On Tuesday afternoon, just over a day away from the start of training camp in Owings Mills, three Ravens headed toward a crowded auxiliary room in the team’s facility to meet with reporters. Two were recent All-Pro selections, the third a starter on one of the NFL’s most reliable units. And none might have ranked among the team’s two or three biggest stars.

At a time in the NFL calendar when even the league’s worst teams are asking, “Why not us?” the scene added a little credibility to the Ravens’ self-belief. They have big names. They have big expectations.

They also have a big hole in the metric that renders final judgment on both: their playoff record.

“It’s easy to be paper champs,” said inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who earned All-Pro honors after joining the Ravens last season, only to lose in the wild-card round, the team’s fourth postseason defeat in five games since 2018. “But what really matters is what you do between those lines. What are we going to do starting today when meetings officially kick off, just our mental intensity, our attention to detail. … I think if we abide by those things and do what we have to do, I think the sky is the limit for all of us.”

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Lamar Jackson has been saying that for a while now. The star quarterback, who signed a record-breaking extension this offseason, is the headliner of a revamped offense that might be more talented than the Ravens defense it’ll reunite with on Wednesday. And that defense ranked among the league’s elite by year’s end, giving the team a chance in its bitter playoff loss to the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals.

Considering what the Ravens achieved last year before Jackson’s season-ending knee injury and then after it, given the changes to the team’s roster and coaching staff this offseason, it’s not unreasonable to imagine a Super Bowl contender with a top-five offense, top-five defense and best-in-the-league special teams. But then, this is late July. Everyone feels good, or at least better than they did after their last game.

“It looks good on paper,” said right tackle Morgan Moses, whose emergence down the stretch last year helped lift the Ravens’ line into elite territory. “Everything looks good on paper, but we have to get out there and execute. And it’s not going to be beautiful every day, it’s not going to be exciting every day, but it’s a learning experience for all of us, because I don’t think any of us [have] played with this amount of talent on this side of the ball before, especially myself.”

Tuesday’s oversize media contingent was a testament to that talent. Moses is among those at the center of a media tornado that will be among the NFL’s most tracked this training camp. To an offense that already featured Jackson, one of the NFL’s most popular and polarizing players, and tight end Mark Andrews, an All-Pro in 2021 and three-time Pro Bowl pick, the Ravens have added wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who spent the offseason globe-trotting with celebrities and training for his comeback season; Zay Flowers, one of five first-round picks at the position; and coordinator Todd Monken, a two-time national champion at Georgia.

Not to mention the potential stars who could either bounce back or break out at running back (J.K. Dobbins), wide receiver (Rashod Bateman), tight end (Isaiah Likely) and along the offensive line (left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum).

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“I think that we’ve been a really good team for a long time, and some things have happened here [or] there,” Andrews said, alluding to the Ravens’ late-season injury misfortunes. “You do look at our roster, and there is a lot of talent. There’s a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and I love our coaches, too, and organizationally, it is an amazing place to be and play. So that’s why there’s a lot of excitement in this town and this facility and everywhere. So it’s time for us to get to practice, work hard each and every day. That’s what it’s really all about.”

He was already looking ahead to Wednesday, to reuniting with the Ravens’ established veterans and unproven rookies, to starting something new and hopefully better. Every year that Andrews has been in Baltimore, there has been optimism about the playoffs. Every year, the Ravens’ season has ended with a whimper. If a better winter is ahead, the change will have to start in the summer.

“I think that’s got to be something that drives you,” Andrews said. “Drives each and every one of us that’s been here and played here during those years, just letting those guys know that we do have unfinished business, and it’s time to roll.”


Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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