The Baltimore Ravens were seconds away from making the Super Bowl. Part of the team is young and talented, but savvy veterans such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are nearing the end of their amazing careers. Can the Ravens get over the hump in 2012? The draft might provide some of the answers. This NFL Preview will look back on Baltimore’s 2011 season before looking forward to 2012.
NOTE: I will randomly add other team previews as the days go by, HOWEVER, if any reader of this blog wants to see a preview for a specific team, just LET ME KNOW and I will gladly make it available.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. As always, your comments, questions and/or disagreements are welcome!
Additional Note: This preview includes ratings used for the 2011 draft. A short explanation of these ratings is as follows:
Numerical: The rank of the player for that position. If there are TWO numbers, the first number is the rank for the general position (OL for example) and the 2nd number the rank for the specific position (OT).
* rating: A rating just below those at the position
NR: Not ranked, meaning I do not think that player is draft worthy.
BALTIMORE: 2011 RECORD 12-4 2010 RECORD 12-4 2009 RECORD 9-7 2008 RECORD 11-5
TEAM OVERVIEW: Baltimore signed WR Lee Evans before the season started but early injuries delayed his assimilation into the Raven’s offense. He was barely visible all season long, but on Baltimore’s next to last offensive play of the year he nearly made a catch that would have won the AFC title. Instead, after a circus like drill and a botched field goal the Ravens have to play the “what if” game for the 2nd straight year. With Ray Lewis almost certainly going into his final season and Ed Reed’s body barely holding up with all his acrobatic playoff moves it sure looks like Baltimore has just one final chance to make it to the Super Bowl before hitting the rebuilding button. Can they once again forget about what almost was and move on?
KEY STATS: For at least the past 18 years the run D is strong. The ’11 version was outstanding at 3.5/83. Once again the Raven point D was 3rd in the NFL. Their overall D was 3rd in yards allowed. Ray Rice was great at 1364/4.7 and 15 total TD’s, with 76 receptions added on. Baltimore was strong on 3rd down O and D, however QB Flacco hit just 57.6% and that needs to rise. Opponents were held to 11 passing TD’s while being sacked 48 times (3rd). The overall sack ratio was 48-33, way up from 27-40 from ’10, however, Baltimore had 43 sacks in games 1-13 and just 3 in games 14-16, plus only 2 more in 2 playoff games. Did they wear down? The Ravens’ only weak area was special teams. PK Cundiff is quite accurate but not overly long. The PR and especially the KR D was well below standards (last in KR D). Baltimore was 6-0 SU in Division, and a franchise 1st 8-0 at home in ’11. Spread-wise, Baltimore is 9-1 off a bye and 12-6 as a MNF host.
TOP STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS PRIOR TO THE DRAFT: The run D has been the obvious top strength. Baltimore fixed the sack production, so the new area of concern is special team D and perhaps PK.
A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Schedules are not out yet.
FREE AGENCY ANALYSIS AND STAFF NOTES: Baltimore has lost starters Grubbs (LG), Redding (DE) and very solid LB Jarret Johnson. Depth has been compromised in the secondary with cuts and losses including Foxworth, Carr, Zibikowski and Nakamura. WR Evans is gone as well. Back-up NT McKinney rejoined his former DC in Indy. Ricky Williams retired. Only fringe DB’s Considine and Graham have been added. The new DC is Dean Pees and that is a BAD SIGN! He was awful with New England and eventually demoted. His whole career has not impressed us.
2011 DRAFT REVIEW: CB Smith started just 3 games (20 tackles) but is expected to earn a starting spot in ’12. WR Smith had a major impact with many long gains and 7 TD’s among his 50 receptions. As shown below, all draftees were rated or * rated, but none of the other players had a start on this very veteran team. All players remained on the team. Free agency produced FB Leach and he help lead the way for RB Rice as the Ravens went from 3.8/119 in ’10 to 4.3/125 in ’11.
1-27 CB J. Smith 3-3
Stayed out of trouble but still has much to learn, although he is gifted
2-58 WR T. Smith 4
His speed was just what the Ravens needed. 50 catches was a nice rookie haul.
3-85 OT Reid 22-12
Tall run blocker type saw limited action but is not a current threat to start
4-123 WR Doss 15
Learning year for this possession WR with really good hands
5-164 CB Ch. Borwn *
Nickel CB with 4 tackles in 7 games
5-165 DE McPhee *
23 tackles and 6 sacks was a surprise to all. Good team first mentality.
6-180 QB Taylor *
Elusive and improved each year at VT, but probably a situational player only in NFL
7-225 RB Allen *
Might get a chance with Ricky W gone but is mostly a straight ahead power back
2010 DRAFT REVISITED: Baltimore has yet to reap any value out of 2nd round draftee LB Kindle (highest pick that year) and his playing future is very much in doubt. DT Cody had 34 tackles and clogged the middle like past Raven DT’s. TE’s Dickson and Pitta combined for 94 receptions and 8 TD’s. WR/KR Reed had zero catches but a 29.7 KR average. DT Jones had 20 tackles and has earned a bit more playing time. OT Harwood has seen little action.
2012 DRAFT NEEDS: Baltimore’s top 3 needs are OG to replace Grubbs, 1-2 LB’s, and extreme DL depth. Additional needs include a decently rated DB, extra WR, developmental OC and a #2 RB. The team is old in spots and needs to replenish soon.
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY AND TENDENCIES FOR 2012: Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is one of the stars on draft day. He’s helped Baltimore draft elite talent early as well as uncover some nice mid-round gems. He’s willing to trade but often he lets the draft come to him where they typically pick up rated talent that dropped during round one. Newsome doesn’t mind trading down, but usually just a few spots. He agonized over Denver’s trade offer but when the Bronco’s sweetened it at the last minute (43/70/114 for 25) it was too good to pass up. Based on what happened to Kindle (even though it was not football related) we would be surprised to see him trade down 18 spots early on anytime soon. Newsome likes drafting players from the SEC.
DRAFT PICK OVERVIEW: Picks in 1st 3 rounds: 29, 60, 91. Baltimore has 8 overall picks. They lost a 4th rounder in the trade for WR Evans but were awarded compensatory picks 130 and 169 at the end of the 4th and 5th rounds.
ROUND ONE PREVIEW: The early buzz is almost unanimous for OC Konz. We’d like to see Baltimore select someone who can help earlier since OC Birk is still the starter. Newsome will find a draft dropper at #29 which could be a CB/DB. We give them a 33% shot at trading out of the round if the deal involves a very early 2nd round draft choice. Would they be interested in trading up for CB Kirkpatrick if he falls into the 20’s?
REST OF THE DRAFT: We expect them to draft an early WR to go with OL. GT WR Hill is on their short list. The other early pick might be for LB, especially if Kindle is just not ready, or for a DB. From #130 on out we expect they will stay true to their value board. A CB such as UCF’s Robinson or a WR such as Illinois’ Jenkins could be nice fits in the mid-rounds. Of course they could double dip along the OL. Late “possibilities” include several under the radar CB’s (Brooks, Pitt’s Jackson), WR Rosario and Oklahoma State OT Adcock.