Lamar Jackson Among Ravens Under the Most Pressure in 2023

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Getty Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is one of several members on the team with a lot to prove this upcoming season.

The Baltimore Ravens overhauled their roster and coaching staff this offseason with notable additions at positions of need and innovative hirings that will help the evolution of their offense as well as expedite the growth and development of their young players on both sides of the ball.

With so much positive change, expectations for the team overall are going to be higher for the 2023 season. While the Ravens have made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, they haven’t made it past the Divisional Round in a decade since they won Super Bowl 47 in the 2012 season which capped off a five-year stretch where they made it an AFC title game three times.

There are those with a lot to prove that are either playing one-year deals, entering a contract year, or were just awarded a big payday that will be under a lot of pressure to perform at their best to either earn a new deal with the team or elsewhere or validate a recent raise in salary.

Here are eight members of the team that have the most pressure on them to produce or set others up to do so heading into the 2023 season:

QB Lamar Jackson

The biblical passage “To whom much is given, much will be required” from the book of Luke chapter 12 and verse 48 couldn’t hold any truer meaning for a player than it does for the former unanimous league MVP-winning quarterback. The Ravens made him the highest-paid player in NFL history, brought in a new play-caller, and surrounded him with the best collection of skill players of his career at any level.

Even though his long-term future with the team is secured, he still will be under the most pressure of anyone on the team to perform because there aren’t any more reasons for him not to succeed and perhaps even eclipse his MVP-winning season barring health.

The team had to make some tough decisions to let go of the key veteran talent on defense to make room for his new deal as well as some of those of his new weapons. Since that will likely be the norm moving forward, the offense will have to pull more weight since as available salary cap space to spend on the other side of the ball become more limited.

WR Rashod Bateman

The 2021 first-rounder has flashed game-breaking potential during his first two years in the league but has yet to play a full season due to injuries. He was off to a great start to the 2022 season before he suffered a Lisfranc foot injury that would eventually sideline him for the remainder of the year.

Bateman will need to prove that he can not only play at a high level but also stay on the field in a make-or-break year three since the team will have to decide whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option next offseason. Producing a 1,000-play-yard receiving season in which he appeared in the vast majority of the team’s games would go a long toward building a strong case to help his cause even though he is under contract through at least 2024.

OLB Odafe Oweh

The Ravens’ other first-round pick in 2021 is also heading into a pivotal third season where he will need to show enough to convince the team he’s well worth keeping under contract for another two years if not longer. Unlike Bateman who battled injuries, Oweh has appeared in all but two games in his first two years in the league but saw his production dip last season instead of exploding like many were anticipating after he had such a strong rookie campaign.

His lack of sack numbers wasn’t for a lack of effort on his part as he was still a very disruptive presence off the edge and up the middle down the final stretch once he started rushing inside more. Finishing plays on a more consistent basis for sacks, hurries, throwaways, and the occasional turnover will be key to not only a resurgent season but a true breakout year where he soars to new heights.

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

After years of investing the least amount in the wide receiver position of any team in the league, the Ravens finally sprung for and landed a big fish with star potential when healthy. The three-time Pro Bowler sat out the entire 2022 season while he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered becoming a Superbowl champion with the Los Angeles Rams last February.

Beckham Jr. is playing on a huge one-year deal and will be out to prove that he can still be the same game-breaking difference maker that took the league and sports world by storm his first three years in the league before injuries began to hamper him.

Now that he will be paired with the best quarterback that he’s ever played with in Jackson, as long as he stays on the field, his candidacy for Comeback Player of the Year has the chance to be second to none outside of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. If he delivers on his elite potential and pedigree, Beckham Jr. could return to household name status not just in name only but for his resurgent play on the field as well.

ILB Patrick Queen 

The 2020 first-rounder had his fifth-year option declined for “economical” reasons according to general manager Eric DeCosta. While he said the team has intentions of negotiating an extension at some point, for the time being, this upcoming season will be his last under contract in Baltimore.

That means he has a minimum of 17 games to build the strongest case for why he’s deserving of a sizeable pay raise by the Ravens or another team next offseason or before the 2023 regular season is even out, assuming he stays healthy all year. If Queen can carry over and build upon his momentum coming off his best season, he could certainly prove himself worthy.

His game really took off once he paired with First-Team All-Pro Roquan Smith to form arguably the best tandem in the league and the two of them will have a whole offseason and training camp the get even more in tune with each other on and off the field.

RB J.K. Dobbins

The former 2020 second-rounder has had his breakout delayed by injuries for the past two years. First, it was a torn ACL and other ligaments prior to the start of the 2021 season that cost him all of his second season then his 2022 comeback campaign was littered with setbacks and he required a midseason cleanup procedure before he started looking like his old self again late in the year.

By the time the 2023 season starts, he will be two years removed from the initial injury that robbed him of building off of an outstanding rookie season in which he averaged six yards per carry and set a franchise record for touchdowns by a first-year player. Dobbins has the potential to be one of the top running backs in the league in the last year of his contract. On top of being a punishing and explosive ball carrier, he can also contribute in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield.

DT Justin Madubuike

Much like Queen who was his draft classmate in 2020, the former third-rounder is also coming off a career year in 2022 in which he recorded highs in sacks (5.5), total tackles (42), tackles for loss (eight), batted passes (three), and quarterback hits (nine) per Pro Football Reference.

With six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell no longer in the fold, he will have an even greater opportunity to make a name for himself as an interior pass rusher and every-down difference maker. With the proliferation of salaries for several of the league’s top defensive linemen this offseason, Madubuike could enter the upper echelon of players at his position with another standout season if he can reach or come close to the double-digit sack threshold.

OC Todd Monken

Even though his predecessor didn’t leave under the best of circumstances such as being hired to be a head coach elsewhere, Greg Roman was the orchestrator of the most prolific and dominant rushing attack in league history. Filling the shoes of the person who helped usher in a new era of exciting offense in Baltimore is not a small task but he will be well-equipped with the dynamic personnel to succeed.

According to multiple reports from the Ravens’ football school, Monken has already been very assertive and taking command. Depending on how long it takes for all the new and returning players to get the playbook down and build chemistry, his unit could hit the ground running and become an elite offense by year’s end if not sooner.