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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 5: Baltimore Ravens

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After barely missing out on the Super Bowl last season, the Ravens kept their roster largely intact and had every reason to believe they’d be Super Bowl contenders again this year. At least, until one of the biggest pieces of their roster took a big offseason hit.

Terrell Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in April, and there’s simply no replacing him. Suggs insists he’ll be able to return to the field in 2012, but he’s surely going to miss the start of the season, and it’s still possible that he’ll miss the entire year. The Suggs injury raises questions about just how much Baltimore’s perennially great defense will decline.

Still, this looks like a very talented roster, from top to bottom, and at No. 5 in our power rankings, we believe the Ravens will be in the mix all year.

STRENGTHS.

The greatness of the Ravens’ defense extends far beyond Terrell Suggs. Ray Lewis remains Baltimore’s spiritual leader, and although he’s not quite as fast a player as he was in his prime, he’s still a very good linebacker at the age of 37. Similarly, Ed Reed may have lost a step, and he’s been making noises all offseason about possibly walking away from the game, but when the season starts Reed, like Lewis, is going to be on the field and leading a good defense.

And then there’s defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who was ranked in a poll of his peers as the ninth-best player in the entire league. Ngata took issue with that ranking, saying he doesn’t think he’s the Ravens’ best player, but he’s undoubtedly among the league’s elite defensive linemen, and a dominant presence in the middle.

Jimmy Smith, last year’s first-round pick, missed four games early in his rookie season with an ankle sprain and didn’t really get into the swing of the defense until midway through the year, but as 2011 wore on he looked like a very good young cornerback. Smith appears to be another example of Ravens G.M. Ozzie Smith’s knack for finding talent in the draft.

The strength of the offense is Ray Rice, whom the Ravens can cout on to gain 1,300 or so yards and catch 70 or so passes out of the backfield. At age 25 Rice should have a few more good years left in him, so locking him up with a contract extension this offseason was a wise move.

WEAKNESSES.

The biggest question facing the Ravens is whether quarterback Joe Flacco will be a strength or a weakness of this team. It’s not that Flacco is a bad quarterback, it’s that he hasn’t emerged as the kind of high-quality starter the Ravens were hoping he’d be when they spent a first-round draft pick on him in 2008. It’s also alarming that Flacco’s completion percentage, passing yardage and passing touchdowns all decreased from 2010 to 2011, while his interceptions increased — and in a season in which quarterbacks around the NFL were putting up big numbers. Of course, the reality of the quarterback position in the NFL is that we mostly remember a few big plays at a few key moments, and if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped a pass from Flacco in the end zone late in the AFC Championship Game, we’d probably be talking right now about what a big step forward Flacco had taken in leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl. This year the Ravens need Flacco to really take that big step forward.

On the offensive line, age is a concern. Center Matt Birk, left guard Bobbie Williams and left tackle Bryant McKinnie are all getting long in the tooth, and an offensive line that’s getting old is alarming especially for a team whose quarterback can be shaky under pressure.

Unless the Terrell Suggs injury hits the Ravens hard, they really have no weaknesses on defense. But there are glaring weaknesses on special teams. Billy Cundiff is not a good kicker, and that goes beyond missing a potentially game-tying field goal at the end of the AFC Championship Game: Since signing with the Ravens in 2009, Cundiff has gone just 1-for-10 on field goals of 50 yards or longer in the regular season. The Ravens’ coverage units were weak last year, and may be even weaker this year with gunner Haruki Nakamura leaving to sign with the Panthers. Kickoff returner David Reed had a solid average of 29.7 yards a return, but he fumbles too much. Punt returner Lardarius Webb is the strongest link in the Ravens’ special teams, but he’s just OK, not great.

CHANGES.

Losing Terrell Suggs for at least part of the season is a big change for the worse, although if top draft pick Courtney Upshaw turns out to be another great draft pick from Ozzie Newsome, that will go a long way toward getting the Ravens past the Suggs injury.

The departure of starting guard Ben Grubbs and the arrival of Bobbie Williams to replace him has to be considered a change for the worse. Grubbs was a solid starter in Baltimore, and he’ll be missed.

The Ravens lacked a decent No. 3 receiver last year, and if Jacoby Jones, signed as a free agent from Houston, can fill that role, that would be great news in Baltimore. Jones, however, has long struggled to hold onto the ball. The best bet for improvement in the receiving corps may be the continued growth of Torrey Smith, last year’s second-round draft pick who didn’t get a single ball in the first two games of the season but then burst onto the scene with a 152-yard, three-touchdown game in Week Three and was a solid starter the rest of the year.

CAMP BATTLES.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left Baltimore for Indianapolis and brought starting defensive end Cory Redding with him, and there will be a competition in training camp to replace Redding. That competition will feature second-year defensive end Pernell McPhee, who was second on the team with six sacks as a rookie, pitted against Arthur Jones, who’s the better run stuffer of the two.

The Ravens will also have a camp competition for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Joe Flacco. Tyrod Taylor, a sixth-round draft pick last year, will battle former Colt Curtis Painter.

PROSPECTS.

As a team that was this close (hold your thumb and forefinger a millimeter apart, because that’s how close Lee Evans was to holding onto a game-winning touchdown pass in the AFC Championship) to the Super Bowl, the Ravens have to be feeling pretty confident heading into training camp. The nucleus of key players from last year’s roster is back — minus Terrell Suggs, of course.

If the Suggs injury, plus the aging of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, turns out to be too much for the defense to handle, then the Ravens will take a step backward this season. But with another stellar season from the Ravens’ defense, and an offense that gets the ball into Ray Rice’s hands 20-plus times a game, the Ravens should be every bit as good this year as they were last year.

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31 Responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 5: Baltimore Ravens”
  1. tellmeyouhaveaclue says: Jul 22, 2012 3:13 PM

    Too old, too injured, too many head cases, too many losses comin….

  2. randallflagg52 says: Jul 22, 2012 3:17 PM

    IMO losing Chuck Pagano is going to be the bigger than losing Suggs, Johnson or Grubbs. Guy was very much like Rex Ryan with his crazy blitzes and fronts. After dealing with Greg Mattison it was nice to have a DC again who isn’t afraid to bring the heat from any part of the field. Suggs called it after week 1 when he said he’d be a HC after the season.

    Also no mention of Lardius Webb in the “strengths” section? He only was the best corner in the NFL last year, how about showing him some love?

  3. swashbucklin says: Jul 22, 2012 3:20 PM

    This will be the year that the raven’s beef moves from defense to offense. It’s been said before, but if lee evans used his shakeweight a little more we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

  4. josephgattuso says: Jul 22, 2012 3:20 PM

    The Patriots really shouldn’t be ahead of the Ravens. They had one of the easiest schedules in NFL history last year. They didn’t win a single game against a team better than .500 the entire season, until the AFC Championship game. And even that game, they only won because of a freak series of events. Also with Sterling Moore just flat-out being allowed to commit defensive pass interference. The Patriots would’ve been blown out of the stadium in the Superbowl if the refs didn’t do everything they could to keep them in it. Four productive Giants drives were thwarted by four egregious calls. Three uncalled defensive pass interferences that would’ve been 20+ yard gains, and then a bogus holding call on a Brandon Jacobs run up the middle for the conversion.

    It should be Giants, Packers, Ravens, 49ers, Texans for first five. The Texans are really stacked. Amazing offensive and defensive lines.

  5. 7370355q says: Jul 22, 2012 3:33 PM

    I actually feel significantly better about our special teams coverage units this year compared to last. We were able to replace Nakamura with veteran Sean Considine, and we were able to sign special team pro bowler Corey Graham from the Chicago Bears. Additionally Jacoby Jones should provide a spark in the return game considering how dismal we were especially in kickoff returns. The signing of Bobbie Williams will be a quality addition. Although he will be turning 36, he was a better pass blocker than Grubbs was last year according to pro football focus. If Williams struggles I could foresee a situation where the Ravens 2nd round draft pick Kelechi Osemele could take over midway through the season as williams bridges the gap. Osemele has too much talent to be on the sidelines for too long. Along with the fact that McKinnie is getting his weight under control and should report to camp in much better shape than last year, this line should not experience a significant drop off in effectiveness *knock on wood*. Mr. Smith forgot to mention the Ravens 2 tight ends Dickson and Pitta who will add a difficult dimension to defend as they enter their 3rd season. The injury to Suggs is an obvious blow, the Ravens were lucky to draft Upshaw where they did. If Paul Kruger can build off of a promising 2011 season during this contract year, that would obviously go a long way. And with Upshaw’s talent on the other side, I am still pretty confident that we can weather the storm until suggs makes his return. The key will be Sergio Kindle, if he can provide a spark for the Ravens on 3rd downs like Kruger did last season that would be huge. Early indications from OTAs were that Kindle has improved significantly. Add in Pernell McPhee’s pass rushing capabilities that he exhibited in his rookie season last year, along with one of the best if not the best secondaries in the NFL there really aren’t any glaring weaknesses on this defense to speak of. I think this is a good spot for the Ravens, the schedule will be tough, lets hope for another great season Ravens fans.

  6. randallflagg52 says: Jul 22, 2012 3:38 PM

    Also Cam Cameron should be listed as a weakness. Dude is the most inconsistant OC in the game. I don’t get how he can design a game plan like he did against the Steelers twice, and make all those second half changes against Arizona to come back and win, but then totally ruin games against Jax, Seattle, and Tennessee. He has a lot of talent, I think even his largerst crititcs would admith that, but he is just so inconsistant from week to week.

    He also needs to get Dennis Pitta more involved in the offense. That guy is set to explode in the NFL, had a great finish to the season.

  7. watermelon1 says: Jul 22, 2012 3:40 PM

    “and if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped a pass from Flacco in the end zone late in the AFC Championship Game, we’d probably be talking right now about what a big step forward Flacco had taken in leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl. This year the Ravens need Flacco to really take that big step forward.”
    ********************************************

    THIS is exactly why it’s a good thing Evans dropped the pass. The millions of blind Flacco fans would have thought Flacco “led” the team to the Super Bowl.

    They would fail to realize that the entire rest of that AFC Championship game… Flacco was HORRIBLE against one of the WORST defenses in the league. A defense that he SHOULD have been able to carve up all game long and keep Tom Brady cold on the sidelines.

    I love watching the Ravens on defense, but Flacco makes the offense almost unbearable to watch. And the really sad thing is, because the Ravens are so insistent on forcing Flacco down the fans throats to “prove” they made the right choice in drafting him and giving him no competition… the team has went away from the run game which is clearly the better option with their situation at both DEFENSE and QB.

    The biggest questions for the Ravens this year isn’t Flacco. We know what he is. He’s had 4 extended years taking all the snaps. The biggest question is if the Ravens can muster any sort of pass-rush which will do wonders for their very talented secondary.

  8. jwayne111 says: Jul 22, 2012 4:02 PM

    Sounds like a debate whether Flacco is a strength or weakness…do people really watch Flacco and think he is running the offense? or try to look for a reason to believe in Flacco.

  9. grogansheroes says: Jul 22, 2012 5:07 PM

    The big question is, how long can Ray Lewis continue to play well? 37 for an NFL middle linebacker is ancient. I mean, he can’t do this forever can he? Once he loses it, the Ravens are done.

  10. pjamdragon says: Jul 22, 2012 5:19 PM

    GM Ozzie Smith ?!?!
    Wrong Wizard…wizard.
    Try Newsome

  11. ravensfansc says: Jul 22, 2012 5:27 PM

    I think this is a good spot, maybe one spot higher or lower but around this vicinity. I like Flacco and I think he is our qb, I just don’t feel confident with Cam Cameron, but Flacco has the potential to be great and is in store for a bounce back year. I feel that the ravens can go as far as Flacco leads them which can be as far as Cameron lets them go by using ray rice and play action.

  12. ajc33635 says: Jul 22, 2012 6:09 PM

    Wild caard at best then one and done.

  13. Sixx says: Jul 22, 2012 6:09 PM

    Too high

  14. deathtoromo says: Jul 22, 2012 6:14 PM

    No way. Team let a lot of good players that were also good locker room guys go. This team is on the decline. Too old and their coach is a clown. How a team can be that old with that little of cap space dispells the myth of “the wizard”. Run is over crowes.

  15. hedleykow says: Jul 22, 2012 6:15 PM

    Does it really matter how talented a team is if they still blow it at the end of the game because they couldn’t figure out what down it is?

  16. jdfrox says: Jul 22, 2012 6:21 PM

    If flacco is a weakness this team is in great shape. Bad qbs do not come from behind on road at pittsburg multiple timed. Is he perfect? No. Is he Aaron Rogers? No. But boy is clutch with game on the line and that is a fact. And whoever said he was terrible in afc championship might want to go back and check the stats.

  17. randallflagg52 says: Jul 22, 2012 6:25 PM

    grogansheroes says:Jul 22, 2012 5:07 PM

    The big question is, how long can Ray Lewis continue to play well? 37 for an NFL middle linebacker is ancient. I mean, he can’t do this forever can he? Once he loses it, the Ravens are done.

    ==================================

    Yeah you mean like when they were 4-0 without him last season?

  18. 49erstim says: Jul 22, 2012 6:36 PM

    A lot of great debate on this team. The loss of Suggs hurts…don’t get me wrong….but I’d rather lose a guy on D if I’m the Ravens. If this were Ray Rice, for example, it would hurt worse IMO. I agree with the sentiment that Cameron is too inconsistent….also….hopefully Flacco is more concerned with trying to be a top 5 QB and not trying to tell everybody he is one.

  19. engymass2 says: Jul 22, 2012 6:40 PM

    Don’t think they’ll do as well against the Steelers with their new O-Coordinator. They knew Arians offense pretty well but lost against it mostly (over the years). Haley should push the Steelers well ahead of the Ravens.

  20. alskdh says: Jul 22, 2012 7:22 PM

    If the Packers are #1 in ‘Pre-Season’ rankings, based on heading in to THIS season and THIS offseason alone, this is officially a joke.

  21. grogansheroes says: Jul 22, 2012 7:47 PM

    randallflagg52 says:
    Jul 22, 2012 6:25 PM
    grogansheroes says:Jul 22, 2012 5:07 PM

    The big question is, how long can Ray Lewis continue to play well? 37 for an NFL middle linebacker is ancient. I mean, he can’t do this forever can he? Once he loses it, the Ravens are done.

    ==================================

    Yeah you mean like when they were 4-0 without him last season?

    —————————————————-
    The Pats were 11-5 without Brady. Does it make them a better team? You can get by for four or five games. But when it comes to a tough spot, the rest of the D is looking to Ray. He’s going to retire eventually, we will see. Oh, and which four teams did they beat? Browns and Rams among them?

  22. randallflagg52 says: Jul 22, 2012 8:11 PM

    5

    5

    grogansheroes says:Jul 22, 2012 7:47 PM

    randallflagg52 says:
    Jul 22, 2012 6:25 PM
    grogansheroes says:Jul 22, 2012 5:07 PM

    The big question is, how long can Ray Lewis continue to play well? 37 for an NFL middle linebacker is ancient. I mean, he can’t do this forever can he? Once he loses it, the Ravens are done.

    ==================================

    Yeah you mean like when they were 4-0 without him last season?

    —————————————————-
    The Pats were 11-5 without Brady. Does it make them a better team? You can get by for four or five games. But when it comes to a tough spot, the rest of the D is looking to Ray. He’s going to retire eventually, we will see. Oh, and which four teams did they beat? Browns and Rams among them?

    ==================================

    Cincy, San Fran, Cleveland and Indy. I suggest you do your research before spouting nonsense, you’ll come off as less of a tool.

  23. sweetzinger says: Jul 22, 2012 8:41 PM

    @josephgattuso

    I couldn’t agree more. I can’t believe the Patriots are in the top 5. It just proves how dumb the media STILL is. Honestly, they beat 1 team with a winning record all year. They’re in for a surprise this year.

    I do disagree with your choice on the Giants though. That’s another team that scraped by with a 9-7 record in an incredibly underachieving division. They might have hammered the Falcons, but so what. The Packers beat themselves, the 49ers lost that game and they barely beat a pathetic Patriots team because Brady’s an idiot:
    1. that stupid safety
    2. underthrew Gronk even though he had a LB beat by a yard and a half 40 yards downfield
    3. that pathetic pass to Welker

    I go Packers, 49ers, Texans, Ravens, Eagles

  24. mancave001 says: Jul 22, 2012 8:50 PM

    I just don’t buy the Ravens, not with Suggs’ injury and Flacco’s inconsistent play as of late. Ray Lewis can’t play forever, folks.

  25. ravenseattheirownpoop says: Jul 22, 2012 8:58 PM

    Way to high for the ratbirds. It doesnt matter where you rank them. The bottom line is they choke whenever they get into position to win a big game.
    Flacco is average at best. Cameron is way to vanilla. He belongs coaching in high school.
    Their coach is a headcase who is always crying when he loses and enjoys gatorade baths after beating the lowly Browns. Hey Harbaugh, act like you’ve been there before. Oh yeah my bad, you haven’t!

  26. patsfiend says: Jul 22, 2012 11:11 PM

    josephgattuso says:
    Jul 22, 2012 3:20 PM
    The Patriots really shouldn’t be ahead of the Ravens. They had one of the easiest schedules in NFL history last year. They didn’t win a single game against a team better than .500 the entire season, until the AFC Championship game. And even that game, they only won because of a freak series of events. Also with Sterling Moore just flat-out being allowed to commit defensive pass interference. The Patriots would’ve been blown out of the stadium in the Superbowl if the refs didn’t do everything they could to keep them in it. Four productive Giants drives were thwarted by four egregious calls. Three uncalled defensive pass interferences that would’ve been 20+ yard gains, and then a bogus holding call on a Brandon Jacobs run up the middle for the conversion.

    It should be Giants, Packers, Ravens, 49ers, Texans for first five. The Texans are really stacked. Amazing offensive and defensive lines.
    =========
    Obsessed with the Pats much? This article has nothing to do with them! And, by the way, you left out the part about them going 13-3 and the calls in the SB of the Brady “safety” and the Giants non-fumble that the Pats recovered.

    The league is close… and going 13-3 against any schedule is not easy. You’re often just a couple of plays away from losing to “lousy” teams. You can ask the Steelers about that one.

    You’re nuts if you don’t think the Pats are in the top 5. They could have no one but Brady and Belichick, and they’d still be in the top 10.

  27. walkedintoabar says: Jul 23, 2012 12:39 AM

    wide recievers are a weakness more so than flacco i’d say. you even wrote that a dropped pass in the afc championship was the reason flacco wasn’t a hero and its true (on a day he smoked brady in brady’s house). that was the story all season. dropped passes, lack of seperation.

  28. rekingcrew says: Jul 23, 2012 1:48 AM

    The team rated 16th, scored on every offensive play except one when they played last year against the Ravens.

  29. gabefergy says: Jul 23, 2012 4:48 AM

    The Ravens do have a few concerns, but what team doesnt. They are certainly a preseason favorite to represent the AFC. Losing Suggs is a big blow, but there is still a lot of talent on that defense. They may be even better than last season with such an impressive secondary.

    I think the biggest weakness is the OC. The ball control, vanilla offense may be the Ravens demise. They have talented receivers, but there is a major lack of creativity in how they are used. Last year the overall inexperience of the receiving core was apparent. Flacco is a better QB than most give him credit for and with more time to grow with his receivers he could be poised for a big year.

  30. johntonioholmes says: Jul 23, 2012 11:27 AM

    “and if Lee Evans hadn’t dropped a pass from Flacco in the end zone late in the AFC Championship Game, we’d probably be talking right now about what a big step forward Flacco had taken in leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl. This year the Ravens need Flacco to really take that big step forward.”

    Lee Evans didn’t drop the pass; it was stripped.

    The Patriots made a good defensive play. When you say, “If Evans didn’t drop the pass…” You might as well be saying, “If the Patriots weren’t playing defense, the Ravens would have won.”

    Again, the ball was stripped–not dropped. And that’s a huge difference.

  31. xxsweepthelegxx says: Jul 23, 2012 12:01 PM

    josephgattuso says:
    Jul 22, 2012 3:20 PM
    The Patriots really shouldn’t be ahead of the Ravens. They had one of the easiest schedules in NFL history last year. They didn’t win a single game against a team better than .500 the entire season, until the AFC Championship game. And even that game, they only won because of a freak series of events. Also with Sterling Moore just flat-out being allowed to commit defensive pass interference. The Patriots would’ve been blown out of the stadium in the Superbowl if the refs didn’t do everything they could to keep them in it. Four productive Giants drives were thwarted by four egregious calls. Three uncalled defensive pass interferences that would’ve been 20+ yard gains, and then a bogus holding call on a Brandon Jacobs run up the middle for the conversion.

    It should be Giants, Packers, Ravens, 49ers, Texans for first five. The Texans are really stacked. Amazing offensive and defensive lines.
    __________________

    The Pat’s had an easy schedule you say?

    Your Ravens lost to the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Sewhawks and San Diego Chargers. What does that say?

    It’s the NFL my friend, all teams are good. There are no “easy” games.

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