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2019 Team Report: Baltimore Ravens

Offensive Philosophy

In 2018, Lamar Jackson set an NFL record for rush attempts by a quarterback with 147. This is especially notable because Jackson only started 7 games; his pace in those games would have pro-rated to 272 carries over a full season, which would have ranked second in the league behind only Ezekiel Elliott. Include his playoff game and Jackson was "only" on pace for 256 carries, which would have tied Todd Gurley for fourth in the league. With a full season under center (and enough film for the rest of the league to catch up), those per-game rush attempts will obviously come down. But in 2019, Jackson is paired with new offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Roman's last time as a coordinator was with the 2015-2016 Buffalo Bills, who led the league in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and yards per attempt in both seasons. The pertinent question this season might not be so much "will the Baltimore Ravens be the most run-heavy team in the league?", but "by how much?"

Quarterbacks

Starter: Lamar Jackson
Backup(s): Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley [R]

Starting QB: For the first time since 2007, Baltimore's team report does not begin with Joe Flacco. The veteran made way for Jackson last season when Flacco was injured mid-season. Jackson entered, and the team went on a winning streak that led to the division crown. Jackson's passing weaknesses were on full display in the team's playoff loss to Los Angeles, but the team hopes that a full offseason with starter's reps will lead to maturity in that department for Jackson. The team will still be a run-focused group, though, with Jackson himself playing an integral role in that strategy. Turnover at the receiver position left Jackson with few weapons there, which is why the team placed an emphasis on acquiring playmakers during the draft. Their first-round pick was Marquise Brown, a speedster from Oklahoma. The team also invested a fourth-round pick in Miles Boykin, a 6'4" perimeter threat from Notre Dame. These two receivers have differing skill sets and should help improve Jackson's outlook as they learn the offense and grow.

Backup QB: Griffin's return to the league last season was somewhat of a redemption story. He didn't play meaningful snaps but did serve as a mentor to Jackson. There aren't many players in NFL history have the experience of being a dual-threat rookie quarterback on a playoff team. Griffin's injury history can serve as a cautionary tale for Jackson as well. On the field, Griffin's skill set would allow for some continuity of scheme if Jackson were to be injured. Baltimore drafted McSorley with the 197th pick. He's undersized and a typical college quarterback whose skill set doesn't necessarily translate to the NFL. Many teams thought he should convert to another position. He won't figure into the quarterback situation in Baltimore this season.

Running Backs

Starter: Mark Ingram
Backup(s): Gus Edwards, Justice Hill [R], Kenneth Dixon, De'Lance Turner, Tyler Ervin
Fullback(s): Patrick Ricard

Starting RB: Ingram was Baltimore's most notable offensive addition in free agency, signing a three-year deal worth $15 million. This team's commitment to the run thrusts Ingram into the spotlight, and sharing a backfield with the speedy and dynamic Lamar Jackson should allow for open lanes that Ingram can exploit. He's also a more versatile player than Gus Edwards, who was the team's top rusher during the late-season winning streak. Ingram will likely cede carries to his backups at times, but Baltimore's plan is to run enough to give Ingram at least 15 carries per game.

Backup RBs: After not dressing until Week 6 and then seeing only 15 carries through Week 9, Edwards flourished from Week 1 on. He rushed for over 100 yards in his first two full games and tacked on a third triple-digit performance in Week 15. Edwards is a straight downhill runner with little nuance or versatility to his game. But that type of player is an asset for a team like Baltimore. Hill was drafted with the 113th overall pick. While the backfield situation is crowded, Baltimore is a team where that's not a terrible situation as they are expected to be among the most run-heavy teams in the league. As a true freshman in 2016, Hill held off current Seahawks running back Chris Carson for the starting job, which looks even more impressive after Carson's 2018 season in Seattle. Hill has the skill set to surpass the one-dimensional Edwards for the top spot behind free agent acquisition Mark Ingram. Drafted in 2016 and having missed all of 2017 due to suspension and injury, Dixon entered last season in make-or-break mode. It didn't start well, as he was injured early in the year and placed on Injured Reserve. But the team designated him their "return" player, which allowed Dixon to end the season splitting time with Edwards in Baltimore's run-heavy attack. He's still not on completely solid ground in terms of his long-term outlook with Baltimore, but he's entering 2019 in a better place than this time a year ago.

Fullback: Ricard is a defensive lineman that the team began using as a fullback in training camp prior to 2017. He'll continue to be used on offense as a blocker, especially as the team remains focused on the power running game.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Marquise Brown [R], Miles Boykin [R]
Backups: Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott, Seth Roberts, Jordan Lasley, Quincy Adeboyejo

Starting WRs: Brown was the team's first-round draft pick, the 25th overall pick. Brown is a small receiver (listed at 5'10" and 167 pounds), but he has elite speed and quickness and showed his ability to win on a variety of routes throughout his collegiate career as the go-to receiver for Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Brown had 14 catches of 50 or more yards last season, which led Division I. Brown does enter his rookie year recovering from an injury after having Lisfranc surgery in February. He is expected to be ready for Training Camp, though. Boykin was Baltimore's fourth-round pick after they team traded up with Minnesota to select him. At 6'4" and 220 pounds, he adds variety when compared to the skill set of the diminutive speedster Brown. Even though Boykin has above average size compared to most receivers he's still fast, having proved as much with a 4.42 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. He also showcased a 43.5 inch vertical, suggesting he can be a deep ball and red zone weapon.

Backup WRs: Snead and Moore are the veteran leaders of what might be the least inspiring skill position in the NFL. This group was weak enough that two rookie draft picks should start right away, pending poor performances in the preseason. Snead, the veteran who came over last season from New Orleans, has been a complimentary receiver for much of his career and disappeared at times last season. Moore has the measureables and speed to be a weapon, but whether due to lack of opportunities or the team's run-first identity, his career has been marred by inconsistency so far. A group consisting of young, unproven players and an uninspiring veteran, the backups at receiver aren't likely to push the starters any time soon. Scott and Lasley are second-year players who didn't even make much noise in camp last season. Roberts comes over from Oakland, where he had some nice moments but didn't do enough to come with significant cachet. Adeboyejo has the most raw upside of the group. He has stood out at camp practices in each of the last two seasons but has suffered injuries during those times as well.

Tight Ends

Starters: Mark Andrews
Backups: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle

A third-round pick out of Oklahoma last season, Andrews is a prototypical "move" tight end. He flashed his big play ability late in the season with Lamar Jackson under center, particularly on a 68-yard catch and run touchdown in Week 16. Andrews presents matchup difficulties for opposing defenses, something that should leave him on the field often, despite the team's run-first mentality. Hurst is another 2018 draft pick, the team's first pick last season, prior to its trade-up for Jackson. He offers the best blend of playmaking and blocking skills. Boyle is the true block-first tight end on the team, a skill set that is likely to keep him on the field often (especially in two-tight end sets). He's not likely to accumulate big receiving statistics but is a valuable part of the running game.

Place Kicker

Justin Tucker: 2018 was another routine season for Justin Tucker. That means he was in the top three in scoring with strong distance accuracy and volume and a premium fantasy kicker. He did go "only" 9-for-11 from 40-49 yards, his worst accuracy rate from that range since he was a rookie, and Tucker also finally missed an extra point. He posted even stronger scoring numbers in the second half of the season with Lamar Jackson in, so there's a good argument for Tucker as the first kicker off of the board this year. Norwegian Kaare Vedvik is still with the team. The kicker/punter with a huge leg is expected to draw trade interest and the Ravens plan to show him off in the preseason.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Chris Moore, Willie Snead

Chris Moore was the team's top kickoff returner in 2018 and the Ravens seem comfortable with him in that role heading into 2019. If he falters, Willie Snead is a versatile do-everything receiver who could fill in on special teams.

Punt Returners: Cyrus Jones, Willie Snead

The Ravens signed cornerback Cyrus Jones away from the Patriots in part to shore up their punt return unit, and after a strong 2018 season in that role, he should handily retain it heading into 2019.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda, Orlando Brown
Key Backups: James Hurst, Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers [R], Jermaine Eluemunor

Entering his 13th and possibly final season, right guard Marshal Yanda continues to perform at a high level, as evidenced by his 2nd team All Pro honor. The tackles, with Ronnie Stanley on the left and Orlando Brown on the right, form an above average set of bookends. Alex Lewis is a rugged blocking left guard (when healthy) and the team drafted Ben Powers in the fourth round to push for Lewis' spot. Center Matt Skura's starting position is backed up by Bradley Bozeman. James Hurst can sub at almost every position and will be the swing tackle off the bench. Coached by 40-year veteran Joe D'Alessandris, the Ravens' line starts the season with a top-tier grade.

Team Defense

The Ravens defense had a few high points against weak defenses last year, but was disappointing for fantasy and probably dropped after being drafted in most leagues to take advantage of a Week 1 matchup against the Bills. They lost CJ Mosley, Za'Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle this offseason. They did add Earl Thomas to replace Weddle, but these losses are significant. They'll still get drafted in fantasy leagues because they open the season at Miami, but we could move on from them quickly and they should only be taken in the last round.

Defensive Line

Starters: NT Michael Pierce DE Brandon Williams, DE Willie Henry
Backups: DE Chris Wormley, DE Zach Sieler, DE/NT Gerald Willis, NT Daylon Mack

Starting DL: Perspective is everything when talking about the Ravens defensive line. For those looking at sacks and quarter back pressure as a measuring stick, there is nothing to get excited about. As a unit this group recorded 3 sacks in 2018 with no one recording more than one. Looking at the responsibilities of the linemen in Baltimore's overall scheme casts a different light however. The Ravens defensive success is predicated on the linebackers being able to flow and make plays. Thus the most important job of the defensive line is to soak up blockers and force ball carriers off their preferred path. From that perspective this is a solid unit. Michael Pierce is the listed starter at nose tackle but in reality he and Brandon Williams are interchangeable parts. Both are 340 pound road blocks with the ability to hold ground even against double teams. The Ravens have a number of packages which deploy only these two linemen. Willie Henry led the group with 3.5 sacks in 2017 but missed nearly the entire 2018 season with a back injury. The team hopes he will be able to return this season but there are some concerns with the bad back. In a different scheme a healthy Henry might make a much more significant statistical contribution. In Baltimore's 3-4 he is a strong 2-gap end that can push the pocket on passing downs and clog the lanes versus the run. The third year pro became a starter in week three of his rookie season and has a bright future if he can get past the herniated disc.

Backup DL: Depth could be a problem for Baltimore up front. Chris Wormley filled in adequately for Willie Henry last season and should continue to be first off the bench if any starter is lost. After Wormley however, there is virtually no experience. Zach Seiler saw little playing time as a rookie seventh round pick last year and is a largely unknown commodity. Rookie fifth round pick Daylon Mack is another big body who played well at the college level and has some potential, while Gerald Willis III is an undrafted free agent addition.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Kenny Young, ILB Patrick Onwuasor, OLB Matt Judon, OLB Tyus Bowser
Backups: ILB Chris Board, ILB Bam Bradley, OLB Tim Williams, OLB Jaylon Ferguson, OLB Shane Ray, OLB Pernell McPhee

Starting LBs: Baltimore will look much different at linebacker this season. The team did not expect to lose middle backer C.J. Mosley in free agency but simply could not afford to match the offer he received from the Jets. The organization will turn to last year's fourth round pick Kenny Young to fill Mosley's shoes. Young saw significant action as a rookie and produced well, recording 52 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble on 370 snaps. The team is counting on him to step up big in year two. Young will join returning starter Patrick Onwuasor on the inside. The two split time next to Mosley last year with Young seeing most of the early down action and Onwuasor coming on in passing situations. Without much depth at the position both may be called upon to play nearly full time in 2019. Matt Judon has been a pleasant surprise for the organization. The 2016 fifth round pick has 15 sacks in his two years as a starter on the outside. With the departure of long time starter Terrell Suggs, Judon becomes the team's leading pass rush threat. Za'Darious Smith and his eight and a half sacks in 2018 also took the free agent train out of town leaving former second round selection (2017) Tyus Bowser penciled in as the new starter opposite Judon. Bowser had three sacks in limited action as a rookie but managed only half a sack in his second season. The organization points to lack of opportunity as the reason Bowser has done little as a pro. He had 22.5 sacks in his college career at Houston including 8.5 as a senior, so the Ravens remain optimistic. If Bowser fails to step up he could be replaced by post draft free agent additions Shane Ray or Pernell McPhee, both of whom are proven veteran contributors.

Backup LBs: With three of their top six linebackers leaving, the Ravens found themselves thin and young at the second level. In fact 2017 third round selection Tim Williams was the only backup on the roster with significant NFL game experience before the additions of outside backers Shane Ray and Pernell McPhee. Both Ray and McPhee are veterans with starting experience and could be in the mix to start. On the inside Baltimore has 2018 undrafted free agent Chris Board and rookie undrafted free agent Bam Bradley competing for the role of third man up. Board had eight tackles and three assists as a rookie when he contributed mostly on special teams. Bradley spent four seasons at Pitt where he never earned a full time starting job. Chances are the Ravens will be looking to add veteran depth at inside backer before the season opens.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Tony Jefferson, FS Earl Thomas, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Brandon Carr, CB Marlon Humphrey
Backups: S Anthony Levine, S Dashon Elliott, CB Tavon Young, CB Iman Marshall, CB Maurice Canady, CB Cyrus Jones, CB Anthony Averett

Starting DBs: Baltimore sported the fifth best pass defense in terms of yards allowed in 2018 but their interception numbers tumbled from a league best 22 in 2017 to a middle of the pack 12. This despite having basically the same personnel. There may not be any Ravens on a short list of the league's elite cover corners but Baltimore has four of them with the skill set to be quality starters. Jimmy Smith has been a mainstay for the Ravens though he has been banged up a lot in recent years. The nine year veteran has a stranglehold on one of the starting spots providing he can stay healthy. 2017 first round pick Marlon Humphrey moved into the other starting spot midway through his rookie season and is in no danger of losing the job. Brandon Carr has been a solid starter in the league since 2008 and will battle fourth year man Tavon Young for the nickel corner job. This talented veteran unit give Baltimore the ability to match up well with the deepest of receiving corps. Tony Jefferson was the free agent prize of 2017 and a solid piece of this outstanding unit. He is a physical enforcer from the strong safety position. Jefferson is not a turnover threat to the extent of his fellow defensive backs but he is a difference maker in run support and will contribute in the pass rush. The only new face in the starting secondary is Earl Thomas who comes over from Seattle to replace Eric Weddle who signed in Los Angeles. Thomas is among the league's elite big play threats at safety having contributed a whopping 42 takeaways in his nine seasons as a pro. He comes to Baltimore with a huge chip on his shoulder after being injured last season while playing with Seattle on a franchise tag.

Backup DBs: The Ravens will go to camp with a lot of bodies vying for roster spots in the secondary. Safeties Anthony Levine and Dashon Elliot are all but certain to make the final roster as is corner Tavon Young who could land the slot corner job. Iman Marshall is a favorite as well being the team's fourth round pick. Many of the players not making the final roster here will find their way onto other rosters. For Baltimore's coaching staff it is a good problem to have.

Last modified: 2019-05-22 16:04:27