The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl Champions, so how do you improve upon that? The team proved that while it takes a solid effort over the course of the regular season, it's the hot team in the playoffs that will ultimately hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The 2012 version of the Ravens started off like gangbusters, compiling a 9-2 record before losing three straight games in disappointing and frustrating fashion. They regrouped to limp into the playoffs, but certainly not in the discussion of representing the AFC in Super Bowl XLVII.
Getting their full starting defense together on the field for the first time made a huge difference as the Ravens shocked the football world on their way to the title. It was far from easy, as the defense, usually ranked among the top units in the league, were merely average in the regular season.
To make things more gloomy, the defense lost six starters from the Super Bowl winning team, prompting many fans to scream from their rooftops, wondering what was going on in the team's brain-trust's heads. Proving that he is a lot smarter than both us fans as well as the rest of the league, GM Ozzie Newsome began to piece together the 2013 version with free agent acquisitions that seemed to placate the masses.
This past weekend, he added key pieces in the early rounds of the NFL Draft and the word is that he is not quite finished. While the 2012 squad had two of the best in NFL history at their positions as well as some young and older veterans, the new version has a mix leaning more toward youth but with solid veterans in key positions.
The newer look Ravens may actually be an improvement over last year's in that there are now more players in the early or prime of their careers. The current squad is certainly younger and faster than the previous one, and based on the draft,they might be as, if not even more physical.
The big question will be chemistry. Football is the ultimate team game and how well these players get to know each other, their tendencies and how they mesh will determine if these additions can lead the team back to the Promised Land that is so hard to do in today's NFL.
What we do know is that this team has a chip on its shoulder from not being the favorite to repeat and loves to play with their collective backs to the wall.
The 2013 Ravens. New? Definitely. Improved. We shall see.