Entering the 2016 season, the Baltimore Ravens look like a balanced team on paper. Sure, there will be weaknesses that will show itself as the season goes along, but for now, the Ravens look stable on offense, defense and special teams.
On offense, the Ravens have the following key players:
QB: Joe Flacco
RB: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon
WR: Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Jeremy Butler and Chris Moore
TE: Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore and Ben Watson
OL: Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Marshal Yanda, Jeremy Zuttah and Ricky Wagner
On defense, the Ravens have the following key players:
CB: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Will Davis and Jarraud Powers
FS/SS: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks
LB: C.J. Mosely, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Kamalei Correa, Za’Darius Smith and Zach Orr
DL: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis and Willie Henry
On special teams, the Ravens have the following key players:
P: Sam Koch
K: Justin Tucker
PR/KR: Keenan Reynolds and Michael Campanaro
LS: Morgan Cox
Does this team look pretty balanced?
Yes, it does on paper at least. But the games still have to be played and some of the players listed above might not even be key factors as the season goes along.
But having said that what is the identity of the Ravens? I can’t tell but one thing for sure is that the Ravens need to figure that out as soon as possible.
Every organization that is worth noting around the NFL knows what kind of roster it has and what identity the organization will carry in the immediate future. With the Ravens 5-11 season last year that was filled with injuries and also just a lack of execution on the field when it mattered most, the Ravens seem to be at a crossroads as to what unit the team should lean on.
The Ravens defense isn’t the shutdown unit it once was. Since 2012, with defensive coordinator Dean Pees leading the charge, the Ravens have lost 13 games in which it had a fourth-quarter lead. The jury is still out on this defense despite the potential it has to be pretty good.
The truth of the matter is, ever since Ray Lewis and Ed Reed left the team in 2012, the Ravens defense has not been able to maintain a swagger that it used to have. But to be fair, it would be hard for any defense to maintain the kind of swagger that future Hall of Fame players like Lewis and Reed have. But at the end of the day, the standard for building a great defense has been set in Baltimore and many who follow the team will not accept anything less.
On offense, it is easy to say Flacco is the guy as he agreed to a contract extension this offseason that makes him one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. Flacco is easily the highest paid player on the Ravens roster. So, with that in mind, is Flacco the guy who should be the face of the team? The money he is making says yes, but the lack of continuity at the offensive coordinator position puts that notion on hold for a moment.
Since 2012, Flacco has dealt with four different offensive coordinators from Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak and now Mark Trestman. Trestman is in his second year with the team and Flacco is still learning the offense. Flacco missed the final five games of the 2015 NFL regular season as he tore his ACL/MCL against the St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) in week 11 which pretty much stunted the growth of Flacco’s development in Trestman’s offense.
Right of the gate, Flacco looks ready to be a full go in training camp and he should be able to work some of the rust off there as he has been through rehab with his injuries all offseason long. But at the end of the day, questions will still remain when week 1 of the 2016 regular season approaches as to whether or not Flacco will be back to his old self or even better than he was prior to his injury.
On the topic of injuries, this isn’t even talking about the rehab’s that Suggs and Smith Sr. have to go through as they both tore their Achilles last season. And Perriman, who dealt with a sprained MCL that sidelined him for the entire 2015 regular season, we don’t know what Perriman will look like as he will basically be in his rookie season even though he was drafted last year as a first-round draft pick.
It is easy to say this team looks balanced, but it is whole different story to see how the chemistry of this team will come together. Only time will tell literally. One way will be able to tell the identity of the Ravens early on is by which unit can take control of drives early on to begin games between the offense and defense.
Can the Ravens offense be efficient early on to put the opposing offense on its heels? If the offense can’t sustain drives, can the defense be able to bail out the offense or will the defense crumble under the pressure?
Ever since John Harbaugh arrived as the head coach of the Ravens since 2008, the motto of the team has always been, “Play like a Raven.” Playing like a Ravens means being physical, staying disciplined and giving everything you got. Can the Ravens live up to that? Only time will tell.