Mailbag: Will Ravens Pass More Early This Season?

QB Lamar Jackson

Mink: This is a tough one to predict. For reference, the Ravens led the league in rushing attempts and had the fewest passing attempts last year. I don't think Baltimore's offense will ever be "pass heavy" by traditional standards. But to your question, yes, I do think they could throw the ball "a bit" more early.

The Ravens wanted to establish the passing game early last year (Lamar Jackson averaged 27.6 passing attempts over the first 10 games), but it didn't take off as well as they wanted and Baltimore pivoted to more of its ground-and-pound approach down the stretch to win five straight and make the playoffs (20 passing attempts per game).

I do think the Ravens would like to give their passing attack a lot of reps early this season to try to get a strong footing that they can build upon over the course of the year. With three of the Ravens' first four games against the Raiders, Lions and Broncos, it may be a good time before the divisional foes come down the road. Plus, now without J.K. Dobbins, perhaps Baltimore feels like now is the time to start throwing the ball more.

With all that said, the Ravens are also without top draft pick Rashod Bateman for at least the first three games, Marquise Brown missed almost all of training camp, and Sammy Watkins also sat out for a chunk. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman could either look at that as reason to give them all more opportunities to get in sync and build confidence, or as cause to dial up a more run-heavy attack. At the end of the day, they'll probably be pretty balanced, which is the overall goal.

Downing: Left guard is a position where there is still some mystery entering Week 1. The Ravens rotated several players through that spot over the course of training camp, but due in part to injuries, the competition was still open going into the final preseason game. Ben Powers took most of the first-team reps down the stretch of camp and has starting experience from last season. The Ravens may give him the starting nod to open the season. However, second-year lineman Tyre Phillips is listed as the starting left guard on the Week 1 depth chart. Phillips missed time in camp with injuries, but he's a versatile player who worked at every position other than center during training camp. Phillips started eight games last year as a rookie, and he may remain in the starting lineup as the left guard this year.

Now on to Cleveland. Everyone in Baltimore was excited when the Ravens drafted the Georgia product in the third round this year. He quickly became a fan favorite with his stories of squirrel hunting and imposing physical presence on the field. But it would be surprising to see him open the season as the Week 1 starter. He missed time this summer because of a concussion, and it's a tall order to step right into the starting lineup after dealing with injuries in camp. I still expect Cleveland to earn his way into the starting lineup at some point, but I just don't expect it right away. Keep in mind, that's what happened with Orlando Brown Jr. as a rookie, and once he got into the starting lineup, he never left.

Mink: I think you answered your own question. The Ravens already reportedly worked out Todd Gurley in April. Considering he's a running back with a history of knee issues, the medical evaluation was probably a key part of the visit. The fact that he wasn't brought back may tell you everything you need to know. Even if the knee wasn't a problem, the Ravens clearly saw what they needed to from Gurley.

Downing: Now we're talking! Enough of what I said earlier about Phillips being the starting left guard, just put him in the backfield! Who could forget the carry he had last year after picking up a fumble and rumbling down the field? I still get a smile every time I watch that clip.

Now you probably heard that the Ravens reportedly worked out a handful of veteran running backs this week, including Devonta Freeman and Le'Veon Bell. There's been no official word yet about whether the Ravens plan to sign any of those backs, but if they end up needed a short-yardage back, I'm sure Phillips is ready.

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