Analyst Predicts Ravens Are 'Ready to Make a Huge Leap'
Heading into the 2019 NFL season, the Ravens haven't received much praise from the national media, but Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling went against the grain.
Roling listed five teams he believes are ready to make a huge leap in 2019, and after watching the Ravens make the postseason last year, he expects this to be the "beginning of something bigger" in Baltimore.
"All the Ravens have done since is mold their offense around Jackson," Roling wrote. "[Joe] Flacco is gone. Robert Griffin III is returning as the mentor. Running back Mark Ingram Jr. arrived in free agency as the sledgehammer for the backfield. First-round wide receiver Marquise Brown is a top target. And despite some defensive losses, [Earl] Thomas boosts the secondary."
Roling cited Lamar Jackson's development as the Ravens' x-factor but believes a wild-card berth is an achievable goal this season.
"Of course, none of it matters if Jackson doesn't stay ahead of the curve as defenses get accustomed to his acumen as a runner," Roling wrote. "The Ravens have changed the playbook, and Jackson seems improved as a passer. He connected on four of his six passing attempts and tossed a touchdown in Week 1's preseason game against the Jaguars on Thursday."
The Ravens officially wrapped up their final day of training camp Tuesday, and many pundits saw improvements in Jackson as a passer.
Ravens Wire’s Alex Bente is also in on the hype this season and believes the Ravens could be Super Bowl contenders if they can get over these three humps:
Injury bug: "I'm sure the Ravens are hoping quarterback Robert Griffin III's broken thumb is the biggest issue they'll face this preseason. While no team is fully immune in a sport as physical as football, they'll need to do whatever it takes to avoid adding names to their historically long IR lists if they want to make a run at Super Bowl LIV."
First-round WR production: "This offseason, Baltimore tried their hand at wide receiver once again, selecting Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown with their No. 25 pick in the first round. Brown's Lisfranc injury may give some fans pause, but his explosive speed and playmaking ability, along with how he fits into the new Lamar Jackson-led offense, provide hope this particular curse will finally be lifted."
Offensive coordinator inconsistency: "[Greg Roman's] new offensive scheme is going to be tested early and often. If it works, it has big potential … This season's outcome is likely mostly dependent on how Roman's offense performs."
Ravens Left Off Adam Schein's Top Defense List
With all the talk this offseason, you'd forget the Ravens had the No. 1 overall defense last year. Now Baltimore's defense can add another piece of material to the bulletin board.
NFL.com’s Adam Schein listed his top nine defenses for the upcoming 2019 NFL season and the Ravens finished just outside – at No. 10.
In order, Schein's list went as follows: Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.
Like many, Schein's concerns center around the offseason losses.
"Well, if my last name rhymed with 10, you'd see the Ravens, who had the league's top defense last season (292.9 yards allowed per game), in the No. 10 slot on the list below," Schein wrote. "But I am worried about some key offseason defections from that group, including Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith, and C.J. Mosley."
Yearly roster turnover is frequent for just about every team, but veteran safety Tony Jefferson understands the amount of talent still on the Ravens' roster.
"It sunk in, Sizz is gone, Weddle's gone, C.J.'s gone, there's a bunch of key pieces missing," Jefferson said. "Like always, there's people who stepped up. We still have great athletes. We have people who can fill in those roles and do great things."
The Ravens' offseason additions have been largely overlooked, most notably Thomas. The secondary is expected to be the strength of the defense and there are plenty of emerging young talents.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer is hearing buzz surrounding third-year cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
"As I've heard it, he's been dominant this summer, and he should be a big piece to the puzzle for a proud Baltimore defense that's undergone a ton of turnover this offseason," Breer wrote.
WNST’s Luke Jones was one of the media members in attendance through camp and echoed Breer's statement.
"Humphrey was consistently the best player on the field these last three weeks, but his attention to detail also stood out," Jones wrote. "When he wasn't taking reps, you'd frequently see the third-year corner reviewing plays on a tablet. He's on track for a Pro Bowl season if he stays healthy."
As highlighted in yesterday’s edition of “Late for Work,” the undrafted duo of Patrick Onwuasor and Chris Board have pundits like NFL Network's Brian Baldinger excited. Not to mention, the Ravens also added two proven rushers on the edge in Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray.
McPhee has embraced the role as the veteran pass rusher with Terrell Suggs gone, and his performance in camp has stood out.
"He is just what we thought we were going to get," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He has practiced every day. He's been out here doing really well. His leadership has been excellent, his physicality. He's Pernell McPhee. That's what we thought we were getting."
While there are new faces, Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz still sees the same defensive mentality.
"While the Ravens defense has many new faces, their attitude remains the same," Schultz wrote. "Rallying to gang-tackle is the reason for the Ravens defense has finishing inside the top-five more than outside of the top-15. For two decades, the organization has exemplified this attitude. 2019 will be more of the same. This unit will finish inside the top-10 in points and yards allowed."
An interesting defensive test will come Thursday. After Nick Foles and the majority of the Jaguars' starters sat out of the first preseason matchup, Packers Head Coach Matt LeFleur expects quarterback Aaron Rodgers to play "a quarter or so."
Willie Snead IV One of Most Underrated Wide Receivers
Lost in the conversation of the Ravens wide receivers is the consistency of Willie Snead IV.
Snead was quietly one of the Ravens' top receivers last season and led the team in receptions (62). He's expected to be one of Jackson's go-to targets, and The Draft Network’s Brad Kelly named Snead one of the most underrated wideouts in the NFL.
"Snead was the best wide receiver in the Ravens veteran group last season," Kelly wrote. "He led the team in receptions, bringing in over 65% of his targets while the rest of the combined team failed to reach the 60% completion mark. With John Brown and Michael Crabtree gone from Baltimore and assumed added chemistry with second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, Snead should return to flirting with 1,000 receiving yards this season."
Snead has dropped just three passes in 70 receptions since 2016, as Kelly noted. Steady hands are key in the development of a young quarterback, which is a big reason why Pro Football Focus’ Mark Chichester listed Snead as a top "triple threat" receiver.
"Snead caught 69-of-91 targets a season ago for 651 yards and a touchdown, en route to an overall grade of 67.7 that ranked first among Baltimore's wideouts," Chichester wrote. "He averaged 4.52 yards after the catch per reception, he created separation on 54.7% of his targets, and he came down with 6-of-10 contested targets, as well.
Snead has worked extensively with Jackson this offseason, and the chemistry is already showing. The two linked up for a 10-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown in the team's Week 1 preseason win.
● It looks like rookie defensive tackle Daylon Mack finally came through with the cinnamon rolls.
● Trade speculation continues to surround Texans defensive end Jadaveon Clowney and The Big Lead’s Liam McKeone named the Ravens as one of four potential landing spots.