A coach on the hotseat after 3 playoff barren seasons, A Quarterback on the hotseat after failing to deliver once bestowed with an elite-level contract and a team trying to recover after missing out on last seasons playoffs in brutal fashion on the final day… Yes it’s the Baltimore Ravens
Reasons to be cheerful?
The Ravens wide receiver unit is now the best it has been in years, with Michael Crabtree moving from Oakland and John Brown joining from Arizona, providing Joe Flacco with both a deep threat and a contested-catch champion for those cannon throws that he likes to unfurl. Flacco himself is finally operating at full fitness and seems to have taken notice of the Ravens decision to draft Lamar Jackson in the first round of the draft as his successor. Ultimately Flaccos future lies elsewhere but that is no bad thing for the Ravens, as he needs to put a good season on tape to remind the GMs out there why he was once the leagues highest paid QB. Since winning the SB Flacco has thrown 74 INTs to 98 TD passes, and eliminating some of those turnovers is going to be key to any resurgence that he undertakes In that title winning year back in 2012 he threw 10 INTs all season well below his average of 15 per-season since. The sure hands of Crabtree and Brown will definitely help to improve this stat.
In the event that Flacco fails to be revived by the WR corps then the Ravens insurance policy comes in the shape of RG3. Wait for it, before you point to his failings, this guy has shown enough in preseason to get the Ravens to keep 3 active QBs for the first time since 2010, he’s also a perfect learning tool for the newly-acquired Jackson. The coaches should point out that RG3s weakness was always his inability to protect himself and encourage the young QB-Star in waiting to model his game on a safer version of Griffin. If either of these backups is called upon then the drop-off is no longer as great as it was during the tenure of Ryan Mallett.
Don’t discount the NFLs most accurate kicker-Justin Tucker is a weapon that many teams would kill for.
Reasons to be fearful?
Im a big fan of John Harbaugh, I think that he has delivered as that he can with this Ravens team and he certainly should be the head coach there for the foreseeable future. All that said, if the Ravens do miss out on the playoff picture again it seems likely that Ozzie Newsomes replacement at GM will want to install his own guy at the top of the coaching tree. If this does happen it’ll be the massive turnover of personal for a historically stable franchise which could be the start of a slippery slope towards mediocrity.
For the passing game to work its best the Ravens need to be able to run the ball successfully, and this is where Alex Collins comes in. 973 yards in 15 games last year was an excellent return from a player previously cut by the Seahawks, he also ran in for 6 scores. His issue however was fumbling-6 over the last 2 years, which is something that needs to be addressed. Harbaugh and co need to have confidence in Collins’ ability to protect the ball otherwise they may choose to throw in risky situations which comes with its own set of issues!
How does the season shape up?
Opening the season against a Bills team in flux should allow the Ravens to get up and running early, which is important as they face just the 21st easiest strength of schedule over the season as a whole. Le’veon Bell not showing up for Pittsburgh is a huge bonus if it continues as it opens a chink in the armour of the Steelers, and Its my belief that the Browns and Bengals will be competitive enough to draw the whole division closer together. The defense will be a handful for every opposing QB, we already know how good they can be, If the Jackson-drafting truly inspires Flacco to up his game and utilise the tools hes been given then the playoff drought should be over soon.
Playoffs? Certainly should be in the mix, failure to make it would be criminal with this lineup. Divisional round is as far as they’ll get though.