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

The 2021 season will go down in NFL history as one of the strangest, 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 he lost to Ronnie Stanley, one of the top left tackles in the NFL, after the season opener against the Raiders in Las Vegas.

Regardless, the Ravens kept plugging in during the season, even as injuries continued to mount. He won some games on his own; In others, they were lucky. Did not make any difference. Fans will tell you, “A win is a win is a win.”

This is true, at least in the early part of the season, but not in December and January. Contender teams want to win, but they also want style points because it means they are getting better. The idea is to peak in the postseason, not survive.

After one back to 8-3 improvement 16–10 win against the Cleveland Browns on November 28The Ravens went on a losing streak of six games. They went from being the top seed in the AFC at one time to not making an expanded field after another. 16-13 overtime loss to Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

It was only a matter of time before fate or fate turned its back on the Ravanas. A team cannot rely on an NFL record 66-yard field goal, a fumble, a blocked field goal or missed 2-point conversion plays to win each week. Sooner or later, talent runs out, especially when the opposing quarterbacks, in succession, are Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger, and receivers Davante Adams, Jammer Chase, Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr.

If the Ravens thoroughly examine their schedules – trainers, off-season conditioning programs, doctors, coaches – and make the appropriate revisions, they should be a serious contender in 2022.

“I really only have one message for all questions, you know what I’m saying?” Asked by Ravens safety Chuck Clark after their end-of-season loss to Pittsburgh. “So, whatever question comes next, as respectfully as I can say, just see how we bounce back. That’s all I have to say.”

That’s all we had to hear.

But before we move away from 2021, here’s my final report card of the season:

Quarterback

Starter Lamar Jackson played well for almost half the season, but accuracy problems began in the 7th week, a 41–17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that signaled the start of their downward spiral. The 22–10 loss to Miami on November 11 showed he had problems reading the blitz, handling pressure and being able to get the ball out quickly. Compared to 2020, Jackson fell slightly behind despite completing 246 of 382 passes for 2,882 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also dismissed 38 times and threw 13 interceptions, both career highs. Tyler Huntley proved he was serviceable as a backup, completing 122 of 188 passes for 1,081 yards and three touchdowns, but also showing that he needed more time. He has to learn to pass on his progress. Josh Johnson was involved late in the season and was impressive during limited time, completing 28 of 40 passes for 304 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his only start against the Bengals. grade B-

running back

The Ravens were without their top three performers for the entire season due to injuries, and they dropped out of the group for as long as possible. Neither Devonta Freeman nor Latvius Murray had the consistent pace and acceleration to bounce out, but sometimes the teams were fooled and both got better in the second half of the season. Freeman finished with five touchdowns on 576 yards and 133 carries and Murray had 501 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries. The player who had the speed to get out was Tyson Williams, but that didn’t favor coach John Harbaugh. Williams had 35 carries for 185 yards and a touchdown and could have had more play time if he worked harder and practiced harder. Grade: C+

offensive line

It was a group general manager Eric DeCosta who hoped to improve during the offseason, but did not make it work. The quarterback was often under pressure and was dismissed 57 times. Stanley was expected to be cornerstone, but he only played one game because he had not fully recovered from an ankle injury last November and had to undergo another surgery. The Ravens had speculated that Alejandro Villanueva would provide stability in the right tackle but Stanley had to be moved to the other side to replace. It didn’t matter. Villanueva, a longtime steeler, had knee flexion, lateral motion problems and struggled with speed rushers. Kevin Zeitler, a free agent takeover, played well on right guard and Bradley Bozeman was solid in the center, even though he sometimes struggled to break out of shotgun formation. The Ravens tried several players on the left guard, but none worked. Overall, this group could run the block, but the lack of athleticism was a problem with blocking the pass. Grade: C-

receiver

This group has potential but was underutilized. Jackson struggled with pressure and the change in quarterback hurt consistency. Tight end Mark Andrews was one of the best in his position in the NFL, making 107 passes for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a factor throughout the field in short, mid and long-range passing attacks. The quarterback, however, focused heavily on Andrews and rarely went to second receivers in his strides. Marquis Brown had 91 catches for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns, but he was not reliable, 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 games. Bateman, however, still finished with 46 catches and one touchdown for 515 yards. The Ravens had plenty of momentum in Brown and Devin DuVernay, but DuVernay never took advantage of it, catching only 33 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Sammy Watkins took 27 catches for 394 yards, but became another free agent who contributed little to this run-first offense. Grade: C+

defensive line

Few teams can race against the Ravens and 2021 was no exception. The Ravens allowed only 1,436 yards and 3.8 yards per carry. Despite injuries, both Kallis Campbell and tackle Brandon Williams were middle forces, even 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 young talent. Campbell will probably be invited back if he chooses to but the Ravens could part ways with Williams. Justin Madubuike, who finished his second season, may be able to move up to the starting position. He made 36 tackles last season, but it is questionable whether Justin Ellis (18 tackles) and Broderick Washington (16 tackles) are set to make full-time starts. The Ravens may look to the draft to find starters, especially the pass rushers, as only Madubiuk and Campbell provided the pressure. Derek Wolff, who was expected to start at the end, never took the field in 2021 due to injuries. grade B-

linebacker

If this defense was going to play out well, the linebackers and linemen had to take control and dominate. The lineman did his job. The linebackers kept fighting. Outside linebacker Tyes 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 fine job for Patrick Queen (team-leading 97) in the middle. However, there was a liability in the Binance Pass coverage. No linebacker has had a more disappointing season than Queen. He played poorly on the middle linebacker to start the season but several games in the schedule went to the weaker side. He flourished for a game or two, but then went back in missing tackles and was not able to cover in passing conditions. Queen missed several tackles, most of which were from attempting to make an arm tackle instead of keeping her body on the ball carrier. Justin Houston had 34 tackles and 4½ sacks, but he didn’t give the Ravens the kind of pass rush they needed. In the third year out, linebacker Jaylon Ferguson gave the team very little, and the experienced Pernell McPhee gave him even less. Grade: C-

secondary

The Ravens will point injuries, a problem at the back end, to miscommunication, but the unit struggles in the same areas as when three of the four starters opened the season. Something is lacking, especially when the receivers are constantly running out into the open, especially in the middle of the field. The Ravens began the season without Peters, and then it continued to worsen with season-ending injuries to Marlon Humphrey and safety DeShawn Elliot Humphrey, although he did not do well in a week before suffering a torn pectoral muscle. Was playing. Pittsburgh. Safety Chuck Clark (80 tackles) was playing well towards the end of the season and was beginning to emerge as the team leader. But the Ravens couldn’t match up physically at the end of the year, not with cornerbacks like Chris Westree and Kevon Seymour. Who? that’s my point. Pittsburgh could be the last for sports legend Jimmy Smith, a cornerback, and safety Anthony Levine Sr. Grade: D

special team

Justin Tucker continues to prove that he just might be the best placekicker in NFL history. He scored 35 of 37 field goals, two of his misses coming in the 40- to 49-yard range. But he was one of six for over 50 yards, including the NFL-record 66-yard game-winner he kicked in Detroit. Overall, the Ravens kicking game was sound. Punter Sam Koch averaged 44.4 yards per punt on 71 attempts and placed 26 inside the 20-yard line. The coach, however, could not cover the same distance in the last four matches as compared to earlier in the season. DuVernay averaged 24.1 yards on 28 kickoff returns and 13.9 on 26 punt returns. Grade: B+

to teach

Much credit goes to Harbaugh and his staff for keeping this team together despite a poor roster. He worked hard and competed every week and got into the game of going to the playoffs. The job of a head coach is to get his players to the last four minutes of the game and then the playwrights have to make the play. Well, the Ravens didn’t have many playmakers left, so the coaching staff had to come big. On game days, it was not staff. “We lagged several games here, in the sense that we didn’t get any plays,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t get the play we needed. We didn’t find any way we could make a difference in the game and as a coach I feel worse. He got it right. Grade: C