With the first full-squad training camp practice now less than two weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. I’ve pondered all offseason what Lamar Jackson and the Ravens could do without winning the Super Bowl to have a fulfilling season. Perhaps something like a divisional-round win over Kansas City and Jackson playing at a high level in a loss in the AFC Championship? Sky-high expectations aren’t easy.
2. Video of Jackson running routes less than full speed with kids on a basketball court didn’t resonate with me as all that risky compared to videos of him driving 100-plus mph and diving over a jet ski in previous offseasons. Maybe I’ve seen too many clips of high-intensity offseason workouts?
3. With camp observations approaching, this is the latest reminder that there’s much real estate between thinking Jackson is a running back who can’t throw and believing he’s beyond reproach as a former MVP. Now that we’ve cleared that up, I’m sure we’ll use the appropriate nuance discussing the superstar quarterback.
4. Though I dislike thinking in terms of volume regarding this passing game, I’ve seen 3,200.5 as a popular over-under for Jackson passing yards in 2021. I’d take the over after the commitment made to improving the receiver talent and coaching. Efficiency is key, but throwing a bit more should help.
5. According to Sports Info Solutions, Baltimore led the league with 15 forced quarterback fumbles and 12 batted passes last season. Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are gone, but I’m just not as worked up as most about Wink Martindale’s ability to maximize the sum of a revamped pass rush.
6. Ronnie Stanley needing to return to pre-injury form is a given, but Bradley Bozeman being a strong anchor at center is critical for this offensive line playing more like it did two years ago. There hasn’t been a ton of long-term stability at center since the days of Matt Birk.
7. After running the dime 44% of the time in 2019, Baltimore’s defense used six defensive backs on just 16% of its snaps last year, according to Football Outsiders. Using a timeshare of Jimmy Smith and rookie Brandon Stephens for that role is enticing, but that depends on Tavon Young’s health.
8. Quality defensive linemen age pretty well, but Calais Campbell is coming off his lowest sack total since his rookie year and missed nearly as many games (four) last year as he did in his first 12 seasons combined (six). How his age-35 contract season plays out should be interesting.
9. No Raven has been targeted more than Mark Andrews over the last two seasons, so it will be fascinating to see how the resources invested at wide receiver impact his role in terms of targets and overall attention from opposing defenses. That’s certainly something to watch in his contract year.
10. Sam Koch will turn 39 next month and is under contract through 2022 when he’d have the chance to join former teammate Matt Stover as the rare 40-year-old to play for the Ravens. First-round rookie Rashod Bateman was six months shy of his seventh birthday when Koch was drafted.
11. Long snapping goes unnoticed unless there’s a problem, so how Koch and Justin Tucker adjust to Nick Moore as Morgan Cox’s replacement will be crucial. “The Wolfpack” was known for its camaraderie, but they all spoke about how important the on-field familiarity was to the success of the operation.
12. Marlon Humphrey recently interacting with Phil Mickelson was unexpected, but the golf legend once made a wager on an upstart team that didn’t have a playoff win to its name at the time. Even after winning $440,000, Mickelson remained a fan of the Chargers, who’ve never won a Super Bowl.