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ExtremeRavens: The Sanctuary

Ravens Insider: Mike Preston’s final report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 2023 season | COMMENTARY


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The city of Baltimore got hit by a sudden change.

It occurred Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Ravens, 17-10, to advance to Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas on Feb. 11 against the San Francisco 49ers. Life as we knew it came to a standstill. Some local fans cried.

The euphoria died and so did some nice new traditions such as “The Harbaugh” dance. The purple eyes of the Ravens logo on car windows have disappeared along with the purple pennants on automobile antennas.

They faded soon after Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and his girlfriend, Taylor Swift, embraced and kissed on the field at M&T Bank Stadium and quarterback Patrick Mahomes took a short victory lap.

There is talk about next year.

Oh, always next year …

It’s just so hard to have another season like this past one where the Ravens had their most complete team in franchise history. They also had perhaps the NFL’s best defense and a favorite to win the Most Valuable Player Award in quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Swoosh, all gone.

But before we move on to next year, here is my final report card of the 2023 season.

Lamar Jackson runs onto the field as the Houston Texans get ready to play the Baltimore Ravens in NFL Divisional Round playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium. (Karl Merton Ferron/Staff photo)
Quarterback Lamar Jackson dominated this season for the Ravens, despite the disappointing finish. (Karl Merton Ferron/Staff)


During the regular season, Jackson threw for a career-high 3,678 yards with 24 touchdowns while leading the team in rushing with 821 yards. He also had career highs in completion rate (67.2) and average yards per attempt (8.0). There is no doubt he improved under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken as far as accuracy, leadership and the ability to call his own plays. He is the best scrambler to ever play the game, and his ability to extend plays is elite. But the narrative for Jackson won’t change this offseason. He didn’t get it done in the conference championship game, misfiring on short and intermediate passes. He wasn’t fundamentally sound and will be remembered for throwing an interception into triple coverage to tight end Isaiah Likely in the end zone in the fourth quarter of a two-score game. The criticisms of his 2-4 mark in the postseason are justified and part of the nature of the job. Go ask Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who lost three Super Bowls. The same things were said about John Elway until he won back-to-back Super Bowl titles. He needs to focus and lock in even more. Grade: A-

Running backs

Gus Edwards was No. 2 in rushing behind Jackson during the regular season, gaining 810 yards on 198 carries. He was the power back who occasionally could jump cut out to the tackles. Justice Hill proved to be a commodity for the team as both a rusher (387 yards on 84 carries) and receiver (206 yards on 30 catches). The big mystery will always be why Monken didn’t use either Edwards or Hill much in the AFC title game against Kansas City. They had a combined six carries for 23 yards against a team that was ranked No. 18 in rushing defense allowing 113.2 yards per game. The Ravens also missed speedster and rookie Keaton Mitchell, who rushed for 396 yards on 47 carries before suffering a season-ending injury against Jacksonville on Dec. 17. His speed provided the Ravens with the missing element of having a player who could score from anywhere on the field. After a slow start because of offseason surgery, Patrick Ricard again proved he was one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league. Grade: B-

Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers catches a 30-yards touchdown pass against the Chiefs in the first quarter. The Chiefs defeated the Ravens 17-10 in the AFC Championship game. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)
Zay Flowers was the Ravens’ best wide receiver as a rookie. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)


The Ravens had more talent this season than in recent memory. They had possession types in Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor, and a quick change of direction performer in rookie Zay Flowers, who could also play outside if needed. Flowers put pressure on opposing defenses because of his ability as both a receiver in the slot, or as a runner going in motion. The Ravens had one of the better tight end duos in Mark Andrews and Likely, and Likely played well after Andrews went down and missed seven games because of an ankle injury he suffered on Nov. 12 against the Bengals. Andrews, who returned for the AFC title game versus Kansas City, had better hands but Likely showed more breakaway ability. The missing piece from this group was a big, fast receiver on the outside who could challenge talented cornerbacks such as Kansas City’s L’Jarius Sneed or Trent McDuffie. The Ravens need to upgrade at this position in the offseason to get faster and younger. Grade: B

Offensive line

Like in years past, the Ravens need to find more versatile linemen who can pass protect as well as run block. The inability to protect Jackson was key in the AFC title game as Jackson was sacked four times and pressured several others. As a group, the Ravens were good at running the ball. They had power and could climb up on linebackers in the second level, which is why they ranked No. 1 in rushing offense during the regular season. But both offensive tackles, Morgan Moses and Ronnie Stanley, were bothered by injuries, forcing the Ravens to rotate them in with Patrick Mekari and Daniel Faalele. Both starters were liabilities in pass protection; Stanley versus bull rushers and Moses handling speed. The Ravens will probably select an offensive tackle or two in the draft, but it will be interesting to see what they do at guard because both starters, John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler, are free agents. Jackson was sacked 60 times during the regular season. Grade: C+

Ravens practice at Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md. before playoff game against Texans.
Ravens defensive end Justin Madubuike had a team-high 13 sacks in the regular season. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

Defensive line

Overall, the Ravens were overwhelming on defense but could use more versatility up front. End Justin Madubuike had a career year with 56 tackles during the regular season and he led the team in sacks with 13. He will command a big contract as a free agent, though Baltimore could use the franchise tag on him. His quickness and penetration were exceptional against both the run and pass. Nose tackle Michael Pierce started the season strong but appeared to slow down midseason. The Ravens had counted on Broderick Washington to be more of a steadier influence at tackle, but he struggled even in his forte, run defense. After Madubuike, reserve Brent Urban played reasonably well and became somewhat of a force in pass rushing, even knocking down passes at times. Look for third-year tackle Travis Jones to gain more playing time next season, even though he needs to be more disciplined. Grade: B


Along with Jackson, these were the most dominant guys on the roster. Roquan Smith led the team in tackles during the regular season with 158 and weakside linebacker Patrick Queen was second with 133. Smith became a head-hunter at times with some vicious hits. Queen had momentary lapses but made significant progress this season with his open-field tackling. He also seemed to turn up his intensity this season (must be a contract year). The Ravens got surprisingly strong efforts from veteran outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, who had nine sacks. Clowney probably played well enough, finishing with 9 1/2 sacks, to earn a big contract this offseason. The only problem was that these guys seemed to have a meltdown in the loss to Kansas City. Several of those unnecessary roughness penalties were, to say the least, unnecessary. Grade: A-


This unit was supposed to be the biggest weakness on defense but turned out to be a major strength. Hamilton was third on the team in tackles with 81, including 10 for loss in the regular season that led all NFL safeties. He just didn’t miss tackles and was excellent coming off the corner as either a run-stopper or a pass-rusher. The second best player in the group was cornerback Brandon Stephens, who was fourth on the team with 71 tackles. He was a surprise because he seemed too stiff to play corner after years as a safety, but he was extremely physical and could match receivers step for step down the field. The Ravens had a rash of injuries in the secondary, but players such as safety Geno Stone and cornerback Arthur Maulet stepped up. It will be interesting to see what the Ravens do with cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Marcus Williams, both of whom missed time during the season because of injuries. Grade: A-

Special teams

Justin Tucker converted on 32 of 37 field goals and was 3 of 3 in the postseason, including a 50-plus yarder. Jordan Stout had a good regular season and averaged 47.9 yards on 67 punts, and he landed 28 inside the 20-yard line. He was slightly below his average in the playoffs putting four inside the 20, but averaging 46.7 on nine kicks. The Ravens had Tylan Wallace as a returner during part of the regular season when Devin Duvernay was out with an injury, and he seemed more decisive. But Duvernay looked good in the postseason and the Ravens were hoping he might break one against the Chiefs, but Kansas City stayed away from him in the return game. Grade: B


Coach John Harbaugh did a good job of directing a tight-knit group. The Ravens were unselfish and that is difficult to accomplish in this day and age. The special teams struggled early but Chris Horton got them to come around in the end. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald got his group to play hard and the Ravens always adjusted to the opposition. Monken will get criticized for not running the ball much against the Chiefs, but he made a big difference in the performance of Jackson and upgraded a passing game that had been stagnant for years. Harbaugh lets his assistants coach but there needs to be times when he dictates the pace and calls. He is the key voice and should determine the outcome. In the final game, the Ravens, especially the veterans, were selfish and lost their composure. That was a bad look for the entire staff. Grade: B+

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