The Ravens have won four straight games and five of their last six, but the second half of the season will be more difficult.
Their winning streak includes big wins against top NFC teams – Detroit (38-6) And Seattle (37-3) — but the Ravens (7-2) now face division foes Cleveland and Cincinnati in consecutive weeks, face the Chargers and Rams, then complete the regular season at Jacksonville and San Francisco before hosting Miami and Pittsburgh.
These are different Browns (5-3) and Bengals (5-3) teams than the ones the Ravens defeated earlier this season. Cleveland played without starting quarterback Deshaun Watson, who missed much of the season with a shoulder injury but returned last week, and Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow was immobile due to a calf injury. After a four-game winning streak, he is back to his usual self.
But this is a look into the future. Before the second half of 2023 begins, The Baltimore Sun reveals its position ratings for the Ravens through the first nine games.
Lamar Jackson completed 181 of 253 passes for 1,954 yards and nine touchdowns. He has a passer rating of 100.8 and a league-best completion percentage of 71.5%. He seems comfortable with the new offense and his decision making and passing inside the red zone have improved significantly this season compared to the last five. He still throws behind receivers too often, but the win over Seattle was the first time he didn’t have to don a Superman cape for the Ravens to win. He was a clock manager and that showed the progression of this offense. Grade: A-
The Ravens have the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 160.3 yards per game, and are continually passing inside Gus Edwards (478 yards on 110 carries) to match up with the attack of Justice Hill (251 yards on 58 carries ) to mate. Of course, Jackson (440 yards on 84 carries) gets the rushing game going, but it will be interesting to see How the Ravens can integrate rookie Keaton Mitchell into the rotation after rushing for 138 yards on nine carries against the Seahawks on Sunday. It will be difficult, but it’s a good problem to have. Mitchell gives the offense another quick option alongside Jackson. Grade B
Jackson did a good job getting all of his receivers a few touches one at a time. The Ravens still need more consistency from Odell Beckham Jr. (19 catches for 218 yards) and Rashod Bateman (17 catches for 180 yards), but have strong performances all season from rookie Zay Flowers (45 catches for 472 yards) and the Receive experienced tight end Mark Andrews (41 catches for 477 yards). Nelson Agholor (28 catches for 224 yards) hasn’t been featured much but still plays a complementary role. Keep an eye on No. 2 tight end Isaiah Likely, who had his best game of the season on Sunday. He could become an integral part of this offense late in the season, especially if the weather changes and the Ravens go for more of a two-tight end look. Grade: C+
The main reason the Ravens have the best rushing offense in the league is because they can move defensive lines away from the ball. That hasn’t been the case in recent weeks, especially in the red zone, but that’s no longer a problem. The middle of this group dominated with center Tyler Linderbaum, right guard Kevin Zeitler and left guard John Simpson. Linderbaum performed at a Pro Bowl level with his speed and ability to get blocks to the second level. Right tackle Morgan Moses excels at run blocking but struggles against speed rushers. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley has struggled against both speed and power rushers, and it appears his surgically repaired ankle no longer allows him to stand up and push off. Overall, the run blocking was good, but the pass protection needs improvement. Grade B
The Ravens rank 8th in rushing defense with 91.9 yards per game and find it difficult for opponents to run inside against end Justin Madubuike and nose tackle Michael Pierce. Because of his speed and quickness off the ball, Madubuike (30 tackles) has been able to disrupt the running game and leads the team with 7 1/2 sacks. Pierce (20 tackles) was a force inside and kept two blockers busy, but he was also able to work off those blocks and make tackles. Pierce also blocked two passes. End Broderick Washington (11 tackles, three quarterback hits) doesn’t get much credit but played well at the end of last season and got better with each game. The Ravens showed strength by shutting out Brent Urban and bringing Travis Jones into the game without any significant absences. Grade: A
Middle linebacker Roquan Smith and weak side linebacker Patrick Queen are one of the best inside tandems in the NFL. Queen has shown her ability to make tackles in the open field this season and continues to be productive as a pass rusher (75 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks). Blacksmith was sensational as a leader on and off the field and leads the team in tackles with 87. The Ravens thought young outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo would be their top pass rushers in 2023, but it was Kyle Van Noy (10 tackles, five sacks, six quarterback pressures) and Jadeveon Clowney (19 tackles , 3 1/2 sacks, 11 quarterback hits) leads the group. Both have played a crucial role in the development of some of the younger players. The Ravens have a great mix here. Grade: A
Despite several injuries, the secondary has been strong most of the season, as the Ravens rank second in pass defense with 170.7 yards per game. Geno Stone was the biggest surprise at safety and was able to make up a lot of ground at the back. He leads the league with six interceptions despite sitting on the bench behind Marcus Williams to start the season. Second-year safety Kyle Hamilton has played at a Pro Bowl level and is fourth on the team with 45 tackles. His versatility has allowed him to compete against receivers outside and in the slot, and he was a strong pass rusher on the outside. Brandon Stephens made the transition from safety to cornerback smoothly and was a solid run support with 46 tackles, but he needs to be more careful playing so physically and holding receivers. Marlon Humphrey missed several early games and was slowed by injury, but he will get better with more time on the field. This unit was the biggest surprise of the season. Grade: A-
Justin Tucker converted 16 of 19 field goal attempts, with the three misses coming from more than 50 yards. He remains the best kicker in the NFL. Jordan Stout was outstanding, averaging 48.5 yards on 37 punts, including a long of 67. Devin Duvernay was effective as a kickoff returner, averaging 20.5 yards, but is still indecisive on punt returns. However, he seems to have overcome the problem in the last few games. The Ravens will need some big plays from him in the final month of the season, and they will need to get stronger on the interior defense to try and block kicks. Grade B-
Coach John Harbaugh appears to have gotten over being constantly aggressive and prefers to let the game dictate his decisions. Mike Macdonald’s defense has been nothing short of spectacular and the Ravens do a good job of disguising their fronts. As expected, offensive coordinator Todd Monken struggled to prepare the offense early in the season, and while it has improved since then, the unit still needs to be more consistent. That consistency, along with Jackson’s play, will be needed in the postseason. Harbaugh made a good decision to hire Chuck Smith as a pass rushing specialist and assistant, but this move should have been made years ago. The pass rush has been a problem for a long time. Grade: B+