After a dramatic improvement from second year quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore Ravens are cruising to a playoff birth with a 10-2 record. The ravens currently hold a seven game win streak, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. With the train’s wheels moving, we should take a step back and analyze: Is this team built to last?
Y-E-S! YES! YES! YES!
This team is disgusting. Many fans and analysts were skeptical of the Ravens after their Week 1 dominance over the downright awful Miami Dolphins. People doubted that this team could not perform against highly touted foes like the New England Patriots in the AFC, or the San Fransisco 49ers in the NFC. However, the Ravens walked out of both of those matchups with a W. Despite having the 25th ranked passing offense in the NFL (212.9 YDS/G), the Ravens make it up by having the number one rushing offense in the league (207.8 YDS/G). This multiple-zone run offense is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and lead the league with 18 rushing touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens have the 13th pass defense (228.5 YDS/G), while following the generation-old philosophy of running the ball; stopping the run, as they have the 7th rushing defense in the league (94.9 YDS/G). Statistically speaking: This is a team that is built to win the Super Bowl.
Not Bad for a Running Back V.2
In his second year, at 22 years old mind you, phenom QB Lamar Jackson has thrown 322 passes, completing 214 for 2,532 yards and 25 TD with 5 INTs. His passing statistics are solid, sitting as the 18th quarterback in the league, ranked by passing yards, and his completion percentage is just as respectable, having an impressive 66.5%. His QB rating is 4th in the league at 109.6, sitting behind Russel Wilson (112.1), Ryan Tannehill (112.9), and Kirk Cousins (114.8). Those numbers are quite exceptional for a guy who was considered a running back listed at QB1 last season by a no-name reporter. While on the topic of rushing though, allow me to make you aware that Jackson is 8th in the league in rushing yards, running for 977 yards on 140 attempts. This brings him to an average of 7.0 yards per carry. Topping it all off with 7 rushing touchdowns (ranked 8th in a four-way tie with RBs Ezekiel Elliott, Nick Chubb, and Josh Jacobs. Lamar Jackson has improved his running abilities, as he has limited his rushing attempts, while also reading his holes more clearly. The fumbles that he has this year are half of the amount he coughed up last season (12 Fumbles, 4 Lost in 2018 — 6 Fumbles, 1 Lost in 2019). The Pompano Beach, Florida native is only going to get better and receive more recognition as he develops in his career, even after already receiving MVP chants as well as shoutouts from the legendary pioneer to scrambling quarterbacks: Mike Vick.
Run Run Rudolph
As mentioned before, the age-old philosophy of the NFL has, and always will be: Run the ball; stop the run. That is exactly what this Ravens team does each and every week. RB Mark Ingram, acquired via free agency after his long tenure with the New Orleans Saints, has 837 rushing yards, and 9 rushing touchdowns this season, while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Add this to the epitome of a scrambling quarterback, Lamar Jackson, and you have yourself a very dangerous run-game. Forget finally having a true #1 passing threat in rookie WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and an elite TE in Mark Andrews. This rushing offense can single-handily win games for the Baltimore Ravens. My favorite play that the Ravens run is the option, as Jackson can either hand the ball off to his running back for an inside run, or keep it himself and run outside the carnage. This play made the highlight reel after Jackson faked out OLB Clay Matthews early in the first quarter in a Week 12 matchup with the Rams hosting the Ravens. Matthews, who was let go in the 2019 offseason after a long career with the Green Bay Packers and was signed by the Rams in free agency, read an inside zone run to Ravens RB Gus Edwards. While this would have been a great play and textbook read by the veteran, he realized that Jackson had kept the ball himself. As Jackson saw Matthews biting on the run, he faked the hand-off and ran for a first down on 2nd & 6 on the Rams’ 42 yard-line. Just when you think you caught Jackson, he spins on a dime and sprints for 20 yards down hill, leaving you demoralized and asking yourself “can this man can be stopped?” The answer, best said by American Idol host Randy Jackson: “It’s a no for me dawg.”
Just Guys Being Dudes
While Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are riding to the playoffs on cruise control, they certainly are not letting their success get to their head. If you listen to players like QB Lamar Jackson, HC John Harbaugh, or RB Mark Ingram mic’d up, all they do is spread love and positivity to their teammates. Whether it’s Ingram praising the big-men upfront in the trenches, or arguing with Jackson that the QB is more unbelievable than he is, or Harbaugh praising Jackson and telling him that kids will be wearing his number for decades, they never fail to remind one another that they have each other’s backs and will stop at nothing to push themselves to be a better version of who they are as individuals, as a team, and as role models for the younger generation. These are guys being dudes who are simply enjoying the game of football and being good at it. The Super Bowl very well could be theirs to lose.