After The Draft; Some Ravens Questions
The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, and I’m personally more interested in the Baltimore Ravens than I have been in sometime.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
I loved the selection of Lamar Jackson.
Everyone is aware of his athleticism. Most are aware of how strong his arm is. What got less attention in my opinion was his gains as a pocket passer this past year. Playing in-front of a poor line, he still spent more time in the pocket and going through his progressions. He improved his completion percentage, despite his teammates letting him down by dropping 8% of his pass attempts.
The Ravens having traded back into the 1st round, and gaining that potential 5th year on Jackson’s rookie deal is huge.
Even prior to Jackson’s selection, it had been widely discussed that after the 2018 season, the Ravens would be in position to get out from under Flacco’s contract.
By selecting Jackson now, you get the ability to groom the heir apparent over the next year. If the Ravens had not selected Jackson now, and parted with Joe after ’18; they would be in position of having to either find a replacement via Free Agency, or go into the ’19 Draft needing to select a QB.
Such an improved position overall, to be able to spend this ’18 season developing him.
Jackson doesn’t have to become an All-Pro for this to work extremely well. Should he take over in ’19, and be a productive starter during the ’19,’20,’21, and ’22 seasons; the Ravens will be positioned to be a perennial contender. That’s the opportunity you gain, if you have a cheap QB providing giving you something. You can build a deep roster around him.
Coming out of the draft, my BSL Colleague Mike Randall gave a look at an early depth chart. Here are some questions and thoughts I have as I look at the roster, and we wait for mid-July and the start of Training Camp:
1) The Ravens have missed the post-season in three consecutive years. Does this look like a playoff team to you? Questions remain, but I’m more optimistic about this roster than I have been in some-time.
2) Is RG3 going to make this team? The Ravens typically don’t keep three QB’s. If you carried three – and each were active – with RG3 as the designated back-up; would that make the Ravens more willing to utilize Jackson in more slash capacities in ’18? Or do we think that even if the Ravens just carry Flacco, and Jackson; that we will regularly see Jackson enter games with certain RPO packages?
3) Alex Collins was a bright-spot in an otherwise depressing 2018 season. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry, and also had 23 receptions. He’s coming off a 212 carry season, which was good for 15th most league wide. How many carries are realistic in ’18? If the carries don’t drastically increase, can the receptions?
4) Crabree, Brown, and Snead represent new faces at WR. Flacco missed camp last year with his back injury. If he’s healthy this Summer, he should be able to build some rapport with this new trio. Moore is entering his third year. He some positive moments as last year progressed. Is he ready to take another step? Lasley dropped too many passes at UCLA, but he also flashed real potential. The off-field concerns (fake id, under age drinking) seem overblown to me. Maybe there are maturity issues, but that doesn’t spell character issues to me. The Ravens will have a better feeling for what they have their in the pending mini-camps.
5) Are the Ravens going to carry four TE’s? Probably not, which means Boyle or Williams likely doesn’t make the team. Boyle has violated the league’s performance enhancing policy twice. Williams has struggled to stay on field. I get the impression that Boyle is the better blocker, and that Williams has better potential as receiving TE. Unless they suffer injuries, Hurst and Andrews are obviously making the team. Boyle’s skill set might be a better balance with the rookies.
6) I always believe teams are built from the inside out, so maybe one of the reasons for my increased optimism with the Ravens overall, is that I’m excited about the O-line’s potential. Orlando Brown was a mess at the combine, but his tape showed why he was an All-American at the collegiate level. What type of shape does he show up in? How focused is he? If he can grab the RT spot, this line has a chance to be really good. Ideally, I think the line left to right would be Stanley, Hurst, Lewis, Yanda, and Brown. That’s a pretty massive group. If that group can stay on the field, they’d have the chance to maul opposing lines.
7) Judon breaking out for 8 sacks last year was good to see. The thing to watch with him in Year 3 is consistency. Can he get to the point where he brings it every game? I was hoping for more out of Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser as rookies last year. The defense looks different if they emerge in ’18.
8) Kenny Young is said to have some quicks, and ability in pass coverage as a LB. Can he make a difference on 3rd downs?
9) Coach Harbaugh is on the record as saying Jimmy Smith is ahead of schedule. That’s good to hear, but the CB suffered his Achilles December 3rd. Is he really going to be ready to start the year? Even if he’s on the field, how long until he’s ‘back’ to the level he was at prior to the injury? I wonder if we might not see that Smith until 2019. I’m more optimistic about Hall, as his ACL injury was suffered last July. I’m expecting he will be fully recovered when the pads come on this Summer. If Smith and Young are both back, the Ravens are in really strong position depth wise with their CB’s to begin ’18.
10) I’m less excited about the Safeties, as I didn’t think Weddle and Jefferson worked that well together. An improved pass rush in-front of them would only help. Do think Jefferson played better when they got him more in the box in the 2nd half of the year. Weddle is a 5x Pro Bowler, including the last two years, and four of the last five; but it appears his free lancing cost the Ravens at times last year.
– Is Joe going to have a burr under his ass all year? If Flacco leads the Ravens back to the playoffs in ’18, any chance the team keeps him for ’19? Will there be trade market available?
– The stands were a bit thin last year. Part of that was more people preferring to watch from home. Part of it was the Ravens on-field struggles. Part of it was the reaction from some fans to the events in London. Will we see a return of the purple pandemonium, and the true home-field advantage the Ravens have long held?