Matchups That Could Define Ravens Training Camp
The Ravens are a couple weeks away from their preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the meantime, the offense and defense will be squaring off against each other daily at training camp.
The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer identified several matchups that could define Ravens training camp. Here's a look at three:
WR Rashod Bateman vs. CB Marlon Humphrey
"Bateman, who's still recovering from Lisfranc (foot) surgery, was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list Monday. He had soreness in his surgically repaired left foot during minicamp after receiving a cortisone shot and is expected to ramp up his workload in camp. The 2021 first-round pick was one of the stars of training camp last year, winning regularly on the outside, even when matched up against Humphrey. This summer, Bateman's battles with the Ravens' top corner should be a good gauge of his progress and potential. If he can separate as smoothly as he did last year, expectations for the 23-year-old should be high."
LT Ronnie Stanley vs. OLBs Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo
"Expectations in Baltimore are high for Oweh and Ojabo, who've reshaped their bodies since a difficult 2022. Oweh, like Bateman, has to prove that a disappointing sophomore season is behind him — and, maybe more urgently, that exercising his fifth-year option is in the team's best interests. Ojabo, limited as a rookie by his rehab from a torn Achilles tendon, will be pegged for a breakout season if he's as hard to block in camp as he was during OTAs and minicamp. Stanley promises to make that difficult. He allowed just one sack in his 11 games at left tackle last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and enters camp as healthy as he's been since before his 2020 ankle injury."
TE Isaiah Likely vs. S Kyle Hamilton
"As rookies, the two were practically joined at the hip during one-on-one drills. This camp, they could be matched up even more often in team drills. Despite Hamilton's move away from the slot, where he likely would've lined up against tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Zay Flowers, the safety should see plenty of time in the box and around the line of scrimmage. That should bring him back into Likely's orbit. The tight end was a popular target during OTAs and mandatory minicamp, especially on short and intermediate throws. Likely's blocking ability and short-area quickness should test Hamilton, just as Hamilton's length and coverage instincts should test Likely."
Lamar Jackson Ranked Among NFL's Most Clutch Quarterbacks
Lamar Jackson isn't just one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL. He's also one of the league's best clutch quarterbacks.
CBS Sports’ Douglas Clawson ranked the top 10 most clutch starting quarterbacks, and Jackson came in at No 4.
The rankings were based on QB conversion rate on game-tying or go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter and overtime, and expected points added (EPA) per play in those situations. A quarterback's career numbers in the regular season, career in the playoffs, and 2022 performance were weighted evenly.
"Lamar Jackson's electrifying play has yet to translate to the postseason, where he doesn't have much of a sample size, but it has been among the league's best during the regular season," Clawson wrote. "He's converted on 51% of potential game-tying or go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter or overtime of his regular season career. The only current starting QBs with higher rates are Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes.
"He flashed his dual-threat value in clutch situations early in 2021, beating the Chiefs in Week 2 primarily with his legs (two fourth-quarter touchdown runs and sealed game with fourth-down run) and the Colts in Week 5 with his arm (three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and OT of a 19-point comeback win)."
Dawson noted that Jackson's performance in clutch situations dropped off last season, "but that should change in 2023 with a better supporting cast and new offensive coordinator."
Pundits Say Developing Chemistry in New Offense Is Ravens' Biggest Challenge
Speaking of Jackson's better supporting cast (which includes new wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Flowers, and Nelson Agholor) and new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, NFL.com’s Eric Edholm said that developing chemistry and timing quickly with Monken is the Ravens' biggest challenge heading into the season.
"In the end, I'm not too worried about how Monken and QB Lamar Jackson will vibe," Edholm wrote. "Monken has extensive recent experience in the NFL and college football, and he showed steady improvement as the play-caller for a somewhat-flawed Buccaneers offense from 2016 through '18. If healthy, Jackson will be fine.
"But mastering Monken's system takes timing and precision. Monken is expected to vary tempo quite a bit and have some plays called at the line, with Jackson holding the power to make his own calls on the fly. Monken's 2016 Bucs had a fast-paced offense but were guilty of early pre-snap penalties before settling down later that season. The Ravens have three divisional road tests in the first five games, so the acclimation process must be swift. The AFC North looks like a bear this year."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec also said that how quickly the Ravens can pick up Monken's offense is the team's biggest question.
"The Ravens' offense had gotten stale under [Greg] Roman. Still, this is a completely different offense with a new-look receiving corps. It's going to take time for everything to come together," Zrebiec wrote.
Justin Tucker Among 10 Players Who Just Missed Making PFF's Top 50 Players Rankings
Pro Football Focus recently released its rankings of the 50 best players in the league. Now PFF has named 10 players who just missed making the list, and Justin Tucker was one of them.
"You can construct a case that Tucker is one of the best five players in football, but we tend not to because of the can of worms that opens up for somebody who was on the field only 168 times in 2022," PFF's Sam Monson wrote. "Tucker is as good as it gets at his position — and has been for years. The gap between him and the next-best kicker over any extended period of time is as large as it is at any other position, but it's hard to put a player whose role is so limited on a list as exclusive as this over excellent players who log more than five times as many snaps over the season."
Where to put kickers on such lists is a conundrum, but with so many games in the league going down to the wire, it's obvious how valuable Tucker is.
The lone Ravens to make the PFF50 were Jackson (No. 41) and Andrews (No. 49).