The Baltimore Ravens head into 2016 with key battles across the entire roster. After coming off a 5-11 season in 2015, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is looking for players with extra motivation and is looking for players who won't take a starting position for granted. As the 2016 regular season approaches, what do we have to look out for?
Most Improved Group: Tie - Wide Receivers and Secondary
Even when Steve Smith Sr. was healthy, the Ravens receivers were nothing to brag about last year. The Ravens were so desperate for speed that they brought in Chris Givens via trade from the then St. Louis Rams in the middle of the 2015 season, a largely unproven receiver. Now, the Ravens have proven playmaking receivers like Mike Wallace. Smith Sr. will be back and Breshad Perriman will finally be ready to play. Kamar Aiken, who stepped up big time last year, may even be relegated to a backup role.
The secondary started off 2015 in an incredibly porous way. But in the second half of the year, they turned it around and became one of the top groups in the NFL. That didn't stop the front office from adding more studs to the secondary. Eric Weddle might be the best signing of any team this offseason. Weddle solidifies the back end of the defense, providing playmaking ability the Ravens were lacking. Plus, the Ravens also added Jerraud Powers from Arizona. Powers was a starting corner on the Cardinals, who had one of the best defenses in the league last year. The team also added Tavon Young in the draft, all indications point to the coaching staff really liking Young.
Most Intriguing Position Group: Linebackers
The Ravens will get Terrell Suggs back, hopefully by training camp, following his Achilles' tear. Elvis Dumervil said this week he will be back for training camp following a foot procedure. While the Ravens get their star edge rushers back, both of them are aging. As a result. Ozzie Newsome selected two outside linebackers in the draft, second round pick Kamalei Correa and fifth-round pick Matt Judon. Both Correa and Judon are extremely talented and it will be intriguing to watch how the Raven work them into the rotation. Also, the Ravens still have not settled on an inside linebacker. Zach Orr, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan, and even Correa will have an opportunity to replace Daryl Smith. This is one of the biggest stories to watch.
Position Group That Took a Step Back: Offensive Line
Well more specifically, offensive guard. Marshall Yanda is established as the best guard the NFL, but the Ravens took a major step back at the left guard spot. Kelechi Osemele is one of the best guards in the NFL, and losing him to Oakland hurts. The Ravens have a plethora of options to replace Osemele, but none is anywhere close to his caliber.
Position Group with the Most Depth: Tight End
This one also is not close. Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams both gained starting experience last season. The Ravens signed Benjamin Watson, who is coming off of a career year in New Orleans. Plus, the Ravens get Dennis Pitta back. Every Ravens fan knows what Pitta is capable of. So the Ravens have four tight ends with starting experience. Can any other NFL team match that?