2018 NFL Season Preview- Baltimore Ravens
For the second year in a row, the Ravens collapsed down the stretch to miss the playoffs.
Baltimore could have got in to the postseason with a win against a sub .500 Cincinnati team, but the team allowed a 49-yard touchdown on 4th and forever with under a minute to go.
Quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled since leading the team to a Super Bowl XLVII victory. Dealing with knee and back injuries, his stats have been pedestrian at best. Running back Alex Collins was the biggest surprise of the season, having earned the starting job after being signed off the practice squad in September. Kenneth Dixon was out for the year with a torn meniscus and Buck Allen was serviceable when called upon. Danny Woodhead a hamstring injury to make an impact. The tight ends were decimated before the season started as Dennis Pitta was forced to retire due to injuries and Crockett Gilmore injured his MCL which required surgery. 37 year old Benjamin Watson led the team with 61 receptions for 522 yards and four touchdowns while Nick Boyle was a solid blocker. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was a free agency bust missing four games because of injury and Breshad Perriman was a healthy scratch for four games. Both guards in Marshall Yanda and Alex Lewis suffered season ending injures and center John Urschel retired before the start of training camp.
The defensive line struggled defending the run when defensive tackle Brandon Williams missed four games with a foot injury. Michael Pierce and Willie Henry had breakout years and will have bigger roles next year. Inside linebacker Matthew Judon had his best season, finishing with eight sacks. The Ravens signed safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency and they helped the secondary lead the league with 22 interceptions and 34 total turnovers. Jimmy Smith was lost for the season with a torn Achilles which hurt the team late in the year.
The Ravens have one of the best special teams units in the NFL. Punter Sam Koch placed 40 of his 84 punts inside the 20. Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro are both solid return men.
The team produced three Pro Bowlers in outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, and free safety Eric Weddle while Mosley and kicker Justin Tucker were both named second team All-Pro. Suggs proved he can still be productive at age 35 by leading the team with 11 sacks. Mosley made his third Pro Bowl after leading the team with 132 tackles. Weddle finished third in the league with six interceptions and was named to his sixths Pro Bowl. Tucker made 34 of his 37 field goal attempts and did not miss an extra point.
The rookie was a disappointment outside of one player. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey took over the starting job after Jimmy Smith got hurt and could be a fixture there for a decade. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser made a minimal impact with just three sacks. Defensive tackle Chris Wormley made just five tackles and struggled to get on the field. Outside linebacker Tim Williams made no impact after a strong training camp. Guard Nico Siragusa never played a snap after injuring his knee in training camp.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Going 9-7 and missing the playoffs, head coach John Harbaugh isn't in danger of losing his job just yet, but it's definitely a wake up call to get the team back on track. In what will be general manager Ozzie Newsome's final season, it would be ideal for the Ravens to have a strong season considering all he's done for that organization.
On August 21, cornerback Jimmy Smith was suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Notable Additions- QB Robert Griffin III, WR John Brown, WR Michael Crabtree, WR DeVier Posey, WR Willie Snead
Notable Departures- QB Ryan Mallett, RB Terrance West, RB Danny Woodhead, WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Mike Wallace, TE Benjamin Watson, CB Brandon Boykin, S Ladarius Webb
Ravens 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
Holding the 16th overall pick going into the draft, the Raven had to make changes on offense. Especially at quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end.
Joe Flacco has regressed since 2013 and is on the back end of his career. It is time to find his eventual replacement.
The Ravens brought in four wide receivers in free agency but only Michael Crabtree is number one receiver material. With Breshad Perriman looking like a bust, an new vertical threat to replace Mike Wallace.
Injuries have plagued the tight end position the last three years. Baltimore's offense needs a sure handed tight end who can get vertical down the middle.
On the day of the draft, Baltimore traded back with Buffalo to the 22nd overall pick so the Bills could draft Tremaine Edmunds. The Ravens then traded back again with Tennessee to the 25th pick so the Titans could select Rashaan Evans. When it finally came time to pick, the Ravens selected South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst with the 25th overall pick. Hurst has great acceleration off the ball and nice quickness, but he is still very raw from being a converted baseball player and will be 25 when the season starts. Baltimore also traded back into the first round with Philadelphia so that they could select Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick. Jackson was seen as the best mobile quarterback in the draft class, but is very raw in his passing skills.
The Ravens also notably drafted two Oklahoma Sooners in the third round in offensive tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews. Brown has the mammoth frame of an NFL offensive tackle, but his draft stock fell after an extremely poor NFL Combine performance. Andrews has the best release of any tight end this year thanks to his day as a wide receiver, but lacks the upper body strength to be used regularly as a blocker.
Lamar Jackson Highlights
What To Expect
Looking at the team and their schedule, I would say 2018 will be much like 2017.
Given the fact the team brought in RGIII and Lamar Jackson, Baltimore is trying to push Joe Flacco to return to his 2012 postseason form and I don't think it will do much good. I do think Flacco will be the starter for the season but I wouldn't be surprised if the offense finds a way to utilize Jackson. Alex Collins will likely be the starter with Kenneth Dixon likely having to serve his four game suspension from last season. Having drafted Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, the offense have two pass catchers to stretch the field and get first downs. The team now has a plethora of wide receivers who should be able to get down field and are hungry for the end zone. Assuming Marshall Yanda comes back healthy and Orlando Brown can contribute at right tackle, this could be a top 10 offensive line in football.
The defensive line can be a strong run defending force when Brandon Williams is in the lineup. C.J. Mosley will be a fixture in the middle of the defense for the next decade, but Terrell Suggs is reaching the end of his Hall of Fame career and the team has hope Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams can step up and eventually replace him. The secondary should be even stronger if Jimmy Smith returns healthy.
Seeing as how Pittsburgh has the best roster in the AFC North and the strength of the AFC in general, I cant see Baltimore supplanting one of those teams offensively due to questions at quarterback. I see them hovering around .500 for much of the year.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7