The 2015 Baltimore Ravens are officially a distant memory that all Ravens fans can finally now forget. The 2016 season is upon us, and the Ravens have given reason to believe that this team can turn it around.
Last year’s Ravens began, and ended, with injuries. It started in Week One with Terrell Suggs’ torn Achilles tendon, and followed with 19 other players put on season ending Injured Reserve throughout the season, including Steve Smith Sr., Joe Flacco, and Justin Forsett.
These four players, among others, are back, thanks to some clever roster maneuvering by the Ravens’ Front Office. And they’re ready to get sacks (Suggs), throw it deep (Flacco), run it up the middle (Forsett), and potentially cement his legacy by proving he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day (Smith Sr.).
Along with the injured players returning, the Ravens made big signings in free agency and the draft that are sure to fix the holes in last year’s roster.
For starters, two players the Ravens signed on the same day of free agency, Eric Weddle and Mike Wallace are here to play big. Weddle went through a messy divorce with the San Diego Chargers, and can’t wait to prove that he is not past his prime. Wallace, a former arch nemesis of the Ravens, is eager to show he still has speed, can run more than the deep route, and can torch the Pittsburgh Steeler’s young, suspect secondary.
Baltimore also signed Ben Watson with the hopes of building on a career year at the tight end position, but he suffered a torn Achilles during the preseason and will miss the entire year. Fingers crossed that doesn’t foreshadow another injury-riddled season.
This year’s draft class could go down as the best in recent Ravens’ history. Obviously, Ronnie Stanley was drafted to protect Flacco for the rest of his career, and if preseason is any indication, Stanley showed he’s ready for the big leagues.
Kamalei Correa (LB), Alex Lewis (OG/OT), Kenneth Dixon (RB), and Tavon Young (CB) all figure to make an impact on this 2016 squad, and they can.
The Ravens have the type of balance between young and veteran players that most teams covet. They have young building blocks like C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan, Za’Darius Smith and Terrence West. They have solid veterans in Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith. And they have team leaders in Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., and Eric Weddle.
Among their young building blocks and team leaders, they employ quiet, productive contributors in Marshal Yanda, Elvis Dumervil, Rick Wagner, and Justin Forsett.
This team has potential. It has the depth to deal with injuries, unlike last year. Flacco can throw it deep, over the middle, and underneath. A luxury he usually does not have. A group of running backs that can run anywhere on the field, as well as catch screen passes at any given moment. This offense could top 2014’s Franchise Best.
They have the ability to create pressure on any given play hosting a largely talented front seven, something that DC Dean Pees has proven he can be successful with. The secondary is boom or bust this year, but with an improved pass rush, anything would be an improvement on 2015’s six interceptions.
Ultimately, all of this optimism is purely speculation and hope. But luckily for Football fans, the season of speculation is over, and week one is finally here.