2017 Season Previews: Baltimore Ravens

Offense: What the hell happened to Joe Flacco? Yes he was hurt in 2015, and that does excuse it a bit, but he wasn’t exactly Drew Brees in 2014. Or 2013. Flacco is durable, and still holds the faith of the lockerroom and management, or at least the coaching stall. I’m not quite sure what other team would be happy with 20 TDs and 15 Ints. Flacco is the highest paid player in the NFL, and to be honest, I’m not sure he can possibly justify that, but he’s got to play better. Of course, Ryan Mallett is the backup, and we all know how great Tom Brady’s backups are in the NFL. Mike Wallace is back as is Breshad Perriman from IR. I like Chris Moore, who is a feast or famine guy. Benjamin Watson was hurt last year, but can be a solid target. The Ravens added Danny Woodhead to a running back stable that still is missing Ray Rice. I do look at Terrance West as a workhorse back, but they just don’t have anyone that scared defenses, and that could be part of the problem with the offense. Whomever is running the ball, is going to have some trouble finding holes with Rick Wagner leaving for Detroit, but the Ravens have always been able to find good to great linemen.

Defense: The Ravens had the fifth best rush defense in the NFL, and spent the top 4 draft picks on defensive guys. They also resigned Brandon Williams, who is just a monster run stopper, but they did lose Lawrence Guy and Timmy Jergan to other teams, but have a ton of youth to run and out around Williams to try and get a bit of a push in the 3-4. The Four part circles around Terrell Suggs, whom if you take a drink everytime someone mentions his age during a game, you won’t make it to see his birthday. The big loss is Zachary Orr who had to retire, but CJ Mosley is a solid player and the second and third round picks went to this unit.
The Secondary might be the best unit on this defense, even though I give a lot of love to the run defense, but first rounder Marlon Humphrey who goes into the mix with Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and signee Brandon Carr. That is some solid depth and a lot of talent here. Eric Weddle is a 4 time Pro-Bowler at SS and has not slowed down.

Special Teams: Justin Tucker is a guy who is going to have a serious case for the Hall of Fame one year, as he has stunning numbers, and Sam Koch is a solid punter as well, and the Ravens almost always have great coverage units.

Overall: The Ravens have a SHITTON of talent on defense, but that offense worries me, as I really don’t see them outscoring teams, but that defense is young and should be able to keep them in games. I give them 3 wins in the division, and 2 wins in the AFC South and NFC Central. Bonus games is a loss to Oakland and a win with Miami. I see them at 8-8 and out of the playoffs again.

Three Questions

I. Joe Flacco is 29-29 since signing his contract, should the Ravens be looking at moving on?

Joe: The news is that Flacco will be the QB under center when the season opens. The bad news is that will be the first time that he may actually see any game action in over 250 days.

Word is due to his back issues he will eventually practice but to be safe the team won’t insert him into any of the pre-season games.

Usually that is that much of a problem for a veteran QB familiar with a team’s offense like Flacco… only problem is there is only one receiver on the team who has caught a pass from him before 2015. He needs the time to build chemistry with these guys and doing it in real games that count isn’t the place to be doing it.  I won’t be surprised if the Ravens start the year off slow on offense and maybe lose more than a couple games early that they may have been able to win.

I say this because that’s a problem for a guy who is 29-29 with a 82.5 passer rating (33rd in the NFL) and with the worst INT rate (1.31) among QBs with over 16 games as a starter. That .500 w/l percentage as a starter? It may be under that .500 mark by more than a few games at season’s end. At that point the brain trust of the Ravens may seriously think we need to find someone else to QB the team.

Dan: No, the Ravens should stick with their quarterback. Joe Flacco is a good quarterback still and has struggled with a sub-par offense. I think the contract was a little high, but he’s done pretty well for himself. Besides 2014 being his stand-out year, his numbers have been pretty consistent around his career averages which didn’t prove that he was worthy of the massive contract he signed. Regardless, with how hard it is to find a franchise quarterback in free agency and the draft, I think the Ravens need to stick with Flacco at quarterback.

David: Who else is there? Would I trade him for Kirk Cousins straight up? All Day.

Flacco can be a very good QB, but has got to cut down on the interceptions. 15 picks in 2017 is just way too many.

II. Could John Harbaugh be in trouble?

Joe: As long as the team makes the playoff .. no.

If they are real competitive and just miss the playoffs … no again.

If they the Ravens record is as bad as it was in 2015? Then a very big maybe.

With the possibility that Flacco may lose more than a couple of games early because of unfamiliarity with his receivers, Harbaugh better hope that defense of his is clicking all season. They just may pull Flacco’s ass out of the fire more than a few times and win some close games with a timely defensive play and save Harbaugh’s job.

Dan: I think the Ravens need to make the playoffs for Harbough’s seat not to be pretty hot going into next season. He’s a very good coach so he’ll definitely get some leeway, but he needs to have his team begin to produce a little more and start making playoff appearances. Another missed playoff will sign trouble for him.

David: What has he done since winning the Super Bowl?

He’s made the playoffs once since 2012. I am always leery of firing guys that would get hired before the air conditioning in their car got cold as they left the parking lot on the last day, but I wonder if Harbaugh and the Ravens just need a break from each other.

III. The Ravens spent their top 4 picks on a defense that was already top 10, do you think they have the best defense in the division?

Joe: In 2016, the Ravens were arguably short on decent pass rushing players. They now have a surplus of those players.

Their secondary was playing shorthanded all year long…  again… they now have a surplus in the back-end of their defense.

Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams are going constantly harass the other team’s QB. Brandon Boykin should be a dominate CB all season and Tony Jefferson is maybe as good as it gets against defensing the run and tight ends will not to see the ball.

This Ravens’ defense will be fast and physical this year. This Ravens’ defense has a chance to excel this year. It’s a defense that can and probably will win more games for the Ravens than the Ravens offense will.

So, yeah… they probably have the best in the division. Probably the NFL.

Dan: I think they have one of the best defenses in the league and probably the best defense in the division. Only other team that will compete, defensive wise, would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. Will the defense be enough to get them to the playoffs? We’ll see, but I don’t think so.

David: For a defense so solid, there is a lot of upheavel here,  but there is just a TON of talent here and it’s hard to complain about it. The problem is, looking at that offense. Should they have went OL in the first and tired for a RB in the second? I guess we will find out. The Ravens stick to their board and don’t care about Team Needs, and that worked for them in the past, but maybe they need to look at the last 4 years and change that.

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