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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

With OTAs underway, Peter King has released his 2019 NFL preseason power rankings and of the biggest surprises is the Baltimore Ravens landing at No. 12 on the list. Although stud Lamar Jackson surprised people last season, given the substandard state of their defense and the burden on Jackson to shoulder the load offensively, King may have the Ravens ranked a few spots too high. 

Let's start with their problems on defense. Most notably they lost linebacker Terrell Suggs, the heart and soul of their defense for the past decade. Although past his prime, Suggs is still a productive player and they will undoubtedly miss his leadership. They released defensive back Eric Weddle, who was coming off two straight Pro-Bowl appearances. Their justification was that he's 34 and by releasing him, they could allocate the money to re-signing All-Pro linebacker C.J. Mosley. Solid reasoning, if Mosley didn't sign with the New York Jets in the offseason.

Credit must be given, however, to the four-year, $55 million contract given to former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Coming off a broken leg, he is easily the biggest X-factor for this defense. If he produces like the Earl Thomas of old, it'll more than makeup for the loss of the Weddle. They'll also be getting back defensive tackle Willie Henry from injury, who's young and hungry.

Although last years' defense was one of, if not the top unit in the NFL, all anyone could manage to talk about was the dynamic offense led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Coach John Harbaugh threw caution to the wind and handed the reins to Jackson in Week 10, and the Ravens proceeded to win six of their next seven games behind a run-dominated offense.

It's a toss-up if they'll be able to replicate that success this season. On the one hand, the unconventional attack took the league by storm last year and one could argue the league just needed time to adapt to this new-look offense. On the other hand, the Ravens did add some electric new pieces to the offense to replace the losses of wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown. 

They added Mark Ingram who is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league when healthy. Their first-round pick, wide receiver Marquise Brown, is one of the fastest players Todd McShay has ever evaluated. Third-round pick wide receiver Miles Boykin was one of the 20 fastest players at the draft and fourth-round pick  Justice Hill registered the fastest 40 time for running backs at the combine. Adding young, electric talent will enhance Jackson's already stellar playmaking ability. 

At tight end, they're one of the deepest teams in the NFL, headed up by Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. Keep in mind, however, that this is the NFL: it all starts with the quarterback. Jackson completed passes at a 58.2% clip last season. If the Ravens are serious about building around him, he'll have to improve as a passer. 

Taking the defensive deficiencies and questions on offense into account, and 12 is too high for the preseason power rankings; 16 is more appropriate. In his article, King writes about the Ravens saying, "They could win 11. They could win six." If I had to choose one outcome I'd take the latter. 

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Ranking the Ravens' five likeliest rookies to make an impact in 2020

Ranking the Ravens' five likeliest rookies to make an impact in 2020

The Ravens had, by nearly all accounts, one of the NFL’s best drafts in April. 

With their 10 picks, they addressed just about every need on the roster — edge rusher being the holdout — and got more talented at each position they needed to. 

And while the Ravens are hopeful all of their drafted players can fill a role next season, a few players like Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington have clear roles carved out as depth players for their rookie season, and safety Geno Stone appears destined for a special teams role to start his career. 

Here are the five Ravens’ rookies that can make an immediate impact in 2020:

1. Patrick Queen

The first one is as obvious can be. 

Not only is Queen the team’s first round draft pick, but he also likely filled the biggest need on the team and will join the Ravens and immediately be handed a starting role. 

Queen made 85 tackles for the national champion LSU Tigers last season and, at just 20-years-old, was one of the draft’s top risers last season at LSU.

He’s perhaps the most talented player of the Ravens’ 2020 draft class and with a starting role so clearly carved out for him, the room for strong production is right there.

2. Devin Duvernay

Duvernay will join a Ravens receiving corps in need of a second wide receiver to prove himself. With Mark Andrews at tight end and Marquise Brown as the team’s two clear top options in the receiving game, there is still an opening for a third option to emerge from the group. The speedster from Texas could be it. 

With 4.39 40-yard dash speed, Duvernay will immediately be one of the fastest players not only on the offense, but on the team. He posted 106 catches last season for 1,386 yards at Texas, but his toughness was what stood out to the Ravens. 

If he’s able to prove his worth early on, he could find himself as the team’s third option in the receiving game.

3. James Proche

This might seem out of sorts for Proche to be on this list so high, but hold up. 

Yes, he was the second-to-last pick of the Ravens’ draft. Yes, he’s just a rookie and draft capital matters in terms of who gets a look, and how much they do.

But Proche is also likely going to be the team’s punt and perhaps kick returner to start the season. There’s not a rookie on this list, besides Queen, who is in better shape to have some kind of starting role so quickly. 

Add into the debate that Proche is joining the same depth chart as Duvernay, and it’s clear there’s a path for the sure-handed receiver to find his way onto the field sooner than some may think.

4. J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins has perhaps the highest ceiling on this list, and the floor is higher than perhaps anyone but Queen for his rookie year. The problem is, the ceiling involves some exceptions. 

He’ll join a crowded backfield with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, not to mention that his new quarterback is the league’s best running quarterback as well. 

Dobbins might end up having the greatest long-term impact on this list, but the odds of him taking on a major role in the offense — while he’s essentially guaranteed at least some kind of role in 2020 — would require him stepping up as the clear No. 1 running back, or a host of injuries. 

5. Ben Bredeson

Bredeson might make the quietest impact of anyone on this list, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to make the biggest. 

In a logjam to replace Marshal Yanda’s right guard spot, Bredeson figures to be the likeliest rookie to take over the position. If he’s able to, he’ll certainly have earned it.

The rookie started all four seasons at Michigan and certainly has the experience in big time games to step in and contribute immediately.

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Could the Ravens split touches between their four running backs in 2020?

Could the Ravens split touches between their four running backs in 2020?

The Ravens have the best kind of problem brewing in their backfield, in that they might have too many mouths to feed.

Should the Ravens keep four running backs on the roster next season, they’ll be left with the issue of how to get all of them involved in the offense. But at a position that is so hard on the body, that’s not necessarily a bad thing at first glance.

Mark Ingram, the team’s starting running back, is 30-years-old and had more than 200 carries last season. Gus Edwards posted 133 carries. Justice Hill saw the field the least out of the three and had just 58 carries in 16 games. And the team’s newest toy in the backfield, J.K. Dobbins, carried the ball 301 times last season and 687 times total in college.

Essentially, the Ravens’ running backs have some miles on their bodies and it’s important to keep them fresh. But how?

The Ravens ran the ball 596 times last season, 98 more times than the second-place 49ers did. The Ravens were also one of three teams — the others being the Cardinals and Titans — that ran the ball for more than five-yards-per-carry.

A large part of that efficiency revolved around quarterback Lamar Jackson’s ability to scramble out of the pocket, as he carried the ball 176 times last year for 1,206 yards — the most ever for a quarterback. His dynamic abilities kept the pressure off the Ravens’ running backs and allowed them to mostly be the second-threat for a defensive gameplan.

But perhaps what the Ravens did most impressively last season was that they accomplished everything without a true workhorse rusher.

Ingram’s 202 carries placed him 20th in the league in amount of carries, while Jackson’s 176 placed him 23rd. Jackson and Ingram were the only two players with less than 217 carries to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Edwards, the team’s clear third option in the rushing attack, carried the ball 133 times — 34th in the league. For a team that ran the ball more than anyone in the league, and for more yards than anyone in the league ever had, that's an impressive way to keep guys fresh.

Now with Dobbins in the mix, and Hill another year into his career, paired with the Ravens’ desire to become a more balanced team from the one that passed the ball just 44 percent of the time last season, keeping all four backs involved could prove difficult.

The simplest answer, though, is to get rid of one.

Edwards would be the likeliest option, as a team could swoop in and realize the Ravens’ surplus of talent at running back and make a minor deal to bring Edwards in as a running back that could compete for a starting role.

A closer examination of who is on the market still, however, shows that’s not easy to pull off.

With a handful of veteran free agent options on the market still, it’s not likely a team would shell out any noteworthy draft capital to bring Edwards or even Hill onboard during training camp. In that case, it’d likely be worth it for the Ravens to just hang onto their stable of running backs in case of injury or poor performance.

If all four are on the roster next year, though, they’ll be left with figuring out how to manage their snap counts.

The Ravens attempted 1,064 plays last season, 596 of which were runs, 440 were passes and 28 were sacks. Ingram was involved in 231 of those plays (21.71 percent), Edwards was involved in 140 (13.15 percent) and Hill was involved in 73 (6.86 percent).

Of the Ravens’ total offensive plays, running backs account for 41.72 percent in either rush attempts or receiving targets.

 

Over the offseason, they continued to invest at the skill positions. Baltimore drafted Dobbins 55th and wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche at 92nd and 201st overall, respectively. That’s not accounting for the increased health of wideout Marquise Brown and the expected improvement of receiver Miles Boykin, either. 

While an increase in pass attempts could account for more plays with more stopped clocks, the Ravens still ranked seventh in total offensive plays from scrimmage last season. The league’s leader, the Eagles, ran 1,104 plays. Even if the Ravens are able to run 1,100 plays next season, nearly 40 more than they ran in 2019 and just shy of the league's leader from a year ago, there is still a finite number of possibilities for the Ravens’ to get everyone involved.

If they stick with their running mantra, Boykin or Brown might not see the second-year jumps everyone is hoping for. Perhaps Mark Andrews, who led the team in receptions and targets a year ago, sees a dip in production with more faces in the crowd.

But if Jackson attempts more passes in the 2020 season and the wide receivers get more involved, the simple answer is that someone in the backfield is going to get left out.

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