Pre-Season Preview: Baltimore Ravens

With the start of the 2018 NFL regular season approaching next month, it’s time to start previewing what to expect from each team in the league. This article will provide you with an in-depth analysis of the Baltimore Ravens, previewing what to expect for the regular season.

Last season, Baltimore missed the playoffs despite finishing with the same 9-7 record as the sixth seed Buffalo Bills. Their playoff hopes were spoiled on the last week of the season, due to a heartbreaking game winning touchdown from the arm of Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton right before time expired.

Ozzie Newsome has served the role as General Manager since 2002, but announced he will be stepping down following the end of this upcoming season. This previous draft, Newsome was aiming to make a lasting impact with his final draft in control, and he looked to have accomplished that by selecting QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson is one of the most electrifying college football play-makers of all time, and will be expected to be their future franchise QB.

Last season the offense was very below average, but their defense played very well. Unfortunately, they weren’t dealt the best hand of cards by any means, which resulted in losing many of their key impact players. Some notable impact starters that missed the majority or entire season due to injury included All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda, as well as Jimmy Smith, Brent Urban, Danny Woodhead, Kenneth Dixon, Albert McClellan, and Alex Lewis.

Currently, the Ravens have a very strong roster, and it appears they may perhaps be overlooked due to their inconsistent play of QB Joe Flacco. Between the return of key impact players from injury, as well as new free agent and rookie additions, this team has the potential to surprise many. This team has improved it’s depth at every position, and if they can stay healthy, they ultimately should have an excellent chance to reach the playoffs no matter who is under center.

Projected Starting Offense:

Quarterbacks:

Starter: Joe Flacco

Reserves: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III

Analysis:

Even though current starter Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl in 2012, there still have been many doubters whether or not Flacco is their franchise QB. Flacco is locked into a contract worth a $22 million salary on average per season until 2022, but there is no question Flacco is on the hot seat to perform after a below-average 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season.

It will be difficult for coach Harbaugh to not allow the electrifying first round pick Lamar Jackson a shot with him to at least provide a much needed spark off the bench, especially if Flacco is not performing up to his expectations. Another former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is currently on the roster viewed as a mentor for Jackson, but will be on the bubble to make the 53-man roster.

Running Backs:

Starter: Alex Collins

Reserves: Javorius Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Gus Edwards

Analysis:

Alex Collins was a very pleasant surprise last season, after acquiring him off waivers mid-season once he was waived from the Seattle Seahawks. The former Seattle 5th round pick is just 23 years old, and finished the season with 973 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns, despite becoming the starter mid-season. Javorius “Buck” Allen is a solid reliable reserve option, and Kenneth Dixon is also looking to make an impact coming off his season-ending injury the season prior. Undrafted rookie Gus Edwards will most likely have the best shot to either make the roster or practice squad out of the three undrafted running backs on the roster (De’Lance Turner & Mark Thompson).

Wide Receivers:

Starters: Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, John Brown

Reserves: Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley, Tim White

Analysis:

The biggest upgrade GM Ozzie Newsome has made this off-season was vastly improving their depth at receiver. He addressed the need by adding impact free agents with upside, such as Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown. Crabtree, Snead, and Brown should definitely be an upgrade from last season’s starters Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin.

Wallace and Maclin are viewed as vertical deep threats, which ineffectively didn’t allow them to open up their playbook much due to their limited route trees. They drafted two rookie receivers Jaleel Scott (4th round) and Jordan Lasley (5th round), whom each both have an excellent opportunity to earn snaps if they display a strong showing in preseason. Former first round pick Breshad Perriman will needs to prove himself in order to make the final roster.

Tight Ends:

Starters: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle

Reserves: Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams

Analysis:

Baltimore has always been associated with strong play from the tight end position, but they have been searching for a reliable franchise starter, since the retirement of former All-Pro Todd Heap. Newsome selected Hayden Hurst in the first round, and Mark Andrews in second, and they both have been considered one of the most talented tight ends among the rookie class. Expect both of them to make an impact in their first season, with Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams each competing with them to earn a starting spot, as well as potentially even a roster spot.

Offensive Line:

Starters: Ronnie Stanley, James Hurst, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda, Orlando Brown

Reserves: Nico Siragusa (G), Jermaine Eluemunor (G), Greg Senat (OT), Alex Lewis (OT)

Analysis:

The offense line group is headlined by All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda, and is a group that has improved a ton over the past two seasons. Former 2016 first round pick Ronnie Stanley has been tremendous, and is starting to become one of the top premier young talents at the position in the league. Rookie offensive tackle Orlando Brown has the opportunity to start at right tackle, despite falling to the third round, which may ultimately end up being a tremendous steal for them.

Projected Starting Defense (3-4):

Defensive Line:

Starters: Brent Urban, Michael Pierce, Brandon Williams

Reserves: Chris Wormley (DT), Willie Henry (DT), Carl Davis (DE)

Analysis:

The defensive line group is headlined by the productive defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Last year’s third round pick Chris Wormley is looking to improve upon his rookie season, and make more of an impact competing with nose tackle Michael Pierce. Brent Urban is expected to start at defensive end, with Carl Davis and Willie Henry also in rotation.

Linebackers:

Starters: Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Albert McCellan

Reserves: Matt Judon (OLB), Za’Darius Smith (OLB), Tyus Bowser (OLB), Kenny Young (ILB), Tim Williams (OLB)

Analysis:

The linebacker group is arguably one of the best and deepest of any linebacker groups in the NFL. The group is headlined by veteran All-Pro outside pass rusher Terrell Suggs, and the very talented inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. Kamalei Correa, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser, Matt Judon and rookie fourth-round pick Kenny Young are all among reserves in their rotation competing for a starting job. Each one of them are extremely talented for a reserve, and possess the ability to compete for a starting job on majority of the other 31 teams.

Secondary:

Starters (CB): Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey

Starters (S): Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson

Reserves: Tavon Young (CB), Maurice Canady (CB), Anthony Averett (CB), Anthony Levine (SS), Chuck Clark (FS), DeShon Elliot (FS)

Analysis:

Last season, the secondary improved a ton mainly from the stellar play from starting safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Both of them were added as free agents, Jefferson was signed last off-season, and Weddle the previous one, and two of them combined resulted in a major improvement for their entire defense.

The secondary struggled towards the end of the season, mainly due to their top corner Jimmy Smith tearing his Achilles on December 7th ending his season. Last season they also added cornerbacks Brandon Carr in free agency, and Marlon Humphrey through the draft. Both of them each provided an instant upgrade as well for their secondary. Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, and rookie Anthony Averett will also each look to compete to provide depth at corner.

Top 3 Key Rookies:

Lamar Jackson (QB): Former 2016 Heisman Trophy Winner & 1st round pick. Will look to provide a spark in his rookie season, even if Flacco ends up starting the full season.

Hayden Hurst (TE): 1st round pick and the first tight end selection of the draft. Could easily be the week one starter, and should be the long-term franchise TE.

Jaleel Scott (WR): 4th round pick. Has the perfect combination of height and speed (6’5″ with a 4.56 official 40-time).

Other Notable Rookies:

Mark Andrews (TE): Third-round pick. Possesses all the tools to contribute in his first season. Has the potential to be the best tight end in the class.

Jordan Lasley (WR): Fifth-round pick. Will compete for a roster spot, and can contribute in his rookie season due to his vertical threat ability.

Orlando Brown (OT): Third-round pick. Currently is projected to be the starting right tackle.

Greg Senat (OT): Sixth-round pick. Has tremendous size, and could potentially develop into a starting offensive tackle in the future.

Zach Sieler (DE): Seventh-round pick from a small college Ferris State. At 6’6″ he posted an impressive 4.83 40-time at his pro-day.

Gus Edwards (RB): Undrafted from Rutgers. Could potentially earn a 53-man roster or at least a practice squad spot.

Top 10 Fantasy Pickups (PPR):

  1. Alex Collins (RB #2)
  2. Michael Crabtree (WR #2)
  3. Hayden Hurst (TE #2)
  4. John Brown (WR #4/Flex)
  5. Kenneth Dixon (RB #3/Flex)
  6. Javorious Allen (RB #3/Flex)
  7. Willie Snead (WR #4/Flex)
  8. Joe Flacco (QB #2)
  9. Lamar Jackson (QB #2/3)
  10. Mark Andrews (TE #3)

Follow:

Twitter:

@OffTheGridiron_

LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-traina-02165b114/

Podcast:

Point After W/ Traina

 https://soundcloud.com/user-944012024/the-point-after-w-traina-season-2-ep-1-42618-2018-nfl-draft-special

(Featured Image was taken by Keith Allison: https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: