BALTIMORE (WJZ) — We are exactly 14 days away from the start of the 2019 NFL regular season.
This year will be a year of firsts for the Ravens. For the first time in a decade, Joe Flacco will not be the starting quarterback, and for the first time in 13 years, Terrell Suggs will not be a member of the Ravens defense.
The Ravens will kick off their regular season Sept. 8, in Miami, against the Dolphins. Ahead of the Ravens’ first regular-season game, WJZ.com sat down and talked with Sports Director Mark Viviano about the upcoming year.
Question: What are the Ravens going to look like this year?
Mark Viviano: They look younger, they look faster, both on offense and defense. That’s by design. They are the Ravens, trying to be, what they consider, cutting-edge. It’s more of a speed game than it’s ever been. They’ve certainly loaded up with speed on offense around a fast quarterback who can run and pass.
Question: What are the Ravens going to look like offensively this year?
Mark Viviano: The offense remains to be seen. They really haven’t unveiled much of it. They’ve been really secretive, protective of not showing too much, either in training camp or preseason games.
As we speak, Marquise Brown hasn’t really participated. He could be a significant factor in terms of speed.
Mark Ingram is a strong addition. The team used a lot of running backs last year. Gus Edwards, an undrafted guy, sort of ended up being their go-to just as a play-off of Lamar’s style. Edwards was a completely different style. Ingram brings a lot more true running back, and true ability to receive the ball out of the backfield, which I think you’re going to see a lot of.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Andrews leads the team in catches. I think he is going to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL and that this will be a breakout year for him. Jackson has already shown he’s very comfortable looking for and throwing to Andrews.
The difference, to sum up, it is going to be a younger, faster team.
Question: How has Lamar Jackson looked in training camp?
Mark Viviano: He’s been more consistent with his throwing motion, his accuracy. There are still times where he throws a ball in practice that gets intercepted and you could say, ‘Well, that probably wasn’t a good pass.’ But there have been fewer of those this year than in his rookie year. He clearly dedicated most of his offseason to his throwing motion and accuracy. He’s clearly more confident in what he’s doing and running the position. He was thrown into it pretty hastily last year when Joe Flacco got hurt and played well enough to keep the job, even when Flacco was healthy. He was able to help the offense, without knowing the whole playbook. He didn’t have that many reps, really. I think there’s a noted improvement in him physically. He’s larger, he put on about seven lbs. of muscle. So, until they start playing real games, we won’t really know. What we’ve seen so far, you’d have to say is positive.
Question: What are the Ravens going to look like defensively this year?
Defensively, you know, I think it’s going to be more of a challenge for them, giving some of the leadership that they’ve lost. They’ve added some pretty strong fill-ins — notably, Earl Thomas — given his experience, his ability. He’s sort of a one-for-one trade for Suggs. Even though he’s never been a Raven before, he’s one of the best defensive players in the league.
I think the big question on defense is the absence of C.J. Mosely, given he was the signal-caller. A much younger, less experienced, Patrick Onwuasor is sort of going to be taking that spot. I think there could be a dropoff on defense because they were number one last year. If they dropoff and are still in the top-10, that’s still pretty good.
Question: Overall, how do you see the Ravens doing this year? Do you see them making the playoffs, or does it remain to be seen?
Mark Viviano: The offense is going to tell us. I would say, my feeling about this team, is that they are a nine or 10 win team. I could see them winning more, but not less. I think defensively, even though they might drop off a bit, they are still going to be good enough to win nine or 10 games. I can’t see them winning less than that. Injuries could certainly lead to that happening. When I look at the rest of the competition, Cleveland looks like a good team, Pittsburgh looks like a good team, but I think the Ravens are a good enough team to make the playoffs. Who knows if they might contend for another division title. I think nine or 10 wins is the baseline. That’s just my feeling about that.