Ravens head into camp hoping for more dynamic passing game
BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-6)
CAMP SITE: Owings Mills, Maryland
LAST YEAR: The Ravens won five of their first six games, then recovered from a midseason slump to win five in a row down the stretch. They also won a playoff game for the first time in six seasons, but their offense fell flat in a 17-3 loss at Buffalo that ended their season. Baltimore ranked No. 1 in rushing for a second straight season. Quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 1,005 yards, and two other players eclipsed 700. However, the Ravens were dead last in passing.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WR Sammy Watkins, T Alejandro Villanueva, G Kevin Zeitler, G Michael Schofield, T Ja’Wuan James, TE Josh Oliver, S Geno Stone.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: T Orlando Brown Jr., LB Matthew Judon, C Matt Skura, WR Willie Snead, G/T D.J. Fluker, RB Mark Ingram II, WR Dez Bryant, WR De’Anthony Thomas, LS Morgan Cox, QB Robert Griffin III, WR Chris Moore, DE Yannick Ngakoue, DE Jihad Ward, CB Tramon Williams Sr., DB Pierre Desir.
CAMP NEEDS: Baltimore brought in Watkins to shore up the passing game, and the Ravens also drafted receiver Rashod Bateman in the first round. It’ll be important for Jackson to develop chemistry with those two as quickly as possible. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley’s return from an ankle injury will be worth watching, especially after Baltimore traded Brown to Kansas City for a package of draft picks. There’s also been plenty of chatter about a contract extension for Jackson, although he’s not due to become an unrestricted free agent until 2023. So if there’s no deal before camp, it might not be that big a distraction.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: Coach John Harbaugh said earlier this summer the left guard position was wide open. Baltimore drafted guard Ben Cleveland in the third round. Guard Ben Powers started seven games last season, and Tyre Phillips started eight.
EXPECTATIONS: The Ravens are 35-13 over the past three regular seasons. The question is whether Baltimore can take the next step to contend with Kansas City for a Super Bowl berth. Buffalo and Cleveland are on the rise, and division rival Pittsburgh is coming off a 12-4 season. In a conference where eight teams went at least 10-6 last season, there isn’t much room for error. But the Ravens have a proven running game and a 24-year-old quarterback who has won an MVP. That’s a pretty strong foundation.
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