Where They’re Coming From
A dark place.
Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen, and Ryan Mallett all played quarterback for this team last year. Suffice to say, it was not a fun one. The Ravens had their worst year under John Harbaugh, and their first losing season since 2007.
Where They’re Going
Steve Smith’s retirement party.
One thousand receptions and 15,000 yards are within reach for the future Hall of Famer, as he tries to return from a torn ACL for one last ride. Baltimore and Smith will both stress the importance of wins more than anything else, but getting the 37-year-old his numbers will be the main sub-plot. Considering he’s still their best receiver, hitting those marks will probably be crucial to the Ravens’ success.
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: WR Mike Wallace, S Eric Weddle, TE Ben Watson, T Ronnie Stanley (drafted)
Losses: T Kelechi Osemele, LB Courtney Upshaw, DE Chris Canty, LB Daryl Smith
What to Watch For
Can Baltimore find some young playmakers?
While the Ravens ranked in the middle of the pack for average age last season, it felt like any player worth a damn was on the wrong side of 30. Their quarterback, leading rusher, best receiver, two top pass rushers, and three of the aforementioned offseason additions will all be 30 or (much) older entering 2016, raising the question: are there any quality prospects on this team?
Former first-round pick Breshad Perriman has had terrible injury luck despite never playing a snap in the league. Neither Buck Allen nor Lorenzo Taliaferro have shown the stuff to demand a larger part in the run game, pushing the team to take a wild swing on Trent Richardson. If you’re looking to buy a Ravens jersey that will last a while, a Timmy Jernigan or C.J. Mosley may be your only bet.
Who to Watch For
Lardarius Webb, S; and Jimmy Smith, CB
Both Webb and Smith have, at separate times, looked like future All-Pros on the outside. But each then suffered an injury setback that they’ve never truly responded from (Webb an ACL tear in 2012, Smith a foot sprain in 2014). This season, they’re both among the top-five cap hits on the Ravens’ roster. If their production doesn’t match their pay, Baltimore’s pass D will be dismal once again.
Webb will make the shift to safety this season in an attempt to strengthen what was a glaring weakness last season. The move will also provide the slower Webb a chance to return to his ball-hawking ways that led to five interceptions in 2011. Smith will stay at corner, tasked with covering some of the best wideouts in the game twice a year: Antonio Brown and A.J. Green. Smith allowed six touchdown catches last season, matching his career total to that point.
What Could Go Wrong
The offense stays in the shallow end.
Joe Flacco was headed for the lowest yards per completion in his career last season before he went down with an ACL tear. Last year’s team was missing a deep threat, and that inability to stretch the field certainly didn’t help an offense that couldn’t get a ground game going. One of Flacco’s biggest strengths is unloading a deep ball, and if Baltimore isn’t capitalizing on that, why are they paying him so much?
Where They’ll End Up
Outside looking in.
Baltimore hasn’t missed the playoffs in consecutive years since 2004-2005, but a lot will have to go right to avoid that fate. Unless they make vast improvements in generating takeaways and closing out tight games, I think the Ravens will fall short in a more competitive AFC.