Excitement Is Building for Ravens' Trio of Young Wide Receivers
The Ravens' quarterback, running backs and tight ends are all regarded as being among the NFL's best at their respective positions, but the team's wide receivers haven't received nearly as much praise.
That could change in 2020, as second-year wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Miles Boykin appear poised for breakout seasons and rookie wide receiver Devin Duvernay could make an immediate offensive impact.
Brown, Boykin and Duvernay were each selected by a member of Ravens Wire's staff as the Raven they're most excited to see this season.
Brown, the 25th-overall pick in 2019, opened his rookie season by gaining 147 yards and catching two touchdown passes, and he ended it with a seven-catch, 126-yard performance in a playoff game. He wasn't as productive in-between, largely because he was battling through the pain of playing with two screws in his foot (he still tied a franchise rookie record with seven touchdown catches).
The screws have been removed and the speedy Brown has vowed to "make a big statement" this season. Ravens Wire's Alex Bente is all ears.
"Even though Brown was hampered by injury throughout his freshman season, we were given a decent sampling of his blistering speed, sure hands, and clutch playmaking ability — a jackpot combination that Baltimore had never quite landed on when rolling the proverbial dice with a first-round pick," Bente wrote. "If the flashes of brilliance we saw in 2019 were a mere trailer to this 'Hollywood Blockbuster,' then 2020 will be a must-see, for sure."
Brown has a believer in Good Morning Football's Shaun O'Hara, who chose him as the second-year player who will make the biggest jump this season. O'Hara predicted a 1,000-yard season for Brown. If Brown reaches that mark, he would be the first Raven to do so since Mike Wallace had 1,017 yards in 2016.
Boykin, who the Ravens traded up for in the third round last year, figures to be much more of a factor in the passing game after posting modest numbers (13 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns) last season.
"We saw some flashes of what Boykin can do last season," Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens wrote. "While comparisons are always tricky, Boykin has the makings of an Anquan Boldin-type of player in the Ravens' offense. It's an underrated part of the Ravens' offense right now, but just like we saw with Boldin in town, it's one that will help keep drives alive. For an offense that led the league in points scored last season, Boykin's transformation into a solid outside receiver could make them practically undefendable."
Third-round pick Duvernay has Ravens Wire's Neil Dutton excited because of his speed.
"The Ravens offense just keeps getting faster, and there are few faster than Duvernay. He clocked in at 4.39-seconds running the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine," Dutton wrote. "Pairing Duvernay with Marquise Brown, no slouch himself with his blazing speed, gives the Ravens two legitimate burners. And in the modern NFL, speed still kills."
On a side note, safety DeShon Elliott is the Baltimore player Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher is most looking forward to seeing in 2020.
Lamar Jackson Among League's Best Quarterbacks When Pressured
We all know Lamar Jackson set a single-season rushing record for quarterbacks and led the league in touchdown passes, but did the NFL MVP experience success under duress?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Based on statistics tracked by Next Gen Stats, Jackson was the fourth-best quarterback in the league when pressured. In those situations, he had a 93.1 passer rating and plus-5.5 percent completion rate above expectation. Those numbers dispel any suggestion that Jackson's legs were his only means of escaping pressure.
"The most intriguing statistic was the touchdown-to-interception ratio Jackson posted while under pressure – 8:3 – which tells us nearly a quarter (22 percent) of Jackson's 36 touchdown passes came under duress," NFL.com's Nick Shook wrote. "Only one other quarterback on this list matched Jackson's touchdown total under pressure (Daniel Jones). … It's just another set of numbers that illustrate how Jackson is one of the league's most exciting players."
In other news regarding Jackson, he was No. 8 on Pro Football Focus' rankings of the NFL's best 50 players entering the 2020 season. Although Jackson was ranked behind quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs (No. 3) and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (No. 7), PFF's Sam Monson said Jackson "may well reinvent the quarterback position."
"He is a unique talent who gives defenses nightmares as they work to contain both his passing threat and rushing ability, and he is the cornerstone that allows the Ravens to build a custom offense tailored to his talents," Monson wrote." At the very minimum, [he] will be one of the hardest players to limit as long as he continues to play at this level."
While being ranked in the top 10 is not inconsequential, it's puzzling that Jackson, second unanimous NFL MVP in history, couldn't crack the top five. Jackson wasn't in the top five in CBS Sports' Pete Prisco's Top 100 Players rankings either (he was No. 7).
The other Ravens to make the PFF50 were defensive end Calais Campbell (No. 36) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (No. 48).
2000 Ravens Ranked Fifth-Best Team of the Century
Speaking of rankings, the Super Bowl champion 2000 Ravens came in at No. 5 on Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox's list of the 10 best teams of this century.
"Defense wins championships, and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens were living proof," Knox wrote. "This squad decimated opponents with a collective defensive force that would rival the 1985 Chicago Bears'. As a team, Baltimore allowed just 10.3 points per game in the regular season while pitching four shutouts.
"With Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson, Tony Siragusa, Chris McAlister, Sam Adams and Peter Boulware on the defensive side of the ball, this squad would have a chance against anyone."
The teams ranked ahead of that Ravens team were (in order): the 2016 Patriots; 2013 Seahawks; 2019 Chiefs; and 2007 Patriots.
Had it not been for their stunning, early exit from the playoffs, the 2019 Ravens undoubtedly would've been somewhere on the list. The 14-2 squad had Football Outsider's third-highest DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) this century and the seventh-highest since 1985.
Ravens Have Abundance of Dynamic Defenders
It'll probably be a long time before we see a defense as dominant as the 2000 Ravens, but this season's unit has the players to continue the franchise's history of strong defense, Russell Street Report's Aidan Griesser wrote.
Griesser identified six dynamic defenders, which he defined as a player "who can make splash plays with frequency and is a key participator towards wins week-in and week-out"
Campbell: "With solid pass rush ability and a tremendous knack for run-stopping, Calais Campbell will be a valuable, dynamic veteran presence for Baltimore."
OLB Matthew Judon: "He has the potential to easily eclipse double-digit sacks … especially with Campbell and Derek Wolfe contributing along the D-Line."
CB Marlon Humphrey: "Perhaps the defense's best player, Marlon Humphrey has firmly established himself as one of the premier corners in the NFL."
CB Marcus Peters: "Not only does Peters have an uncanny knack for creating turnovers, but his ability to go get the ball and take it back for a touchdown makes him a rare threat to generate defensive scores. A defender that regularly scores touchdowns? Doesn't get much more dynamic than that."
ILB Patrick Queen: "Despite being a rookie, Patrick Queen appears primed to impact the middle of the Ravens defense from the start. With an incredible blend of coverage ability and speed, he should be a playmaker at the linebacker position, which Baltimore has missed since losing C.J. Mosley."
CB Tavon Young: "Though he's had a tough injury history, when he hits the field he can take away the opposition's best slot receiver, has fantastic ball skills, and sports surprisingly strong pass rush ability."
Veterans such as safeties Earl Thomas III and Chuck Clark and run-stopping defensive tackle Brandon Williams also are worthy of mention as difference-makers on defense.