Season Preview: Baltimore Ravens

As usual, the Ravens won on the field in 2014, winning 10 games and earning a wild card playoff spot. Off the field, things were different and owner Steve Bisciotti was quoted as saying that 2014 was his “worst year as an owner”. During the off-season, the Ravens lost a number of key players including Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Torrey Smith, so it will be interesting to see how the Ravens respond to the roster turnover. Quarterback At the most important position on a team, the Ravens have a winner in Joe Flacco. Year after year, he shows his talent by coming up strong in big games. Last year, Flacco threw for 3996 yards and 27 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. Behind Flacco is veteran Matt Schaub, whose game has fallen off the last few seasons. If he can regain the form he had while being the starter in Houston, the Ravens will have a winning backup at the position. Running Back Even with the loss of Ray Rice, the running game was a big part of the Ravens offense in 2014. Justin Forsett had a career year running for 1266 yards. It will be interesting to see how the running backs are utilized this year. New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman ran the ball only 35% of the time while in Chicago last year. That won’t sit well in Baltimore. The main backup to Forsett should be rookie fourth round draft choice Javorius Allen, who has a good combination of size, speed, and moves. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends When Trestman was in Chicago, he utilized big receivers. In Baltimore, the go-to guy is veteran Steve Smith, who isn’t exactly big. Smith, who recently announced that this would be his last season, is an excellent route runner with very good run-after-catch skills. The big receiver should be first round draft choice Breshad Perriman from Central Florida. Perriman is a Dez Bryant clone as far as size, speed, and style of play. Perriman has missed some time in camp with an injury but should get up to speed quickly. The backups are all the size/speed types Trestman likes. Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Butler all fit the profile. Rookie Darren Waller is raw coming from the Georgia Tech offense, but he has the physical traits to become very good after a period of development. At present, the starting tight end is second year man Crockett Gillmore, but come opening day, don’t be surprised if rookie Maxx Williams is the starter. I felt Williams was the best tight end in the draft. Fellow rookie Nick Boyle should be the blocking tight end. Offensive Line The Ravens traditionally get strong play form their offensive line, and that should continue this year. The tackles will be Eugene Monroe and Rick Wagner. Wagner is becoming one of the better right tackles in the league. At guard, the starters will be Kelechi Osemele and Marshall Yanda. Jeremy Zuttah replaces Gino Gradkowski as the starter at center. Jah Reid, John Urschel, and James Hurst provide excellent depth. Defensive Line With Ngata gone, the defensive line should be a bit more athletic than we have seen in the past in Baltimore. Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams both move very well for their size. While Chris Canty is the valuable vet in the group. If Brent Urban can stay healthy, he will be another athletic defensive end, as will Lawrence Guy. Rookie Carl Davis could be a key. Davis looked like a first round pick at the Senior Bowl, but when scouts went back and looked at his Iowa tape, they saw a lot of inconsistency. Still, Davis has the natural traits to be a top player at any of the three defensive line positions. Linebacker The Ravens linebacker corps is one of the better groups in the league. Inside, they have C.J. Mosely and Daryl Smith, who work very well together. Mosely could be a future All Pro. Arthur Brown and Albert McClellan provide the depth. Outside, Terrell Suggs still plays very well in his 13th season. Opposite him is Courtney Upshaw, who was a teammate of Mosley at Alabama. When the Ravens go to their nickel package, Elvis Dumervil comes in. Dumervil is one of the better pass rushers in the league. Rookie Za’Darius Smith from Kentucky may be able to fill the role departed Pernell McPhee had as a combination linebacker/defensive lineman. Secondary Corner Jimmy Smith is easily the best player in the Ravens secondary. The question is who will play opposite Smith. On paper, it’s Ladarius Webb, but he has struggled lately. That said, the starter could be free agent Kyle Arrington, who came over from New England or Rashaan Melvin, who played well when he got the opportunity last year. At safety, Matt Elam was lost for the season with an injury early in camp, but he may not have started if healthy. Will Hill is the strong safety, while free agent Kendrick Lewis will line up at free. Lewis has great anticipation and ball skills. Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick will be the backups. Outlook The AFC North is one of the tougher divisions in the league. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore are all pretty much evenly matched. Last year, all three made the playoffs, but I can’t see that happening this year. Between playing each other and having to play the tough NFC West, it will be awfully hard for three teams to get in the playoffs. That said, I still think the Ravens have too much talent not to be a playoff club. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Upcoming Games

Oct 29th, 8:20 PM

Atlanta +1.5 -110

Carolina -1.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Pittsburgh +3.5 -110

Baltimore -3.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Minnesota +6 -110

Green Bay -6 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

NY Jets +19.5 -110

Kansas City -19.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Indianapolis -2.5 +105

Detroit +2.5 +105

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Tennessee -5.5 -110

Cincinnati +5.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Las Vegas +2.5 -110

Cleveland -2.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

New England +4 -110

Buffalo -4 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

LA Rams -3.5 -110

Miami +3.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 4:05 PM

LA Chargers -3 +100

Denver +3 +100

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Nov 1st, 4:25 PM

San Francisco +3 -105

Seattle -3 -105

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Nov 1st, 4:25 PM

New Orleans -4.5 -110

Chicago +4.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 8:20 PM

Dallas +9 -110

Philadelphia -9 -110

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Nov 2nd, 8:15 PM

Tampa Bay -12.5 -110

NY Giants +12.5 -110

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Nov 5th, 8:20 PM

Green Bay 0 -110

San Francisco 0 -110

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