The Baltimore Ravens pulled off their most impressive victory of the year on Sunday beating the Seattle Seahawks 30-16. Going into one of the most hostile environments in all of football at Century Link Field, the Ravens rode their motivated dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson and a pick-six from new acquisition Marcus Peters to a win and a 5-2 record. Baltimore is currently in sole possession of first place in the AFC North with a 2.5 lead on both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers entering their bye Week 8.
The 2019 season has been somewhat up and down for the Ravens. They started off strong with back-to-back wins to begin the year but came crashing back to earth by dropping the two games that followed. Then sitting at 2-2, Baltimore rattled off a small three-game winning streak by getting victories over two division opponents and the likely MVP-frontrunner in Russell Wilson.
The Ravens may not completely have an identity yet but they are definitely trending in the right direction thus far in their season. Contrary to most years, the offense has easily been the strongest side of the squad in 2019. Jackson’s ability to use his legs and scramble from the pocket along with Mark Ingram‘s bruising power has made Baltimore’s offense one of the hardest to contain in the entire NFL. Defensively, the Ravens still have a lot of room for improvement but if their performance against the Seahawks is an indicator of things to come, they can be relied on a lot more going forward than they have been in the first half of the season.
In 2019, the Baltimore Ravens are establishing themselves as contenders and will keep improving the way they are trending throughout the season so far.
2019 Baltimore Ravens Bye Week Report
The Strength: The Rushing Attack
Coming into the season, the Ravens were expected to run the ball a lot. With a quarterback as athletic as Jackson, there was no reason to believe that the second-year starter would completely transform into a pocket-passing specialist overnight.
Head coach John Harbaugh even said on the NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live in July to “bet the over” in reference to if Jackson could surpass Cam Newton‘s career-high of 139 rushing attempts. Jackson is currently on pace to shatter that mark. His carries per game currently sit at 11.8 per game — on pace for 189. A whopping 50 more than Newton’s career-high. As crazy as that number may be, Jackson has been effective as well. Jackson is currently leading quarterbacks and sixth amongst all NFL players in rushing yards. Through seven games, he’s piled up 576 yards and 6.9 yards per carry.
One of the biggest reasons for Jackson’s success has been his partner Ingram. Though he has not been as impressive as his quarterback, Ingram has still managed 67.1 yards per game and added seven touchdowns. He also creates a great threat and decoy that allows Jackson to pick up extra yardage. The Ravens’ red zone touchdown effectiveness after changing from Joe Flacco (66.67%) to Jackson (42.3%) in 2018 was a problem and just by adding Ingram to their mix has allowed them vastly improve. They currently rank 15th in the NFL at 57.14%.
The Ravens currently have the NFL’s second-ranked rushing offense, averaging 152.6 yards game. Seattle is the only team to rush for more yards per game, and Baltimore outrushed them 199 to 106 in their matchup.
The Weakness: The Front-Seven
To begin the season, the Ravens’ definite weak spot was their interior linebackers. It was a group of relatively young players with very little starting experience trying to fill the All-Pro sized hole that C.J. Mosley left. The two linebackers that started for the Ravens in Seattle weren’t even on the 53-man roster to begin the year.
That group has had it’s growing pains but more surprisingly, the pass rush has struggled almost as much. The Matt Judon led unit was reinvented over the off-season with a lot of tryouts coming in to potentially make an impact. Almost none of those players have made a splash so far in 2019. Tim Williams was waived, Shane Ray was cut and Pernell McPhee is expected to miss the rest of the year after tearing his tricep against the Seahawks.
With all the injuries the Ravens defense has sustained this season, the front-seven was bound to struggle. However, they are slowly improving. The pass rush is somewhat stuck outside of Judon, only registering 12 sacks (25th) as a unit through seven games. Judon and McPhee are the only edge defenders with more than 2.0 sacks on the year. Tyus Bowser is the only other edge defender with a sack in 2019. Adding a player at the deadline to bolster the unit would be a big ask, but not an unreasonable one. The Ravens would likely have to part with another draft pick and likely one a lot higher than the fifth-rounder they traded for Peters.
One positive is that the run defense has quietly been very effective outside of their game against the Browns. This was also the only game on the year the Ravens big run-stopper Brandon Williams missed. Baltimore ranks third-best in rush yards allowing an average of 84.3 per game.
Room for Improvement: The Secondary
In August, the Ravens secondary was easily their deepest position group. With first-option starters at each position, that unit has taken a huge hit due to the injury bug. Tavon Young and Tony Jefferson are both done for the year, and Jimmy Smith has missed the Ravens last six games with a knee injury. Those injuries contributed to the Ravens giving up 500+ yards of offense in both Week 3 and Week 4. Those two losses to the Browns and Kansas City Chiefs were perhaps the worst back-to-back defensive performance in Ravens’ history. With those showings now three weeks in the past, the unit has been improving to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
It’s easy to say that the addition of Peters has given the secondary new life but there are a few more elements. Following a good 2018, Marlon Humphrey is establishing himself as one of the best corners in football in 2019. Humphrey has been the one consistent in the Ravens secondary, doing a great job in coverage against everyone he’s faced. Combine that with Peters (whose pick-six on Sunday was Wilson’s first thrown interception on the year) and an Earl Thomas that’s getting more comfortable as a Raven, and you may finally get the secondary many expected the Ravens to possess coming into the season.
From a statistics perspective, the Ravens passing defense has a lot of room to improve. They currently sit 26th in passing defense allowing 265.4 yards per game and have only collected nine turnovers (tied for 17th). Their six interceptions have them halfway to their 2018 total of 12 but with all the talent the Ravens have on their back-end, could be hoping for more in the second half of the year.
The Upcoming Schedule
Coming off of their bye, the Ravens get the New England Patriots at M&T Bank in a primetime matchup with huge implications on the AFC playoff picture. The Patriots are currently the only undefeated team in the AFC and have a defense that has dominated each of their first seven games. This game will be a big test for the young Jackson but it’s also important to remember that Harbaugh is 9-2 when coming off of a bye. Those two losses have come against the Browns in 2013 and against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015 when the Ravens finished the season with 22 players and 10 starters on IR.
They then travel to Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, a venue they are historically bad at, and then take on the Houston Texans, fly across the country to face the Los Angeles Rams, and finish off with another currently undefeated team in the San Francisco 49ers. A tough run to say the least.
It’s impossible to expect the Ravens to emerge undefeated after this crazy stretch of games but coming out 3-2 would be very impressive. Outside of the Bengals, each team is above .500 and have a combined record of 21-6. If the Ravens are going to be considered real contenders in the AFC, they need to prove it by beating good teams. It would also do wonders for their team confidence moving into the playoff push in December.
Final Midseason Thoughts
At this point in the year, the Ravens are just where they should be. Outside of the games against the Seahawks and Browns, Harbaugh’s squad has been playing the way most expected. Baltimore has beaten the teams they need to beat to stay around the top in the AFC and have given themselves a chance to win every game they’ve played.
Jackson is also playing his way into the NFL-MVP conversation. In 2019, the second-year quarterback looks like maybe the best athlete to ever play the quarterback position and is establishing himself as one of the faces of the league. He also has, on his own, more yards of offense than 14 teams in the NFL. Beating the current front-runner Wilson doesn’t hurt either.
The Ravens are deserved of their division-leader status and should only build their case for one of the best teams in the AFC over the next nine games.
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