Opinions on Ravens QB Situation are Everywhere
If the Ravens' quarterback depth chart isn't the most talked about in the league, then it must be really close to the top.
Everyone with a keyboard or microphone seems to be commenting on how they think the Ravens quarterback situation featuring Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III will play out. With training camp underway, some media members believe the team's quarterback depth chart is starting to crystallize.
Since the Ravens used a first-round pick in this year's draft on Jackson, the team has made it clear that the plan is for Flacco to be the starter this season. It hasn't been clear whether Jackson or Griffin would play if Flacco got hurt or struggled, though PressBox's Bo Smolka thinks it's becoming evident.
"It sounds as if the Ravens are growing increasingly comfortable with the idea that Jackson could step in if anything happened to Flacco," Smolka wrote.
Jackson has impressed as a quarterback during training camp, prompting Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to say he's "way ahead of the curve." It's also undeniable that "Lamar-mania," as a Louisville Courier Journal headline read, has come to Baltimore, as fans have been captivated by Jackson's play.
"Any decent throw he produced – and there were many – produced an audible reaction from the crowd and you can certainly see flashes of what might be to come," CBSSports' Jason La Canfora wrote.
Additionally, Jackson's development doesn't mean there isn't any room on the roster for Griffin. As NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal points out, "If Jackson is the long-term answer as Baltimore's starter, the Ravens are hoping Griffin can be a long-term solution as a backup."
The most exciting part of Ravens training camp thus far for La Canfora though has not been talking about what the team's quarterbacks have separately done on the field, but rather about when two of them are out there at the same time.
"There were times when Jackson pitched the ball to Griffin on an end around and times where Flacco and Jackson shared the same backfield," La Canfora wrote. "Those plays and formations will be the earliest conduit to Jackson taking the field in games that actually count in the standings."
Indeed, the Ravens have been rolling out a lot of dual-quarterback plays at the start of training camp. These sorts of play have been done so frequently that ESPN wrote they're "becoming more of a reality than an experiment."
"The Ravens are trying to figure out how to generate more excitement out of their offense."
How the Ravens will use their different quarterbacks is definitely fun to theorize about, but fans shouldn't forget that the revamped passing attack as a whole is expected to be improved.
"With what should be a much-improved group of pass catchers (receivers Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown are all new, as are tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews), there is nowhere to go but up for this offense," La Canfora wrote.
Expanded Role for Alex Collins Could Help Passing Game
After a breakout season running the ball, Ravens running back Alex Collins could be ready to make an impact in the team's passing game.
"Sticking Collins out in the slot creates the potential for him to get out in open space and expose defenses," Ravens Wire's Wola Odeniran wrote.
Though Collins was one of the NFL's top rushers last season after amassing 973 yards and averaging 4.6 yards per carry, he didn't have the same effect in the Ravens' passing game. Collins finished his season with just 187 receiving yards, though his 8.1 average yards per catch shows he's capable of doing it.
Collins also proved he was capable of creating big plays after catching the ball. His longest reception of the year came on a short toss from quarterback Joe Flacco against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which Collins turned into an eye-opening 37-yard gain after breaking tackle attempts from linebacker Arthur Moats and safety Sean Davis.
"Allowing Collins to play as a slot receiver could certainly create problems for opposing defenses," Odeniran wrote. "Collins profiles as a dangerous mismatch for defenders — he's too fast for linebackers to keep up with and he's too big for defensive backs to get physical with."
Adding this dimension to Collins' skillset would also make it more difficult for opposing defensive coordinators to prepare for him.
Last year, running backs such as the New Orleans Saints' Alvin Kamara, Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley and Kansas City Chiefs' Kareem Hunt showed just how dangerous a running back can be if they can also make plays in the passing game.
"Opposing defenses now have tape on Collins after his breakout season, allowing them an opportunity to identify his tendencies and running style," Odeniran wrote. "Turning Collins into a receiver will go a long way towards keeping defensive coordinators around the league on their feet this season."
Three Positives From 2017 the Ravens Will Want to Continue
Usually the focus in training camp is what teams are doing to fix their problems from the year before, but Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler identified three strengths of the 2017 Ravens that do not need to change.
Good Running Game
The Ravens rushing attack finished 11th in yards per game last season, and Schisler believes it will "continue being a driving force in the 2018 season." With Kenneth Dixon joining last year's tandem of Alex Collins and Buck Allen, the Ravens should have a dynamic backfield rotation. Combine the trio of running backs with an expected improved passing attack, as well as the return of guard Marshal Yanda to solidify the offensive line, and the Ravens rush attack could actually improve in 2018.
"If the Ravens can average over four yards per carry and can rack up around 1,500 yards or more on the ground, this could be a good season. Collins is entering his second season with the Ravens. We have to see him do it for more than just one year, but every indication is that it will be a strong performance by the running backs."
Healthy Turnover Ratio
The Ravens registered a league-best plus-17 turnover ratio in 2017. The defense's 22 interceptions were the most in football, while its 12 fumbles were fourth most. Schisler predicts the defense, led by the secondary, will continue to force turnovers at a high rate this season.
"Jimmy Smith is a great cornerback when he's at full health. Marlon Humphrey is in the process of becoming a top-tier cornerback in the league. Eric Weddle is a free safety coming off a six pick season and the Ravens are deep at the cornerback position. The Ravens could have an elite secondary in 2018."
Awesome Special Teams
Schisler expects the Ravens to get another strong season from its two specialists, punter Sam Koch and kicker Justin Tucker, as well as long snapper Morgan Cox. Koch, who Schisler referred to as "one of the most important players on the team" is coming off a campaign in which landed 40 punts inside the 20-yard line. Tucker made the Pro Bowl last year and is currently the most accurate kicker in NFL history.
"Special teams are a special advantage for the purple and black."
Ravens Finish 7-9 in CBSSports.com Prediction
CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco conducted his annual tradition of predicting the score of every NFL game on the schedule in July.
Prisco acknowledges "picking every NFL game with scores in July is just asking for it," but doesn't mind being called "moron" or "idiot" later in the season when all his predictions don't come to fruition because, "it's a labor of love."
Ravens fans will hope to have plenty of reasons to call out Prisco by the end of the 2018 season because he has the team finishing 7-9, which is good enough for third place in the AFC North. Ravens fans shouldn't be discouraged by Prisco's prediction though; Baltimore has finished with a losing record just once under Head Coach John Harbaugh.
Prisco's highlight for the season comes in Week 9, when he has the Ravens beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-38. If that score line sounds familiar, it's because that was the final score when the teams played in Week 14 last season, but with the Ravens winning this time.
Prisco sees the Steelers winning the division with a 10-6 record, while he has the Cincinnati Bengals finishing just ahead of the Ravens with an 8-8 mark.
- Pro Football Focus rated new Raven Michael Crabtree as the top receiver in the NFL last season at running comeback routes. Though just five of his 99 targets were on comeback routes, Crabtree turned two of them into touchdowns. "Since PFF started tracking individual route data, Crabtree is the only receiver to tally multiple touchdown receptions from the comeback route in a single season, and over the course of his career, Crabtree has scored more touchdowns on comeback routes than any other receiver in the league," Pro Football Focus' Mark Chichester wrote. Crabtree scored a touchdown on a comeback route in yesterday's practice.