Sports

Lamar Jackson, Ravens are longshots to win 12 games in 2021

Since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback in 2018, the Baltimore Ravens are 30-7 in games he has played. Jackson is responsible for 87 touchdowns, and he took home an MVP award in 2019. However, he took a step back last season, and concerns have arisen that this is a sign of things to come for a player who took the league by storm.

Jackson has regressed as a passer, going from a 85.3 Pro Football Focus passing grade to 76.9 last season, and his turnover-worthy play rate doubled to 3.6 percent. The biggest change for Jackson was when passing without play-action. During his MVP season, he posted a 2.87 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but last season he threw nine fewer touchdowns on those attempts with a 2.0 ratio, and his yards per attempt dropped to 6.8. If Baltimore is going to challenge for the Super Bowl, he needs to make strides in more traditional drop-back passing situations.

However, some problems are already popping up in the receivers room. WR Rashod Bateman underwent surgery in early August will miss at least the first thee games of the season, while WR Marquise Brown returned to practice last week after missing a month with a hamstring injury. The best receiving option is tight end Mark Andrews, but a lack of depth plagues the Ravens at wide receiver.

Lamar Jackson
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On the line, tackle is mostly secure with Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva, but Stanley is coming off a serious ankle injury and Villanueva is switching to right tackle. The interior is a question, as center Bradley Bozeman and right guard Kevin Zeitler are average linemen at best. These problems make it more likely this unit will continue sliding down the efficiency leaderboard. In addition, J.K. Dobbins, who rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020, is lost for the season with a torn ACL.

The defense was the most consistent aspect of this team in 2020, and it is still set up for success with a strong secondary. Last year Baltimore was graded as the league’s seventh-best coverage team by PFF. Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters are phenomenal coverage corners. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott graded out as top-30 coverage safeties in the league last year.

That elite level of pass coverage allows the Ravens’ mediocre group of pass rushers to get home. Baltimore led the league by a wide margin in blitz rate last year, sending five or more rushers 44.1 percent of the time. Coordinator Don Martindale does this by design, as the Ravens have no true dominant pass rushers, which is why Justin Houston was a late addition. Should the secondary stay healthy, a question given its injury history, bettors should expect similar output this season.

The Ravens have the 12th-hardest schedule by projected opponent win total, and the back half of the slate is an absolute beast. Eight of Baltimore’s final 10 opponents are projected to win eight or more games. From Week 12 to the end of the season, the Ravens have all four divisional games against Cleveland and Pittsburgh plus home games against the Packers and Rams. BetMGM lists the Ravens at +120 to go over 11.5 wins, but taking everything into account, it is hard to make a case for that this team will get to 12 wins.

Jonathan Von Tobel writes for VSiN.com. VSiN programming can be heard on iHeartRadio platforms.

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