The Baltimore Ravens’ hopes for a successful 2021 campaign were shattered the moment Lamar Jackson went down with an injury. After starting the season 8-3, the team lost its last six games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Jackson missed the last four games of the season, which was a determinant for the Ravens down the stretch. If he was healthy, things would probably have gone in a different direction.
As much as the Ravens missed their star quarterback, Jackson isn’t the true X-factor in Baltimore. There is another player who missed a handful of games last year who could have made a big difference in 2021. A quality quarterback deserves quality receivers, and Jackson will have a young stud at his disposal who should be hungry for a full season. Because of that, second-year wide receiver Rashod Bateman could be an X-factor for the Ravens in 2022.
With all that in mind, here’s why the Baltimore Ravens’ X-factor in the 2022 NFL season is Rashod Bateman and not Lamar Jackson.
Ravens’ X-Factor: Rashod Bateman
The NFL world was robbed of the Lamar Jackson-Rashod Bateman duo last season. The rookie missed the first five games of the season, while Jackson was sidelined for the last four. They only started two games together in 2021. Because of that, fans did not have the chance to see what the duo can accomplish when sharing the field.
As a rookie, Bateman registered 46 catches for 515 yards, an impressive 11.2 yards per reception on average. He had one touchdown on the year, though it wasn’t Jackson who delivered the pass.
Although those numbers don’t generate a spotlight, there is a reason the Ravens invested a first-round pick in Bateman. In his last full college season for Minnesota, the wideout had 60 receptions for 1,219 yards, averaging 20.3 yards per catch. He also scored 11 touchdowns.
In 2022, things only project to get better. The second-year player is now the clear-cut WR1 in Baltimore after the Ravens traded away Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals. Brown caught 91 receptions for 1,008 yards and six scores last year, while receiving 23% of the team’s target share. With Brown no longer in the picture, opportunities will open up for Bateman, though Mark Andrews will still likely be the team’s leading receiver.
Should both Bateman and Jackson be fully healthy in 2022, they could look to quickly develop the rapport they were robbed of building last year, and that is something that can be very special for the Ravens. Bateman will likely battle Andrews for the team lead in targets, catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns.
With Jackson returning from injury, it might mean that head coach John Harbaugh will limit some of the quarterback’s running. Keeping Jackson on the field for the full 17-game slate will be among the Ravens’ top priorities, and that could result in a slightly less run-oriented game plan. While Jackson is at his best when using his feet to make big plays, the Ravens may feel a bit more comfortable if Jackson looks to air it out a bit more, in order to reduce the chance of taking big hits. Bateman would benefit if the Ravens opt to throw a bit more in 2022, as he figures to be on the field plenty throughout the season.
Everything points towards a big year for Bateman in 2022, and he’ll be eager to live up to his first-round pedigree. We know, for the most part, what to expect from Jackson, but if Bateman can take a leap in 2022, he could prove to be the make-or-break factor in Baltimore.