JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2022 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Clifton Brown of BaltimoreRavens.com on the Ravens as they prepare to play the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
Question: The Ravens have won four consecutive games to move into first place in the AFC North. What's their mindset entering Sunday?
Answer: They have led by at least 10 points in every game they have played this season. Their record could be better than 7-3, obviously, but in this four-game winning streak they have managed to protect the leads they have gotten. That was a big issue early in the season – losing leads late, not playing well defensively. They have really shored that up. Yes, they do have momentum here getting into the late part of the season.
Q:The Ravens have been one of the NFL's most consistent franchises in the last two decades. Is this what you would consider a "good Ravens team?"
A: They're a good team. Now, their style is a little different. They don't have a dominant defense yet. They feel they can build to that, particularly with the addition of [linebacker] Roquan Smith [who was acquired in a midseason trade with the Chicago Bears]. They believe by the time they get to the postseason, assuming they make it, they could become a team that can win games with this defense. They have a team that is solid defensively, then of course in [quarterback] Lamar Jackson they have a very special player. They have been to the playoffs three of the last four seasons. They didn't make it last season when they were just devastated by injuries – but yes, they view themselves as a playoff team that can play with anyone. The key for them is to be at their best come playoff time.
Q: Jackson was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2019 and is one of the league's most dynamic players. Where is he? Is he playing at the highest level of his career?
A: I think he's as good as he ever has been. The 2019 season he had when he won the MVP unanimously was tremendous and that's the level everyone looks for him to play. He's a better passer now than he was then. He's also better at managing the game, getting them into the right play, changing plays when he has to and realizing clock situations. He's more of a leader. He always has been a leader, but with his track record and experience he's more of a leader than ever. Opposing teams spend so much time trying to figure out how to stop him that it has become even harder for him to dominate games than it was in 2019. He's a very dangerous player. You can hold him down for two or three quarters but there always is a chance one play can change the momentum of the game and that one plan can spark him into taking over a game. His teammates feel that way. They're always willing to throw that extra block, keep a play alive as a wide receiver, because they know there's a chance for magic with him with any play.
Q: Is it too simple to say Jackson is the Ravens' offense?
A: It is too simple because their offensive line is playing very well. That group is solid. They have a line that can block for Lamar. They have a line that can protect him when he throws the ball. Even though their top two running backs – Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins – have been out a lot, they still have a really good running game. Kenyan Drake has done a good job. Justice Hill has done a nice job along with him. The Ravens can still run the way they want to, and I think a lot of credit goes to their offensive line as well as Lamar.
Q: Where are they defensively and what can they be?
A: The last two weeks they have been really good. They only have given up one touchdown the last two weeks. Getting a player like Roquan Smith midseason is really unusual. He's a sideline-to-sideline linebacker and he has had a domino effect. Putting Smith next to Patrick Queen has allowed Queen to play better. Now they have two really fast linebackers who can blitz, cover and defend the run. Their two corners – Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey – are really good. [Former Jaguars] defensive lineman Calais Campbell is still playing a lot younger than he is. They're solid at all three levels. It's a really good defense now and it can get even better as these guys play together.
Q: Is this a team that believes it can go all the way?
A: No question they do. There are a lot of teams in the AFC and the NFL who will make that statement. They're a game in front in the AFC North. The top priority is to win the division. If they win the division, they obviously will have a home game. They would like to get seeded as high as possible. Most people would say the [Kansas City] Chiefs and the [Buffalo] Bills are the two favorites in the AFC. The Ravens feel they can beat them or anybody else if they play their best football. The goal is to win the Super Bowl as far as the players are concerned. I don't think they're going to be the favorite to get there unless they get the No. 1 seed. But we've seen in past years you don't have to be the No. 1 seed to win a Lombardi Trophy.