BALTIMORE RAVENS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
This can be one of the NFL’s most enjoyable offenses to watch one week and one of its clumsiest-looking the next. There is a good deal of skill-position talent on hand, with blue-chip RB Ray Rice a standout. However, more consistency is needed for the Ravens to become an above-average attack. QB Joe Flacco’s hit-and-miss play has been his calling card, but his durability and playoff success are to be respected.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OLT — You can never have enough good offensive linemen. Though the Ravens surely would like to sign OLT Michael Oher to a second contract, he may be best on the right side. Adding another capable tackle would allow the Ravens to move Oher to the right side and kick ORT Kelechi Osemele inside to left guard, where the Ravens tried a variety of options this season. The Ravens need to continue to improve their edge protection; the trickle-down effect can help the entire line.
WR — The Ravens could use another option at this position. Third-year pro Torrey Smith isn’t quite a No. 1 wideout just yet. Veteran Anquan Boldin is getting up in age and will be entering the final year of his contract. Reserve wideouts Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss are complementary threats at best.
TE — The Ravens may look to add at this position with Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson slated to be UFAs after next season. As the Patriots have shown, the more capable options a team can have at this position, the better.
Injuries really caught up to the Ravens’ defense a season ago, with OLB Terrell Suggs, CB Lardarius Webb and MLB Ray Lewis all missing significant stretches and DT Haloti Ngata playing hurt for much of the campaign. Vulnerable because of the personnel losses, the Ravens finished No. 17 in yards allowed, their lowest ranking since 2002. Lewis is expected to retire, and FS Ed Reed’s contract expires. In short, this is a defense at a crossroads.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
NT — The Ravens haven’t gotten as much as hoped from 2010 second-round pick Terrence Cody and very much need more production up the middle. Also, improved NT-DT depth would help with Ngata battling injuries the last two seasons.
OLB — The Ravens could be challenged to re-sign OLB Paul Kruger after he notched a career-high nine sacks in 2012 in a contract year. Teams are willing to pay a premium for pass-rush ability, and Kruger took a big step forward in his fourth NFL season. Even if Kruger returns, the Ravens could use more speed off the edge with Suggs entering his 11th season and coming off a 2012 Achilles injury.
FS — Stalwart centerfielder Reed will be 35 in September, and the Ravens could let him leave in free agency. Veteran SS Bernard Pollard is best near the line of scrimmage, so a rangy, swift replacement for Reed would be a necessary addition to the back end of the defense.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
2nd round (35): OLB Courtney Upshaw / Alabama (GP/GS: 16/9)
Skinny: Notched 60 tackles but only 1½ sacks.
2nd round (60): OT-OG Kelechi Osemele / Iowa State (GP/GS: 16/16)
Skinny: Stepped right into lineup; also played OLG in playoffs.
3rd round (84): RB Bernard Pierce / Temple (GP/GS: 16/0)
Skinny: Showed promise as Ray Rice’s top backup.
4th round (98): C Gino Gradkowski / Delaware (GP/GS: 16/0)
Skinny: Could be heir apparent to Matt Birk.
4th round (130): FS Christian Thompson / South Carolina State (GP/GS: 7/0)
Skinny: Finished season on injured reserve (knee).
5th round (169): CB Asa “Ace” Jackson / Cal Poly (GP/GS: 3/0)
Skinny: Served four-game PED-policy suspension late in season.
6th round (198): WR Tommy Streeter / Miami (Fla.) (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Spent season on injured reserve (foot).
7th round (236): DL DeAngelo Tyson / Georgia (GP/GS: 10/2)
Skinny: Earned a reserve role as season progressed.
SUMMARY: Upshaw logged starts at the “RUSH” and “SAM” OLB spots in a sold first NFL season.
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