State of the Offense:
Ray Rice received a big deal in the off-season to continue to carry the offense in Baltimore. Even though Joe Flacco had an impressive season last year, and is not often given the respect he deserves, Rice’s all-around talent at the running-back position is too great. When Flacco is passing the ball, he will have to worry about the left side of his offensive line. Bryant McKinnie has had issues with his health during preseason, while Bobbie Williams is a 35 year old coming off of injury who is also trying to replace Ben Grubbs at left guard. As they figure to be a running team, you can expect Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta to be heavily involved at tight end. Receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith return while Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss will also see time on the field.
State of the Defense:
The Ravens’ defense has undergone lots of surgery this off-season. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left for Indianapolis, Tom Zbikowski and Corey Redding followed him, Jarrett Johnson signed for the Chargers while Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles and will miss at least the first six games of the year. All that means that the team will rely on their exceptionally talented secondary to continue their tradition of dominant defensive displays. Each starter in the secondary carries over from last year, while Courtney Upshaw, Paul Kruger, Arthur Jones and Parnell McPhee will step into prominent roles upfront.
The Ravens’ secondary is startlingly good. Ed Reed is back for another year of his hall-of-fame career. Bernard Pollard is the perfect foil for Reed, as a hard-hitting in the box player, and Lardarius Webb’s ability to take away a receiver gives the rest of the defense a lot of flexibility. With Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith providing depth behind Webb, the Ravens have a secondary to be scared of.
Torrey Smith showed some promise as a deep threat last year, but the Ravens’ receivers as a whole leave a lot to be desired. Anquan Boldin blatantly was a step slow last year. Free agent addition Jacoby Jones is very inconsistent and Tandon Doss is essentially an unknown entering his second season.
Ray Lewis, whether rightly or wrongly, gets a huge amount of credit for the performances of his teammates. This year Lewis will need to live up to his reputation as a leader of men more than ever before. Lewis is surrounded by a lot of inexperience on defense with a new defensive coordinator also coming in. There is a lot of talent coming in, but talent isn’t enough at this level. Lewis will have a large hand in moulding those players into a Super Bowl worthy unit.
Cian Fahey writes for Irishcentral and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf