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PALM BEACH — The Baltimore Ravens last season had a losing record for the first time since 2015 and finished last in the AFC North for the first time under John Harbaugh, who took over as coach in 2008.
So to avoid anything close to a repeat this season the team has identified some areas that it would like to address:
First, settle Lamar Jackson’s contract status to dismiss the distractions that go along with having the starter play on the final year of his deal.
Second, get the team healthy and keep it that way.
Harbaugh addressed those issues Monday morning at the NFL Annual Meeting at The Breakers Hotel.
On Jackson, who missed five games and had a season that seemingly detoured his development, the coach seems optimistic the quarterback will be just fine.
“He’s developed a lot,” Harbaugh said. “I would also say we’re still in the process with Lamar. Nobody’s more determined than Lamar Jackson to be the best quarterback he can be. I see what he’s doing in the offseason. I’ve talked to him numerous times. He’s chomping at the bit to get back to the offseason program and we are, too. And we can’t wait to get back to work.”
It’s been curious that while quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson have been signing big new contracts with their teams or new teams this offseason, there’s been little to report on Jackson’s deal which the Ravens and Jackson are working on.
“I’m confident it’s going to happen,” Harbaugh said. “Of course, you know, like you guys well know until it happens it hasn’t happened. But I’m confident it’s going to happen. I know he’s going to be our quarterback. We know we’re going to be playing this year, Lamar is going to be our quarterback. I’ve got to do the very best job to make sure he’s playing his best football. That’s really what my job is. And that’s what his job is.”
Jackson’s injury was one of many the Ravens were plagued with in 2021 and that set the team on a difficult course from which it could not correct.
At one point the Ravens lost five players, including their first-string, second-string and third string running backs to season-ending injuries within a two-week span. That was just the beginning because cornerback Marlon Humphrey, guard Kevin Zeitler, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, receiver Marquise Brown, cornerback Jimmy Smith — all starters — also missed significant time with injuries.
Many of those injuries happened in training camp so this year Harbaugh is going to change the approach to what has always been long summer practices.
“We think we have some really good ideas, and I’m excited about it,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to approach [Offseason Training Activities] differently. We’re going to approach training camp, some big-picture schedule differently in terms of the way we ramp up and in terms of the way we time practices, how long we’re on the field and what we’re doing on the field and how we pace the rhythm of the practices.”
Harbaugh said every third practice at training camp will serve as something of a break.
“It’ll be a little bit shorter, a little more execution oriented, less competitive type of practice,” Harbaugh said. “Even our practices will go less ones against ones than we have done in the past. Things like that, I think, will help us.”
To get the Ravens back among the league’s elite teams, Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta have used the free agency period to upgrade various areas with the biggest upgrade coming at free safety. The Ravens added Marcus Williams from the New Orleans Saints — considered a top 5 free safety last season.
“I don’t think we went into free agency thinking we’d get a free safety of that caliber, that he’d be available, that we’d be in the hunt and for that to happen,” Harbaugh said. “And it happened quickly when it happened, was a big plus for us, it seemed like a good fit. Sometimes, you know, God works in mysterious ways. Eric came in that morning, we hadn’t talked about Marcus and he said, ‘Let’s look at Marcus Williams.’
“We did. We kind of knew him as a player already. You get into the tape and do the tape work and you see he’s a really good fit for us. And then you do some more research and make a couple of calls and you find out what a great guy he is. How hard he works, how much he loves the game. And the next thing you know he’s a Raven. So I had a big smile on my face.”
The Ravens understand other AFC teams have loaded up on talent. Their view is the return of all their injured players will reload them with talent as well.
But it will be a process.
The Ravens running game suffered what could have been a disastrous setback last year when running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards went down with season-ending knee injuries.
Both players have been rehabilitating on their own and the team is not certain either will be ready for the start of training camp.
“Those guys are working hard, they’re doing a good job,” Harbaugh said. “To what degree they’ll be ready, we’ll have to see. It’s still a process for those two guys. I can’t wait to see them when they get back …
“They may or may not be ready to start training camp. There’s a good chance they’ll be on PUP to start training camp. We’ll probably play it safe with those guys and take our time to bring them along for the season.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
2 CommentsLeave a Reply
Not good enough to take you to the promised land
I agree with Salty Saltine, I don’t think Lamar Jackson is a future Super Bowl winning QB. He comes across as a smaller Cam Newton on a better overall team. I’m sure he will get paid by the Ravens though. I can’t see him beating Allen, Mahomes to get to the Big One. Borrows might be a hurdle now too. My opinion is when you pay your QB 40+ mill per year they need to be slam dunks. I still don’t see Jackson as a slam dunk.