Some people are fans of the Baltimore Ravens. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Baltimore Ravens. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Baltimore Ravens.
Your 2021 record: 8-9. The Ravens started last season 8-3 and were locked in as a favorite to win the AFC. They never won another game after that. They were swept by the Bengals by a combined score of 82-38. They lost not one, but two games after attempting a game-winning two-point conversion at the gun and failing. It’s almost as if God prefers Phil Simms to be right about everything, and that bothers me.
The Ravens were also swept by the Steelers. In fact, their second loss to Pittsburgh came in the final week, when Baltimore was still, miraculously, in playoff contention. The most unlikely outside result they needed to back their way in—Jacksonville beating Indianapolis on the road—actually happened. All they had to do was put away a Steelers team that was dead in the water and hope the Chargers lost. Instead, the Chargers won and the Ravens lost at home in overtime anyway, giving Ben Roethlisberger a feel-good sendoff that no one on earth wanted for him. Their defense fell from seventh in yardage allowed in 2020 all the way down to 25th, costing the defensive coordinator his job. Only eight teams last season had fewer sacks. They blew a lead at the gun to a Rams team that had turned the ball over three times. They recovered an onside kick—their first onside kick recovery since 2001—against the Browns and did nothing with it. These Ravens, fittingly, were the Browns in disguise.
It didn’t help that everyone on the roster died. The Ravens’ starting quarterback missed one game due to an undisclosed and possibly rectal malady, and then he missed the final four games of the season as well. The rest of the starting lineup fared no better. Only one other team lost more players to injury last year than Baltimore, and that was the Giants, who do not count. To that end, Football Outsiders says that no other team this century had more Adjusted Games Lost than the 2021 Ravens. Perhaps they borrowed Dan Snyder’s training staff or something.
But [high school coach voice] injuries are just excuses. Even before The Collapse, the Ravens still needed the longest kick in league history to beat the Lions at the gun, and they lost to the Raiders back when Jon Gruden was still alive. That six-game losing streak to close out 2021 wasn’t bad luck. It was what this team had been all along. Good.
Your coach: John Harbaugh, who just signed a fat contract extension and, like Sean Payton, will dine out on his lone Super Bowl win for the remainder of his career. Secretly, I like John Harbaugh. Even before Sean McVay became a thing, John Harbaugh had already created the template for how every modern NFL coach ought to do their job. I also know if I learned all of the things that John Harbaugh believes about the proper ordering of society, I would want him remanded to a supermax facility. I could also see Harbs being the kind of coach who, on the first day of camp, points to his Mercedes out in the parking lot and says to his players, I will personally break your face if you guys touch any of my shit.
Your new defensive coordinator is Michael Macdonald (no, not that one), who arrives from Michigan in a case of secondhand nepotism.
Your quarterback: Lamar Jackson, who will never be fully healthy again. And not just because he has a case of infinite diarrhea, or because he has enough COVID-19 circulating through his system to kill a grizzly bear. For four years, Harbaugh and the Ravens used Lamar exactly the way they should have, but now the bill has come due. You don’t have to be an anonymous, racist defensive coordinator to know that having your QB run for 1,000 yards every year will go from blessing to curse in a rather short time frame. It’s happened with other quarterbacks, and it’s happening again now. You have seen the best of Lamar Jackson, and you will mourn his decline the exact same way you mourned the loss of Bo Jackson. Going forward, Lamar’s legacy will exist in video games and nowhere else.
Which is perhaps why the Ravens are currently in the middle of a contract dispute with their own QB, whose deal comes up at the end of 2022. This team fucked itself by handing Joe Flacco a mint after his Super Bowl MVP season, so they know the lay of the land. They know that they can’t let Lamar walk, but they also know that signing him to a roster-crippling deal will doom them to presentable adequacy for the next half-decade. Compounding the problem is that Lamar serves as his own agent, joining the likes of Ricky Williams and Russell Okung in proving that experienced NFL agents are actually valuable people to have in your employ. WHO KNEW?
Jackson chose to represent himself with the help of several trusted advisors. Chief among them is his mother Felicia Jones, who is listed as his agent with the NFLPA.
I’m sure this’ll end well for all parties involved. It’s not often you get the opportunity to fire your own mother.
What’s new that sucks: This counted as a busy offseason for the Ravens, who normally indulge in the sort of continuity that makes the Steelers such an eternal bore. Not this time. This spring, the Ravens traded wideout Marquise Brown to the Cardinals for a first round pick (good idea) and then replaced him with no one at all (bad idea). Flush with both money and picks, they went hog wild at safety instead. With their own first rounder, they drafted Kyle Hamilton out of Notre Dame. Allow me now to cherrypick a single bad preseason highlight of Hamilton and use it to concoct an all-encompassing criticism of him.
Bust. The Ravens also poached Marcus Williams away from New Orleans. Hey now, why do I remember that name? OH RIGHT!
I had to do it. Elsewhere, the Ravens brought in Kyle Fuller from Denver to man the corner opposite Marlon Humphrey, who hates babies. They also brought back Michael Pierce after Pierce did nothing of import in two seasons with the Vikings. They drafted Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum with their pick from Arizona and will watch him tear ligaments that no doctor has ever heard of, let alone seen damaged. In fact, the Ravens cut out the middleman altogether in Round 2 and drafted David Ojabo out of Michigan, who tore his Achilles just five months ago. He’ll be ready to play by midseason at the earliest. Their punter retired. One of their other safeties discovered that eyeglasses help you see better. Brian Regan approves.
They still haven’t lost a preseason game since 2015, which totally matters.
What has always sucked: I have no use for Baltimoreans and their needy-ass bullshit. They live in the Oklahoma City of the East Coast, and you better believe they act like it. The racism. The garish Zubaz. The shitty food they think is good. The petty grievances. The demand that you pay attention to them when there’s nothing about them worth paying attention to. The NFL is a treasure trove of damning indictments against itself, but chief among them is that its best-run teams are always coupled to fanbases that deserve the precise opposite. You people deserve 30 years of chasing the dragon that was Lamar’s MVP season. You deserve to have all of your public officials get indicted as a matter of local tradition. You deserve to be left out of any conversation of vital Northeast Corridor cities. You deserve the Inner Harbor, which makes Disneyland look like the most authentic place on fucking Earth (“DURR THAT’S NOT THE REAL BALLMER AND EVERY LOCAL KNOWS IT” you tell me as you drive a pickup with 60 Blue Lives Matter decals on the rear windshield). You deserve Ray Lewis as your standard bearer. And you deserve to spend the rest of your lives pining for the days when your sports teams mattered, the same way that DC—a far better place—does. Fuck you, fuck your families, and fuck Larry Hogan with a highway divider.
The Ravens never have any good wideouts. Their backs are always hurt. Their best player is their kicker. No matter how hard the Ravens try to prevent it from happening, somehow Pittsburgh will still dominate this fucking division for the next century. David Simon tried to make a less pro-cop version of The Wire this year and it’s not very good.
Ratto says: Lamar Jackson will get paid because Steve Bisciotti tipped his hand by saying, “Without a QB you believe in, life sucks as an NFL owner.” It’s a lie, of course, because owning an NFL franchise is basically like skinny-dipping as Scrooge McDuck, but Bisciotti at least acknowledges the possibility that having a quarterback who isn’t post-Super Bowl Joe Flacco is a refreshing thing.
But he also said of Deshaun Watson: “I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract.” He just made it harder to sign Jackson for less than $60M/year, but clearly, he doesn’t want his day to suck. Poor him.
What might not suck: When you start Mark Andrews in DFS, it’s never a bad decision.
HEAR IT FROM RAVENS FANS!
Lamar’s Instagram story alternates between video of himself driving 100mph and posts about porridge.
In 2020, the Ravens head of Strength and Conditioning broke COVID protocols and got half the team sick before the Steelers game. He kept his job. Then in 2021, we had an entire team of torn ligaments and broken bones. He still kept his job.
So many players got hurt that we started some cold Royal Farms chicken at running back and a bag of Utz Crab Chips at cornerback. We finally have the opportunity to establish prolonged dominance over the repulsive Steelers, but our QB is destined to sign a bazillion dollar deal with Miami and ride a four-wheeler into the sunset.
Ray Lewis is a fucking weirdo and I never liked him that much.
The Ravens were down by one and received the ball at the 25 with 1:04 left in the game. On first down, Lamar is sacked for a three yard loss. On second down, he throws an incomplete pass over the middle. On third down, Lamar is sacked again for a six yard loss. On 4th-and-19 with 26 seconds left, the refs miss an obvious delay of game and Lamar completes a miracle pass for 36 yards to the opposing 48-yard line. After a spike and another incomplete pass, the Ravens call on Justin Tucker to achieve kicking immortality, blasting an NFL record 66-yard field goal as time expires to deliver the win.
All of this was needed to beat the Detroit fucking Lions.
The fans still think Art Modell belongs in the Hall of Fame, even though he did exactly to Cleveland what they hate Bob Irsay for doing to Baltimore. They also ignore the fact that Modell couldn’t have cared less about Baltimore and would have moved the Browns to whatever city ponied up the most money.
The fans who went crazy for an in-stadium tribute to Michael K. Williams the week after he died still live in mortal terror of 14-year-old kids washing their windshields as they drive into Baltimore eight Sundays a year.
We got rid of the coordinator who didn’t realize offenses aren’t confused by the “are we going to blitz or not?” tactic if you blitz every time. We kept the coordinator who can’t figure out why three receivers end up in the same spot when you tell them just find some open space.
This photo is actually from 2017 (I kept forgetting to send it in on time).
Fuck the stupid gothic imagery bullshit they’re always trying to pull off. Fuck that stupid 14th century-ass font, and their stupid castle-looking practice facility in Owings Mills.
The absolute gall of pretending to have any class when the average fan is some Dundalk MAGA turd wearing purple Zubaz pants who still thinks Flacco was elite, and who dislikes our only generational talent since a murderer. There are probably more Todd Heap jerseys at that stadium every Sunday than Lamar Jackson for reasons that would become immediately clear within the first 30 seconds of talking to the owner of said Heap jersey.
Fuck that one time we wore yellow pants. That shit sucked ass.
Also fuck every single time the TV broadcast mentions Justin Tucker being an opera singer as he trots out to hit a 70-yard field goal in white pants that show his dick outline ever so perfectly. We get it: Justin Tucker fucks.
Half the fanbase defends Lamar like he’s their own son, the other half long for the days of Joe Flacco and overthrown fade routes into the end zone. The two statues we have outside our stadium are of a guy who never played there and of a guy who still shows up and occasionally dances in front of the only crowd that won’t mention his previous legal entanglements. Somehow purple camo is still a thing.
Our best, most consistent pass play over the last 20 years was Joe Flacco overthrowing Torrey Smith but somehow we get a pass interference call.
To say that injuries had a part in derailing the Ravens season last year is like saying Tom Cruise had a part in Top Gun Maverick. I took snaps in the secondary against the Bengals in Week 16, which would explain why your son Joe Burrow threw for 525 passing yards that day.
Also, the Ravens got rid of their best receiver (which isn’t saying much) and the front office is completely mystified as to why Lamar Jackson won’t sign a long-term contract extension.
Every time a marquee wide receiver joins a new team (Hopkins, etc.), you can guarantee a quiet news report months later that the Ravens tried and fail to convince them to join. We’ve never successfully developed a single wide receiver we’ve drafted, and we can’t attract a free agent WR under 30 (or, in Sammy Watkins’ case, with a body age under 30).
Our lone divisional win against the Browns was a courtesy. We let Pittsburgh sweep us and allowed that Roethlisberger a storybook ending to a regular season. The Bengals killed us because they were actually fucking good and half of our team was dead. Joe Burrow set records against us. I give him a few years before he becomes as cocky as Rodgers and with just as much of a justified arrogance against us as Rodgers has against the Bears. We are now the spiritual Bears of the AFC North.
Every play is an RPO to Andrews. Our receiving corps are a bunch of warm bodies. Jim is ostensibly cooler than John at this point, and that takes effort as they’re both just sentient khakis. Greg Roman has the playmaking skills of wet toast.
I’ve been reading and writing to WYTS for years now at this point, going from a dead-end job and through depression and a breakup to being in grad school, about to graduate next year. Even taking into account the horrifying amount of debt and mental illness I am living with, I am proud to say I have more of an upward trajectory than the Ravens. I fucking hate this team. I’ll still watch every game.
Submissions for the Defector NFL previews are closed. Next up: Miami Dolphins.