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Upon further review: No fixing Ravens 'til offseason

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Upon further review: No fixing Ravens 'til offseason

For the first time since coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco arrived in 2008, there’s a serious gap between the Ravens and the NFL’s elite teams. It shows in the standings. And it shows on the field.

Even in 2013, when the Ravens finished 8-8, they had a chance to make the playoffs in the final week of the regular season. Not this year. Sunday’s gut-wrenching 22-20 loss to the Jaguars was the pin that popped the Ravens’ 2015 balloon. Nobody in their locker room was talking about making a playoff run when this game was over. No matter how bizarre the ending, it only magnified  the Ravens' reality.

A team that hasn’t been able to win two straight games isn’t going to the playoffs. A team that loses to the Jaguars and the Browns at home isn’t going to the playoffs.

The key for the Ravens now is to make sure the 2016 season is not a repeat of 2105. So what’s the best way for the Ravens (2-7) to approach the final seven games?

RELATED: Jaguars describe being on other side of crushing Ravens loss

For the players, the job really doesn’t change. They still need to practice with purpose, play with pride, and play to win. Evaluations are being made on who stays, and who goes after this season.

But for the front office and coaches, they need to evaluate the Ravens’ talent far more accurately than they did in August.  Everyone in the Ravens’ organization thought they would be a Super Bowl contender. It has become clear that the overall talent on the roster was overrated, not just by many outsiders, but by the Ravens themselves.

Losing linebacker Terrell Suggs in Week 1, not having rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman at all, and losing wide receiver Steve Smith in Week 8 have certainly been major blows. However, look how the Steelers (6-4) are coping, despite quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being in and out of the lineup, without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey , and recently losing running back Le’Veon Bell for the season.

Look at the Bengals, undefeated entering their Monday night game and loaded with young playmakers - wide receivers A. J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu, tight end Tyler Eifert, and running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.

Whether Smith returns or retires, he is 36 years old. Terrell Suggs is 33, dealing with the second Achilles injury of his career. No. 1 running back Justin Forsett is 30 years old. And the Ravens still don’t know what they really have in Perriman, and may not have a clue until next season.

The Ravens need more dynamic playmakers on offense, more speed on defense, and more quality depth overall. That’s not going to change until the offseason. Having a quarterback like Flacco, a proven clutch quarterback, means 2016 could bring a quick turnaround with the right offensive moves. But the rest of 2015 is about playing for pride. That’s not what the Ravens are used to. But it’s where they are.

MORE RAVENS: Dumervil taking "full responsibility" for penalty

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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