Ravens Named NFL's Biggest Boom-or-Bust Team
Coming off a season in which they just missed the playoffs despite being ravaged by injuries, the Ravens appear poised to bounce back in 2022.
Not so fast, Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton said. Wharton believes no team in the NFL has more boom-or-bust potential this season than the Ravens.
"Baltimore finished 8-9 in 2021 despite losing five games of Lamar Jackson, a full season from several other impact players, and a breakout year from Cincinnati," Wharton wrote. "It might be easy to do the math of reintegrating those talented players and project a healthy year from Jackson, but the NFL doesn't work like that."
Wharton identified three factors that could determine if the Ravens miss the playoffs for the second year in a row or re-establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders:
Greg Roman's offense
"Some of [the Ravens' regression on offense last season] was due to the personnel. Nonetheless, Roman failed to build a creative passing game that elevated the receivers above their talent level or evolved the rushing game beyond read-option looks that never threatened the defense. Baltimore has entrusted their offensive identity to Roman once again in 2022 after retooling the personnel. The good news is the offensive line should be much better. Getting [left tackle] Ronnie Stanley back is massive, and the addition of right tackle Morgan Moses provides stability and much-improved pass protection. Joining them will be first-round center Tyler Linderbaum. The primary issue with Baltimore is its receiving corps."
Key players coming back from injuries
"The Ravens are counting on healthy recoveries for three torn ACLs (J.K. Dobbins, Marcus Peters, and Gus Edwards), a pectoral tear (Marlon Humphrey), and two ankle injuries (Jackson and Stanley) to help reestablish themselves as an elite team in what is already a stacked division and conference. Baltimore can't stomach the loss of any of these players besides Edwards for an extended period of time in 2022."
Playing in the tough AFC North
"Forget the rest of the AFC - which includes a loaded West division, the Buffalo Bills, an Indianapolis Colts team with Matt Ryan, and the Tennessee Titans - the Ravens need to survive their own division. The AFC North alone will provide six difficult battles for Baltimore. DraftKings has the Cleveland Browns as the favorites to win the division, followed by the Bengals, then the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The race is expected to be tight, so the margin for error is slim."
Safeties Are Key to Success of Ravens Defense in 2022
If the Ravens defense is to return to top-10 form this season (as was discussed in yesterday's Late for Work), the play of their safeties will be paramount, according to USA Today's Doug Farrar.
Baltimore could have the best safety group in the league, with free agent Marcus Williams and first-round draft pick Kyle Hamilton joining veteran Chuck Clark.
Here are some excerpts from what Farrar had to say about each of them:
Williams: The deep-third defender
"He has the full-field range the Ravens definitely did not possess at the position in 2021. Williams can also run in-line faster than most fast receivers. And because Williams is so quick and easy in his deep transitions, he's great at getting in place for deep deflections."
Hamilton: The do-it-all rookie
"What makes Hamilton special? Everything, really. While he might not be the ideal deep-third defender at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Hamilton has the movement skills of a safety standing four inches shorter and weighing 20-30 pounds less. The height/weight/speed combination is just rare. Hamilton can work the entire field as a match defender because his transition skills are top-notch. He'll use his hands to establish the landmark, and run the route right with the receiver - no matter where it goes. So... yeah. Hamilton is just a rare bird who can do everything. You can build your entire defense around him."
Clark: The box guy
"Clark is at his best when he's closer to the line of scrimmage - either as a box player, blitzing, or faking a blitz look to cover a tight end underneath. Clark can also create pressure on overload blitz looks from the edge, where he uses his speed to the pocket, and through blockers, to get to the quarterback."
The Case for Signing Will Fuller V
If the Ravens are looking to sign a free-agent wide receiver who can provide the deep-threat speed that was lost when Marquise "Hollywood" Brown was traded, Will Fuller V is the best option, according to Heavy.com.
"When he's healthy, there's no doubt Fuller would make a nice scheme fit for what the Ravens like to do. ... His ability to take the top off defenses would force opponents to keep safeties deep and leave the line of scrimmage light against Jackson and the running game, before the inevitable long strikes off play action," Heavy.com wrote.
Staying healthy has been an issue for Fuller, 28. A 2016 first-round pick, Fuller has played more than 11 games just once in his six year-career, and that was in his rookie season.
After signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the Miami Dolphins last season, Fuller missed 15 games due to a PED suspension, broken finger, and personal issue.
Fuller's best season was in 2020, when he had 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games with the Houston Texans. He is ranked as the second-best wide receiver remaining in free agency, behind Odell Beckham Jr.
"It's safe to say there are red flags, but the man sure can run fast!" NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote.
Three Ravens Go in First Round in 2018 Re-draft
The Ravens had an impressive draft haul in 2018. It was so impressive that three players they selected that year went in the first round of a re-draft by Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport.
In Davenport's do-over, the New York Giants selected Jackson second overall.
"With Eli Manning nearing the end in 2018, this would have been a franchise-defining pick in New York, especially given the three up-and-down seasons the team has gotten from Daniel Jones after drafting him sixth overall the following year," Davenport wrote.
Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews, both third-round picks for the Ravens, went ninth to the San Francisco 49ers and 27th to the New Orleans Saints, respectively, in the re-draft.
Davenport had the Ravens selecting running back Nick Chubb at No. 16.
Four AFC squads made NFL.com's Marc Ross' list of the top five most complete teams, but the Ravens were not one of them. Nor was Baltimore among the three teams who just missed inclusion in the top five. The Browns and Bengals made the latter list.