Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 NFL PREVIEW - Baltimore Ravens

BALTIMORE RAVENS                                           

2013 Record: 8-8-0

Key Additions: WR Steve Smith; RB Justin Forsett; S Darian Stewart; TE Owen Daniels.

Key Losses: TE Ed Dickson; CB Corey Graham; OL Michael Oher; S James Ihedigbo; LB Jameel McClain; DL Arthur Jones.

HEAD COACH: John Harbaugh

Offense: After a Super Bowl season in 2012, quarterback Joe Flacco went back to mediocrity last season, passing for 3,912 yards with only 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions while also being sacked 48 times.
The running game was anemic as well as Ray Rice (suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season) ran for just 660 yards while averaging a paltry 3.1 yards per carry and scored four rushing touchdowns. Bernard Pierce also had a down year, gaining 436 yards (2.9 ypc average) and scored just two touchdowns. Justin Forsett was signed as a free agent from Jacksonville to add depth in the backfield.
Targets for Flacco to throw to include Torrey Smith, who had a huge season last year, catching 65 passes for 1,128 yards (17.4 average) and four touchdowns. In addition, veteran wideout Steve Smith (64, 745, 11.2 average and four TD) comes over from Carolina to start on the other side. Jacoby Jones is also on hand for three wide receiver sets in the Ravens offense. Jones caught 37 passes for 455 yards (12.3 average) and two scores. The tight ends include Dennis Pitta, who had 20 receptions in limited action last season and Owen Daniels (signed as free agent from Houston), who made 24 grabs, including three for touchdowns in just five games.
The offensive line is comprised of center Jeremy Zuttah, tackles Eugene Monroe and Rick Wagner and guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda.

STATS - The Ravens scoring dipped to just 20 points per game last season while they finished 29th overall on offense, averaging 307 yards per game, including just 83 yards rushing per game (30th) and also finished 18th in the league in passing with 224 yards per game.

Defense: This unit was respectable last year, but far from the dominant defenses of seasons past as they missed All Pro outside linebacker Terrell Suggs for a good deal of the season due to injury as well as no more Ray Lewis, who retired following the Super Bowl season.
The team will have Suggs (10 QB sacks to lead the team) from the start this year at OLB and he will be joined by Elvis Dumervil (OLB), who had 9.5 sacks and inside backers C.J. Mosley (rookie from Alabama) and Daryl Smith, who had five sacks and three interceptions.
Up front in the 3-4 alignment is veteran nose tackle Haloti Ngata and ends Brandon Williams and Chris Canty. Backups include Terrence Cody (nose), DeAngelo Tyson and rookie Timmy Jernigan (Florida State).
The secondary has safety Matt Elam on the strong side and either Darian Stewart or rookie Terrence Brooks (Florida State) at the free safety. The corners are Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, who each had two picks a year ago.

STATS - Baltimore finished 12th in total defense in 2013, giving up 336 yards per game, including 106 yards rushing (11th in NFL) and 230 passing yards per game, which ranked 12th overall. The Ravens allowed 352 points (22 points per game) which also was 12th in the league. The team registered 40 QB sacks while intercepting 16 passes and recovering eight fumbles.

OUTLOOK: For the Ravens to get back to the playoffs in 2014, they must control their division (3-3 a year ago in AFC North) and get improved play up front from the O-line in protecting Flacco and opening running lanes for Rice and Pierce.
Head Coach John Harbaugh would like to see Rice shake the off-season drama and get back to football after he serves his two-game suspension for an assault charge on his fiancee'/wife earlier this year. Rice is the engine that makes this offense go and when he is on, it makes life easier for Flacco and company to do more damage through the air.
The defense let down late last year, giving up 75 points in the last two games (both losses) of the season, which cost the team a playoff spot for the first time in the Harbaugh era, which began in 2008.
The Ravens can bounce back and it will be vital for them to get off to a good start as they play all three division opponents in the first three games this season. Protecting Flacco in the pocket is vital as well.
The Ravens can be a playoff team once again and with a 10-6 record, they should get back to the playoffs in 2014 as either AFC North division champions or a wild card.

2014 SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Cincinnati
Week 2- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 3- at Cleveland
Week 4- vs. Carolina
Week 5- at Indianapolis
Week 6- at Tampa Bay
Week 7- vs. Atlanta
Week 8- at Cincinnati
Week 9- at Pittsburgh
Week 10- vs. Tennessee
Week 11- BYE WEEK
Week 12- at New Orleans
Week 13- vs. San Diego
Week 14- at Miami
Week 15- vs. Jacksonville
Week 16- at Houston
Week 17- vs. Cleveland

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