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John Harbaugh has been a model of consistent winning even since he came to Baltimore in 2008.  Until last season, he had never endured a losing season.  A 5-11 record would certainly constitute as a real surprise to Ravens fans and fans around the NFL.  The Ravens struggled with injuries to Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Terrell Suggs among others.  Was last season an aberration, or a harbinger of things to come? Here’s a closer look into the Ravens.

OFFENSE

Strongest Position/Area: Offensive Line.  Despite injuries the offensive line did relatively well last season.  Flacco was only sacked 16 times.  Jeremy Zuttah looks fully healthy.  Marshal Yanda might be the best right guard in football.  Ricky Wagner is good at right tackle.  There is some concern on the left side with the loss of Kelechi Osemele and Ronnie Stanley coming in as a rookie, but Stanley should be an upgrade over Eugene Monroe and John Urschel has experience from playing last season.  This unit I think will get back to being what it has been in previous years.

Weakest Position/Area: Skill Positions/Age: On paper, Baltimore’s backs and receivers look pretty good, but I have a lot of questions.  One, can Steve Smith survive an ACL injury and be effective at age 37?  Can first-round pick Breshad Perriman, whom Ravens personnel have high hopes for, recover from knee issues and see the field? Will Mike Wallace get back to being the threat he once was? Can the group of talented tight ends step their game another notch? Does Justin Forsett and Joe Flacco return to 2014 form?  Those are several questions that MUST be answered.  If those question marks are scratched off, Baltimore will be a “trendy” pick to get far.  As far as age goes, seven of their projected starters will be 30 years or older with Smith and Ben Watson over 35.  The Ravens are an aging team, and their time to produce might have to be NOW!

DEFENSE

Strongest Position/Area: Inside Linebacker.  C.J. Mosley is a stud!  The knock on Alabama linebackers in recent years was: Yeah, they can stuff the running game, but what else can they do?  Mosley has dispelled that theory with a combined 250 tackles, seven sacks, and two interceptions so far in his first two seasons.  The onus will be on him to be even better this season now that Daryl Smith has moved on.  I have full confidence that Mosley will keep chugging along because he is a really good football player.  I think the competition to start alongside Mosley will be interesting as well with Arthur Brown and Zach Orr.  Both guys I feel can be very productive in this defense.

Weakest Position/Area: Most everywhere else.  As I said about the offense, the starting 11 looks good on paper but there are several question marks.  What do an aging Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have to offer coming off major surgeries? How does Eric Weddle fit? If Lardarius Webb is plugged in at safety, who plays opposite Jimmy Smith? Who are the play-makers of this unit?  If Suggs and Dumervil struggle, who steps in? Defensive coordinator Dean Pees and his staff have their work cut out for them.

Draft Report: General Manager Ozzie Newsome decided not to draft the talented yet troubled Laremy Tunsil at #3 and drafting Ronnie Stanley instead.   Stanley is immensely talented and probably won’t be half the headache Tunsil might be.  Where I think Newsome might get his best “bang for the buck” are his second and third-round picks in Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kaufusi.  Correa has potential as a rusher in the Ravens 3-4 scheme, but needs seasoning at the position. Kaufusi is a high-effort player who is really long at 6’6 and can rush the quarterback.  These two guys have a good situation as they can learn from guys like Suggs.  Tavon Young, a fourth-round pick can provide depth at cornerback.  Newsome really attacked defensive depth in this draft, smart move.

Spotlight Player: Joe Flacco.  Flacco has a Super Bowl title to his credit, but it still feels as if he has to prove something.  We were surprised when he went in the first round in 2008, but once we saw his arm talent on display we could understand why he was selected there.  For all the talent though, he has never had a 4,000 yard season, nor has thrown for 30 touchdowns.  Interesting for a guy so talented.  Now, I will admit he does not have the talent that some of the other quarterbacks have but I feel if Baltimore is going to get back to postseason play Flacco will have to carry the team.  If the guys around him stay healthy, they fit what Flacco likes to do and that is throw the ball downfield.  It’s a big year for Joe and the Ravens.

Up Next: Pittsburgh Steelers

 

 

 

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