By Chris Schisler
First down: Does Josh Allen’s contract extension with the Buffalo Bills impact Lamar Jackson and the Ravens?
The Ravens have already made up their minds that they’re going to pay Lamar Jackson. The how still must be determined, but I am 100 percent confident that the Ravens know they have to pay their quarterback. The Bills beat the Ravens to the punch. They locked in Josh Allen to a long-term contract worth a boatload of money. While it certainly doesn’t help the Ravens with Jackson, or the Cleveland Browns with Baker Mayfield, it really doesn’t change much.
The quarterback market is what the quarterback market is. Before this deal, Jackson had the task of sandwiching himself between the figures of the Patrick Mahomes contract and the Dak Prescott contract. All that changed is that there is another deal to use as a point of reference.
Jackson is a former MVP, and the Ravens went so fully in with him that they know they have to make it work. Jackson was going to get a big contract one way or the other. Look for the MVP to get somewhere in the range of $40-45 million per season. The only variables are how the contract will break down and the length of the deal.
2nd down: Is the Ravens’ secondary depth too dependent on injury-prone players?
This is a fair question. Jimmy Smith had an ankle sprain that will reportedly keep him out one to two weeks. This is the best-case scenario for an injury that looked like it would be a lot worse. Smith is a very injury-prone player. Tavon Young has basically missed three full seasons now. The Ravens have a ton of depth at cornerback. The issue is that they are a much better team with Smith and Young as part of the equation.
Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, and Tavon Young are the best grouping of cornerbacks in football. That’s not up for debate. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Anthony Averett and Shaun Wade are surely the lite version of the top cornerbacks. While the Ravens would like to use their backend guys in some sub-packages, their most common defensive formations are better with Smith and/or Young.
There is a cliff after the top four. There is plenty of talent. That doesn’t mean it’s talent that’s ripe and ready to be leaned on. If Smith and Young can be available all year it could boost the Ravens win total by two or three games. It’s that important to have the best passing defense the Ravens can have. It remains a major question mark whether Smith and Young can stay on the field this season.
3rd down: Lamar Jackson is back in camp and the offense can start catching up:
Lamar Jackson is back to practice and now the game of catch-up has begun. It will be interesting to see if Jackson gets a drive or two in the first preseason game on Saturday evening. Ideally, with three preseason games, the starters would get some work in the first two games then let the roster bubble players compete in game three.
Jackson needs to get on track with this offense and he needs to build some momentum going into the regular-season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. There are a lot of new faces for the offense. The buzz coming from Ravens’ camp is that the defense is ahead of the offense.
That of course isn’t all on Jackson. Ronnie Stanley missed practice until he returned today. The offensive line is still feeling this whole thing out. According to reports, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin are fighting hamstring injuries, and Rashod Bateman had a quick bout with muscle tightness.
The defense started ahead of the offense. No duh. The writing was on the wall for that. The situation has unfolded the way it obviously would without key starters not being involved for patches of practice. The most important starter is number eight. While Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are doing okay, neither gets the kind of work done that happens with the MVP in the lineup.
4th down: The Baltimore Ravens actually upgraded at outside linebacker
The Baltimore Ravens lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. That being said the outside linebacker position is upgraded this season. Justin Houston is now the new leader of the outside linebacker unit. The veteran leadership from Houston will be more impactful than it was with Judon. Houston can legitimately go for a double-digit number of sacks. Judon only had six sacks in the 2020 season. That’s not good enough. Judon was supposed to be the big star of the defense, however his numbers were going in the wrong direction.
Yannick Ngakoue was a big get for Eric DeCosta, though it didn’t work out the way he hoped it would. Ngakoue wasn’t terribly productive despite getting some good pressures on the quarterback. He may retake his elite pass rusher form, but Odafe Oweh has every bit the talent that Ngakoue has. Ngakoue got three sacks in eight games. If Oweh has four sacks after eight games, he tops that pace. I’m taking that bet for a very exciting rookie.
I hope you like this new Going for it on 4th series. This is still a young blog so we’re trying things out. Keep it locked into PBN. We have football on Saturday Ravens fans!