The Baltimore Ravens had a rough season last year, failing to make the playoffs for the first time under Coach John Harbaugh. Hopefully this season will be a different story, especially with a fresh and reloaded offense. The Ravens kick off their regular season Sunday at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Here are five reasons the Ravens could rebound for another Super Bowl win.
Depth was added across the chart this offseason and the offense received many new faces. Steve Smith from Carolina is a powerful addition to the wide receiver position and has already become a key target of Joe Flacco. As a veteran, his experience will bring needed talent to the offense, especially combined with Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown, and Jacoby Jones.
Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has been nothing short of impressive throughout offseason and preseason. His athleticism and ability are going to be extremely helpful for running back depth after a disappointing season in 2013. It says a lot to lead the NFL with 243 rushing yards during preseason as a rookie.
Looking at wide receivers again, rookie Michael Campanaro will also make a positive difference on offense. It’s no surprise that he made the roster after he finished the preseason with five receptions for 79 yards as well as returned punts and kickoffs. He impressed coaches throughout preseason and will become more talented as the season progresses.
On the other side, rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley is already bringing amazing talent back to the defense. As a candidate for NFL defensive rookie of the year, Mosley has shown remarkable promise displaying his defensive strength so far. Standing more than six feet tall, his athletic build and tenacious confidence are two more weapons to add to his value. This year is only just the beginning for Mosley.
“A lot of people say I’m going to be the next Ray Lewis,” Mosley said in an interview. “I’m not going to think that way, I just want to be the best player I can be.”
Despite back-to-back-to-back divisional games to start off the season, the Ravens have a pretty reasonable schedule. Competition will be tight in the AFC North this season, at least between the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens. The Ravens should have what it takes to win the division, and will luckily have a better idea early in the season.
The schedule will hopefully work to their advantage, especially without games against either of last season’s Super Bowl teams. The Ravens might face a few challenges on the road, however, after going 2-6 in away games in 2013. As long as the Ravens accomplish a strong start in the first three weeks, they should be able to handle the rest.
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
As mentioned before, Kubiak’s first season with the Ravens is already off to an impressive start. The best part is his perfect fit with quarterback Joe Flacco. Kubiak understands Flacco’s strengths and plays them successfully.
His schemes are ideal for the talent on the Ravens’ offense, which will be a huge benefit this season. From Steve Smith to Dennis Pitta to Lorenzo Taliaferro, Kubiak has a lot to work with and it should be an immense improvement from 2013. He brought a brand new direction the Ravens’ offense, which has recently been a struggle. His system is clear and direct, and it’s up to the team to execute it effectively.
Special teams talent
Obviously I have to talk about Justin Tucker. This kicker is not only a game-saver, but also a record-breaker. He broke the record for longest kick in a domed stadium with a 61-yarder. He’s only 24 and already has a Super Bowl win under his belt, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another. Last year he earned the Ravens an 18-16 win against the Lions by himself, making six field goals. Tucker is a star for the Ravens and can definitely lead them to another Super Bowl championship.
Jacoby Jones is known for his ability as a punt and kickoff returner, and should still have a few crucial chances this season. However, Campanaro showed great potential during preseason and Deonte Thompson surprised everyone with the 108-yard touchdown return. These two should be powerful enough to handle returns, but I still expect to see Jones in his element. Needless to say, the Ravens’ special teams could influence another Super Bowl win.
Last season the Ravens lacked the aggressive defense they have been known for, but things are looking up this year. Veteran lineback Terrell Suggs seems recharged and ready to lead the defense back to the Super Bowl-winning defense. Haloti Ngata is still one of the best defensive tackles in the league. All of the veteran experience combined with young athleticism will have a significant impact on the defensive line.
The cornerback situation is still unclear, but veterans Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are expected to play after returning from back and chest injuries. The third spot is between Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, and Derek Cox. Safety Terrence Brooks is also versatile enough to play as cornerback. There is so much more depth on defense this year, especially with new players. I expect to see some aggression return, especially in the form of blitzes.
An improved roster with added depth, a better coaching staff, a reasonable schedule, and a top-notch kicker are all factors that will bring the Ravens back from last year’s Super Bowl hangover. It won’t be easy, but I expect the Ravens to have a bounce-back season. As long as the players stay healthy and overcome a few challenges, you might see them in Arizona.