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Ravens Bye-Week Checklist

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws a pass during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws a pass during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif.

The Ravens are 9-3 and sitting atop the AFC at the bye. That's an excellent place to be.

With several teams nipping at their heels not only for the top seed, but also still in the division, the Ravens need to keep improving and winning.

Baltimore's coaching staff is working through the week, self-scouting and figuring out what tweaks need to be made to help this team down the stretch.

This isn't their checklist, but here are some areas of focus:

Pass Protection

The Ravens currently rank No. 14 in the NFL in pass blocking efficiency and had a rough night against the Chargers. Despite Lamar Jackson averaging his fourth-quickest time to throw this season (2.62 seconds), he was pressured at his fourth-highest rate (44.4%). The pressure was a major reason why Baltimore went 4-of-13 on third down. While Jackson is the master at escaping pressure with his legs, the Ravens need him feeling comfortable in the pocket for their pass game to flourish.

While every member of the offensive line can improve, the struggles at left tackle have been most surprising and left Jackson's backside vulnerable. Ronnie Stanley is an All-Pro talent and one of the best in the league when healthy. The problem is he's dealt with two knee injuries this season, which may be contributing to his struggles against power rushes. The bye week will help Stanley get healthier, but if he's still having trouble, the Ravens will need solutions.

Sack-strips have been a problem. Jackson had another against the Chargers that the Ravens recovered, but his 11 fumbles are the second-most in the league. That's a concern, especially with some of the best pass rushers remaining on Baltimore's schedule (Jaguars' Josh Allen, 49ers' Nick Bosa and Chase Young, Dolphins' Bradley Chubb, and Steelers' T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith).

Run Defense

The Ravens rank No. 11 in the league in run defense, allowing 102.3 yards per game. That's the most they've allowed since 2020. Their 4.3 yards allowed per carry ranks No. 21 in the league. There have been some games where Baltimore completely shut down the opponent's run game, but it was an issue in two of the Ravens' three losses (vs. Indianapolis and Cleveland).

Baltimore's defense ranks No. 2 in yards allowed per game (273.9), No. 2 in points (15.6), is No. 3 in passing yards (171.7), leads the league in sacks (47), and is tied for seventh in takeaways (19). The run defense has been the only weak spot.

Remaining on the Ravens' schedule are the NFL's top two rushing leaders (49ers' Christian McCaffrey and Dolphins' Raheem Mostert), the Rams' Kyren Williams, who just ran for 143 yards in his first game back from injury, and Jaguars' Travis Etienne Jr., who ranks seventh in rushing yards.

Build Trust Without Mark Andrews

The Ravens have one game under their belt operating without star tight end Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely performed well, leading the Ravens with four catches for 40 yards.

Likely did all his damage catching passes in space and picking up extra yards. But Jackson is going to have to trust him to make some tight contested catches and off-script plays as well. Andrews had earned that trust and connection through time.

"Lamar and I, we had that conversation, and we just talked about just spending more time with guys that can be in those situations to do the things that he and Mark did," Quarterbacks Coach Tee Martin said. "Whether it's Isaiah at tight end, whether it's another wide receiver, he and Zay Flowers and those guys are getting to that point."

The Ravens are still figuring out exactly how they want to deploy Likely, but it goes beyond him.

"We've just got to continue to figure out how we're going to use the other pieces that we do have; that's probably the biggest thing," Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken said.

More Big Plays in the Passing Game

If Baltimore's offense is going to take off, it needs to connect on more deep shots. Jackson and his wide receivers say they hit them in practice, but that hasn't transferred over to games as consistently as the Ravens would like.

Baltimore is ranked ninth in the league in passing plays of 20+ yards, but any Ravens fan who has watched the games knows there's a lot more meat on the bone. Jackson is 10-of-38 with one interception on throws of 20 or more air yards for a -7.7 completion percentage above expectation, per Next Gen Stats.

The Ravens have mostly used Flowers on shorter throws for good reason because he's so good after the catch. But if they're able to hit Flowers and the team's other receivers on more deep attempts, it would open another element to the passing game.

Special Teams Operation

The Ravens have a high standard on special teams, but they rank No. 19 in special teams DVOA. They've had multiple field goals blocked, a punt blocked, a punt return for a touchdown against them, and other issues. In Los Angeles, timing issues contributed to Justin Tucker feeling rushed and missing a 44-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter – a rare miss for arguably the best kicker in NFL history.

Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton said his players are playing hard and executing, but "we just have to find that consistency."

"I just try to remind the guys of what the standard is and what the standard has been," Horton said. "When they understand that, and we continue to show them that, they'll get back to that level of where we want to get to."

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