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2016 Team Report: Baltimore Ravens

Quarterbacks

Starter: Joe Flacco
Backup(s): Ryan Mallett, Jerrod Johnson, Josh Johnson

Starting QB: After six straight seasons of over 3,600 yards passing and seven straight seasons or playing all 16 games, Joe Flacco had an injury cost him the final six games of 2015. In the team's Week 11 game, Flacco tore his ACL and missed the remainder of what was already a lost season for Baltimore (they were 2-7 before winning the Week 11 game). Flacco has been cleared for training camp but is being treated with kid gloves; he may not even participate in the preseason at all. Regardless, he is on track for Week 1. Flacco's injury rehab isn't his only offseason news. He also signed a three-year, $66.4M extension with $40M guaranteed. This extension helps to alleviate the huge cap numbers he was slated to account for in 2016 and 2017 and gives the team more flexibility with other players.

Backup QB: Ryan Mallett was signed in the middle of the 2015 season after Joe Flacco's season-ending knee injury. He made two starts with Baltimore and even notched a huge upset win over Pittsburgh in Week 16 that nearly derailed Pittsburgh's playoff chances. Mallett has been retained as the backup and should easily hold on to that job as long as his history of being a poor teammate doesn't rear its ugly head again. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are Jerrod Johnson, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2011 but has never thrown a regular season pass, and Josh Johnson, a mobile journeyman who has spent time with Tampa Bay and Cincinnati among other teams since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2008. With Flacco's long history of durability (2015 notwithstanding), Baltimore has generally been a team that only keeps two quarterbacks entering the season.

Running Backs

Starter: Justin Forsett
Backup(s): Javorius Allen, Kenneth Dixon [R], Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrence Magee
Fullback(s): Kyle Juszczyk

Starting RB: In what was a recurring theme for the 2015 Ravens, Justin Forsett was lost to an injury during the season. He broke his forearm and missed the final six games. As early as late April, however, coach John Harbaugh said Forsett has returned to 100%. Forsett should enter camp with every opportunity to keep the starting job as he hopes to regain his 2014 form (over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns). But Baltimore did draft Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon in the last two seasons. Dixon, out of Louisiana Tech, is a versatile back who could be the heir apparent. Forsett also turns 31 in October, an age not historically friendly running backs. He's an interesting case study, though, because he has much less wear and tear on his body than a typical 31 year-old back due to his emergence taking place much later in his career.

Backup RBs: Javorius Allen was pressed into duty late in 2015 due to injuries to Justin Forsett and to Lorenzo Taliaferro ahead of him. He showed some flashes of his versatility, recording at least four catches in six of the team's final seven games (including a monster 12-catch, 107-yard receiving performance in Week 12 against Miami). Allen was known for his pass-catching prowess in college at USC as well. He's also a larger back who isn't afraid to pass block. He gives the team much more flexibility than a player like Taliaferro. Kenneth Dixon was drafted in the fourth round out of Louisiana Tech. Considered by some to be the second-best back in the class behind Ezekiel Elliott, Dixon provides Baltimore with yet another versatile player out of the backfield. He recorded at least 30 receptions in his final two seasons of college and had 13 total receiving touchdowns in those years. Dixon's lowest rushing output was 917 yards during his sophomore season in which he missed two games. He never averaged fewer than 5.1 yards per carry in any season. Despite being highly productive, Dixon doesn't enter the league with as much wear and tear as some college backs. He only recorded more than 200 carries in one of his four seasons (despite that, Dixon is fourth all-time in NCAA history with 72 rushing touchdowns). Taliaferro enters his third season with more to prove than when he was entering his second season. He only played in three games last year and now has a rookie competing with him for touches in a suddenly crowded backfield led by Forsett, who has something to prove after injury shortened his 2015 campaign. Terrance West has emerged as a camp surprise. He's lighter and making plays that had beat writers suggesting early in camp that he could be the team's starter. Taliaferro lacks versatility, and the three players listed in front of him have plenty of it. The next name may look familiar, but the player's physique might not. Terrence Magee is likely just camp depth. Dixon suffered an MCL sprain and may be unavailable early in the season. The Ravens have one of the more unclear running back situations heading into the season.

Fullback: Used more as a blocker in his rookie year in 2013, Juszczyk has caught 60 passes in the past two seasons, including 41 in 2016. His increased usage was likely due to injuries in the backfield and the receiving corps, though. Despite four receiving touchdowns, he's not really a valuable asset in terms of catching passes. His blocking, though, should continue to help the team's running game.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Steve Smith, Mike Wallace
Backups: Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Chris Moore [R], Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds [R], Chris Matthews

Starting WRs: Baltimore's receiving corps is very interesting, both from a skill standpoint and from an injury/recovery standpoint. Leading the way is the veteran Steve Smith, entering his age-37 season and coming off a double rupture of his Achilles' tendon in Week 8 of 2015. It's an injury that not many can come back from at all, let alone return to full form, but Smith has been proving people wrong his entire career. Even if it saps him of his burst and field-stretching abilities, his quickness in tight areas can be an asset as a short-to-intermediate target. Smith missed all of OTAs and began training camp on the PUP list, though he has been activated and looks to progress enough to be on the field Week 1. On the other side, Baltimore signed Mike Wallace to a two-year deal this offseason. Now on his third team in as many seasons, Wallace was likely signed to be a band-aid for a Baltimore team waiting for Smith and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman to return from injuries. Upon his signing with Baltimore, Wallace said he never planned to return to Minnesota because he needs a proven quarterback who can make things happen. That's quite the accurate self-evaluation, since Wallace has never been the type of receiver who makes his passers better but instead relies on them to have the tools to match his sole asset (deep speed). He is a good match with Joe Flacco in that regard. Wallace's starting spot is not assured, but he should be considered the favorite after Baltimore gave him $4.5 million guaranteed this offseason.

Backup WRs: Breshad Perriman was drafted by Baltimore as a deep threat with great speed and size, a player whose skills aligned with those of Joe Flacco. But he didn't play a single down in 2015 due to a chronic PCL injury. Now, he's injured once again after suffering a partially torn ACL on June 11. He was supposed to help fill the void if Steve Smith couldn't return to form following his Achilles' tendon tear, but the latest injury changes those plans. Baltimore is cautiously optimistic that Perriman will be ready for Week 1, and he was activated from the PUP before the third preseason game in a good sign for his recovery. A UCF alum like Perriman, Kamar Aiken has continued to contribute for Baltimore despite consistent attempts to replace him on top of the depth chart. He started 14 games in 2015 due to Perriman's injuries and was the team's top receiver after Smith's injury. All of the attrition led to 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns. He's excellent veteran depth should the injury situations work out for Baltimore and a serviceable starter should they not (a scenario that looks likely with Perriman and Smith's current situations). In case it wasn't abundantly clear what they want their receivers to do, Baltimore drafted Chris Moore with the 107th selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Nearly all of Moore's big plays in college at Cincinnati came on vertical routes. Michael Campanaro is a more prototypically-sized slot man who also returns kicks and punts. If it came down to a one-or-the-other between he and Brown, the special teams contributions could win the day for Campanaro. But he's not likely to contribute very much on offense (he has just 12 receptions total in two seasons). Jeremy Butler was a productive receiver when pressed into duty last year and should be considered part of the free-for-all for the last one or two wide receiver roster spots on the Ravens. Keenan Reynolds is an intriguing prospect but more because of his past than his future. He was Navy's option quarterback and the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns in college football. With Reynolds and running back Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore currently has two of the top four most prolific rushing touchdown scorers in NCAA history. But at just 5'11" and 205 pounds, Reynolds projects as a slot receiver at best. He'll also compete to be the team's punt returner. Once upon a time, a Super Bowl standout, Chris Matthews is toiling at the bottom of Baltimore's depth chart. He was signed to Baltimore's practice squad mid-season in 2015 and played in Weeks 16 and 17, but that was mostly due to a decimated-by-injuries receiving corps. Matthews has great height at 6'5" but can't combine that with other skills required to get on the field consistently.

Tight Ends

Starters: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams,
Backups: Dennis Pitta, Darren Waller (susp), Nick Boyle (susp)

In one of free agency's biggest surprises, Baltimore signed Benjamin Watson to a two-year deal. Despite having 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams and 2015 breakout player Crockett Gillmore still on the roster, Baltimore brought in the veteran Watson, who is coming off a year in which he set career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns with New Orleans. Unfortunately, Watson went down with an achilles injury in the third preseason game and will miss the season. Gillmore's season was cut short due to injuries, but he was sporting a solid 33 catches, 412 yards, and four touchdowns through ten games. It was thought in March that Gillmore might need surgery on both of his shoulders, which could have contributed to Watson's signing. However, Gillmore will require just one shoulder surgery. He began camp active but has since strained a hamstring, which could mean a lengthy absence. Williams' role should expand after an uneventful rookie season. His pedestrian line shouldn't be held against him, though, as most rookie tight ends struggle to contribute. Gillmore is in line to lead the team's tight ends in receiving stats if he can stay healthy. Williams was a second-round pick, which indicates he has the pedigree to be the balanced receiving/blocking threat the team saw when choosing him last spring. If Gillmore continues to struggle to stay healthy, WIlliams should be next in line. Pitta was once a rising fantasy star at tight end, but multiple serious hip injuries have endangered his career. He took a big pay cut this offseason in an attempt to stay with the team. In a cruel twist of fate, Pitta was active for the beginning of training camp but will miss "a while" due to a sprained finger he suffered in a fight with a teammate. Wide receiver convert Darren Waller and second-year blocking specialist Nick Boyle could play larger roles after their four and ten-game suspensions.

Place Kicker

Justin Tucker: One of the gold standard kickers in the NFL right now, six of Tucker's seven misses in 2015 came from 50+ and he did not miss a kick under 40 yards, including 40 extra point attempts. His 40 field goal attempts led the league and his 33 makes tied for second. Tucker's 128 points scored in 2015 was actually the lowest total in his career. He should be among the top 3-4 kickers taken in every draft.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Keenan Reynolds, Tavon Young, Kenneth Dixon

While Baltimore has traditionally preferred to have one player handle both punt and kickoff returns, this year's the team seems to be leaning towards splitting up the duties. On kickoff returns, the team is staging a tight 3-way battle between Keenan Reynolds, Tavon Young, and Kenneth Dixon.

Punt Returners: Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds

In 2015, Baltimore's punt return duties were a bit of a mess; Michael Campanaro held the role for the first four games before going on IR. Then it fell to Jeremy Ross, who was waived after five more games. Kaelin Clay earned the job over the final seven games. With Clay injured and now cut, Campanaro is the clear front-runner to regain the job in 2016, though he faces a challenge from rookie Keenan Reynolds.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Ronnie Stanley [R], LG John Urschel, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Rick Wagner
Key Backups: Alex Lewis [R], Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse, James Hurst

Right guard Marshal Yanda was a unanimous first team All-Pro from all five media sources, a rare feat. Yanda has the ability to flat out dominate a game, and he continues to be not just one of the best guards, but one of the best linemen in the game. The Ravens lost left guard Kelechi Osemele to free agency, but they restocked by drafting Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley at 6 overall in the first round. Stanley is an elite prospect and will lay left tackle for the Ravens. While some believe that situation could manifest this season, for now, the depth chart has both players as starters on the left side. Center Jeremy Zuttah ended last year on injured reserve but should be fully recovered to start at the pivot. Right tackle Rick Wagner does an average job but will be challenged by fourth round selection Alex Lewis. The Ravens have several other interesting backups with game experience, including John Urschel, James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, and the recently signed Vlad Ducasse. If healthy, the Ravens' offensive line could be a strength this season. Tier Ranking: Top Tier.

Team Defense

When you think Ravens, you usually think defense, but the 2015 Baltimore defense was barely used outside of a handful of games that included defensive or special teams touchdowns. The bad news is that the team will be ushering in new starters at defensive end, inside linebacker, and cornerback. The good news is that the team will get stalwart edge rusher Terrell Suggs, and they added one of the best safeties of this era, Eric Weddle. The arrival of Weddle should help a secondary that only managed six interceptions last year, the lowest number in the NFL. C.J. Mosley is a rising star at inside linebacker and as long as the key pieces stay healthy, the Ravens should be at least a top streamer when they face teams like Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville. They are also a Week 1 option at home against Buffalo, especially if Sammy Watkins isn't ready for the season opener because of his foot injury.

Defensive Line

Starters: NT Brandon Williams, DE/NT Timmy Jernigan, DE Lawrence Guy
Backups: NT Carl Davis, DE Brent Urban, DE Willie Henry [R], DE Bronson Kaufusi [R] (IR)

Starting DL: The Ravens have some work to do defensively. They were middle of the pack in sacks last season while finishing in the bottom third of the league versus the run. Up front they are solid if unspectacular. In Brandon Williams Baltimore has a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. At 6'1" and 335 pounds, his wide body and low center of gravity are just what the position calls for. Williams is one of the more statistically successful nose tackles in the league. In 2015 he recorded 54 combined tackles and assists along with a pair of sacks. Defensive end is where the Ravens need to improve. 2014 second round pick Timmy Jernigan looks like a good answer on one side. He stepped into a starting role in his second season and showed a lot of promise. Jernigan has 4 sacks in each of his first two years as a pro. The Ravens hope he will breakout in year three. Lawrence Guy opened camp as the other starter but was expected to eventually give way to third round pick Bronson Kaufusi. Now that Kaufusi is lost for the season Guy should keep the job. He is a serviceable starter but will not offer much in the way of pass rush.

Backup DL: Second year man Carl Davis is listed as the backup at nose tackle but Jernigan might shift inside if Williams were lost for an extended time. Lawrence Guy was a serviceable starter for the team last year but he has little upside. With Kaufusi heading to IR, Guy becomes starter with third year pro Brent Urban providing depth. Urban's rookie season was a wash due to a knee injury which carried over into his second year. He finally got on the field late in 2015 but not enough for the coaching staff to know what they have in him. Willie Henry was the team's fourth round pick this year. He is more of a project who is expected to contribute more down the road.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB C.J. Mosley, ILB Zach Orr, OLB Elvis Dumervil, OLB Terrell Suggs
Backups: ILB Arthur Brown, ILB/OLB Albert McClellan, OLB Za'Darius Smith, OLB Kamalei Correa [R], OLB Matt Judon [R], Kavell Conner

Starting LBs: The Ravens have some questions to be answered at linebacker. C.J. Mosley will never be Ray Lewis but the 2014 first round pick has proven himself as the centerpiece of the defense over the past two years. He is dependable and consistent against the run, solid in coverage and has shown plenty of ability to be a playmaker. In two seasons Mosley has produced 7 sacks and 5 turnovers, broken up 14 passes and scored a touchdown. The question is, with Daryl Smith moving on who will line up next to Mosley on the inside? Third year pro Zach Orr and six year veteran Albert McClellan are expected to compete for the job. Both players are former undrafted free agents with limited upside. 2013 second round selection Arthur Brown could be in the mix as well though his career to date has been a major flop. It was surprising the organization did not address the position with either a veteran free agent or a significant draft pick. One of these players may step up but this looks like a potential problem for the defense. In Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil the Ravens have a pair of outstanding outside pass rushers. Suggs piled up double digit sacks four times in the past six years while Dumervil has averaged 11.5 a season since 2009. Father time is creeping up on both of these players though. Suggs has missed 22 games with injury over the past four seasons including 14 last year. Dumervil has been healthy but seemed to wear down late last season when the 32 year old failed to record a sack over the final five games. If these two can stay healthy the Baltimore pass rush should once again prove to be a team strength.

Backup LBs: Inside linebacker could be an issue for the Ravens. Arthur Brown and/or Albert McClellan could be in the mix to start next to C.J. Mosley but neither of them have shown much promise to date. With Terrell Suggs soon to be 34 and Elvis Dumervil closing in on 33, Baltimore has made an effort to prepare for the future at outside backer. Last year's fourth round pick Za'Darius Smith made a good impression as a rookie, finishing with 5.5 sacks including 3.5 over the final three games. The organization is optimistic he will develop into a quality starting option in the near future. Kamalei Correa and Matt Judon are a pair of rookies (second and fifth rounds respectively) that the club expects to contribute sooner rather than later. Correa is a bit raw and not particularly instinctive, but he has the physical tools to develop quickly with NFL coaching. It was undoubtedly his production of 19 sacks and 5 forced fumbles over the last two years that caught the attention of Ravens scouts. Judon is a small school guy who dominated division two competition while at Grand Valley State. It is hard to say how he will stand up against NFL players but the coaching staff likes the tools he has to work with. So long as the Ravens remain healthy, they should be in good shape at the linebacker positions. Lack of experience on the outside and/or lack of talented depth inside could spell problems if one of the veterans goes down for any length of time.

Defensive Backs

Starters: S Eric Weddle, S/CB Lardarius Webb, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Shareece Wright, CB Jerraud Powers
Backups: S Kendrick Lewis, S Terrence Brooks, S Anthony Levine, CB Kyle Arrington, CB Will Davis, CB Tavon Young [R], Maurice Canady [R]

Starting DBs: Baltimore finished in the middle of the pack in terms of yards allowed per pass attempt in 2015. Unfortunately that is close as it gets to a positive spin on last year's debacle. This was a group in need of leadership and desperate for a true number one corner. The end result was a league low 6 interceptions and an overall pass defense that was helped statistically only by a run defense which was not much better. As we might expect the poor play has prompted significant change. The Ravens free agent gem was Eric Weddle whose presence and leadership will immediately improve a safety position which has been hurting since Ed Reed retired. Lardarius Webb will shift from corner so safety where he will compete with Kendrick Lewis for the starting job. Webb in far from a sure thing though he may be better suited to play safety and could also be a plus. Jimmy Smith is a quality cover corner who will serve as Baltimore's number one while last year's free agent addition Shareece Wright will compete with newly signed Jerraud Powers to determine the rest of the pecking order. In Smith, Wright and Powers the Ravens have a trio of serviceable starters who should help the unit show improvement against the pass. The bottom line here however, is the Ravens will be hard pressed to seriously contend until they become more talented and add some play makers at the third level.

Backup DBs: Kendrick Lewis will be in the mix for a starting job at safety. Experience is a plus for Lewis who can hold down the fort for a year if need be, but he is not the difference maker Baltimore needs in the long run. Will Hill had a starting job at safety last year but average play and an impending suspension could render him a non-factor in 2016. Terrence Brooks and Anthony Levine are probably fighting for a roster spot. Kyle Arrington provides solid veteran depth at corner. He could push Wright and Powers for a nickel corner job. Rookie Tavon Young's biggest contribution early in his career may come in the return game and sixth-round pick CB Maurice Canady is no sure thing to even make the team. He will try to show some safety depth possibilities to enhance his chances of sticking.

Last modified: 2016-08-29 10:08:03