Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer fans’ questions throughout the Ravens season. After Baltimore beat the Atlanta Falcons, 17-9, on Saturday, plenty of questions remain before a Week 17 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Here’s Preston’s take:
(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for length and clarity.)
Clock management. Play calling. Execution. Lamar Jackson’s progress. All seem to get failing grades. Simply put, do we get rid of offensive coordinator Greg Roman this offseason?
— Peter in Virginia
It all depends on how deep the Ravens can go into the postseason and if they have a significant increase in offensive production. At this point, I would say Roman will not return as OC next season. I think there are a number of disgruntled people within the organization, including players and members of the coaching staff. Unfortunately, all the things that you mentioned haven’t been problems this season but for a couple of years. It’s probably time to breathe some fresh air and ideas into this offense.
Same as most Ravens fans, I am concerned about the offense. But I am not completely in the “fire Roman during the season” camp. I don’t think it solves anything now. But didn’t the Ravens hire a “Pass Game Coordinator” this past offseason. Not sure what he has been doing but maybe handoff play calling duty to him?
It would make absolutely no sense to fire Roman during the season. They hired several new receivers coaches two years ago but I’m not sure Harbaugh is ready to replace Roman right now. Most people like to point out that the Ravens fired Cam Cameron, who was replaced by Jim Caldwell during the team’s 2012 Super Bowl championship season, but the Ravens don’t have an offensive coach with Caldwell’s extensive background. Also, the circumstances were different — Cameron was fired after the team’s loss to a despised Washington team and its owner Dan Snyder, and Cameron changed up his game plan on the day of the game after coach John Harbaugh had told owner Steve Bisciotti something different. That combination led to Cameron’s dismissal.
Also, the Ravens’ forte is running the ball, and that’s what Roman does well. You can’t change now, not with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards running well and the offensive line playing at a high level because that’s their specialty, too.
Does it make sense to part way with Lamar Jackson this offseason to attempt to institute a new offensive mentality and avoid a huge, albatross contract? The Ravens are a running team that doesn’t always stick with the run and Lamar seems to be holding back any progress toward acquiring players who would improve the passing game. As big of an LJ fan as I am, this pains me to ask, but reality has to set in eventually.
— Robert Pace
I think the Ravens do a deal that is economically sound based on Jackson’s record, work ethic, progress, ability to lead and injury history. If they can’t come to an agreement, the Ravens will place the franchise tag on him, but there is a possibility they could trade him. In fact, I’m sure the Ravens have already looked at potential trade partners, teams that might be making a selection in the first five picks of the upcoming NFL draft.
If you read between the lines of Harbaugh’s recent answer about Jackson’s return from a knee sprain after Saturday’s win against the Atlanta Falcons, he basically said we’re leaving that up to medical specialists, and he is only concerned about those who can play.
I know this may be premature, but do you think the Ravens will be looking for a quality quarterback in the 2023 draft? Lamar’s recent injuries, his contract demands (and apparent displeasure), as well as his recent play, even when healthy, don’t bode well for his future in Baltimore, even though he is by far the best the Ravens have. Neither Tyler Huntley nor Anthony Brown has yet shown they could be a quality No. 1 QB, and there is a reason why neither was drafted.
— Bob in North Carolina
It’s not premature. There are some who believe this draft has a lot of good quarterbacks and I’m sure the Ravens will get one, maybe not in the first round but at least by the middle ones. Don’t prejudge these quarterbacks currently on the roster. They are limited but a lot of it is by design and scheme. With Huntley, sometimes you see the same frustration as Jackson when it comes to not being allowed to throw downfield. Just about everything in the passing game is bad, which is why the Ravens are in need of an overhaul. I know that neither Brown nor Huntley were drafted but I’ve seen both perform better in training camp when the atmosphere was relaxed and the offense was more wide-open.
A lot of fans and some radio reporters believe we will never see Lamar play in a Ravens uniform again. Do you believe that to be true?
Josh, I would believe that more if it came from sportswriters instead of radio guys. Regardless, I don’t know what will happen at this point, but I guarantee it will be an interesting offseason. According to several doctors I’ve spoken to, Jackson should be able to return within four to six weeks from his injury. We’re getting close to that. Now, if he doesn’t return and he hasn’t been in full compliance with the team’s medical and training staff, then there will be major problems.
It’s something to keep an eye on.
I know most of the focus these days is on the Ravens offense, or lack thereof, but I wanted to focus on special teams, in particular, Jordan Stout. I know he’s just a rookie, but looking at NFL punting stats through Week 15, he’s averaging 46.0 yards a punt (23rd) and 40.9 net yards (21st). They spent a fourth-round pick on him, even though the Ravens seem to always be able to find good undrafted kickers and punters with ease. I’m starting to get Dave Zastudil vibes from him (OK, but not worth the draft pick). What kind of grade would you give him so far?
— Paul in Orlando
I’d put him in the C to C+ range. Like every other player before him, he is a rookie and there is something to be said about learning the league, different stadiums and wind variations in each of them. Like all rookies, I’d give him a three- to four-year window to develop. But because the Ravens have been good on special teams through the years and Harbaugh has that background of working with those units, I will give them the benefit of the doubt for drafting Stout in the fourth round. Is he Sam Koch? Nope, but maybe we’ve all gotten a little spoiled with the kicking game with Koch and kicker Justin Tucker.
With the Lamar Jackson experiment seeming to be a failure along with Harbaugh having only one playoff victory since 2015, outside of a Super Bowl victory, does Steve Bisciotti push the reset button at the end of the year by trading Lamar and firing Harbaugh?
— B Ry
When you say failure, I assume you mean in terms of going deep into the postseason and winning a Super Bowl title. Overall, if you look at Jackson’s record, I wouldn’t call that a failure. He has been one of the most successful quarterbacks in league history as far as his win-loss record in five years. The offense isn’t prolific and his progress as a thrower is limited, but the term “failure” doesn’t apply.
Maybe the Ravens part ways with Jackson after the season. As I wrote above, I don’t know. Harbaugh sticks for another year but once you start getting rid of coordinators the head coach is always the next to go.
The Ravens don’t have a lot of weapons offensively. To get the most out of what we have, the Ravens need to be unpredictable at times (and I don’t mean giving up on the run after we’ve been decimating teams either). But why not run some sets with both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards? Give defenses something they haven’t seen this year!
Just to have those two in the same backfield doesn’t make much difference. To me, the most important offensive down for the Ravens is first down because there is always the option of a play-action pass. If you can get four or five yards on first down, that opens up the playbook. But if they get stopped on first down, their offense becomes limited because of their small-ball passing attack and lack of weapons.