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Late for Work: How Ravens Can Avoid Being Upset by Upstart Texans

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

How Ravens Can Avoid Being Upset by Upstart Texans

The "Good Morning Football" crew discussed the Ravens' early exits from the postseason over the past five years and what the team needs to do to thwart the Houston Texans' upset bid in Saturday's divisional round game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Kyle Brandt said the key for the Ravens is to get off to a good start. He pointed out that in Lamar Jackson's four playoff games, the Ravens have not scored a single point in the first quarter. They also were held scoreless in the first quarter in last season's playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals when Tyler Huntley started in place of an injured Jackson.

"We need an early score from Baltimore," Brandt said. "If you let Houston hang, you let Houston believe, and the repeating factor is gonna happen again. Get out of the gate. Give me three points in the first quarter and it'll be progress."

Jason McCourty said the Ravens' recent lack of postseason success doesn't apply to the current team because the offense is more balanced and Jackson has more weapons in the passing game.

"This year, Todd Monken comes in as offensive coordinator, [Jackson] has weapons around him aplenty," McCourty said. "We're watching Lamar just operate and just chill in the pocket. No rush, not scrambling around — yes he still has those attributes and we still see those plays and we're dazzled by them, but for a lot of this season we've watched him sit there and find guys like Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, Isaiah Likely, and Mark Andrews. Just dicing them up and making throws from the pocket."

McCourty's point about the offense should ease Brandt's concern about the Ravens getting off to a slow start. Even if they do fall behind early, they are better equipped than in years past to come from behind.

Peter Schrager said it's imperative that the Ravens not take the Texans lightly.

"We're never going to all be back together and we're not gonna have the opportunity to do this. Let's not take this first one for granted," Schrager said.

I don't believe there's any chance of that happening. The Ravens have been reminded ad nauseam about the 2019 team's stunning loss to the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round. Like the 2023 Ravens, that team was the No. 1 seed and heavily favored over their AFC South opponent.

Nine players remain from that team, including Jackson, and none of them have forgotten it.

Maurice Jones-Drew Urges Ravens to Sign Derrick Henry and Re-Sign Gus Edwards analyst and former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew came up with ideal team fits for 10 notable 2024 free agent running backs. Baltimore was the destination for two players on his list.

Four-time Pro Bowler Derrick Henry was linked to the Ravens at the trade deadline this season but he stayed with the Titans. Jones-Drew said the Ravens should make it happen this offseason.

"J.K. Dobbins (on injured reserve with a torn Achilles) and Gus Edwards (the 2023 team leader in carries and rush TDs) are set to hit free agency this offseason, while Keaton Mitchell (on IR with a torn ACL) and Justice Hill remain under contract in 2024. But as I wrote back in November, I would love to see 'King Henry' lining up in the backfield with Lamar Jackson in Baltimore," Jones-Drew wrote. "With Baltimore operating a downhill run game at the center of its offense, the veteran back would fit perfectly as a physical north-south rusher who's still capable of breaking a big gain even at 30 years old.

"With five 1,000-yard rushing campaigns in his last six seasons, Henry's presence would elevate the unit and make it even more of a pick-your-poison attack than it already has been in 2023 with Jackson's improvement as a passer. This fit makes too much sense."

Henry said during an appearance on the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast this week that he was close to being traded to an AFC contender before the deadline (he declined to name the team). He went on to say that he feels his time with the Titans is likely over and he wants to play for a Super Bowl contender.

The other player Jones-Drew believes the Ravens should re-sign is Edwards.

"Edwards was thrust into the lineup as the starter early in 2023, with J.K. Dobbins sustaining another season-ending injury. Edwards fits Baltimore's downhill rushing style and has produced his career-best campaign this season," Jones-Drew wrote. "Baltimore loves running backs, so just because I already paired Derrick Henry with the Ravens, that wouldn't necessarily preclude them from bringing back Edwards, who scored 13 rushing touchdowns for the league's No. 1 rushing attack in 2023. It would be a low-end deal for Edwards, but as we know, the fit is great."

Pro Football Focus Says Ravens Should Bring Back Beckham

Speaking of free agents, Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness identified one free agent each team should pursue in the offseason. For the Ravens, McGuinness said they should re-sign Beckham.

"The Ravens' wide receiver room took a huge step forward this season. There is still uncertainty at the position, though, due to Beckham's pending free agency and the looming fifth-year option decision for Rashod Bateman." McGuinness wrote. "Bringing back Beckham as the passing attack's third receiver behind Zay Flowers and tight end Mark Andrews would make sense, with Beckham's 2.28 yards per route run since Week 6 ranking 12th among all wide receivers to see 50 or more targets."

Beckham, who signed a one-year deal reportedly worth $15 million this past offseason, has made a positive impact on the Ravens both on the field and in the locker room. During his recent appearance on teammate Marlon Humphrey’s podcast, Beckham said: "If we finish what we need to do, I don't think I'd really want to be anywhere else."

Should Ravens Pick Up Fifth-Year Options on Bateman, Odafe Oweh? analyst Marc Ross looked at which 2021 first-round picks should have their fifth-year options picked up.

The Ravens had two first-round picks that year: Bateman at No. 27 and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh at No. 31. Ross believes the team should exercise the option on both.

"Bateman has splashed at times, but hasn't been the consistent No. 1 receiver Baltimore envisioned when it took him in the first round. However, with Zay Flowers in the building, there's less pressure on Bateman, who has also struggled to stay healthy, to be The Guy," Ross wrote. "I've seen some positive things from Bateman this season, but he may need to make a good impression in the postseason before the final decision is made.

"Oweh has steadily come along in Baltimore, posting five sacks and a pair of forced fumbles in 13 games this season. Pass rushers produce in waves for the Ravens, and this athletic edge could be the next guy to become more of a focal point."

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