The expectations have never been higher at the Baltimore Ravens as they are coming off the best regular season in franchise history. Coach John Harbaugh has the depth and talent especially with reigning MVP Lamar Jackson at quarterback to regain the AFC North and be one of the favourites for the Super Bowl.
Last year, the Ravens went 14-2 had a league-high 13 players named to the 2020 Pro Bowl. However, Baltimore was upset by the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans 28-12 in the divisional round of the playoffs. While that was a disappointing end to a successful year, the setback has not dampened the team’s spirits or confidence.
General manager Eric DeCosta worked diligently to fix several weaknesses. He added talent to the defensive line with the additions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe to boost the interior pass rush. Baltimore also received rave reviews for its 10-player draft class.
Harbaugh was able to retain defensive coordinator Don Martindale and offensive coordinator Greg Roman after both of them interviewed for head-coaching positions.
As a result, Baltimore will look to dethrone Kansas City as Super Bowl champions. The Ravens and Chiefs will meet in Week 3 of the regular season in perhaps the game of the year.
Jackson had one of the most successful regular seasons by any quarterback in NFL history. He completed 265 of 401 passes for 3,127 yards and an NFL-high 36 touchdowns, which was also a franchise record. Jackson finished with 1,206 yards rushing — sixth-best in the league and the most by a quarterback in NFL single-season history.
Baltimore broke the NFL’s all-time single season rushing record with 3,296 yards.
All three running backs (Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill) are still on the roster from last season. Ingram was second on the team with 1,018 yards on 202 carries, followed by Edwards (711 yards on 133 carries) and Hill (225 yards on 58 carries).
The team added J.K. Dobbins from Ohio State in the second round of this year’s draft. He has the talent to shoot up the depth chart as a rookie and become a focal point of the offense.
Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle have emerged as the one best tight end duos in the NFL. Andrews earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after setting team-highs in receptions (64), receiving yards (852), and receiving touchdowns (10) this past season. Boyle is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and he fits perfectly into the Ravens scheme. Baltimore, however, needs to add a third tight end after trading former first-round pick Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.
The Ravens also need to replace right guard Marshal Yanda, who decided to retire after 13 seasons and eight Pro Bowls. The team signed veteran D.J. Fluker this offseason and he could potentially fill that role.
Baltimore needed to boost their interior pass rush this offseason after its defensive linemen combined for just five sacks in 2019.
To fix that problem, DeCosta acquired Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars and signed Wolfe as a free agent from the Denver Broncos. The trio of Campbell (6.5), Wolfe (7) and nose tackle Brandon Williams (1) had for 14.5 sacks in 2019. DeCosta is hoping that success continues in 2020. Campbell, Wolfe and Williams are also adept at stopping the run. In addition, the Ravens added a pair stout defensive tackles in the 2020 draft: Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington.
The Ravens selected Patrick Queen in the first round of the draft from LSU. Harbaugh expects Queen to mostly play at middle linebacker and stay on the field for almost every defensive snap. Fellow rookie Malik Harrison, a third-round pick from Ohio State, will spend much of his time at weakside inside linebacker. Baltimore placed the franchise tag on outside linebacker Matt Judon, who led the team with 9.5 sacks last season.
The midseason addition of cornerback Marcus Peters proved to be a shrewd move. Baltimore’s ability to play man-coverage helped the front seven. After joining the Ravens, Peters totalled 39 tackles, three interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns) and 10 passes defended.
Fellow cornerback Marlon Humphrey continues to establish himself as one of the league’s top playmakers. Slot cornerback Tavon Young is expected to be back in the line-up after missing last season with a neck injury
Safety Chuck Clark took over the starting job when Tony Jefferson went down with a season-ending knee injury against the Steelers on Oct. 6 and thrived. The team terminated the contract of Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas two days after he got into an altercation with Clark during a training camp practice. Harbaugh hopes third-year player DeShon Elliott can fill the void.
Predicted Record: 11-5
The Ravens will be hard-pressed to match their win total from last season, but they still have the talent to go 11-5 or better and win the AFC North for a third consecutive season. Jackson looks primed to have another successful season and poised to win the first playoff game of his career.