With many analysts across the NFL playing down the chances of the Baltimore Ravens in 2019, writes our guest writer Owain Jones.
We question whether the Ravens are being overlooked.
The AFC North has huge hype and promises surrounding it in 2019. The Ravens won the division last season; before eventually losing to the LA Chargers in the Wildcard round. While the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers have taken centre stage this off-season, the Ravens have quietly gone about their business.
It’s easy to see why many are seeing 2019 as a transition year for the Ravens, with key players becoming free agents on both sides of the ball. Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Zadarius Smith, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, and CJ Mosley are just some of the co-stars that have left Baltimore this offseason.
Recruiting free agents Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram has given the Ravens star power and leaders between the hashes. Baltimore also added speed to the supporting cast through the NFL Draft, drafting both running back Justice Hill and wideout Marquise Brown.
The pace of this Raven offense will give genuine weapons for quarterback Lamar Jackson to target. Brown can take the top off of defenses and make significant gains, while Hill gives explosiveness and power to compliment Ingram.
The Ravens will now have the ground game which has been so inadequate for the last few seasons. They haven’t had a 1000 yard rusher since Justin Forsett in 2014. Adding two-time pro bowler Mark Ingram will add punch to an energised offense.
Earl Thomas joins an already elite Raven secondary. Even though this defense has lost some big names, it hasn’t lost the essence of what it means to play defense for the Baltimore Ravens. Thomas will have more work than making plays, and the veteran will have to use his experience of multiple Superbowls and playoff games to control the defense.
The 2018 rendition of the Baltimore defense, which included their top three tacklers from the 2018 season in Smith, Weddle, and Mosley, was first overall for total defense. The 2019 adaptation won’t be far away.
A serious, tenacious and strong defense is just expected in the stands of M&T Bank Stadium. There is absolutely no doubt that defensive coordinator Don Martindale will have to work this youthful, developing and raw defense harder than he has had to since he took tenure in Baltimore. This leaves the defense by no means inferior, though, and we can expect those superseding to blossom.
Ravens’ unpredictable offense
The offense is only going to get more dynamic. Greg Roman was promoted to offensive coordinator back in January but wasn’t calling plays. Roman will now be conducting plays in 2019 with Lamar Jackson under centre. The Raven’s front office has shown a great deal of faith in Jackson. After trading long time and Superbowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos.
Jackson will allow Roman to direct an innovative and creative offense, where opposing defenses will go into games fearing that the playmaker will have his hands on the ball every down.
The Ravens also have what should be a relatively straightforward start to the season. Baltimore visits Miami and hosts Arizona in weeks 1 and two respectively. Both teams ranked 31 and 32 overall in total defense in 2018.
This should help the Ravens settle into the regular season and be more flexible and inventive with their plays. The schedule does get considerably harder through weeks 3-12, facing both Superbowl teams from 2018 and four teams who won their division.
Sure, the critics could be right. This may be a transitional year for the Baltimore Ravens. But, sleep on the Ravens at your peril, this team can be a divisional and playoff winning team.