What We've Learned About the Baltimore Ravens so Far This Preseason

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What We've Learned About the Baltimore Ravens so Far This Preseason
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome deserves a break, but he's not going to get one in the NFL.

In a perfect world, the two-time Super Bowl-winning executive would have been able to spend the 2013 offseason at ease—celebrating, enjoying and simply relaxing—after the team he assembled in 2012 shocked the world and won the Vince Lombardi trophy.

While Newsome likely relished his latest triumph, he couldn't squander much time because he needed to construct this year's roster in Baltimore. 

The Ravens lost the following players after Super Bowl Sunday: 

Departures from 2012 Baltimore Ravens
'12 PFF Rating Positional Rank 2013 Team
Cary Williams -2.2 No. 69 Eagles
Dannell Ellerbe +4.8 No. 14 Dolphins
Paul Kruger +12.0 No. 6 Browns
Anquan Boldin +7.7 No. 33 49ers
Ed Reed -2.4 No. 59 Texans
Bernard Pollard +3.1 No. 29 Titans
Matt Birk +5.6 No. 20 Retired
Ray Lewis -4.6 No. 33 Retired

ProFootballFocus (subscription required)

But Newsome didn't panic. 

After rewarding Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco with a monster contract—one with $52 million guaranteed— Newsome took a cost-effective approach to the way he'd replace key contributors from the title team.  

Here's a look at the newcomers the Ravens acquired as they made their way into the preseason: 

Baltimore Ravens 2013 Acquisitions (Non-Rookies)
'12 PFF Rating Positional Rank Guaranteed $
Elvis Dumervil -3.9 No. 44 $8.5 mil
Daryl Smith -1.3 No. 77 $285,000
Chris Canty +6.6 No. 19 $2.84 mil
Michael Huff +2.4 No. 44 $1.5 mil
Marcus Spears -3.3 No. 25 $600,000
Brandon Stokley +10.2 No. 23 $0
Dallas Clark +1.6 No. 30 $0

ProFootballFocus and Spotrac.com

Not a bad group, right?

Smith, who was ProFootballFocus' No. 2-rated inside linebacker in 2011, has already made waves during Baltimore's training camp:

After the loss of iconic players like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, April's draft was bound to be as vital as any in recent memory. 

Newsome came away with 10 prospects, and he used his first two selections—go figure—to address the safety and inside linebacker positions:

2013 Draft Picks
Name Position
Round 1 Matt Elam Safey
Round 2 Arthur Brown Linebacker
Round 3 Brandon Williams Nose Tackle
Round 4 (1) John Simon Defensive Line
Round 4 (2) Kyle Juszczyk H-back
Round 5 Ricky Wagner Offensive Tackle
Round 6 (1) Kapron Lewis-Moore Defensive Line
Round 6 (2) Ryan Jensen Offensive Tackle
Round 7 (1) Aaron Mellette Wide Receiver
Round 7 (2) Marc Anthony Cornerback

ESPN

Elam is a hard-hitting safety who showed decent range at the University of Florida, and Brown was a favorite within the vast draftnik community. 

While the additions will be a major storyline this season, returning veterans like Flacco, Ray Rice, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs remain franchise cornerstones. 

Flacco's memorable 11-touchdown, zero-interception playoff run was likely a major bargaining chip at the negotiating table this March, and the newly minted doesn't have much to prove, especially in August.

He's gotten off to a respectable start through two exhibition games:

Joe Flacco Preseason Statistics Through Two Games
Completions/Attempts Passing Yards TD INT YPA
14/18 175 1 2 9.72

ESPN

Flacco, who's now entering his sixth professional season, will have his work cut out for him without the strong hands of Anquan Boldin and reliable tight end Dennis Pitta, who dislocated his hip and is out for the year. 

However, don't tell that to Torrey Smith

The third-year pro snagged two passes for 85 yards against the Atlanta Falcons, which included this 77-yard exhibit of his unadulterated speed and acceleration:

Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley aren't the players they once were but together should able to at least come close to replacing Pitta's production in the short-to-intermediate, possession passing game. 

Before Flacco's postseason eruption, Ray Rice was Baltimore's unequivocal offensive focal point and remains a vital facet of the team's attack. 

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Although he hasn't missed a game since 2008, the 26-year-old has logged 1,527 touches over the last five seasons. 

His backup, 2012 third-round pick Bernard Pierce, could shoulder more of the load in 2013, a development that could increase Baltimore's run-game efficiency and keep Rice fresh throughout the season. 

The former Temple star averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 108 regular-season rushes as a rookie, and that average jumped to 5.18 on 39 carries in the postseason.

Here's how the two have performed thus far in the preseason:

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce Two-Game Preseason Production
Carries Yards Receiving Yards
Ray Rice 11 17 18
Bernard Pierce 3 21 1

ESPN

But don't let Rice's early preseason struggles be deceiving.

Baltimore Sun writer Aaron Wilson wrote Pierce has "bulked up 10 pounds since last season to 228 pounds" but "Rice remains entrenched as the featured back. He did note that "Pierce's workload is expected to increase this year."

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Rice has finished with at least 1,621 yards from scrimmage and no fewer than 318 touches per season since his sophomore NFL campaign in 2008.

With more of a balance on the ground, the Ravens could field one of the AFC's most effective running games this season, which would make life easier for Flacco and the Co. in the passing game.

Some analysts, prognosticators, and fans of other AFC North teams envision a precipitous fall from grace for the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in 2013, but just remember who their GM is before making a prediction of your own.

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