In less than one week, the Ravens will take the field against Atlanta for their first preseason game. In just over a month, the regular season begins. We've seen about two weeks of training camp so far and can try to predict where things are going. Some other very insightful posts have made some bold predictions about the offense, defense, and individual players. In this one, I'll try to pin down some specific numbers for the Ravens' performance in the 2012 season.
Ray Rice falls short of 2000 all-purpose yards -- but not by much.
The past: Rice had 2068 yards in 2011 -- 1364 rushing (291 carries) and 704 receiving (76 catches). The first thing to note about those stats is how balanced they are: more than a third of Rice's yardage came on receiving. The only other elite RB with that amount of catching was Arian Foster, and he was doing it on a team that had basically no other passing game when its top QBs and WR all went out injured. The second thing to note is that it was a relatively quiet season for Rice, impressive as those numbers are. In 2011, he rushed for over 25 yards just 6 times; in 2010, that number was 11.
This year: Two things are different: the O-line and the receiver corps. The O-line has taken a step back. It will definitely be functional -- Ozzie's players always are -- but it will take some time to get back to last year's level as the team tries to put all the right pieces in place. On the other hand, the WRs are much better this year than last year. That means that with more targets, Rice should see fewer receiving yards as others get the ball. At the same time, the added threats should keep defenses honest and open up more running room; this probably washes out with the O-line trouble. Overall: expect similar rushing numbers, possibly with some more explosive ones once he gets going, but a dip in receiving yards. I'd predict about 1300 rushing yards with about 550 receiving, for 1850(ish) total.
Joe Flacco cracks 3700 yards -- but not 4000
The past: History is on my side for this prediction: Flacco's passing numbers have been amazingly consistent for the past three seasons, with 3613 total yards in 2009, 3622 in 2010, and 3610 in 2011.
This year: More capable receiver corps, more chemistry with his TEs, plus more freedom to audible should translate into more yardage, especially if Joe has really improved the way his training camp is looking so far. That said, it's going to be tough to pass 4000 as long as Cam Cameron remains the Offensive Coordinator. No matter how good Flacco's passes are, he'll have to save plenty of touches for Ray Rice, which should put some limit on how much he'll be able to toss it around. Still, expect to see a step forward as Flacco shows off improved football smarts and his shiny new tools at WR.
Flacco loses 6 fumbles
The past: If I'm Jim Caldwell, this is a big area of concern. Flacco only lost 2 fumbles in 2008 and the same in 2009. He took a step backward in 2010 with 4 fumbles lost, and increased to 6 in 2011.
This year: This stat has more than a little to do with the quality of the O-line. Flacco's fumbles lost have gone up as the line has declined (at LT, for instance, the progression was Gaither, Gaither, Oher, McKinnie -- not saying Oher is better than McKinnie, just demonstrating the type of player we have at LT and how confident we seem to be in our line by doing that). There are reasons to be hopeful this year: more talented receivers means Flacco should be able to get off more passes instead of being forced into "coverage sacks" that provide fumble opportunities, and more development may mean that he should know when to tuck it and go down gracefully instead of risking a strip. But those improvements may be offset by inconsistent play at the line, and I'm not sure how much we can rely on "development" given Flacco's past trending. I call it a wash overall, and Flacco sticks at a disappointing 6 fumbles lost.
That's my forecast for a few numbers in the 2012 season. I've tried to be as fair and objective as possible; if I'm right, about half of you should think each number is too low, and half should think it's too high. So, let me know in the comments: what do you think the Ravens will do this year in terms of these stats, or any others? (Or, what other stats would you like to see analyzed before we start the season? If it seems like people enjoy this analysis, I've got a few stats that I'll forecast for the defense and special teams.)