The Ravens — and life as a whole — took another step toward normalcy this week when their coaches were able to return to the Under Armour Performance Center.
Even though the future is still uncertain with the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL is forging ahead with plans for the 2020 season.
This is good news for the Ravens, who have their sights set firmly on a Super Bowl run. The team has talent and depth at every position and hype has already been building for months about its potential.
While NFL teams had to forgo mandatory minicamps this month, players are expected to be able to return to their respective practice facilities for training camp in July. There is some talk about allowing the rookies to report earlier. This would be beneficial to both the players and franchises considering none of the first-year players have gotten a true taste of life in the NFL.
There are not many uncertainties with the Ravens roster and that should work in coach John Harbaugh’s favor. The biggest battles for playing time will take place on the offensive line, with several players looking to earn a starting spot at guard or possibly at center, especially if the team opts to shift Bradley Bozeman from left guard.
All eyes will be on quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is entering his third year in the league. He has already established himself as one of the league’s most dynamic players. Even with the layoff because of the coronavirus, Jackson’s teammates expect to see an even more improved player from last season, when he was unanimously selected as the NFL MVP.
Running back Mark Ingram expects Jackson to follow a similar career arc of Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who also won the NFL MVP in his second year. Mahomes followed up that performance by leading the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years.
Jackson also is focused on leading the Ravens on the same path.
“You saw the jump Mahomes had from his second to the third year, the way he was comfortable with his team, the way he’s comfortable in himself, being a leader, being a playmaker,” Ingram said “I see that same jump for Lamar. Man, he’s special. He has all the tools, all of the intangibles to be great to be the MVP again.
“We’re all just working, doing everything we can to prepare with the circumstances going on. And I think we’re all getting together to do some routes and things in a week or so with Lamar and some of the skill positions. We’re going to be ready to go when the ball kicks off. He’s special, we love him and he’s the best. We have his back and we’re trying to be champions. That’s the goal for all of us.”
Jackson has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The team has solid a mix of young and experience and playmakers at wide receiver with Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead. Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle could be the best duo at tight end in the NFL. The Ravens have all three players back from their record-breaking with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill.
General manager Eric DeCosta added more talent in this year’s NFL draft with two more receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche, along with running back J.K. Dobbins, who fell into their lap in the second round.
As a result, Jackson might have to run less this season and protect himself by getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
“We have ‘Hollywood,’ Mark Andrews, Nick, Willie Snead IV, Miles], [so] we are going to be pretty good, and I don’t think I’ll be running a lot,” Jackson said. “We have great running backs in Justice Hill, Gus and Mark. We should be good.”