Ravens 2022 NFL preview, schedule: without injuries, Baltimore will challenge for division title again
Despite suffering countless injuries, the Baltimore Ravens came close to making the Playoffs last season; this year, they’re set to be competitive again in the AFC North.
No one in Baltimore wants it to be a distraction, but as long as Lamar Jackson doesn’t sign his contract extension with the Ravens, that’s what it will be.
Jackson up for renewal after disappointing 2021 season
Jackson, who was named the 2019 NFL MVP, enters the final year of his rookie deal and Eric DeCosta, the Ravens’ general manager, has Kyler Murray as his immediate reference point as he seeks to negotiate a new deal with his star quarterback.
Murray signed a five-year, $230 million extension with the Cardinals last month, making him the second-highest-paid quarterback in the league, averaging $46.1 million a year, behind only Aaron Rodgers ($50 million).
Jackson’s fourth year in the NFL was, however, the worst of his young career: in just 12 games, he threw 16 touchdown passes, 20 fewer than in his MVP campaign.
Much more was expected of Jackson, but injuries and covid-19 affected his production.
Still, he was second among quarterbacks with 767 rushing yards and became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 600 yards in his first four seasons in the league.
Ravens rack up the rushing yards
Can he one day become a ‘conventional’ quarterback? That remains to be seen, but what doesn’t look like changing any time soon is the identity of the Ravens.
From Week 11 of the 2018 season to Week 4 of 2021, the Ravens rushed for at least 100 yards in 43 straight games, tying a record set by the Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-77).
Baltimore’s offence was third in the NFL in 2021, averaging 145.8 rushing yards per game. And they achieved that despite losing J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards for the entire season after both suffered knee injuries.
Mark Andrews was Jackson’s chief partner in crime on the pitch. Andrews led all tight ends in receptions (107) and yards (1,361), both career highs.
Those numbers could be repeated this year, particularly after the Ravens sent wide receiver Marquise Brown to Arizona in an unexpected trade on the first day of the Draft.
Ravens mourning Ferguson death
The Ravens were hit hard in June by the death of linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, at just 26 years old. This tragedy will test the character of the entire organisation.
Baltimore have a new defensive coordinator in Mike Macdonald, who takes the place of Don Martindale.
Injuries also affected this side of the ball, and the Ravens’ defence finished 25th in passing yards, their worst since 1997, as well as giving up 16 plays of 40 or more yards.
The leaders are linebackers Patrick Queen (98 tackles, 10 of them in the backfield) and Tyus Bowser (seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits), while Odafe Oweh showed he’s one to watch, the rookie forcing three fumbles and recording five sacks.
Free agents Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton are fighting for the starting job at safety and the winner will play alongside one of the best cornerback pairings in the league: Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, who is back after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
Despite all their injuries, the Ravens came close to qualifying for the Playoffs and won at least eight games for the sixth straight season.
Resolving Jackson’s contract situation before the start of the regular season is paramount. With that in the bag and a healthy team, head coach John Harbaugh will have Baltimore in contention for the AFC North Division crown, which his team has won twice in the past four seasons.
Baltimore Ravens: brief fact file
Record in 2021: 8-9
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium
Super Bowl titles: 2
Head coach: John Harbaugh
Defensive coordinator: Greg Roman
Offensive coordinator: Mike Macdonald
Baltimore Ravens’ 2022 NFL schedule
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5|
|at N.Y. Jets||Miami||at New England||Buffalo||Cincinnati|
|Week 6||Week 7||Week 8||Week 9||Week 10|
|at N.Y. Giants||Cleveland||at Tampa Bay||at New Orleans||BYE|
|Week 11||Week 12||Week 13||Week 14||Week 15|
|Carolina||at Jacksonville||Denver||at Pittsburgh||at Cleveland|
|Week 16||Week 17||Week 18|