Ravens Considered Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders
Days before training camp begins, pundits are back to buying stock in the Ravens with Dan Orlovsky leading the charge.
Orlovsky joined the Pat McAfee Show Friday and gave high praise for the Ravens, calling them "legitimate Super Bowl contenders."
"I would tell you this in regard to Lamar and Baltimore," Orlovsky said. "They were through Week 12 last year, the No. 1 seed in the AFC and he was the MVP of the National Football League and that was with historic injury loss on their football team. So, to think that they aren't going to be equally as good or as dangerous as anybody in the AFC, and he's not going to be in the MVP conversation is outrageous."
Joining Orlovsky in believing the Ravens will bounce back is Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager.
"New season, new team. Last year? Let's give it a mulligan," Schrager said. "… Don't forget about the Ravens. This is a team that has Lamar Jackson going into a big season contract-wise and a bunch of guys that want to prove that last year was aberration. It's not what they are."
Along with Orlovsky and Schrager is The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, who sees Jackson rejoining the MVP conversation.
"As long as Lamar Jackson stays reasonably healthy in 2022, there's really no other answer," Zrebiec wrote. "Jackson is said to have worked extremely hard this offseason on his fundamentals and those who know him best expect him to have a major bounce-back year. It certainly should help him that the Ravens solidified their offensive line this offseason and figure to be much healthier on the offensive side of the ball."
As Zrebiec mentions health being a factor, so too did Orlovsky, though he sees it as the only roadblock between the Ravens and a possible championship.
"If they stay healthy and [Jackson] plays remotely close to the way he did with the supporting cast around him, they very much so could win the whole thing," Orlovsky said. "I think they're that good. I think he's that talented and I think he's that competitive."
Where Intrigue Lies Ahead of Training Camp
Multiple positions and players of intrigue are on the horizon with training camp practices kicking off Wednesday. According to Zrebiec, the most intriguing is rookie safety Kyle Hamilton and his role in Year 1.
"To me, the Ravens' most intriguing position question is how rookie first-round safety Kyle Hamilton enters the starting mix," Zrebiec wrote. "I'm taking liberties here because the Ravens and new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will likely lean heavily on three-safety looks, so this isn't necessarily an either/or situation between Hamilton and veteran Chuck Clark for the right to play alongside high-priced offseason acquisition Marcus Williams. There are plenty of snaps available for both players. However, Clark is a three-year starter, the defensive signal caller and a well-respected team leader. If Hamilton plays so well this summer that Macdonald decides he absolutely can't come off the field, that could cut into Clark's snaps and that would be notable."
Along with Zrebiec, The Athletic's Zac Jackson is also paying attention to Hamilton in training camp.
"I'll say Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton," Jackson wrote. "I think he has star potential and could be an impact player immediately."
While some will be watching Hamilton's progression, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley calls the left guard competition "the most compelling position battle."
"The job is certainly wide open," Hensley wrote. "Four linemen are battling for this spot: Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, Ben Cleveland or Patrick Mekari. Last season, Phillips, Powers and Cleveland all started games at left [guard]. At this point, Phillips and Powers, who have combined for 32 career starts, are looking like the front-runners heading into camp."
Three Ravens Land on Top 101 List
The Ravens have had their fair share of snubs on top player lists recently, but three Ravens, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams and Jackson, were featured on Touchdownwire’s Doug Farrar and Mark Schofield's Top 101 players list.
99. Marlon Humphrey
"Humphrey's versatility [is] a reason for his inclusion," Farrar wrote. "Humphrey stands out both on the boundary, as well as for the work that he does in the slot. Humphrey's physical style of play, as well as his recovery skills, make him a solid option for the Ravens along the boundary. Humphrey might also be suited for inclusion on the slot defenders list, but given that he has spent more time on the outside recently, he pops up here for the work he has done along the outside."
This isn't the first time Humphrey's skill in the slot have been called superior to his play as an outside cornerback. In early June, PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote Humphrey "would claim the top spot" on their slot cornerback list, but ranked No. 9 as an outside cornerback.
86. Marcus Williams
"But in 2021, few deep safeties were better," Farrar wrote. "Williams allowed eight completions on 16 targets for 112 yards, 29 yards after the catch, two interceptions, one touchdown, and that opponent passer rating of 54.2. The Ravens obviously aren't too concerned about the year-to-year variance, and with box safety Chuck Clark and first-round do-it-all rookie Kyle Hamilton on board, Baltimore may have the NFL's best and most interesting three-safety group. That's a big deal in an era where all kinds of coverages make up the norm."
67. Lamar Jackson
"I think two things are true about Jackson's 2021 campaign," Farrar wrote. "First, during the first two months of the season, he was playing at a near-MVP level. Second, the rest of the way was a struggle as he, and the Baltimore Ravens, dealt with mounting injuries. Now perhaps that second half of the season is what has led some to leave Jackson off similar lists, wonder if regression has set in, and question whether the Ravens would be wise to give him a long-term contract extension. But in my view, that ignores what we saw from Jackson at the start of the year, which was a complete NFL quarterback who was punishing defenses in a variety of ways…With the questions looming, 2022 could be a pivotal year for Jackson. But questions are nothing new for the young passer, as he has dealt with them since his draft evaluation process. Given how he responded to those, I would bet on a big year ahead from Jackson."
Pundit Casts Doubt on Devin Duvernay
Scrutiny has been cast on the wide receiver group all offseason and before a single regular season snap has occurred, pundits are already naming players they're doubting. For Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay, they're low on wide receiver Devin Duvernay.
"While Duvernay has proven himself to be an elite return man—evidenced by his Pro Bowl nod in 2021—he only has 53 career receptions for 473 yards and a pair of touchdowns since entering the league in 2020," Kay wrote. "Although Duvernay is confident he can thrive with an expanded workload, the Baltimore passing offense will be set back by a lack of battle-tested wideouts on the roster.
"Duvernay being on any sort of 'bust' list is surprising," Oestreicher wrote. "The former Texas star has shown plenty of flashes as a wideout in limited opportunities. With an increased role, Duvernay can use his speed to his advantage as he takes on a bigger role within the Baltimore offense."
"Duvernay could become a major factor in the Ravens' offense, thus making him a hidden gem on this roster," Vitale wrote. "He has the speed necessary to be a solid deep threat for Baltimore, making him an exciting pass option for Lamar Jackson. Devin Duvernay can stretch the field, which should result in some big plays throughout the season. As long as the Ravens dial him up, there is no reason to believe he can't play a starting wide receiver role in the NFL."