4 Things the Ravens Must Get Right
Baltimore had their best season since 2014 last year when they ended their four-year absence from the playoffs. Unfortunately for Ravens fans, they were unable to advance past the wild-card round as they were beaten 23-17 by the Los Angeles Chargers.
Head coach John Harbaugh will be hoping his team can build upon last season when they return to action next month in what is going to prove to be a tough division with the players the Cleveland Browns have added in the AFC North.
Here are four things the Ravens must get right if they are to win the divisional title for the fourth time in ten years.
Lamar Jackson needs more downfield threats
Former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson was one of the key reasons as to why the Ravens made the playoffs last season. After Joe Flacco went down injured in week nine, Jackson took over the team and made the position his own. The Ravens won six of their last seven games which was enough to see them secure the title in the division.
Baltimore has worked hard in the offseason to find Jackson more downfield threats to help the passing game. Two of their first three picks in the 2019 NFL Draft hosted in Nashville, were wide-receivers in the form of Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. Those two speedy players should help Jackson’s deep game in his second year in the league.
Results against divisional rivals are key
The AFC North is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL in 2019 and that is reflected in the sports betting on the 2019 regular season where there is very little margin between the four teams, with the Ravens available to be backed at +275, as of August 26, behind the Browns and Steelers respectively. As they always are, results against their divisional rivals are going to count for so much at the end of the regular season as it is hard to see any team running away with the division this year.
The Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr in the offseason so they are expected to be one of the Super Bowl contenders this year, while Pittsburgh has to adapt to life without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell for the very first time. Baltimore was 3-3 against their divisional rivals in 2018. That may need to improve if they are to defend their title this year, particularly those games played at M&T Bank Stadium.
Mark Ingram to take the weight off Jackson
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 14, 2019
Arguably the best bit of business the Ravens did in the offseason was the signing of Mark Ingram in free-agency from the New Orleans Saints. Ingram, along with his former teammate Alvin Kamara, was part of the best running back tandem in the NFL. The Ravens were ranked 12th of the 32 teams in the total rushing yards in 2018. If Ingram repeats his numbers of 2017 where he recorded 12 touchdowns and 1,124 rushing yards, the Ravens will finish higher in the rushing stats in 2019. Having a serious dual-threat in their offense this year will take the weight off Jackson’s game and should help to have an even better year.
Have the Ravens replaced defensive losses?
There is no doubt that the losses of C.J Mosley, Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs have hurt the Baltimore defense. Those three players have cashed in elsewhere in the free-agency market. One area which has definitely improved on the defense is the secondary with the addition of safety Earl Thomas. The former Seattle Seahawks man is a six-time Pro-Bowler and was named first-team All-Pro from 2012 to 2014. Thomas was heavily linked with the Dallas Cowboys but it was the Ravens who were able to agree a deal with the former first-round pick.
Baltimore has also added pass-rusher Jaylon Ferguson from Louisiana Tech in the third round of the draft. Ferguson is the NCAA’s all-time sacks leader. The rookie had 17.5 sacks and 65 tackles in 2018 so he arrives as an exciting prospect.
The Ravens begin their 2019 season against the Dolphins in Miami, while their opening home game comes in week two when the Cardinals arrive in Baltimore.