Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position ratings for the Ravens’ 2021 season

The 2021 season will go down as one of the strangest in NFL history, especially in Baltimore.

The Ravens lost their top three running backs, JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, and Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters before the start of the season. And then they lost Ronnie Stanley, one of the top left tackles in the NFL, after the season opener against the Raiders in Las Vegas.

Either way, the Ravens kept getting through the season, though the injuries kept rising. Some games they won on their own; in others they were lucky. It did not matter. Fans will tell you, “a win is a win is a win.”

That is true, at least in the early part of the season, but not into December and January. Competing teams want to win, but they also want style points because it means they get better. The idea is to peak into the off-season, not keep surviving.

After improvement to 8-3 after one 16-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns on November 28th, the Ravens went on a six-game losing streak. They went from being the top seed in the AFC at one point to not making the extended field after one 16-13 loss in overtime to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

It was only a matter of time before luck or fate turned its back on the ravens. A team cannot rely on an NFL record 66-yard field goal, a fumble, a blocked field goal or missed 2-point conversion play to win every week. Sooner or later the talent takes over, especially when the opposing quarterbacks in a row are Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger, and the receivers are Davante Adams, Ja’Marr Chase, Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr.

If the Ravens thoroughly research their program – coaches, off-season conditioning programs, doctors, coaches – and make the right changes, they should be a serious challenger in 2022.

“I really only have one message for all the questions, do you know what I’re saying?” asked Ravens safety Chuck Clark after the season-ending loss to Pittsburgh. “So every question that comes after this, as respectfully as possible, just see how we come back. That’s all I have to say.”

That was all we needed to hear.

But before we move away from 2021, here is my final annual report for the season:

Quarterbacks

Starter Lamar Jackson played well for nearly half of the season, but began to have trouble with precision in Week 7, a 41-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that signaled the beginning of his downward spiral. The 22-10 loss to Miami on November 11 showed that he had trouble reading the flash, coping with the pressure and was able to quickly get rid of the ball. Compared to 2020, Jackson went back a bit despite completing 246 of 382 passes for 2,882 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also fired 38 times and threw 13 interceptions, both career highs. Tyler Huntley proved he was usable as a backup and completed 122 of 188 passes in 1,081 yards and three touchdowns, but also showed he needs more playing time. He must learn to review his progressions. Josh Johnson was an addition in the late-season and was impressive in the limited time he played, completing 28 of 40 passes on 304 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his only start against the Bengals. Grade: B-

Running backs

The Ravens were without their three best players all season due to injuries and they got as much out of this group as possible. Neither Devonta Freeman nor Latavius ​​Murray had the consistent speed and acceleration to jump outside, but occasionally fooled teams, and both got better in the second half of the season. Freeman finished with 576 yards and five touchdowns on 133 carries and Murray had 501 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries. The player who had the speed to get outside was Ty’Son Williams, but he fell into disfavor with coach John Harbaugh. Williams had 35 carries on 185 yards and one touchdown and could have had more playing time if he worked and practiced harder. Grade: C +

Offensive line

This was a group general manager, Eric DeCosta, hoping to improve during the high season, but failed. Quarterbacks were often under duress and were fired 57 times. Stanley was expected to be the cornerstone, but only played in one match because he was not fully recovered from an ankle injury he sustained in November last year and he had to undergo another operation. Ravens’s Alejandro Villanueva tried to break through in the middle repeatedly, but couldn’t get past the visitors’ defenders. It made no difference. Villanueva, the longtime Steeler, had problems with squats, side movements and struggled with speed rushers. Kevin Zeitler, a free agent purchase, played well on the right guard, and Bradley Bozeman was solid in the middle, though he occasionally had a hard time escaping the shotgun formation. The Ravens tried several players on the left guard, but none worked. Overall, this group could run blocking, but lack of athleticism was a problem with passport blocking. Grade: C-

Recipients

This group has potential but was underutilized. Jackson struggled with pressure and the changes at quarterback damaged continuity. Tight-end Mark Andrews was one of the best in his position in the NFL, catching 107 passes for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a factor across the field in the short, medium and long range passing attack. However, the quarterbacks focused too much on Andrews and rarely went to the other receiver in their progressions. Marquise Brown had 91 catches for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns, but was unreliable, especially after Jackson suffered an ankle injury late in the season. The Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round in April, but he often disappeared after the first half of many fights. However, Bateman still finished with 46 catches for 515 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens had a lot of speed in Brown and Devin Duvernay, but never took advantage of it as Duvernay only caught 33 passes on 272 yards and two touchdowns. Sammy Watkins had 27 catches on 394 yards, but became another free agent wideout who contributed little in this run-first offensive. Grade: C +

Defensive line

Few teams can run against the Ravens, and 2021 was no exception. The Ravens allowed only 1,436 yards and 3.8 yards per carry. carry. Despite injuries, both end Calais Campbell and tackling Brandon Williams were forces in the middle, though Williams did not play well until the second half of the season. Campbell was eighth on the team in tackles with 49 and Williams was 12th with 35. The problem for both is their age as Campbell is 35 and Williams is 32. The Ravens need a supply of young talent. Campbell will likely be invited back if he chooses, but the Ravens can part ways with Williams. Justin Madubuike, who finished his second season, could possibly step into a starting position. He had 36 tackles last season, but it is doubtful whether tackles Justin Ellis (18 tackles) and Broderick Washington (16 tackles) are ready to become full-time starters. The Ravens might be looking at the draft to find starters, especially pass-rushers, because only Madubuike and Campbell provided pressure. Derek Wolfe, who is expected to start eventually, never entered the field in 2021 due to injury. Grade: B-

Linebackers

If this defense was to play well, the linebackers and linemen had to take control and dominate. The linemen did their job. The linebackers struggled. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser (59 tackles) played well until the last game against Pittsburgh when he suffered an Achilles heel injury. Veteran Josh Bynes (76) came in and did a decent job, taking on Patrick Queen (team leader 97) in the middle. Bynes, however, was a responsibility in passport coverage. No linebacker had a more disappointing season than Queen. He played poorly at the center linebacker to start the season, but was moved to the weak side several games into the schedule. He flourished in a match or two, but then went back to lacking tackles and not being able to cover in passing situations. Queen missed many tackles, most from trying to arm tackle instead of putting her body on the ball carrier. Justin Houston had 34 tackles and 4 ½ sacks, but did not give the Ravens the type of passing rush they needed. Third-year outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson gave the team a little, and veteran Pernell McPhee gave them even less. Grade: C-

Secondary

The Ravens will point out that injuries are the problems of faulty communication at the rear, but this unit struggled in the same areas when three of the four starters opened the season. Something is missing, especially when receivers consistently run wide open, especially in the middle of the field. The Ravens started the season without Peters, and then it just got worse with season-ending injuries to cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety DeShon Elliott Humphrey, though he did not play well until he suffered a torn chest muscle in a loss in Week 13. Pittsburgh. Safety Chuck Clark (80 tackles) played well at the end of the season and started to emerge as a team leader. But the Ravens could not match physically at the end of the year, not with cornerbacks like Chris Westry and Kevon Seymour. WHO? That’s my point. The Pittsburgh game could have been the last for veterans Jimmy Smith, a cornerback and safety Anthony Levine Sr. Grade: D

Special teams

Justin Tucker goes on to prove that he may be the best place kicker in NFL history. He made 35 of 37 field goals, his two missed coming in the 40- to 49-yard line. But he was six out of six from more than 50 yards, including the NFL record 66-yard game winner he kicked in Detroit. Overall, the Ravens kick was successful. Punter Sam Koch averaged 44.4 yards per game. punt on 71 attempts and put 26 within the 20-yard line. However, Koch did not get as much distance in the last four games compared to earlier in the season. Duvernay averaged 24.1 yards on 28 kickoff returns and averaged 13.9 on 26 point returns. Grade: B +

Coaching

Harbaugh and his staff deserve a lot of credit for keeping this team together despite an exhausted list. They played hard and competed every week and came in a round of going to the playoffs. A head coach’s job is to get his players to the last four minutes of a match, and then the playmakers have to play. Well, the Ravens did not have many playmakers left, so the coaching staff had to come up big. On game days, this staff did not. “We fell short in several games down here in the sense that we just could not find a game,” Harbaugh said. “We could not find a game that we needed. We could not find a way to put them in position to make the game that would make the difference in the game, and that’s what I feel worse about as a coach. . ” He was right. Grade: C

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