Roster Analysis: Baltimore Ravens

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeSeptember 4, 2013

Here is a close look at the Baltimore Ravens as they head into their season opener against the Denver Broncos Thursday at 8:30 p.m. (ET)

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Joe Flacco. Backup --Tyrod Taylor.
Flacco was signed to a $120.6 million contract this offseason, his reward for a sterling postseason where he was named the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and passed for 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in four playoff games. Flacco is getting accustomed to new targets and the losses of tight end Dennis Pitta (hip surgery) and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (traded to 49ers after contract dispute). Backup Tyrod Taylor has a live arm and good mobility.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Ray Rice, FB Vonta Leach. Backups -- RB Bernard Pierce, FB Kyle Juszczyk.
Rice is a multi-dimensional threat who is tough to stuff running or catching the football. Leach is a Pro Bowl blocker known for his punishing style. Pierce is a hard-running tackle-breaker with speed. Juszczyk is slated for a versatile role on offense as well as special teams.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Ed Dickson. Backups - Dallas Clark.
Dickson is a big, fast downfield target who now starts with Dennis Pitta potentially out for the season with a fractured, dislocated hip that required surgery.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones. Backups -- Brandon Stokley, Aaron Mellette, Marlon Brown, Deonte Thompson.
Smith is a dangerous deep threat, Jones a jump-ball type. Stokley is a possession slot receiver. Brown has upside with his size-speed combination. Thompson has battled a left foot sprain. Mellette is a productive seventh-rounder
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Gino Gradkowski, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Michael Oher. Backups -- LT Rick Wagner, LG Jah Reid, C A.Q. Shipley, RG Reid, RT Osemele.
McKinnie is a former Pro Bowl blocker who reported overweight for training camp, but is finally in acceptable shape as the season begins. Osemele plays with a nasty streak and is moving inside after starting at right tackle last year. Gradkowski is the successor to Matt Birk, who retired. Yanda is a Pro Bowl blocker known for his toughness and technique. Oher is a natural right tackle after having mixed results on the left side.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- (Using Ravens' terminology) DT Arthur Jones, NT Haloti Ngata, DE Chris Canty. Backups -- DT Brandon Williams, NT Terrence Cody, RDE Marcus Spears, RDE DeAngelo Tyson.
Tyson is headed into a contract year. Ngata is a Pro Bowl defensive tackle who has shifted inside where he traditionally dominates centers. Canty combines mobility and size. Williams is a big, strong third-round pick. Cody has disappointed as a former second-rounder. Spears figures to be a valuable rotational player.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- (Ravens' terminology in parenthesis) RLB (Rush) Terrell Suggs, SLB (Sam)Elvis Dumervil, MLB (Mike) Daryl Smith, WLB (Will)Josh Bynes. Backups -- RLB John Simon, SLB Courtney Upshaw, MLB Albert McClellan, WLB Arthur Brown, RLB Pernell McPhee.
Suggs is the leading pass rusher in franchise history with 84.5 sacks. Dumervil combines a bull rush, spin move and speed rush effectively. Smith is a thumper inside who replaces Ray Lewis. Bynes is another undrafted free agent success story in Baltimore. Upshaw will be deployed as a run-stopper splitting strong-side linebacker with Dumervil. Brown is talented, but has yet to earn a starting job. McPhee is a converted defensive end who's lost 25 pounds to get down to 274 pounds.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Lardarius Webb, SS James Ihedigbo, FS Michael Huff, RCB Corey Graham. Backups -- LCB Jimmy Smith, SS Matt Elam, FS Brynden Trawick, RCB Chykie Brown.
Webb is a $50 million cover guy who's made a speedy recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last October. Ihedigbo is a box safety who excels as a blitzer. Huff's 4.35 speed should come in handy as a centerfielder as the replacement for Ed Reed. Graham intercepted Peyton Manning twice in January, returning one for a touchdown. Smith is a former first-rounder who hasn't been able to win a starting job. Brown is a nickel back.
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch, LS Morgan Cox, KOR Jacoby Jones, PR Jacoby Jones.
Tucker has a strong, accurate right foot, connecting on 30 of 33 field goals last season. Koch is coming off a career-best season and is adept at the coffin corner kick. Cox is ultra-reliable. Jones made the Pro Bowl for returns last season, running back three for scores.