Lamar Jackson Provides Insight on His Ideal Workload
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he’d “bet the over” on Lamar Jackson surpassing Cam Newton’s career-high quarterback rushing attempts of 139 in a season. Earlier this month, Jackson told Rich Eisen, “I don’t think I’ll be running as much as I did last year.”
Needless to say, pundits aren’t sure what to expect from the Ravens’ offense heading into Week 1 of the regular season.
“They seem set up to have the most diverse rushing attack in the NFL,” The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia wrote. “Can Jackson withstand the punishment of such a run-focused scheme? Can he protect the ball better than he did last season? And can he make strides as a passer? I don’t know the answers, but that organization felt like it was stuck in mud in recent years. Now it’s zigging when the rest of the league is zagging and should be fun to watch.”
In an appearance on Mad Dog Sports Radio’s “Schein on Sports,” Jackson shared insight on his ideal run-pass ratio.
“Probably 30 passes a game,” Jackson said. “Running, I probably won't have as many attempts last year. We have a great backfield and we're just going to take what the defense gives us."
Jackson never attempted 30 passes as a rookie (29 in the wild-card loss to the Chargers). It was a byproduct of the Ravens’ scheme, but Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman and the coaching staff have spent the offseason formulating a new offense for Jackson.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer noted that Jackson would still rank towards the bottom of starting quarterbacks if he averaged 30 pass attempts per game.
“According to TeamRankings.com, then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 30.8 attempts per game ranked 30th in the NFL,” Shaffer wrote. “Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was No. 1, with an average of over 42.”
It’s not necessarily the number of passing attempts that matters, but the quality. Remember, the Ravens finished the regular season 6-1 with Jackson and he never threw more than 25 times a game.
This offseason, General Manager Eric DeCosta has made a concerted effort to surround Jackson with more weapons in the passing game.
“Don’t forget that Jackson has a lot more talent as a quarterback than he gets credit for,” Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote. “Giving him weapons like Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, Miles Boykin, Justice Hill and three very good tight ends make the passing attack very viable.”
If Jackson averaged 30 pass attempts and a steady run workload, he could find himself in elite company.
“Only seven times in NFL history has a quarterback thrown for 480 pass attempts (which is 30 pass attempts averaged out over a full season) and have over 100 rush attempts,” Sporting News’ Jordan Heck wrote. “Four of those seven seasons came from Newton (Daunte Culpepper, Randall Cunningham and Russell Wilson are the others).”
Ravens Reportedly Working to Extend Pat Ricard
Patrick Ricard can block, play on the interior defensive line, and even catch passes out of the backfield. That versatility not only secures him a roster spot, but it could keep him in Baltimore long-term.
Ricard is a rare breed in today’s NFL, and the Ravens are reportedly working to extend his contract, according to The Athletic’s Nick Underhill.
Ricard is scheduled to become a restricted free agent next season. The former undrafted product has found a niche role with the Ravens as a two-way player at fullback and defensive tackle.
Barnwell: Potentially Losing Tavon Young Matters
There are plenty of storylines that take place during the preseason, but ESPN’s Bill Barnwell dove into what does and doesn’t matter. For the Ravens, potentially losing cornerback Tavon Young to a neck injury for the entire season matters.
“Baltimore has locked up young corners such as [Jimmy] Smith and Lardarius Webb in the past and had those deals go south thanks to injuries,” Barnwell wrote. “Sadly, Young's extension has already begun to follow in those footsteps … although we should chalk that up strictly to bad luck.”
The good news, Barnwell noted, is the Ravens are extremely deep at cornerback even without Young. While Barnwell agreed that the best option is to have Smith, Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr on the field at the same time, he erred on the side of caution with expectations in the slot.
“I don't think Carr is going to be unplayable in the slot, but I do think his relative inexperience in the slot and advancing age suggest that he's not going to live up to Young's level of play from a year ago,” Barnwell wrote.
Another option the Ravens could turn to is Cyrus Jones.
The fourth-year cornerback played just 15 defensive snaps for the Ravens last season and was primarily a special teams contributor, but a strong preseason has boosted his stock for more reps at cornerback.
“Jones played an underappreciated role in the Ravens’ resurgence last year with his excellent performance as a punt returner,” The Baltimore Sun’s Child Walker wrote. “It wasn’t clear if that would be enough to keep him on the roster, but his spot is looking more secure given the team’s increasing dependence on his defensive skills.”
Jones is ready to seize any opportunity to help the defense.
“The more you get those game-time reps, the better you’ll be when it’s lights, camera, action,” Jones said. “The more I’m out there the more comfortable I get. I feel like I’m comfortable as it is, so I can only keep on improving.”
Marlon Humphrey Snubbed on ESPN’s Top 100 Players List
ESPN recently released its rankings of their top 100 players, and Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko has a bone to pick. He believes Marlon Humphrey was snubbed.
“Each of the corners that made ESPN’s top-100 list are undoubtedly talented, but it’s hard to argue Humphrey isn’t deserving of a spot himself,” Platko wrote. “Humphrey was the anchor of the league’s top-ranked defense last season and will once again play an instrumental role as Baltimore’s No. 1 cornerback in 2019.”
It’s hard to argue Platko’s point. Of the 10 cornerbacks who made ESPN’s list, Humphrey ranks seventh with 37 forced incompletions and third with a 65.7 passer rating allowed in two seasons.
“Examining the 2018 season alone, Humphrey was targeted 83 times and allowed just 43 receptions, good for a catch rate of 52.2% - which ranked seventh in the NFL,” Platko added. “His forced incompletion rate of 22.5% was the third-best mark.”
When re-grading the first-round picks from 2017, NFL.com’s Ali Bhanpuri gave the Ravens a B-plus and suggested Humphrey “could enter into game-changer territory this season.”
“He's far from a polished product at this point, but his play helped propel the Ravens secondary to the No. 1 spot on my colleague Chris Wesseling's ranking of the deepest position groups earlier this summer,” Bhanpuri wrote. “With a number of quality veterans in Baltimore's DB room pushing for snaps, and the severe neck injury to Tavon Young, Humphrey will have no choice but to keep improving.”
Humphrey told reporters this offseason his goals are targeted towards anything that ends in “Bowl,” Pro Bowl included. Humphrey will try to become the first Ravens cornerback to accomplish that feat since Chris McAlister in 2006.
Ravens’ Home-Field Advantage Matters
Who says home-field advantage doesn’t matter? Kapadia ranked every team’s home-field advantage based on Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
The Ravens landed at No. 11 and were by far the top team in the division in that regard. The Bengals were the next closest at No. 18.
“Only the Patriots have posted a higher home DVOA than the Ravens, who have gone 17-7 at home over the past three seasons,” Kapadia wrote. “Last year was a bit of a changeup as the Ravens were the third-best road team. In fact, their road DVOA was slightly better than their home DVOA in 2018.”
The success at M&T Bank Stadium speaks for itself. The Ravens have ranked 12th or better in average home attendance since 2006, according to ESPN. It can play a factor in success on the field, and the Ravens went 6-2 at home last season.
With notable home matchups against the Patriots, Texans, Browns and Steelers this season, the crowd will be needed.
● The Ravens could find themselves lining up against Jadaveon Clowney in Week 1.