The Ravens’ 2012 season wasn’t always pretty. It was without a doubt exciting week by week, but you could never script what would come next for John Harbaugh and the team. Things didn’t always go the Ravens’ way, but with the help of Ray Lewis and the resilient defense, the now-Super Bowl champions prevailed.
Repeating is tough, but the 2013 Ravens have a shot at making history. Consistency will be significant—an aspect that is a big part of the following list. Here are some of the biggest things that must improve in the 2013 season.
Pass Rush, Pass Rush, Pass Rush
Although they pulled it together during their impressive playoff run, the entire Ravens defense struggled mightily in times where they were needed most. A few plays stand out over the course of the year including allowing Kirk Cousins to make clutch plays in the red zone against Washington and giving up an 80-yard drive to Tony Romo and the Cowboys to almost tie and eventually win the week six thriller. Granted, Dean Pees’ squad was far from healthy, but the upcoming season provides a clean slate for the unit to return to elite status.
Of the many stats that will skyrocket in 2013, the pass-rush total might be the one that shows the most improvement. Playing without a healthy Terrell Suggs and with a make-shift line all year, the defensive front did their best to just “get by.” Thanks to Paul Kruger recording nine sacks, the defense was able to end the season in the middle of the pack with 37 sacks, a number that would end up being tied for 15th in the NFL.
This year already shows early signs of being different. T-Sizzle is healthy, Elvis Dumervil has been added, and Haloti Ngata and the rest of the guys in the middle show promise to be a top-tier group. We won’t know until the season starts, but the Ravens pass rush could be better than it has in a long time.
Ed Dickson must be used more
Ed Dickson signed his free-agent tender worth $1.3 million hoping to add another dimension to the Ravens offense. Playing in 13 games in 2012, he had just 21 receptions for a mere 225 yards. He didn’t account for any touchdowns all year – something that has to change in 2013.
We have seen that Dickson can show up and be a decent weapon on offense. In 2011, he was targeted 89 times by Joe Flacco and racked up 528 yards and five touchdowns. Dennis Pitta has passed him on the depth chart and will still get a big load of the receptions, but using Dickson in two-TE sets could work very well for Jim Caldwell.
The NFL is coming to be a two-tight end league and the Ravens have all the makings to have two solid pass-catching options. With tremendous talent in both Pitta and Dickson, could the Ravens have a “Gronk/Hernandez” punch on their own roster?
Stay clutch, Mr. Flacco
With play rivaling that of another Joe – Montana – Flacco’s 2012 playoff push made many eat their words. Flacco put up stellar numbers in the postseason that made his up-and-down regular season a distant memory. Can the Super Bowl MVP carry over his performance in crunch time to regular season games?
As good as Flacco has shown he can be in critical moments, his performance in the “big 16” lacks major consistency. According to this ESPN Stats article, Joe Flacco finished with a 46.8 total QBR, good for just 25th in the league.
It’s true that he hasn’t been perfect in the regular season, but expect 2013 to be Joe’s best year in the NFL.
Cam Cameron is gone.
Jim Caldwell is in.
Flacco has all training camp and preseason to work with a real offensive coordinator that can call plays to his strengths. Caldwell knows what he is doing and with the talent that Flacco showed last winter, there might not be a quarterback that does the things he does next year.
Increase Pierce’s role
For all of Ray Rice’s fantasy football owners, this won’t come as welcome news. But something tells me that the coaching staff really doesn’t care about “elite statistics,” just wins.
Bernard Pierce showed last year that he can bring to the table a great balance of power and speed. He put up some surprisingly solid numbers, including 6.0 yards per carry on third down. He is a tremendous asset not only as a backup to Rice, but as a change-of-pace back when he is inserted into the lineup. He runs the ball with authority and in a way that can get defenders off of their feet with ridiculous juke moves.
It helps everyone to have Pierce in the lineup more often, something that Caldwell knows, and will hopefully use to his advantage in the 2013 campaign.