5 Questions the Baltimore Ravens Must Answer During Training Camp
For the 2012 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens pulled off a feat that the 31 other teams around the league were also striving for: that illustrious Lombardi trophy. And as good as the Ravens looked and played in Super Bowl XLVII, not many experts, pundits and/or analysts (aside from a soon-to-be chef that I personally know) had the Ravens even in the championship game, let alone winning it all.
Alas, the Ravens got a second ring for Ray Lewis, cementing his legacy as a fearsome middle linebacker and consummate vocal team leader. All the same, much like Lewis causing utter mayhem and tackling carnage on the field, the 2012 season is a thing of the past. The Super Bowl championship, the reward for the collective blood, sweat and tears of the squad and organization, is the championship of the 2012 team. The current squad, although retaining several key members of that championship run, aren't the same team.
If the Ravens organization wants to join the exclusive club of seven NFL franchises that have won back-to-back Super Bowls, and to be the first team to do so since the 2003-04 New England Patriots, then much like the other 31 teams around the league, they need to quickly identify potential problems and setbacks early in training camp. Lucky for Ravens GM, Ozzie Newsome and the city of Baltimore, I have compiled a list of five offseason issues that the Ravens must rectify in order to have a successful season, with the possibility of a return trip to the Super Bowl.
5) Has GM Ozzie Newsome done enough this offseason to ensure that the Ravens repeat as AFC North division champs?
The Ravens lost more than a few members of their championship team due to retirement in a couple cases and free agency. With the loss of eight players, Newsome had to work some offseason magic to sign players that fit their teams philosophy, are within the salary cap restraints and will produce at a high level on the field. With free agents Elvis Dumervil and Arthur Jones, plus drafted players Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and John Simon now on the roster, the team must identify which of these players are ready to step up and provide an immediate impact.
Baltimore Ravens Offense
4) Is the Ravens offense ready to assume the role of dominate unit in the locker room as well as on the field for Baltimore?
With the departure of Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe amongst others on the defensive side of the ball, and with the emergence of Joe Flacco as a signal caller and the explosive nature of the teams passing attack under offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, it can be assumed that the Ravens are on track to becoming a lethal offensive team on par with the New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons. And with a few weeks of training camp, the offense may come out the gate tossing the pigskin around the field.
3) With the loss of Anquan Boldin, is there a true No. 1 receiver on the current roster?
In order for the Ravens to smoothly transition from a dominate defensive team to an extremely potent offensive squad, one, two or all of the current wideouts on the roster need to step their collective games up. Torrey Smith and the Dragonfly, Jacoby Jones, have to increase their production and productivity in order to validate Newsome's decision to trade Anquan Boldin.
2) Is Joe Flacco elite?
That's the $120.6 million dollar question. Yes, Flacco appeared to have peaked at the right time during the 2012 season and elevated his game through the postseason and Super Bowl; however, the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, so in order for Flacco to prove his worth around the league and with his detractors, he has to lead his team on the field. Now he can help his cause and reassure the organization by showing a new level of focus and resolve during training camp.
1) Which current players on the roster can fill the leadership void left by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?
This is one of those issues/concerns that can't be corrected or evaluated through coaching, and with the departure of veterans Reed and Lewis, going into training camp there is a huge leadership void in the locker room. One may assume that Flacco is the man to step into that locker room role due to his position and price tag; nonetheless, Flacco appears to be more of a lead by example type guy. For the Ravens to fill that leadership vacuum, it may have to fall on the shoulders of several players on the team, such as defensive star Terrell Suggs.