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2014 Team Report: Baltimore Ravens
QuarterbacksStarter: 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 BacksStarter: 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 has suspended him for the first two games of the season. 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 been cleared 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 and the blocking and receiving skills to play multiple roles in the backfield. 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 ReceiversStarters: 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 EndsStarters: Ed Dickson
Backups: Owen Daniels, Crockett Gilmore [R] 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.
Place KickerJustin Tucker: Kicker Justin Tucker topped his impressive rookie season with an even better second year outing – hitting 92.7% (38 of 41) on field goals, including 6 of 7 from 50+ yards. He’ll once again be working with long snapper Morgan Cox. They’ll probably be working again with punter/holder Sam Koch, although that’s not a certainty. Undrafted rookie Richie Leone could challenge for the job and provide a cheaper option. The Ravens have been in and out of the top ten in attempted kicker scoring in recent years. In 2012 year they just missed, landing in 11th place. Last year they were back in, finishing in 7th place.
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Mike Campanaro, Asa Jackson, Lardarius Webb Return ace Jacoby Jones departed for San Diego in the offseason, leaving his former backups to compete for starting return jobs in 2015. Cornerback Asa Jackson and receiver Mike Campanaro have both spent time as the backup on the Ravens depth chart and should compete for the job, though neither has seen many returns in games. Lardarius Webb is another possibility, though after his rookie season Webb has been used on punts more than on kickoffs. With the situation unsettled the team may audition additional players during the preseason. Punt Returners: Asa Jackson, Lardarius Webb, Mike Campanaro When healthy, Asa Jackson seemed to be the team's preference as the backup punt returner to Jacoby Jones last season, so might start as the favorite this year. Lardarius Webb previously spent two seasons as the Ravens primary punt returner and performed well enough he might have kept the job had it not been for the signing of Jones. Webb's status as a starter on defense could affect how much the team is willing to use him in the return game.
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT Eugene Monroe, LG Will Rackley, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Kelechi Osemele
Key Backups: G/T Jah Reid, C Gino Gradkowski, G/C A.Q. Shipley, G/C John Urschel [R], T Rick Wagner, T James Hurst, T David Mims The Ravens, solidly in the middle of the offensive line pack, had two major lineup changes from last year’s starters. At center, Jeremy Zuttah provides a much needed veteran presence over Gino Gradkowski, who struggled as a rookie. Zuttah was traded for a 2015 fifth round pick, and while he’s not an elite center, he’s solid enough. There’s little doubt Zuttah will be atop the center depth chart as the season opens. At right tackle there is much more uncertainty. After the team signed Will Rackley, left guard Kelechi Osemele seems like a solid bet to give that guard spot to Rackley and move over to right tackle. Osemele suffered a season ending back injury that required surgery but his rehab reportedly went well. Osemele has played the right tackle position before and can be a good player with upside to be great, if healthy. Second year tackle Rick Wagner and journeyman Jah Reid are also in the mix for the position. Another player to keep an eye on is undrafted rookie James Hurst out of North Carolina. Hurst was viewed as a possible top 100 pick before breaking his leg in the bowl game. Hurst has impressive film against top pick Jadeveon Clowney and there are reasons to be optimistic that he could be the rare undrafted tackle find. Still it’s hard to project this player as a starter without seeing him play, and swapping Osemele over seems the most likely outcome. The Ravens could also make a deal or find a veteran tackle somewhere along the way, as they did with left tackle Eugene Monroe last season. Monroe continues to play at a high level and right guard Marshal Yanda plays at an elite level. Both of these players are not concerns for the coaching staff. Fifth round rookie John Urschel from Penn State is unlikely to challenge for a starter position but he has versatility and could get an opportunity if Rackley or Zuttah falters. Overall this is a solid line, with upside to crack the top 10 if the right tackle position stabilizes and Osemele can recapture his form from two seasons ago.
Team DefenseBaltimore's traditionally stout defense is headlined by it's front seven as usual. Suggs and Dumervil provide a dynamic (if aging) pass rush duo on the outside and Ngata should be healthy enough to once again anchor the middle. C.J. Mosley was added in the draft to provide what Arthur Brown could not, a playmaking linebacker. Mosley won the Butkus award and was voted by the coaches as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Ladarius Webb and Matt Elam highlight a secondary that struggled at times last year. Webb is a good cover corner with good instincts, but the team has struggled to contain receivers on the other side of the field. This unit will need to front seven to generate consistent pressure if they're to avoid being exposed.
Defensive LineStarters: 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.
LinebackersStarters: 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 BacksStarters: SS Matt Elam, S Darian Stewart, CB Lardarius Webb, CB Jimmy Smith
Backups: FS Terrence Brooks, S Jeromy Miles, CB Asa Jackson, CB Chykie Brown Starting DBs: At safety the Ravens replaced marginal veteran starter James Ihedigbo with marginal veteran starter Darian Stewart. This move has to be considered a push, but there are other factors in play that could make the team better at the position. 2013 first round pick Matt Elam enters his second season and will be much more comfortable in the scheme. One possible change is that Elam could move over to strong safety after working at free as a rookie. The team also added free safety Terrence Brooks in the third round of the draft. Brooks is a little raw/rough in some technical aspects but is a talented young man. If he coaches up quickly the rookie could be in the mix for a starting job this season. Entering his sixth season as a pro, Lardarius Webb has become one of the leagues excellent cover corners. In 2013 his interception production was down a bit, but Webb was credited with 23 pass breakups. 2011 first round pick Jimmy Smith worked mostly as the nickel corner over his first two seasons. Injuries put him on the field as a starter for most of last year and he proved to be up to the task. Smith finished the season with 50 tackles, a pair of interceptions and 16 pass breakups. So long as everyone stays healthy, the corner positions will be solid. Backup DBs: On paper the Ravens look a little thin in the secondary. Rookie Terrence Brooks could compete for a starting spot at safety. The coaching staff is counting on him to contribute in sub packages at the least. Chykie Brown is the third corner on the team's depth chart. The 2011 fifth round pick is entering his fourth season as a pro but has never been much more than a dime package contributor. Beyond Brooks and Jackson the Ravens have little more than a collection of projects and special teams guys. It would be no surprise if they look to the waiver wire for some veteran depth late in the summer. Last modified: 2015-05-03 19:20:58