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Late for Work: One Pundit Says Ravens Are Overrated, Another Says They're Among Most Improved

QB Lamar Jackson (left) & RB Derrick Henry (right)
QB Lamar Jackson (left) & RB Derrick Henry (right)

One Pundit Says Ravens Are Overrated, Another Says They're Among Most Improved

After posting the best record in the NFL last season and coming within one game of reaching the Super Bowl, did the Ravens get better this offseason, or have they taken a step back?

It depends on who you ask.

The Athletic's Mike Jones said the Ravens are a candidate to be one of the league's most overrated teams.

"After falling short in the AFC Championship Game, the Ravens crave a Super Bowl run more than ever," Jones wrote. "They still have MVP Lamar Jackson leading the way, and the addition of workhorse back Derrick Henry should help ease pressure on the quarterback. But is it realistic to expect the Ravens to just pick up where they left off considering the loss of Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, several other top assistants, multiple linebackers and most of their secondary? Baltimore also lost three starters on the offensive line. A rigorous opening stretch plus potential growing pains could put the Ravens in an early hole."

Conversely, ESPN's Marcus Spears named the Ravens one of the five most improved teams this offseason, largely because of Henry.

"I know they had some guys leave, but Derrick Henry was enough for me to put them in the top five," Spears said. "If [Offensive Coordinator] Todd Monken does what the Ravens do best and are physical at the line of scrimmage when they get in the playoffs, because they are getting in the playoffs, Derrick Henry may end up being the guy that we have conversations about being potentially league MVP, and then especially when we get in the playoffs, being able to carry a load for the Baltimore Ravens that could walk them into the Super Bowl."

ESPN's Kevin Clark said that even though the AFC is loaded with talented teams, the Ravens are still a Super Bowl contender because of Jackson.

"With Lamar, I just don't think this is a short-term thing. I think he's going to be good like this for four or five years at least," Clark said on the “3 and Out” podcast.

Ravens Roster Ranked Top Three in NFL

One thing most pundits agree on about the Ravens is that they have one of the best rosters in the league.

ESPN analysts put Baltimore at No. 3 in their roster rankings, behind the San Francisco 49ers (No. 1) and Kansas City Chiefs (No. 2).

Here's how they broke down the Ravens' roster:

Biggest strength: "Safety. I could've easily gone with quarterback or tight end here, but safety gets the nod after Kyle Hamilton emerged as a superstar last season. The 2022 first-round pick was the only player in the league to reach 80 tackles, 4 INTs and 3.0 sacks (one of only seven to do it over the past decade), which landed him first-team All-Pro honors. He's joined in the defensive backfield by Marcus Williams, who sits eighth among safeties in INTs (20) and seventh in passes defended (54) since entering the league in 2017." — Mike Clay

Biggest weakness: "Guard. John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler departed during the offseason after handling 93.4% of Baltimore's guard snaps in 2023. The team did very little to replace the duo, with the likes of 2023 backup Ben Cleveland, journeyman newcomer Josh Jones and 2023-24 late-round draft picks Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Andrew Vorhees the top candidates to start. This is arguably the league's shakiest guard situation." — Clay

X factor for 2024: "Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr. He has big shoes to fill after Mike Macdonald left to become the Seattle head coach. Macdonald got the most out of the Baltimore defense, a group that allowed minus-0.1 EPA per play last season, the second-best mark of any team despite lacking an elite pass-rusher and getting only 10 games from Marlon Humphrey. Defense was Baltimore's better unit last year — will it be again?"— Seth Walder

Nonstarter to know: "Edge rusher David Ojabo. Given the age of Kyle Van Noy (33) and the shaky health track record of Odafe Oweh, the Ravens are going to need to get something out of Ojabo, their 2022 second-round pick. So far, Ojabo has played just five NFL games due to injuries, but he had a quality SackSEER rating of 79.3% when we projected him coming out of Michigan. Coach John Harbaugh is behind him: 'I think David is just gonna break out,'he told reporters in March." — Aaron Schatz

Ronnie Stanley Discusses Why He Agreed to Take Pay Cut, His Future With Ravens

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was interviewed recently by The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Watching you on the field for organized team activities and minicamp, it seems like this is the most fun you've ever had being out there for practice. Is that a good read on it?

"I would just say I've been feeling more like myself than I have in previous years. For the most part, just to be able to feel like myself physically has made me a lot happier. I guess being in that state when I was younger, it wasn't as savory as a moment or savory as a time, just knowing that, 'OK, your career could have been over after one play,' and not knowing if I was ever going to feel like that again physically or athletically. To truly feel like that and be out there and just notice myself getting better every day and feeling more like my old self every day, it definitely makes me happy."

How hard has it been to have to deal with the scrutiny from the media and fans about missing so many games (36 over the past four seasons)?

"It's been very tough, especially since — and I don't expect this from anybody — but nobody really knows the full story of everything. For people to just kind of base their thoughts off assumptions or whatever the case might be, it's definitely been hard. I just remind myself that people only know as much as they're told."

You've said that you didn't play up to your standard last season. How tough was that to accept?

"I didn't feel that sense of growth where I knew I was taking steps forward every day or I could pinpoint something and focus on that and know this is the problem, this is where the issue lies. It was a guessing game almost. I couldn't really hone in on what I really wanted it to feel like, and that was frustrating."

You missed four games last season, but you never felt like yourself the entire year?

"Definitely not, especially coming off that knee injury from Week 1. I was pushing myself to play earlier than what the injury was healing at. I just felt bad for missing so much time in general. I didn't want to miss any more time. It wasn't something that was necessarily smart, but I felt like it was something I wanted to push through. It definitely caused more challenges."

There was a lot made about the pay alteration that you took this offseason. Why were you open to that?

"I just wouldn't have personally felt good about leaving Baltimore on that note. I want to play here my whole career, but even if I'm saying I'll play one more year for a lot less, it's because, if this is my last year, I want to go out on a high note. I want to play at the level that I know I can play at. The time that I missed, it would be something that I would have regretted. It would be something that I would think about when I'm older."

Do you look at this season like it could be critical in determining your future? It doesn't sound like you are looking at this like it potentially could be your last season.

"No, 100 percent, I want to keep playing. There's no doubt in my mind. For personal reasons, I view it as a (key) year. I want to personally refuse to have a year like last year. But there could be three more years on my deal and I'd still feel the same. It's not because it's the last year on my deal. It's more because as a competitor, I don't like not playing to my capability."

Analyst Compares Rookie Rasheen Ali to Raheem Mostert

The Ravens have an outstanding trio of running backs in Henry, Keaton Mitchell, and Justice Hill, but CBS Sports analyst Emory Hunt said not to sleep on rookie Rasheen Ali.

Hunt compared the fifth-round pick out of Marshall to Miami Dolphins Pro Bowler (and former Raven) Raheem Mostert.

"He reminds me so much of Raheem Moster in how if the lane is there and he hits it, it's a wrap, he's gone," Emory said on the “Ross Tucker” podcast. "It fits what they want in the backfield coming off zone-read action, or that play action, or that run action where you have to worry about the backside door with Lamar Jackson, and Ali's going to see advantageous boxes, and he has the explosiveness to really hit it. So that was a really good selection for them."

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