The Ravens made the right call by going with Lamar Jackson as their starting quarterback, but he needs more weapons to succeed in 2019.
If Baltimore is going to return to the playoffs this season they will need the transition from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson at quarterback to go off without a hitch. If the Ravens have any hope of achieving that lofty goal, they need to give their second-year signal caller some better wide receivers to throw to this season.
As it stands, the depth chart at wideout in Baltimore is pretty ugly. If the season began today Willie Snead and Chris Moore would likely be Jackson’s flankers to start Week 1. That duo would clearly be one of the weakest pairings in the NFL.
The good news is that GM Eric DeCosta seems to have some understanding of his team’s glaring weakness. He claims the Ravens will take “at least one” wideout in April’s draft. It’s highly unlikely that one rookie is going to give Jackson the talent he needs at the wide receiver position.
Remember, the Ravens cut Michael Crabtree this offseason and allowed John Brown to leave via free agency. Those players gave Baltimore 96 catches and eight touchdowns in 2018. The chances of a rookie picking up all that slick by himself are almost non-existent.
Ravens officials will correctly point out that this year’s free agent crop of wide receivers left a lot to be desired. Even so, the failure to add even one wideout capable of competing for a starting position this offseason has to be deemed a failure for the Baltimore front office.
The franchise clearly hopes they can get a lot of production from the tight end position. The Ravens spent big money to keep Nick Boyle, but he’s much more valuable as a blocker than a receiver. Both Mark Andrew and Hayden Hurst will need to take massive steps forward this season to help overcome the team’s lack of talent at receiver. That’s a lot to ask from two second-year pros.
Add it all up and it’s clear that Jackson is going to be relied upon to create a ton of offense for the Ravens. His athleticism allows him to make exceptional plays outside the pocket, but his coaching staff can’t afford to expose him to as many hits as he took down the stretch last year. The best way to keep him from taking that kind of punishment is to give him receivers who can get open quickly.
The lack of that sort of player on the current roster means the Ravens have to spend serious draft capital on fixing the problem. Don’t rule out the idea of Baltimore using its first round pick on a guy like D.K. Metcalf or N’Keal Harry. Adding a guy with big time size could also help Jackson by giving him a larger target to throw to.
The ugly truth here is that the Ravens are setting Jackson up to fail in his second season. That’s an exceptionally poor decision for a franchise that desperately needs good quarterback play to stay relevant. Ravens fans need to hope DeCosta and company have some real magic up their sleeve for the draft. If they don’t, Jackson doesn’t stand a chance of succeeding in 2019.