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Preseason Watch List: AFC North

A detailed look at the key questions facing each team in the preseason

BALTIMORE RAVENS

John Harbaugh made the playoffs in each of his first five seasons as Ravens head coach, culminating in the Super Bowl XLVII victory. The Ravens have since missed the playoffs three of four seasons including the last two. The root of the problem is on the offensive side of the ball. Baltimore was never an offensive juggernaut under Harbaugh, but the team ranked 12th in points scored over his first five seasons. Over the last four seasons, the Ravens have averaged 20th in points scored, including three seasons outside the Top 20. The defense may not be a Top 3 unit as it was in the early days, but was Top 10 in both points and yards allowed in 2016. The key this preseason will be forging a new offensive identity under veteran coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and establishing a pecking order at running back, wide receiver, and tight end. 

Camp Details:

  • When: 7/19 (Rookies) / 7/26 (Veterans)
  • Where: Under Armour Performance Center (Owings Mills, MD)
  • Open to Public: Limited (See Website)

Preseason Game Schedule:

  • Aug 10 -- Washington 7:30 pm EDT
  • Aug 17 -- @Miami 7:00 pm
  • Aug 26 -- Buffalo 7:00 pm
  • Aug 31 -- @New Orleans 8:00 pm

What We're Watching:

  • Marty Mornhinweg's offense -- As mentioned, the Ravens need to bring the offense back to league average, or better. Mornhinweg was promoted from quarterbacks coach in-season commensurate with Marc Trestman's firing, but this will be the first preseason Mornhinweg can implement his preferred offense. Mornhinweg is a West Coast offense disciple and has called plays in four prior cities (San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York) with varying degrees of success. Expect the team to continue to throw the ball; his offenses have ranked 10th or higher in passing attempt in 10 of 15 seasons. By contrast, his offenses have only ranked in the Top 10 in rushing attempts four times. 
  • Sorting out the crowded new-look backfield -- In an NFL defined by running back committees, the Ravens lack star power but have options. Depth took a hit at the start of camp when Kenneth Dixon's torn meniscus ended his season before it began. Dixon's injury gives Javorius Allen a chance to stick. Terrance West led the team with 774 yards rushing and returns as the likely workhorse on first and second down. Veteran Danny Woodhead joins the team after a few seasons of PPR dominance in San Diego. He can be a fantasy factor even if he shares touches. 
  • Mike Wallace versus Jeremy Maclin versus Breshad Perriman -- The Ravens lost their 2nd, 3rd and 5th leading receivers in the offseason, which leaves plenty of targets to go around. Veteran Jeremy Maclin enjoyed his breakout season under Mornhinweg in Philadelphia and reunites in Baltimore. Mike Wallace quietly led Baltimore with 72 receptions for 1,017 yards last season. Last, but not least, 23-year old Breshad Perriman is finally healthy and flashed star potential last year. The Ravens offense can't support three fantasy-relevant receivers; the question is whether one of the trio will be consistent enough to be an every week fantasy asset? 
  • Who starts at tight end? -- Dennis Pitta missed 41 games from 2013-2015, but returned last year and led all NFL tight ends with 86 receptions. Unfortunately, Pitta suffered another injury in the preseason, and his career is over. A quarter of tight ends want the starting job, but all have questions. Ben Watson is 36 years old and coming off an Achilles injury. Crockett Gillmore is oft injured and hasn't been explosive when given playing time. Maxx Williams had knee surgery in the offseason. Finally, Nick Boyle is young, raw and already in the league's substance-abuse program. 
  • Defensive starting roles up for grabs -- Starting roles will be decided in camp at cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker. The linebacker battle is worth watching, in particular, as Tyus Bowser, Matt Judon, Albert McClellan and Za'Darius Smith all want the job. 

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