Our 2019 New York Jets opponent preview series nears its end. Let’s take a dive into the offseason of the Ravens.
Over the final five weeks of the season, the New York Jets will play three games against NFC North foes. Two of those teams are projected to be heavily involved in the AFC Wild Card race. The first of that pair to meet the Jets will be the Baltimore Ravens, who are hosting the Jets on Thursday Night Football in Week 15.
Nov. 24, 2013 (Week 12): Jets 3 @ Ravens 19
The Jets’ last trip to Baltimore came back in 2013. New York had lost its first game coming out of the bye week, a 37-14 loss to the Bills in Buffalo. It continued their uncanny trend of alternating wins and losses since the start of the season.
However, that all came to an end against the Ravens. Baltimore, who was desperate for a win after falling to 4-6, came out and stomped on the Jets offense. There was only one touchdown scored in the game, a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones, and it didn’t occur until the very end of the third quarter.
The Jets struck first with a Nick Folk field goal on their second drive, but that was all they would muster. The Ravens scored the next 12 points, all Justin Tucker field goals, and went on to win the game 19-3.
Geno Smith had a brutal game, completing 9-of-22 passes for 120 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
It would be the second of three straight losses for the Jets, who would eventually finish 8-8.
Oct. 23, 2016 (Week 7): Ravens 16 @ Jets 24
The Jets came into 2016 with high hopes, but by the time their meeting with the Ravens came around, their season had already been sunk. The Jets were 1-5, needing a miracle finish to make the postseason. That would have to start against the Ravens, who entered MetLife Stadium with a 3-3 record.
Curiously enough, Baltimore had played in MetLife Stadium the week before, losing to the Giants by a score of 27-23. After a 3-0 start, the Ravens had lost three straight games.
Plenty of losing streaks were on the line. In addition to Baltimore’s three-game skid and the Jets’ four-game skid, Gang Green had not defeated the Ravens since the very first meeting between the two franchises back in 1997. Baltimore had claimed eight straight victories over the Jets after that game.
On that afternoon in late October, New York would snap both its current losing streak and its historical losing streak against Baltimore.
Geno Smith started the game, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick after his ghastly start to the season. After the Jets went down 10-0 to start the game, Smith hit Quincy Enunwa on a curl, and Enunwa took it 69 yards to the house for the touchdown.
Unfortunately, Smith would only throw eight passes until going down with an ACL injury that ended his season, and ultimately, his Jets career.
Fitzpatrick would take over and the Jets would storm back. On the strength of two Matt Forte touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing), the Jets would get back on track with a 24-16 victory.
The following week, the Jets got a win in Cleveland to improve to 3-5. Their luck stopped there, however, as the Jets would lose their next four games, the first three of which were all by one score.
Earl Thomas, Safety (FA: Seattle) — Baltimore’s lockdown secondary got even stronger with the addition of Earl Thomas. The six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro has picked off 28 passes in his career, second among safeties since 2010 behind only Reggie Nelson.
Mark Ingram, RB (FA: New Orleans) — The Ravens are looking to buck the trends of modern football and build a ground-and-pound offense around Lamar Jackson. The addition of Ingram will help them achieve their goal of fielding a successful run-first offense. Since 2013, Ingram has averaged 4.73 yards per carry, the best mark among the 28 running backs with at least 700 carries over that span.
C.J. Mosley, Linebacker (FA: NY Jets) — Week 15 will be a homecoming for C.J. Mosley, as he faces off against the team he spent the first five years of his career with. Mosley started in all 80 regular season and playoff games he played for the Ravens from 2014-18, after being taken 17th overall in the 2018 Draft. The Jets gave Mosley a gargantuan four-year, $85 million deal that makes him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in football.
Eric Weddle, Safety (FA: LA Rams) — Weddle was a Pro Bowler in all three of his seasons as a Raven, racking up 24 passes defended and 10 interceptions during his time there. The 34-year-old star safety headed out to Los Angeles, where he joined the Rams on a two-year, $10.5 million deal.
Za’Darius Smith, Edge (FA: Green Bay) — Smith had a career year for the Ravens in 2018, leading the team with 8.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hits. The Packers offered him a monster four-year, $66 million deal, and the 26-year-old pass rusher took his talents to Green Bay.
John Brown, Wide Receiver (FA: Buffalo) — Brown led the Ravens in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season, with 715 yards and five touchdowns. He was a huge big-play threat, as his average of 17.0 yards per reception ranked fourth in the NFL. The Bills, looking to build around Josh Allen, signed Brown to a three-year, $27 million deal. The Ravens will be looking to replace John Brown with another Brown — Oklahoma product Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who was taken by Baltimore with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 Draft.
IMPORTANT NUMBERS FOR THE RAVENS
Need to maintain: 3rd in defensive DVOA
Baltimore’s defense was dominant yet again last season. They ranked third in defensive DVOA for the second straight season while placing in the top 10 of defensive DVOA for the third year in a row.
The Ravens defense was strong in just about every facet. They ranked second in fewest yards allowed per pass play, third in fewest yards allowed per carry and third in lowest conversion rate allowed on third down.
There are a couple of areas the Ravens defense can get better — the red zone and taking the ball away. Baltimore took the ball away 17 times last season, which ranked only 22nd in the league. They allowed a touchdown on 63% of their opponent’s red zone trips, 24th in the league.
It will be tough with the losses of Mosley, Smith, and Weddle, but the Ravens still have gobs of talent left on the defensive side of the ball. John Harbaugh has had no problem fielding elite defenses year after year regardless of how much turnover he has had to deal with. Expect the Ravens defense to be elite once again this year. The question is, can they take another step forward and become the best defense in the league?
Need to improve: 23rd in net yards per pass play
The Ravens averaged 6.1 net yards per pass play last season, which was 23rd in the NFL.
Overall, the Baltimore offense was solid last year. They ranked 14th in points per drive and 15th in offensive DVOA. Even their passing offense was efficient, ranking 14th in DVOA.
However, there’s no question that the Ravens are expecting a big leap from their young franchise centerpiece, Lamar Jackson. Specifically, they’re hoping to see Jackson make strides as a passer.
We already know what Jackson can do with his legs. He averaged an astounding 76 rushing yards per game as a starter last season. However, the Ravens will need him to be more effective as a passer. Over his seven regular-season starts last season, Jackson passed for only 159 yards per game, mustering just five touchdown passes and posting below-average marks of 7.1 yards per attempt and an 83.6 passer rating.
If Jackson can make the leap, Baltimore could be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.