It is easy to look at the personnel changes and think the offense is about to take a step backwards, but don't discount the impact Jim Caldwell will have on the team.
Joe Flacco won't be able to replicate his historic playoff stretch, but he should be in for a career year under Caldwell.
Caldwell emphasizes the running game, which is good for both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. In addition, the lack of receiving weapons means that Torrey Smith is poised to break the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time in his career.
Here are some statistical predictions for key players in 2013.
Joe Flacco: 3,933 passing yards, 26 TDs, 11 INTs, 59% completion
Everyone is talking about how Flacco lost his two go-to targets from last year in Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. The bigger transition that nobody is talking about is the full offseason the team had with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
Some portion of Flacco's postseason run was the offense hitting its stride, but the changes that Caldwell made played a huge role in creating that dynamic offense.
Caldwell showed more trust in Flacco, playing to his strong arm and allowing him to run more no-huddle offense. Those characteristics will still be big parts of the offense, and Flacco should be in for a good season with a full year of Caldwell calling the plays.
|Player||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Receiving TDs|
Jim Caldwell's mark on the offense isn't restricted to the passing game. Under Caldwell, the Ravens ran the ball 10 more times per game than under Cam Cameron.
One of the complaints about Cameron was that he would sometimes forget about the Ravens' best offensive weapon—Ray Rice. With Cameron calling the shots, Baltimore ran the ball more times than it passed in just two of 13 games.
In the seven games with Caldwell at the helm, the Ravens ran more than they passed in five games.
The lack of established receiving threats means two things. Firstly, Baltimore is going to run the ball a lot. Secondly, Ray Rice is going to have a bigger role as a receiver.
Since coming into the league, no running back has more receptions than Rice, and he should once again be among the league leaders at his position.
As the unquestioned No. 1 receiver, Torrey Smith should see Joe Flacco looking his way an awful lot this year. Smith will not only get an uptick in targets, but he'll be used in more diverse ways this season. Look for Jim Caldwell to get him more involved in the short passing game as well as running his deep routes.
Brandon Stokley is a veteran with great hands, and he'll become Flacco's go-to weapon from the slot ahead of Tandon Doss.
With nobody standing out in the position battle, we will probably see a receiver-by-committee approach, with both Doss and Deonte Thompson getting some playing time. The core receivers should be Smith, Stokley and Jacoby Jones.
Flacco will sorely miss Dennis Pitta this season, but Dallas Clark can replace some of that production. Clark is a better intermediate receiver than Visanthe Shiancoe which makes him more valuable as a complement to Ed Dickson, who is better working the seams of the defense.
I expect Clark to emerge as one of Flacco's favorite targets, especially in the red zone.
It would also not be surprising to see the Ravens frequently use two-TE formations with Dickson and Clark, since there are question marks about the receiving corps.
|Terrell Suggs||64||12||3 FF|
|Elvis Dumervil||34||10.5||2 FF|
|Haloti Ngata||61||4.5||2 FF|
|Lardarius Webb||52||1||2 INT|
The pairing of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, in conjunction with a greatly improved defensive line, should create many pass-rushing opportunities for the two sack artists. A healthy Suggs seems ready for a bounce-back year, and Dumervil will be a big reason for that.
Ngata will also benefit from the upgrades to the defensive line, and the added depth should give him more rest than he's had in the past and hopefully keep him away from injuries.
Lardarius Webb's statistics shouldn't be eye-popping, but that's a good thing for a cornerback. He will be a shutdown corner and establish himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Justin Tucker: 31-of-34 FG, 42-of-42 XP
Tucker is chasing perfection this season, but unfortunately he'll fall short of those lofty aspirations. He has once again been incredible in training camp, regularly making field goals from 60 yards according to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com.