Ravens Offense Ranked Near Middle of the Pack Based on Advanced Metrics
It's been said that the Ravens' offense this season is being patterned after 2019's "revolutionary" run-oriented unit that took the league by storm.
However, not everyone is convinced that Baltimore's 2022 offense will regain juggernaut status or even rank among the top 10.
Using advanced metrics and efficiency stats to rank the offenses of all 32 teams, The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia placed the Ravens at No. 14.
"The Ravens offense has stretches where it appears as though the players have never met before," Kapadia wrote. "The Ravens' passing game struggled against man coverage and against the blitz last year. Among 31 quarterbacks who had at least 100 snaps against the blitz, [Lamar] Jackson ranked 29th in EPA per play. … The wide receiver corps is thin and unproven, and the Ravens have to prove they can find answers to the issues that plagued them last year."
That said, Kapadia said there are reasons to believe in a Ravens rebound.
"Let's try to bring some nuance to the Lamar Jackson conversation and look at how he's actually performed," Kapadia wrote. "If we isolate just passing plays (but still include sacks and scrambles), Jackson ranks 13th out of 40 qualifying quarterbacks in EPA per play over the last three seasons. Throw in Jackson's unmatched running ability, and he's performed like a top-10 quarterback.
"Jackson missed five games last year because of an ankle injury and a non-COVID illness, and the Ravens overall had the most-injured offense in the NFL, according to AGL. Even then, they finished 16th in offensive efficiency. Jackson and the run game give Baltimore a high floor."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley likes Jackson's chances of returning to form.
"Jackson spent the offseason bulking up (adding 11 pounds of lean muscle) and working on his mechanics. The result has been the best training camp of his four-year career," Hensley wrote. "The biggest factor in Jackson rebounding is a rebuilt offensive line. When Baltimore had one of the league's best offensive lines in 2019, Jackson was a unanimous NFL MVP selection."
While the Ravens' offense this season could take a page out of the 2019 unit's book, there also could be new wrinkles.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer said that if last week's win over the Tennessee Titans in the preseason opener is any indication, the Ravens could employ more plays from under center. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Ravens lined up in the shotgun or pistol formation 96 percent of the time last season.
"The Ravens' depth of talent at tight end and fullback — Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely have provided near-daily highlights in camp, and Nick Boyle and Patrick Ricard can be punishing blockers — should force defenses into using bigger, slower personnel groupings," Shaffer wrote. "The field-stretching speed of wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay should stress defenses after the snap. With longer-developing play-action looks from under center, Jackson could have bigger windows to throw into."
The Athletic Projects the Ravens As AFC North Favorites
The Ravens are the favorites to win the AFC North according to The Athletic's Austin Mock, who used his NFL projection model and simulated the season 100,000 times.
The Ravens have a 47.7 percent chance to win the division. The defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals were second at 40.3 percent, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers (7.6 percent) and Cleveland Browns (4.5) percent. Mock's projections were based on quarterback Jacoby Brissett starting all 17 games for the Browns.
The Ravens have a 68.9 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 5 percent chance to win the Super Bowl, 10th-best in the NFL.
If things go right for the Ravens, Mock said Jackson will return to MVP form, the defense will stay healthy and someone not named Andrews or Bateman will produce as a pass-catcher.
It was noted in yesterday’s Late for Work that two ESPN pundits picked the Ravens to win the AFC North.
Chuck Clark Has Been Proving His Worth
Two of the Ravens' biggest offseason additions were at safety with the signing of coveted free agent Marcus Williams and drafting of Kyle Hamilton with the 14th-overall pick. However, returning starter Chuck Clark has been proving his worth in training camp, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said.
"The 27-year-old Clark has had one of the better training camps of his six-year career," Zrebiec wrote. "That continued in Tuesday's practice, with Clark registering at least three pass deflections while often being matched up against All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews. It was his latest business-like performance and came a day after Clark forced two incompletions against Andrews in a one-on-one period. Clark denying a potential completion has become a daily occurrence in camp."
Zrebiec noted that Clark was open to a trade after the additions of Williams and Hamilton, but "Clark certainly hasn't acted publicly like a player who is trying to force a trade."
"He attended voluntary offseason training activities and the mandatory minicamp," Zrebiec wrote. "He's been on the field just about every day of training camp and still appears to be one of the most vocal players on defense. He's constantly talking over things with Williams, Hamilton and other defenders."
Zrebiec said there's been no indication in training camp that Clark will have a reduced role this season, as first-year Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald is expected to aggressively use three-safety looks.
However, Zrebiec added that it's not out of the realm of possibility that Clark could be traded if a team loses a starting safety or isn't happy with its depth at the position and makes the Ravens a suitable offer.
"Clark, though, has shown how valuable he is to the team with the way he's played this summer and how he's handled a potentially awkward situation with the only NFL team he's ever represented," Zrebiec wrote.
Kyle Hamilton Talks Going Viral, Battling Isaiah Likely in One-on-Ones and More
Hamilton recently sat down with The Baltimore Sun’s Ryan McFadden for an interview. Here are some highlights:
How he reacted to going viral on social media after getting beat by receiver Bailey Gaither during one-on-ones: "I mean, it's funny. I woke up the next morning, and my family was like, 'Yo, are you trash at football?' And I was like, 'I don't think so.' And they were like, 'Check Twitter.' I checked Twitter, and it was blowing up. But it was kind of funny how you can become such a big deal for a rep at practice. At this point, people are yearning for moments to talk about. So it's funny to be one of the things to be laughed at."
How he has adjusted to new things he's learned under Macdonald: "I'm getting more comfortable every day. I'm louder, more communicative, talking a lot more, understanding the defense [and] why we are doing it. I still mess up, obviously, but I try to make a good mistake every day. And when I do, I try to focus on what I'm doing wrong and fix it. We have a game in less than a month, so I'm ready for it."
How veterans such as Williams, Clark, Tony Jefferson and Marlon Humphrey have helped him adjust: "They helped me in the film [room] and all that stuff. But the most they've helped me is being a friend. It can be a very stressful time for every rookie. There's a bunch of eyes on me, but I try not to feed into that. The guys are normal. And it almost feels like college when we are sitting down [and] eating. I need that on a day-to-day basis to keep [my] head on straight. So I appreciate them for that."
What it's been like matching up against Likely in one-on-ones: "It's been back and forth. We trade off pretty much, but it's awesome. He's a great tight end. He is different from Mark [Andrews]. But I can tell he's picking up some of Mark's tendencies. He's athletic, has great hands and is deceptive in his route running. He's a tough cover. I think I'm getting great reps against him. Even in my losses, I'm learning something. I'm sure he would say the same thing. It's a good competition."
On having fans attend practices: "It breaks down that celebrity-fan wall, and you get to talk to people and sign a bunch of stuff. I try to sign as many things as possible because I was that kid at some point. It would be kind of sad if Kyle Hamilton walked away from me. But it's been fun."
Rashod Bateman, J.K. Dobbins Among ESPN's 25 Breakout Candidates
Bateman and running back J.K. Dobbins made ESPN's Bill Barnwell's list of 25 breakout candidates for this season.
Barnwell placed Bateman in the "Rotational Player to Solid Starter" category and listed Dobbins among the "Post-Hype Breakouts."
"Bateman is one of the most obvious picks for this year's list, if in part because the Ravens don't have any other options at receiver beyond Mark Andrews," Barnwell wrote. "I'm optimistic about Bateman in Year 2.
"There's always a risk in counting on running backs coming off serious injuries, but Dobbins is a better bet than most of the alternatives. Dobbins tore his left ACL as opposed to his Achilles, and he has had a full year to heal after he went down during training camp last year. … Mark Ingram served as the primary back for the Ravens in 2019 and carried the ball 202 times for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns; those numbers would be an ideal return to form for Dobbins."