If you polled 100 Baltimore Ravens fans, I’d wager 95 of them would say they expect the same kind of success in 2020, that they enjoyed from the team in 2019. Predictions would include at least something close to the 14-2 record, the No. 1 rushing offense in the league (again) and huge steps forward from guys like Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. Not to mention the obvious: marked upgrades in the run defense and linebacker corps.
I’m not here to tell you that none of this is possible, and that all your dreams are going to end up like mine throughout my life. However, I am here to tell you what you should prepare for. Because if nothing else, I am the voice of reason and realism on Ravens Twitter. Or the voice of negativity…whatever you want to call it.
Nothing left but to do it, so let’s begin.
Let’s start with the second-year speedster that played at *checks notes* 157 pounds in 2019. He’s allegedly up to about 180 pounds now, but says he only gained 10 pounds. I’m not great at math, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t add up (pun intended).
Brown spent his offseason using a GPS tracker to ensure he didn’t lose any speed while bulking up, so Ravens fans can expect him to be the same downfield threat that they saw throughout the 2019 NFL Season. That’s why most fans are predicting a breakout season for the 23-year-old.
But like.. what if he doesn’t? Break out, that is…
Marquise played hurt, we all know that. So we of course have to take that into account, as well as him being a rookie – however. One game in the regular season over 100 yards. Only two others at 80 yards or more. Yes, I’m aware of the statistics from the Titans game, but let’s be honest – a lot of that came in what would normally be recognized as garbage time. He averaged just 41.71 yards per game, and over 53% of his production came in just three games.
That may not be the statistic you want to read, but it’s the one you need to fear. Consistency is the mark of a great player, and without it, Marquise will no doubt have great games, but he will also not live up to the expectations that I’ve seen from Ravens fans this off-season.
Since we’re on the topic of wideouts, let’s move onto the guy I’ve had high hopes for – may as well keep myself in check at the same time as doing everyone else that favor.
There’s actually a lot to be hopeful for when it comes to the Notre Dame standout. He had six games in which he was targeted and posted a 100% catch percentage. Yes, all of those games were low-target games. But it helped him to a season-long catch percentage of just under 60% – which isn’t terrible for a struggling first-year wideout. His size/speed ratio is something that can’t be taught, and he has a history of making tough catches at the college level.
However, he also had four games where his catch percentage was a whopping zero percent. He had a handful of easy drops during the season – five by my count, on just 22 targets. In the playoffs he received his highest target share, but managed just three catches on seven targets with two drops. His routes were sloppy throughout the year, and he didn’t show the ‘gimme that’ that he had previously shown in college.
I want nothing more than to see Boykin break out in Year 2 – and eventually take over the Big Slot role. But solely relying on something that we haven’t yet seen is a road to disaster.
I’m just going to tuck this one in the middle in the hopes that I don’t get attacked too fiercely over it. Just kidding, bring it on. This is simple logic.
Lamar was incredible in 2019 – nobody is denying that. He racked up over 4,300 total yards, with 43 total scores against just six interceptions and two fumbles lost (nine total) – in just fifteen games started, and a few quarters sat out. He posted a season-long passer rating of 113.3.
So why am I hedging against him repeating his MVP season in 2019?
BECAUSE THAT’S REALLY HARD TO DO.
By no means am I saying that he’s going to regress to the mean, and be average-at-best. In fact, I think he improves in certain areas (deep passing, anybody?) while regressing statistically in others.
I just think that he’ll be rushing less, so he’ll lose yardage there. His passing yards probably go up, so call that a wash. The touchdown rate probably goes down, as the 2019 Ravens offense was incredibly hard to stop (as proven by their 14-2 record). Interceptions could take a climb (not a big climb) as he should be passing more and attempting more downfield passing.
That being said he did show a 2:1 TD:INT rate in 2018 as well, so maybe I’m completely off-book here.
The Ravens Regression
This one should be obvious for everybody.
14-2 is a hard mark to hit. Hitting it twice in a row is nearly impossible. So for everybody that’s calling for another 14-2 season, expect to be disappointed.
Yes, the Ravens have the ‘easiest’ Strength of Schedule in 2020. And they’re favored in every single game to open the season. They’re returning most of their starters from their electric 2019 season.
So why do I not expect them to match their 2019 win total?
Do me a favor and re-read the second sentence of this section. That’s it. That’s the point.
Matthew Judon’s Sack Total
A lot of Ravens fans are really high on Matthew Judon, and I…don’t get it.
This is another story of consistency – or the lack thereof. In 2018, Judon had ~40% of his production come in one game. In 2019, he started off with a sack of each in the first three games.
Then…nothing for two weeks. A sack, then nothing for three weeks. The story goes on.
I’m aware that he had 33 quarterback hits and a high pressure rate, but let’s not act like he could rely on, y’know, anybody else to help him create havoc. I’m also aware that he’s one of four pass rushers to record at least 70 QB Hits, 40 TFLs, and 20 sacks since he entered the league.
But now, one of those other four guys is his teammate. The Ravens upgraded the defensive line, as well as the second level of the defense, and have one of (top two, and it ain’t two) the best secondaries in the entire league.
Not only will the sack and pressure totals be distributed among other players (Jaylon Ferguson step forward, maybe?) but the Ravens defense can dare opposing offenses to throw, relying on guys like Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and dare I say Tavon Young to drive passer ratings and completion percentages down. So I don’t expect Judon to post a career-best season like he did in 2019.
The Rushing Record
The Ravens probably won’t break the all-time single-season rushing record that they set in 2019.
Adding J.K. Dobbins is more about investing in the future than it is about trying to break that record. That’s not to say that they won’t be the best rushing offense in the NFL again – that is entirely possible. 3,296 rushing yards is a massive amount, and the addition of new passing weapons speaks more about what they want to do through the air than adding Dobbins does about their ground plans.
Since I’m hedging bets here.. how heckin’ cool would it be if they did break it, though? Imagine a 3,500 or 4,000-yard rushing team? Yeesh.
Super Bowl Aspirations
Here it is. The one that everybody will want to cut my head off for.
I’m not saying they absolutely will not win the Super Bowl – this entire article is merely looking at the non-homer side of things – but people have to realize that that is a difficult task. In the past two years, since Lamar has been the starter, they have failed to get past the first playoff game in each year. This isn’t a shot at Lamar – he’s young, and he was in a bad situation in year one, with a bad run defense and play-calling that was sub-par in 2019.
This year, the run defense is improved (on paper) and the Ravens took step to address the passing game. But the offensive line is a question mark, the aforementioned passing game additions are a question mark, and nobody knows how other teams will look. You can’t just assume that other teams didn’t get better. It’s not safe to assume that defensive coordinators haven’t been trying new tricks to stop the Ravens offense (though that seems a little far-fetched after so much tape and.. nothing). You also can’t assume that the playoff jitters are gone from the younger players.
The reality sucks. I hate it. I feel bad even bringing it up. But it’s the reality that people need to face, or risk – I SAID RISK – being let down.
That all being said? They do look like an incredibly tough team to stop, based on last year plus the new additions, plus their schedule.
I know some of you will fight me on this. I’m also aware that if any of these things don’t happen, this article is going to get rubbed in my face. So, it makes sense that, one last time, I’m going to tell you – this is not a prediction article. This is me showing you the dark side of the football.
I really hope we have a season – I don’t know how many more of these not-about-a-game articles I have in me.