The Baltimore Ravens’ mandatory mini-camp is adding a little excitement to this very hot and boring time of the football calendar. It’s enough to get the juices flowing and to get us looking forward to the 2022 season. With that in mind, let’s start laying out some predictions. With that in mind, let’s start laying out some predictions. Here are seven hopeful predictions for the Ravens season and the things that could get in the way of each.
And here we go…
1. The defense will have more takeaways this season
The Ravens added a lot to the secondary. They signed Marcus Williams and drafted Kyle Hamilton. Williams has had at least two interceptions every year of his career. Hamilton had eight interceptions in his three years at Notre Dame. The Ravens obviously wanted more play-makers in the secondary and they got what they wanted. Marcus Peters is coming back, which means more interceptions.
Marlon Humphrey is coming back, which means the occasional forced fumble. The staff should lead to the Ravens taking the football away more. Now that Mike Macdonald is the defensive coordinator, the defense may be less predictable. That could be a huge help, especially against division foes who think they know everything there is to know about the Baltimore defense.
What Could Get in the Way: The Ravens have a lot of new pieces to the puzzle and a new defensive coordinator. There may be a jelling period for the Ravens early in the season. On top of that, the Ravens play some great quarterbacks in the 2022 season, including going up against Joe Burrow and his weapons twice, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and Josh Allen. There’s no defense to a perfect throw and great quarterback play could make takeaways hard to come by. There could be some tough days at the office for this defense, one that may have some kinks to work out before they face elite competition.
2. JK Dobbins will gain over 1,000 yards on the ground
This is another prediction that almost seems obvious. As a rookie in the 2020 season, JK Dobbins had over 800 rushing yards. Dobbins was becoming a force to be reckoned with at the end of that campaign. He then got a year removed from the action because of injury. Dobbins should be able to pick up right where he left off, and will eclipse 1,000 rushing yards this season, continuing the natural progression of his career.
What Could Get in the Way: The Ravens never let any of their running backs do too much of the heavy lifting. Dobbins will surely be working in a running back by committee situation. If Tyler Badie ends up being a steal at the running back spot, he could factor into the rotation. Gus Edwards could easily establish himself as the workhorse of the offense. There’s a lot of competition in the backfield.
More than anything though, the Ravens may be pulled away from their ground and pound philosophy. If the Ravens want to get more out of the passing game, it could be less of a running back utopia in Baltimore.
3. Mark Andrews scores double-digit touchdowns
This one isn’t being very bold. Mark Andrews scored nine touchdowns last season and Lamar Jackson was hurt for the final stretch of the year. Andrews and Jackson have a very strong connection. Jackson always felt most comfortable throwing to Andrews and Marquise Brown. With Brown gone, Andrews is the default top target, and is coming off a season where he had over 100 catches.
If he stays healthy, his production isn’t slowing down.
What Could Get in the Way: Just like at running back, the Ravens have a bit of a depth chart logjam at tight end. Andrews is the main man and that isn’t in question. That being said, having four tight ends and a Pro Bowl fullback in Pat Ricard could eat into some of the touches that Andrews gets. If Nick Boyle is healthy he’s going to see the field a lot simply because he can contribute as a blocker and a pass-catcher. The Ravens drafted two tight ends and that means they’re probably a big part of the plan, especially in the red zone.
Jackson has always forced the football to two people, Marquise Brown and Andrews. With Brown being gone all of the attention goes right to Andrews. If Jackson is over-reliant on Andrews, it could lead to a lot less room for the tight end operate.
4. Tyus Bowser has double-digit sacks, 3 INT
Tyus Bowser had seven sacks a season ago, and he’s entering his sixth season. He’s hitting the time of his career when everything could come together for him. Remember, Za’Darius Smith had two monster seasons in Green Bay and they were his fifth and sixth seasons in the league. Matt Judon, who was drafted the same year as Bowser, just had 12.5 sacks for the New England Patriots.
Bowser quietly had a strong season in 2021. He’s also very versatile and the Ravens can use him as an inside linebacker in addition to his duties as an edge rusher. 10 bags and three picks are reachable. Why not? Bowser is easy to root for as one of the most bought-in Ravens on the roster. Bowser had three interceptions in the 2020 season, so we know that’s in the realm of possibilities.
What Could Get in the Way: There’s no questioning that this prediction requires some projection. Bowser hasn’t proven himself to be a dominant force off the edge. His performance has been solid but he has yet to wow us. Bowser can always keep the “good but not great” label.
The Ravens have yet to sign another pass rusher this offseason. While Justin Houston didn’t have huge numbers, he attracted a lot of attention from the opposing offensive line. We could be asking too much out of Bowser. The Ravens could be a little thin in their outside linebacker rotation and that could hamper Bowser’s progress.
Additionally, after suffering a torn Achilles in the season finale in January, Bowser seems to be making good progress. Still, we don’t know when exactly he will be back at full strength and getting his full slate of reps.
5. Ronnie Stanley misses no more than three games
Ronnie Stanley is the Jimmy Smith of the offensive line. What I mean by that is that he’ll get injured and miss a small clump of games here and there. In 2019, Stanley played in 14 games. In 2018 it was 15 games and in 2017 he played 15 games. Getting back to normal for Stanley is getting back to being mostly available. Every indication is that his recovery has been going smoothly and he’ll be ready to be the Ravens’ left tackle. If the injury is truly recovered, we’ll go back to the status quo.
What Could Get in the Way: Stanley may be rusty after essentially missing a year and a half of football. Plus, some players are never the same after a major injury. We can predict, but not assume, that we get back the pre-injury Stanley we remember. This is a big hinging point for the Ravens. They either get back a great left tackle or they have an overpaid liability at a key spot on the offensive line.
6. Rashod Bateman will have more catches and yards than Marquise Brown did last year
This prediction sounds a lot bolder than it is. Marquise Brown caught 91 passes last season and had just over 1,000 receiving yards. Rashod Bateman was a first-round pick and is expected to be the new number one wide receiver in Baltimore. Bateman played in 12 games in the 2021 season and collected 46 receptions. With a full season and no more Hollywood Brown, Bateman should be able to double those numbers. If you simply double the stats from his rookie campaign you get 92 grabs for 1,030 yards. Topping Brown’s output sounds extremely bold, but this is actually a very practical prediction.
What Could Get in the Way: We just heard Willie Snead talk about the problems with the Ravens offense and what it means for wide receivers. Where there is enough smoke, there is usually fire. Bateman has looked impressive but it’s been a small sample size. This offense may very well be incapable of making a wide receiver a superstar.
What hurts Bateman’s luck more though is the group of talent around him. The Ravens have Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and Tylan Wallace. It’s the most unproven receiving group in the NFL. Bateman is going to be given a lot of attention from opposing defenses. He’s the only player with huge expectations to fill and it could work against him.
7. Lamar Jackson will rush for over 1,000 yards
In 2019, Jackson rushed for 1,206 yards. In 2020 he picked up 1,005 yards on the ground, while he tallied 767 yards in 12 games last season. If Jackson stays healthy, he’s rushing for 1,000 yards at a minimum. That’s just his style of football; that’s his game. The offense may make strides in the passing game, yet the offense won’t change dramatically. 1,000 rushing yards is essentially a standard operating procedure for Jackson.
What Could Get in the Way: There always seems to be a voice inside Jackson’s head saying that he needs to prove it as a pass. The Ravens’ field general could be more selective with his escape routes from the pocket. Coming back from an injury, Jackson may also be more focused on quick delivery and avoiding contact. Hesitation could be Jackson’s biggest hindrance in the run game.
The Ravens must allow Jackson to do what he does, but there could be a mindset change. The standard operating procedure could change a little bit. The Ravens could have Jackson scale the running down. What you don’t want to see is Jackson limiting himself and turning down open running lanes just to prove he’s a great passer. If he gets in his head on this he could be the biggest roadblock for this offense.
There’s plenty to be hopeful for in Baltimore. John Harbaugh is tasked with guiding the team to the best-case scenario. Some roadblocks could get in the way, and the Ravens must be aware of them as they build their plan of attack for the 2022 season.