With the Ravens only a week away from finally beginning full-team practices ahead of the 2020 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Lamar Jackson describing himself as “Bubble Boy” prompted talk about isolating quarterbacks to reduce the odds of catching the coronavirus, but it’s just not practical from a competitive standpoint. A ton of work on and off the field goes into what we see for only three hours every week.
2. Even if the Ravens applied that idea to a backup with a great understanding of the offense, it’s a diminishing return when Robert Griffin III isn’t building any on-field chemistry with teammates. As we often say about offseason injuries, you can’t keep these guys in bubble wrap and expect success.
3. Jimmy Smith’s position is a popular topic, but are we too quick to assume Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey outside and Tavon Young at nickel is the superior alignment to Smith and Peters outside with Humphrey wreaking havoc all over the place like last year? An interesting question to track.
4. Calais Campbell was in Jacksonville last year, but his thoughts on handling major expectations fit this team appropriately. “You can’t win the Super Bowl today. I don’t care how good you are in August; you’ve got to go through the process. You can’t even win the first game today.”
5. This should be an interesting season for Willie Snead, who is seven pounds lighter, entering a contract year, and still only 27 years old. His blocking ability should help in trying to hold off younger options, but there are only so many targets from the slot to go around.
6. The Ravens waiving 2019 fifth-round pick Daylon Mack emphasized the age on which the defensive line is depending. With Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe all 30 or older, rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington need to offer dependable depth as well as long-term upside.
7. Mark Andrews said he never considered opting out of the 2020 season despite dealing with Type 1 diabetes. The Pro Bowl tight end also offered high praise for Baltimore’s virtual offseason program, noting that he’s stronger and carrying less body fat than ever. Barring injury, I see a 1,000-yard season.
8. With no shortage of questions about the interior offensive line, the presence of All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley is as important as ever in terms of both play and leadership. For what it’s worth, Stanley says ongoing contract talks are “not really at the forefront of my mind.”
9. The pass rush remains a hot topic with Jaylon Ferguson being the only established outside linebacker under contract beyond 2020, but Football Outsiders ranked the Ravens third in pressure rate in 2019. Strong coverage allows defenses to scheme pressure, but poor coverage often negates pressure against today’s quick passing offenses.
10. The expected addition of Kenjon Barner provides an experienced option in the return game mix, but you’d still like to see rookie wide receiver James Proche win the punt returner job. Positional versatility is more important than ever with teams holding their breath over every virus test outcome.
11. John Harbaugh confirmed the plan to again keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, which makes more sense considering the learning curve for a system so different from what most of the league is running. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth quarterback on the expanded practice squad either.
12. Picturing fall without a college football season is difficult enough, but how would that impact the NFL draft next spring? How do you trust the game tape when there isn’t any? As NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah noted, the 2021 scouting combine could become more important than ever.