Since the Ravens lost to the Chargers in the Wild Card Round, many criticisms have hit the reigning AFC North champion. Some criticism is based in reality, but some are severe misconceptions. Here is an analysis of some of the criticism:
#1: Lamar Jackson cannot throw.
Starting with the most divisive of the anti-Ravens comments, Jackson has divided the fanbase into two distinct camps. While many fans support the soon-to-be sophomore quarterback, the former Heisman winner has his fair share of detractors who bleed Ravens black and purple. Outside the fanbase, many believe Jackson has severe accuracy problems. While completion percentage is a flawed stat for comparing quarterbacks, Jackson posted the second-highest completion percentage of the 2018 rookie quarterbacks. Depending on your opinion of the likes of Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, this placement from Jackson is either impressive or expected of a relatively competent quarterback.
Looking back at game tape, Jackson made some incredibly impressive throws. While a handful out of 170 pass attempts is not significant in any manner, Jackson has a lively arm. With a full year of being the starter, Jackson should become more comfortable under center and in the pocket, improving accuracy. Jackson should be expected to have improved his footwork and throwing technique over the offseason. If he did, Jackson will be a much-improved quarterback, not a running back posing as a quarterback.
Verdict: False… for now
#2: The Ravens lost their whole defense.
This is a case of pure ignorance. In the earliest wave of free agency, the Ravens did lose four key contributors to the 2018 defense: C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Eric Weddle. In the next few days, the Ravens signed Earl Thomas, Pernell McPhee, and Shane Ray. In the draft, the Ravens added another edge rusher in Jaylon Ferguson. As a whole, Smith and Suggs were replaced with players who should have similar levels of production. Weddle was replaced with a better and younger player in Thomas.
The major wrench in this analysis is Mosley. He is arguably the third-best linebacker in the NFL. In almost every scenario, losing a Pro Bowl-level linebacker should be a major cause for concern. However, with the Ravens’ pedigree of developing linebacker talent, this might be the best thing for the Ravens defense. While it seems counterintuitive to the defensive talent, Mosley was asking for enough money to bankrupt the entire country let alone a football team. Mosley will be replaced by Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young.
#3: The Ravens were exposed in the Chargers playoff game.
Gus Bradley employed a genius defense to stop the potent Ravens rushing attack. There is no getting around the fact that the Chargers had a nearly perfect playbook to force Jackson to throw the ball.
However, the Chargers exposed an outdated Ravens offense. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman has introduced an entirely new offense. In total, the Chargers forced the Ravens to adopt a series of new folds into their offense.
Season Result Prediction: 10 wins and a division title
Looking into 2019, the Ravens are confident in their personnel. The Ravens could have dragged their feet in keeping players such as Joe Flacco or C.J.Ba Mosley, but they made critical decisions to move in a different direction while also being aggressive in improving the team with players such as Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas.
The Ravens should end the 2019 season around the 10-win mark. Optimistically speaking, the Ravens might have the best defense in the NFL while also supporting the best rush offense. The Ravens could parlay their schedule into 12 wins, but the odds are that the Ravens will not go undefeated at home and add four wins away from M&T Bank. On the flip side, the Ravens could slump to six or seven wins if the defense misses Mosley too much. If Jackson does not improve, disaster could strike for the Ravens.