Mink: The last time the Ravens had a 1,000-yard receiver was in 2016 with Mike Wallace. I bet that streak ends this year. Marquise "Hollywood" Brown went from 584 as a rookie to 769 last season. If he continues at that pace, and with the benefit of a 17th game, Brown should top 1,000. There's good reason to believe he can. Brown certainly has the talent, and now he's having his first true offseason after a foot injury and COVID-19 impacted the past two years. He also has the benefit of more weapons around him to take the pressure off and hopefully deliver more one-on-one opportunities, particularly deep. Then it's a matter of he and Jackson connecting on more of those big shots, which has been a focus this offseason and seems to be improving. Add in the benefit of the Ravens' new wide receiver coaches and it all equals a good shot at 1,000 yards for the 2019 first-round pick. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey certainly thinks so.
Sammy Watkins has a shot at 1,000 yards if he can stay healthy, but even if he does, I have a hard time seeing two wideouts do it in this still run-based offense. There just aren't that many opportunities to go around and I expect Brown to still see the lion's share of the wideout targets. Watkins can play a huge role being a reliable chain mover and big-play threat that takes pressure off others. The Ravens are also banking on "Playoff Sammy" to make some clutch catches and get them over the postseason hump.
For as much as I love what I've seen from Rashod Bateman, I think signing up a rookie – even one drafted in the first round – for 1,000 yards in his first season is a tall order. Like Watkins, I expect Bateman to make some memorable plays, but I'd be surprised if there's enough volume to top 1,000.
Mink: I'm going back-to-back with the 1,000-yard questions. Jackson set the NFL record with 1,206 rushing yards in 2019, then dropped to 1,005 last season. This is a tough one, but even with the extra game, I'm going to say that Jackson goes under 1,000 rushing yards this season.
The Ravens are never going to tell Jackson to stop running. That is what makes him truly special. However, I do think Baltimore is looking to see him develop more as a passer and now has the weapons around him to open up the aerial attack more. Other NFL teams continue to train their defenders on how to slow down Jackson as a runner. We saw them do a better job of that last year. Jackson's sheer talent can (and will) bust through at times, but I expect his game to continue to evolve just like the defenses playing against him. The next way for him to catch them off-guard is to burn them consistently with his arm, so I expect slightly fewer runs and more passes.
Downing: A player who we haven't spent much time talking about this offseason is safety DeShon Elliott. It's easy to fly under the radar on a secondary as talented as Baltimore's, but Elliott certainly deserves some more attention. He played well last year in his first full season as a starter, finishing with 86 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. I expect him to improve on that production this year by getting his hands on a few interceptions.
This is a big season for Elliott. He showed last year that he could stay healthy and step into the starting lineup. But now he's entering the final season of his rookie contract and could put himself in line for a nice payday with a strong year. The Ravens have already made significant investments in their secondary by signing long-term deals with Chuck Clark, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Tavon Young, and Elliott could be next in line. Elliott finally got his chance last year and capitalized on the opportunity, and now he and the Ravens hope he continues on that trajectory.
Downing: The biggest question for the Ravens right now is the passrush department. The defense lost their top pass rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency, and now they're counting on young players to help fill that void. They drafted Odafe Oweh in the first round and he'll have a full plate as a rookie. Oweh's quick adjustment to the NFL game will go a long way in determining the effectiveness of the pass rush this year. Another important young player is third-year outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. The former third-round pick entered the NFL after a decorated college career where he set the NCAA record with 45 career sacks. He has 4.5 sacks over the last two seasons, but now has an opportunity to take on a larger workload. The Ravens were impressed with what they saw from him during offseason practices and he looked to be in great shape.
The Ravens may also not be done adding to the pass rush, and the team has reportedly talked with veteran Justin Houston about a contract. Now even though there are questions about the passrush, the Ravens still have the benefit of a great defensive coordinator calling the shots. Wink Martindale is one of the most aggressive and creative play callers in the game, and he'll find ways to pressure the quarterback. If Oweh and Ferguson can blossom in Martindale's system, then they could quickly alleviate any perceived concerns about this group.