For Ravens to repeat in 2013, they must improve in several areas

Ed Dickson TD v Saints 600

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.

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About Joe Wedra

Joe Wedra
Joe is an NFL enthusiast that spends way too much time studying tape, but he wouldn't want it any other way. Joe can be found on Twitter @JoeWedra, where he'll tweet out everything from Ravens analysis to scouting reports on Division II offensive line prospects...all for the love of the...more

7 Raves on “For Ravens to repeat in 2013, they must improve in several areas

  1. Agree, But . . . on said:

    What you say makes a lot of sense, but it raises some questions about the Ravens’ roster. Do they have enough depth at tight end and in the offensive backfield? Do they have to many wide receivers already?

    Let’s say that Rice and Juice are in the game with 2 tight ends — Pitta and Dickson. That leaves room for only one wide receiver, who will be Smith. And then there’s no room for Pierce either. With Jacoby Jones and all the other young talented receivers, seems like the Ravens receiving corps is big enough without adding anybody else. They need Matt Furstenburg as a third tight end also. And Anthony Allen as a third running back.

    If Flacco throws more to tight ends and Rice and Juice, then his percentage of completion statistic should go way up.

    The sack potential of this defense is scary also because the front seven will all be great pass rushers.

  2. Rants N Ravens on said:

    Another good read, and agree with the points made. Also agree with the FB poster below who mentions the OL being key to Joe’s success, much like any QB’s.

  3. Brian Tray on said:

    The best point made is the significance of Jim Caldwell having a full preseason to work with Joe and the offense. The major point overlooked is the dominant offensive line that will make everything work. We have plenty of proven talent at the skill positions. I think we average 30 points a game….you can’t stop the run and the pass and we will have both.
    The potentially dominant defense will give the offense better field position and more opportunites.
    Add in the outstanding special teams (esp. Tucker) and probably the best coaching staff in the NFL and the Ravens are likely to field the finest Team in franchise history. Other NFL teams will have their work cut out for them to beat us and I believe very few will.
    I really see 14-2 and and a SuperBowl appearance coming in 2013.

  4. Rick S on said:

    Great points!!! I am looking for a noticeably stronger offense and defense this year for all the reasons cited in the article and comments above. There are lots of good reasons to anticipate a repeat Super Bowl appearance by the World Champion Ravens!!!!!

  5. roy j. on said:

    The #1 thing this season (every season) for the Ravens (and every team) is DEPTH.
    How many guys went down for an extended period during last season Super Bowl season?
    It will happen again to some degree this year for every team. The ‘next man up’ is the key to the season.

  6. Teresa on said:

    I am looking forward to the coming season. I think the RAVENS have every chance to repeat. Not just because of talent, but also to simply shut everyone up. Joe has been taking crap & criticism since he started. They make allowances for Newton & Ryan, etc. because they’re still rookies who are developing. They forget that FLACCO came right from the college field to the NFL field. He didn’t have any “rookie” time to develop. He came in feet to the fire and has brought the RAVENS to the post season for 5 straight years. Call him inconsistent during the regular season if you wish, but he sure is consistently getting us to the post season, now isn’t he?

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