The Baltimore Ravens were the hottest team in the NFL heading into the playoffs for the second consecutive year, yet still bowed out of the postseason in the AFC divisional round. Baltimore thrashed its opponents running the football in both its playoff games but still fell significantly short of reaching the Super Bowl -- a cause of concern for a team that has scored the most points in the league over the last two years and has gone 25-7 during that stretch.
The same problems that haunted Baltimore in 2019 reared their ugly head in 2020, but quarterback Lamar Jackson took too much of the blame as a result. Baltimore was able to win a playoff game this year -- thanks to Jackson -- yet the critics returned when Jackson had a poor performance throwing the football in Baltimore's divisional playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. While Jackson deserves criticism, there are plenty of issues Baltimore needs to fix far beyond Jackson.
Baltimore has $26,218,951 in available cap space this offseason (per Over The Cap) and five draft picks (not including compensatory picks) -- including No. 27 overall -- the Ravens have enough resources to turn an AFC contender into the best in the conference next year. Here are a few steps to fix the Ravens this offseason and get Baltimore to the Super Bowl.
Step 1: Get Lamar a true No. 1 WR
For all the criticism Jackson gets throwing the football, who exactly is he throwing to on the outside and in the slot? Marquise Brown had 769 yards and eight touchdowns this season, but he was wildly inconsistent throughout the year -- enduring a five-game stretch with 10 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. That's not what Lamar should be throwing to as his top target on the outside.
The other Ravens wide receivers weren't much better. Willie Snead had 432 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 13 games -- mostly playing the slot -- while Miles Boykin had 266 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games (leading the team with 14 yards per catch). Baltimore's wideouts just weren't good enough for Jackson to have any trust in them throughout the year, which dictated why the Ravens went back to running the ball in the final month of the regular season -- at an incredible success rate.
Look how great Josh Allen was in his first year with Stefon Diggs and Kyler Murray was in year one with DeAndre Hopkins. Imagine how good Jackson would be with a Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay or Will Fuller to throw to year after year. The Ravens have to make one of those three their top priority in free agency -- for Jackson's sake.
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Step 2: Don't stop adding WR talent
The Ravens need a No. 1 wide receiver first and foremost, but they still could use extra help at the position. As mentioned earlier, Snead and Boykin just weren't good enough and Brown is better served as a deep-ball receiver than Jackson's top target. Would it hurt the Ravens to use some of the remaining cap space to give Jackson even more help -- especially with Snead set to hit free agency?
Baltimore should look at the second-tier of free agent wide receivers to help Jackson out. Perhaps a veteran threat in the red zone who can play the "X" will help in that department. Marvin Jones would be the ideal fit here but may fall out of Baltimore's price range if they land any of the big three receivers (Jones is the only player in the NFL with nine-plus touchdowns in each of the last two years). Jones would be a nice "Plan B" if Baltimore can't get any of the top targets.
If Baltimore does land one of the top wideouts and Jones is out, perhaps the Ravens can convince T.Y. Hilton or Sammy Watkins to help Jackson on a one-year deal for 2021. Both options would be better than anything Baltimore had in 2020 and can play to Jackson's strengths as a quarterback -- throwing the ball downfield. They can always bring back Dez Bryant to play that red zone role as the "X."
Step 3: Work with Lamar on his mechanics
Time to address the elephant in the room. Lamar Jackson does need to improve as a passer if the Ravens are going to win the Super Bowl, which is the responsibility of quarterbacks coach James Urban -- the man who turned Jackson into the most valuable weapon in the NFL. Jackson was just 23rd in the NFL in on-target throw percentage (throws that would have hit the intended receiving target) at 75.3%, below the 76% from last season. On passes that weren't catchable (bad-throw percentage), Jackson was 15th in the NFL at 17.6% (17.5% in 2019). Jackson was 12th in the league in pocket time at 2.5 seconds per pass attempt and was pressured 21.4% of the time (17th in NFL), so he has time to go through his progressions.
The Ravens quarterback has a valuable weapon with his legs that can win the Ravens games, but Jackson needs to improve his mechanics and accuracy -- and not think about taking off when his first read isn't open -- in order to improve as a quarterback. Jackson can win the Ravens a Super Bowl, but if he can improve his game as a passer -- the Ravens could be unbeatable.
Step 4: Find Interior offensive line help
Baltimore's running game has set NFL records over the past two seasons and is one of the best in league history, but the Ravens' pass blocking -- especially on the interior of the offensive line -- needs to improve. In Saturday's loss to the Bills, Buffalo loaded up the defensive backs in the box to disrupt the timing of the handoffs, allowing the interior of the offensive line to get dominated in one-on-one matchups up front by defensive tackles.
This is the third consecutive season a bigger defensive front has controlled the Ravens' offensive line in the playoffs. Baltimore needs to get better pass-blocking guards with the mid-round picks (fourth, fifth, and sixth-round picks) in the draft or find more depth in free agency to assist the offensive line. The Ravens can find value with a guard or two, creating more depth and competition up front -- which will ultimately make the offense more balanced and benefit the quarterback.