It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens have had to do some readjusting during the offseason. With veteran Ray Lewis retiring and other big name players like Anquan Boldin and Ed Reed headed to different teams, it is hard to imagine how the Ravens can even have a shot at defending their Super Bowl title.
Regardless of the outstanding number of offseason departures on the Ravens roster, there is no reason to count the defending champions out.
There are few teams in the NFL, if any, with a better executive team than the Baltimore Ravens. General Manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the main reasons why the Ravens continue to make it to the playoffs year after year.
This year should be no exception.
Losing solid veteran athletes is never a good thing for a football fan to hear, but it opens the door for younger, possibly even better players to standout in the league. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe were the youngest of the veterans that left Baltimore this offseason, both entering their fifth season in the NFL. Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk and Ray Lewis have all been in the league for over a decade.
Out with the old and in with the new, right?
At the safety position, picking up Michael Huff and Matt Elam to replace Ed Reed was one of the best moves the Baltimore Ravens could have made. Replacing one of the best free safeties to ever play the game is not easy, but the Huff/Elam duo could make the transition go very smoothly. Huff and Elam are versatile and phenomenal against the pass, similar to their predecessor. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will be having a lot of fun confusing the opposing team’s offense with these two in the mix.
The receiver situation is a good problem for the Baltimore Ravens to have. With Torrey Smith as the number one receiver and Jacoby Jones most likely at number two, seeing names such as Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, and even Ray Rice as valuable receivers behind Jones is very reassuring.
The inside linebacker situation is a different story, and not exactly a good one. Rookie Arthur Brown is recovering from sports hernia surgery, Jameel McClain is bouncing back from a spinal cord contusion, and Rolando McClain retired about a month after signing with the team. That leaves the Ravens with Albert McClellan, Josh Bynes, and Bryan Hall. For Ravens fans, those names are not exactly music to the ears after seeing Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, and Jameel McClain together for the past two years. The Ravens’ best chance of winning will come with the return of Jameel McClain and Arthur Brown, once both are cleared to play.
Despite the questions surrounding the receivers and the injury situation at linebacker, the Ravens are in surprisingly great shape with two weeks before the start of training camp. Joe Flacco has made a name for himself so far in Baltimore, leading the team to the playoffs every year since his debut in 2008. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are both a force to be reckoned with in the run game. Lardarius Webb is expected to make his long-awaited return to the field after his season ending ACL tear last October.
To answer the question: there is a very good chance that the Ravens will be better than they were last year. Of course, an asterisk may have to be put next that statement since training camp hasn’t even begun, but there would be an asterisk next to any team in this situation at this point.
Do not expect the Ravens to be the same team they have been in the past. This team will definitely be different, especially on defense. But as long as the players live up to the expectations, this young team could be looking at a very bright future in Baltimore.