A preview of the Baltimore Ravens ahead of the 2018 season.
Check back every day for a new 2018 team preview in this year’s NFL power rankings countdown.
Today’s team is the Baltimore Ravens.
25. Baltimore Ravens
Keegan’s highest rated player: Marshal Yanda, guard
Biggest strength: Safety
Biggest weakness: Center
Best offseason move: Drafting Lamar Jackson
Worst offseason move: Not adding pass rush depth
Game to circle on calendar: Week 4, at Pittsburgh
Breakout candidate: Marlon Humphrey, cornerback
Key players in contract years: Alex Collins, John Brown, Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, Brent Urban, Michael Pierce, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Albert McClellan
The Ravens will have an interesting offense this season, mainly because of their selection of Lamar Jackson in this year’s draft. Unfortunately, drafting Jackson has turned Joe Flacco into a lame duck quarterback, which will more than likely be a major distraction.
Flacco is a good quarterback, but Jackson could unseat him as the starter if Flacco has some slip-ups early in the year. This would not be good for Jackson in the long term. He will be a future starter, but he needs to be redshirted for a year, similar to what the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes last season.
Despite my confidence in both Flacco and Jackson, the strongest skill position on this Ravens offense could be their running backs. Alex Collins is one of the most underrated running backs in football, and the Ravens have great depth with Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon.
The Ravens receiving corps could struggle early in the season. The fact they added five key receivers this offseason could lead to some chemistry issues. This won’t be a chronic problem with this offense, but it may be hard for Flacco and the rest of the receiving corps early on.
Another concern with this receiving corps is the fact they don’t have a real number one receiver, Michael Crabtree is the best receiver on this team, and I don’t even have much confidence in him. The most prudent receiver signing the Ravens made this offseason is John Brown, who will be a great slot receiver in this offense.
The Ravens did a great job improving the rest of their receiving corps by adding two top rookie tight ends in Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews. While they both have a lot of potential, rookie tight ends usually aren’t immediate contributors, so don’t get too excited about them this year.
While it still needs some work, this year’s offensive line will be a lot better than last year’s, mainly because Marshal Yanda is healthy again. The biggest question mark with this offensive line is Orlando Brown, who was a top offensive lineman in college, but also someone who had a terrible combine. Brown could be a Pro Bowler or someone who is out of the league in three years, neither one of those results would be shocking.
This Ravens offense has potential, but too many question marks for me to believe in it this year.
The Ravens’ defense should be able to contain most teams they play this year. This defense doesn’t have many true difference makers on it, but is instead a group of mostly good players.
One good part of this defense will be the defensive line. All three starters can get the job done, particularly in run support. This will pay off in a division full of running back talent. The best player on this defensive line will be Brandon Williams.
The Ravens’ pass rush will be decent this year, led by Terrell Suggs who still has some gas left in the tank. A player to watch is Tim Williams, who should be able to rebound in his sophomore season.
Despite my confidence in both Suggs and WIlliams, the Ravens still made a mistake by not adding more depth to their pass rush. Suggs will be 36 at the end of the season, and they need to find more guys they have confidence in should he retire in the near future.
The best player on this defense is C.J. Mosley, who is a leader and also one of the best linebackers in football. Expect a great year out of Mosley in 2018, particularly because he is in a contract year. The Ravens’ linebacking corps looks like it will be a fairly good unit in 2018.
The cornerbacks will be a mixed bag in 2018. I like Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey a lot, but the rest of the cornerback position in Baltimore is lacking. The biggest question will be if Marlon Humphrey can improve in year two — there is a strong chance he will.
The biggest point of strength on this defense (and team for that matter) is the safety position. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are both top safeties. The Ravens may have the strongest safety duo in football with these two. I like the addition of DeShon Elliott as well; he could be a replacement for Weddle down the line.
This Ravens defense should be good enough to keep the team in games, but it won’t do much beyond that.
Coaching staff/front office preview
John Harbaugh is the type of coach you don’t dream of hiring, but don’t want fired either. He has won a Super Bowl, but he has also been the coach of some really mediocre teams.
Even though he has been inconsistent as a head coach, don’t expect him to be gone anytime in the near future, the Ravens have a stable front office and I have a hard time believing that they would let him go.
The front office gives fans a lot more reasons to be confident than the coaching staff does. Ozzie Newsome is still one of the best general managers in football, but the end of this season will bring some bittersweet feelings due to his impending retirement.
Ravens fans shouldn’t fret too much about his retirement though, as Assistant GM Eric DeCosta will immediately take control of the football operations when Newsome steps down.
DeCosta has been one of the most coveted front office executives for years. Despite this, he has declined countless opportunities to interview with other teams for higher ranking positions (even opportunities with historic teams such as Chicago or Green Bay). You have to respect that kind of loyalty. This front office will be in safe hands with DeCosta at the helm.
Overall outlook for 2018
This Ravens team is very strong at a few positions, but they also have too many uncertainties at other key positions for me to believe in them this season. They will still be able to win games in the mediocre AFC North, but don’t expect too much beyond that.