[Preview 2021] Baltimore Ravens: in search of a better balance

Like every year, Touchdown Actu offers you its traditional pre-season files. You can find them all by clicking on this link.

Baltimore has high hopes at the start of the season but as the playoffs arrive, the disappointment is great. If the Ravens defeated the Indian sign by winning against the Titans, Buffalo extinguished the dream in the next round.

The Ravens no longer want to stay on the side of the road and want to play the leading roles. We’re going a little off the beaten track and we’re going to look for what will make the difference during the season.

Last season: 11 wins – 5 losses, 2nd in AFC North, loss in the division round

Offseason movements

Baltimore is an ambitious team. So, after premature outings in the playoffs in recent seasons, the leaders are looking to densify and improve the team. And the main point is the offensive squad.

If the racing aspect is particularly armed, the pass is the weak point of the Ravens. Even if Lamar Jackson is not a typical “pass” quarterback, Baltimore must have receivers capable of making the difference. Sammy Watkins comes in from the free agent market while Rashod Bateman was selected in the first round. We therefore come to surround Marquise Brown and offer several additional targets to Jackson, who also sees his line of protection renewed with the arrivals of Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva and the selection in the 3rd round of Ben Cleveland.

The defense hopes that the departures will be compensated even if the task promises to be difficult. Matt Judon left for New England, Yannick Ngakoue for Las Vegas and the group of linebackers inevitably drops in level, especially since we can now add the injury to the LJ Fort crusaders. Justin Houston arrives to bring experience and better deterrence against opposing quarterbacks. But to strengthen this position, we use the magic recipe that has proven itself in Maryland: the draft, with the selections of Odafe Oweh (1st round) and Daelin Hayes (5th round).

Notable arrivals: Kevin Zeitler (OG), Alejandro Villanueva (LT), Sammy Watkins (WR), Ja’Wuan James (RT), Justin Houston (DE)
Re-Signatures : Tyus Bowser (LB), L.J. Fort (LB)
Draft : Rashod Bateman (WR), Odafe Oweh (LB), Ben Cleveland (OG), Brandon Stephens (CB), Tylan Wallace (WR), Shaun Wade (CB), Daelin Hayes (LB), Ben Mason (FB)
Notable losses: Matt Judon (LB), Yannick Ngakoue (DE), Jihad Ward (DE), Mark Ingram (RB), Matt Skura (C), Orlando Brown Jr (OT)

Le(s) point(s) fort(s)

The ground game will always be one of the strengths of the ravens attack. The Lamar Jackson – JK Dobbins – Gus Edwards trio will give many defensemen in the league nightmares. Baltimore is building on the league’s best ground play in two seasons. As a quarterback, Jackson crossed the 1000 yard mark on the ground, ranking 9th runner in the league in 2020. The other two are not left out either, ending the 2020 season in cannonball, totaling 762 yards and 8 touchdowns over the last 5 games of the regular season. Even if Baltimore wants to rest less on his race, it will still remain an important part of his attack.

Without reducing the franchise to that, the Ravens have always relied on a formidable defense. If in 2020, it conceded a little ground to the opposing teams (6th against the pass, 8th against the race), it knew how to get out the barbed wire when it was necessary to collect a minimum of points (18.9 points per game, 2nd in the league). There are good players on all lines (Calais Campbell, Patrick Queen) but the cornerback group is one of the best-supplied groups in the league with Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith and Anthony Averett. A lot of teams would like to have that depth at this position.

When you’ve got a kicker like Justin Tucker, it’s (almost) all risk insurance. In a tight game it can be very helpful to have a very reliable goalscorer. Tucker has a success rate of just under 90% on field goals and 98% on transformations in 2020, he who saw his series of kicks from less than 40 yards stop last December at 70. This shows that it is not a robot but it still has the compass in its eye!

The weak spots)

Will Baltimore get an air squad? Will Lamar Jackson manage to give up a bit of racing to hurt his arm? It’s a good question. The investments made in the offseason (new receivers to surround Marquise Brown and a new offensive line) show that we want to change the culture of the franchise a little by relying less on the race.

After finishing good last in the pass (171 yards per game in the pass in 2020), the Ravens want to diversify and be less predictable against opposing defenses, especially in the playoffs, where the attack has suffered considerably for 3 seasons.

X factor (s): Lamar Jackson

After three seasons in the league (and an MVP title in 2019), Lamar Jackson has to show once and for all that he’s not just a running quarterback. With two seasons at more than 1000 yards on the ground, Jackson is a formidable runner, capable of doing great harm to opposing defenses. But so far he hasn’t shown the same ability to hurt with his arm. In two full seasons, he hasn’t gone past 3,200 yards.

But the team has invested and strengthened the offensive part of the team to bring more solutions to his quarterback. Especially with a greater air threat, this can open the opposing defense and, if necessary, give space to the legs of Jackson who can continue to do his damage on the ground. While he can ask for a maximum contract extension this season, adding a string to his bow is an advantage in the negotiation, especially if it translates into a big season for the team. Not to mention that having an arm can help in the long run when the legs aren’t as nimble as they were at the start of your career.

The player to watch: Marquise Brown

2021 will be Marquise Brown’s third season. “Hollywood” had its first full season last season but must now pass a milestone. The pocket receiver needs to be more consistent in his performance, as he has been at the end of the season with 6 touchdowns in the last 6 games. At times unhappy with the team’s strategic choices, Brown hopes to take advantage of the changes in the offseason to explode and why not pass the 1000-yard mark at reception. He changed his number in the offseason (from 15th to 5th) and found his favorite Oklahoma number. On the Baltimore side, we hope this is a sign for a big season for his receiver, drafted in the first round in 2019.

Calendar

@Raiders, Chiefs, @Lions, @Broncos, Colts, Chargers, Bengals, Bye, Vikings, @Dolphins, @Bears, Browns, @Steelers, @Browns, Packers, @Bengals, Rams, Steelers

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In summary

In a dense division with the Steelers and Browns (but also the Bengals), the fight promises to be intense until the end for the Ravens. If the attack seems to have improved, especially on the side of the receivers, the defense has lost big feathers at the level of the linebackers.

Despite everything, talent is present in every group of the team. If we have no doubt that the attack will continue to pile up the points and that the defense will do everything to collect a minimum, we will wait and see if Lamar Jackson manages to become a complete quarterback, able to hurt as well with his arms than with his legs. He must show that he is the boss of the Ravens by bringing them as far as possible in the playoffs.

The forecast: 12 wins – 5 losses

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