Schedule: CLE, @HOU, KC, @WAS, CIN, @PHI, PIT, BYE, @IND, @NE, TEN, @PIT, DAL, @CLE, JAX, NYG, @CIN
Additions: DL Calais Campbell (Trade), DL Derek Wolfe (FA), OL D.J. Fluker (FA), LB Patrick Queen (Draft), RB J.K. Dobbins (Draft), WR Devin Duvernay (Draft)
Losses: OL Marshal Yanda (Retired), S Earl Thomas (Cut), DL Chris Wormley (Trade), TE Hayden Hurst (Trade), DL Michael Pierce (FA), LB Patrick Onwuasor (FA), WR Seth Roberts (FA), LB Josh Bynes (FA)
I’m not expecting much regression from last year’s best regular season team. After starting 2-2, Baltimore rattled off 12 straight wins. Don’t be surprised if that streak continues deep into the season. This team is deep and led by the league MVP. At just 23, Lamar Jackson could be even better this season. Good luck, defenses.
After setting the all-time rushing record last season, the Ravens shouldn’t lose a step on the ground. J.K. Dobbins is now in the fold and should form a dynamic one-two punch with Mark Ingram. Even if the team scales back Jackson’s carries, Baltimore will be more than fine.
The only slight worry would be the offensive line. Marshal Yanda retired after 13 years of Hall of Fame-level play. Replacing a legend is always hard, but Baltimore’s a factory for offensive linemen. Every year they have some of the best depth of the league, and 2020 will be no different. D.J. Fluker is the favorite to take over for Yanda, and his elite linemates will make his job 10 times easier. This should remain one of the best lines in the league.
The real weakness on offense is the receivers. Even so, it’s not glaring and their stats look a lot worse because of the Ravens’ run first philosophy. Hollywood Brown spent the offseason bulking up after an injury-plagued rookie year. If he can stay healthy, he has the talent to be a major weapon.
Baltimore’s tight ends help make up for the lackluster supporting receivers. Mark Andrews showed great chemistry with Jackson and is already one of the best red zone and third-down threats in the league. Even after trading away Hayden Hurst, the Ravens still have a great TE2 as well. Nick Boyle is one of the better blockers at his position and is another reason for the run game’s success.
As crazy as it sounds, I think Baltimore’s defense will be even better than last year. Despite ranking 3rd in points and 4th in yards, they had a hole at linebacker and a mediocre pass rush. Rookie Patrick Queen will solve the former immediately. He should be the latest in a long line of first-year linebackers to explode onto the scene.
As for the latter, there isn’t as much of an instant solution. The edge spot opposite Matt Judon remains a question. Jaylon Ferguson should be the starter and could be in for a breakout second year. However, that’s far from certain. Tyus Bowser is another guy with a lot of hype but no production yet. There’s a reason we’ve been hearing so much Jadeveon Clowney to Baltimore chatter recently.
Whether Clowney is a Raven or not, the pass rush should still improve. Calais Campbell was acquired for comical value. I don’t care how old he is or how much money he makes, the dude is still a monster. There’s no way he was worth only a fifth-round pick. Regardless, that’s what Baltimore got him for, and he should prove to be a tremendous steal.
The secondary was poised to be among the league’s best once again this season before the Earl Thomas craziness. I’m sure he did worse than just have a terrible attitude and fight a teammate because the Ravens are eating $25 million in dead money over the next two seasons. Suddenly, Baltimore’s starting free safety is a sophomore with 40 career snaps instead of a likely Hall of Fame Career. At this point in his career, though, Thomas had more name value than on-field. The rest of this elite secondary will help cover for any growing pains by DeShon Elliott, too. If this is the biggest hole on Baltimore’s roster, they’ll be just fine.
Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but barring injury, I would be shocked if this team doesn’t succeed. 12 wins is almost a conservative prediction for them. They have one of the best players in the league at the most important position and an excellent roster surrounding him. John Harbaugh is a great head coach. The schedule is shockingly easy for a reigning division winner, and their toughest opponent, Kansas City, has to come to Baltimore.
Hell, even this weird offseason benefits the Ravens. With limited padded practices and no preseason, teams with strong continuity and simple, “We’re going to physically dominate you,” gameplans should have an advantage. Baltimore returns most of last year’s 14-2 roster and certainly checks the second box. This team is a title favorite and should go far in the playoffs. If they don’t, I might have to reconsider my stance on Jackson as a choke artist.
What’s your record prediction for the Ravens? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.