Football is back! Yeah, it is just the preseason, but still, it means we’re close to meaningful games. We’re taking this opportunity to kick off our 5 Questions With series to visit with Baltimore Beatdown’s Kyle Barber to talk Ravens football and where the state of the team is heading into 2018.
Windy City Gridiron: 1. The Ravens and Bears were chosen for the HOF Game because Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher played their entire careers for their respective franchises. What does Ray Lewis mean to the Ravens franchise and its fans?
Baltimore Beatdown: Oh man, this is far too great a question for a short response. Ray Lewis set the tone for the return of football to the hard-working city of Baltimore. He was the franchise’s second pick in team history after Jonathan Ogden. When talking about leadership and the role of a locker room, Ray stands on the peak, not because of his empowering speeches and roaring on the field but how he reunited football to the great city of Baltimore. He put this city on his shoulders, he hoisted two Lombardi Trophy’s and retired as the greatest linebacker in NFL history. Speaking of the Hall of Fame Game, Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale wants the team to honor Ray during the exhibition. “In honor of who’s getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, Ray,” Martindale said. “I want our defense to play with his effort, his enthusiasm and his love for the game.” This may be a more heated matchup than most preseason contests.
*Editor’s note: I’m sure Kyle meant to say “one of the” greatest linebackers of all-time. I mean, does he know what site he’s talking to?
WCG: 2.a. The Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson with the last pick of the first round in the draft this spring. There are reports that he’s got a package of plays for him to be on the field at the same time as Joe Flacco. What’s the plan for Jackson this year?
BB: Lamar Jackson will not be starting for the Ravens in 2018, barring Joe Flacco incapable of stepping onto the field. The plan for Lamar is to develop into a professional-level quarterback. The Ravens are not in a rush for Lamar to play this season.
WCG: 2.b. Honestly, what percentage of Ravens fans are ready to run Flacco out of town and start the Jackson era right now?
BB: Some want it. I’d guess around 20-30%. Some are flat-out tired of Flacco, but most know the circumstances surrounding Joe and the reasons for the lack of success post-2012. After watching both quarterbacks in camp the past two weeks it’s clear Joe should not be anywhere else other than starting for Baltimore this year.
WCG: 3. Does Alex Collins have a chance to be the bell cow back for this offense or is it a full committee with Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon? Does Dixon have a shot to claim the starting job if he can recover from injury?
BB: I’ve been an avid Javorius Allen fan from his draft day, but I don’t expect him to steal a larger role than last seasons. He’s a great change-of-pace player and his skill set allows he and Alex Collins to work off one another and attack defenses with unique styles. That being said, Collins is the starter until further notice. He’s produced impressive plays all last season and in this year’s camp thus far.
WCG: 4. The Ravens completely remade their wide receiver group from a year ago, signing Michael Crabtree and John Brown (after making a very ethically-questionable about-face on Ryan Grant) and drafting two rookies in Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott. Who’s playing where and what should we expect from these guys this season?
BB: The receiving unit is real-deal this season. Training camp has been electric this year with John Brown hauling in a deep pass on a near-daily basis. Crabtree’s pulled down multiple red-zone touchdowns and Willie Snead IV in the slot forces defenses to respect three separate pass-catchers on the Ravens roster. Tie in the rookies and the Ravens suddenly look capable of improving their 29th ranked passing offense.
WCG: 5. Let’s swing over to the defense. The Ravens D has consistently been the better side of the ball throughout the history of the franchise. Should we continue to pencil them in for another good year or is there cause for concern? Who are the guys that lead this unit?
BB: The Ravens defense isn’t going anywhere out of the usual. They have a strong cast of household names including, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley, Tony Jefferson and Brandon Williams. The development of Marlon Humphrey and the healthy return of SCB Tavon Young leave the Ravens with a surplus of cornerbacks for the first time in ages. I expect Baltimore to continue their turnover-creating ways in 2018.
Thank you Kyle and Baltimore Beatdown!
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