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Ravens News 9/6: Signature play, roster transformation and more

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Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Grand schemes - Mark Bullock

The Ravens’ offense has some questions to answer, as the play of starting quarterback Joe Flacco has declined in recent years but rookie Lamar Jackson may not be ready to take over the job. So expect the Ravens to lean heavily on their ground game, which was one of the most diverse running schemes in the NFL last year with Alex Collins at running back. They changed from zone concepts to gap concepts from week to week depending upon the opponent. They particularly liked wham and trap plays, with a fullback or tight end working across the line to block a defensive tackle by surprise and open a clean lane for the back.

This insightful Washington Post article includes an animated diagram of each team’s signature offensive play.

These Ravens Have Undergone Quite a Transformation - John Eisenberg

Their move toward a younger roster was overdue. A year ago, they had the NFL’s eighth-oldest season-opening 53-man roster, according to Phillyvoice.com, which has tracked that metric since 2012. In 2016, they had the league’s sixth-oldest season-opening roster.

But as far back as April, when the Ravens selected a dozen players in the 2018 NFL Draft, it was evident the situation likely would be changing this year. Sure enough, their 53-man roster at Saturday’s cutdown deadline included a dozen first-year players. They chose an undrafted rookie linebacker (Chris Board) over a popular veteran (Albert McClellan) and also took a rookie defensive lineman (Zach Seiler) over a fourth-year guy (Carl Davis).

The team is still led by veterans such as Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Joe Flacco and Marshal Yanda, all well past 30, so it isn’t a full-fledged youth movement. But Baltimore’s 2018 roster is No. 18 in the league in terms of youth, according to Phillyvoice.com. That’s a step in the right direction.

The Ravens first regular season depth chart does not include any rookies listed as starters. In fact, only six of the 22 starters are playing under the terms of their original rookie contracts. Hopefully the youth movement extends to the field, not just the bench, sooner rather than later.

NFL Power Rankings, Week 1: Khalil Mack trade boosts Bears - Elliot Harrison

16. Ravens

Previous rank: No. 15

Perhaps more than any other team (save for maybe the Cowboys), the Ravens must run the football successfully. Get Joe Flacco going off play-action or first-down throws and provide air time (oxygen) for a defense that is trending in the right direction but is not yet dominant. Thus, Alex Collins’ growth as an RB1 might be a playoff decider.

Harrison expects the Ravens to battle with the Texans, Titans, Chiefs, Broncos and Bengals for an AFC wildcard berth.

Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions - Bryan Knowles

Defensive Player of the Year

For a real longshot, let’s go allllll the way down the list and find Terrell Suggs at 175-1 odds. That’s a longshot and a half, there, but it’s not out of the question Suggs could get to 12, 13, 14 sacks. A throwback season from the veteran could earn Suggs his second DPOY award.

First Coach to Lose Job

Marvin Lewis is my value pick; he was close to the chopping block this year, and you wonder how many lives the Bengal have used up to this point. My longshot is John Harbaugh; a playoff miss would make it four consecutive seasons sitting at home in January. I don’t think the Ravens fire Harbaugh, but they may quietly urge him to head for the exits while they look for a younger, offensive-minded coach to get the most out of Lamar Jackson.

A mid-season change at head coach seems extremely unlikely. However. a change after the season is certainly possible.