously, you can look at other factors: good health, improvement of the passing game, play calling, more game-altering plays defensively. But this is a team that's been 25-7 the past two regular seasons. I understand that the playoffs are a different animal, but if you are good enough to win 25 of 32 regular-season games, you're good enough to make a postseason run. They just need to perform better when it truly matters. And that's everybody. That's Lamar Jackson. That's the coaches. That's the offensive line, which has been overmatched in the past two divisional defeats. That's the receivers obviously. That's certain guys on defense. The Ravens have gotten to the playoffs the past two years and they've just made too many mistakes and lost too many individual matchups."
According to FanDuel, the Ravens are tied with the Los Angeles Rams with the fifth-best odds to win Super Bowl LVI. They're also odds-on favorites to win the AFC North.
The Ravens have had success adapting to how teams defend them during the regular season. We even saw that in the Wild Card win over the Tennessee Titans.
Zrebiec said it comes down to execution in the postseason.
"… The Ravens, more often than not, have still found a way to make plays in the regular season," he wrote. "They've made fewer mistakes. They've played looser and more aggressively while still showing discipline. That has to carry over to the postseason for them to make a run."
Count Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox among the pundits confident in the Ravens. He ranked them as the third-best team set up for the future.
"The Ravens, who have made the playoffs nine times in 13 seasons under Harbaugh, won't depart the postseason picture anytime soon," Knox wrote. "… There's a lot to like about the Baltimore Ravens and their future. They ranked seventh in points scored and second in points allowed last season. They have an MVP quarterback in Lamar Jackson—who won the award unanimously in 2019—and they have a Super Bowl-winning coach in Harbaugh."
"… Baltimore also has future capital with which to work. It is projected to have the 13th-most cap space next offseason, and it will have six picks in the first four rounds of next year's draft."
Can that translate to a Lombardi Trophy? There's plenty of competition as three of the four other teams in the top five of Knox's list are the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns.
Report: Charles Clay Worked Out for Ravens Last Week
Todd Gurley wasn't the only free agent that reportedly visited Baltimore last week.
SiriusXM's Adam Caplan reported that veteran tight end Charles Clay also worked out for the Ravens.
"The Ravens already have one of the best tight ends in football in Mark Andrews and one of the best blocking tight ends in the league in Nick Boyle," Ebony Bird's Justin Fried wrote. "They also have a host of other intriguing talents vying for roles on the roster. But Clay could be a worthwhile addition for cheap.
"… The 32-year-old could be a solid veteran pickup at this stage and someone who would further crowd the tight end room."
Clay last played with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, catching 18 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown. As Caplan noted, there's familiarity with Clay and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, who were together with the Buffalo Bills in 2015 and 2016.
"After four years in Buffalo, and racking up 178 receptions for 1,822 yards and nine touchdowns, Clay was released by the Bills in the final year of his contract," Baltimore Beatdown's Dustin Cox wrote. "Clay's best seasons came during his tenure with the Dolphins. His career-high for receiving yards in a season came in 2013 when he caught 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns. During the nine seasons that Clay has played, he has amassed 3,868 receiving yards and 24 receiving touchdowns on 357 receptions, with a career catch percentage of 65.9%."
The Ravens have Andrews and Boyle locked in as the top two tight ends, but the competition for the third spot is up for grabs. It's crowded with a group of young players, so it would be interesting to see how Clay would fit.
Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs?
As the Ravens wrapped up open workouts last week, Fried looked at five players whose stock is on the rise. Here are some excerpts:
QB Tyler Huntley
"Following the departure of Robert Griffin III in the offseason, the Ravens opted to stick with their internal options and not sign a veteran. That left the likes of Trace McSorley and Huntley competing for the No. 2 QB role. … And while it's still very early, Huntley probably has the slight edge following OTAs."
WR Rashod Bateman
"Simply put, he doesn't look like a rookie. He's a polished, smooth route-runner with excellent hands, and the way he carries himself would make you believe he's a 10-year veteran as opposed to a first-year player who has yet to take the field for an NFL snap."
TE Josh Oliver
"Oliver has looked the part as an athlete and showed impressive concentration at the catch point. He's a good athlete with good hands and should push for a roster spot this summer. … It remains to be seen how he will hold up as a blocker, but Oliver likely has the edge for the No. 3 tight end job based solely on his receiving skills at OTAs."
OLB Daelin Hayes
"Hayes has been active in both the pass and run game making an impact whenever he's been on the field. Don't be surprised to see Hayes receive plenty of playing time on defense this season."
RB J.K. Dobbins
"The Ravens believe that Dobbins has All-Pro upside and despite not being used as much of a receiving back in high school or college, he's proving that he's more than up to the task in the NFL. … Dobbins showed during OTAs that he's ready to take on a much larger role this season. 2021 could be the year of J.K. Dobbins."
Don't Worry About Unsigned Draft Picks
Six of the eight players in the Ravens' 2021 draft class have inked their rookie contracts, leaving just third-round picks Ben Cleveland and Brandon Stephens unsigned.
That brought up the question of if there should be any worry about those players inking deals.
Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland quickly chimed in and explained that there is wiggle room in negotiating for third-round picks, which is why they're typically the last ones to sign their rookie deals.
Both players participated in rookie camp and OTAs. Zrebiec said both should be signed by training camp.
● "Greg Roman's always been a top run-game innovator, so it'll be interesting to hear how he integrates more under-center concepts into his Lamar Jackson–fueled offense," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote. "At least on paper, it should give opponents plenty to worry about."