Ravens' Offensive Weapons (Minus Lamar Jackson) Ranked 20th in NFL
The Ravens had the highest-scoring offense in the league last season and the highest-scoring offense in franchise history. They also broke the NFL single-season rushing record, which stood for more than 40 years.
With nearly all the key players from last year's team returning, one would think the Ravens would be at or at least near the top of ESPN's rankings of each team's skill position talent. That isn't the case. In fact, Baltimore nearly ended up in the bottom third of the league, coming in at No. 20.
Before Ravens fans get too riled up, however, it's important to note the criteria for the rankings. ESPN's Bill Barnwell ranked "each team's skill-position talent without including the impact of the quarterback, offensive line or scheme."
"The Ravens finished 2019 as the league's best offense by DVOA, of course, but so much of the credit for that success has to go to the offensive line and league MVP Lamar Jackson, who aren't a part of this discussion," Barnwell wrote. "Jackson makes life easier for his running backs, and that led to Mark Ingram averaging 5.0 yards per carry and leading all backs in success rate. Gus Edwards was sixth.
"Jackson was an efficient passer, but I'm not sure how much of that was due to great work from his receivers. Tight end Mark Andrews took a leap forward and averaged a whopping 3.17 yards per route run last season, but there was no consistent production at wide receiver."
Barnwell's point about the huge impact of Jackson and the offensive line is well taken. And the Ravens' innovative scheme ushered in by Assistant Coach of the Year Greg Roman also played a major part in last year's success.
But I think the No. 20 ranking undervalues what the Ravens' skill position players surrounding Jackson bring to the table.
Ingram was already a Pro Bowl running back with a couple of 1,000-yard seasons on his resume before he came to Baltimore last year. As for the receiving corps, there's a reason Marquise "Hollywood" Brown was the top wide receiver taken in last year's draft. He showed flashes of his vast potential despite never being fully healthy in 2019, and he's poised for a breakout season in 2020 (which Barnwell acknowledged).
Rankings of this sort make for interesting conversation, but the thing about hypotheticals – "Imagine if every team's running backs, wide receivers and tight ends were dropped onto a new team with an average quarterback, average offensive line and average coaching staff," Barnwell wrote – is that no one truly knows how things would play out.
Much like Jackson has done, the Ravens' other skill position players will just have to prove the doubters wrong.
Jackson Gains Entry Into Superstar Club
Jackson entered 2019 as a rising star, but as the season progressed, it became obvious that he had elevated himself to superstar status. As such, Jackson has gained entry into NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus' Superstar Club.
Only the league's elite talent is allowed entry into the exclusive club. It's like getting into Studio 54 back in the day, but with helmets and cleats instead of sequin berets and platform shoes.
"[Jackson's] Year 2 leap from 'promising young starter' to 'multi-hyphenate vaporizer of defensive game plans' took plenty by surprise. It was, to put it simply, one of the great individual seasons we've seen this century," Hanzus wrote. "Jackson is a monster talent whose absence from The Superstar Club would serve to instantly delegitimize it. Can't have that. Won't have that. He's in."
Jackson joined Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson as the quarterbacks in the Superstar Club. Per Hanzus' rule, when a player joins the Superstar Club, another player must exit. Jackson's entrance came at the expense of Cam Newton.
Deadline Is Imminent for Getting Long-Term Deal Done With Matthew Judon
Matthew Judon said last month that he was "pleased" to have received the franchise tag even though he hopes to sign a long-term deal with the Ravens.
The outside linebacker and the team have until 4 p.m. ET tomorrow to get a deal done or he'll play this season under the tag, which is worth $16.8 million.
The Ravens' history shows that a deal is likely, as the team's past five tagged players received long-term contracts. However, the circumstances are different this time, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has left teams with financial uncertainties and led to speculation that next year's salary cap could actually drop if teams lose enough revenue this year from the prospect of having no fans in the stands," Zrebiec wrote. "For the Ravens, the future cap questions are complicated by the number of core players who are nearing the end of their rookie contracts."
Specifically, those players are Jackson, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Andrews and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. Even though the Ravens have expressed their desire to keep Judon in the fold for the long haul, Judon understands the realities of the situation.
"They've kind of got a 'bad-good' problem to have," Judon said. "We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can't all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers."
Judon, who was one of three defenders to total 50 tackles, nine sacks, 30 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles in 2019, signing a long-term deal is only one of several plausible scenarios, ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote.
"The tag was long expected for Judon, but now the real drama begins," Hensley wrote. "Will the Ravens and Judon, who signed the franchise tender in May, agree to a long-term deal before Wednesday's deadline? Will they tag-and-trade him (perhaps a swap for Jacksonville's Yannick Ngakoue)? Or will the Ravens just use this as a one-year rental?"
Patrick Queen Is Predicted to Win Defensive Rookie of Year, Make Pro Bowl
Add NFL.com's Marc Sessler to the list of pundits who are expecting big things from inside linebacker Patrick Queen in 2020. He predicted the 28th-overall pick will win Defensive Rookie of the Year and make the Pro Bowl.
"It goes beyond Lamar Jackson tabbing the former LSU star as 'Ray Lewis Junior,'" Sessler wrote. "The Ravens are proven developers of young linebackers, with Bart Scott and C.J. Mosley part of a lineage that welcomes Queen into the fold. An asset in coverage, the rookie is a lock to play a core role out of the gate for a front seven now stocked with Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe up front. Queen shined against the top teams in college football a season ago."
Last week in Late for Work we noted that Queen was NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein's No. 2 candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year behind Washington edge rusher Chase Young, the second-overall selection.
- General Manager Eric DeCosta received praise in The Athletic's survey of 30 NFL agents.