Bucky Brooks: 'I Absolutely Expect Lamar Jackson to Be Back in MVP Form'
The 2021 Ravens ultimately were derailed by a plethora of injuries and late-season swoon, but six weeks into the season, Lamar Jackson was one of the MVP-front runners after carrying the team to a five-game winning streak.
Can Jackson, the unanimous 2019 MVP, get back to that level of play this season? NFL Network's Bucky Brooks is certain of it.
"I absolutely expect Lamar Jackson to be back in MVP form," Brooks said on "NFL Total Access."
Brooks believes the 2022 Ravens offense will follow the blueprint of the 2019 unit that was No. 1 in the league in points and yards in Jackson's first full season as a starter.
"This offense is going back to the way it looked when Lamar Jackson was having his most success," Brooks said. "More heavies on the field, meaning more tight ends, more big backs, because when you put the bigs on the field, the defense has to counter with more bigs. That gives Lamar Jackson a bigger advantage with his athleticism and speed.
"We know he likes to throw the ball over the middle of the field to Mark Andrews. They drafted two tight ends (fourth-rounders Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely) so they could double down and make sure they're able to do it. But really when you think about Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, it's the running game . … They are going to get back to playing bully ball, big-boy football in Baltimore. When they do that they have success. Lamar Jackson is the key to that."
A revamped offensive line also should benefit Jackson. The Ravens bolstered the unit by signing durable and dependable offensive tackle Morgan Moses in free agency and drafting center Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. The expected return of All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who has played just seven games over the past two seasons, cannot be overstated.
"Jackson finished with a 37.1 percent pressure rate on dropbacks in 2021, which was the 11th-highest among the 42 qualified passers," The Athletic's Larry Holder wrote. "He also absorbed 38 sacks in only 12 games. And last season's pressure rate nearly mirrored two of his other three seasons: 37.3 percent in 2018, 37.2 percent in 2020. Predictably, Jackson felt his least pocket pressure in his 2019 MVP season at 31.2 percent."
Ravens Are Among Teams Best Set Up for Next Three Seasons
As pundits continue to roll out their predictions and outlooks for the 2022 season, ESPN took a broader view.
Its panel of NFL experts projected which franchises are in the best shape for the next three seasons. The projections were based on quarterback situation, remaining (non-QB) roster, drafting ability, front office and coaching.
The Ravens came in at No. 7 with an overall grade of 85.1, which placed them in the "very good" category. They received a grade of 80 or above in all five categories.
Here are some excerpts from ESPN's analysis of the Ravens:
Why they're here: "This exercise is about looking ahead, but at times looking in the rearview can be instructive. Baltimore has won at least eight games in every season but one since 2008, a testament to an organization that is structurally sound. Baltimore consistently drafts well, manages free agency shrewdly and has a pretty good knack for knowing when to retain or part ways with players. And while he does not yet have a deal secured for the long term, signs point toward Lamar Jackson being the Ravens' centerpiece for years to come. When he is at his best, defenses have no answer for the most dynamic playmaker at quarterback in the league." — Field Yates.
Biggest worry: "My concerns surrounding the Ravens' passing game remain from 2021, as they have not done anything schematically or personnel-related that would lead me to believe that they will be significantly better in 2022 and beyond. But some concern now shifts to the run game, specifically to the health of running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Jackson cannot be expected to carry the run-game load like he has so far in his career. Not only would this team continue to be on the outside looking in during the meaningful playoff games, but it also risks shortening Jackson's career with increased hits." — Louis Riddick.
What could change for the better: "This one's easy. Baltimore has to crystallize Jackson's future with the franchise. Will the Ravens lock him up to an extension or go year-to-year with the franchise tag? Are they comfortable paying high-market QB money for a dazzling playmaker with injury risk because of his style of play? It seems like everything is on the table. The entire offensive system is built around Jackson, so deciding sooner than later will help Baltimore plan accordingly with players around the 2019 MVP." — Jeremy Fowler.
It's worth noting that four of the six teams ranked ahead of Baltimore reside in the AFC: 1. Buffalo; 2. Kansas City; 5. Los Angeles Chargers; and 6. Cincinnati.
CBS Sports Pundit Believes Justin Tucker's Record for Longest Field Goal Could Fall in 2022
Justin Tucker's record-breaking, game-winning 66-yard field goal was one of the highlights of the 2021 season, but CBS Sports' Bryan DeArdo believes there's a good chance the historic kick could be topped in 2022.
Tucker's field goal was among the 10 NFL records DeArdo thinks could fall this season. As to who could eclipse Tucker's 66-yarder, DeArdo said the lone candidate is Tucker himself.
"The Ravens' All-Pro kicker hit a 66-yarder last year, so there's no reason to doubt that Tucker would try a 67-yarder if the opportunity presents itself this season," DeArdo wrote. "Tucker, a rookie when the Ravens won the 2012 Super Bowl, is coming off arguably his best season to date. He made nearly 95% of his field goals last year, including making each of his six kicks that were at least 50 yards."
Tucker's 66-yard field goal has already won one award (NFL Moment of the Year) and is nominated for another (the ESPY award for Best Play).
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