Following an eventful year, the Baltimore Ravens have a lot to look back on and appreciate. Their starting quarterback was injured, they still made it back to the playoffs, and Lamar Jackson led all running backs with 1201 passing yards. All-in-all, it’s been fine, which isn’t good enough. Every team dreams of Super Bowl stardom, and if they fail, they have work to do. Here’s what the Ravens did.
With another decent season and first-round playoff exit in the books, the front office knew that something had to change, and they got to work early. The Baltimore Ravens made it clear that they were finished with “failed experiment” wide receiver Michael Crabtree when they terminated his contract in February, kicking off a slew of moves that would leave the team looking substantially different than the Ravens of 2018. Key pieces on the defensive side of the ball fled the Ravens like rats fleeing a flood, and the team looked barren without them. Important anchors like C.J Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, and Terrell Suggs disappeared to the Jets, Packers, and Cardinals respectively, and featured 3-year safety Eric Weddle returned to the west coast on the Los Angeles Rams. Their pass rush was decimated, but the offseason hadn’t finished with them yet. Receiver John Brown, a noted speedster, took off to Buffalo to join a different soon-to-be sophomore quarterback in Josh Allen. With their supposed top 2 pass-catching threats no longer tenured, the fans may not have felt optimistic. Dealing Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos for only a 4th-round pick was the last sign of the old days dying for those hopeful fans that still believed the team hadn’t decided on Lamer Jackson yet. A clear changing of the guards was in order, it seemed.
The pain of losing Eric Weddle was stymied as quickly as it had arisen, with All-Pro safety Earl Thomas earning praise as an unlikely upgrade. Though his departure from Seattle ended the “Legion Of Boom” era, he may look to bring the boom back to Baltimore alongside a secondary loaded with free safety Tony Jefferson, and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and a notable re-signing in Tavon Young. On the other side of the game, Lamar Jackson’s backfield was bolstered by a former New Orleans Saint in Mark Ingram. They looked to the 2019 NFL Draft, however, to load up at wide receiver and try to patch up the hole in the middle of the defence. They whiffed, snagging only one player of note: outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson in the 3rd round. The Ravens hit a little more squarely on the head at receiver. Miles Boykin falling to the 3rd round was lucky, but securing potentially the best pass-catcher in the draft at 25th overall? A steal. Already showing flashes of brilliance, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown might be the man the Ravens are looking for to allow Lamar Jackson to develop a passing game.
All in all, this offseason, the Ravens were like a great marching band before a terrible game: a whole lot of fanfare with limited result. The talent remaining on this roster is undeniable, but the defence likely won’t recover quickly from the losses to its core. Without a great deal of change offensively, the Raven’s new system should be an improvement; but one would advise caution because first-years never go quite as well as hoped.
This team has a ceiling of 10-6 and a floor of 7-9. Playing the Bengals twice a year helps, but in a division that is made tougher by Cleveland (who saw that coming?) and that is still held by the now Antonio Brown-less Steelers, it’s hard to see more than 10 wins. Lamar Jackson’s accuracy will still be an issue, but it’s easier to run for 200 yards with guys like Hollywood taking the top off a defence. Nonetheless, he will show improvement with Ingram at his side and a new passing system in place. They may regret losing Flacco if Jackson takes any unwarranted hits, but RGIII is sure to fill in nicely (Note: this is sarcasm) in the event of a tragedy. With the tied-19th toughest strength of schedule this season, they’ll face plenty of challenging teams, and run-games like those on the Browns, Giants, and Jets will inevitably cause some trouble. If they crack into the playoffs it’s one-and-done, unless the offence develops into something scary, because this defence can’t carry the team any further. Sorry Ravens fans, it’s another year in the pit of mediocrity for you. But hey, at least you’ll find good company there.