2014 BALTIMORE RAVENS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
August 5, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2014 BALTIMORE RAVENS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: JOHN HARBAUGH
RECORD WITH TEAM: 62 – 34
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: GARY KUBIAK
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: DEAN PEES
OFFENSE POINTS PER GAME: 20.0
TOTAL OFFENSE: 307.4
DEFENSE POINTS PER GAME: 22.0
TOTAL DEFENSE: 335.5
TURNOVER MARGIN: -5
The Baltimore Ravens are ready to put 2013 behind them after playing average football and failing to make the playoffs. Baltimore ranked 29th in total offense and 30th in rushing offense last season as their lackluster offense was the main reason they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Baltimore hired former Houston head coach Gary Kubiak as their new OC and signed some help on the offensive side of the football in receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels. Smith is a five-time Pro Bowl performer while Daniels has been to the All-Star game two times. Keeping tight end Dennis Pitta in the fold with a new contract as well as LT Eugene Monroe, will stabilize the offense even more.
As what happens with most players who signed big contracts, Joe Flacco didn’t live up to the expectations after signing a $120.6 million contract after leading the team to a Super Bowl championship in 2012. Flacco had three more interceptions than touchdown passes last season (22-19) and it never appeared that he was ever in his comfort zone. Adding Smith will bring toughness and a veteran presence that was missing in 2013. Torrey Smith now will have more room to operate as a deep threat with Steve Smith and Pitta working over the middle and underneath. Daniels is familiar with the offense that Kubiak will run from their days in Houston. Daniels has sure hands and is an excellent route runner. Marlon Brown caught seven touchdown passes last year and will be joined by Jacoby Jones to round out the receiving corps.
The running attack was anemic last year with Ray Rice averaging only 3.1 yards per carry and scoring just for touchdowns. Bernard Pierce wasn’t much better averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. Rice will miss the first couple of games of the season after being suspended by the NFL after being charged with aggravated assault for a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend. One other area of concern for Rice is his weight after playing at 225 pounds last season and if he can keep his weight at his current 210. Pierce is also coming off rotator cuff surgery. Baltimore drafted Lorenzo Taliaferro out of Coastal Carolina in the fifth round and will give him a chance in training camp.
With Eugene Monroe re-signing a hefty $37.5 million contract, Flacco will have a better chance to stay upright. The Ravens feel they upgraded at C by trading for Jeremy Zuttah from Tampa Bay. Right guard Marshal Yanda made the Pro Bowl and will be joined by right tackle Rick Wagner on the line. If Wagner fails to win the starting job Baltimore may shift Kelechi Osmele from left guard to right tackle. Osemele continues to rehab from back surgery that sidelined him last season. Backups will include Jah Reid, AQ Shipley, rookie John Urschel and Gino Gradkowski.
Baltimore’s defense was respectable in 2013 but because of the poor offense of output they spent way too much time on the field. They finished in the middle of the pack in just about every defense of category and their numbers will be better this season if the offense produces more. Baltimore is led by middle linebacker Daryl Smith is considered one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL. Smith had 123 tackles, three interceptions and five sacks last year and is excellent in pass coverage and is a good blitzer. Joining Smith will be former Alabama star CJ Mosley who was drafted in the first round in the 2014 draft. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs made the Pro Bowl again, but Baltimore wants to see him be more productive the entire season. Elvis Dumervil had 9 ½ sacks before being slowed down by an ankle injury and should be healthy coming into camp this season. Courtney Upshaw will also start at the strong side outside linebacker position.
Losing defensive lineman Arthur Jones will leave Baltimore’s DL in transition. Brandon Williams will get the start at one DE position with Chris Canty on the other side. Veteran Haloti Ngata was a Pro Bowl performer last season and will have to be even more effective in stopping the run and getting to the quarterback in 2014. Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan was drafted in the second round and will be given every chance to start in front of Williams at defensive end. Terrence Cody and rookie Brent Urban will both get a long look in camp.
Jimmy Smith is one of the top young cornerbacks in the National Football League and the ravens exercised of their fifth-year option on the former first-round pick. Smith will be joined by Lardarius Webb, who should be back at full strength after having his knee surgically repaired at the end of last season. Safety is a concern for Baltimore with Matt Elam returning to strong safety and rookie Terrence Brooks taking over at free safety. Darian Stewart, Anthony Levine, Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown will be worked in the nickel package and are all capable backups.
If Baltimore is to rebound from their 8-8 season, Gary Kubiak must find a way to make Joe Flacco more consistent and cut down on his interceptions. When he is protected, he throws it very well. When he’s not protected, he looks like a fish out of water and ends up forcing the football into double coverage. His lack of mobility is another concern and that will force the offensive line to perform better. There is stability in the coaching ranks after John Harbaugh signed a contract extension through the 2017 season and GM Ozzie Newsome is entering his 19th year in Baltimore. Adding Steve Smith and Owen Daniels will be a huge lift for the offense if everyone can stay healthy. On paper, it appears Baltimore has done enough to make a return to the playoffs.
First round, 17th overall: Alabama ILB C.J. Mosley
Mosley didn't present the immediate need a lot of fans were hoping the franchise would address. But in all honesty, that shouldn't matter. Mosley is a great long-term fit for the day that Daryl Smith's days are done, as it should be expected the 32-year-old linebacker won't finish out his contract through the 2017 season. A lot of folks took this as an indictment on Arthur Brown. I take it as a sign that Mosley and Brown will be the long-term linebackers of the future, with Brown getting a little more time to develop.
Second round, 48th overall: Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan
Those hoping for a wide receiver, tight end or offensive lineman were sorely disappointed when Jernigan's name was called. Call me a glass-half-full optimist, but hasn't Ozzie Newsome and the front office earned some benefit of the doubt here, especially with defensive prospects? If Jernigan was the No. 2-rated player on their board after it was re-stacked following the first-round, then why not take him with this pick? He's not as big as the prototypical NFL 3-4 nose tackles are, but he does have an ideal body type for the three-technique, at least in the short-term. And that is a spot that could be addressed with Arthur Jones leaving for the Colts in free agency.
Third round, 79th overall: Florida State FS Terrence Brooks
This pick seemed to receive a great deal of approval from Ravens fans around the message boards and twitter. Brooks is a great cover safety, as one of the fastest at his position in this year's group. The only thing that could keep him out of the starting lineup as a rookie would be the simple adjustments all first-year players go through in the NFL. Regardless of what the Ravens publicly say, there has to be a level of concern with putting a rookie free safety on the field with a second-year strong safety in Matt Elam. I expect Brooks to go through the rigors of competition with Darian Stewart and Jeromy Miles, with a starting role not for certain — at least early in the season.
Third round, 99th overall: Colorado State TE Crockett Gillmore
This pick was the one that caused many Baltimore fans to simultaneously scratch their heads and wonder what the front office is thinking. Consider me in the minority as someone that thinks this pick fit a specific need with the timing being just fine. Once you're past the second round, it's near impossible to assume what grades other NFL teams have on certain players. So you trust your board and go with the work you've put in over time. Gillmore was impressive at the Senior Bowl and saw his stock rise due to the balance he offers at the position. I get it, though: He's not a trendy tight end in the mold of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or even Eric Ebron. But he's got great hands, size and the ability to block in the running game. He's an ideal fit for Gary Kubiak's offense, and since when did people not trust Kubiak and Brian Pariani's ability to work with tight ends?
Fourth round, 134th overall: Virginia DT Brent Urban
The initial reaction here is to think defensive tackle again? It looks pretty ridiculous on the outside. But he's not the same kind of lineman Jernigan is. Urban projects very nicely as a five-technique guy in a 3-4, much like Chris Canty. (Just seems like a coincidence that both of them are Virginia guys, huh?) John Harbaugh went on the NFL Network and gave his opinion that he thought Urban was a second-rounder, but that could very well just be some spin from the team headquarters. Either way, Urban seems like a guy with some potential at a great value spot.
Fourth round, 138th overall: Coastal Carolina RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
Leave it to the Ravens to find a guy from a no-name school in the first five rounds. Just seems like something they do year in and year out. But there's actually some reason to be excited about this pick when you look into what he's accomplished. This past season he ran for 1,729 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns, and finished 11th in the Walter Payton Award. He's a big back that seems suited for this one-cut-and-go zone blocking scheme. He can also be utilized early on in short-yardage situations.
Fifth round, 175th overall: Penn State offensive guard John Urschel
Urschel's smart enough to where he could probably craft a mathematical formula to solve the world's problems. OK, hyperbole, whatever. Still, this is exactly the kind of mind to have on an offensive line, whether he projects to guard or center at the next level. His intellect is off the charts, having taught undergrads math classes while working on his master's degree — all while playing college football. Hey, Harvard alum Matt Birk was a sixth-round pick and went on to have a great career. Who says Urschel can't?
Sixth round, 194th overall: Ball State QB Keith Wenning
Wenning popped up on the Ravens' radar a couple of weeks before the draft, so it was no surprise to hear his name called when the organization was up for its pick in the sixth round. Wenning is still developing, having gotten a start at quarterback late during his high school days. He wound up being a prolific passer at Ball State, setting school records with 1,402 career yards, 92 touchdown passes, 1,035 completions and 1,642 attempts. He'll certainly give Tyrod Taylor some competition at the backup spot, with the chance the team keeps three quarterbacks.
Seventh round, 218th overall: Wake Forest WR Michael Campanaro
The Ravens traded away a 2015 sixth-round selection to get back in the draft to take Campanaro. To me, this signals Campanaro all but has a spot on the 2014 roster. He's a slot receiver that is known for exploiting zone coverages underneath, a skill set not too many NFL receivers have. In the new offense, being able to have a receiver inside will only benefit this team, even if he's working behind Steve Smith for a couple of seasons. It's practically a steal to get him this late. And if you're also a Maryland fan, you know the kind of damage Campanaro can do. If not, see what he did against the Terps last season below.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7 – vs. Bengals, 1 p.m.
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