3 Things We’ve Learned About the Ravens in 2021
With the Ravens three games into their season and sitting at 2-1, we have seen enough football to learn a few things about this team.
One thing is for certain, the Ravens first three games have been wild. Three games in and we have a 1st and goal at the 1 in OT stop and then eventual loss, a 36-35 dramatic win over the Chiefs, and a game-winning, NFL record 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker.
If the Ravens final 14 games will be anything like the first three, it is going to be a season to remember in Baltimore.
The Ravens have no problem overcoming adversity
Just two days before the Ravens traveled to Las Vegas to face the Raiders in their season opener, they lost two key contributors in RB Gus Edwards and CB Marcus Peters to season-ending ACL injuries. Unfortunately, this capped off a three-week span that also saw the Ravens lose RBs J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill, in addition to LB L.J. Fort to season-ending injuries.
The Ravens had also been dealing with many other absences over the course of training camp. WRs Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin missed nearly all of camp with hamstring injuries. LT Ronnie Stanley and TE Nick Boyle were recovering from season-ending injuries from 2020. Derek Wolfe had a back injury pop up towards the end of camp. Even QB Lamar Jackson missed the first 10 practices after testing positive for COVID. The Ravens headed to Vegas down several key contributors, two of which they had just lost days prior with little time to find replacements and adjust the game plan. John Harbaugh and company couldn’t find a way to win in Vegas, losing an overtime thriller to a currently 3-0 Raiders team. In a game the Ravens probably should have won, they showed their resilience and nearly beat a quality team on the road despite being down so many key players.
After the loss in Vegas, the Ravens landed at BWI around 7:00am Tuesday morning and began preparing to play the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs, a team they had lost to the previous three seasons, on short rest. A day or so later, the Ravens found out they’d be without two starters from their offensive line, All-Pro LT Ronnie Stanley and LG Tyre Phillips.
In a game that saw Jackson throw two early INTs and the Ravens down double digits, rookie OLB Odafe Oweh forced a game-changing fumble to secure a Ravens victory against the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs.
In Week 3, not to be outdone, the Ravens needed an NFL record 66-yard field goal from the GOAT, Justin Tucker, to take care of the Lions in Detroit. Because the Ravens like to make things hard on themselves, they were down Justin Houston, Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike, and Jaylon Ferguson due to COVID protocol.
Three weeks into the season, the Ravens have pulled out two gutsy wins and proven their ability to perform in the midst of adversity.
Lamar Jackson really has improved as a passer
One of the bigger storylines heading into the 2020 season was Lamar Jackson and the Ravens desire to improve their passing attack. However, Jackson struggled to build on his MVP season and battled inconsistent fundamentals and footwork, shaky offensive line play, and a lack of reliable weapons. There are many stats used to measure the success of passing offenses, and while the Ravens had the top rushing offense in football, they finished last in the NFL in passing yards per game. A more balanced attack was needed.
Flash forward to 2021, and another major storyline this offseason was whether Lamar Jackson and the passing offense could take the next step. So far, the early results are looking promising. We’ve heard Lamar talk about wanting to push the ball downfield in the past, but through three weeks, he’s backing up his words.
Jackson leads the NFL in average distance of target at 12.3 yards per attempt. Josh Allen is next at 9.7. Credit to the guys at Baltimore Beatdown for digging this up. Jackson also currently leads the NFL in yards per completion(14.4). His improvements as a passer haven’t resulted in a drop-off from his rushing; Jackson also leads the NFL in yards per carry and is 4th in rushing yards.
Jackson has gained a combined 1,012 passing and rushing yards, which is more than 13 other NFL teams have gained total.
On Sunday, Jackson completed passes on 3rd and 18 and 4th and 19 while throwing for a total of 287 yards. If you were to add in around 50-75 yards that Marquise Brown left on the field, it would have been a career high in terms of passing yards, around 350. Jackson is on pace to throw for 4,312 in 17 games this season, averaging 253 YPG.
While it has only been three games, he looks poised in the pocket and is using his lower body to drive the ball downfield and outside the numbers while showcasing his emphasis on fundamentals this offseason has paid off.
This Baltimore team is a work in progress
As I mentioned earlier, the Ravens have had to deal with the absence of many key players due to injury and COVID. Any team that is dealing with the number of guys the Ravens have on IR is going to have a difficult time in finding quality replacements. The Ravens depth is being tested and guys like Anthony Averett, Ty’Son Williams, Brandon Stephens, Ben Powers, and Patrick Mekari to name a few have stepped up.
However, the Ravens have also had some issues with tackling, catching the football, and winning battles in the trenches. More consistent play is needed from Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. Hollywood Brown cannot drop two TDs and leave points on the field. The offensive line was brutal in Vegas and didn’t hold up well in the second half against Detroit while the defensive front hasn’t been generating much pressure without blitzing.
With that said, John Harbaugh, Greg Roman, and Wink Martindale do a tremendous job of hiding these weaknesses and have put the Ravens in a position to win, despite all that is working against them. Also, with Lamar Jackson at QB, the Ravens will always have a chance no matter the circumstances.
Due to the injuries sustained, this current Ravens team in September and October may potentially look like a totally different team come December. I discussed this more on the Raven Up Podcast this week, but with guys like Ronnie Stanley, Rashod Bateman, Derek Wolfe, and Miles Boykin all due back at some point, this team is clearly a work in progress. The Ravens are a play or two away from being 3-0, but also a few plays away from being 0-3. Let’s hope the Ravens can stay healthy, continue to overcome adversity, and find a way to play their best football as the season progresses.
Also, let’s continue to enjoy watching Lamar Jackson play football because there is nobody like him in the NFL nor is there anything better than breaking it down right here at Raven Up.