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Late for Work 6/28: Ravens' Offensive Weapons Ranked Last in AFC North

From left: RB Keaton Mitchell, QB Lamar Jackson
From left: RB Keaton Mitchell, QB Lamar Jackson

Ravens' Offensive Weapons Ranked Last in AFC North, No. 15 Overall

Lamar Jackson will head to training camp next month with the best set of weapons he's had since entering the league in 2018. However, while Baltimore has plenty of optimism regarding Jackson's supporting cast, one national pundit isn't so high on Jackson's targets.

ESPN's Bill Barnwell looked at the offensive playmakers (running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends) for all 32 teams and ranked them. The Ravens landed at No. 15.

That's a significant jump from the Ravens' No. 25 ranking last year, but Jackson's weapons are still ranked last in the AFC North. Barnwell's cited injury history as the justification for the Ravens' placement.

Barnwell based his rankings on a team's top five contributors, with wide receivers weighted more heavily than running backs or tight ends.

"Welcome to the most difficult set of playmakers to rank on this list," Barnwell wrote about the Ravens. "On paper, the Ravens have a team that should comfortably be in the top 10. J.K. Dobbins has averaged just under 6 yards per carry as a pro. Rashod Bateman ranked sixth in the NFL in yards per route run over the first eight weeks of 2022. Odell Beckham Jr. was last seen putting together a 288-yard stretch over 3½ games as the Rams won the Super Bowl. Zay Flowers was a force at Boston College and might be the best wideout in the 2023 draft class. Mark Andrews has ranked in the top five among tight ends in fantasy points in each of the past four seasons.

"And yet, outside of Andrews, can we count on any of those players? Dobbins missed all of 2021 and chunks of 2022 recovering from a knee injury; he has played more than 50% of the offensive snaps in a game just eight times over three seasons. Backup Gus Edwards missed all of 2021 and eight games a year ago. Beckham didn't play in 2022 while recovering from a torn ACL, while Bateman was sidelined by a Lisfranc injury and needed a cortisone shot during OTAs. This depth chart looks great on paper, but what are the chances the Ravens get anything close to full seasons from everyone involved?"

Barnwell noted that the Ravens do have more depth than most at wide receiver. Baltimore currently has five first-round wide receivers on the roster (Beckham, Bateman, Flowers, Nelson Agholor, and Laquon Treadwell). The Ravens also have a loaded tight end corps beyond Andrews.

"Nelson Agholor was miscast as a starter with the Patriots, but he's an above-average fourth wideout, especially if the Ravens return him to the field-stretcher role in which he excelled with the Raiders," Barnwell wrote. "Isaiah Likely was impressive as a receiving tight end in his rookie campaign, earning targets at the league's sixth-highest rate among those at the position with 100 or more routes. He will afford the team more flexibility in resting Andrews when new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken chooses to go with a single tight end."

As for the other AFC North teams, the Cincinnati Bengals were ranked No. 2, followed by the Cleveland Browns (No. 12) and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 13).

Brian Baldinger: Building Chemistry Is Biggest Challenge Facing Ravens Offense

With an influx of new receivers as well as a new coordinator, the biggest challenge facing the Ravens offense is building chemistry, NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger said.

"[Jackson] has to find the guys that he trusts, whether it's OBJ or Zay Flowers, there's gonna be somebody that he's going to trust in the red zone, third down, you need a play, this is where the ball's going," Baldinger said. "And that sometimes takes games. It might take September, it might take into October.

"We've seen all the names. That's great. Now you've got to find the chemistry that has to get created in the next couple months."

During minicamp earlier this month, Beckham said that he and Jackson are planning to train together prior to the start of training camp in late July.

"Chemistry is going to develop over time. I know I'll be down in Florida training with him, so we'll have plenty of time," Beckham said. "It's not something that I'm worried about."

Looking at the Ravens' Best Offseason Move

The Athletic's NFL beat writers selected the best offseason move for the team they cover, and Jeff Zrebiec's choice was exactly what you think it would be.

While signing Beckham and hiring Monken were big moves, none was bigger than inking Jackson to a five-year, $260 million contract extension.

"The contract stalemate between former league MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens persisted for more than a year and challenged the organization on many fronts. It was critically important for the Ravens to find a resolution," Zrebiec wrote. "This offseason, the Ravens upgraded their wide receiver corps, added depth in several positions and welcomed a number of key players back from injuries. None of that would have mattered had the Ravens not secured Jackson's future in Baltimore. As long as the Ravens have a healthy Jackson, they should be a legitimate threat in the AFC."

Sleeper Candidates to Make the 53-Man Roster

The Ravens have one of the deepest rosters in the league, with only a handful of spots on the 53-man roster up for grabs.

Ebony Bird’s Parker Hurley identified several players who are sleepers to secure a spot on the team. Here's a look at three of them:

DL Trey Botts

"Trey Botts is a UDFA from Colorado State-Pueblo. … When you look at his measurables and his draft profile, there is enough to get interested in. Still, the reason he can make this roster comes almost solely down to the depth chart and roster mechanics. The Baltimore Ravens usually keep six defensive linemen. … If you look at the Ravens' roster, they have five locks. Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Travis Jones, Michael Pierce, and Brent Urban will make the roster, barring anything off-the-grid happening. So, who will be the sixth man?"

RB Keaton Mitchell

"One of the more exciting UDFA rookie additions was Keaton Mitchell from East Carolina. Most thought Mitchell would get drafted after he blazed his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. … J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards should be holding things down, but they are both coming off of down 2022 seasons, and that is because 2021 was an injury season. Both of them have their questions. … Justice Hill will be ahead of Mitchell, mainly due to special teams and blocking. Still, Mitchell could also quickly prove to be the better runner. Even if Mitchell does not win the No. 3 job, most teams will keep a fourth running back. Even if the full-back is a fourth, like Patrick Ricard, teams can keep five."

CB Daryl Worley

"One name who is being completely forgotten about is Daryl Worley. That is easy to understand why, especially when the most action he got last year was week 18 against the Bengals. Still, he was on the roster last year, he was active for the playoff game, and now he is back. Most have him outside the roster, but there is definitely a case for him. …There are a lot of names in front of Worley on the pecking order, but all of them have plenty of questions as well. Worley is the least talked about because he is older and the last one to be added to the group, but he could end up being a fifth cornerback on the roster."

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