The Ravens have experience serious amounts of change throughout the off-season. In between departures of franchise cornerstones and signings of impact players, there are questions that arise for the defending super bowl champions.
1. Who will be the Ravens Number Two Receiver?
The Ravens traded away Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth round draft choice. Boldin was such a big part of the Ravens playoff run, hauling in 22 receptions for four touchdowns. He was Joe Flacco’s main target during that run, especially in the red zone. Now that Boldin is gone, there remains a hole at the second receiver position. Torrey Smith is still the number one receiver, but it is necessary for the Ravens to find someone who is a threat to defenses opposite of Smith. Jacoby Jones could step up into that role, but he is seen as primarily more of a slot receiver and return specialist. Tandon Doss seems to be the favorite heading in to training camp. Doss has good size at six feet two inches and is entering into his third season. Doss is a good route runner and has the hands the coaches are looking for, but he must remain healthy to get the opportunity. Deonte Thompson is entering his second season from the university of Florida. He is a speedster and stands at six feet tall. Thompson is a name to look out for during training camp because if he can polish all of his skills, his speed can certainly be a huge factor in winning the second receiver position. Tommy Streeter is another name to look out for. Streeter, a sixth round pick last season out of the university of Miami, did not get the chance to prove that much due to being on injured reserve his rookie season for a foot injury. Entering the second season, Streeter has a lot to prove. What can help him win the position is his size. Streeter stands at six feet and five inches tall. His tremendous size can be an advantage in the red zone. Boldin was a big time threat in the red zone, so a player like Streeter can potentially help replace some of the red zone production that Boldin had.
2. Who will fill the leadership void?
It is hard to replace the leadership that Ray Lewis brought to the locker room. It is pretty much irreplaceable since Lewis has been the face of the franchise from the start. He has been the voice of the Ravens forever despite changes in coaches and personnel over time. Now that Lewis has retired, someone else needs to step up as a leader. Everyone expects Joe Flacco to be that next leader, but his leadership style is much different. He will be the leader of the offense, but he has a quiet demeanor about him, which makes the leadership hole for the team still present. The player most likely to step into Ray Lewis’ leadership shoes is Terrell Suggs. Suggs has been with the Ravens for eleven years now ever since he was drafted in the 2003 NFL Draft. Suggs missed time last season due to an Achilles injury, but now returns in full health for the upcoming season. He has been one of the best pass rushers in the NFL consistently for a long time and has played alongside Ray Lewis for the majority of his career. Suggs knows what it takes to be a leader of not only the defense now, but also the team.
3. Can the Ravens Repeat?
There has been so much going on in the off-season that it leaves everyone with the question, “Can the Ravens contend for another Super Bowl?” The Ravens are in another great position to repeat for another Super Bowl. They have lost talent across the board in several positions, but Ozzie Newsome filled so many of those voids with talented players. Losing Paul Kruger to the Browns was a loss to the team, but replacing him with Elvis Dumervil is a gain for the franchise. Pairing Dumervil with Suggs gives the defense one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass rushing duos. Losing Ray Lewis and his thought to be replacement Dannell Ellerbe was tough, but Newsone drafted Arthur Brown out of Kansas State to help fill that void. To make it easier on the rookie, Newsome beefed up the interior of the defensive line with the additions of Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to play alongside Haloti Ngata. This defensive front is now stacked with versatile players which not only makes the job a little bit easier for the rookie Brown, but also the secondary. Ed Reed went to Houston, so Newsome brought in Michael Huff and drafted Matt Elam to replace Bernard Pollard. Huff has been a good safety for the Raiders ever since he was drafted from Texas and Elam was a very versatile playmaker at the University of Florida. Lardarius Webb comes back from injury as well, so the Ravens now have their number one corner back in the lineup. With the beefed up defensive line and the great set of pass rushers in front, the revamped secondary will do just fine. On the offensive side of the ball, Joe Flacco is in his prime. He has a solid set of weapons to work with such as Smith, Pitta, Dickson and others. He has a great set of running backs in Rice and Pierce to help keep defenses honest over the course of a game. The Ravens defense after all this change has improved and become a better defense than what the Ravens have had lately. And with a Super Bowl MVP quarterback entering his prime, the Ravens can absolutely repeat in the upcoming season.