The Baltimore Ravens have two Super Bowl championships to their name but were way off the pace last season and failed to reach the play-offs for the third time in four years.
An 8-8 record saw them finish three games behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North and two games shy of a wildcard berth and it is clear there is much work to do if they are to return to the postseason in the upcoming campaign.
Despite improving their numbers in most aspects on both sides of the ball, they still failed to punch the postseason dance card in large part to too many blown fourth-quarter leads. Winnable games were lost.
With that in mind, the Ravens’ management opted for defensive reinforcements in the draft with their first four picks while adding S Tony Jefferson and CB Brandon Carr.
Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey was the team’s first choice while outside linebacker Tyus Bowser from Houston was next. The Ravens are extremely encouraged by his athleticism and looks like a steal as the 47th overall pick.
It was thought that the Ravens might look to select a defensive end in the first round but they waited until round three to snare Chris Wormley from Michigan. The 23-year-old can play both inside and out and looks tailor-made for a solid NFL career, while they also picked another linebacker in Tim Williams.
With Terrell Suggs set to turn 35 in October, it was inevitable that they would look to the future and the hope is that Williams and his fellow defensive recruits will be able to gel quickly with the existing roster to help shore up defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ unit and reverse the trend of leaky fourth quarter performances.
Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said his main objective was to “improve the secondary and also the pass rush,” adding “I think we were able to do that.”
Baltimore has always prided itself on a strong defense but they do seem a little light on the other side of the ball to make a sustained push for the playoffs and beyond.
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The offensive line has been strengthened by the acquisition of San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa and guard/tackle Jermaine Eluemunor of Texas A&M.
There is certainly a lack of proven depth out wide with 30-year-old Mike Wallace leading the way. Meanwhile the Ravens backfield doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents.
Quarterback Joe Flacco is now 32 but still has a few good years left in him.
Never a great thinker on Sunday afternoons, the Super Bowl XLVII MVP possesses one of the strongest arms in football and is clutch once the club reaches the playoffs.
The question is, do the Ravens have what it takes to close the gap on the Steelers and extend their campaign past the regular 16 games?
It may well be another season where they finish among the also-rans but they are investing wisely for the future.
2018 looks promising.