I've been trying to not let the constant good news of the Ravens mixed with the reasonably quiet off-season get to me. I've tried to look over the roster and not crack a smile. I've talked on the podcast with Matthew Stevens discussing OTA's & training camp while attempting to keep my professionalism. It's over though. I'm done with containing my excitement. Baltimore fans, get ready for the 2015 season with the most exciting roster we may ever see.
The Ravens possess the single greatest lineman in the NFL. Madden Ranks him #1, Grantland puts him #1. PFF has him #1. We don't need more clarity on Marshal Yanda. No more recognition necessary. Baltimore also is riding high with Ricky Wagner already in perfect position to battle for true supremacy as the #1 right tackle in the league. His pass blocking is strong, and with the help of Yanda the right side of the offensive line is loaded. That doesn't mean we aren't spoiled on the opposite side. Eugene Monroe was adequate last year. He was unfortunately rolled up on and injured. But Monroe is coming back and we expect him to truly push himself, solidifying his status with the Ravens. With elite guard Kelechi Osemele lining up right beside him, expect great things. And don't forget we the fans aren't seeing the dreadful Gino Gradkowski snapping the ball anymore. Instead it is Jeremy Zuttah who is a cost/benefit center. That's all Baltimore needs. He isn't a powerhouse Alex Mack or Max Unger. He is a smart center who understands the running game and successfully completes tasks given.
Matt Stevens isn't helping to contain my fandom below professionalism as we discuss camp whenever I can pull him away from his busy days. But hearing the team looks great in personal detail is becoming insurmountable. There is a definite battle for the back-up position amongst Lorenzo Taliaferro and the rookie Javorius 'Buck' Allen. Meanwhile, All-Pro back Justin Forsett is still holding down the starting role no problem so far. There's no doubt that the team is looking FAST. The speed, the agility, and the acceleration is visible. We shall be expecting some serious talent out of the backfield for Baltimore.
The Baltimore Ravens still possess the league's record setting play-off talent Joseph Flacco. The man with the record fastest to 5 passing touchdowns in NFL history. His ability to throw not only the short routes, but the intermediate, and deep ball will be recognized by the league once more. Steve Smith Sr. is still leading the charge for this young wide receiver corps. Nonetheless he is mentoring and training these athletes to become NFL players who can truly make a difference. Kamar Aiken and his 6'2" 213 lb strength is looking tough this camp. Not to mention, Marlon Brown who is 6'4" and 214 lbs is looking to become a huge red zone mismatch for defenders. Also, the shiny new talents the Ravens have drafted with Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams look to make a difference in their rookie year. Perriman and his lightning quick release and absolute burner speed will be stretching the defense. His hands don't seem to be in question as his concentration drops aren't very visible so far. Perriman will be lining up all over the field trying to create mismatches, forcing defenses to adjust late in the pre-snap. Maxx on the other hand, looks to develop and learn the tricks of the trade behind the talented Crockett Gilmore this year.
Just out of the Avengers movies, I get this quote reeling in my brain whenever people talk about their superstar running backs we'll be facing this season. "I have an army. We have a Hulk" And my friends we do. Look at this massive individual. Brandon "Hulk" Williams is ready to snuff the run out. Ready to swallow up the double teams. He is the 4th best run stopping DT/NT behind big names like Ndamakung Suh and Marcell Dareus. At 26 years old, his prime is getting ready to show. Timmy Jernigan is more than ready to take the reigns from the hole left by Haloti Ngata. The big man was far past his prime and Jernigan took care of the gap without a hesitation. The Ravens also still have the best run stopping OLB in Terrell Suggs and in limited reps, Courtney Upshaw is still around to set the edge off the right side. Teams will still try to run on us like last season, and their attempts will be running into a barricade brigade.
Of the top six 3-4 Outside Linebackers last season the Baltimore Ravens produced 3 of them. While Pernell McPhee has left that doesn't mean Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are lacking. This dynamic duo produced 33 sacks in their 18 game season. These Ravens are hunting quarterbacks with charged up speed, and thunderous power. I'm not kidding. Watch Suggs and Dumervil get low and bullrush those tackles. Watch Dumervil lower his right shoulder and swing underneath the right tackle flying by the outside and toss opposing players on their backs. With the upgrades at defensive back these specialists will have even more time to battle the trench war in their favor. Expect this side of the ball to do great things.
In the eight games played by Jimmy Smith he posted a negative rating once. The rating was -0.1. Not a single game is a red bar. Smith will be healthy once again, and his deadly combination of size and spped will once more blanket even the best wide receivers the league has to offer. Lardarius Webb is back on the training camp field looking to battle it out with Rashaan Melvin, whom came out of nowhere to prove his talents are of use. Ozzie also signed the most under the radar cornerback of the year with Kyle Arrington and his slot corner ability. This signing fixed the blatant "thorn in the lion's paw" as Corey Graham was dutifully missed. Now there is an outright battle for cornerback depth with Jimmy, Lardarius, Rashaan, Kyle, and Asa Jackson pushing hard for time. Baltimore now boasts enough CB depth to be worried which will be benched instead of who will be on the field. Needless to say, it's a good problem to have. At safety, Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis are already shining in camp with their very give and take skillsets complementing their style of play. The secondary is striving to become another powerhouse cog in the Ravens defensive machine. The unit looks to restore the true meaning of the term "Ravens defense", which NFL fans have come to associate with the team's shutdown defenses of the past.
The Ravens kicking unit is capable of single-legedly winning a football game. Justin Tucker kicked this team to a victory personally by legging 5 field goals through the uprights. Detriot fans are not appreciative when reminded of this fact. Baltimore's punting unit with a re-signed Sam Koch expects to once more lead the league in Net Yards.
The Ravens are a full roster from top to bottom. No definite holes on either side of the ball. Teams game planning against this squad will have many long-nights and headaches. The biggest factor against the Ravens will truly be keeping health a priority and pushing through a tough regular season schedule that includes matchups against the always-difficult NFC West.