Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after Sunday’s 37-20 win over the New England Patriots.
The Ravens find themselves in a new position heading into the second half of the season.
In the past two years, the Ravens had to go on some type of winning streak in the final eight games just to be in position to get into the playoffs.
But after eight games in 2019, the Ravens (6-2) are two games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4) in the AFC North race, with the Cleveland Browns (2-6) and Cincinnati Bengals (0-8) already jockeying for position in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft.
It’s way too early to determine where the Ravens might end up in the postseason, but at least they keep improving. They’re now considered serious contenders after beating the Seahawks two weeks ago in Seattle and trouncing the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Sunday night.
The Ravens’ second-half schedule is tough, with games against the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills, though the Ravens still get to play the Browns, Bengals and New York Jets.
But before we move on to the final eight games, The Baltimore Sun gives out its first-half grades.
Second-year player Lamar Jackson has already proven he can make big plays and win games with his legs, but he is becoming more of an accomplished overall quarterback. He is coming up with clutch throws on third downs and inside the red zone and appears more comfortable going through his progressions. Each week, Jackson becomes more in charge of running the offense. He’ll still do some head-scratching things like dropping his arm angle when he throws or slinging the ball off his back foot, but he is starting to win more games as a quarterback than as a halfback. Grade: A-
Mark Ingram II is just one of those backs who can slowly grind a team into submission. He isn’t fancy and doesn’t have that home run hitting ability, but he is steady and an exceptional closer in the fourth quarter. Ingram has rushed for 585 yards on 114 carries this season. Backup Gus Edwards has rushed for 261 yards on 59 carries, despite being used sparingly. The Ravens have the top rushing attack in the NFL. Ingram, though, has had two costly fumbles. Grade: B+
Of all the offensive units, this group faced the most questions going into the season, but it has been dominant. The Ravens aren’t overly athletic up front, but the coaching staff has gotten the most of this unit because of its schemes. Tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. have performed well, and Stanley might get some Pro Bowl consideration. The biggest improvements have been made by left guard Bradley Bozeman and center Matt Skura. Bozeman is still stiff, but can be overpowering at times. Right guard Marshal Yanda isn’t what he used to be, but is still playing at a high level. Grade: B+
It looks like the Ravens are going to go tight end crazy. Mark Andrews (38 catches for 470 yards) has become Jackson’s favorite target, but the Ravens have gotten fellow tight ends Nick Boyle (17 catches, 172 yards) and Hayden Hurst (16 catches, 156 yards) more involved in the offense. Eventually, the Ravens will need to get more production on the outside from their receivers. Willie Snead IV is effective in the slot, but it will be interesting to see how many more plays the team has for speedy rookie receiver Marquise Brown when he is fully healthy. Right now, the Ravens are content to use him sparingly and keep him out of harm’s way. Grade: C+
Nose tackle Brandon Williams has turned his game up a notch and is still one of the best run-stoppers in the league. Fellow tackle Michael Pierce has been solid, but not nearly the force he was at the end of last season, when he was the best defensive lineman on the team. If both of these players could develop as pass rushers in the middle, the Ravens would have a strong defense in the second half of the season. Chris Wormley has been an adequate replacement at times along with end Jaylon Ferguson, who can also play outside linebacker. To really become special on defense, the Ravens have to get pressure with their front four. Grade: C+
The Ravens have been solid ever since they got rid of young players like Tim Williams and Kenny Young. Josh Bynes has stabilized the middle and L.J. Fort has been surprisingly strong on the weak side. With Patrick Onwuasor back healthy again, the Ravens have a strong three-man rotation at the inside positions. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon has become the team’s top pass rusher and made a lot of money in a bid for a new contract with a strong performance against New England. Grade: B
Despite a rash of injuries, the Ravens are showing a lot of versatility on the back end. They have three good cornerbacks in Jimmy Smith, Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey and another solid one in Brandon Carr, who is second on the team in tackles with 28. With safeties like Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine Sr. and Earl Thomas III, the Ravens can use some of these guys as linebackers in coverage. Humphrey has great instincts for being around the ball and Thomas is starting to become an enforcer like he was in Seattle. With cornerback Anthony Averett included in the mix, the Ravens have a lot of options and might be able to prevent a player from being isolated in certain situations. This group might become the strongest on defense before the season is over. Grade: B-
Justin Tucker has been nearly perfect in everything from field goals to extra points to kickoffs, even though he missed an extra-point attempt against New England. Fans are still stunned. Punter Sam Koch is having another strong season, even though he was a little off two weeks ago against Seattle. Koch, though, is winning the field-position game, and he needs to because the Ravens aren’t getting much from their returners. Coach John Harbaugh will look to address the need for a top returner in the second half of the season. Grade: B
The Ravens haven’t had a revolutionary offense, but they’ve done a good job of building it around the talents of Jackson. A key for the Ravens is staying with their identity of running the ball, which they did against the Patriots. On defense, the Ravens virtually rebuilt their back seven in a matter of weeks, and they are coming up with all kinds of crazy combinations that continue to work. Harbaugh is used to keeping his team together and battling from behind, but he has a different task this season of leading a front-runner. This will get interesting. Grade: B