Wed, 03 Jun 2020

Mailbag: Who Needs to Make the Biggest Year 2 Jump

Baltimore Ravens
21 May 2020, 05:25 GMT+10

 by &

Mink: The Ravens benefitted greatly from Year 2 jumps last season, as Lamar Jackson blossomed into an MVP, Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown Jr. became Pro Bowlers and Bradley Bozeman grew into a starter. In order to get over the playoff hump and to the Super Bowl, the Ravens need more breakouts from the 2019 draft class.

Of the three mentioned, I'll say Marquise "Hollywood" Brown needs to make the biggest jump - and I suspect he will based on improved health and what I see of his workouts on social media this offseason. You may be saying, "Wait a minute, didn't Hollywood already have a really good rookie season?!" and you'd be correct. Brown tied a rookie franchise record with seven touchdown catches despite playing hobbled. He caught 46 passes for 584 yards. The reason why I think the Ravens need him to take a step more into the 800 to 1,000-yard range is because he's the team's best wide receiver by a wide margin, and if the offense is going to become even more dangerous than it was last year, the room for growth is outside the hashes at wide receiver. The Ravens didn't draft a wide receiver early or bring in any new blood in free agency, meaning they're relying on Brown to step up.

Yes, Boykin will need to elevate his game too, and has a lot of room to grow after catching 13 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. But even if he's a "starter", I don't expect the Ravens need huge numbers from Boykin since they still have Mark Andrews, Willie Snead IV, and Nick Boyle all gobbling up passes, as well as rookies J.K. Dobbins and Devin Duvernay. What they need more is more from their top wide receiver, who can break games open and make this offense "undefendable" as the Ravens hope.

Jaylon Ferguson would have been my answer before the Ravens re-signed Pernell McPhee, providing veteran insurance. Plus, the improved defensive line will help the pass rush and run defense greatly, taking some weight off Ferguson's shoulders.

Downing: The Ravens have expressed plenty of confidence in Boykin, and the expectation is for him to take a big jump in 2020. I'd expect him to go into the season as the starter. However, rookie Devin Duvernay is a highly intriguing prospect who should be an impact player in his first season. Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta were fired up about drafting Duvernay - DeCosta called him one of his favorite players in the draft - and that reaction provided a glimpse of what the Ravens expect from the speedy receiver. DeCosta also compared Duvernay to Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. because of his mentality and competitiveness. Duvernay has great hands and breakaway speed, and by the time the season ends I expect him to be the team's second-most productive wideout behind Brown.

Mink: I don't know about soon, but I do expect Ronnie Stanley to be next in line unless Baltimore is able to work out a deal with franchise-tagged Matthew Judon this offseason. There's no doubt that the Ravens want to keep Stanley - the highest-graded offensive tackle in football last year, per Pro Football Focus - for the long haul. He's a super talented player who has been reliable, consistent and is still improving. He has many years left as one of the best in the NFL at his position, and it's a premium position. With that said, it ain't gonna come cheap. Laremy Tunsil, who was in Stanley's 2016 draft class, agreed to a three-year, $66 million extension with the Texans this offseason, which was certainly music to Stanley (and his agent's) ears. After Stanley are Marlon Humphrey and Jackson.

Downing: I don't see a reunion with Terrell Suggs this year. After going from the Ravens to Cardinals to Chiefs in the span of a year, I think Suggs is likely to call it a career. He just won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs, so it would be fitting for him to go out on top. He also put himself at No. 8 on the list for career sacks, which should solidify his Hall of Fame resume. Suggs was already worthy of a gold jacket before last year, but winning another championship and moving into top-10 all-time for sacks was the icing on the cake.

So while I don't see Suggs suiting up for the Ravens again, I do see him returning to Baltimore at some point to officially retire as a Raven. Suggs is one of the best players in franchise history and he'll forever view himself as a Raven, so it's only right to make it official with a retirement ceremony. I would expect the same for Joe Flacco, but it's tough to predict when that happens. Flacco reportedly had neck surgery this offseason, and he may not be ready to play by the start of the 2020 season. He indicated at the end of the year that he wanted to continue his career, but he's yet to be signed. Does he sit this year out to recover from the injury? Does he decide to retire? Does he accept a backup role with a new team? Those questions are very much unanswered at this point, but once Flacco does decide to call it a career, I would expect him to retire back in Baltimore.

Mink: Yes, the team has a very detailed plan in place to still get the most out of these unusual circumstances. That didn't get emailed to me, but I know that coaches are currently meeting with players virtually and those meetings are supposedly going well. With that said, I do think it will be harder for the rookies to make as much of a Year 1 impact because of the lost practice time. While meetings can be replicated virtually, practice cannot. There's just no substitute for real on-field work against your teammates. I'm not sure how the Ravens plan to replicate that. I'm not worried about the veteran free-agents' ability to contribute. Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe have played a lot of football and will be just fine knowing their jobs in Wink Martindale's defense.

Downing: Keeping up with Kansas City's offense is nearly an impossible task. Plus, we haven't even seen the new additions like Duvernay or running back J.K. Dobbins on the field, so I'll withhold judgement on whether the Ravens offense is "undefendable" now. With that said, I think the Ravens are certainly capable of beating the Chiefs. Kansas City edged out the Ravens in tough games each of the last two years, but the Ravens could have won those matchups if a few things had gone differently. Now we get to see that game in Baltimore, in a highly anticipated Week 3 Monday Night Football showdown. The third time might be a charm for the Ravens in the battle of Jackson vs. Mahomes.

Mink: Yes, because of balance. The 2000 and 2012 teams had multiple Hall of Famers roaming the defense, but neither compared offensively. The 2012 team was probably more talented offensively than defensively considering where Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were in their careers. The 2000 unit was obviously loaded on defense with a bunch of guys in their primes, but anemic offensively at times. I believe the 2020 Ravens will be able to beat the Ravens with either hand - offense or defense. The offense is led by the reigning MVP, who has a bunch of weapons and bookend Pro Bowl tackles blocking for him. With the improvements in the front seven this offseason, the defense is also laden with upper-echelon players across the board.

Downing: This is elaborate. I'm all for celebrations, but anything that involves multiple steps and bullet points is a bit much for me. (And Gladiator of one of my favorite movies of all time). I say we simplify it. I like the something more organic. Let's wait and see what Patrick comes up with this year.

Mink: In the times of COVID, a jersey and gym shorts can be considered formal wear. I approve ... even though I'm not hip enough for TikTok and don't know that song. Is this kind of video a thing now?

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