Another season in the books and the Ravens fell just short of their ultimate goal. The consensus top needs are along the offensive line at left guard and center because of the uncertainty at those spots. Left tackle because the incumbent Bryant McKinnie is under contract for only one more year and we all witnessed his increasing trouble versus the speed rush. And let’s not forget that Hall of Famer Ray Lewis can’t play forever and the inside backer position is very thin at this point.
That said, GM Ozzie Newsome listed wide receiver, pass rushing and offensive line as needs during the state of the Ravens press conference. Now this could have been GM speak/posturing but that’s never been the Ravens style when it comes to what they intend to do roster wise.
There are more glaring needs on this team than WR but it is a position that could go from solid and pedestrian to explosive and daring with the right move. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are mainstays as starters; Lee Evans is a potential cap casualty. Tandon Doss is a talented holdover but a bit of a mystery at this point because of his inability to get on the field last season.
Might a player like South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery be on the Ravens radar in round 1?
Jeffery is a huge receiver (6’4” 229 pounds)with strong hands and elite ability when going up to track the football. A core of Boldin, Smith and Jeffery would create the matchup problems on a weekly basis you see from the league’s best offenses.
You could ask how pass rush could be an area of concern for a team that was tied for 3rd in the league with 48 sacks this past season? Well the Ravens overwhelmed the teams they were able to and schemed pressure successfully. The problem is they had a total of 1 sack in the playoffs and when asked to use a traditional 4 man rush they couldn’t get to the QB. The answer for this problem may be in-house. Paul Kruger took a step forward grabbing 5.5 sacks in his nickel role. Could he handle the starting job opposite Suggs?
Sergio Kindle and Michael McAdoo are talented but unproven. Could one or both of them provide pass rushing from the nickel packages? If Ozzie Newsome & Co. decides they need some reinforcements Marshall Vinny Curry could be a nice addition in the 2nd round. He’s a talented and balanced edge rusher who also plays the run very well.
And when you think about it, it’s hard in today’s modern game not to be lured by pass rushers and big receivers. Case in point – the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. They operated with a makeshift offensive line and bottom of the depth chart linebackers. Guard David Diehl slid out to play left tackle and former 6th round Kevin Boothe stepped into a starting role at guard. Defensively Chase Blackburn came off the street to start at middle linebacker and their 6th round pick from this past draft Jacquian Williams played a vital role in their nickel packages.
QUESTION: What has been the constant of the last few Super Bowl winners?
ANSWER: The ability to score points in the passing game and the ability to get after the QB.
The Ravens have been a team in the mix for a Lombardi for the last 4 years, but a few bold moves could push them from on the short list to perennial favorites.