This edition of TSB’s Training Camp Previews looks at a team that didn’t even have a chance to defend its Lombardi Trophy in 2013. After winning the 2012 Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens didn’t achieve the same level of success in 2013. Joe Flacco played more like a $45-million dollar QB instead of a $120-million dollar one, and the rest of the team didn’t perform up to expectations either.
Can they rebound in 2014? Let’s take a look.
2013 Record: 8-8
Passing Leader: Joe Flacco 3,912 yards/19 TDs/22 INTs
Rushing Leader: Ray Rice 660 yards/6 TDs
Receiving Leader: Torrey Smith 65 catches/1,138 yards/4 TDs
Sack Leader: Terrell Suggs 10 sacks
INT Leader: Corey Graham 4 INTs
FA Acquisitions: RB Justin Forsett, WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels, C Jeremy Zuttah, S Darian Stewart
FA Losses: FB Vonta Leach, WR Tandon Smith, TE Ed Dickson, OT Michael Oher, DE/DT Arthur Jones, ILB Jameel McClain, CB Corey Graham, S James Ihedigbo
1st Round: CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama
2nd Round: Timmy Jernigan, DT, FSU
3rd Round: Terrence Brooks, S, FSU/Crocket Gilmore TE, Colorado State
4th Round: Brent Urban, DE/Virginia/Lorenzo Taliferro, RB, Coastal Carolina
5th Round: John Urschel, C, Penn State
6th Round: Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State
7th Round: Michael Campanero, WR, Wake Forest
After the Ravens won the 2012 Super Bowl, the usually intelligent Ozzie Newsome did the unthinkable and gave Joe Flacco a 6-year, $120-million dollar deal. Flacco was coming off one of the best playoff runs in NFL history, but his previous play was not deserving of a contract like that. Flacco proved his worth in 2013, performing like a player who should be making half as much money as he was, and even that might be a stretch.
Flacco wasn’t the team’s only problem however. Ray Rice and the running game was abysmal, finishing 30th in the league in total rushing yards per game. The once dominant Ravens’ defense didn’t play poorly in 2013, but it was far cry from the physical, intimidating defenses led by Ray Lewis the league was used to seeing for the first 13 years of the new millennium.
Heading into 2014, Baltimore’s offseason headlines have been dominated by Ray Rice and his domestic abuse case. Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the season, which seems like a relatively light punishment for his actions, but that’s a discussion for another day. With Rice on the sidelines, Bernard Pierce will see the majority of the carries, and at this point, he might be a better option for Baltimore than Rice. The former Rutgers back looked a step slow last year, and the off-field distractions must have made it hard for him to train for a new season. Look for Pierce to re-energize the Ravens rushing attack, and the unit as a whole to be much improved in 2014 – even though it can’t get much worse.
Flacco didn’t play well last year, but it wasn’t all his fault. His receiving corp dealt with numerous injuries throughout the year, and he was often throwing to rookies he had little to no rapport with. Heading into this season, Flacco’s crop of receivers looks to be much better than it did in 2013. Steve Smith should be a nice compliment to Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown on the outside, and Owen Daniels should be a nice compliment to Dennis Pitta at the tight end position. Both of those two have the ability to be real threats in the deep passing game.
Defensively, the Ravens return the majority of their starters from last year, and CJ Mosley and Tim Jernigan, the team’s top two draft picks, should be a welcomed addition to Baltimore’s front-seven. Mosley was widely regarded as the top inside linebacker in the class, and the Ravens are still looking for someone to replace Ray Lewis. Darly Smith did an admirable job last year, but the 32-year-old isn’t the team’s long term answer. The loss of James Ihedigbo at safety will definitely hurt. Ihedigbo recorded 101 tackles last year, which was good enough to rank second on the team, and the Ravens brought in Darian Stewart to be his replacement. If you’re wondering who Darian Stewart is, don’t feel bad, because every other fan across the country is too. To clarify this for you, Stewart went undrafted in 2010, and has recorded 123 tackles in his NFL career, just 22 more than Ihedigbo recorded last year alone.
Corey Graham also left this offseason, leaving a void at the cornerback position. The Ravens are going to have to find someone to fill his shoes, because teams will relentlessly attack that position if someone mediocre is playing.
All and all, the Ravens should be more competitive than they were a year ago, but they shouldn’t be put on the same tier as the other top Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.
You can check out the rest of Mike Lucas’ work at StandingOsports.com