The Ravens have had a busy offseason. They have changed many positions from last season and added players on offense and defense. They released several big names, including Todd Heap and Kelly Gregg, and neglected to re-sign others, including Dawan Landry and LeRon McClain.
However, the Ravens have not been passive by any means, and for every big loss, they have found a way to add players to compensate or allow their own young players to step up. Now that the dust has settled, we can see what the Ravens are planning for this season.
Let’s take a look at which players the Ravens will most likely go into the season with.
2-QB: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
There’s little surprise at which quarterbacks made the roster. Obviously, Flacco is the starter and should be primed for a breakout season. After the retirement of 10-year veteran Marc Bulger, the biggest question for the quarterback position this offseason became about Flacco’s backup, and throughout training camp, the Ravens best option seems to be a rookie, Tyrod Taylor.
The Ravens drafted Taylor in the sixth round of this year’s draft, and he has been a standout performer in the preseason. He’s a pinpoint passer with great athleticism and seems to be a natural playmaker.
The Ravens may still be looking for a veteran backup behind closed doors but publicly appear to be very comfortable with Taylor as Flacco’s backup. It’s a risk, but one of the things that makes the Ravens a great team is that they know when and what risks are worth taking.
4-HB: Ray Rice, Ricky Williams, Anthony Allen, Jalen Parmele
1-FB: Vonta Leach
The Ravens have a nice group of running backs this season. In fact, it could be argued that this group is better than last season. After losing Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain, that’s a testament to the Ravens' front office.
The biggest decision at the running back position is about how many running backs the Ravens keep on the roster. Jalen Parmele and Anthony Allen have been competing in a very close training camp battle. Allen gets the edge in the competition because of his intriguing upside. He’s a strong runner with good vision that fits perfectly into the Ravens' new zone-blocking scheme. Parmele lost his edge with the new kickoff rules since he was a standout special teams performer.
If the Ravens decide to keep four halfbacks, Parmele will make the roster, but four halfbacks may be a luxury that the Ravens cannot afford. Right now, it looks like Parmele will make the team, but his position is one of the most tenuous on the roster.
3-X-WR: Lee Evans, Torrey Smith, David Reed
3-Z-WR: Anquan Boldin, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams
The Ravens' wide receiver corp is easily the group that has experienced the most change this offseason. With the losses of Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzahdeh and Donte Stallworth, Boldin is the only player left over from last season.
Even with all the changes, this group has been greatly improved. The Ravens drafted to talented rookies, Smith and Doss, and traded for Lee Evans. Evans should add a much needed deep threat to the Ravens' roster and has already developed chemistry with Flacco in his brief time with the Ravens.
The only hard decision was between special teams ace Marcus Smith and LaQuan Williams. Williams was a special teams star at Maryland but has struggled to cover kicks in the preseason. However, he has shown enough flashes as a receiver and returner to edge Smith in the competition.
3-TE: Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Kris Wilson
The Ravens’ tight end group suffered a huge blow with the loss of Todd Heap this offseason. The Ravens cannot tell you that the transition will be easy but feel like they have the players to do it.
They drafted Dickson and Pitta in last year's draft, and both players have shown great potential in the passing game. The biggest question is whether they can block. Dickson struggled greatly when trying to block in the running or passing game last season, and Pitta hasn’t had the opportunity.
The Ravens have faith in their young tight ends and gave them a huge vote of confidence when they released Heap. It’s a big risk trusting two young, unproven players, but it’s not like it has never been done before. The New England Patriots started two rookie tight ends last season with great success.
The biggest question at the tight end position is whether or not to keep three tight ends. The Ravens like what they’ve seen from Kris Wilson and like having an experienced player to back up the young players. That’s why Wilson makes the roster.
2-LT: Bryant McKinnie, Ramon Harewood
1-LG: Ben Grubbs
2-C: Matt Birk, Bryan Mattison
2-RG: Marshal Yanda, Mark LeVoir
2-RT: Michael Oher, Jah Reid
The offensive line is another group that has undergone a minor overhaul. They still have their core of Grubbs, Birk and Yanda, who signed a big contract this offseason, but their tackle situation has been changed.
The biggest change happened at the most important position on the offensive line, left tackle. It’s no secret that Oher struggled to protect Flacco last season, so the Ravens signed veteran, Pro Bowl tackle Bryant Mckinnie who was released by Minnesota for salary reasons and conditioning concerns.
The signing of McKinnie allows the Ravens to move Oher back to right tackle, a position that he dominated as a rookie. Since Oher will be playing right tackle, Yanda will be able to move back to right guard, his natural position, after playing right tackle last season.
The Ravens also have nice depth after drafting Jah Reid, a big right tackle prospect, and signing Mark LeVoir, a versatile offensive lineman capable of playing both guard and tackle. Look for the offensive line to be one of the most improved units from last season.
2-DE: Cory Redding, Pernell McPhee
2-NT: Terrence Cody, Brandon McKinney
2-DT: Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones
The Ravens defensive line is still one of the strengths of the team and is lead by All Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Ngata may be the foundation of the defense, but the Ravens also have other great linemen around him.
After a slow start last season, Cory Redding had a very strong finish and seems to have locked in the starting defensive end position. He does have two promising young players behind him. Pernell McPhee has been a standout player in training camp and preseason and appears to be a great find for a fifth round pick. Arthur Jones also stood out in training camp after showing up to camp in excellent shape.
The biggest question on the defensive line arose after the Ravens released Kelly Gregg, their long-time starting nose tackle. The team appears to be very happy starting Terrence Cody, a second-round pick from last year, who played well in the playoffs last season.
5-ILB: Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden, Brendon Ayanbadejo
2-OLB: Jarret Johnson, Sergio Kindle
2-OLB/DE: Terrell Suggs, Paul Kruger
The Ravens linebacker corp is one of the best in the NFL and is also one of the best units on the team along with the defensive line. The Ravens linebackers are still led by veteran All Pro inside linebacker Ray Lewis but also have plenty of up-and-coming talents and star players.
The most talented player is certainly All Pro outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who led the team with 11 sacks last season. Suggs is a complete, hybrid linebacker and can rush the passer and defend the run with equal proficiency.
On the other side of the defense, Jarret Johnson quietly does his job and may be the most overlooked and underrated player on the team. His ability to stop the run may be the best in the entire league for a linebacker, and after he played through an injury last season, he’s looking to bounce back this season.
The Ravens have incredible depth at linebacker. They have three talented, young players in McClain, Ellerbe and Gooden competing to start next to Lewis at inside linebacker. They have two young, extremely-talented pass-rushing outside linebackers in Kruger and Kindle.
There’s no doubt that the Ravens defense will again be one of the best in football due in large part to their excellent linebackers.
6-CB: Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Domonique Foxworth, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Chykie Brown
2-SS: Tom Zbikowski, Bernard Pollard
2-FS: Ed Reed, Haruki Nakamura
The Ravens' defensive backfield is still led by All Pro safety Ed Reed and is another area that the team has focused on improving this offseason. They drafted Jimmy Smith, a potential lockdown cornerback, in the first round and brought in Bernard Pollard, a hard-hitting strong safety, to replace the physical presence they lost when Dawan Landry left.
Landry’s loss would have been devastating for most defenses, but the Ravens felt confident in Zbikowski, who has replaced Ed Reed in the past and played very well. Pollard is also in the mix to start at strong safety and may very well have the edge. Either way, the Ravens will be starting a good player at strong safety.
The cornerback position may be the deepest it has been in team history. It may also be the most talented. There’s no question that Smith has talent, but it’s unclear how soon he’ll be able to start. The Ravens would love to be able to start Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith. Both corners are big, physical players. They may not be experienced enough to start Day 1, but don’t be surprised if they’re both starting by the end of the season.
1-K: Billy Cundiff
1-P: Sam Koch
1-LS: Morgan Cox
The Ravens are returning both their punter and place kicker this season, and that's very good for the team. Both players are Pro Bowl caliber even though only Cundiff made the Pro Bowl last season. Cundiff tied the NFL record for the most touchbacks in a single season, and his strong leg will help the Ravens not only on kickoffs but also in making long field goals, which he has been doing very well in the preseason.
Koch is one of the best punters in the league and gives the Ravens defense a huge edge by consistently pinning opposing offenses deep in their own territory.