The Baltimore Ravens are unquestionably the best team in the NFL this season. They marched to a 14-2 regular-season record, an AFC North title, the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That is due in large part to second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, only one year removed from taking over for incumbent Joe Flacco.
But there are 53 men on a football team, and if you ask Jackson, he’ll point to someone else as being the heart of the Ravens. Let’s take a closer look at who exactly that is.
Lamar Jackson’s breakout 2019 season
There’s no question who the Ravens’ most important player has been. Jackson has been responsible for so much of the Ravens’ offensive production, it’s absurd. Check out his numbers from this banner 2019 season:
- 15 games played
- 13-2 win-loss record
- Completed 66.1% of his passes
- 3,127 passing yards
- 36 passing touchdowns
- Six interceptions
- 1,206 rushing yards
- Seven rushing touchdowns
With a stat line like that, it’s no surprise voters tagged Lamar Jackson as an AFC representative in the Pro Bowl. He’s also changed the way teams have to defend the Ravens. The offense is customized to his skill set, and it’s been working. No one’s had an answer for them yet. Based on his numbers and the results, it’s hard to argue that statistically speaking, Jackson was the most critical Raven. He’ll probably win the MVP.
But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Heading into this season, the Ravens dealt with a lot of losses from their roster and had to rebound from them.
The key veterans the Ravens lost this offseason
It’s easy to sit back in hindsight and say the Ravens were clearly going to be this good all along. But that’s not true. There were a lot of questions about this Ravens team heading into this season. They lost several key veterans who had been a huge part of the franchise in the past.
- Baltimore traded quarterback Joe Flacco to Denver. Flacco was the architect of the team’s 2013 Super Bowl win.
- Terrell Suggs was one of the best defensive players in franchise history, and he departed for Arizona.
- Eric Weddle also provided veteran leadership at safety, but he signed with the Rams in free agency.
The Ravens needed more than just Lamar Jackson to be successful this season. They needed a stabilizing presence in the locker room. A veteran they added in the offseason provided exactly that.
Who Lamar Jackson says is the ‘heart’ of the Ravens
With so many important players leaving before the season and with a young quarterback under center, veteran leadership was important for this Baltimore team heading into 2019. They’ve received plenty of that from one of Jackson’s backfield mates.
According to Jackson, the Ravens’ heart is none other than running back Mark Ingram:
“Though quarterback Lamar Jackson has received much of the credit for Baltimore’s success this season … Ingram is the unquestioned leader in the locker room. ‘He’s the heart of the team,’ Jackson declared. ‘He brings the groove, the excitement.’”
Jackson won’t be alone at the Pro Bowl, as Ingram was also selected. It’s quite an honor for the 30-year-old veteran. Ingram’s not only playing at an age at which most running backs are either retired or close to it. He’s playing at a high level. Ingram is one of the hardest running backs to tackle in the NFL.
It’s unclear how far the Ravens will go in the playoffs. It all depends on the teams’ ability to protect Jackson. But Ingram has also played a critical role in the team’s success so far and will play a big role in their success going forward. If Ingram can continue to produce for the team while Jackson does what he does, they may continue their unstoppable run.