The Baltimore Ravens finished the 2022 regular season tied for the fourth-most sacks in the league according to Pro Football Reference but one player on the team fell just short of earning a big pay bump worth half a million dollars on their 48th and final in Week 18.
Even though Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked the 11th most times in the league in 2022, he is still one of the hardest signal-callers to bring down because of his ability to avoid pressure and get the ball out quickly. The Ravens had a hard time wrangling him in the first half but found more success in the second of their 27-16 loss on Sunday.
They finished with just two on the day with the first coming from rookie outside linebacker David Ojabo for the first of his career. The second came on the Bengals’ first drive of the fourth quarter when veteran pass rusher Justin Houston and second-year edge defender Odafe Oweh brought down Burrow for an 8-yard loss on third down to force a punt.
After initially believing that he had earned him the full sack needed to earn the full $1.5 million in a production-based contract incentive, Houston celebrated with a somersault only to return to the sideline and find out that he was only credited with half a sack and was still another half away from earning entire amount.
He had already received the first two-thirds of the bonus for reaching 5 sacks in his first five games and then reaching 7.5 in his first six games but by finishing the year with a still team-leading 9.5, he missed out on the final $500,000 and being the first Raven to record double-digit since Terrell Suggs logged 11 in 2017 according to Pro Football Reference.
“Whatever it is, shall be. If it was God’s will, I think it would have been done,” Houston said in his postgame press conference. “I guess he has other plans for me. We will see.”
Lamar Jackson is Working ‘Super Hard’ to Return, Remains in ‘Good Spirits’
The single biggest question mark for the team heading into their third and final meeting with the Bengals this year and the first ever in the postseason is the status of their unanimous MVP-winning quarterback.
Jackson has missed 15 consecutive practices and sat out the last five games of the regular season due to injury for the second year in a row. This time around it is his knee that has been ailing him and preventing his long-awaited and highly-anticipated return to the field whereas last year it was an ankle injury.
Head coach John Harbaugh hasn’t been able to step in front of a microphone or camera since his star signal-caller suffered the injury in Week 13. While he didn’t have any update on the two-time Pro Bowler’s status for super Wildcard weekend, he shared that Jackson continues to have a positive disposition as the works vigorously in his rehabilitation process with the hope of returning to the field to help his team make a run.
“Lamar’s been in great spirits,” Harbaugh said in a press conference on January 9, 2022. “He’s been working super-hard. He’s out there again today. I don’t watch the workouts with the trainers. Hopefully, he’s progressing to the point where he can practice sometime soon. That’s really what we’re all hoping for, for sure. When we have something to report on that, we will.
“He’s been great. He’s always in good spirits. He wants to play, there’s no doubt, that’s my feeling. You know I love Lamar. I love everything about Lamar. Always have, always will. He’s working hard, he’s in good spirits.”
There have been several conflicting reports from outside of the organization about whether Jackson is expected or even wants to return to action for the Ravens. In a recent appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show”, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported that recently turned 26-year-old has “told people he thinks he’ll be back.”
Harbaugh didn’t say whether he expects the face of the franchise to be out on the practice field for the first practice of the week on Wednesday but as always, he’ll remain optimistic and hopeful.
“Like I’ve been saying, I don’t really have an update right now to share with you,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have an injury report out on Wednesday.”
Ravens Could Bring Back Recently Released Fan Favorite
The team made a handful of roster transactions the day before they face the Bengals in their regular season finale. Most notable among them was the release of veteran pass catchers DeSean Jackson and Nick Boyle.
On Monday, Harbaugh addressed the decision that led to both players getting waived and while he didn’t sound like a reunion with the 36-year-old former three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was imminent or even in the cards, the possibility of bringing back the veteran blocking tight end and fan favorite remains in play.
“Nick is a guy that’s been here for a long time, and we’ve been through a lot,” Harbaugh said. “Nick is playing good football; even this year, he’s played a lot of football. So, it was a roster move that we had to make. We have some options with that, in terms of bringing him back, or possibly the practice squad, things like that. So, I would still say that Nick’s still in our plans.”
The Ravens are currently loaded at the tight position on the active roster at the moment highlighted by three-time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews. Behind him, they have promising rookies Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar who are coming off career-best performances, and fourth-year pro Josh Oliver who took over Boyle’s blocking responsibilities and is a regular contributor as a pass catcher.
Bringing back the eight-year veteran on the practice squad would make the most sense if he is interested in returning. He’d provide injury insurance for any of the four aforementioned players at his position as well as for four-time Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard.
A gruesome knee injury he suffered midway through the 2020 season that required multiple surgeries, limited him to just five games in 2021 before landing back on injured reserve. Prior to that major setback, the former fifth-round pick out of Deleware in 2015 had established himself as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.