Baltimore Ravens 2020 Season Preview
The Ravens set their tone for the 2019/20 in Week 1 with a huge 59-10 win against the Miami Dolphins. Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson continued his excellent form on the way to an MVP season. Baltimore went on to finish with the best record in the league and were an offensive juggernaut.
Along the way the Ravens set numerous records offensively last season in terms of their rush statistics, including gaining more rushing yards than any team has ever done before. They even outscored their opponents by 249 points, the highest differential of the season. Unfortunately, season long statistics count for nothing once you hit the playoffs and the Ravens went crashing out in the divisional round at home to the Tennessee Titans.
In recent years, the Ravens have largely been second fiddle to the Pittsburgh Steelers in terms of the best team in the AFC North but their efforts last season demonstrated that not only are they currently the best team in the division, they may have a case to be the best team in the league. The Ravens are definitely in a Super Bowl window right now and will be disappointed with how the 2019/20 season came to a premature close.
The Ravens front office used 5 out of their 10 draft picks to add more quality to their offensive unit. Marshal Yanda heading off into the glorious sunset of retirement is a big blow to the team, but the addition of Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson will hopefully soften the blow.
Having struggled at the wide receiver position for a number of years, 2020/21 could be the year that Baltimore Ravens add a quality wide receiver core to an already established ground game and strong defense. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown showed that he is more than capable of being a top tier receiver in his rookie year. Before his foot injury, he amassed 584 yards from 46 receptions and brought in seven touchdowns through the 2019 season. His speed makes him a deep ball threat and with a dynamic QB like Lamar Jackson if he gets open there is a great chance that Jackson is getting the ball to him. Brown has the chance to be for Jackson what Tyreek Hill is for Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City.
Along with Brown, the Ravens still have Miles Boykin from the 2019 draft, who they hope will make a big leap in Year 2. In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Ravens added to the wide receiver core with two selections. First, with the 92nd pick they selected Devin Duvernay from Texas, and then with the 201st pick the Ravens selected James Proche from SMU. Duvernay is a natural speedster with great ability after the catch to make people miss. He should add to the deep threat that Brown brings and both will give Jackson plenty of options. With Proche the Ravens get a receiver who is well versed in running routes coming from SMU’s wide open passing attack. Probably not looking at getting many reps early on in the season, he could have a bigger role later in the season.
The Ravens used their first round pick on linebacker Patrick Queen from LSU. His ability to follow the routes of the wide receivers and also get up and help the defensive linemen stuff the run makes Queen a three down linebacker who will most likely step into a starting role. With a high football IQ, and the explosiveness needed to get to the QB, Queen could very easily be an instant hit in Baltimore. The second round pick worked out perfectly for the Ravens with J.K. Dobbins falling to them at 55. The heir to Mark Ingram is stepping into an offense that he is used to from Ohio State: a wide open attack and an athletic mobile quarterback who has the ability to hold defenders’ attention just long enough to free up the strong powerful runner to burst out of the backfield.
It’s difficult to see how the Ravens offense can improve on the 2019/20 season, but with no Super Bowl ring at the end of the year there is still room for improvement. Having been renowned for years as having one of the top defenses in the league it is the offense in Baltimore that is getting everyone talking. Jackson and the pistol formation have transformed this offense into one of the most fascinating and entertaining to watch (even rivalling the incredible Mahomes and that KC offence). The pistol formation gives the Ravens the best of both worlds in terms of a schematic fit. With a running back lined up directly behind Jackson, the offense can call a wide variety of plays from running it downhill or attacking either side of the field without tipping its hand.
The threat of Jackson’s legs alone is enough to hold defenders in the box as they know that he can turn on the jets and embarrass the oncoming rush of defenders. With that in mind the Ravens can utilise this with a variety of run/pass options and allow their young, speedy wide receivers to get down the field. Jackson silenced his critics who claimed that he was more of a running back than anything else last year by throwing for 36 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions on his way to a season passer rating of 113.3. By taking the crown of MVP, Jackson has demonstrated that he could just be as capable as Mahomes, leading to the potential that these two teams dominate the AFC for many years to come.
For most of last season the Ravens defense coped well and, while granted the offense did a lot of the work getting their team to the playoffs, the defense certainly contributed. Their weakness however, was uncovered in their first playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, where Derrick Henry ran all over them and ended their dreams of the Super Bowl.
New additions Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe could be the missing pieces that prevented a deeper run to become World Champions for a third time. In Campbell and Wolfe, the Ravens have added two players who have proven that not only are they more than capable against the run, they also add some much needed ability to put pressure on opposing QB’s. After watching T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree terrify quarterbacks for their rivals the Steelers, having the ability to get into the backfield themselves is a huge bonus for the defense. Both players have signed deals through 2020 alone demonstrating that the Ravens front office knows that they are well and truly in their Super Bowl window and they are looking to make it count.
Other than the addition of Campbell, Wolfe and the rookie linebackers Queen and Malik Harrison, the defense hasn’t changed much from 2019, which is probably a good thing. The only real weakness was the ability to stop the run and they have mended that gap in a big way. Keeping the rest of their defense intact is the best possible tactic, as continuity in a defense is key in allowing the players time to merge into a dominant unit. Stalwarts like Matt Judon, Brandon Williams, Marlon Humphrey and Earl Thomas set this defense up nicely, and when you add in the new additions to the defensive line it makes this seem like a complete unit which is ready to mount another challenge at the Super Bowl.
The only negative to the Ravens offseason and preparation for 2020 was the lack of change at the edge rusher position. However, If Campbell and Wolfe can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, then it doesn’t really matter whether the edge is generating the pressure. Further additions, at the wide receiver and running back positions, to an already strong offense will make the Ravens one of the most entertaining teams on the offensive side of the ball, if not the most entertaining. The Super Bowl window doesn’t last long for most teams in the NFL but the Ravens are certainly in the middle of theirs, and this could be the year they get title number three.
Baltimore Ravens 2020 season prediction
12-4 (Joint-1st in the AFC North)
Image credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports