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Bye, Bye, Bye

Original Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard, Baltimore Ravens (Pictured: Rashod Bateman)
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After seven games of Ravens football, the bye week is a great opportunity to relax and get some perspective. I’d highly recommend reading the debut article from John Minadakis, a tribute to this franchise and its consistent excellence for Baltimore.

We’ve definitely been lucky in Baltimore, and there’s no better example of that than Lamar Jackson. You want a stat? Fine, here’s a stat.

Not bad, right? Even with injuries sidelining key players (and a ton of our cap space), Jackson just puts the team on his shoulders.

But with Lamar, it’s more than just what he does on the field. He makes us proud with everything he does. He doesn’t make excuses for losses and doesn’t gloat in victory. He treats everyone with respect (except opposing defenders) and is a clear team leader at only 24 years old. That’s a franchise quarterback, right there.

But it’s more than just Lamar. No general manager is perfect, but Eric DeCosta has done a pretty incredible job of constructing this roster. Even before Lamar, we were always competing for a playoff spot while also building for the future. This year, it’s rookies like Odafe Oweh, Rashod Bateman and Brandon Stephens who have been extremely impressive and all will have a role to play on this team for years to come.

Oweh is not even being used as a full-time pass-rusher and he’s still leading all rookies with 24 pressures. But rather than unleash him at opposing quarterbacks, Wink Martindale is taking the time to develop Oweh into a well-rounded OLB, something that will pay dividends in future seasons.

And then there’s Bateman. Seven catches for seven first downs to start his NFL career, and with Sammy Watkins nearing his return, Jackson is about to have a full complement of weapons for the first time this season.

Let’s talk about this receiving group, from left to right. Devin Duvernay has been an excellent returning and rotational weapon on offense, especially in forcing defenses to respect his running ability on jet sweeps, and James Proche has been reliable in limited snaps. Remember, this is only their second season; there’s still more we can see from these two. Jaylon Moore is an undrafted find who impressed in the preseason. I could see him hanging on with the Ravens after one or two of our current receivers leave Baltimore. That’s most likely the not-pictured Miles Boykin, who’s likely the photographer. He’s still a great run blocker and special teams contributor, which carries more value in Baltimore than it does elsewhere.

Then, it’s the Ravens’ Big 3 at wide receiver: Hollywood Brown, Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman. It’s going to be impossible for defenses to cover all three of them, plus Mark Andrews, while also trying to defend Jackson and the ground game. Get your popcorn ready for the first time all five of those guys are on the field together.

Tylan Wallace has been a quintessential Baltimore guy, not complaining about lack of opportunities on offense and instead focusing on proving his value by owning special teams play. And there’s Binjimen Victor, another young practice squad player who has definitely earned the opportunity to compete for a roster spot once there’s less of a logjam at wideout.

That’s an exciting group, with an average age of 24 years old. That’s the same age as Lamar, which should scare the NFL. We saw firsthand what QB-WR chemistry can do to a defense.

I’m also really hoping that DeShon Elliott sticks around in Baltimore. He’ll probably have to take a below-market contract to do it, but he’s just such a great fit here. Like Lamar, it goes beyond his on-field play. He’s a fantastic teammate, even to the offense he faces off against in practice.

Plus, he loves the Orioles, and he arrived in Baltimore in 2018!

He’s only been around for the depths of the Orioles’ current tank-and-rebuild process, but he knows, like the rest of us do, that baseball in Baltimore will be back.

It’s a world-class franchise we have, top to bottom. Look at the love for Dave Zastudil, who was the Ravens’ punter for four seasons.

Zastudil is also a reminder that drafting hasn’t always been so perfect or efficient in Baltimore. He was taken in the fourth round. A punter! In the fourth round! Even Sam Koch was taken in the sixth! That’s a bit of a head-scratcher, though I’ll never abandon the In Ozzie (and now Eric) We Trust mantra.

With that, I’ll wish all of you a happy weekend and encourage you to get some serious R&R before the rest of this rollercoaster season continues. The Bozemans seem to have the right idea!

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