Ravens Could Have Seven Future Hall of Famers on Roster
A growing number of pundits have ranked the Ravens' roster as the best in the NFL. One of them believes there are as many as seven potential Hall of Famers on this season's squad.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell projected future Hall of Famer players for each team and placed them into four categories: locks (100% chance of making it), likely to get in (70%-99% chance), in the running (40%-69%) and work to do (10%-39%).
Here's Barnwell's breakdown for the Ravens:
Likely: S Earl Thomas III
"He was nearly a lock after making four Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro nods across his first five seasons, but injuries have cost Thomas 20 games over the subsequent four years. Returning to form and earning a seventh Pro Bowl nod in his first season with the Ravens got Thomas back on track.
In the running: QB Lamar Jackson, CB Marcus Peters, K Justin Tucker
Jackson: "Winning an MVP in Year 2 obviously leaps Jackson into consideration on its own, but it doesn't seal it. … Jackson does an incredible job of avoiding hits and getting out of bounds, but there's naturally going to be questions about whether a quarterback can run the ball 10 times per game in the modern NFL and have a 15-year career as a starter. If he can follow in Patrick Mahomes' footsteps and win a Super Bowl this year, Jackson will have an impeccable résumé to start his career.
On a side note, Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said this about Jackson: "He doesn't have a bronze bust yet, but he's on his way."
Peters: "It's tough to rack up interceptions in the modern NFL, but Peters has 27 since entering the league, nine more than any other player. He has a stronger case than you think.
Tucker: "While Tucker would be the overwhelming choice as the best kicker in football, the Hall has elected just two full-time kickers in its history. Adam Vinatieri will eventually join Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen, but those guys averaged 22 seasons in the league. Tucker is only nine years in, and while he can kick for a long time if he stays healthy, asking anyone in the NFL to do anything for 13 more seasons is risky."
Work to do: RB Mark Ingram II, OT Ronnie Stanley, DE Calais Campbell
Ingram: "Ingram has made three Pro Bowls [but] he hasn't had a top-five season in terms of production or won a Super Bowl.
Stanley: "Stanley was a first-team All-Pro last season, which was his first serious recognition as a superstar. He could roll off a string of these nods in the years to come.
Campbell: "Campbell, who turns 34 next month, is probably going to miss out, which is a shame given how good he has been. … If Campbell can stay productive and win a ring or two with the Ravens, it might push him into more significant consideration."
I think Barnwell's breakdown is pretty accurate. The other current Raven I'd put in the "work to do" category to receive a gold jacket someday is Marlon Humphrey. The 2017 first-round pick has established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league after being named to his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams last season.
Had guard Marshall Yanda not retired after last season, he'd obviously be on Barnwell's list, probably in the "likely" category. Former Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, currently a free agent, is another homegrown Raven who would be "likely". Retired safety Eric Weddle, who played three of his 13 seasons in Baltimore, also deserves Hall of Fame consideration.
Tavon Young Is Strong Candidate for Bounce-Back Season
A strong case can be made that the Ravens had the best secondary in the league last season, and it could be even better if cornerback Tavon Young can stay healthy. ESPN chose Young as the Ravens player most likely to have a bounce-back season in 2020.
Young, a 2016 fourth-round pick, missed last season after undergoing neck surgery. He also was sidelined for the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL. When healthy, however, Young has been a significant contributor.
"Young was the 20th-highest-graded corner in coverage in 2016 and even edged out Jalen Ramsey as the highest-graded rookie at the position," Pro Football Focus wrote. "We've seen a lot of good from Young, and now the injuries just need to stay away for him to get a chance to bounce back."
In 2018, Young scored two touchdowns off fumble recoveries, becoming one of four players to score multiple defensive touchdowns that season, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley. Young also had two sacks and an interception that year. As a rookie, Young started 11 games and made 53 tackles and two interceptions.
"The Ravens love his versatility as a nickelback because he can cover, blitz and stop the run," Hensley wrote.
Young signed a three-year contract extension last offseason worth an average of about $8 million, making him the highest-paid slot corner in the NFL at the time. Head Coach John Harbaugh said last month that Young is on track for this season.
"Tavon looks great, he's doing the walkthroughs, he's been conditioning," Harbaugh said. "Tavon's really excited to be back on the field."
Wrote Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw: "We could in turn see his most well-rounded season yet. Baltimore can get creative with his usage and perhaps line him up as a nickel safety and play center fielder at times. Young should be completely unleashed as a playmaker if he's 100%."
Ravens Have One of League's Best Backup QB Situations
The worst fear for Ravens fans is Jackson suffering an injury or getting COVID-19. It's a scenario no one even wants to think about. However, if the unthinkable did occur, the Ravens would be in better shape than most teams in the same situation.
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski ranked the Ravens as one of the five teams best positioned for success if their backup quarterback was forced into the lineup.
"No other quarterback is quite like Jackson, but his immediate backup, Robert Griffin III, is one of the closest possible substitutes," Sobleski wrote.
Griffin took the league by storm as a rookie with Washington in 2012 thanks to his skills as a dual threat. He ran for 815 yards and seven touchdowns and threw for 3,200 yards with 20 touchdown passes and just five interceptions as he led his team to the playoffs.
"Jackson's success is derived from a coaching staff doing what it should: building a system to feature his strengths while downplaying any weaknesses. Coincidentally, the system can do the same for Griffin," Sobleski wrote. "Though the 30-year-old veteran may not be the same dynamic runner he once was, he's still more than capable of threatening a defense and operating within Baltimore's offensive structure."
When Jackson and several other starters were held out of last year's season finale, Griffin led the Ravens to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were still in playoff contention and fielded one of the league's top defenses.
"The former Offensive Rookie of the Year clearly has plenty left in the tank if called upon and he's a great mentor for Jackson," Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens and Alex Bente wrote.
Three Ways the Ravens' Prolific Offense Can Improve
After leading the league in scoring and setting the single-season rushing record last year, what can the Ravens do to improve their revolutionary offense in 2020?
Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz looked at advance statistics to come up with three areas in which the offense can get better:
More effectively throw to targets on the edge of the field.
Kasinitz's comments: "According to statistics from Football Outsiders, the Ravens' offense lacked consistent success on passes to outside receivers last season. Jackson's DVOA — or defense-adjusted value over average, a metric designed to measure per-play efficiency based on situation and opponent — was far better last season when he targeted receivers who lined up in the slot.
"If Jackson more accurately fires balls outside the numbers, [Marquise] Brown continues to ascend with greater health and experience and another wide receiver — Miles Boykin, perhaps — develops into a real threat on the edge of the field, the Ravens could introduce an additional dangerous element to their offense."
Clean up the penalties.
Kasinitz's comments: "The Ravens drew flags for just 10 holding penalties, tied for the second-fewest in the league. But they were guilty of five delay-of-games (tied for the eighth-most in the NFL), four offensive pass interferences (tied for the seventh-most) and six illegal formations (second-most)."
Take fewer sacks.
Kasinitz's comments: "Jackson took sacks on 5.4 percent of his dropbacks last season, which isn't an awful rate. It was 14th-lowest among quarterbacks with at least 50 pass attempts in 2019. Keep in mind, however, that Jackson is one of the shiftiest, most athletic players to ever take snaps as a quarterback in an NFL game and that the Ravens sent three offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl in January. There's reason to believe defenses should sack Jackson less frequently than they sack Tom Brady, Jared Goff or Drew Brees, but that wasn't the case last season."