The Baltimore Ravens need a lot of players to bounce back if they are going to erase the memory of a disappointing 2021 season wrecked by injuries. They need All-Pro players like quarterback Lamar Jackson and cornerback Marcus Peters to quickly return to their peak form and stay healthy.
Jackson will carry the team, even in a contract year, while Peters remains the key to a secondary stockpiled with exciting new additions this offseason. Yet, it’s another All-Pro talent who could determine how far the Ravens go in their attempt to make the jump from worst to first in the AFC North.
This standout occupies one of the most important positions on the team, but his presence has been sorely missed during a two-year, injury filled nightmare. Now the hope is this crucial veteran can at least “return to anything close to his previous level.”
Seldom-Seen Pro-Bowler Still Vital for Ravens
Ronnie Stanley is the player the Ravens most need to bounce back, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports. Corry recounted how the franchise has been forced to play a waiting game with its stalwart left tackle ever since he broke out in 2019: “Stanley has only played in two games since then. He suffered a season-ending left ankle injury that required surgery a couple of days after signing his contract. Stanley started the first game in 2021 before eventually undergoing additional surgery on the ankle during the season.”
As Corry put it, the Ravens would get a “big boost” if Stanley is able to even scratch the surface of his best form. It’s something head coach John Harbaugh will be counting on from the player tasked with protecting Jackson’s blindside.
The franchise quarterback knows only too well the cost of playing without Stanley. Jackson was sacked 32 times in 2020, while the Baltimore O-line, again sans Stanley, gave up a whopping 57 QB takedowns last season.
Those numbers are hardly surprising, considering how the Ravens recycled their way through a litany of unconvincing Stanley replacements. Alejandro Villanueva, David Sharpe and Cedric Ogbuehi all struggled to fill the void.
Naturally anxious to avoid a repeat, general manager Eric DeCosta worked hard to reshuffle the line this offseason. His primary move was to release Villanueva and acquire Morgan Moses from the New York Jets in free agency.
Moses will bookend the right side, although he has experience on the left from his collegiate days with Virginia, as well as from his early NFL years in Washington. That versatility is important because it gives the Ravens stronger insurance if Stanley doesn’t make it all the way back to his 2019 peak.
Restructured Deal Shows Confidence in Stanley
The signs of Stanley regaining his best form are promising, at least from the franchise’s point of view. Restructuring his contract, a move reported by ESPN’s Field Yates, shows a confidence the player can still prove his worth over the long haul.
That’s the view of Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi: “The aforementioned extension would seem to indicate that the Ravens are comfortable with Stanley from a health perspective otherwise, why kick the can down the road and place unnecessary future weight on the cap, right?”
It’s a sound argument and also hints at how much the Ravens need to believe in Stanley’s potential for a successful comeback. Left tackle is one of the key positions in football, especially for a team with an asset as valuable as Jackson.
He still doesn’t have a new deal, but these Ravens will only go as far as Jackson can take them this season. No. 8 will only take them far if the core pieces around him are at full strength.
Those pieces have to include Stanley after the way Jackson was made to struggle under the intense pressure surrendered by a threadbare front last season. A good example of what the breakdowns in protection did to one of the league’s premier quarterbacks came against the Steelers on a play highlighted by Derrick of Sports Illustrated‘s FanNation:
There aren’t many pass-rushers capable of moving 6’6″, 315-pound Stanley like this when he’s at full speed and on his game. His performances will have as much impact on the Ravens’ season as those of Jackson, Peters and any other marquee name on the roster.