NFL regular season action is still a few weeks away, but Ravens football is already in full swing. The Ravens are 2-0 in the preseason thus far, and while it is too early to invest too much into what we have seen, there have been some encouraging signs.
The defense has picked up right where they left off last season, allowing just 23 points in two games while forcing a combined six turnovers. The first-team offense was successful in limited action against the Rams, and the offense as a whole has scored a total of 50 points this preseason.
Robert Griffin III and Lamar Jackson have shown encouraging signs at the QB position behind Joe Flacco, and undrafted running back Gus Edwards has been the Ravens most productive rusher.
The Ravens need some big performances this year from several players, as well as contributions across the board, if they hope to return to the postseason. Some good luck would always help their chances, too.
If the following “bold” predictions come true, as I believe they can, the Ravens should be in good shape this upcoming season.
Lamar Jackson Will Score at Least Five Touchdowns
Barring any injury or unforeseen circumstances, Joe Flacco will be the starting quarterback for the entirety of the upcoming season. However, this does not mean Lamar Jackson will be riding the pine.
Jackson is a raw talent, but his athletic ability can be utilized in a variety of ways. John Harbaugh and the coaching staff have already spoken of using Jackson in design packages. What does a “two-QB” formation with Jackson and Flacco on the field together look like? Nobody knows yet. Regardless, Jackson will have opportunities to make plays.
We already know what Jackson is capable of, as evidenced by this electric touchdown run in last week’s preseason contest against the Rams.
Lamar Jackson 9 yard scramble for the TD pic.twitter.com/Sto2KO2BFm
— TheRenderNFL (@TheRenderNFL) August 10, 2018
Could the Ravens potentially dial up some designed quarterback-run plays in the red zone? My bet is they do, even if it’s only every so often. On his feet, Jackson can elude defenders with ease and escape tackles. Creative packages with Jackson on the field will keep defenses on their heels.
No, he will not nearly the same number of passing attempts as Joe Flacco or rushing attempts as Alex Collins. However, the Ravens want to get Jackson on the field early and consistently.
Whether that means a few snaps a game or somewhere closer to double-digits, I believe Jackson will make the most of his time on the field. His athletic ability as a runner will help him find the endzone at least a few times, and he should get the opportunity to throw a couple passing touchdowns as well.
Tavon Young Will Lead the Team in Interceptions
On paper, the Ravens have one of the most talented defensive backfields in the league. Jimmy Smith is a pro-bowl caliber player, Marlon Humphrey is an emerging talent, and Eric Weddle/Tony Jefferson form one of the better safety duos in the league.
With many established players on the roster, Tavon Young has become an almost forgotten name. Young, who missed the entirety of the 2017-18 season due to an ACL tear, could have a huge impact in the Ravens defense this year.
In 2016, Young had a very impressive rookie season. The fourth-round pick from Temple recorded 53 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass breakups. Young started eleven games and led all Ravens cornerbacks in snaps.
Young’s role gradually increased throughout the season, especially in the last few months. Starting cornerback Jimmy Smith missed two games in November, and was placed on IR shortly after returning the next month. Young responded well to added responsibilities.
Top-graded rookie CBs this season 🏈
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 7, 2017
At 5’9, 185 pounds, Young is undersized for an outside cornerback. However, he is a natural slot corner, where he will start the season for Baltimore. Defenses will likely opt to test Young more often than Jimmy Smith or Marlon Humphrey, giving him plenty of opportunities to make plays.
Young has good ball-instincts and will see a lot targets come his way, which is why he has a good shot to lead the team in interceptions this season.
Matt Judon Will Record More Sacks Than Terrell Suggs
Terrell Suggs has long been a leader on the Ravens defense and one of the premier pass-rushers in the league. After tearing his ACL and missing the entire 2015 season, Suggs has combined for 19 sacks over the past two seasons.
Suggs will likely near a double-digit sack total again this season. However, look for Matt Judon to be the guy who leads the team in sacks.
Entering his third season, Judon has emerged as a starter and impact player on the Ravens defense. He is coming off an impressive sophomore season in which he recorded 50 tackles and two forced fumbles. Judon’s eight sacks ranked second on the team behind Suggs, and twice the amount of sacks he recorded his rookie season.
Could Judon again double his sack total this season? Sixteen sacks seems like a reach, but somewhere between 10-12 is entirely achievable. Judon has good size and athleticism at the outside linebacker position, and his elusiveness allows him to get to the quarterback.
Watch here how Judon gets by the Lions offensive line with ease to sack Matthew Stafford.
— charles mcdonald (lakers 0-0) (@FourVerts) December 4, 2017
Judon should be able to build upon his sophomore season and continue to improve as a player. Locked in as the starting outside linebacker opposite Terrell Suggs, a breakout season could be in store for the former fifth-round pick.
Joe Flacco Throws for 4,000+ yards
4,000 yards does not seem like a crazy high threshold. Many quarterbacks reach this mark almost every year, like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and others.
Joe Flacco, however, has only one 4,000 yard season under his belt. So why the optimism that he will achieve this feat in the upcoming season? Two reasons; Lamar Jackson and a new-look offense.
Flacco, aka “Joe Cool”, is known for being calm and relaxed regardless of the circumstances. While his timid personality can be a good thing, it also explains the lack of fire and emotion we often do not see from Flacco during the regular season.
After the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson in the first round of the NFL draft, the pressure is now on Flacco to have a big season. So far, it appears he has responded well to the heat and could be in for a successful year. By all accounts, Flacco is having one of his best offseasons in recent memory.
He has looked sharp throughout training camp, making impressive throws to his receivers and tight ends. In his first preseason action against the Rams, Flacco threw for 70 yards and a touchdown on just one drive.
Impressive opening drive.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 9, 2018
The additions of Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead should aid Flacco in the passing game. Along with rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, this appears to be the most talented group of pass-catchers Flacco has been surrounded with in quite some time.
Alex Collins and Javorious “Buck” Allen form a talented tandem at the running back position, which will also help take pressure off Flacco. If the offensive line can do their part, Flacco has the weapons to approach 4,000 yards.
For the first time as a Raven, Flacco is playing to keep his job. This newfound motivation, combined with a re-tooled group of offensive weapons, should equal a big season for Joe Flacco.