Re-this, re-that. The Baltimore Ravens plan to outperform their 10-win-six-loss campaign.
This offseason, fans can dive headfirst into a refreshing pool of unwavering hope, a wholehearted belief that the Ravens brass will focus on one, surefire thing, under one, surefire control: building the 53-man roster around the toughness of their upcoming schedule.
Out of the Ravens' 13 opponents in 2015, nine of them finished last year with an 8-8 record, or better. With that being said, the teams that did not float above .500 – Jaguars (3-13), Raiders (3-13), Rams (6-10), and Browns (7-9) – have diligently revamped their teams to, ahem, appear fashionably … competitive.
Notable Appetizers Before We Dig In:
The Browns acquired former Packers cornerback Tramon Williams and wide receiver Brian Hartline (MIA).
The Raiders picked up strong safety Nate Allen (PHI) and bolstered their backfield by signing Trent Richardson (IND) and Roy Helu (WAS). They also hauled in outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (SEA), who was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Jaguars are silently on the prowl, bringing on board versatile defensive tackle Jared Odrick (MIA) and tight end Julius Thomas (DEN).
By now you know that I love the Rams defense (not more than ours)! Fresh arrivals defensive tackle Nick Fairley (DET) and linebacker Akeem Ayers (NE) could push St. Louis to the top of the difficult NFC West in 2015.
The Ravens – the thrift shop-loving Ravens – are experts when dealing with free agency. The window shoppers, "just do free agency smarter than almost everyone else," according to Peter King of MMQB.
Offensive coordinator and visionary Marc Trestman wants to keep the zone-blocking system in place. But of course Trestman will make the necessary adjustments to keep opposing defenses guessing.
What adjustments will be made with Bernard Pierce out of the mix? As often as we should credit the offensive line for opening the holes for Forsett last season, the back averaged 5.4 yards on 235 carries mostly because of his magical ability to escape the collapsing towers.
His climb to 1,266 total rushing yards was truly a fusion of his creativity and patience, squeezing between tight gaps on a whim. Frequently, Forsett left viewers’ mouths open wider than the holes he slipped through. Don’t mean to steal the offensive line’s thunder, but it will be interesting to see how Trestman deploys Forsett in his slightly adjusted offensive schemes.
On a positive note, Trestman has a stronger batch of ballcarriers to deploy in executing his style of play (Lorenzo Taliaferro, Kyle Juszczyk, Fitzgerald Touissant), as opposed to the players who sat behind Forte in Chi-town.
Six of the 13 defenses Baltimore will face this year finished in the Top-16 against the run in 2014; Denver, Seattle, Pittsburgh and San Francisco earned Top-10 honors. The Ravens front office will look to refurbish their offensive line and acquire athletic wide receivers built for run-blocking.
Even with workhorse Matt Forte in the backfield, the 2014 Bears rushing attack ranked 27th in the league, averaging 90.1 yards-per-game. Their ground game was mauled by seven elite run defenses spotted in the Top-16 by their campaign's end.
Although former OC Gary Kubiak left the team in a healthy condition (ranked eighth in the league), Trestman’s grit will be tested this winter, when running the ball becomes more about clock management and execution than anything else. Look for the Ravens to drag in monster-sized wideouts soon.
While health of the offensive line serves as a primary concern, Will Rackley and Jah Reid are still unsigned by the Ravens. Not surprised.
Sure, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata’s contract was not restructured (dealt to Detroit for two mid-round picks). The Ravens cleared some extra cap space yesterday by restructuring cornerback Lardarius Webb’s contract. He will earn $6 million this year, not the $8.5 he had originally planned on making.
Should Joe Flacco’s contract be restructured?
Our secondary must step up to bring down the AFC's team to beat -- the New England Patriots. Please don't bust, Kendrick Lewis. The tackling-machine isn't afraid to hit and get physical, which is something our players left at home in 2014. As much as it still Bernard-Pierces-my-heart typing this out, it's a good reminder: we blew TWO 14-point leads against the Super Bowl Champions in the AFC Divisional Championship Game this past January. But as the cliché goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, or something like that.
Thanks, Friedrich Nietzsche, Kelly Clarkson.