Injuries to important personnel decimated the Baltimore Ravens 2021 campaign. The injury bug occurred in training camp when the team lost cornerback Marcus Peters and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to torn ACL injuries. The rash of injuries would carry on into the season when Marlon Humphrey missed the remainder of the year when he suffered a right pectoral muscle tear while playing in the first matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite the injuries, Baltimore seemed to push past the adversity and establish itself as one of the AFC’s elite teams. At one season, Baltimore was in the driver’s seat to become the number one seed in the AFC playoff picture. Then, however, the injury bug would strike at the most critical time. Quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the season’s final four weeks due to an ankle injury.
With the injuries affecting important positions on the team, Baltimore would lose their last six games of the season, which eliminated them from playoff contention. It was the first time since 2017 that the Ravens were not a part of the playoff conversation. Their division rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, would win the AFC North title and became the conference’s representative in the Super Bowl. With 2021 behind, the Ravens look to reclaim the AFC North.
Previewing the Ravens’ Offense
The main conductor of the Ravens’ offense, Lamar Jackson, heads into a critical season as the team’s starting quarterback. He is going into the final year of his rookie deal which is expected to expire after the 2022 campaign. The value of his future contract hinges upon the production of the upcoming season. He will be without one of his favorite targets in the passing game Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
He was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on the night of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Ravens received Arizona’s 25th overall pick. Baltimore used the selection to improve their offensive line. They selected center Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa. Linderbaum’s 95.4 grade in 2021 was the highest rating ever placed on a center since Pro Football Focus started grading college games. Second-year wideout Rashod Bateman is expected to take over as Baltimore’s WR1.
Bateman was able to provide a sample size of what he is capable of after starting the season on the injured reserved list. In his rookie year, Bateman recorded 46 receptions, 515 yards, and one touchdown. In the draft’s later rounds, Baltimore added another tight end to go along with All-Pro Mark Andrews. They selected Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Kolar is expected to be another athletic tight end that can set the tone for the Ravens’ offense this season. At the moment, Kolar is sidelined after undergoing a sports hernia surgery.
Previewing the Ravens’ Defense
Since they entered the NFL, the Ravens have been known to have a knack for finding elite talent on the defensive side. During the 2022 NFL Draft, they reminded everyone how they operate as an organization. With the 14th pick, the Ravens selected Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton will join a secondary with playmakers such as Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey.
He will be expected to play as a box safety while free agent acquisition Marcus Williams plays deep. On the defensive line, veteran Calais Campbell returns to the team for his 15th season and will work with players such as Odafe Oweh, who had five sacks as a rookie. The team also re-signed Justin Houston as well. He finished third on the team with 4.5 sacks.
However, it is unclear if Baltimore’s top sack leader Tyus Bowser will be ready for the season. Bowser was another impact player to go down with an injury during Baltimore’s injury plague 2021 season. He tore his Achilles in the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, the coaching staff expects interior linemen Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington to make significant strides this year.
Dolphins: September 18
Bills: October 2
Bengals: October 9/January 8
Buccaneers: October 27
Saints: November 7
Steelers: December 11/January 1
Win-Loss Projections: 10-7 (On the Bubble Playoff Team)
The AFC is so loaded from a competitive standpoint that a nine or ten-win team may not qualify for the playoffs. Baltimore is a team that could be in that category this season. The weapons in the Ravens’ arsenal are legitimate options for the offense. But their aging pass rush is where the major concerns lie. The unit has a combination of inexperience and aging veterans. Those deficiencies may show up in important games this season. There are a few matchups where Baltimore will be favored to win, but the bulk of their schedule features contests against playoff contenders in both the AFC and NFC. On the bright side, Baltimore has Lamar Jackson under center. When he is healthy, the Ravens can accomplish much as a football team.