It’s been a wild start to the 2013 season for the Baltimore Ravens. Each and every week it feels like something new is coming out with players being released or a circumstance where tight end Dennis Pitta gets hurt. The defending Super Bowl champions have their work cut out for them, but I think the Ravens may end up being as dangerous as they have ever been. Especially on defense.
The Ravens will go into the 2013 season with new faces on defense and old faces who have departed. Legend inside linebacker Ray Lewis retired following the Super Bowl, which means for the first time in franchise history, Lewis will no longer practice with the team. Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata will be looked upon to be the new leaders on defense, and they are both in good shape entering the season.
Since Lewis retired, the Ravens drafted inside linebacker Arthur Brown in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft and signed linebacker Daryl Smith on a one-year deal. Both players are competing for the two inside linebacker spots in the Ravens’ 3-4 defense. The Ravens were also able sign free agent outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, and he will take the place of outside linebacker Paul Kruger who could not come to an agreement on a contract extension with the Ravens.
Along the defensive line, the Ravens added Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to aid a defense that allowed 122.8 yards rushing in the 2012 season.
The legend at safety Ed Reed, like Lewis, left earlier in the offseason as well which has opened the door for veteran Michael Huff to take over the free safety position. In addition to Reed departing, strong safety Bernard Pollard was cut by the Ravens with the continued pursuit of going to the youth movement, and the team ultimately drafted strong safety Matt Elam in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
In addition to the new faces on the back-end, the Ravens get their starting cornerback in Lardarius Webb who is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in week six of last season. If the Ravens are to be stable in pass defense, Webb in my opinion holds the cards to all of that. When healthy, Webb is the best run-stopper at corner the Ravens have. He will set the tone for the physicality at corner position. But the Ravens, despite the notable changes, are expecting a faster defense than what they have had in recent years.
“Speed is important,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh noted at the end of the NFL draft in April via Baltimoreravens.com. “We want a big, fast, physical, tough, smart, disciplined football team. That’s what we want to be.”
On offense, the Ravens will look to their franchise player in Joe Flacco to lead the way. Flacco is carrying a lot of swagger these days coming off his Super Bowl MVP performance.
“I can’t really complain at this point. We won last year, I have a lot of money [laughter] – or I’m going to get a lot of money – and we’re going to win football games.” Flacco said via Baltimoreravens.com. ” That’s the way it is around here. That’s what we’re going to get used to and that’s what we want to be used to, is winning football games. We’re not going to apologize for acting like a good football team.”
With the limited experience at wide receiver, Tandon Doss, Laquan Williams, and Aaron Mellette are battling it out to be in the discussion in the No. 2 and No. 3 wide receiver spots. Veteran Torrey Smith is expected to be the main target at the position, and Jacoby Jones will be the down-field threat to go along with his punt return and kickoff return duties.
At running back, Ray Rice will be the starter for the Ravens entering his sixth season with more roles to fill with Pitta out and Boldin gone. But backup running back Bernard Pierce is expected to gain more carries due to the impressive performance he had during the regular season and the postseason, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 5.2 yards per carry respectively.
Despite what we have seen so far entering the 2013 season, I expect the Ravens to be a playoff team. People over the years have said the Ravens were ”Old and slow.” Now they have want they want, and the Ravens will benefit for it.