Without question the Ravens 2022 season has been excruciatingly frustrating. A (3-3) team that could very easily be (6-0) is, as Sting once sang, “a humiliating kick in the crotch”. In each loss the Ravens successfully snatched defeat from the apparently toothless jaws of victory.
It hurts, and hopefully it hurts the team equally. When pain ushers in, remedies are sought. And the Ravens could use a few. But if for a moment we extract ourselves from the stench of this rotten, fermented swamp of exasperation that rivals the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Ravens do in fact sit atop the AFC North. The first goal of each season for all 32 teams, is to win the division. So despite the unsavory twists and turns the 2022 season has taken so far, the Ravens are in position to check that first box on their list of seasonal goals.
The team is better than they’ve looked during the fourth quarter of too many games. A play here or there could have turned the result of each loss. But at the end of the day, as Bill Parcells’ quote reminds teams across the league annually, “you are what your record says you are”. We, along with the team, can relive the events that have delivered the Ravens to the doorstep of a .500 season thus far. Or the team can go to work, correct the mistakes and improve on their divisional lead.
During their first loss at home to the Dolphins, the back-end of the defense was horrific throughout the final frame, yielding 28 points. That problem seems to be corrected. The pass rush or lack thereof, which has been a source of frustration for many, is on the uptick with the addition of Jason Pierre-Paul. With new reinforcements on the way in the forms of Tyus Bowser, David Ojabo and Justin Houston, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will have more at his disposal to disrupt opposing offenses at the line of scrimmage. It will free up Odafe Oweh to get after the quarterback more often instead of dropping into coverage as frequently as he has, while assuming some of the responsibilities normally handled by Bowser.
On offense, the return of Ronnie Stanley is a massive upgrade at left tackle which should help the passing game and the ground attack. Kenyan Drake showed some life against the Giants and he’ll soon be supported by the returns of Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. Maybe even J.K. Dobbins gets right. These developments then becomes an ally to the team’s fourth quarter defense. If the Ravens are able to recapture some of that offensive magic from 2019 and grind opponents into submission during the game’s waning moments, winning time of possession becomes Macdonald’s best friend and arguably the best protectorate of a fourth quarter lead.
Rashod Bateman is due back soon and if somehow offensive coordinator Greg Roman can successfully blend his home run hitting ability with that of Devin Duvernay and newly signed Desean Jackson, that speed commands respect and when it does, things open up inside the box for the running game. Many may dismiss the Jackson signing, and label it a desperate move by a desperate team. And perhaps there’s some truth to that. But if Jackson can still run, what difference does it make if he turns 36 in December? If he possesses speed that must be respected, that becomes a friend to the other 10 players on his side of the ball.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to Lamar, as it should. If he is truly going to take the reins as the team’s long-term franchise quarterback, it’s time to earn that coveted contract week-to-week.
Sunday is the start of the rest of the season – a starting place that is a tad better than the rest of the AFC North. Job No. 1 is to keep it that way. And the way things are beginning to shape up with the roster, the future of the 2022 season very well could be bright, despite the gloomy start.
Better get those shades ready!