Predictions for Baltimore Ravens’ 2022 season: Three ‘experts’ weigh in

Published on: September 11, 2022 6:58 AM EDT|Updated on: September 11, 2022 11:56 AM EDT

Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens scrambles during a game against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on November 28, 2021.

If you had friends who were rooting for a football team that came in last in the division last year, but this season they’re yapping away about potential Super Bowl contenders, you might have to write them off as being lost to the undertow of fandom.

But Ravens fans — who did watch their team plunge from an 8-3 record to last in the division in 2021 to finish at 8-9 — are already dreaming about going deep in the playoffs, maybe even the Super Bowl.

There are some kernels of sound reasoning at the bottom of this big glass of purple Kool-Aid. Last year, the Ravens were obliterated with injuries, from their feared running backs, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, who went down in the pre-season, to their vaunted lineman Ronnie Stanley, who suffered an ankle injury. And, of course, quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the last four games (all of which the Ravens lost). All of these players are expected to return this year, and with some offseason beefing up of the offensive line, Jackson should be able to focus on receivers instead of blitzes.

And yet the Ravens remain as a team an experimental concoction. Are they really over their injuries? Will the new players be difference-makers, or are they over-hyped? The Ravens are like one of those isotope machines: Toss in all the good ingredients for a big whip around and wait to see what comes out.

We asked three very different people to weigh in with their predictions on this anticipated season: Vinny Cerrato, a former vice president of operations of the Washington Commanders and co- host of a sports talk show on 105.7 The Fan; Kory Mitchell, a Baltimore-based Steelers fan, who anchors the Steelers bar on Sundays at Todd Conner’s in Fells Point; and Tanesha Carter, a right tackle with the Baltimore Nighthawks, an all-woman football team.

The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Vinny Cerrato, sports radio host and former VP of operations for Commanders

What should we expect for the Ravens in 2022?

I would say the expectation is that we have everybody healthy. You know the expectation was that Ronnie Stanley [tackle] is back to 100%. [Cornerback] Marcus Peters is back to 100%. [Running back] J.K. Dobbins is back to 100%. Running back Gus Edwards is back to 100%. If that’s the case, then the expectations can be as high as they want to be, because they can play with anybody. I think with the expectations, number one is let’s win in the division. Number two, we win the division, let’s win some playoff games. We’ve got to get back to the Super Bowl.

What is the bare minimum level that the Ravens must reach this year?

They have a roster to make the playoffs, unless something catastrophic happens again this year. Otherwise, they’re good enough to win a division or be a wildcard.

What is it about Lamar Jackson that makes even the casual observers want to check him out?

He’s got elite athletic ability. He’s got running ability and maneuverability like no other quarterback’s ever had in the National Football League, and he’s improved his passing 1,000% since he got here, and so he’s a winner. I give the Ravens a ton of credit, because ... they said we’re gonna develop and we’re gonna build around his set of skills.

Lamar is obviously known for his ankle-breaking scrambles. He’s been the lead rusher for the Ravens last year with 767 yards, but he also has some beautiful passing games — he amassed 442 yards passing against the Colts last year. Do you think Lamar is almost cursed with too much talent?

No, I think he got frustrated last year, because he didn’t have the offensive line, [which] was not very good. He was looking at the rush too much, in my opinion. And he had to worry every time he dropped back, where they coming from? Because they’re coming from everywhere. So I think this year ... the offensive line is gonna be so much better and that’s gonna make him that much better.

The NFL website ranks Lamar Jackson 14th just over Matt Ryan and behind Kirk Cousins. A lot of players feed on disrespect. Does Lamar have a case for that?

Lamar’s a competitive guy, and he’ll see that and he’ll use it as motivation. If you ask the Ravens what they thought of Lamar, they would probably say that he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league.

The Ravens made moves this off-season, through drafting and acquisition. Where will we see the most impact – hopefully for the better?

I think probably starting safety because they got Marcus Williams [from New Orleans ] and Kyle Hamilton — two new additions, the 14th pick of the draft and a guy they paid a bunch of money for. Then Isaiah Likely [drafted tight end], because he’s been spectacular every day that he’s been out to practice. And then [Jordan] Stout, the punter. I mean, he’s really good. He’s got a strong, strong leg. And he’s an accurate punter. Then the center Linderbaum, I think that’ll be a big addition. He’ll be here for a long time. I think [Ravens general manager] Eric DeCosta did a really nice job of drafting and then adding some players.

The Ravens have long made their mark with relentless defense, but in recent years the team hasn’t been as dominant. With a star quarterback in Lamar Jackson that they need to support, are we in a new era?

I’ve said this many times, you show me a team that’s had a $100 million quarterback, I’ll show you a team [where there’s] not a lot of depth. And I think that’s what’s going to happen to the Ravens because of what you’re going to have to pay your quarterback. You can only pay so many guys, and it’s gonna hit you somewhere. So, the cheap labor is your draft picks.

Is it time to start calling Justin Tucker the best NFL field goal kicker of all time?

I don’t think many people would argue with you. He would definitely be in that conversation.He’s got a real good chance to be first-ballot Hall of Famer. I mean, the guy’s spectacular. When you’re the GM, you’re sitting up there in that box, when he’s lined up to kick, you can go get a hot dog because you know, it’s gonna be good.

What do you make of the Ravens and Lamar not reaching a long-term contract agreement?

I think that’s kind of what everybody expected. The Ravens aren’t gonna give the total guaranteed money, and I think both sides are comfortable with where they are right now. Will it get done? I think one side would have to totally cave one way or the other to get a deal done. He’s gonna get his money, bottom line. Just not gonna be all guaranteed

Tanesha Carter, right tackle for the Baltimore Nighthawks

What should we expect for the Ravens in 2022?

So, one of the reasons why I say I’m a fanatic is because I pretty much think that we’re going to the Super Bowl every year. Even on Facebook, that was my name, Tanisha Going To The Super Bowl Carter, but I have high hopes because I really do think that if people didn’t get injured last year, we would have went to the Super Bowl. I pay attention to training camp. I watched the preseason games. I can see what the new guys are bringing to the table, and I’m very hopeful this year.

What is the bare minimum level that the Ravens must reach this year?

AFC North, winning that division.

What is it about Lamar Jackson that makes even the casual observers want to check him out?

Just the unexpectedness of his game play, like, you really have no idea what you’re gonna get when you’re watching the game. He keeps it very interesting. It’s gonna be something every game where you’re like, Oh, my God, how did he do that?

NFL website ranks Lamar Jackson 14th. Does Lamar have a case for feeling disrespected?

It is so disrespectful. I think anybody that you ask — even the players have actually said it in a couple of their press conferences. I know Lamar says he doesn’t pay attention to it, but I know he sees it all. So, if anything, especially with this being a contract year, I think he’s just gonna make people eat their words. And I’m here for it.

So the Ravens, like every team in the NFL, made moves this off-season, through drafting and acquisition. Where will we see the most impact – hopefully for the better?

I’m hoping that we noticed that on the offensive line. I might be partial, because I’m an O-lineman, but because that protection up front is really crucial. And we did pick up some pieces there. But I really do like the tight ends. Isaiah Likely, he looks really good. Technically, in the depth chart, he’s probably the third tight end; I think he might actually take over Nick Boyle’s position. I mean, Nick Boyle is a great tight end. And he blocks great, but there was something about Likely, just watching him play, he has a hunger about him.

The Ravens have long made their mark with relentless defense, but in recent years the team hasn’t been as dominant. Are we in a new era?

I will never say that because I still feel like the Ravens will always be known for their defense. I do think we’ve had a couple bad years in that department. … I don’t think we’ll ever be known as an offensive team, even if the offense is better.

What do you think of this year’s offensive line?

Well, I’m actually really excited about the old line, I saw Ronnie Stanley come back out for training camp and stuff. So, it was really good to see him back out there. When you’re missing key pieces, a lot of things don’t work. it’s one of the few positions where you really have to click with all five people and it’s hard when you’re continually losing pieces and moving people in. So the fact that everybody’s healthy right now, they’ve been practicing together. I think all of that cohesiveness is just going to show up on the field. But nothing happens without O-line, like nothing.

What do you make of Baltimore’s run game this year?

So I was very disappointed when J.K. Dobbins got hurt because he was looking very Ray Rice-like. And I was so excited for him. I definitely think he’s gonna show up this year. … But I also think that because we’ve been so run-focused, and Lamar has a little bit to prove to his doubters, I don’t know that we’re going to come out with that same mindset, especially if we don’t have all the pieces that we want. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing us pass a little bit more, but running in order to pass. You have to be able to run the ball.

John Harbaugh and his love of analytics, are we going to see more of that?

Obviously, there’s games when you’re like, urrrrr John, but he is such a player’s coach, that he has gotten the whole team on board with that. And if he asked any of them, they’ll all be like, go for it. So, I think that’s going to still stay.

Is Justin Tucker the the best NFL field goal kicker of all time?

There’s nobody who can do what Justin Tucker can do. Like nobody past, present. He is the best. If that man can keep kicking like that, he has a job forever, The way everybody reacted when he kicked that 66-yarder in Detroit [and broke the NFL longest field goal kick, last year], come on. You just watched a GOAT in real life.

What do you make of the Ravens and Lamar not reaching a long-term contract agreement.

If Lamar has a year like I think he’s gonna have, they will probably wish that they just gave him whatever he was asking for. And then obviously, if he doesn’t have a good year, which I don’t think will happen, then he might be at the short end of the stick. But I know that everybody wants to keep him in Baltimore and I know he wants to stay in Baltimore.

Kory Mitchell, Pittsburgh Steelers superfan

What is the expectation for the Ravens in 2022?

Well, I think they made moves to make themselves better, but it’s the same situation, and they’re just like, one hit or two on Lamar away from being where they were last year, which is not in the playoffs. So, I think they could be a very good team. And I do sincerely respect them, because some of the greatest battles in NFL history have been between the Football Team in Baltimore and the Steelers, but yeah, I think they really think they’re better than they are. But who doesn’t? Right. Hope springs eternal right now.

What is the bare minimum level that the Ravens must make this year?

You’re at the bottom of the best, arguably the best, division in football right now. How many different bounces, how many fingertip catches are the difference? It’s a razor-thin margin in the NFL, that’s by design. f you want to talk in wins terms, I think 10 is probably going to get you in that division. I know that’s what I think the Steelers need to shoot for. I mean you got the Bengals, the Browns, forget them this year, then you got Baltimore and the Steelers? Three good, potentially really good, teams.

What is it about Lamar Jackson that makes even the casual observers want to check him out?

He is the best athlete on the field, like at all times. He’s got this whole other gear that other quarterbacks just don’t have. That’s the difference. And for the record, I wanted to draft him and then you guys jumped one before us and snagged him. But I still have the same concerns I had in that draft about his throwing ability, durability. He’s filled out well, but the question is gonna be when does he lose that one little tick and instead of getting away, they catch him by the shoestrings?

The Ravens have long made their mark with relentless defense, but in recent years the team hasn’t been as dominant. Do you think we are in a new era?

Just to reference the Steelers, I mean, they’re very similar and a mirror of each other. Like, during the era with Ray Lewis around like, our defenses were crazy. And those defensive battles were insane, right? Polamalu and all of them retired. So, you can’t just fill the holes all the time. I think if they want to go back and make that defense amazing, that’s where they put the money, but I think they’ve tried to get that offense going more so with resources.

What do you think of this year’s offensive line?.

The game is won in the trenches; the war is won in the trenches. But that’s definitely something I think they addressed [in the offseason].

The Ravens run game in 2019 was so fun to watch – between Mark Ingram II and Jackson, but this year’s anticipated return of Gus Edwards and J.K Dobbins has been delayed due to lingering injuries, so what do you make of Baltimore’s run game this year?

I think that’s why they went out and did what they did with the offensive line. Because a good offensive line could take an OK running back and make them look really good. And you already got arguably the best running back in your quarterback.

What is up with the Ravens and their strange knack of NOT getting a true Number One receiver?

It’s across the entire history of the team in Baltimore. Maybe they’re just like, oh, they want to be different than the Steelers and prove they can do it differently. Maybe that’s part of it. Is it a scouting thing? Are they investing in it? I don’t know. It’s one of the strangest things in football.

John Harbaugh and his love of analytics, are we going to see more of that?

For sure. It’s his thing. And I think it’s just how he’s gonna keep playing. He’s an aggressive, aggressive coach.

Is Justin Tucker the the best NFL field goal kicker of all time?

Unfortunately, yes. Like good for you. But yes, he is great. By all accounts, he’s a great guy. He likes fried chicken [a reference to Tucker’s TV promotions], but there’s no way he eats that much fried chicken. So that’s the only disingenuous thing about him. But yeah, he’s great. Fortunately, we have the second-best, and that’s good enough for me right now.

What do you make of The Ravens and Lamar not reaching a long-term contract agreement.

He’s pulling a Joe Flacco. [Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco passed on signing a longtime contract with the Ravens, “betting on himself” to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl and become the Super Bowl MVP. He did this under a $16 million franchise tag. Flacco then signed a $120.6 million six-year deal with the Ravens including a $29 million signing bonus and $52 million guaranteed. ]

Will it work the same for Lamar? Stay tuned.

Charles Cohen is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and digital storyteller. He is a Baltimore native.

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