It’s been a few seasons since Lamar Jackson starred with the Baltimore Ravens enough to run away with the NFL MVP award, but the potential could be there for that to happen once again in the near future.
Jackson has seen the Ravens add to the offensive line this offseason, and has also watched as the team has beefed up their wideout core. Both of these things could mean great news for the team in terms of Jackson’s potential to have another great season on the field in 2021.
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Recently, NFL.com analyst Dan Hanzus took a look at identifying every team MVP candidate in the AFC, and when it came to the Ravens, unsurprisingly, Jackson was the pick. Perhaps more surprising was the revelation that the weaponry that Baltimore has added will be enough to boost Jackson’s case on its own.
“Lamar Jackson’s “down” 2020 season would be a dream year for many other quarterbacks. He finished his third pro campaign with 33 total touchdowns, while becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He didn’t reach the dizzying highs of his MVP campaign in 2019, but let’s not agonize over a falling star in Baltimore. Spinning forward, there’s reason to think Jackson will make the leap as a passer in 2021. The Ravens opened up their checkbook to import eternally 28-year-old veteran Sammy Watkins, then used their first-round pick on Minnesota standout Rashod Bateman. Both were wise moves that should also help Marquise Brown, miscast as a No. 1 receiver in 2020. With superior weapons, Jackson will be back in the league MVP conversation come December.”
Many have wondered if the Ravens added enough this offseason to stack up and compete, but clearly with this commentary, Hanzus thinks it’s more than possible. Not only do the Ravens have Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews, but they added Sammy Watkins as well as Rashad Bateman and Tylan Wallace. Along with that, a better season could be expected out of Devin Duvernay and James Proche as well.
Will that be enough for the Ravens to have a big turnaround? It remains to be seen, but according to some, it could be enough to get Jackson back in the mix for yet another MVP award.
Bateman Might Be Jackson’s Biggest Weapon
The Ravens added some major weaponry this offseason, and Jackson has to be happy with what the team was able to do in the draft, especially as it relates to Rashod Bateman, who could be a top rookie in the league at his position.
Recently, NFL.com analyst Cynthia Frelund took a look at projecting the top 8 rookies in the league in terms of impact at wide receiver. As she wrote, Bateman comes in the six spot in terms of a player who should be expected to do some damage next year on the field.
“Ravens wideouts only logged 41 receptions of 10-plus air yards last season, as well as just 78 catches for 952 receiving yards when aligned out wide — all NFL lows, per Next Gen Stats. (Baltimore was the only team to earn fewer than 1,200 yards from wide alignments.) Route-running precision is a metric my model values more than most, and Bateman thrives in this area, especially when aligned on the outside. I’ve found that route-running precision leading to separation in college typically plays well in the NFL. Over the past two seasons in the FBS, Bateman ranked No. 3 among wide receivers in terms of route-running efficiency (as measured by reliable timing and the ability to create separation) on routes run from outside alignment. Pro Football Focus adds additional context here: Over the past two seasons when it came to intermediate targets (10-19 air yards), Bateman ranked second in the FBS with 44 catches and third with 697 yards. The only reason he ranks sixth on this list is the volume of rushing plays the Ravens are still likely to run.”
Though the Ravens figure to run the ball a lot, Bateman looks to be their top option in terms of pass catching. That sets up to make him one of the most productive wideouts in football next year as a rookie player on a great AFC team.
Examining Jackson’s MVP Case in 2021-22
Obviously, Jackson is going to have to battle the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and others for the award next season. Out of the group, Jackson would have to be seen as the biggest dark horse for the award even though he has won it before. Jackson will almost certainly have the edge over the others in terms of rushing yards and explosive plays, but if he is able to get anything from his pass catchers, that would be an even bigger feather in his cap moving forward.
Whether Jackson has enough to take home the goods or not in 2021 remains to be seen, but if the group comes together, it’s more than possible.
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