By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on June 11, 2014
The Baltimore Ravens will enter 2014 aiming at a return to the postseason and a resurrection as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. It won't be easy in such a competitive division like the AFC North, but the Ravens possess a talented enough roster to fulfill both ambitions. Here are five early predictions for the franchise's season.
It's hard not to marvel at the work GM Ozzie Newsome put in during May's draft, especially with the Ravens' first three picks. C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan and Terrence Brooks could all start as rookies and could all help equip Baltimore with an elite defense again. Rookie classes around the league will pale in comparison to the Ravens'.
The Ravens nabbed one of the biggest potential steals of the draft's first round when they selected Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. Close to a complete player, Mosley has all the tools to step in as a starter and instantly have a game-changing impact as a rookie. No rookie defender will be as productive.
A looming suspension has put Ray Rice's availability for the beginning of the regular season in doubt. But it's his decline on the field, as evidenced by a measly 3.1 yards-per-carry average last year, that will have him supplanted in the starting lineup by season's end. Whether it's Bernard Pierce or rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro who steal his job, Rice won't be receiving the bulk of Baltimore's carries.
Quietly, Elvis Dumervil was one of the NFL's most efficient pass rushers in 2013. His 9.5 sack total, however solid, didn't do his productivity justice. He'll turn more near sacks into actual sacks in 2014. His counterpart, Terrell Suggs, typically hovers around a double-digit sack total. The two will combine for a whopping 25 sacks in 2014.
I'm not willing to predict that the Ravens will surpass the Bengals, one of the NFL's most complete teams, in the AFC North, but even if they don't, a Wild Card spot will be a welcomed consolation. Baltimore is seemingly too talented to win less than nine or 10 games.
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