The thing I’ll probably miss most about the 16-game regular season is the simplicity of breaking the season down into two halves, or four quarters. For one, it is easy to make individual and team projections when you only have to multiply by four, or two. For another… well, no, that’s probably it. Getting an extra game is fun, right?
A positive about this, besides that extra game, is I don’t have to be regimented when doing looks at the season to this point. I don’t have to do it after four games, or eight, or whatever. I can do it when I have time and energy. Well, now is the time. As for energy? I’m a father. I never have any energy.
So, with this random time being as good as any other random time, let’s take a look at what’s to like so far this season for the Ravens, and what is, well, not to like.
What I like: Lamar Jackson’s throwing and running
His completion percentage sits at 60.9 percent, which doesn’t tell the whole story for those who have watched all three games. He was under constant duress against the Raiders, and had some significant drops in the Lions game, as well as a couple toss-aways. Jackson is doing a nice job of stepping up into his throws, and, to these eyes, is following through on his passes while on the move. This is a subtle improvement to his form from years past.
His running ability has never been in doubt, but I like his decision-making so far, particularly in regards to deciding when to run when his passing options aren’t immediately available. He has been bouncing around the pocket, avoiding rushers and keeping his eyes downfield until running is his obvious choice — then he’s exploding and not hedging. Smart decisions from what is now a veteran quarterback.
What I don’t like: Lamar Jackson’s turnovers
Yes, Sammy Watkins fell down on the pick-six. And, also yes, there seemed to be some confusion or poor play design with his pick against the Lions when he had two receivers — thus two defenders — in the same area. But three interceptions and two lost fumbles in three games is not ideal. That’s points lost. Losing points is not a good thing, especially when the defense is showing some holes.
Raise your hand if you thought these would be the most reliable pieces of the Ravens line after three games.
Liar! Put down your hand right now. Have you no shame?
There were reasons to be optimistic with Bozeman, as he has shown growth each year in the league and was returning to the position that got him into the NFL in the first place. But Mekari was more appreciated for his positional flexibility than general competence at any one position. If he keeps playing like this, that narrative could change.
God, I hate using the now-overblown term “narrative.” Time for me to change the narra… never mind.
What I don’t like: The rest of the line
Kevin Zeitler has seemingly struggled to this point, particularly in pass blocking. That can be expected, as he’s moving into a new system with new responsibilities, so we can be patient there. Alejandro Villanueva has not been great, though he performed comparatively well against Kansas City. Ben Powers and Ben Cleveland have thrown a lot of “Bens” at opposing defenses, and haven’t been bad to my untrained eye. I’d just like to see more “power” from these “power” guys.
What I like: Receivers getting open
I mean, the guys are getting open. What’s not to like? Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins and Mark Andrews seem to be gaining separation at will, and Rashod Bateman, who is getting closer to making his debut, is noted for his ability to get open. If Devin Duvernay and James Proche can prove themselves to be able to consistently find holes in opposing defenses, as well, and I think they can, those empty looks can become much more dangerous — both in terms of passing the ball and opening lanes for Jackson to run wild downfield.
What I don’t like: Drops
Know what I mean?
I’m looking forward to the return of Derek Wolfe, and Justin Houston, Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike getting back in the rotation. This could be a very formidable front. As far as what we have seen, Campbell and Oweh have been getting penetration and creating mayhem. On a side note, I feel like Justin Ellis has been playing his best football to this point. This could become a dangerous line of defense.
If there were two guys I felt were ready to explode on the scene this season, it was Queen and Bowser. Well, it’s been a fizzle to this point, as opposing backs have found the arms of these two defenders to be mere nuisances in getting to where they want to get. This needs to get fixed or the Ravens are going to have a hard time this year playing against the likes of the Browns and other teams who know how to isolate their backs against linebackers.
What I like: Chuck Clark
I’ve always been a fan of Chuck Clark the person. Chuck Clark the worker. Chuck Clark the stabilizing force. I was never a big believer in his ceiling, however, and have thought the Ravens could upgrade that position in the near future.
Clark is playing like a Pro Bowler this year. He got his hands on three balls against the Raiders early, and was all over the field against Detroit, posting 12 tackles and a sack, and generally being a nuisance to their offense all day. I like what I’m seeing from Clark to this point.
Bonus “What I (still) like”: Justin Tucker
The guy just booted a kick from Randallstown to win a game in Detroit. What’s not to like?