Any Ravens fan (and probably every coach on the Ravens staff) would have taken 5-2 going into the Bye back in July and August.
Things feel good right now in Baltimore, a town with a long football heritage. Nobody is questioning coach John Harbaugh about anything except how far does he think his team can go in 2019. Quite a different vibe from exactly a year ago…
Ryan Mink of the team’s official website gave this short but telling snapshot of what this team edition is really all about moving forward:
“Seven games in, the Ravens are 5-2 and we have a fairly good idea of what this team is about.
“Of course, much will change due to injuries and other factors and the Ravens will need to continue to improve if they’re going to finish the season as strong as they started it and make the playoffs.
“But here’s what we know as of now, with the Ravens heading into their bye:
The offensive “revolution” is happening
“The preseason talk about the Ravens having a “revolutionary” offense is coming to fruition. Lamar Jackson has the sixth-most rushing yards in the NFL (576). He has more rushing yards than seven teams and the same amount as the Kansas City Chiefs. Jackson is on pace to break the single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Baltimore has an offense unlike any other in the NFL.
As a team, Baltimore leads the NFL in rushing attempts (258) and rushing yards (1,429) by a large margin. The Ravens even broke out the triple-option with Jackson and wide receiver Willie Snead IV last week in Seattle.
Jackson is a unique talent and the Ravens have adjusted their offense accordingly. And it’s working.”
They’re not getting enough sacks
“The Ravens have 12 sacks through seven games. Only seven teams have fewer. While the Ravens are among the league leaders in quarterback hits, they want to get the quarterback on the ground more often.
As expected, Matthew Judon leads the team with four sacks. But the effort took a hit in Seattle when Pernell McPhee, who is second with three sacks, suffered a season-ending triceps injury. Tyus Bowser has two sacks and L.J. Fort, Patrick Onwuasor and Brandon Carr have one each.
Despite the loss of McPhee, the Ravens are hopeful they can improve in this metric for the following reasons. Onwuasor moving back to weakside linebacker, and getting healthy, should free him up to blitz more and he’s an excellent blitzer. The improved health of the secondary will give the rushers a little bit more time. Rookie third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson, who will get a lot more reps after McPhee’s injury, has been steadily improving.”
The tight ends are pivotal
“Top wide receiver Marquise Brown has been on the shelf for the past two weeks and the offense hasn’t slowed. Why? Well, Jackson is a big reason, but the contributions of the Ravens’ tight ends have been pivotal in the offense.
Mark Andrews leads Baltimore with 36 catches for 449 yards and three touchdowns. He’s on pace to top 1,000 yards and his numbers would be bigger had he not had several drops against the Seahawks. With 55 targets, Andrews has seen one-quarter of Jackson’s passes come his way.
But don’t overlook the contributions of Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. Boyle is essentially a sixth offensive lineman and the key to much of the Ravens’ offensive scheme deception. Hurst has also been a critical blocker and had a clutch third-down catch in Seattle.
Even once Brown returns to the field, the offense will largely continue to run through the tight ends.”
Baltimore’s secondary struggled, but is improving
“For as strong a season as Marlon Humphrey has had, the Ravens have still given up the fourth-most passing yards in the league so far. Busted coverages were a problem early in the season in the losses to the Chiefs and Browns.
But Baltimore’s secondary looks primed to improve and the process has already begun. The Ravens gave up just 217 yards passing to the Bengals in Week 6 and 241 yards to the Seahawks and MVP candidate Russell Wilson in Week 7.
Chuck Clark has helped settle down the back end, Earl Thomas III continues to play with more freedom, the addition of Marcus Peters adds another cornerback quarterbacks don’t want to target, and the return of Jimmy Smith from a knee injury will make the unit more versatile.
Hampered by injuries for much of the first half of the year, the Ravens should have the luxury of picking their matchups in the secondary after they come out of the bye.”
The Ravens are, and will continue to be, aggressive
“Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-2 against the Seahawks is the biggest play of the season so far. Chances are, he’ll have more opportunities to make similar plays.
The Ravens have gone for it on fourth down 11 times so far this season (fourth-most in the NFL) and converted eight (the most in the league). That’s a 72.7 success rate that signals they should keep going for it.
It goes beyond the stats/analytics, however. Baltimore’s coaches and players both like the aggressiveness.”