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Coming off of a 14-2 record in 2019, the Ravens started the 2020 season with the same lethargy that they had shown in losing to the Titans to end that remarkable 2019 season. After winning only six of their first eleven games, Baltimore turned things around and finished the regular season with five straight wins and a final regular-season record of 11-5. They would get playoff revenge against the Titans by beating them in the opening round, 20-13. Although they would lose 17-3 to the Bills in the divisional round, the Ravens turned in another solid season.
After winning the league’s MVP award in 2019, Lamar Jackson was much less effective in 2020. Although Jackson turned in another 1k yards rushing (1005 with 7 TD’s) season, his passing was not nearly as efficient as it had been in 2019. Jackson’s completion percentage fell from 66.1 in 2019 to 64.4 in 2020, while his passing yards fell from 3127 to 2757. Both his TD percentage(9.0 to 6.9) and interception percentage (1.5 to 2.4 percent) worsened as well. In summation, Jackson simply had worse results in every important passing category.
With the inconsistent quarterback play prevalent, the Ravens continued to lean heavily on their running game. The Ravens finished last year as the number one team in rushing yards (3071) and rushing yards/carry (5.5) According to PFF.Com, the Ravens’ offensive line was ranked as the number 16th ranked line. After losing Marshal Yanda to retirement and Ronnie Stanley to a mid-season injury, the Ravens struggled with a makeshift line. Nine different linemen played at least 100 offensive snaps on the season.
The top overall rusher on the team was Jackson himself. After Jackson’s performance, J.K Dobbins and Gus Edwards split the backfield almost down the middle. Edwards had 144 rushes for 723 yards, (5.0 yards/carry) and six TD’’s, while Dobbins pitched in 134 carries for 805 yards (6.0 yards/carry) and nineTD’s. Mark Ingram, who signed a contract with the Texans during the off-season, registered 299 yards on 72 rushes (4.15 yards/carry). While the rushing game carried the offense during the regular season, it was only able to manage 148 yards in the playoff loss to the Bills.
In direct correlation with Jackson’s struggles, the receiving corps was ineffective as well. For the second consecutive year, Baltimore’s receivers finished dead last in combined receiving yards. Only two receivers (TE Mark Andrews and WR Marquise Brown) were able to garner more than 46 targets on the season. Both Brown and Andrews caught exactly 58 balls (Brown on 100 targets and Andrews on 78) on the season. Brown finished the season with 769 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, while Andrews recorded 701 yards and seven touchdowns.
After the Ravens’ lackluster loss to the Bills in the playoffs, it was apparent that the Ravens had a few questions to answer on the offensive side of the ball. As mentioned previously, the Ravens fell prey to a turnstile effect on the offensive line, as well as a lack of playmakers within their skill positions. During free agency, Edwards was ultimately signed to play in Baltimore through the 2023 season. To help the receiving corps, Sammy Watkins (Chiefs) was signed to a one-year deal. For help on the offensive line, the team signed RG Kevin Zeitler (Giants) and Alejandro Villanueva (Steelers) Zeitler is currently listed as the starter at right guard, while Villanueva is listed as the starter at right tackle.
Along with the free-agent signings previously mentioned, the Ravens drafted two additional highly thought of wide receivers in the draft. Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) was selected in the first round with the 27th overall pick, while Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) was drafted in the fourth round. Bateman has been compared to Keenan Allen due to his outstanding separation skills, while Wallace is best known for his explosive play and dependable hands. In addition to Bateman and Wallace, OG Ben Cleveland (Georgia) was picked in the third round and is currently atop the depth chart at left guard.
As we head into the season, the Ravens have several players listed amongst the elite at their positions. These players include 1) Jackson-QB4; 2) Dobbins-RB14; 3) Edwards-RB38, and 4) Andrews-TE4. Although Brown (WR44) and Bateman (WR61) are being selected later in drafts, both have tremendous upside as long as Jackson can revert back to his 2019 form.
As one can tell, this offense will go as Jackson goes. I would still expect the running game to be heavily involved, with a slight uptick in passing attempts. If Jackson can be more efficient than in 2020, there will be an opportunity for at least a couple of receiving options to put in nice seasons. Brown and Andrews will still be my preferred options, but Bateman makes for a low-risk/high-reward option at his current ADP.
At present, VegasInsider.Com has the Ravens over/under win total listed at 11. They have done an excellent job of addressing the needs at both the offensive line and receiving corps. Although the win total is one of the highest on the board, the Ravens have a combined 25-7 record over the last two regular seasons and seem primed to match or succeed the Vegas win total.
(Cover Photo Credit: Todd Olszewski / Getty Images)