Each offseason, every NFL team focuses on at least one area in need of an upgrade. So what aspect of the Baltimore Ravens is looking better these days?
Training camp begins later this month for all 32 NFL teams. So that means another preview series from End Zone Score. Dating back to early March, we have taken time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers and previewed an up-and-coming player for each franchise.
Contrary to popular opinions, no team in the league is perfect. That’s why there’s a constant search for talent when it comes to this game. Each club has done its best to bolster its roster. So in this instance, we are going to take a glance at each franchise and pinpoint the department in which it made the most strides this offseason. We have already looked at the AFC East and the NFC East. We are in the midst of previewing the AFC North and have already previewed the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now we are taking a look at the always-formidable Baltimore Ravens.
The Baltimore Ravens have missed the playoffs three of the past four seasons. This after reaching the postseason each of the first five years of the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco Era. The reasons have been numerous. And one of those has been a less-than-effective ground game for the most part.
It will be interesting to see if the team is any better at running the football in 2017. The Ravens have finished 26th and 28th, respectively, in the NFL in yards per game on the ground the past two years. Add in the fact that running back Kenneth Dixon will begin his second season missing the first four games due to a league suspension. Hence, it may be up to Flacco to carry the load the first month of the season. And he now has a nice mix of option to throw to.
With the release of tight end Dennis Pitta (due to injury), the retirement of wideout Steve Smith Sr. and the free-agent defection of fullback Kyle Juszczyk (San Francisco 49ers), Harbaugh’s club is minus three of its top four pass-catchers from this past season. The lone exception here is wide receiver Mike Wallace, who bounced back from some disappointing years with the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. He finished second on the club in receptions (72) and touchdown grabs (4) while totaling a team-best 1,017 receiving yards.
Enter wideout Jeremy Maclin, who comes over to Baltimore after two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Welcome running back Danny Woodhead, who when healthy is one of the league’s best all-purpose players. Look for continued improvement from 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who averaged an impressive 15.1 yards per catch on 33 receptions (3 touchdowns in ’16).
Finally, the tight-end trio of Crockett Gillmore, third-year pro Maxx Williams and veteran Ben Watson should make up for Pitta’s 86 receptions. All missed substantial time this past year due to injuries, with Watson out for the entire season. As Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun reported last week, Gillmore is expected to be ready when the veterans head to training camp on July 26.
We are taking some leaps of faith here when it comes to the health of the Baltimore Ravens’ wideouts, tight ends and pass-catching running backs. But this is an organization that has been more than competitive under head coach John Harbaugh. Look for Flacco to benefit from quite an array of targets this season.