COMMENTARY | The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl last season behind the stellar playoff performances of several key players, including quarterback Joe Flacco, a wall-like offensive line and the clutch play of rookie kicker Justin Tucker.
However, not every player during Baltimore's playoff run rose to the occasion, and several Ravens failed to live up to expectations.
With a new-look, revamped team, the incumbents on the roster will need to play at a high level in 2013 in order to lead the Ravens to the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
Here are three Ravens who must step up this season after struggling in 2012:
A bit of a free pass goes to Terrell Suggs for his 2012 performance, since he missed the first eight games of the regular season while recovering from an achilles injury. Upon Suggs' return, he looked like a shell of his former self, the same former self that won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2011.
Suggs proved valuable in run defense as usual, but as a pass rusher, he went missing in many games. He rose to the occasion in the Divisional Round against the Denver Broncos, recording two sacks. However, in Suggs' other 11 games (including the postseason) combined, he only had two sacks.
For a player who looked like one of the league's top pass rushers in 2011, the injury certainly tempered expectations for Suggs last season. However, with a full healthy offseason under his belt, all eyes will be on Suggs to see if he can return to his dominant form.
Through two seasons in the NFL, Jimmy Smith's career has been nothing short of a disappointment in Baltimore. The former first-round pick has failed to crack the regular rotation, and has spent more time in a backup role than as a starter.
During Baltimore's Super Bowl run, Smith began to come into his own, playing extensively during the four playoff games. However, there's no guarantee that Smith will earn a starting job this season. He will battle with Corey Graham and Chykie Brown for the starting role opposite Lardarius Webb.
When Webb is in the slot, where he figures to play in nickel packages, two of the three previously mentioned cornerbacks will be on the field, although there is still no telling whether or not Smith can assume one of those roles.
With the departure of Cary Williams, the Ravens' most physical cornerback last season, the team will need Smith, a player who can use his desirable size to induce physical play with opposing wide receivers, to step up this season.
For the Ravens, every wide receiver on the roster besides Torrey Smith needs to step up this season after disappointing 2012 campaigns. But perhaps no player failed to live up to expectations more than Tandon Doss last season.
The former fourth-round pick entered the 2012 season with expectations of developing into possibly the Ravens' third receiver, behind Smith and Anquan Boldin. However that title went to Jacoby Jones, who struggled as a wide receiver in his own right.
Doss, a player who was hand-picked by Flacco in the 2011 draft, caught just seven passes in 14 regular season games, scoring one touchdown. He has proven to be nothing more than marginal on special teams, and as a receiver he has shown few signs of future success. For a guy who was known for his reliable hands in college, he was the most inconsistent receiver on the team last season.
Drop issues were a theme for Doss, and that culminated with back-to-back dropped pass in the end zone in the Wild Card round against the Indianapolis Colts. If Doss can't develop into at least Baltimore's third receiver this season, he may never amount to anything with the Ravens.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He is the co-host of Ravens Central Radio and the editor of Cat Crave. Follow him on Twitter @kylecasey094.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Baltimore Ravens
- Terrell Suggs
- the Ravens