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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Super Bowl LVI

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With the 2021 postseason now in the books as the Los Angeles Rams became Super Bowl champions, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Stars alone aren’t getting you to a Super Bowlthe Rams ranked sixth in homegrown players despite perception — but Sunday reminded they’re the ones who ultimately win it for you. Unfortunately, Baltimore’s top players haven’t been at their best when approaching those kinds of stakes in recent years.

2. Though Cincinnati should be the AFC North favorite, getting back to that stage won’t be easy in a conference featuring so many elite quarterbacks. Only one team in the 21st century — the 2018 Patriots — has returned to the Super Bowl the year after losing one. These chances don’t come often.

3. Speaking of opportunities, Eric Weddle going from being retired for two years to winning a Super Bowl over the course of a month is the plot of a corny sports movie. That he played every defensive snap with a pectoral tear suffered in the first quarter made it more remarkable.    

4. The offensive line often takes too much blame and the quarterback not enough for sacks, but watching Los Angeles eat Joe Burrow alive reminded how much work the Ravens have to do with their own offensive line. Protecting Lamar Jackson and running the ball at a high level remain critical.

5. I remember some Ravens fans believing C.J. Mosley was robbed of winning the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but it was evident right away that Aaron Donald was different. Even if he walks away now, he’s already become one of the best defensive players in NFL history.

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6. It’s been a long time since a Baltimore defensive front has dominated like the Rams can without using heavy blitzing and deception. Though you obviously never count on finding a Hall of Fame player like Donald, I’m interested to see how the Ravens go about retooling their defensive line.

7. Aiming to find the next Calais Campbell always sounds better in February than the fall. Though I wouldn’t pay too much for someone turning 36 in September, leaning too heavily on youth could hurt in the short term. At the same time, might Campbell find some other contenders more appealing?

8. It’s been noted a few times over the years that Baltimore liked Cooper Kupp in 2017 before the Rams drafted him 69th overall and Ozzie Newsome settled for Chris Wormley (74th) and Tim Williams (78th). You can never know how different landing spots impact development, but Kupp is special.

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9. Though happy to see Bradley Bozeman enjoy the spotlight as one of the Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees, I wondered if that could be his last “official” appearance as a Raven. The market should be interesting with other centers available like Ryan Jensen, Ben Jones, and Brian Allen.

10. While other Super Bowl cornerbacks such as Jalen Ramsey and Eli Apple commanded more attention for different reasons, ex-Raven Darious Williams went from being a walk-on at a school that temporarily dropped football to an above-average Rams starter about to make strong money in free agency. What a great story.

11. I’ll abstain from “all-too-early” 2022 power rankings, but my prediction is Baltimore returns to the postseason if for no reason beyond improved health. That said, I’m not quite as bullish as previous offseasons about the Ravens being a top-shelf contender. They have work to do and can’t let complacency interfere. 

12. Much will change between now and September and the schedule hasn’t been released, but Football Outsiders currently projects the Ravens to have the league’s easiest slate of opponents, which would certainly help their 2022 outlook. Their schedule ranked 18th in 2021, according to the analytics website.

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