What We've Learned About the Baltimore Ravens so Far This Preseason
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:
|'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|
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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:
|'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:
|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|
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:
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.
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:
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."
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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