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Ravens Give Props to C.J. Stroud, But 'We've Improved Too'

DB Ar'Darius Washington
DB Ar'Darius Washington

The Ravens defense has gone into every game this season with its chest puffed out, confident in its chance to stop anyone. That ain't changing going into the playoffs.

Rookie Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud is cooking, fresh off throwing for 274 yards and three touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns' top-ranked defense in the wild-card round.

When the Ravens faced Stroud in Week 1, he was making his NFL debut. Now he's the youngest quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game.

"He's a pretty good quarterback, can make all the throws," cornerback Brandon Stephens said. "He definitely has a better sense of that offense. But it goes without saying that we have to do our job, make the reads difficult for him, and make it tough for the offense in general."

The Ravens held Stroud to 242 passing yards on 44 attempts. His 5.5 yards per attempt were the second-lowest mark of the season. Baltimore also sacked Stroud five times, the second-most times he went down all year.

After the game, Ravens outside linebacker Odafe Oweh told Stroud he was going to do good things in this league and not to be too discouraged by his Week 1 loss. After all, he was playing the Ravens defense, Oweh said.

Oweh said he sees a calmer, more poised Stroud in the pocket now. Pair that with the strong and accurate arm he came into the league with, and it makes for a tough assignment.

"I feel like they're a whole different team. C.J.'s a whole different QB," Oweh said. "I feel like we matured him and he's been balling ever since. I have a lot of respect for him. In the playoffs, obviously people play harder. So we have to come with a different energy as well."

Stroud finished the regular season with the eighth-most passing yards in the league (4,108) despite missing two games.

What was perhaps most impressive, especially for a rookie, is his lack of mistakes. Stroud threw just five interceptions all season, the fewest of any quarterback who played more than 12 games. The Ravens, who finished tied for the league lead in takeaways (31) hope to change that.

"He's not putting the ball in jeopardy. He's making plays for his guys and being smart with the ball," said safety Geno Stone, whose seven interceptions were the most in the AFC. "They're a different team, but so are we. We made strides as a defense. We have guys back from injuries and guys that we added throughout the year. We're ready for this opportunity."

The Ravens didn't have one of their top pass rushers, Kyle Van Noy, for their Week 1 game. They didn't have starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey either, though he's still dealing with a calf injury this week.

More so, Baltimore's defense has just sharpened overall. Stone said they had some Week 1 jitters to work out. Now, the Ravens defense has put the clamps on some of the best offenses in the league and is looking to prove itself once again after the bye – just in case people forgot.

"I think they're definitely improved, but so are we when you look at it," linebacker Roquan Smith said before giving props to Stoud, wide receiver Nico Collins, and running back Devin Singletary.

"The offense is definitely clicking, but we wouldn't want it any other way. We're prepared for it, and we're ready to go to war regardless of who it's against, and they're the team that's coming in here. Business is is business handled."

Lamar Jackson Feels Confident Ravens Will Be Ready for Playoffs

Having not played in a game since New Year's Eve, Lamar Jackson is still "antsy" to suit up for Saturday's divisional round matchup against the Texans.

The Ravens won the last six regular season games that Jackson started, capturing the No. 1 seed and allowing many of their starters to sit out Week 18 against the Steelers. Jackson was grateful for the rest, but he's ready to get his postseason run started.

"We got some time off to regroup and lock back in," Jackson said. "(I'm) hyped. I'm antsy."

Jackson loved how the Ravens built momentum in November and December, dominating playoff teams such as the Dolphins and 49ers in route to the NFL's best record (13-4). Jackson believes the Ravens can recapture their rhythm quickly and overcome any potential rust after their bye.

"That's the thing about that bye week," Jackson said. "I was like 'Dang.' I believe we were getting into a groove, more and more dialed in. It is what it is. (Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh still made us practice like we were preparing for a game. I believe we will still be ready."

Jackson was a man of few words Tuesday. He just wants to play.

Asked whether he feels more prepared the playoffs this year than years past, when he's gone 1-3, Jackson said, "Yes, I believe so."

Asked about his confidence that the Ravens can score enough points to win in the playoffs, he said, "[I'm] very confident. Very, very confident. Extremely confident."

Ravens Plan Outdoor Practice on Wednesday

The Ravens practiced inside on Tuesday after Monday's snow covered their outdoor field with ice.

Harbaugh said the team plans to practice outside on Wednesday as they prepare for Saturday's game. The temperature at gametime is expected to be in the mid-20's and the Ravens feel well prepared to deal with the frigid temperature.

"We practiced in it the last couple of weeks," Harbaugh said. "It was pretty cold the last couple of weeks, a lot of wind so that's been good for us. I really feel we'll be able to get out there tomorrow (Wednesday). The field was frozen today (Tuesday)."

Jackson, a South Florida native, said he's not worried about the weekend weather.

"I am ready for whatever right now," Jackson said.

Harbaugh on Damarion "Pepe" Williams Being Placed on Injured Reserve

Injuries kept second-year cornerback Damarion "Pepe" Williams from having the season he hoped for, and he was placed back on injured reserve Monday with an ankle injury. After appearing in 14 games as a rookie, Williams had off-season ankle surgery and played in just one game this season. He played 19 special teams snaps in the season finale against the Steelers.

"I won't get into the medical details of it, but it wasn't there," Harbaugh said. "It just wasn't there, as far as being ready to get out there and be safe and play at that level. [Pepe] did everything he could do, and he'll be back next year, but it just wasn't there right now."

In Tuesday roster moves, defensive back Christian Matthew of Valdosta State was signed as a practice squad exception. Defensive back Jeremy Lucien was terminated from the practice squad.

The 27-year-old Matthew was a seventh-round pick by the Cardinals in 2022 and spent this season with Arizona and the Bears on their respective practice squads.

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