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2013 Team Report: Baltimore Ravens

Quarterbacks

Starter: Joe Flacco
Backup(s): Tyrod Taylor, Keith Wenning [R]

Starting QB: One of the most established starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Joe Flacco has started every game in each of his six years in the league. Long considered a middling starting quarterback, Flacco gave his doubters a moment to reconsider during his fantastic Super Bowl run following the 2012 season. 2013, however, was a return to mostly pedestrian play relative to the rest of the NFL quarterbacks. Even though he hit his career high in passing yards, he did so with 72 more passing attempts than he's ever tallied before. And his yardage total was only good enough for 11th in the NFL. Worse yet, he finished 18th in passing touchdowns. With six years of data and film on Flacco, it's hard to predict a change in who he is as a quarterback (despite a what a rather significant four game stretch led some to believe). He's a solid NFL quarterback, but he won't be re-writing record books over the course of a full season.

Backup QB: Tyrod Taylor is entering his fourth NFL season - all with the Ravens. Joe Flacco hasn't missed a start in his entire career, making Taylor's contributions limited. Taylor's longest extended regular season action came in the 2012 season finale against Cincinnati when Baltimore already had their playoff seed cemented. Taylor threw for 149 yards while completing 60% of his passes. His biggest contribution was on the ground as he ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. It seemed then that if he was ever given the chance to play, Taylor could be an intriguing player to watch with the wave of young mobile quarterbacks seemingly taking over the NFL. However, this past March, Head Coach John Harbaugh expressed disappointment with Taylor's progress, leading the team to select Keith Wenning out of Ball State in the sixth round of the draft. Wenning isn’t a superior athlete and doesn’t have significant arm talent, but he has the skills to be a spot starter or upper-tier backup long term.

Running Backs

Starter: Ray Rice
Backup(s): Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro [R], Cierre Wood
Fullback(s): Kyle Juszczyk

Starting RB: Perhaps the most eventful offseason for any position group in the NFL was the one had by the running backs in Baltimore. Ray Rice was arrested on charges of felony aggravated assault against his then fiancée (now wife) – a crime caught on surveillance cameras and released by TMZ sports. The film showed Rice dragging unconscious fiancée out of an elevator. Rice won’t do jail time due a not guilty plea and application for a Pretrial Intervention Program, but the NFL could still suspend him. The public nature of the incident sheds an embarrassing light on the league. On the field, Rice was downright bad last year. 660 was his lowest rushing yardage total since his rookie year, when he was only a part-time player. A new Offensive Coordinator in Gary Kubiak and his zone blocking scheme will alter Rice’s outlook. Kubiak has said that the offense will go as Rice goes, but he’s also a proponent of a committee system – something Rice never had during his most productive years.

Backup RBs: Continuing the offseason roller-coaster ride for Baltimore rushers, backup Bernard Pierce had a significant shoulder surgery. While he’s on track for camp, shoulder surgeries for players expected to absorb significant contact with that part of their body are always notable. In theory, Pierce should be in line for a nice season despite disappointing last year after coming in as one of the most highly-regarded backup runners in the league. Out of college, Pierce was compared by some to Arian Foster – a one-cut runner who excelled in a zone-blocking system. But with his surgery and with Baltimore having added another back in the draft, Pierce’s outlook is fuzzy. Justin Forsett was signed via free agency, but his career thus far has shown him to be little more than a third-down back. If Rice is right, he’s a great pass-catching back himself, so Forsett appears to be third-down insurance. Cierre Wood was an interesting acquisition. He didn’t get much of a chance in Houston, but it speaks to his potential that his former Head Coach – and new Baltimore Offensive Coordinator – Gary Kubiak brought him to Baltimore. Wood will fight for a roster spot with rookie fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro, but if he makes the team, he may get a shot to perform. Taliaferro is unheralded, coming out of Coastal Carolina, but at 229 pounds, he’s a player with the size of a bell cow back.

Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk played tight end at Harvard during his collegiate career but has moved to fullback with Baltimore not bringing back Vonta Leach. It's doubtful that Juszczyk will see much of the field on offense, as Baltimore is likely to use two-tight end and three-receiver sets in lieu of utilizing a fullback.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Torrey Smith, Steve Smith
Backups: Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Mellette, Michael Campanaro [R]

Starting WRs: Torrey Smith showed significant progress in his third season in 2013. He went from the 850-yard range in his first two seasons to 1,128 yards in 2013. His touchdown numbers were down, but those are more difficult to predict and trend. A career-high 65 receptions (his first two seasons yielded 50 and 49, respectively) was also a significant increase. With Dennis Pitta returning to Baltimore’s offense for the whole season, Smith’s outlook is difficult to predict. The top receiver in new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak’s offense generally produces big numbers, but quarterback Joe Flacco has only produced a 1,000-yard receiver three of his six seasons, with Smith’s 2013 being the only one to surpass 1,100. Smith could very well improve in 2014 but see his production level off due to a sharing of his high 2013 targets numbers with Pitta and new tight end acquisition Owen Daniels. Steve Smith was signed by Baltimore in free agency. He will also cut into his fellow-Smith’s production. Nearing the end of his career, Steve Smith will provide Baltimore with a veteran presence, but it will be solid – not spectacular. He is likely to be used more as a possession receiver than the deep-running role he filled during his career prime in Carolina. Neither Smith is likely to be a significant red zone target either. Pitta and Daniels should fill that role more often.

Backup WRs: Marlon Brown signed as an undrafted rookie last season, and he earned a spot on the team due to a fantastic preseason. Brown’s success spilled into the season, with a respectable 49 receptions. He showed red zone prowess, with seven of those catches resulting in touchdowns. He only averaged 10.7 yards per catch, making him a possession-style receiver. Jacoby Jones, on the other hand, is a big-play type. His ability to make big plays means he’ll always have at least a situational role in this offense, but it also means that his usage will be limited. 2013 draftee Aaron Mellette is likely ahead of 2012 selection Deonte Thompson. Mellette had a nice preseason in 2013, but he wound up on Injured Reserve due to a knee injury. Mellette is raw, a product of tiny Elon College and a seventh-round choice. However, his size/speed combination offers the most “sleeper” potential to steal snaps out of any backup on this roster. Michael Campanaro is a late-round draft selection who lacks the size to be a perimeter receiver. His contributions, if he makes the roster, will be on special teams and in the return game.

Tight Ends

Starters: Ed Dickson
Backups: Owen Daniels, Crockett Gilmore [R], Matt Furstenburg

The signing of Owen Daniels is seen by some as a cap to the ceiling of production Dennis Pitta can provide. However, Baltimore has already expressed that they will feature plenty of “12” sets (one running back, two tight ends). Pitta will be the “move” tight end with Daniels more often the in-line player. Pitta may lead the team in receptions this season. In his last full season (2012), he finished four receptions behind team leader Anquan Boldin. With Torrey Smith never being a high-volume pass-catcher and Steve Smith in the autumn of his career, Pitta could surpass 70 catches – even on a team that may strive to be run-based. Owen Daniels comes over with new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, was relieved of his head coaching duties in Houston. Despite being a backup tight end, Daniels is likely to play more snaps than not as the team should feature two tight ends regularly. Barring an injury to Dennis Pitta ahead of him Daniels shouldn’t come close to his career high of 70 catches. However, he will provide the team a big body in the red zone and an experience secondary target. Crockett Gilmore was drafted in this year’s third round at 99th overall. He’s a converted defensive end who is a two-way tight end. He should be mostly a blocking specialist and special teamer this season. Matt Furstenburg is more of a “move” tight end, but he lacks the overall skill and pedigree to get on the field. He’ll likely be retained as a developmental asset, but the drafting of Gilmore doesn’t help his chances of seeing the field.

Place Kicker

Justin Tucker: The Ravens re-signed long snapper Morgan Cox to keep the specialist trio intact. Punter Sam Koch will again handle holding on placekicks. Justin Tucker hit an impressive 90.9% (30 of 33) on field goals in his rookie season last year. All three misses came in the 40-49 yard range. The Ravens have been in and out of the top ten in attempted kicker scoring in recent years. Last year they just missed, landing in 11th place.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, Mike Campanaro [R]

The Ravens had an outstanding return game in 2013, not missing a beat even when Jacoby Jones missed time due to an injury. Jones was re-signed and should continue as the primary returner, with Deonte Thompson as his backup. Rookie Mike Campanaro could also fill in as a returner should the seventh round selection make the team.

Punt Returners: Jacoby Jones, Lardarius Webb, Asa Jackson

Last season Tandon Doss led the league in yards per punt return when Jacoby Jones was out with injury. This season Jones is back but Doss has departed to Jacksonville, leaving the identity of Jones's backup as the biggest question in the Baltimore return game. The Ravens are still deep when it comes to returners, with cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson both having shown they are capable in the past.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Gino Gradkowski, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Michael Oher
Key Backups: T David Mims, T Jah Reid, G Ramon Harewood, G Antoine McClain, C Reggie Stephens

The Baltimore Ravens offensive line was a major contributor toward the team's Super Bowl championship last season. The line was reshuffled just before the playoffs, with Bryant McKinnie taking over at left tackle. This late change proved to be genius and it was huge that the team resigned McKinnie this offseason. Left guard Kelechi Osemele is another rare upgrade player who is receiving Pro Bowl grade despite not receiving that honor (yet). He is a mauler who is really blossoming into one of the better guards in the game. Osemele is also a hold the fort player at RT, which could factor into the team's negotiation with right tackle Michael Oher. The center position takes a huge hit this offseason with the retirement of Matt Birk. The loss of Birk is the main reason why this line isn't ranked higher. Geno Gradkowski was drafted to replace Birk but it is unlikely that Gradkowski will play at the high level of Birk at first. Ryan Jensen out of Colorado State – Pueblo was drafted in the sixth round to compete with Gradkowski, and possibly provide an alternative should Gradkowski not be ready for prime time. Right guard Marshal Yanda continues to perform at an All-Pro level and is easily among the top guards in the league at this time. He's a dominant player, especially pulling, who is a big part of the team's success on offense. While he can play on the left side, Michael Oher looks more comfortable at right tackle. Oher is nearing the end of his rookie deal and his value is uncertain. Oher has Pro Bowl flashes but also gives up penalties and isn't consistent. The Ravens drafted Ricky Wagner in the fifth round out of Wisconsin to provide competition at right tackle. Wagner will compete with Ramon Harewood for the swing tackle role. Harewood might be on his last chance with the Ravens this preseason, as the team has seemingly done everything possible to make sure he doesn't see the field. Jack Cornell is a developmental name to watch as the team has been stashing him on the roster. Overall this unit is talented and can be ranked higher if two things happen: first center position becomes more certain in preseason, and secondly Bryant McKinnie stays in shape for a whole season.

Team Defense

The Baltimore Ravens defense has always been highly rated in almost every fantasy scoring system, but something seems different in 2013. Obviously, the retirement of Ray Lewis is a big loss. Sure, his play recently wasn't to the level of his prime years, but there is no doubt that the Ravens will miss his presence. The way they rode his retirement announcement to a world championship last season is testament to that. Despite the Super Bowl, this defense was actually mediocre for much of 2012. In addition to Lewis, there are many other changes for 2013. Gone are safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, and cornerback Cary Williams. Baltimore does have some new talent coming in like Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty. Those guys - plus a healthy Terrell Suggs will soften the blow of the departed. It remains to be seen, however, how these guys will gel and who will fill the leadership void left by Lewis.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE/DT Haloti Ngata, DE Chris Canty, NT Brandon Williams
Backups: NT Terrence Cody, NT Timmy Jernigan, DE Pernell McPhee, DE DeAngelo Tyson, DE Brent Urban

Starting DL: Traditionally the Ravens have been strong in the front seven. In 2013 they seemed to take a little step backward. Haloti Ngata battled a sore knee for much of the season and was not as productive as we have come to expect. The knee is good and reports out of Baltimore suggest that Ngata will no longer be used at nose tackle in the 3-4 as he was at times last season. He is still among the best 3-4 linemen in the league and the signs point to Ngata being a difference maker once again in 2014. Heading into last season there was some question as to how well Chris Canty would make the move from 4-3 tackle to 3-4 end. His modest numbers were somewhat less than was expected, but Canty did a lot of things well that did not show up in the box scores. He demonstrated the skill set to get the job done and should be even better with a year of experience in the scheme. There will be a wide open battle for the starting nose tackle job. Brandon Williams will be the favorite entering camp and is expected to see a lot of action even if he does not start. Veteran Terrence Cody and rookie second round pick Timmy Jernigan will also be in the mix. All of these guys fit the bill of a powerful wide body with the ability to anchor the middle of the line. All in all, the Ravens should be strong as usual up front.

Backup DL: The Ravens are as deep as they are strong up front. They have three basically interchangeable guys at nose tackle and a player in Pernell McPhee that would be a starter for many 3-4 teams. They added Virginia tackle Brent Urban in the fourth round of this year's draft. He is likely to work mostly at end he will join third year pro DeAngelo Tyson. Adding to the Ravens depth is the fact that they have a great deal of versatility among this group.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Daryl Smith, ILB C.J. Mosley, OLB Elvis Dumervil, OLB Terrell Suggs
Backups: ILB Arthur Brown, ILB Albert McClellan, ILB Josh Bynes, OLB Courtney Upshaw

Starting LBs: When Ray Lewis retired last year it left the Ravens with a hole to fill on the inside. They added Daryl Smith as a veteran place holder, and used a second round pick on Arthur Brown in expectation that he would be a long term answer. Instead Smith flourished, providing both quality play and veteran leadership while Brown struggled and saw limited action only in sub packages. As a result the team inked Smith to a long term contract then used their first round pick on Alabama inside backer C.J. Mosley. There is no doubt that Mosley is pro ready. It is all but certain that he will pair with Smith to solidify the inside linebacker positions. The only real question that remains is if Mosley will be a three down player as a rookie. He has the skill set to do so. In Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil the Ravens have one of the best 3-4 outside linebacker tandems in the league. The duo accounted for 19 sacks between them in 2013. Dumervil saw most of his playing time in passing situations and finished with 9 of those sacks. He may see more early down action this season if he can improve as a run defender at the point of attack. Suggs will be 32 in October and may be getting a little old in NFL terms, but he still has plenty of gas in the tank. Outstanding versatility makes Suggs a rare weapon. He can line up as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside backer with equal success. The presence of these two along with a healthy Haloti Ngata, gives defensive coordinator Dan Pees a lot of options.

Backup LBs: Along with Daryl Smith's extention, the drafting of C.J. Mosley paints a pretty clear picture of what the teams thinks about Arthur Brown. He had a limited amount of opportunity as a rookie and may have a hard time getting on the field at all this season. Josh Bynes could be the top backup at the position on early downs as he was at times last season. One thing that will work in the Ravens favor is the fact that both of these guys were able to get some game experience as rookies last year. Courtney Upshaw would be a starter on several 3-4 teams. He had a significant role mostly on early downs last season and filled in well when Suggs was injured in 2012.The team lists Albert McClellan as an outside linebacker on their depth chart but he has worked on the inside as well. The Ravens like to keep all their players involved and will find a way to give all of these guys a role on any given week.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Matt Elam, FS Terrence Brooks, CB Lardarius Webb, CB Jimmy Smith
Backups: S Darian Stewart, S Jeromy Miles, CB Asa Jackson, CB Chykie Brown

Starting DBs:

Backup DBs:

Last modified: 2014-05-15 13:58:06