With preseason in the books, we learned a lot about the defense. It’s bursting at the seams with talent, especially on the line. The secondary will be much improved from a talent and depth standpoint. The pass rush looks like it will have the juice necessary to finish off the close games it couldn’t a year ago. The difference in athleticism from a year ago is staggering. This is without doubt a playoff-caliber defense, one that could be a top 5 unit.
On the offensive side of the ball we learned…well, nothing. Injuries abound, including to starting QB Joe Flacco, leaving the entire offense in flux. I’m sure strategically the team didn’t show all of their best cards (at least I hope) but that doesn’t completely mitigate the concern. The Ravens’ ability to return to the playoffs hinges largely on the performance of the five men below.
Pretty self-explanatory. We’ve seen the alternative. It’s not pretty.
It was a bit of a surprise return, but the Ravens cited continuity and ability to completely integrate his system as reasons to retain Marty as offensive coordinator. As a coach, he’s prioritized a timing-based offense with a foundation of short throws that allow receivers the chance to run after the catch.
What he has is a QB that has missed key time to build that timing with his receivers and hasn’t excelled at being consistently precise throughout his career. He also has a pedestrian talent base that lacks proven catch-point winners, and if Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead don’t return to pre-injury form it will lack proven separators in the passing game. He’ll be forced to juggle all this while having more questions than answers on the offensive line.
It will be important that Marty creatively scheme players open and avoid predictable play calling. This offense simply doesn’t have the talent to consistently impose their will when the defense knows what’s coming.
Danny Woodhead is the one piece of this offense that could make them less predictable and more versatile with his ability to move around the formation as a pass catcher. The other running backs (except Mizell ) failed to impress in preseason. Now because of the offensive line combos the team shuffled out there and the understanding that Greg Roman’s full running scheme wasn’t on display won’t make that assessment fair, but Woodhead may have to do more than 3rd down work.
Speaking of third down, he’s the only proven pass protector in the backfield. His importance to this offense cannot be overstated.
Converting short-yardage runs has been a thorn in the Ravens side over the last few seasons. Ryan Jensen has the size and nasty disposition to remedy that, but does he have the overall talent to?
Even with the recent additions of Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko, I expect him to get the opportunity to prove he does. Third down and short conversion rates will be interesting to monitor in comparison to the Jeremy Zuttah era.
Even if Maclin doesn’t return to 2015 form, I think we have a pretty safe assumption as to what he is. We know what Mike Wallace is. Breshad Perriman is the ultimate wild card. If his offseason progression doesn’t bear fruit on the field, this offense really drops down a notch on the upside potential meter (a rating that already wasn’t very high to begin with).
Perriman is the reason I used the word “proven” when talking about the lack of catch-point winners or separators. He absolutely has the athletic profile to be both but we won’t know until we know.