Baltimore Ravens: Team Identity Changing?
It may only have been the preseason, but there is a lot to like about how the Baltimore Ravens offense operated throughout training camp and their four preseason games. With an aging defense and Terrell Suggs out for a major portion of the season, and an emerging, well-balanced offense in place, is the identity of the Baltimore Ravens changing?
It appears this may be the year where the Ravens offense catches up to, and even passes the vaunted defense. Aging stalwarts Ray Lewis (37 years old) and Ed Reed (34 years old by week 2) are still leaders on defense, but both missed time due to injury last season and aren’t getting any younger. With Suggs out until at least week 6, there will be a huge hole at outside linebacker without the NFL’s reigning defensive player of the year.
Meanwhile, the offense was a juggernaut in the preseason. The Ravens led the entire NFL in total offense in the preseason with 390.5 yards per game. They led the AFC in points scored (108), pass attempts (189), completions (113), passing yards per game (275.5), while rookie kicker Justin Tucker led the AFC with 29 points.
Yes it was only the preseason, and things don’t always translate into regular season success, but this is an offense that has been improving every year since Joe Flacco took over the reigns at quarterback. Flacco is entering his fifth season, having never missed a start and is poised for a breakout campaign. He threw for over 3,600 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but Flacco really stepped up his game in the playoffs. He had four touchdowns and only one interception to go with a passer rating of 96.1 as the Ravens fell just short of reaching the Super Bowl.
The Ravens also boast one of the top running backs in the game with Ray Rice, as he also enters his fifth season. Rice was an absolute beast last season as he had 1,364 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns. Rice also caught 76 passes, second most by a running back last season, for 704 yards and 3 touchdowns. It’s scary to think that Rice can not only duplicate, but surpass the 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns of a year ago, but that just might be the case.
Flacco still has crafty veteran Anquan Boldin as a possession, security-blanket type receiver, while last season’s pleasant surprise Torrey Smith looks to build upon a solid rookie campaign. The lightning-fast, big-play threat had 841 yards receiving and seven touchdowns as a rookie, and appears to be one of the best young receivers in the league. Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are solid-blocking, big-body tight ends that will allow Flacco the option to check-down and will also be red zone targets.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, also entering his fifth season with the Ravens, has been a steadying hand helping players like Flacco, Rice and Smith grow into top offensive threats. Cameron has also implemented a no-huddle offense into his arsenal. Now the offense can use the element of surprise to go with their well-balanced attack to keep defenses off balance.
Admittedly, it does sound crazy saying that the Ravens have become an offensive team, but if the offense continues its ascend under Cameron, Flacco and Rice, we may be saying it for years to come