After an exciting 2012 season that ended with Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the taste of being on top the football world only lasts so long. With training camp just a few weeks away, the Super Bowl champions will have a similar look on offense, but an entirely made-over defense. Replacing five starters (Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard) and other key contributors (Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbadejo) will not be easy, but the moves that Ozzie Newsome and Co. made this offseason made a lot of sense. As the middle linebacker depth (a strength of the Ravens since their inaugural season) dwindled, Newsome addressed the defensive line with players who fit the Ravens mold. By signing guys like Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and Elvis Dumervil, while also drafting defensive tackle Brandon Williams, the Ravens now have the depth that allows them to play matchups and free up the fresh faces at middle linebacker.
Repeating as Super Bowl champions is no easy feat, but here are two bold predictions that just might allow them to return to the big game, and give them a chance to hoist the Lombardi at MetLife Stadium.
1) Second-round pick Arthur Brown will lead the team in tackles.
On day 2 of the NFL Draft, the Ravens were up to their usual tricks when they traded up to get Brown, an inside linebacker out of Kansas State. After transferring from the University of Miami, Brown enjoyed great individual success with the Wildcats, leading the team with 100 total tackles last season and providing leadership on and off the field. A two-time captain at Kansas State, look for Brown to establish himself early and often in training camp, proving to inside linebackers coach Don Martindale and defensive coordinator Dean Pees that he can be a 3-down linebacker in the NFL. Despite sports hernia surgery this offseason, Brown should be more than ready to step in with the first team defense and show off his versatility as a run stopper and cover linebacker.
2) Tommy Streeter will make the 53 man roster and emerge as a red zone threat.
The jury is still out on Streeter, a 6th round pick out of Miami in last year’s draft. After not doing much last training camp, Streeter was “sidelined with a foot injury” and placed on injured reserve last August. At 6’5″ and 220 lbs, Streeter has the size and strength to be a threat inside the 20 yard line. It is no secret that Joe Flacco likes big targets (paging Dennis Pitta), and Streeter would be a welcomed addition to a receiving core that has a number of questions. In order to beat out guys LaQuan Williams, David Reed, and this year’s 7th rounder Aaron Mellette for the final wide receiver spot, Streeter will have to improve his route running and prove his worth as a gunner on special teams. With the departure of Anquan Boldin, there is a serious need for a receiver who can go up and get it, and Streeter fits that job opening perfectly. Superior height, coupled with a 33 inch vertical, will make Streeter too hard to ignore.