Even after winning a Super Bowl and proving to the rest of the league that they were dominant, the Ravens do not enter 2013 as the favorites. Instead, critics still express uncertainties that the team will even make the playoffs.
While this offseason has been one of rebuilding, all of the change hasn’t been devastating. After all, there is a new shiny Lombardi in the trophy case and the demeanor around the team is of course one of a champion. There is no doubt that things must and will change for John Harbaugh and Co. in 2013, and some might happen immediately.
Here are the things that are sure to change in the upcoming season and reasons why critics can stop saying that the Ravens will fail to get nine wins this year.
Torrey Smith’s role will expand
As much as it seems like he contributed every game in 2012, Torrey Smith’s role was quieter than you might realize. In fact, he averaged just about three catches per game. He did have eight touchdowns, but the only big threat he possessed was the long ball. With Anquan Boldin in San Francisco, Smith will emerge as the true top wide-out and should see the ball not only on deep routes, but also in more creative ways in Jim Caldwell’s offense.
When he was the top dog at Maryland, he had two seasons with more than 60 grabs. This might be the year he gets back to a more prominent role. He’ll still get the “Cam Cameron streak route” a few times a game, but he should break out and get at least five or six touches each game in 2013.
Sack total might eclipse 40 for the first time since 2010
Sack stats on an earlier version of this article were incorrect. Please accept my apologies for providing the wrong information. It won’t happen again. – Joe
On average, about eleven teams each year in the NFL surpass 40 sacks on the year. In 2011, the Ravens reached that number and beyond, putting up 48 in a monumental year. Last year was a different story as the team failed to reach the big number, underachieving with 37. Riddled by injury, you can understand why the team didn’t get there. This year, there’s little doubt that Dean Pees’ squad will reach and even most likely go beyond 40.
Losing Paul Kruger seems like a crucial blow, but he only had his tremendous season because of the lack of double-teams. Kruger is now the premiere pass-rusher in Cleveland and won’t come close to the numbers he had last year.
Elvis Dumervil, a healthy Terrell Suggs, a healthy Haloti Ngata, Courtney Upshaw with another year under his belt, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, oh and Pernell McPhee deeper on the depth chart.
Need I say more? The talent is overflowing on the line this season, and with the right play-calling, this squad will be better than ever.
Secondary improves mightily
It always seems that the biggest downfall of the Ravens defense is the pass defense, but looking ahead at 2013, there are signs that the secondary is going to be a whole lot better. It’s no secret that the corners were subpar last season, but improvement is awaiting.
Seeing Lardarius Webb go down on the turf in Week 6 still lingers heavily in our minds. Having Webby back this year will not only help shut down opposing teams’ top wide receivers, but also take the pressure off of guys like Jimmy Smith. Last year, Smith was relied on heavily to sometimes cover the best in the league—often struggling to keep up. Now that he has expanded help, he’ll hopefully flourish and become the guy the Ravens thought they were getting when they drafted him.
Having Matt Elam and Michael Huff will help as well. Huff, a former pro-bowler, will help in the run and pass game alongside the rookie, helping him grow as an NFL safety.
The previous points are just a few of the reasons that critics have little to talk about. Sure, it’s tough to repeat, but with the infusion of young talent and speed, the 2013 Ravens should be ready to make another deep run.