In the pay-for-service portion of ESPN, NFL analyst Mel Kiper breaks down the AFC North based on the team's spring and summer acquisitions. ESPN Insider has the story but unless you already or plan to fork over you hard-earned bucks for the right to read this, you will have to rely on the portions we post here on Baltimore Beatdown.
Kiper looks at the draft, free agency, what team's lost and what holes remain in his far from humble opinion. For the Baltimore Ravens, here is what he has to say:
Help added: The bulk of the additions the Ravens made this offseason came via the draft. Courtney Upshaw fell into the second round and was a steal at No. 35. He is limited as a pass-rusher, but that's not really his main role. He should start immediately. Bernard Pierce can help early behind Ray Rice, and it wouldn't surprise me if Kelechi Osemele is starting at guard before long. He played tackle in college, but I've always said he'd be better inside; I think the Ravens feel the same way.
A quiet addition who shouldn't be overlooked is Vonta Leach at fullback. Baltimore's running success starts up front, but Leach is a seek-and-destroy fullback when it comes to targeting linebackers. With Leach's help, Rice should be able to break off some bigger runs this season.
(Click on the 'Jump' to read more, including what Kiper thinks what questions remain and what the Ravens should be targeting in the 2013 NFL Draft)
Questions that remain: There has been something of a misconception regarding the Baltimore pass rush. People talk glowingly about the Ravens and their ability to get to the quarterback, as if the big names and the system make it an inevitability, but it's actually been a weakness in recent years. In 2006, the Ravens got to opposing quarterbacks for a sack, not merely a hit, an incredible 10.2 percent of the time -- an absurdly high rate. But the Ravens hadn't even cracked the top 10 in sack percentage until last season. That rate came because of the brilliant work ofTerrell Suggs. With Suggs trying to work his way back from an Achilles injury, the pass rush is back in focus. Dean Pees has taken over for Chuck Pagano at defensive coordinator, and he has work on his hands. Can Upshaw show pass-rush skills early in his career? Hard to say. He is really a replacement for Jarret Johnson -- an edge-sealer in the 3-4. Can Paul Kruger continue to improve as a pass-rusher? Can Sergio Kindle finally emerge and become the player the Ravens believed they were drafting in 2010?
The Ravens' secondary can be very good, and the offense should be improved if the offensive line jells. Ray Lewis will be Ray Lewis. But they may have to manufacture the pass rush this year unless someone surprises.
Next year's help now: Ricky Wagner, LT, Wisconsin
The Ravens get their left tackle of the future from an offensive lineman breeding ground.