The Baltimore Ravens are aiming to break their two year postseason drought in 2017. By all accounts, the defense should be among the best in the NFL after the front office upgraded the talent at every level. If a player at almost any starting defensive position regresses or is injured, the Ravens have capable backups on hand, ready to step up.
Thus, the performance of the offense will determine the Ravens ceiling next season. All five of the most important players on the roster line up on offense:
- Joe Flacco
Naturally, the highest paid player on the team tops the list. After tearing his ACL in 2015, Joe posted a mediocre season in 2016. He tossed 20 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions with a 65-percent completion percentage. Strong late season showings against New England, Miami and Pittsburgh are cause for optimism. Flacco’s offseason boxing regiment should also help improve his inconsistent footwork. With the benefit of a fierce defense, Flacco will no longer be forced to carry the team with 45 or more passing attempts per game. An efficient season of limiting turnovers, keeping the chains moving and hitting on the occasional deep shot should be enough for ‘January Joe’ to make another appearance.
- Breshad Perriman
The former first round wideout was forced to essentially redshirt in 2015 due to a nagging knee injury. As the third wide receiver last year who played on 43-percent of all offensive snaps, Perriman posted a respectable 33-499-3 receiving line. His 53-yard catch and run score against the Dolphins showed a glimpse of his immense potential. Now that Steve Smith has retired and Kamar Aiken signed with Indianapolis, the Ravens need dependable, consistent production from Breshad. Improving on his 50-percent catch rate, developing better chemistry with Flacco on intermediate routes and staying healthy are the top priorities for Perriman.
- Maxx Williams
Regarded as the top tight end in the draft class, Williams made the difficult transition to professional tight end and set the Ravens all-time rookie tight end receiving mark in 2015. His entire second season was lost to a knee injury. Because the Ravens wide receiver corps is relatively unproven and the Ravens lost versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk in free agency, Maxx has a tremendous opportunity to earn snaps as the ‘move’ tight end in twin tight end formations. Williams is a true x-factor for the 2017 Ravens. His vertical field stretching ability could allow the Ravens to surprise many with an unexpectedly explosive offense.
- Alex Lewis
Lewis is a key blocker on an unsettled offensive line. As a rookie in 2016, Alex posted strong games as a guard in Week 3 against Jacksonville and Week 9 against Pittsburgh. An injury to left tackle Ronnie Stanley forced Lewis into action at tackle, where his blocking was below par, per Filmstudy. A gruesome ankle injury ended his rookie campaign prematurely in Week 10. It is unclear if Lewis will serve as a starting guard or right tackle in 2017. If Alex can provide above average blocking, he will solidify the line alongside Stanley and stalwart Marshal Yanda.
- Terrance West
The grinding tailback and Baltimore native carved out his niche last season. Though often underutilized by the Ravens, West produced 774 yards and five touchdowns on the ground at a four yard per carry clip; and chipped in 34 catches for 236 yards and a score in 2016. He is expected to be the feature back, at least initially while Kenneth Dixon serves his four game suspension. New addition Danny Woodhead will have a role as a change of pace rusher and third down weapon. Kenneth Dixon or Lorenzo Taliaferro could also be in the mix for touches out of the backfield. But Terrance has the ideal rushing style to complement the Ravens retooled defense and thrive in Greg Roman’s power rushing scheme. A minor uptick in West’s yards gained per attempt, combined with a renewed devotion to the running game from the offensive play callers is exactly what the Ravens need to control the time of possession battle, and ultimately defeat contending clubs.
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