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2017 Team Report: Baltimore Ravens

Quarterbacks

Starter: Joe Flacco
Backup(s): Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan

Starting QB: It's hard to believe that Flacco has already completed nine NFL seasons, but such a large sample means we know who Flacco is; he's a very talented player who lacks the consistency to put together the type of season that the NFL's upper echelon of quarterbacks call routine. In fact, Flacco was second in the NFL last season in completions and attempts but just seventh in yards (4,317) and 18th in touchdown passes (20, with 15 interceptions). That's a microcosm of Flacco's entire career; he has been given plenty of chances but has rarely delivered top-end production. He has flashes of brilliance, but they're rarely sustained for long stretches. His 2017 prospects look to be similar to what he has done throughout his career - both because he is what he is and because Baltimore's offensive weapons around him are still lacking. The receiving corps is full of questions marks with the inconsistent Mike Wallace being the most proven commodity; and the tight ends group is relying on either a player who took a pay cut to stay (Dennis Pitta) or a 37 year-old coming off a torn Achilles (Benjamin Watson).

Backup QB: Ryan Mallett was signed in the middle of the 2015 season after Joe Flacco's season-ending knee injury; he 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 quarterback on the roster is Dustin Vaughan, a fourth-year undrafted free agent from West Texas A&M who is already on his fifth team (if you include practice squad stops). 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: Terrance West
Backup(s): Kenneth Dixon (susp), Danny Woodhead, Javorius Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: West was able to turn hard preseason running and an injury to Kenneth Dixon into a role as the leader in Baltimore's 2016 backfield. This yielded a career high in carries, yards, touchdowns, receptions, and receiving yards. West enters 2017 as the favorite to hold that role, especially with Dixon suspended for four games due to PED use. Baltimore acquired Danny Woodhead in the offseason, which will limit West to being a two-down player as long as Woodhead is healthy, but West should get the goal line work and be the between-the-tackles workhorse. Third-year player Javorius Allen isn't a "grinder" type, and Lorenzo Taliaferro lacks the talent to be productive in any fashion.

Backup RBs: Dixon is the most versatile player in the backfield, but he won't get a chance to show that until Week 5 due to his four-game PEDs suspension to start the season. He'll likely be mixed in with Terrance West when he returns and be the primary ball carrier should West go down. Dixon now will have missed the first four games of each of his first two seasons due to the suspension this year and the injury last year. Woodhead is a new addition from San Diego and enters a high-potential situation in Baltimore. With a quarterback who has a long history of utilizing running backs in the passing game and a receiver group full of big-play types but lacking in possession/chain-moving players, Woodhead has a real chance to lead Baltimore in receptions this season. Allen showed promise in his rookie season, catching 45 passes, but he is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry on 146 carries in his two seasons and was only given nine rushing attempts in his eight games last year. He's a backup third-down player who is unlikely to be used as a ball-carrier. Taliaferro was in danger of being cut last year; an injury to Dixon in the preseason is likely what kept him on the team. He has just one carry in six games in 2016 and isn't likely to factor into the mix either.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman
Backups: Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews, Vince Mayle

Starting WRs: Wallace led the team with 1,017 yards last season and was second on the team in receptions (72) and touchdowns (4). But when Wallace is the most known and trusted commodity in a team's receiving group, it's likely said team is full of youth and question marks down the depth chart. Some of the questions surrounding Perriman were answered last season when he caught 33 passes for 499 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, the question of whether he can be an every-down player still remains. He'll have a chance to answer it with the vacancy left by Steve Smith's retirement. Both of these players are big-play receivers, meaning they may have trouble filling Smith's chain-mover role.

Backup WRs: The "unproven" theme continues with the Baltimore backup receivers. The most notable experience here comes from the way-down-the-depth-chart third-year player, Matthews, whose out-of-nowhere 109 yards with a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX for Seattle had a huge surprise impact on that game. Matthews spent all of 2016 on Injured Reserve and has a long way to go to get on the field with any regularity in 2017. In front of him, Moore, a fourth-round pick in 2016, showed promise in the preseason last year and is looking expanding his role. He has the inside track on becoming the third receiver. Campanaro and Reynolds are slot men at most who are probably more valuable on special teams than offense. Mayle was a fourth-round pick by Cleveland in 2015 but is already on his third team. He hasn't shown the ability to be an offensive contributor.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dennis Pitta
Backups: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Darren Waller

Pitta led all NFL tight ends in receptions last season but averaged just 8.5 yards per catch and scored only twice. Pitta had to restructure his deal (i.e. take a pay cut) to stay with Baltimore this season, which could lead to a reduced role. Watson tore his Achilles in the preseason last year after looking like he was going to be the team's top tight end. It's unfortunate because Watson was coming off 74 receptions, 825 yards, and 7 touchdowns in 2015 (while with New Orleans). Now 36 and coming off a major injury, continuing the late-career renaissance will be a tough ask. Crockett Gillmore is purely a blocker who could actually be cut if Pitta and Watson are both healthy. Williams, the team's second-round pick in 2015 is bordering on "bust" territory. The sleeper here is Waller, who only had 10 catches last season but scored as many times as Pitta in that limited action. He's a converted wide receiver, so if he can continue to learn the position, he should see the field more. 

Place Kicker

Justin Tucker: Justin Tucker continues to represent the gold standard among kickers by any measure. The all-time most accurate kicker in NFL history led the league in made field goals for the second time in four years. He has made at least 29 field goals in every year of his career and has led the league in field goals twice in that span. In 2016, Tucker was an astounding 10-for-10 from 50+ and he hasn't missed an extra point yet in his career. If you want to take the first kicker in your draft, there is no choice, it has to be Tucker.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro

Devin Hester handled Baltimore's returns for most of 2016, but father time is undefeated, and Baltimore cut him after 12 games, turning kickoff return duties over to Moore. Campanaro primarily handles punt returns but can provide depth on kickoffs, too.

Punt Returners: Michael Campanaro

Originally behind Devin Hester on the depth chart in 2016, Campanaro took over punt return duties after Hester was cut and played reasonably well. He appears poised to reprise his role in 2017.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Ronnie Stanley, LG John Urschel, C Ryan Jensen, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Alex Lewis
Key Backups: James Hurst, Nico Siragusa [R], Jermaine Eluemunor [R]

Right guard Marshal Yanda continues to play at an all-pro level and he is one of the most violent blockers in the game. Yanda should be fully healed from the shoulder ailment that caused him to move to the left guard spot last year. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley had an excellent rookie season and should be a fixture at the spot for a decade. However, it is not all sunshine for the Ravens' offensive line, as they lost two starters from last season in center Jeremy Zuttah and right tackle Rick Wagner. It is not official that Alex Lewis will be forced from his starting left guard spot to right tackle but all signs seem to point in that direction. John Urschel and Ryan Jensen could both play center, with the other starting at left guard for Lewis. James Hurst is a jack of all trades swing tackle while rookie Nico Siragusa could be in the mix at left guard as well. Overall, this line has talent but is going through a ton of change and until the positions firm up they rank among the middle tier of offensive lines.

Team Defense

The addition of Eric Weddle helped the Ravens finish tied for the league lead in interceptions, which fueled a finish right around D/ST12 in typical scoring, with a small bump in leagues that reward points allowed. This offseason, they retained immovable object Brandon Williams and added Tony Jefferson to give Weddle a suitable running mate. The ultra-durable Brandon Carr was added in free agency along with first-round pick Marlon Humphrey to bolster the cornerback position. The Ravens stocked up on front seven help on the second day of the draft, with coverage/pass rush linebacker Tyus Bowser, massive athletic defensive end Chris Wormley, and pass rush specialist Tim Williams restocking a group that is looking to replace 2016 standout Zachary Orr, who retired this offseason at 24 because of a spinal condition. 2016 second-round pick Kamalei Correa should be first in line to replace Orr. Terrell Suggs leads the pass rush group yet again this year as the whole Ravens team should also get a boost from quarterback Joe Flacco being healthy this offseason after recovery from a knee injury took away most of his offseason last year. The Ravens D/ST is falling outside of the top 12 D/ST drafted, but if their free agent and offseason additions click, they will be picked up from the waiver wire in short order.

Defensive Line

Starters: NT Brandon Williams, DE Bronson Kaufusi, DE Brent Urban
Backups: DL Willie Henry, DE Chris Wormley [R], NT Michael Pierce, NT/DE Carl Davis

Starting DL: Baltimore is an unknown commodity up front. Brandon Williams is a returning starter at nose tackle but is not a lock to be the opening day starter. He will compete with Michael Pierce for the job. At 6'1" and 335 pounds Williams is a road grader with a low center of gravity that makes him hard to root out. He is a solid anchor for the run defense and plays off blocks well to make a good number of tackles. Like most nose tackles in three man fronts Williams is not much of a factor against the pass. He does however, have 3.5 sacks, a couple of forced fumbles and 3 batted passes to show for his three seasons as the starter. Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi are expected to be the new starters at end. Urban has spent the past two seasons working his way into the role. As a backup he played 144 snaps in 2016 recording 7 tackles and a pair of sacks. The Ravens feel he is ready to move into the starting role but the limited body of work leaves us unsure what to expect. Kaufusi was Baltimore's third round pick in 2016. He was expected to push for playing time as a rookie before an ankle injury ended his season in August. Both players have the skill set to be successful run defenders in Baltimore's 3-4. It remains to be seen if they can be difference makers on passing downs as well.

Backup DL: Michael Pierce is one of the great stories of the NFL. As an undrafted free agent last year he not only made the team, Pierce earned significant playing time. At 6'0" and 339 pounds his playing style is similar to that of Brandon Williams with Pierce showing a little more quickness and athleticism. He is expected to compete for the nose tackle job this summer and in the eyes of many is the favorite to be the week one starter. While the Ravens are rich with solid options at nose tackle, they are exceptionally young and inexperienced at end. Kaufusi and Urban are penciled in as the starters but reality is there will be an open competition for both positions. Neither Kaufusi nor this year's third round pick Chris Wormley have a single down of NFL experience while Urban has 2 years as a backup. Willie Henry was the team's 4th round selection in 2016. He too has never seen a snap at the pro level having landed on in week eleven last season. On paper Baltimore has young players with upside. On the field these guys may prove to be somewhat of a liability at least until they get their feet under them.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Kamalei Correa, ILB C.J. Mosley, OLB Za'Darius Smith, OLB Terrell Suggs
Backups: ILB Albert McClellan, ILB Patrick Onwuasor, OLB Matt Judon, OLB Tyus Bowser [R], OLB Tim Williams [R]

Starting LBs: With the unexpected retirement of Zach Orr Baltimore finds themselves with a hole at inside linebacker. Orr led the team in tackles by a large margin in 2016 while C.J. Mosley was able to make a major impact in the big play columns. Last year's second round pick Kamalei Correa will get the first shot at replacing Orr. Correa was drafted as an outside linebacker and did not see much action as a rookie. The coaching staff believes he is versatile enough to make the shift to strong inside linebacker where his coverage duties would be minimized. His pass rush ability should translate well and he certainly has the size (6'3" 250 pounds) to be an enforcer versus the run. Mosley saw his tackle production slip in 2016 but he set career marks in both interceptions with 4, and passes defended with 8. The success of Orr allowed the Ravens to use Mosley in a manner that allowed him freedom to take some chances and put him in position to make big plays. The organization hopes to simply plug in Correa and move on with business as usual. Mosley has the ability to step up and make more tackles if called upon to do so. Terrell Suggs is entrenched as one of the starting outside linebackers. He has been a mainstay for the organization since 2003 and is coming off a solid 8 sack season. Suggs however, will be 35 in October and is nearing the end of a stellar career. With Elvis Dumervil gone the Ravens are looking for a bookend to pair with Suggs. Third year pro Za'Darius Smith will get the first shot at the job. He manages 5.5 sacks as a rookie backup in 2015 but was unable to capitalize on a great opportunity last season when Smith got to the quarterback once. The jury is still out on his ability to step up and play full time. With the team drafting Tyus Bowser in round two and Tim Williams in the third, Smith may be on a fairly short leash.

Backup LBs: In veteran Albert McClellan the Ravens know they have a solid veteran option should Correa not pan out. McClellan's lack of big play upside is why the coaching staff will look to Correa first but it will be no surprise to see McClellan in the lineup week one. Patrick Onwuasor fills out the depth chart on the inside. He is a developmental prospect who will earn most of his pay on special teams. The Ravens needed immediate help at outside backer and they got it in Bowser who will step right into a role as the third man in the rotation. He is a high upside prospect who reminds many of a young Suggs. Like Suggs, Bowser is a versatile player who can put his hand down and rush the passer as a 4-3 end, or be just as effective working in a two point stance in a 3-4. He is even athletic enough to drop in coverage once in a while. Bowser may end up starting opposite Suggs at some point this season while the organization hopes he can eventually carry the torch as the replacement. Tim Williams is less versatile than Bowser but may be a better pure edge rusher. The organization envisions him as a younger version of Elvis Dumervil.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Tony Jefferson, FS Eric Weddle, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Brandon Carr, CB Marion Humphrey [R]
Backups: CB/FS Lardarius Webb, S Anthony Levine, CB Tavon Young, CB Kyle Arrington, S/CB Chuck Clark

Starting DBs: The high point of Baltimore's pass defense in 2016 was their league leading 18 interceptions. The low point was their rank of 24th in terms of yards allowed. In an effort to improve the later there will be three new faces on the secondary this year. At 6'2" and 210 pounds returning starter Jimmy Smith is a physical corner that can match up well with most of the leagues big receivers, and has enough speed to stick with the smaller fast guys as well. He is not an elite shutdown corner however. Veteran free agent addition Brandon Carr's game is much the same; including the fact neither Carr nor Smith pack much big play punch. Carr has produced one interception over the past three seasons while Smith has totaled four over that span. The organization used their first round pick on Marion Humphrey to be their third corner. Interestingly he drew a lot of comparisons to Smith from the scouting community. This was largely due to his physical nature and ability to disrupt in press coverage. Humphrey is faster than Smith and has more knack for the big play. Look for him to earn time as the slot corner right away with an eye on becoming an every down player in year two. Baltimore added Eric Weddle as a free agent last summer. The addition had the desired effect as he was not only an excellent last line of defense tackler, but also led the secondary with 4 interceptions. Weddle was a great fit in the Ravens scheme which allows him to roam and make plays on the ball. This year he will be joined by former Cardinals starter Tony Jefferson who is better known as an enforcer. Jefferson is an intimidating presence over the middle in coverage and a tackling machine in run support. Over the last two seasons he has forced 5 fumbles, recovered 2 and intercepted a couple of passes. With 5 sacks in three seasons as a starter for Arizona, Jefferson also brings the ability to blitz which is something Baltimore has not had at safety for a while.

Backup DBs: In years past the Ravens have been bitten by a lack of quality depth in the secondary. That will not be the case in 2017. Lardarius Webb is a former corner who made the switch to safety in 2016. He may have been fine as a free safety but was miscast at the strong safety position where he struggled with the physicality of run support. With several years experience as a starter Webb provides quality depth at any secondary spot. Kyle Arrington is another solid veteran with plenty of starting experience at corner. In second year corner Tavon Young and rookie Chuck Clark the Ravens also have some young developmental talent. Young saw a good deal of action as a rookie which provided much needed experience. He has the potential to develop into a starter at some point but may be best suited to serve as the long term answer at nickel corner. Clark played mostly safety at Virginia Tech but also saw a lot of action at corner. He is all hustle and plays smart but is a long shot to be more than a special team maven anytime soon.

Last modified: 2017-05-18 09:58:40