Ravens

Ravens training camp preview: Can Lamar Jackson repeat his MVP 2019 season?

Ravens

Rostered quarterbacks: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley

The Ravens’ quarterback room has, in some ways, the most amount of intrigue on the roster — and nearly all of it revolves around Lamar Jackson. 

Jackson’s 2019 season, his first as a starter, was one of the NFL’s most prolific seasons for a quarterback in league history. It’s why, even though there won’t be a position battle for the starting spot, all eyes will be focused on the quarterback position in 2020.

In his 15-game MVP season, Jackson rushed for 1,206 yards on 176 carries — a rushing record for a quarterback — and threw for 3,127 yards with a 66.1 completion percentage. He added a league-best 36 touchdowns and threw just six interceptions as he led the Ravens to a 13-2 record as a starter. 

Despite a mystifying loss to end the season for the league’s best regular season team, Jackson’s status as one of the league’s most electrifying players was etched into the record books with each dominating win and dumbfounded defender he left in his wake. 

Jackson was just the league’s second ever unanimous MVP, but while his season was one for the record books, repeating his standout season is another matter entirely. And simply, it’s a mathematical problem. 

The Ravens’ offense led the league in total points with a scorching 33.2 per-game average. The team also averaged 6.1 yards per play, including a league-high 5.5 yards per rush attempt. The defense ranked third in the league in points (17.6 per game) and allowed just 4.4 yards-per-play.

 

While the Ravens didn’t lose much talent on either side of the ball, improving upon those numbers across the board might be nearly impossible — unless the expectation is that the Ravens become one of the best single-season teams in NFL history. 

Meaning, Jackson’s numbers have a ceiling. Throwing more passes, something the Ravens have commented on in the past, would certainly improve his passing numbers, but breaking record after record each season is simply impractical. It’s for that reason that if Jackson’s rushing numbers aren’t as high as 2019, or if his passing numbers don’t take much of a leap, there isn’t reason to panic. 

Baltimore drafted former Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins with the 55th pick in the draft, which could give the team another option in the run game besides Jackson. In that regard, the team might be just as efficient with not as many carries for Jackson. 

No matter the case, there isn’t a debate as to who the Ravens’ face of the franchise is. 

As for the depth behind him, however, that’s a much trickier question. 

Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are the other three quarterbacks on the roster, the trio that will compete to be Jackson’s backup and then third-option on the roster. Griffin has a grip on the backup job entering training camp. 

Griffin, 30, played in seven games last season and made one start, in Week 17 against the Steelers. Over his seven games, he threw 38 passes and competed 23 of them for 225 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He rushed 20 times for 70 yards. He’s signed to a contract worth just 1.3 percent of the cap in 2020 (a $2.5 million cap number), but is entering the last year of his deal. 

McSorley was the third man on the totem pole in 2019 and played just one snap in his rookie season. The former Penn State quarterback was a figure on special teams as the Ravens used him on different types of coverage units in practice. 

Huntley is the newcomer to the quarterback room as an undrafted free agent out of Utah. He was a starter for three years at Utah and proved a dual-threat option for the Utes, as he helped propel them into the national title conversation. He posted his best season in 2019, when he threw for 3,092 yards with a 73.1 completion percentage. He added 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions with 290 yards on the ground and five rushing scores. 

Despite the intrigue at the back half of the depth chart, Huntley certainly hasn’t been helped by the lack of an offseason. As an undrafted free agent, the odds are already stacked against him earning the third spot on the roster.

The Ravens kept three quarterbacks on the roster last year, and should they decide to do the same in 2020, McSorley and Huntley would battle for the third spot on the roster. If the Ravens decide to keep just two quarterbacks this season, however, they could try and slide either McSorley or Huntley, or both in an unlikely case, onto the practice-squad. 

 

The NFL ratified the CBA in the offseason, meaning the league’s active rosters will be expanded from 46 to 48 (assuming eight offensive linemen are active), which might give the Ravens the room to keep a third quarterback on the roster for the second straight season. Practice-squads will expand to 12 players (from 10 in 2019) this season, which might give Huntley or McSorley a better chance to stick around with the organization. 

In another change, two practice-squad players are able to be elevated to the 53-man roster per week, which means rosters could expand to 55-players per week should a team choose. A player is eligible to be elevated to the 55-man roster twice without having to be placed through waivers. 

That’s a change that could negatively impact the duo of McSorley and Huntley, as if the Ravens are able to keep at least one of them on the practice squad and are comfortable with either being a backup on gameday, they could choose to not keep either on the original 53-man roster. If the Ravens are able to bring up a third quarterback in case of an injury or need special teams play in a lone circumstance, it’s possible they try to sneak a quarterback onto the practice squad instead to give the roster as much flexibility as possible.

But while the depth chart behind Jackson still hasn’t been decided, it’s clear the year will revolve around the reigning MVP. The quarterback room starts and stops with Jackson, as the eyes of the league will be focused on what his encore performance will look like. 

And if Jackson is able to repeat his performance from the 2019 season, or even come close to it, there isn’t anything that the Ravens’ offense needs to concern itself over.

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