The 2020 Baltimore Ravens looked like a well-built roster that ultimately underachieved. This 2021 installment looks pretty dang good, too.
The Ravens continue to play “the long game” by working on building a team to last
It was either Hamlet’s iconic “To be or not to be” soliloquy or the epic Bill Murray musings about the rival Mohawks in the cinematic masterpiece “Meatballs” where we learned the life-altering phrase we should hold near and dear to our collective breast: It just doesn’t matter.
It just doesn’t matter if Pundit A says the AFC North is now the property of the Cleveland Browns. It just doesn’t matter if Pundit B says the Ravens can’t win a Super Bowl by playing this style of offense. It just doesn’t matter if MrCompensatingForStuff9238164 from the Twitterverse calls Lamar Jackson a running back.
Say it with me, Flock: It just doesn’t matter.
With the 2021 draft fully in the rearview mirror, and with a cursory look at the current roster, the Ravens look like a team ready to get on the field right now. Oh, there is a pretty gaping hole (can we say that on a family site?) at right tackle, but it certainly appears as if there are some free agent options that can at least give the team some solid options. And you never know what kind of trade-wizardry General Manager Eric DeCosta could pull off later this summer. Regardless, I’m not overly concerned at this point.
More than one giant void? Lots of concern. One? Not so much.
That offensive line should be better than the one that was last seen getting wedgied on national television by the Buffalo Bills in last year’s Divisional Round. Seriously, let’s look at this position by position. As good as Orlando Brown Jr. was last year, presumably getting Ronnie Stanley back is an upgrade at left tackle. A Ben shall rise above all others (Cleveland, Powers, Bredeson) at left guard, while Bradley Bozeman would appear to be a wildly better option at center than Patrick Mekari was in this game. Kevin Zeitler should be a significant upgrade at right guard and, well, right tackle: It has to be better, right?
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That stronger line, alone, should make the Ravens a more formidable opponent. And if you are still worried about the possibilities at right tackle, here’s another tasty little nugget to ponder: Nick Boyle should make his triumphant return from his own injury this season, which will provide the offense a little more flexibility in its formations, and give that right tackle a little help in the form of a bruising tandem blocker when needed.
Barring a wave of injuries or a league-imposed ban on players by the name of Ben, the Ravens should have a line next season that will be plenty good enough, especially if the skill players are up to par.
Spoiler alert: They are.
J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards should be able to do the heavy lifting from the running-back position to the tune of one of the best one-two tandems in the league, and Jackson offers electricity from the pocket with his legs that can’t be found on any other roster. Mark Andrews is a top-six tight end, Marquise Brown has shown to be a good receiver who can hurt a team at any given moment and veteran signee Sammy Watkins will provide a solid presence who can still make a splash when called upon. Rookies Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace should be nice additions to both this year’s team and the future.
So, yeah, there is talent enough for 2021, and a roster of intriguing talent to carry the offense into 2022 and beyond. We can go position by position on the defensive side, too, but that wasn’t really the problem last year, was it? Adding Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes to an edge group that already features Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser appears to be setting them up for this year and the future, and the defensive backfield is, once again, loaded.
Yeah, maybe the Browns are the favorites to win the North this year. I can see it. The team is stacked, and their management has made what appears to be good decisions all offseason.
But count out the Ravens at your own risk. The cupboard isn’t bare, regardless of what some of the national prognosticators might say. The season won’t be determined by what people Tweet or spit out to cameras. The games will be played on the field.4
As for the other stuff, well… It just doesn’t matter.