Two Lingering Questions That Could Have Major Impact on Ravens' Season
As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, the Ravens have one of the most complete rosters in the league. Like every team, however, they have lingering questions.
Ebony Bird’s Parker Hurley identified some of the major unknowns facing the Ravens at this point in the offseason. Here's a look at two of them:
Can LT Ronnie Stanley give the Ravens a full season?
The offense has dominated headlines this offseason, from Lamar Jackson finally signing a contract extension, to hiring Todd Monken as offensive coordinator, to revamping the wide receiver group by adding veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor and first-round pick Zay Flowers.
However, the importance of Stanley to the offense cannot be overstated. After playing six games in 2020 and missing all but one game in 2021 due to ankle injuries, the former All-Pro returned in Week 5 last year and played in 11 games.
"One of the players who will make or break the 2023 season for the Baltimore Ravens is Ronnie Stanley," Hurley wrote. "Is it a coincidence that the last time he played an entire season the team was the one seed and Lamar Jackson was the MVP? They failed to live up to expectations after that point, and Stanley has been injured for most of the time after that.
"If he can be elite, the Baltimore Ravens could be ready to take a serious step forward. However, if he plateaued, that may be the difference between a playoff run and a Super Bowl run. If he cannot stay healthy, it could be a similar result to the previous few seasons. So much hinges on him, and even if he says he feels great now, we will only know after four or five games this season."
How important is the loss of DL Calais Campbell?
When Campbell signed with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason after three years in Baltimore, the Ravens not only lost a premier run-stopper who can get to the quarterback, but also a team leader.
"The Baltimore Ravens will need Broderick Washington, Travis Jones, and David Ojabo to step up and fill bigger roles because of the loss of Campbell," Hurley wrote. "All of them have cases to be made for upside, but none of them have proven that they can definitely be the answer.
"More than that, [the Ravens] are losing a legitimate leader on the field. He does the right thing and can help young players adjust to the system and the way that things are done. There is really no way that you can put a value on his impact. We can only see as time goes on how the Ravens will respond and how the development of the defensive line looks."
One Reason Why Ravens Will Make the Playoffs
Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema projected the seven-team playoff field in the AFC and identified one reason why each team will or won't make it to the postseason.
Sikkema has the Ravens getting in, and he cited Monken as the reason.
"Lamar Jackson is back, paid and healthy. When that is the case, his team will always have a shot at the postseason," Sikkema wrote. "But the reason I'm even more in on the Ravens this upcoming season is because of their new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken.
"Monken knows offense. I'm excited to see what he'll cook up with Jackson as his quarterback."
AFC North Ranked as Strongest Division in NFL
The Ravens and Orioles could have more in common than just playing in Baltimore.
The Orioles play in the toughest division in Major League Baseball, as every team in the American League East currently has a winning record. The Ravens could find themselves in a similar situation this season.
PFF ranked the AFC North as the toughest division in the NFL heading into the 2023 season.
The Ravens are regarded as the top challenger to the two-time defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals, who are among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
"Lamar Jackson missed the final six games of the season for the Baltimore Ravens but ended the year with an 85.2 PFF grade, which ranked fifth at the position," PFF's Gordon McGuinness wrote. "With a revamped group of wide receivers featuring Odell Beckham Jr. and first-round draft pick Zay Flowers, they will expect to contend with the Bengals for the division crown."
The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers have had strong offseasons and also figure to be in the playoff hunt in the loaded AFC.
"Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns earned the highest PFF pass-rushing grade in the NFL last season (93.5), but they will need quarterback Deshaun Watson to produce better than his 51.6 PFF passing grade, which ranked 34th of the 36 quarterbacks to record at least 200 dropbacks in 2022," McGuinness wrote. "Over the final eight weeks of the season, only three quarterbacks had a higher PFF passing grade than the 82.9 mark produced by Kenny Pickett of the Pittsburgh Steelers, something that will spark hope for a quick turnaround."
Takeaways From Ravens' Projected Starting Lineup
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal projected the starters for the AFC North teams. Here are some of his takeaways on the Ravens' lineup:
- "As an unrepentant Lamar Jackson fan, I thoroughly enjoyed perusing the skill-position group at his disposal in 2023. It includes five real weapons for Jackson to throw to, more than he's had at any time in his career."
- "Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman both need to show they can stay on the field. If so, they are versatile pieces that complement each other well. Bateman was a big-play machine early last season before being lost to a foot injury in November."
- "Devin Duvernay and Nelson Agholor provide quality WR depth if there is an injury. They would have been starters on most Ravens squads in the Lamar Jackson era."
- "Baltimore's defense continues to be built back to front. Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton comprise what could be one of the most dynamic safety combinations in the league. Rock Ya-Sin is one of the best post-draft signing values."
- "This is a below-average defensive roster compared to the standard set by recent Ravens teams. But Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald got into a groove late last season, and the unit performed well."
- "It's a new day in Baltimore. The offense is more stacked than the defense and will be expected to lead the way."