It’s safe to say that the Baltimore Ravens underwent a defensive overhaul in the 2022 offseason.
The Ravens replaced their defensive coordinator, signed multiple impact free agents and drafted five defenders in the first four rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, including 14th overall pick Kyle Hamilton.
The result is not only one of the Ravens’ most talented defenses in recent years, but one that is most prepared for the challenges posed by the AFC’s gauntlet of elite offenses. Throw in the return of two All-Pro cornerbacks who suffered season-ending injuries in 2021, and the Ravens are primed for a defensive resurgence in 2022.
The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia predicted that Baltimore would have the NFL’s best defense in 2022, writing that shifting from Don “Wink” Martindale’s aggressive, blitz-heavy scheme to Mike Macdonald’s more variable approach would lead to vast improvement this season.
“The goal is to be more varied and be more flexible—essentially, to be able to find different answers for different problems,” wrote Kapadia. With one of the league’s deepest and most versatile secondaries, Macdonald will be able to deploy more disguised coverages to slow down the likes of Joe Burrow and Josh Allen.
The defensive line is more dangerous than it’s been in years, with the additions of ex-Raven undrafted rookie Michael Pierce and third-round pick Travis Jones reinvigorating a group that still has All-Pro Calais Campbell and 2020 second-rounder Justin Madubuike.
The linebackers are the thinnest group, but they’ll be strengthened by the returns of rising star Tyus Bowser and second-round pick David Ojabo later this season.
“Add it all up—better injury luck, better talent, more flexibility—and I see a defense that’s likely to make the biggest leap of any on this list,” concluded Kapadia, predicting a defensive revival in Baltimore.
Ravens Ranked As 14th Offense
Kapadia isn’t as optimistic about the Ravens offense, though, ranking them in the middle of the pack among the league’s offenses this season.
He praised Jackson’s “unmatched running ability,” but has concerns about the offense’s ability to handle the blitz:
“Having said that, the Ravens offense has stretches where it appears as though the players have never met before,” wrote Kapadia, “The Ravens’ passing game struggled against man coverage and against the blitz last year.”
Ravens Offense Progressing in Training Camp
Indeed, much of their success in 2022 will rely on a revitalized offensive line and a breakout year from 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman.
The offensive line has looked solid in training camp, but rookie center Tyler Linderbaum will miss the team’s second preseason game after an early injury and All-Pro Ronnie Stanley has yet to return to practice after missing most of the last two seasons.
Bateman, meanwhile, has mostly looked the part of a true WR1 in camp, consistently getting open and catching nearly everything thrown his way. His chemistry with Lamar Jackson is notably improved after the duo barely got to play together last year due to injuries.
There are candidates to be a third pass-catching weapon, but they’re all unproven. 2020 third-rounder Devin Duvernay has emerged as a reliable deep threat in practice, something needed in Baltimore after they traded away Hollywood Brown. James Proche is out with a minor injury right now, but he had arguably the best hands on the team at the beginning of camp. Even fourth-round pick Isaiah Likely has dominated the Ravens defense in both one-on-ones and scrimmages, so he could contribute as well.
The potential is there, but with so much depending on players who are either unproven or returning from injury, it may take a while for the offense to click. But as past seasons have shown – even multiple times in an uneven 2021 campaign – once Lamar Jackson gets hot, he and the offense can take over games against even the NFL’s best defenses.
This content was originally published here.