The Road To Repeat: Baltimore Ravens 2013 Season Preview

July 05, 2013 | Brian Bower

As summer heat continues and with football season just around the corner, the Baltimore Ravens will take the field in less than a month to begin preparing for the 2013 NFL season.

Training camp is set to begin at the  Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Maryland on July 21, 2013 when rookies report followed by the veterans on the 24th of July.

Fresh off their second Lombardi Trophy in the teams history, the Baltimore Ravens will have a few new looks to the team as they prepare to defend their NFL crown. Here is a preview of how the reigning Super Bowl Champs will look heading into 2013.

Quarterback

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco silenced many critics throughout the Ravens postseason run. In four games Flacco completed 73-of-126 pass attempts for 1,140 yards with 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

Flacco’s  11 touchdowns without an interception in the postseason, matches Joe Montana’s record as best in NFL history. The knock on Flacco is the lack of his gaudy regular season numbers. The five-year starter has never missed a game and has never throw for more than 4,000 yards in a single season or has needed to.

During the off-season Joe was inked to a six-year, $120.6 million contract and all eyes will be on the Super Bowl MVP quarterback to carry the Ravens offense.

Offensive Line

In 2012 the Ravens offense set a single-season franchise record by scoring 398 points, averaging the NFL’s 10th-most points per game (24.9).

The Ravens offensive line was perhaps the unsung hero of the team during the run to the Super Bowl. Barring injury or unforeseen circumstance during camp, the starting offensive line on Sept. 5 in Denver will be Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, Kelechi Osemele at left guard, Gino Gradkowski at center, Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda at right guard and Michael Oher at right tackle.

All together there are 17 players vying to make the roster on the offensive line. They include fifth-round draft pick Wisconsin tackle Rick Wagner  and sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen, a tackle from Colorado State University-Pueblo along with center A.Q. Shipley, who was acquired from the Indianapolis Colts.

Running Backs

Baltimore has always prided themselves on running the football. Veteran back Ray Rice will continue to lead the charge in the Ravens backfield along with second-year back Bernard Pierce. In 2012 Rice earned his third Pro Bowl honor totaling 1,621 yards from scrimmage and totaled nine rushing touchdowns. He was one of just three players to post 1,000 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards in the NFL.

Pierce brings a change of pace to the Ravens and proved to shine as the season wore on.  Of his 108 carries, 78 came in the final eight games. He added 100-yard performances against the Giants in Week 15 and the Colts in the playoffs.

Pro-Bowl fullback Vonta Leach was released by the team during the off-season and it looks as if the Ravens will use rookie Kyle Juszczyk for now.  Known more for his pass catching ability, Juszczyk put his blocking skills on show at the Senior Bowl and during off-season workouts.

Wide Receivers

Billed by some fans as their biggest question for the team heading into 2013 is just how the Ravens wide receiver corp will look. After the trade of veteran receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49ers, the Ravens will look to their current roster to fill the void.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith will take over the number one receiver role and rightly so. Smith’s route running has become crisper and his speed makes him a dangerous weapon. The second-year receiver posted a career high 855 receiving yards on just 49 receptions along with eight touchdowns in 2012.

Jacoby Jones electrified fans last season on special teams however in 2013 the team will look for him to play a more vital role in the Ravens passing game. In 2012 Jones caught 39 passes for 406 yards and one touchdown. While Jones showed big play capability and has proven speed he has never caught more than 51 passes in a season. Jones will need to step up and help the team replace Boldin’s numbers.

The third receiver spot for the Ravens is unclear at this point heading into 2013.  Many expect Tandon Doss to grab the position since he was being “Groomed” for Boldin’s spot. However, David Reed, LaQuan Williams and Deonte Thompson along with seventh-round draft pick Aaron Mellette are all possibilities.

Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are primed for a great year in 2013 for the purple and black. As the chemistry between Pitta and Flacco gets stronger look for Pitta to pick up where he left off in 2012. Pitta’s 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns were second on the team and tied former Ravens fan favorite Todd Heap for most touchdown catches in a season by a tight end. Dickson will need to increase his production during the regular season and will see more action in two tight end sets.

 

Defense

The Baltimore Ravens have always been known for their hard hitting smash-mouth style of defense. The Ravens ranked 17th in total defense in 2012 giving up 122.8 rushing yards and 228.1 passing yards per game. The defense will take on a new look this season with the departure of several key players.  This includes Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and the retirement of Ray Lewis, the greatest linebacker to ever play the game.

Defensive Line

The Ravens added much needed depth to this unit during the offseason. The signings of free agents Chris Canty and Marcus Spears along with drafting Brandon Williams in the third-round will certainly help this group.

Defense is likely to see a lot of rotation among the line in 2013. Look for Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee to see a lot of action. Don’t be surprised to see more of a 4-3 front with these types of quality players.

 

Linebackers

The retirement of Ray Lewis and the loss of Dannell Ellerbe left a big void in the Ravens linebacker unit.

With the Ravens defensive front set for 2013 this could be the year of the sack for a team that recorded just 37 sacks during the regular season. The signing of Elvis Dumervil and a healthy Terrell Suggs could have opposing coordinators pulling their hair out.  Over his past three seasons Dumervil, has averaged 12.5 sacks, including his 17-sack season in 2009 when Dumervil played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

The inside linebacker position has the biggest question mark for the team on defense. Jameel McClain is still awaiting medical clearance from a season ending spinal cord contusion he suffered in 2012. The Ravens will look to newly signed veteran Daryl Smith and rookie Arthur Brown to fill the spot while the team awaits Mclains’s return.

Cornerbacks

The Ravens cornerback unit appears to be set.  The Ravens will take the field this upcoming season with Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown.

The loss of Cary Williams in free agency is nothing for Ravens fans to panic about. Williams helped the team with interceptions, however opponents gashed him for 1,000 yards, six touchdowns and a 91.6 passer rating against him.  He led the NFL by a large margin with 46 tackles on his own coverage.

Prior to his season ending injury Webb was playing at a Pro-Bowl caliber level giving up 5.3 YPA and a 42.2 passer rating, per ProFootballFocus.com. The Ravens will welcome his return with open arms.

Safeties

Baltimore fans are curious about how the Ravens will handle the teams last line of defense in 2013. Ed Reed left for Houston and the team parted ways with hard hitting Bernard Pollard so experience is at a minimum at the safeties postions.

First-round draft pick Matt Elam has been impressive throughout the offseason with his skills in coverage and against the run. He should start in 2013.  Free agent Michael Huff is also decent against the pass which should keep offenses guessing.

Special Teams

Kicker Justin Tucker was a gem for the Ravens during the 2012 season. Tucker, an undrafted free agent that the team signed in 2012 had one of the best NFL seasons by a rookie in history. The Texas native connected on 90.9% of his field goal attempts, the second-best mark by a rookie kicker ever and led the team in scoring with 132 total points.

Punter Sam Koch returns for his ninth season for the Ravens and will continue to be one of the games best. In 2012 Koch pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 28 times.

Wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones was lights out in 2012 and will look to keep it rolling in 2013.

On October 14, 2012, Jones returned a kickoff for 108 yards and a touchdown in a win against the Dallas Cowboys, tying an NFL record for longest kick return. On November 11, 2012, Jones returned a kick-off for 105 yards in the Ravens’ 55–20 win over Oakland Raiders, becoming the first player to return two kicks for 105 yards or more in a season. On November 18, 2012, in a division game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, Jones returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown, helping the Ravens win the game 13–10.

Coaching

Head coach John Harbaugh has led Baltimore to a playoff berth in each of his first five seasons as a head coach in the NFL. Harbaugh owns the second-best winning percentage among head coaches who began their career since 1970 going 54-26 (.675) since arriving in Baltimore.

Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will have had an entire offseason to put his stamp on the offense since taking over for Cam Cameron in 2012. Since Caldwell took over, the Ravens have averaged 400.6 yards of offense per contest (146.4 rushing and 254.1 passing) and 27.3 points per game.

Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees finally has a defense that is healthy barring any major training camp injuries. Plagued by injuries in 2012 Pees’s defense progressed as the season wore on. Over the final six games Baltimore allowed the NFL’s fourth-fewest yards per game, posted the third-best third-down defense and permitted the third-fewest first downs.

Harbaugh added Steve Spagnuolo to their staff as a full-time senior defensive assistant to help Dean Pees in 2013. Spagnuolo was the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator last year, but was fired on Jan 24 when Head Coach Sean Payton returned from suspension. He has a history of getting after opposing teams’ quarterbacks and his knowledge will come in handy.

 

The road to repeat is never a easy one, however the 2013 Baltimore Ravens have a shot. The defense is clearly better on paper but as we all know the game is never played on paper. The offense will rest on the shoulders of quarterback Joe Flacco as he looks to continue where he left off in 2012.

As you slowly trudge your way through the summer heat, just remember 2013 Ravens football is around the corner!!!!

 

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