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2018 Team Report: Baltimore Ravens

Offensive Philosophy

Baltimore is a team that wants to throw the football as much as possible, but has been held back by poor quarterback play. The team led the league in pass attempts in both 2015 and 2016 before finishing 11th in 2017 as Joe Flacco's performance cratered. If the Ravens can get better play out of Flacco or rookie Lamar Jackson, it will likely finish 2018 once again as an extremely pass-heavy offense. What few carries the team produces are likely to be split among a committee of running backs.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Joe Flacco
Backup(s): Lamar Jackson [R], Robert Griffin III, Josh Woodrum

Starting QB: Flacco enters his 11th NFL season looking to bounce back from arguably the worst performance of his career. It's difficult to determine which declined faster over the past three seasons: Flacco's skills or the quality of his supporting cast. 2017 was his ninth 16-game season but the first since his rookie year with fewer than 3,600 yards. And with only 3,141 passing yards, Flacco didn't even sniff the previous standards that led many to call him average-at-best for the first decade of his career. Baltimore has attempted to improve his weapons this offseason, bringing in veteran receiver Michael Crabtree from Oakland and diminutive speedster John Brown from Arizona. Alex Collins returns as the lead back after a surprising season in which he emerged from the bottom of a committee and became the team's clear go-to guy. But the tight end position is still weak (even with multiple additions via the draft), and the wide receiver depth behind the new faces is unproven and uninspiring. Perhaps none of the new arrivals mentioned will have an impact on Flacco bigger than Lamar Jackson, who was selected 32nd overall via a trade-up. The development plan Baltimore should strive for is that Jackson can easily win the second-string job this year and show enough promise that the team has a decision to make heading into 2019. That decision could be to trade Flacco at that time. Training camp will be interesting in Baltimore this year.

Backup QB: In General Manager Ozzie Newsome's last draft before retirement, he made the bold move of trading up to get back into the end of the first round so he could select Jackson, who will ideally be the team's quarterback of the future. Flacco is still slated to start this season and still has four years left on his contract, but he could be a trade asset for Baltimore if Jackson's development progresses as planned. Jackson provides elite athleticism - not just for the quarterback position but among all players in the league. He'll still need to work on reading defenses, progressions, and accuracy, but those are things that all rookies need to do. At least he's way ahead of the game athletically. Baltimore signed Griffin to a one-year deal, far from guaranteeing him a future - or even a roster spot this season. Griffin spent 2017 out of the league after an injury-plagued 2016 with Cleveland. This could be his last chance. Griffin will be pushed for the third-string job by Woodrum, who was a 2017 preseason sensation. Woodrum completed 69% of his 36 pass attempts for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for two more scores. As the third-stringer, Woodrum didn't play against opposing starters, but he played earlier than most "threes" play due to Flacco's injury that kept the Baltimore starter out of the entire preseason.

Running Backs

Starter: Alex Collins
Backup(s): Javorius Allen, Kenneth Dixon, John Crockett
Fullback(s): Patrick Ricard

Starting RB: After beginning the season with one of the more uninspiring committees in recent memory, Baltimore found its workhorse in the middle of the year. After not playing in Week 1 and then averaging only 8.3 carries per game for the next three, Collins still finished the season with 973 yards. He didn't score his first rushing touchdown until the team's 10th game, but he ended the year with half a dozen scores. He'll enter 2018 as the unquestioned starter - both due to his successful 2017 and due to a lack of legitimate competition for carries behind him. On a team that went from 367 rushing attempts and 679 passing attempts in 2016 to 461 rushing attempts and 568 passing attempts in 2017, that's a good place to be.

Backup RBs: Allen is likely to be the team's passing downs back with Danny Woodhead's retirement. Allen caught 45 passes as a rookie and 46 last season with an injury-marred 2016 sandwiched in between. He has shown the ability to catch passes and be a blocker for his quarterback. Never a player who eclipsed 3.9 yards per carry in any of his three seasons, he's not someone Baltimore will turn to for early-downs work unless multiple injuries happen ahead of him. The player in the best position to work on the first two downs in the event of an injury to Collins is Kenneth Dixon. Dixon's career has been disappointing so far, with suspensions occurring in both years. Add to that a meniscus injury that landed him on Injured Reserve and cost him all of 2017, and there's more bad than good to draw upon. However, Dixon did show flashes in his rookie year, averaging 4.3 yards per carry on 88 opportunities and catching 30 passes. It is too early to throw dirt on his career at this juncture, but he has work to do to get back on the field frequently. An undrafted player out of North Dakota State in 2015, Crockett enters his fourth offseason program and is already 26 years old. Crockett appeared in two games as a rookie in Green Bay before ultimately getting released and having a "cup of coffee" in Oakland last season.

Fullback: Ricard is a specialist of sorts, getting time at fullback while being a defensive end by trade. Last season, he caught four passes on four targets and scored two touchdowns in limited duty but showed enough as a blocker to be used on the offensive side of the ball somewhat regularly, especially in short yardage or goal line situations.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Michael Crabtree, John Brown
Backups: Willie Snead, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott [R], Jordan Lasley [R], Tim White, Quincy Adeboyejo

Starting WRs: Crabtree had a down year in 2017, but he was injured for portions of the season. Prior to his injuries, he was considered Oakland's top wideout, despite the presence of Amari Cooper. His three-year, $21 million contract could end up being money well spent for Baltimore if he can stay healthy. His route-running acumen is something Joe Flacco and the passing game have been missing while throwing mostly to speedsters like Mike Wallace and unproven young players such as Breshad Perriman. Crabtree should be closer to Steve Smith than to Jeremy Maclin in terms of veteran wide receiver signings by Baltimore. Brown comes over from Arizona where his 2017 was a complete mess. Injuries limited him to just 10 games, 21 receptions, and 299 yards. Brown was only signed to a one-year, $5 million deal in a "mutually disappointing" situation, given that Baltimore missed out on Donte Moncrief and Jarvis Landry before signing Brown. But Brown's biggest asset is his vertical speed, something that aligns well with one of Flacco's only strengths - his deep ball accuracy. If he can stay healthy, a bounce-back year should be inevitable - especially given how "low" his 2017 was.

Backup WRs: For the second straight season, Baltimore enters the season with underwhelming and/or inexperienced options at wide receiver beyond their starters. They acquired Willie Snead via free agency, but the fact that New Orleans wouldn't even match a two-year offer sheet for $7 million speaks volumes about what they thought of Snead. Considering his injury luck and lack of production, Breshad Perriman is among the more disappointing players in the last few years. His skill set was so tantalizing, but injuries stunted his growth as a player, costing him the entirety of training camp each of his first two seasons. After entering the league raw, losing that time led to a player who didn't properly develop and doesn't appear to have much of a future. Chris Moore enters his third year. A fourth-round pick in 2016, Moore wasn't drafted with the expectations that he'd shine right away. And he hasn't been able to do so with his opportunities thus far. Baltimore selected a pair of rookies to help bolster their group. At 132 overall (fourth round), they picked up Jaleel Scott from New Mexico State. At 6'6" and 215 pounds, Scott offers a huge target. He only had one year of solid college production, though, when he posted 76 catches for 1,079 yards and 9 touchdowns last year. With the 162nd overall pick (fifth round), Baltimore acquired Jordan Lasley from UCLA. It's interesting they took Lasley here as there were other talented receivers still on the board, and Lasley had some character concerns (multiple suspensions and two arrests in college). He's 6'1" and 203 pounds and is known for good route-running but also for drops. These rookies will be competing with a couple of then-rookie standouts from last year's preseason. White was an undrafted free agent who was making plenty of plays in camp before a thumb injury in the first game resulted in him being out for the season. Tim White is a 5'10" 181-pound player who uses his speed as his biggest asset. Quincy Adeboyejo is another 2017 rookie whose preseason was limited by injury. He spent much of the year on the practice squad before coming up for one game late in the season. He made no catches and wasn't targeted.

Tight Ends

Starters: Nick Boyle
Backups: Maxx Williams, Hayden Hurst [R], Mark Andrews [R]

This position group has been struck by bad injury luck and a mix of busts in the past few seasons. Ben Watson was hurt in the first preseason game of 2016 after his career year in 2015 with New Orleans. Then, after Dennis Pitta's resurgent 2016, he was injured in the 2017 preseason and has since retired. Crockett Gillmore was also frequently hurt. Maxx Williams has been a mix of underwhelming and injured, and Darren Waller - the converted college wide receiver who has been in trouble for drugs multiple times and was suspended for all of 2017 - hasn't materialized either. Enter Hayden Hurst, the team's first pick of the 2018 draft - a fact that time may forget with Lamar Jackson being the more "exciting" pick. Hurst is old by rookie standards; he turns 25 before Baltimore's first regular game and will hit that milestone before fellow-tight end Maxx Williams, who was selected three years ago. He was a baseball standout who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization briefly before going back to college football at South Carolina. And Baltimore wasn't done with the position after drafting Hurst. At the 86th pick, they selected Mark Andrews from Oklahoma. Andrews is a weapon in the receiving game and generated enough production to be named unanimous first-team All-American and Mackey Award winner in 2017. Tight end is a difficult position to grasp as a rookie, which could leave Boyle as the starter. Much better at blocking than receiving, Boyle "showcased" that with 28 catches and 0 touchdowns last season, which could lead to him seeing fewer snaps at the expense of the rookies.

Place Kicker

Justin Tucker: Justin Tucker continues to be one of the gold standard kickers. His attempts and makes dropped off slightly, but he was still in the top 10 scoring kickers despite an offense that moved in fits and starts at times. He didn't miss a kick under 40 yards and still hasn't missed an extra point in his career. Tucker's field goal attempts (37) were only 2-3 off of his numbers in 2016 and 2016 even though he attempts 12 and 10 more extra points than in those seasons, so his kicker opportunity is trending up. He's a candidate to be the first kicker off of the board and certainly should go in the top five.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Chris Moore

Last year, kickoff return duties were split between Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro. With Campanaro leaving this offseason for the Tennessee Titans, Moore has an inside track on the job in 2018.

Punt Returners: Chris Moore

The Ravens had four players combine to return 32 punts for them in 2017, and none of those players are still on the roster today, making for one of the most wide-open positional battles in the league. We'll know a lot more about the team's plans once training camps open.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Ronnie Stanley, LG James Hurst, C Matt Skura, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Alex Lewis
Key Backups: Nico Siragusa, Orlando Brown [R], Bradley Bozeman [R], Greg Senat [R]

The Ravens' offensive line is led by six time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda. The right guard had to switch to left side last year to play through a shoulder injury. Alex Lewis is a rising talent at right tackle, he and Yanda could have a good season, should they both stay healthy. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley has lived up to his high first round billing. All the vets will have to assist new starters James Hurst at left guard and Matt Skura at center. Skura replaces Ryan Jensen, who was a hit for the team at center last year and left for greener pastures in Tampa Bay. The Ravens' offensive line ranks as a solid mid-tier unit going into the season.

Team Defense

The Ravens lost defensive coordinator Dean Pees to retirement to begin the offseason (only to see him come out of retirement to coach the Titans defense under Mike Vrabel), but they should have continuity with the promotion of linebackers coach Don Martindale. The defense was elite from a fantasy perspective last year despite the team missing the playoffs. They led the league in interceptions, were only two sacks from finishing in the top five, and scored five defensive touchdowns. They have the 2017 defense returning intact, and should get Jimmy Smith back from a torn achilles. If there is a hole on the defense, it is at inside linebacker next to CJ Mosley, and the team addressed that with fourth-round pick Kenny Young (UCLA), a productive and athletic player. 2017 first-round pick CB Marlon Humphrey and second-round pick rush LB Tyus Bowser, and third-round pick DL Chris Wormley should only improve in year two and provide more value on reps to keep everyone fresh. The Ravens should remain one of the top fantasy defenses and they deserve to be drafted in every league.

Defensive Line

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

Starting DL: Perspective is everything when talking about the Ravens defensive line. For those looking at sacks and quarterback pressure as a measuring stick, there is nothing to get excited about. As a unit this group recorded 5 sacks in 2017 with Willie Henry accounting for 3.5 of them. Looking at the responsibilities of the linemen in Baltimore's overall scheme casts a different light however. The Ravens defensive success is predicated on the linebackers being able to flow and make plays. Thus the most important job of the defensive line is to soak up blockers and force ball carriers off their preferred path. From that perspective this is a rather solid unit. Brandon Williams is the listed starter at nose tackle but Michael Pierce also has a major role. Both are 340 pound road blocks with the ability to hold ground even against double teams. Their play contributed greatly to inside linebacker C.J. Mosley tying for the league lead in tackles last season. In a different scheme Willie Henry might make a much more significant statistical contribution. In Baltimore's 3-4 he is a strong 2-gap end that can push the pocket on passing downs and clog the lanes versus the run. The second year pro became a starter in week three of his rookie season and has a bright future. Brent Urban has struggled to stay on the field during his three years in the league. He is not a flashy player but when healthy Urban has played a significant part as a run defender. He is currently penciled in as a starter but will need a strong camp to solidify the job ahead of Carl Davis, Chris Wormley and Bronson Kaufusi.

Backup DL: Michael Pierce is one of the great stories of the NFL. As an undrafted free agent in 2016 he not only made the team, he 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 than Williams, he saw a good deal of action at end after Brent Urban was lost. Pierce could compete for the title of starter at nose tackle job this summer but even if that is not in the cards Pierce will have a significant role. While the Ravens are rich with solid options at nose tackle, they are young and rather inexperienced at end. Kaufusi and Urban were penciled in as the starters last summer before Henry passed Kaufusi on the depth chart. Instead of competing for a starting spot Kaufusi, a 2016 third round pick, spent most of his Sunday's on the inactive list. Urban's injury opened the door for Pierce with Carl Davis serving as the fourth lineman. Kaufusi and last year's this year's third round pick Chris Wormley have 153 snaps of NFL experience between them with Wormley owning 120 of them.

Linebackers

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

Starting LBs: Baltimore is in a good place at linebacker. On the outside they have ageless Terrell Suggs who is a future Hall of Famer. He will be 36 in October but is coming off the seventh double digit sack season of his career and shows no sign of decline. Opposite Suggs is third year pro Matt Judon who piled up 51 tackles and 8 sacks as a first time starter in 2017. It would seem his best football is yet to be played. An argument can be made for C.J. Mosley being the best inside linebacker in the game. Last season he tied for the league lead in tackles while forcing a pair of fumbles, recording half a dozen takeaways, a sack and a score. Mosley is a do everything linebacker who is just as comfortable in coverage as seeking out ball carriers. He is surprisingly fast and athletic for a 250 pound player, and will be 26 years old when the season starts. If there is a question for the Ravens at linebacker it is Patrick Onwuasor. He was thrown into the fire last season when Zach Orr retired unexpectedly. Onwuasor played well enough for the organization to address other needs early in the draft. He will not be without competition however. Rookie fourth round pick Kenny Young could be groomed for the job if he lives up to the expectations.

Backup LBs: The Ravens depth at outside linebacker consists of three young players. Za'Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams were all drafted between round two and four over the past three seasons. Smith has 10 sacks while working mostly as the third man, but he has made a few starts along the way. Bowser was a second round selection last year and is expected to eventually replace Suggs when he retires. Bowser got to the quarterback three times as a rookie in 161 snaps. The picture is not as bright behind the starters on the inside. The coaching staff tried to shift Kamalei Correa inside last season but the experiment did not go well. Albert McClellan is a serviceable veteran option at best. Kenny Young was seen by most draft experts as a developmental prospect with marginal starting potential. The Ravens organization thinks he can be more in time.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Tony Jefferson, FS Eric Weddle, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Brandon Carr, CB Marlon Humphrey
Backups: S Anthony Levine, S Dashon Elliott, CB Tavon Young, S/CB Chuck Clark, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB Anthony Averett [R]

Starting DBs: Baltimore sported the tenth best pass defense in terms of yards allowed in 2017. The most impressive statistic however, was their league leading 22 interceptions. Seventeen of those picks were recorded by the secondary. Marlon Humphrey was the team's first round selection last spring. He opened the season as the nickel corner before moving into the starting role when Jimmy Smith was lost to an Achilles injury. With Smith expected back for the start of camp, the Ravens will have three outstanding corners and the ability to matchup with any receiving corps. Eric Weddle was a free agent acquisition by the team in 2016. He was targeted because the Ravens wanted a playmaker and the addition has paid off big. Two seasons in Baltimore have produced double digit interceptions including a team leading six last season. Weddle is 33 years old and nearing the end of his career but for now he remains one of the best big play safeties in the game. Tony Jefferson was the free agent prize of 2017 and the final piece of this outstanding unit. He is a physical enforcer from the strong safety position. Jefferson is not a turnover threat to the extent of his

Backup DBs: While the Ravens starting secondary rivals nearly any in the league, they are not particularly deep at the third level. Veteran career backup Anthony Levine will compete with rookie Dashon Elliott and possibly Chuck Clark to determine the pecking order behind the starters at safety. Barring injuries none of these guy are likely to be more than special teams contributors. Tavon Young missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL. The 2016 fourth round pick has been cleared to return and if fully healthy is the favorite to be the fourth corner. He saw a lot of action as a rookie and played well. Young will compete with former second round selection Stanley Jean-Baptiste and rookie Anthony Averett to fill out the final depth chart.

Last modified: 2018-06-16 15:18:28