Two National Pundits Say Ravens Are Primed to Rebound
As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, the Ravens were described as the NFL's biggest boom-or-bust team by a Bleacher Report writer.
NBC Sports’ Peter King and NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal are banking on boom.
King said the healthy return of a number of key players and the addition of a highly touted draft class will have the Ravens back in contention after their once-promising 2021 season was derailed by an unreal amount of injuries.
"All who would say, Baltimore's in decline, Greg Roman's a dinosaur coordinator, the defense doesn't have a dominator on the front seven, who knows about the future of Lamar Jackson, I hear you," wrote King, who placed the Ravens at No. 8 in his power rankings. "But I look at the Ravens this way: They won 12 in 2020, they beat Tennessee on the road in the playoffs, and they got murdered by injuries last year. That counts.
"I say they're back, and I say they'll challenge the Bengals for the division. Week 18, by the way: Ravens at Bengals. Game 272? Don't bet against it."
Rosenthal said he expects the Ravens to get back to the smashmouth brand of football that has been their trademark.
"Remember those first five games last season, when Lamar Jackson threw the ball all over the field? That's not how this team is set up to operate," Rosenthal wrote. "There is something funny about one of the most analytic-minded organizations being set up so well to run and stop the run.
"After one of the worst seasons of injury luck ever, the Ravens are primed to rebound."
Rosenthal added: "The offensive line looks very strong and ready to be among the best run-blocking units in football with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards supporting Jackson. The addition of center Tyler Linderbaum figures to mean more zone concepts for the Ravens, as if their running game needed to be any more versatile."
King said the biggest issue facing the Ravens is the hole at wide receiver where Marquise "Hollywood" Brown was. Rosenthal also cited wide receiver as a concern, but he feels the Ravens have a player on the roster who can fill Brown's role.
"I like Devin Duvernay and suspect the Ravens believe he can replace a lot of what Marquise Brown could do," Rosenthal wrote. "But this wideout group remains too thin and will almost certainly add a veteran like Will Fuller or Julio Jones."
Jason La Canfora: Breakout Candidate Rashod Bateman Could Have Double-Digit Touchdown Totals
One player not mentioned by either King or Rosenthal who is expected to make a significant impact is Rashod Bateman.
The second-year wide receiver is one of six NFL players poised for a breakout season, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
"He is in position to be the lead dog of this receiving group by a large margin," La Canfora wrote. "Trading Hollywood Brown will prove to be addition by subtraction in part because of Bateman's superior frame, hands, strength and catch radius. Lamar Jackson does his best work with bigger targets and Bateman will have every chance to shine in the red zone. Even if Baltimore does lean back into more 13 personnel (like they did in Jackson's MVP season of 2019), this kid will be on the field in all critical situations. Don't get caught up in the yardage (the Ravens will run the ball more than anyone else); I could see double-digit TD totals."
To put that in context, no Ravens wide receiver has had double-digits in touchdown catches since 2014 (Torrey Smith, 11).
Bateman told teammate Marlon Humphrey on "Studio 44" that it’s his time.
"I feel like Baltimore drafted me for a reason. They drafted me to be in this position," Bateman said. "For me, all I've been waiting on is the opportunity. I know what I'm capable of, I feel like the Ravens organization knows what I'm capable of. I'm just excited to go out and finally show it to the fans and especially to my teammates, for sure."
Reaction to Ravens Agreeing to Terms With Kyle Fuller
The Ravens added experience and depth at cornerback yesterday by agreeing to terms with Baltimore native Kyle Fuller on a one-year deal.
Here's a sample of what media members are saying about the move:
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "He should fit in well. While the Ravens clearly needed veteran cornerback depth with Anthony Averett, Tavon Young and Chris Westry all having departed this offseason, they didn't necessarily need a three-down guy. The Ravens have former All-Pros Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters for that. Fuller, who can play both the slot and outside, just gives them another option and his experience should help, too. First-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald can mix and match around Humphrey and Peters, using guys like Fuller, Brandon Stephens, Ar'Darius Washington and Kevon Seymour. The Ravens also won't have to put too much too soon on the shoulders of rookie fourth-round picks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams."
Russell Street Report’s Chris Schisler: "At worst, signing Fuller adds to the Ravens' depth at this position. The best-case scenario is that Fuller revitalizes his career and becomes an extra takeaway artist for the secondary. … While tempering your expectations to a reasonable level is a good idea, it's also important to remember that Fuller isn't washed up. He's 30 years old, just one year older than Peters. Fuller has football left in the tank, and this will only be his eighth year in the league. Gaining a player who is seasoned by a strong NFL career is a luxury for a team signing what is essentially their No. 3 cornerback."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko: "This is exactly the type of signing the Ravens needed to make. They've already invested quite a bit in the secondary this offseason, but their depth at cornerback was still a point of concern. Kyle Fuller may be a bit past his prime, but he's still plenty capable of providing solid play and brings inside-outside versatility to the cornerback room. Between Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Brandon Stephens, a pair of fourth-round rookies and now Fuller the Ravens have a strong cornerback depth chart. Add in a deep and talented group of safeties, and the league's best secondary may just reside in Baltimore."
Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich: "Fuller, 30, will be the perfect complement to Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. And with both Peters and Humphrey returning from season-ending injuries, Fuller will be a proven player in the secondary. … Fuller, who made the Pro Bowl 2018 and 2019, will also serve as a role model to rookie fourth-round picks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams, who will need time to adjust to the speed of the NFL."
Lamar Jackson Snubbed From List of Tier 1 Quarterbacks
One would think that being the second unanimous MVP in league history and owning a .755 winning percentage would guarantee Jackson's inclusion on a list of top-tier quarterbacks.
However, former NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum of The 33rd Team did not have Jackson in the top tier of his seven-tiered quarterback rankings. Tannenbaum placed Jackson in Tier 2 along with Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson.
Tannenbaum's Tier 1 quarterbacks were: Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady and Joe Burrow.
Tannenbaum defined a Tier 1 quarterback as "franchise starting QBs who can/will win you playoff games and potentially the Super Bowl. These are players that can compete at the highest level every week by limiting mistakes, making big time throws, and being able to win on all levels of the field. … The key characteristics of all these players is elevating the talent around them, and not only [not] losing games, but winning ones as well."
In other words, Lamar Jackson.