Scouting the Los Angeles Rams 2019 Opponents: Baltimore Ravens

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The Rams come off week 11’s primetime game versus the Chicago Bears only to head back home and host the Baltimore Ravens in another primetime tilt in week 12. Both teams will likely be playing for some serious playoff implications as we head into the latter part of the season. These two teams have only met six times in league history due to the expansion of the Ravens but in those six games, the Ravens have won four of them.

Most recently, the Rams lost a 16-13 matchup in Baltimore in a game that the Rams easily could have won but ultimately blew it in the late-going. That was also the infamous Case Keenum concussion game. In those six games, the Ravens are outscoring the Rams 144-114. This time, however, despite the fact the Ravens are indeed a playoff-caliber team with a fun young quarterback, the Rams are the favorites.

Schedule

Week 1 – at Carolina, 1 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 2  – vs. New Orleans, 4:25 ET – Opponent Preview
Week 3 – at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m. ET (SNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 4 –  vs. Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 5 – at Seattle, 8:20 p.m. ET (TNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 6 – vs. San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 7 – at Atlanta, 1:00 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 8 – vs. Cincinnati (in London), 1:00 p.m.
Week 9 – BYE WEEK
Week 10 – at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 11 – vs. Chicago, 8:20 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 12 – vs. Baltimore, 8:15 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview

Recapping 2018

The reigning AFC North champions had quite the run last year and albeit the season didn’t go entirely according to plan, the Ravens made noise and were able to build a foundation for the following years to come.

The season-opener featured a total beatdown at the hands of the Ravens taking down the Buffalo Bills 47-3 which was a tone-setting win to kick off the year. However, the next game they would surprisingly fall to their rival Cincinnati Bengals 34-23 before bouncing back and beating down the Denver Broncos 27-14. Baltimore would close up the first quarter of the season 3-1 with a statement win against their big-time division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Ravens were 3-1 to start, it was worth mentioning that the defense was mainly the reason. The team had not gotten the running game going, Flacco was playing alright football for the most part but the real heroes were the defense.

The next portion of the season the Ravens started to face the pressure after losing an odd 12-9 OT game versus the Browns. They would come back to shutout Tennessee 21-0 but the next few games would be a problem. The Ravens would go on to lose three straight to the Saints, Panthers and Steelers which pushed them back to 4-5 and under .500. In that last game versus the Steelers, right before the bye, Flacco had suffered a hip injury and Lamar Jackson would now grab the keys to the car and become the starting quarterback moving forward.

Once Jackson took over it wasn’t the most gorgeous performance you have ever seen but the Ravens were back. The defense was thriving and the offense was finally moving the football when they had to. They just were simply doing whatever they had to, to win football games. Again, it wasn’t always pretty and many would scrutinize Jackson about not being ready for the moment. However, regardless of Jackson’s struggles, he made plays and ultimately gave the Ravens a shot in every game with his legs and his arm. The Ravens led by the new duo of Jackson and Gus Edwards would rekindle the running game and muster off three straight wins in a row to come right out of the bye week. In week 14, the team fell just short of upsetting arguably the best team in the league at that time, the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in overtime. Jackson would fall to 3-1 as a starting quarterback but unfortunately, due to the hole the Ravens were already in, that would be the sixth loss on the season, meaning the Ravens had to win out to make the playoffs.

Despite having their backs against the wall, the Ravens won out and finished with a 10-6 record after being Tampa Bay, the red hot Chargers and Browns. Jackson finished the season with a career 6-1 record and basically ended up saving the Ravens season. Of course, now that the rookie Jackson was in the playoffs he would have to perform under January football conditions. The Ravens did all they possibly could on defense holding the Chargers high-powered offense to just 23 points but unfortunately, the moment was in fact too big for the rookie and while he gave his team a chance to win it at the end, the previous turnovers by Jackson were simply too much to overcome. The Ravens would fall 23-17 ending their impressive tale of two halves season.

Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses

Added: RB Mark Ingram, WR Seth Roberts, WR Michael Floyd, OLB Pernell McPhee, OLB Shane Ray, CB Justin Bethel, S Earl Thomas

Losses: QB Joe Flacco, RB Alex Collins, RB Ty Montgomery, RB Javorius Allen, WR John Brown, WR Michael Crabtree, TE Maxx Williams, DT Brent Urban, OLB Terrell Suggs, OLB Za’Darius Smith, ILB C.J. Mosley, S Eric Weddle

The Ravens lost the heart and soul of their defense in Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle. They also lost key starters Za’Darius Smith on defense and John Brown on offense. However, they were able to add Mark Ingram in free agency to bolster their running back room, Shane Ray to give them a high upside edge defender, an underrated cornerback in Justin Bethel and arguably one of the best safeties in the game Earl Thomas.

The team also had to make the tough decision but ultimately the right decision to trade away their Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Flacco. In return they netted a fourth-round pick from the Broncos and added more available money to their cap space. This move also signaled the end of the Flacco era and the start of the Lamar Jackson era in Baltimore.

As far as completely repairing the damage, that I don’t think the Ravens did in one free agency period, but that would be fine because they would attack the draft with the mentality of replacing what was lost.

A Look at the Draft

Baltimore made it their mission to kick off their draft class with a bang and get their young quarterback some weapons. They didn’t disappoint when they turned in the draft card for Oklahoma’s game-breaking receiver Marquise Brown in the first round. Brown’s ability completely replaces that of John Brown’s and gives Jackson a receiver he too can grow with for a long time.

Next, the Ravens drafted the sack daddy himself in the third round, Jaylon Ferguson. The former Lousiana Tech product set the record for most FBS career sacks and now comes to the Ravens in a role where he will most likely replace Za’Darius Smith as a starting pass rusher.

In the third round once more, the Ravens selected yet another receiver to fall into Jackson’s arsenal and that was none other than the physical freak out of Notre Dame, Miles Boykin. The next two picks the Ravens would stick with the offense and add Justice Hill to the running back room as well as stud offensive guard Ben Powers who was a total standout at the Senior Bowl.

Finishing up the draft the Ravens would add Iman “Biggie” Marshall from USC who was once considered a preseason first-round pick, Shrine Game and Senior Bowl standout, Texas A&M’s Daylon Mack and Penn State leading signal-caller Trace McSorley. All in all the Ravens came out of the draft with a bunch of help to their already talented roster.

The thing about this draft is that the Ravens didn’t really make any surprise picks, they added exactly what they needed. If you had to throw one in there it was a little shocking they didn’t go after another inside backer after losing Mosley to free agency. Other than that, the Ravens did a great job and on paper, they improved their roster from last season.

Biggest on Field Question

Will Lamar Jackson ascend in year two? That is the question because if Jackson continues to develop and hits another level this already talented Ravens team has proven they can win when Jackson is simply not a game-changing player yet. What is going to happen when Jackson becomes one and the Ravens team is good enough to win a Super Bowl?

So right now, the question is how good is Lamar Jackson going to be in year two. It wouldn’t surprise me if he became an absolute star as he was my top overall quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. With the coaching staff in place from last year, Jackson and offensive coordinator Greg Roman can really turn up the heat this season due to the chemistry and overall consistency of the offense.

Far too often we see young quarterbacks go through scheme changes and system changes but not Jackson, he’s in a great spot to propel himself into one of the league’s scariest offensive players.

Depth Chart Analysis

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson will be the starting quarterback as mentioned above and he shouldn’t have much of a leash at this point with the trading of Joe Flacco. Behind him is Robert Griffin III who is one of the better backups in the NFL and someone that can really mentor Jackson as the two have similar playing styles. Of course, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley was drafted in the sixth round and while he might become the league’s new Taysom Hill clone, he’s also going to compete for the backup job whether it’s possible to receive it this year or not.

Running back: Gus Edwards had a very good season last year but the Ravens still felt the need to pay Mark Ingram and now Baltimore’s backfield has those two, former second-round pick Kenneth Dixon, De’Lance Turner, Tyler Ervin, Christopher Ezeala and now the newly-drafted Justice Hill. It’s a healthy depth-filled backfield. Justice Hill threatens the existence of Dixon on the roster and the playing time of Edwards. It will be interesting to see what happens with this backfield.

Wide receivers: Willie Snead returns along with former 2018 fifth-round pick Jordan Lasley to be the projected starters. Rookie draft picks Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin are right in the mix to challenge for starting roles as well as former 2016 undrafted free agent Chris Moore. After those, the Ravens have talented 2019 undrafted rookie free agent Antoine Wesley, veteran free-agent acquisitions Michael Floyd, Seth Roberts and last year’s fourth-round pick Jaleel Scott.

Among the other receivers in play are 2017 undrafted receiver Quincy Adeboyejo and a trio of 2019 undrafted rookies: Joe Horn, Sean Modster and Jaylen Smith. This training camp is going to be interesting to watch for a unit that has a lot of question marks and only a handful of locks moving forward.

Tight ends: The Ravens chose 2015 fifth-round pick Nick Boyle over re-signing Maxx Williams. Along with Boyle, the Ravens have their last year’s first-round pick Hayden Hurst and their last year’s 3rd-round pick Mark Andrews who arguably should have a bigger role than Hurst judging by the chemistry he and Jackson established last year. After the “big three” the Ravens have three undrafted rookies that will be fighting for a role in Cole Herdman, Matt Orzech and Charles Scarff.

Left tackle: Ronnie Stanley is the surefire stud at left tackle the Ravens need to keep Jackson upright. After him, James Hurst who will play left tackle or right tackle if you need him is the next guy in line. 2017 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemenor would also be in the mix as he is as versatile as they come. The 2018 sixth-round pick Greg Senat and 2019 undrafted rookie Marcus Applefield will compete for a role as well.

Left guard: Alex Lewis is going to be the starter but the former undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin finds himself on the PUP list to open up the season. That likely means until Lewis gets healthy, former Alabama product Bradley Bozeman, last year’s sixth-round selection will take over the role. This year’s undrafted rookie Patrick Vahe is a name to watch as well.

Center: Matt Skura, a 2016 undrafted free agent is going to the be the starter barring a change here. Bozeman’s interior versatility as well as Lewis’ will allow either of them to play at center in the event of an injury to Skura.

Right guard: One of the best in the game at the position Marshal Yanda will return for yet another season. The former 2007 third-round pick has been the heart and soul of this offensive line. Ben Powers, a fifth-round pick this year out of Oklahoma is expected to be in play for the left guard role with Lewis out and likely backup Yanda in the meantime. The 2019 undrafted free agent RJ Prince will compete for a roster spot as well.

Right tackle: Orlando Brown is the obvious starter here after an impressive season. Brown was the prospect that everyone seemed to make fun of just based on his testing numbers but last year he got the last laugh. Following Brown is James Hurt, a 2014 undrafted free agent, 2019 undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari who resides on the PUP list at the moment, 2019 undrafted rookie Darrell Williams and 2018 undrafted free agent Randin Crecelius.

Defensive end: Former 2017 third-round pick Chris Wormley and returned acquisition Pernell McPhee are expected to start at the position. Star lineman Michael Pierce is on the PUP list but once he returns he will likely return to his starting role. After Pierce, Patrick Ricard, Zach Sieler, Willie Henry, Michael Onuoha and Aaron Adeoye round out the depth chart.

Nose tackle: Brandon Williams is a lock to start this year after he has become one of the best in the league at his position. After him, the Ravens could look for a head-to-head battle for the backup job between Daylon Mack who is actively on the PUP list and Gerald Willis. Either of Mack and Willis could make a push for either defensive end job as well. Mack was a draft pick they like a lot while Willis was a surprising undrafted rookie that could be a steal of the undrafted rookie free agency.

Linebacker: The Ravens have a quality crop of talent in their linebacker room. Albeit they lost talent in Za’Darius Smith, C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs. They have the likes of Tim Williams, Kenny Young, Patrick Onwuasor, Matt Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Shane Ray and Tyus Bowser. Who is going to start remains a question but as of now the projected lineup is Williams, Young, Onwuasor and Judon.

Expect the third-round pick Ferguson who is on the non-football injury list at the moment to have a big role as a rotational edge defender as well as former 2017 second-round pick Bowser who they really would like to get going. Near the back end of the depth chart players like Markus Jones, Silas Stewart, Chris Board, Alvin Jones, EJ Ejiya, Matthew Thomas and Otaro Alaka will all battle to make the final roster cut.

Cornerbacks: It’s a pretty rock solid group with Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young and Anthony Averett expected to have the biggest roles in that order at the cornerback position. Rookie corner Iman Marshall, Maurice Canady, Justin Bethel, Cyrus Jones, Terrell Bonds, Jackson Bennett and recently re-signed Stanley Jean-Baptiste will all battle to find any sort of role they can carve out this season.

Safeties: Earl Thomas replaces Eric Weddle who will start next to Tony Jefferson. While the Ravens made the tough choice to get rid of Weddle, they replaced him with arguably one of the best in the game in Thomas. Jefferson is a young stud at the strong safety position so the team went out and got him a great running mate at the free safety spot. Following the starters, the Ravens have the likes of Anthony Levine, 2018 sixth-round pick DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark. It’s a deep group with some serious upside, especially with the former Longhorn Elliott.

Outlook for 2019

Overall, this is a better team than last year’s Baltimore Ravens squad that fell just short in the first round of the playoffs. This year, they arrive as the defending AFC North champions but will have to defend that title against a revitalized Steelers team and a Browns team that has seemingly become Super Bowl favorites overnight. Led by the second-year signal-caller Lamar Jackson and a returning Head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are poised to make noise in the AFC. How far will this team go? Anything short of an AFC Championship appearance with this roster would be considered a waste of a season in my book.

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