With the offseason in full swing as OTAs wrap up and teams begin to organize their depth charts and rosters, the talk begins of who is the best team and who has the best roster. Most teams try and make the case for themselves saying that their depth is better than another team or that they have higher caliber starters. However, I'm here to make the definitive case for the Baltimore Ravens.
We've covered earlier that Pro Football Focus ranks the Ravens as the third best team in the league. With discussion that players like Marshall Yanda, Terrell Suggs and Brandon Williams are all Pro Bowl caliber players on a team stacked with talent at every position. Yet, the bigger question marks around the team still surround the secondary, with good reason.
The Ravens were one of the most injured teams in the NFL in 2014. Unlike most other teams where injuries were spread around to various positions and to different portions of the depth chart, the Ravens seemed to have a gypsy curse on their secondary. With 18 total players on injured reserve, the Ravens ranked as the third highest injured team in the NFL But with 6 players from the secondary alone, it meant that the Ravens were unable to have even their third string on the field for most games.
Even with a severely damaged secondary, the Ravens were just a few plays away from being in the AFC Championship game. While no one can really say how the Ravens would have done in that game against the Indianapolis Colts, the way that the New England Patriots dispatched them should mean that the Ravens would have won as well. A large portion of the Ravens' success throughout the year and including the playoffs can be attributed to an offense that was efficient and capable of putting up points against even the best of teams.
So as the Ravens get to a fresh start this season, it should mean that a defense that held the Ravens back last season will be returning at full health. Getting back a player like cornerback Jimmy Smith is no small feat either, as Smith was on track to a Pro Bowl year before his foot injury pushed him to injured reserve. Let's also not forget about often-injured cornerback Lardarius Webb, who was still battling some of the rust from his previous knee injury before finally hitting 100% at the end of the season. When you add all of that together, you get a secondary that should return back to it's 2013 pass defense ranking of 12th in the league; a jump up from 23rd in 2014.
With the secondary now at full strength, the Ravens have been able to focus on it's offensive weaknesses. By adding in their top two draft picks for 2015 on presumed offensive starters in wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams, the Ravens have added more weapons for quarterback Joe Flacco. When combined with a wide receiver group that has steadily improved and has looked absolutely brilliant early this offseason, it should give fans a huge boost of confidence and be major pluses for the roster debate.
Most analysts use quarterback Joe Flacco as an overall negative on the Ravens' roster rankings. However, with his best season as a pro in 2014, a more stable set of weapons, and an offseason that is seeing him pick up exactly where he left off in 2014; Joe Flacco is looking to be a major plus for this Ravens' roster. Analysts have also mentioned the loss of Haloti Ngata as another issue that the Ravens will have to get over, yet the Ravens have proven players in Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan ready to take over some of the slack from the departure of Haloti Ngata, with both players looking like they will be the next Ravens' star players.
Add these pluses into a roster that has had little turnover from 2014 yet achieved so much, and you should have a greatly improved overall roster in 2015. With no major weaknesses at any position and many positive things going for the Ravens, they should represent the best roster in the NFL bar-none. It will be interesting to see exactly how the Ravens will prove it each week as they fight other teams for a spot in the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl.