Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of organized team activities

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With voluntary organized team activities set to kick off next week, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Though being scheduled for just three prime-time games prompts many fans to play the disrespect card, John Harbaugh and his staff — as well as many seasoned fans — will appreciate 12 scheduled 1 p.m. kickoffs. A “boring” schedule can be more helpful in the quest to have an exciting January.

2. I reserve the right to change my win-loss forecast by early September, but I envisioned an 11-6 record upon seeing a very reasonable 2022 schedule. Despite no shortage of potential, counting on so many key players returning to pre-injury form is a tricky proposition on top of some position holes.

3. That should be good enough to make the Ravens the favorite to win the AFC North, however. I’m not discounting Cincinnati’s chances whatsoever, but the Bengals’ schedule after Week 10 looks absolutely brutal. Those wins don’t come as easily when you’re no longer sneaking up on opponents.

4. I figured James Bradberry would be outside their price range and am intrigued by the thought of deploying bigger options such as rookie first-round pick Kyle Hamilton or Brandon Stephens at the nickel. Still, it’s tough envisioning Baltimore counting on fourth-round rookie Jalyn Armour-Davis as the top outside backup.   

5. After being non-tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent and then endorsed by Harbaugh as a depth option seemingly returning in late March, third-year cornerback Khalil Dorsey signed with the Giants on Wednesday. That’s an odd series of events for someone with five career defensive snaps under his belt.

6. Jarvis Landry probably wasn’t the optimal scheme fit with the Ravens having multiple slot options, but I remain skeptical a free-agent receiver that’s moving the needle is signing here at this point. And no, I’m not going to feed into any spring hubris of downplaying the need at the position.

7. Despite injuries limiting Vince Biegel to five games over the last two seasons, the 28-year-old linebacker does bring some inside-outside versatility and special-teams experience. You’d like to see Malik Harrison fill that kind of role if he’s not going to develop into a consistent starter in his third season.

8. There was a time not long ago when not having a single Ravens-Steelers game scheduled for prime time would have been crazy, but this marks three of the last four seasons. It’s also the first time both tilts have been scheduled for 1 p.m. kickoffs since 2006.

9. Pro Football Focus recently ranked Lamar Jackson fifth among the five best quarterbacks under age 30, a list including Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Joe Burrow. It’s tough to deny statistical drop-off these last two years, but I can’t wait to see the Baltimore superstar play in 2022. 

10. Sharp Football does a great job breaking down the schedule and argues that projected win totals from oddsmakers are more accurate in determining strength of schedule than 2021 records. Going by that, the Ravens have the 11th-easiest schedule, but those outside the top and bottom 10 aren’t as statistically significant.

11. Speaking of schedules, ESPN reporting Monday Night Football will begin using late-season flexible scheduling starting in 2023 reiterates stadiums are becoming little more than glorified TV studios as time goes on. I feel for season-ticket holders and fans who like to travel to road games. 

12. I can’t wait to watch the ESPN “30 for 30″ on the 2000 Ravens, a championship that felt utterly impossible just five years before. From witnessing the top regular-season moment in franchise history to watching one of the most ferocious defenses of all time, nothing will ever top that team.

***An additional personal thought: If you’d told me a decade ago that my sister were going to marry a Philadelphia sports fan, I probably would have groaned and rolled my eyes. Instead, that guy has become one of my very best friends and pulls for Baltimore teams whenever there isn’t a conflict with his hometown team. As their fifth wedding anniversary and my adorable niece’s first birthday arrive later this week, prayers and positive vibes for him and our family would be greatly appreciated.