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2015 Team Report: Baltimore Ravens

Quarterbacks

Starter: Joe Flacco
Backup(s): Matt Schaub

Starting QB: Prior to the 2014 season, Joe Flacco had largely been known for his postseason exploits in leading Baltimore to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. In 2014, he set his career high in passing yards and finished 13th in the NFL with 3,986 yards. He also set a career high in touchdown passes with 27. 2015 will present Flacco with arguably his toughest challenge yet. He lost top receiver Torrey Smith in free agency and returns only veteran Steve Smith and rookie Breshad Perriman as projected starters. The losses in personnel could be counteracted by new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman. Trestman is one of the game's best offensive minds. Flacco has never been a player likely to finish in the top-10 in passing yards or touchdowns. Despite the Trestman boost, Flacco isn't a prime candidate to make a huge statistical leap.

Backup QB: Despite the fact that Joe Flacco hasn't missed a game in his NFL career, Baltimore acquired an experienced backup in the offseason in Matt Schaub. Tyrod Taylor had been the team's backup, but they didn't feel he was growing enough to be an effective player if he were to be called upon. A 4,700-yard passer once upon a time, Schaub is far from that player now. He looked awful at times in the preseason. If Flacco were to go down, this offense could be in big trouble.

Running Backs

Starter: Justin Forsett
Backup(s): Lorenzo Taliaferro, Javorius Allen [R]
Fullback(s): Kyle Juszczyk

Starting RB: A journeyman for his entire career, Justin Forsett rushed for more yards in 2014 than he had in his previous two highest seasons combined, finishing 10th in the NFL in rushing yards. Forsett is an interesting case because he's smaller than a typical load-carrying back at just 190 pounds. He's also at an age that backs tend to lose their ability quickly (he'll be 30 in October), but he has so little tread on his tires. The other interesting factor is that Forsett flourished with former Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, whom he had played for with multiple organizations. Typically, losing Kubiak would be a negative towards a player's outlook, but gaining new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman could keep Forsett among the league's elite rushers. Forsett's 2014 total of 44 receptions should rise under Trestman.

Backup RBs: Lorenzo Taliaferro was a 2014 draft pick who underwhelmed last season when given a chance. He is a very ordinary talent who lacks game-breaking speed or moves to make splash plays. Javorius Allen was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Despite being a bigger player at 6'1" and 221 pounds, he has a chance to be the team's third-down back due to the pass-blocking skills he displayed in college at Southern California.

Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk played tight end at Harvard during his collegiate career but has moved to fullback when Baltimore didn't bring back Vonta Leach before the 2014 season. It remains to be seen how much Juszczyk will see the field in Marc Trestman's system.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken
Backups: Breshad Perriman [R], Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Darren Waller [R]

Starting WRs: Steve Smith Sr. is entering his 15th season in the NFL. While he's an accomplished player, he showed some age towards the end of last season after starting the year very hot. In fact, Smith has said that he will retire after this season. Smith is ideally not a number one receiver at this point in his career, but he's the team's most experienced option and is most familiar with Joe Flacco among the pass-catchers on the team. Coach John Harbaugh identified Kamar Aiken as a young player who needs to step up this season. Baltimore signed him to a one-year deal after a 2014 season that saw him catch three touchdowns in the team's final five games. With first-round rookie Breshad Perriman injured, Aiken is the favorite to replace Perriman due to his experience last season. Aiken has been running with the starters in Perriman's absence.

Backup WRs: Breshad Perriman was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Perriman's skills mesh well with Flacco's; he's a player with straight-line speed who can win deep and catch contested passes by out-leaping defenders. Perriman has a strained tendon in his knee that has cost him all of camp so far. His recovery is going along more slowly than expected, and he has no timetable to return. His place in the pecking order will be difficult to determine ever after he finally gets healthy. Marlon Brown is a third-year player who was an undrafted free agent mainly due to injuries in college. At 6'5" Brown has the height of a perimeter receiver, but he has shown his best flashes as a slot player. In 2013, Brown had 49 receptions and seven touchdowns. But in 2014, Brown regressed to 24 catches and failed to score. He missed a lot of practice with a nerve issue in his back, but he returned to camp practices after the team's first preseason game. Another player mentioned by Harbaugh was Michael Campanaro. Campanaro profiles as a slot man and a special teams player. Darren Waller is a size/speed specimen drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. He's from Georgia Tech, and much like the other receivers recently drafted from there, he's raw but has great tools. He's 6'6" and ran a sub-4.5 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Waller has impressed while playing with the backup units, but without Perriman, Waller is the team's best deep threat. He could see the field situationally.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dennis Pitta (inj), Crockett Gillmore
Backups: Maxx Williams [R], Nick Boyle

Dennis Pitta caught 61 passes and scored seven touchdowns in 2012, but he has been riddled with injuries and unable to finish a season since then. He has been placed on the Reserve/PUP List as he recovers from the hip injury that has ended each of his last two seasons. Crockett Gillmore was a 2014 draft pick who contributed little in his rookie season. He did catch two passes for 30 yards and a touchdown from 21 yards out against Pittsburgh in Baltimore's opening round playoff win against the AFC North champions. Gillmore added significant weight this offseason, suggesting that he'll primarily be used as a blocker even though he's likely to be the team's starter. Baltimore drafted Maxx Williams in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. They traded up to secure his selection, indicating that it was a need and genuinely liked his talent. Williams isn't a move tight end in the vein of a Jimmy Graham, but he's a capable two-way player with his blocking ability. He compares favorably to Jason Witten and Todd Heap, both players who are/were capable receivers and blockers but not elite mismatch weapons. Nick Boyle was a fifth round pick in this year's draft. Like his team's starting quarterback, he played college football at Delaware.

Place Kicker

Justin Tucker: Tucker wasn't the one-man fantasy wrecking crew he represented in 2013 when he made 38 out of 41 field attempts, but he still made 29 out of 34 attempts in 2014 to make him one of the more attractive kickers in 2015 drafts. He's still going very early among kickers on reputation, and the Ravens skill players being one of the less impressive groups in the league could help his attempts tilt back towards field goals and away from extra points again this year. Tucker also converted over two-thirds of his kickoffs into touchbacks, so he's not a good kicker for opposing kick returners.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Kaelin Clay, Lardarius Webb, Chris Givens

Return ace Jacoby Jones departed for San Diego in the offseason, leaving his former backups to compete for the starting return jobs in 2015. Cornerback Asa Jackson and receiver Michael Campanaro had both spent time as the backup on the Ravens depth chart, though neither had seen many returns in games. Jackson was given a chance to win the job in training camp but was eventually cut. Lardarius Webb is another possibility, though after his rookie season Webb has been used on punts more than on kickoffs. Campanaro was the returner entering the season but ended up on Injured Reserve after Week 4. The Ravens used both Jeremy Ross and Raheem Mostert as returners before releasing them, moving Kaelin Clay into the starting role.

Punt Returners: Kaelin Clay, Lardarius Webb

When healthy, Asa Jackson seemed to be the team's preference as the backup punt returner to Jacoby Jones last season, but failed to make the team 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. Both Steve Smith and Michael Campanaro handled punts early in the season before Campanaro went on Injured Reserve. The Ravens signed Jeremy Ross and made him the returner for a few games before releasing him over ball security issues. Baltimore could use Webb, or could turn to Kaelin Clay who they signed after releasing Ross.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Eugene Monroe, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Rick Wagner
Key Backups: G/T Jah Reid, G John Urschel, T James Hurst, C Ryan Jensen, G Robert Myers [R], T Marcel Jones

The last time we saw the Ravens' offensive line, they were limping through the playoffs without several starters. But with everyone back and healthy, this line is slated to be among the league's best. The unit is led by right guard Marshal Yanda, who made his fourth consecutive All-Pro team last season. Yanda subbed at left tackle when the team needed, and he can also play right tackle. Yanda is an absolute beast at the point of attack. He is also entering a contract year which usually means that the player will be going after it even harder than usual. Left tackle Eugene Monroe should be fully back from a knee procedure and does an above average job in both phases of the game. Left guard Kelechi Osemele is also entering a contract year and is an outstanding run blocker. It is not clear if the team can keep both of these players long term. But in the short term this will be an extremely good line. Center Jeremy Zuttah was acquired just prior to last season for a 5th round draft pick, and immediately cemented himself as a stalwart, playing every single offensive snap last season, except one. Zuttah is known as a steady run blocker but can be beat in pass protection. Right tackle Rick Wagner vastly outperformed his contract last season, grading as one the league's best at the position in pass protection. Wagner received an almost $250k bump in salary from the league's performance based system, which was the largest bonus of any 2014 Ravens player. The Ravens also have interesting depth including guard John Urschel and tackle James Hurst, both of which saw significant snaps while the starters were battling injuries. Overall this is one of the league's best units and could make a move for the top spot, should they stay healthy.

Team Defense

The names change, but the Ravens defense remained in the top 10 for fantasy and yards/points against in 2014. They lost lynchpin Haloti Ngata in a trade to the Lions, although they probably would not have been able to retain him anyway because of cap issues. Youngsters Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams, and Carl Davis will be relied on to replace Ngata. Kyle Arrington was recently added after the surprise release from the Patriots to upgrade slot corner, and Ladarius Webb should be better with another year removed from his ACL tear. One more ding on the Ravens D/ST stock is the loss of Jacoby Jones in free agency. Ngata's absence could knock the Ravens from being draftable or a top choice in DFS, but this resourceful group was consistently productive for fantasy in home matchups last year and should still exceed our lowered expectations.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Chris Canty, DE Timmy Jernigan, NT Brandon Williams
Backups: NT Carl Davis, NT Casey Walker, NT Christo Bilukidi, DE Za'Darius Smith, DE Lawrence Guy, DE DeAngelo Tyson, DE Brent Urban

Starting DL: With Haloti Ngata taking the free agent bus to Detroit, the Ravens are short on playmakers up front. Timmy Jernigan recorded 4 sacks a year ago with the rest of the linemen on the current roster accounting for 3 between them. What the Ravens do have in Jernigan, Chris Canty and Brandon Williams are three road graders that offenses will have a hard time moving and who will eat up multiple blockers so the linebackers are clean to make plays.

Backup DL: The Ravens have no developmental young players teeming with big play potential waiting in the wings. Their depth at the position is pretty much a mirror image of the starters. Baltimore will rotate several guys up front throughout the course of a game so most of linemen who make the final roster will have some role to play on Sundays. Top to bottom Baltimore is solid yet unspectacular up front. They have the kind of players who fit their game plan.

Linebackers

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

Starting LBs: As is the case will most 3-4 schemes, the Ravens count on their linebackers to make a lot of game changing plays. The group they have lining up at the position can certainy do the job. Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw are the starters on the outside with Elvis Dumervil replacing Upshaw in sub package situations. The result last year was 30 sacks between the trio. When it comes to the inside linebacker positions no one in Baltimore has forgotten Ray Lewis, but the veteran leadership and big play ability of Daryl Smith combined with the addition of rookie sensation C.J. Mosley is sure helping the team to move on. In his first year on the job Mosley led the team in tackles, recorded 3 sacks, intercepted a pair of passes and recovered a fumble. He may actually be a better player than Lewis was in the final year or two of his career. One thing that is certain, Mosley is going to be the face of the defense for years to come.

Backup LBs: If there is a weakness for the Ravens it is their depth at the linebacker positions. Behind Mosley and Smith the team has 2013 second round pick Arthur Brown who has been a major dissappointment, and 5th year pro Albert McClellan who generally earns his pay as a special teams ace. McClellan would be a serviceable replacement but still a considerable drop off from the starters. Behind the top three on the outside the team lost Pernell McPhee and his 7.5 sacks, leaving no one with more than a few plays of NFL experience. If everyone can stay healthy this is one of the best 3-4 linebacker groups in the game. A couple of injuries however, could really derail the train.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Kendrick Lewis, FS Will Hill, CB Lardarius Webb, CB Jimmy Smith
Backups: FS Terrence Brooks, S Anthony Levine, CB Kyle Arrington, CB Rashaan Melvin, CB Tray Walker, CB Asa Jackson, CB Aaron Ross

Starting DBs: Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb give the Ravens an quality starting tandem at the corner positions. Smith is a big physical cover man with good speed and the size/strength to matchup with opponents bigger receivers. The organization would like to see more big play production out of the 2011 first round pick who has just 5 career interceptions, but they are comfortable with him as their number two corner. Webb is a smaller faster version who is less physical but is technically sound. Like Smith, Webb too has come up a little short as a playmaker in recent years. After totaling 5 interceptions in 2011, he has only 4 in the past three seasons. The other concern with these guys is their recent struggles to stay healthy. Both players missed time last season leaving the team in a tough spot. Smith has missed twelve games over his three years in the league while Webb has missed thirteen over that same span of time. The Ravens are still in search of a long term replacement for Ed Reed at safety. They drafted Matt Elam in the first round a couple of years ago, but he has fallen short of expectations over his first two seasons and will spend his third on IR. Veterans Will Hill and free agent addition Kendrick Lewis figure to be the opening day starters. These two are good players with plenty of startng experience, but neither of them are playmakers.

Backup DBs: Baltimore was caught unprepared last season when both of their starting corners were out with injuries at the same time. Anthony Levine and Asa Jackson filled in admirably as backup level players but the team has taken measures to sure up their depth at the position. Former New England starter Kyle Arrington was snapped up quickly after the Patriots released him this spring and they used a fourth round pick on Tray Walker. Baltimore also added veteran Aaron Ross via free agency. the loss of Elam leaves Baltimore thin at what was already a position of need. Last year's third round pick Terrence Brooks has a lot of upside to be developed. He was not ready when given an opportunity as a rookie. Unless Brooks has come a long way, look for the Ravens to add a veteran late in the preseason.

Last modified: 2015-12-15 16:54:14