With the 2023 schedule having been announced last Thursday and the Ravens counting down to the start of voluntary organized team activities next week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. With Trystan Colon gone and Patrick Mekari better at swing tackle, Baltimore signing Sam Mustipher to back up Tyler Linderbaum makes sense. Pro Football Focus graded the Owings Mills native 18th out of 36 qualified centers last year, and you love the experience of 40 NFL starts under his belt.
2. I barely care about attendance at voluntary OTAs, let alone who shows up for “football school,” which is currently taking place with many veterans absent. If Lamar Jackson stays away for the start of OTAs next week after signing his record contract, then we can talk.
3. In the midst of expressing excitement over the upgrades at wide receiver as well as the talent at the other skill positions, Todd Monken reminding that “there is only one ball” was appropriate. How this offense evolves from Greg Roman to Monken will definitely be interesting.
4. I liked Monken’s answer when asked about Jackson potentially running less, acknowledging he’d like to lessen “that burden” as the star quarterback ages. I see it as turning back the dial, but that ability is still what makes him truly special. You’d never want to remove it from the equation.
5. I’ve chuckled at some of the reaction — and overreaction — to Jackson talking about passing for 6,000 yards when he’s only thrown for 3,000 once in his career. I can only imagine how J.K. Dobbins and the offensive line would feel if the offense were to change that dramatically.
6. Monken has acknowledged a preference to spread out the personnel more on offense, which makes sense after the additions of Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, and Nelson Agholor. Of course, the offensive line needs to remain as healthy and effective as it did last season for that to work.
7. While John Harbaugh left open the possibility of Marcus Peters returning, the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback visited with Las Vegas on Monday. The outside cornerback depth could still stand to improve, but would Peters be the best fit in a diminished role? Given his strong personality, that’s a fair question.
8. Devin Duvernay is running again and still has “a little bit to go” in his recovery from foot surgery, but where he was on the depth chart in December compared to his current projection sure is telling. The Pro Bowl return specialist filling a gadget role remains a compelling idea.
9. Like every unproven wide receiver on the roster, undrafted Maryland product Dontay Demus faces a steep climb to a roster spot, but his 6-foot-3 frame makes him an interesting red-zone option if he can consistently win jump balls. It’ll be fun to watch him this spring and summer.
10. Za’Darius Smith will be with his third team in as many seasons, which doesn’t include the potential Ravens reunion that fell through. Though 9 1/2 of his 10 sacks came over his first nine games with Minnesota last season, he’ll form quite the pair with Myles Garrett in Cleveland.
11. After seeing the schedule, my still-too-early prediction for 2023 is an 11-6 record and the top wild-card spot. I expect this team to advance to the divisional round, but time will tell whether the Ravens finally break through for the first time in over a decade.
12. Ray Lewis celebrated his 48th birthday on Monday. If you want to feel your age, he’s now older than former Baltimore Colts standouts Bert Jones and Lydell Mitchell were when the Ravens arrived in Charm City in 1996.