Even though they are off this week on a bye, the Baltimore Ravens hype is still chugging along full steam ahead. The team has won their last three games, is in sole possession of the top stop in the AFC North standings, and has the easiest remaining schedule in the league based on the combined win and loss totals of their next eight opponents to close out the regular season.
They were already one of the hottest and stronger teams heading into their bye week but according to retired six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver turned broadcaster, the Ravens are the “best team in the league and it’s not even close”. Those were his exact words on the latest episode of ‘Inside The NFL’ and he gave very valid reasons to support his scorching hot take.
Just before and after Thanksgiving is generally the point in the season where the true title contenders begin to emerge and separate themselves. As formidable and seemingly unstoppable as they have looked at times during their impressive 6-3 start to the season where they have held double-digit leads in every game, Marshall thinks their best has yet to come and that they will begin to start peaking down the stretch.
“They’re going to start playing their best ball when the league really starts,” he said.
Marshall pointed out that the Ravens will be getting healthier at a time when other teams like the Green Bay Packers, for example, are beginning to lose players left and right while fading from contention.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh provided an update on several starters and key players that will be coming back from minor injuries following their bye that includes running back Gus Edwards, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, and safety, Marcus Williams.
Marshall also brought up that starting quarterback Lamar Jackson who has already been playing at a high level during a strong start to the season, will be playing even more motivated down the stretch in the final year of his rookie contract. Jackson will be looking to cash in with what will likely be a record-setting deal next offseason.
“He’s angry, he needs to be paid, he needs to be fed,” he said.
Marshall proceeded to take his lofty praise and projection for this year’s team even further when he proclaimed that this could not only be the year they make it back to and win the Superbowl since 2012 but that “this may be the best Baltimore Ravens team that we’ve ever seen.”
While the 2022 Ravens could very well go one to win it all this year, prematurely suggesting that they could be the best team in franchise history is a bit of a stretch. The 2019 squad finished with just two losses in the regular season, rewrote the record books, and was highlighted by Jackson’s unanimous MVP-winning season.
The 2006 team was arguably the best in the league that year even though they didn’t go all the way either and the 2000 Ravens will forever be remembered for having what many believe is the best single-season defense of all time that captured the first championship in franchise history.
Ray Lewis Approves of Ravens’ Roquan Smith Trade
Marshall was on set with a member of that legendary 2000 Ravens’ defense in the Hall of Fame inside linebacker Ray Lewis who was the face of the franchise for the vast majority of his illustrious 17-year career. He was on both of the team’s first two Superbowl squads and knows what it takes to win it all.
Lewis talked about how impressed he was with the performance of the Ravens’ defense in Week 9 when they held the New Orleans Saints to a season-low 48 rushing yards and allowed their second-fewest yardage total of the season. He was especially pleased with the way in which the team’s star midseason trade deadline acquisition dominated at his old spot.
“The first person you notice immediately, Roquan Smith,” Lewis said. “Looks like a good trade.”
He didn’t expect the entire unit to smother the Saints the way they did but loves the way they are playing “fast, physical, and flying to the football.”
“That team is going to be scary coming down the line,” Lewis said. “If that defense comes together right now, it should be an exciting time in Baltimore.”
As a fifth-year pro, Lewis led the 2000 Ravens defense that carried the team to a dominant 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in Superbowl 35 and was rightfully named the MVP of the title game. Smith just so happens to be in his fifth year in the league and suddenly finds himself on what looks like a championship-caliber defense.
He finished with five total tackles and high grades from Pro Football Focus in his debut with the team. If he can keep it up as he gets even more acclimated with his teammates and within the system, there’s no telling what kind of seismic impact he can have come playoff time.
Roquan Smith Is ‘As Advertised’ While Patrick Queen Is ‘Underrated’
Lewis wasn’t the only retired former Ravens inside linebacker that had high praise for Smith this week. Zach Orr is the team’s inside linebacker coach and believes that the 25-year-old two-time All-Pro “has been one of the top linebackers since he’s come into the league”
“He’s been as advertised,” Orr said in a press conference on November 8, 2022. “whenever you get a chance to get a player like Roquan Smith to come into your building, into your linebacker room, into your defense, it was a blessing.”
As former All-Pro himself that knows what it takes to be a complete player at the position, Orr has also been “very pleased” with the development of third-year pro Patrick Queen. He appears to have developed into the every-down defender the Ravens envisioned when they selected him No. 28 overall out of LSU in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“I think he’s very underrated in what we ask him to do and what he’s done for us,” Orr said.
Queen has played nearly 100 percent of the Ravens’ total defensive snaps during their three-game winning streak and has been dominant for the last month and a half. He has been deployed and has affected the game in a multitude of different ways in coverage, in space, and as a blitzer.
Against the Saints in Week 9, he actually finished with a high overall grade than Smith per PFF and according to Orr, Queen took snaps at nickel, both MIKE and WILL linebacker, dime linebacker, and even on the defensive line at three-technique.
He said that Queen’s incredible contributions have been “invaluable” and that he has “been coming along every single week this season”. Together both Queen and Smith kept Saints’ running back Alvin Kamara from keeping them in the game which was instrumental to the entire defense’s success as a whole.
“You’ve got two erasers in the middle of a defense,” Orr said. “You’re talking about two linebackers that run [a] 4.4 [40-yard dash], that are physical, that are instinctive, that are fast. There are not many teams in the NFL that have a pair like that in the middle.”