Predicting Team Awards for the Baltimore Ravens' 2013-14 Season
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I may not be able to give them the glamour or the excitement of a red carpet entrance, but the Ravens are guaranteed winners in this slideshow.
Without further ado, let me present to you the award winners for the Baltimore Ravens' 2013-14 season.
The categories are: Biggest Surprise, Biggest Disappointment, Most Improved Player, Best Free-Agent Signing, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
Mellette may not even make the 53-man roster, but that’s why he has the chance to truly surprise the fans.
The wide receiver free-for-all that has been anticipated since the trade of Anquan Boldin has yet to amount to anything. Every candidate has been given the chance to seize the day and separate himself from the pack, but nobody has done that yet.
Mellette has been the most impressive receiver of the preseason, and is already getting more reps with the first-team offense.
If he can continue his great play, he may end up being a bigger part of the offense than anyone had anticipated when he was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
One day after Dennis Pitta’s injury, the Ravens signed Visanthe Shiancoe to a one-year deal. It was to be expected after Shiancoe had spent a day watching practice with general manager Ozzie Newsome.
While Shiancoe was the first tight end that Newsome turned to, Dallas Clark is a better fit in the offense and has the chance to be more productive.
Clark has a history of working with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, and he is a better route-runner than Shiancoe. With his sure hands, don’t be surprised to see Clark emerge as one of Flacco’s go-to options.
WINNER: DALLAS CLARK
It seems like a long time since there were questions about which rookie was the better receiver: Torrey Smith or Tandon Doss. Smith was plagued by drops in his early preseason action, while Doss displayed excellent hands.
Unfortunately, Smith has since grown by leaps and bounds, and Doss is trying to catch up. Doss has been given every chance to grab a starting spot this offseason, but he hasn’t been able to gain any separation from the competition.
Brandon Stokley's signing doesn't bode well for Doss, since they are both possession receivers who would work out of the slot for most of their snaps.
If Doss can't run with this golden opportunity, both he and the Ravens will be very disappointed.
There were great expectations for Mount Cody when the Ravens spent a second-round pick on the Alabama nose tackle.
He was a decent starter in 2011, but lost his starting job to Ma’ake Kemoeatu last year. To be fair to Cody, he was battling injuries for most of the season, but he should be healthy now after undergoing offseason hip and elbow surgeries.
That didn’t stop the Ravens from drafting Brandon Williams in the third round this year, and the rookie nose tackle has played well so far in the preseason.
Cody hasn't been the run-stuffing presence that he was supposed to be, and he will need a good year to prevent the Ravens from moving on without him when his contract expires next summer.
WINNER: TANDON DOSS
Most Improved Player
Thompson has received praise from the coaching staff all offseason for his speed, route running and hands.
He went undrafted last year, but used an impressive preseason and training camp to earn a spot on the final roster. The former Gator should have a bigger role in the offense this season and a chance to show off his skills as a receiver.
Osemele spent all of the 2012 regular season playing right tackle. The return of Bryant McKinnie resulted in the reshuffling of the entire line, and Osemele switched to left guard for the playoffs.
He was very good at left guard in those four games, but with more experience he has the potential to be elite. ESPN’s Matt Williamson called him a Pro Bowl-caliber player, and the coaching staff has similar expectations for him.
WINNER: KELECHI OSEMELE
Best Free-Agent Signing
Not many people know too much about Daryl Smith, but that can be attributed to playing in Jacksonville. ProFootballFocus (membership required) ranked him as a top-10 player at his position in his last three full seasons.
Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com reports that Jameel McClain will probably start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, ruling him out for at least the first six games of the year.
Smith will take his place and start at inside linebacker. So far he’s adjusted well to the team and the playbook, and he has taken over the role of quarterbacking the defense, according to NFL.com.
Smith will be a crucial cog in the defense this year, and will once again prove to everyone that GM Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business.
Nobody was happier than Terrell Suggs when the news of the Dumervil signing broke.
The pair should be one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL, and they should only help each other by preventing teams from consistently double-teaming one of them.
Courtney Upshaw’s abilities as a run-stopper should leave Dumervil fresh as a pass-rushing specialist, and that’s a role in which he should excel.
Dumervil is also transitioning back to a 3-4 outside linebacker, the position he played when he led the league in sacks. Dumervil could be in for a huge year.
WINNER: DARYL SMITH
Offensive Player of the Year
After the Anquan Boldin trade, experts were wondering whether Torrey Smith would be able to handle the extra attention opposing defenses would give him.
It’s not exactly new for Smith. More often than not, he was matched up with the defense’s best cornerback last season and his blazing speed meant that there was usually safety help for his deep routes.
The change for Smith is that he’ll get to run his full route tree, which is much more sophisticated than what was on display last year. He’ll be involved a lot more in the short passing game on underneath crossing routes and quick slants (like the one he took to the house in the preseason).
No Boldin and no Pitta means that Smith is the unquestioned No. 1 option for Joe Flacco. The increase in targets means he should finally break the 1,000-yard plateau and he’ll do so on a higher number of receptions than we’re used to seeing from him.
Rice will once again be the focal point of the offense. The offensive line has some continuity and should be a unit that can create running lanes for him and Bernard Pierce.
The breakout of Pierce toward the end of last year means that Rice’s workload will decrease a little bit, but he’ll still be the workhorse back. Furthermore, the Ravens will probably lean on the ground game more than they did last year because the receiving weapons just aren't there.
Additionally, Rice will definitely be more involved in the passing game because he's one of the best receivers on the roster.
His rushing numbers may take a slight hit, but Rice will still be the most dangerous weapon on the offense.
WINNER: RAY RICE
Defensive Player of the Year
Suggs made a miraculous comeback from a torn Achilles to return by Week 7 of last year. He never looked completely healthy, however, and understandably lacked the explosion to pressure the quarterback like he was used to doing.
Consequently, he attacked his offseason regimen and returned to the team looking noticeably leaner, according to NFL.com.
The addition of Elvis Dumervil should only help Suggs since offenses can no longer focus on just blocking him.
Suggs looks ready to return to his Defensive Player of the Year form, and he should once again be a dominant force for the defense.
Webb was playing extremely well last year before his season-ending injury. ProFootballFocus (membership required) calculated that his coverage forced the fourth-worst quarterback rating in the NFL. Now that he’s fully healthy he should be able to return to that form.
Webb is unquestionably the Ravens’ best cornerback, so his return will be a huge boost for the defense.
He may not rack up impressive stats, but his impact goes beyond the box score. Webb is now the leader of the secondary, and the importance of his return cannot be overstated.
WINNER: TERRELL SUGGS
Rookie of the Year
The first-round pick has been exactly what the Ravens were hoping for.
He’s shown off his speed, instincts and hard hitting so far, and he will probably take the starting strong safety position from James Ihedigbo at some point in the year.
Elam has the physicality to take over Bernard Pollard’s role as the enforcer of the defense, but he’s much better than Pollard in coverage. His athleticism should allow him to cover tight ends and slot receivers.
His versatility will allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be creative with his coverage and blitz packages since Elam and Michael Huff are virtually interchangeable at the safety spots.
Like Elam, Brown has been impressive so far with his range and mobility. Jameel McClain’s injury means that Brown might start from Week 1, and he has the chance to rack up some impressive numbers if he can overtake Josh Bynes on the depth chart.
The strength of the defensive line should give Brown the room to fly at the ball-carrier and make plays. He’s excellent in pass coverage and he will get a lot of playing time throughout the year.
His perfect situation makes him a dark-horse candidate to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
WINNER: ARTHUR BROWN
Most Valuable Player
After cashing in on a historic postseason run, Joe Flacco lost his two go-to targets from last season in Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.
While it is unreasonable to expect him to continue his playoff form for the entire season, there are a number of reasons why Flacco’s run was not merely the product of a quarterback getting hot at the right time.
The biggest of which was the change in offensive coordinator. Jim Caldwell made greater use of Flacco’s deep-ball ability, and with the speed of the Ravens receivers that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Flacco also excelled running the no-huddle, and Caldwell gave Flacco more freedom to run an uptempo offense than Cam Cameron ever did.
He may be missing some of his best weapons from last year but Flacco has already taken the next step in his development, and he won’t make the Ravens regret the giant contract.
Suggs’ new physique has already been discussed, and his return to health and an improved defensive line should result in big numbers for the man they call "Sizzle."
His value to the team goes far beyond his numbers. Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com reports that he has embraced his role as the leader of the defense. Flacco may be the new face of the franchise, but Suggs has taken over as the vocal leader of the team.
Suggs might be in the conversation for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and his leadership will play a huge role in the Ravens’ success this season.
WINNER: TERRELL SUGGS