2016 cheat sheet: Baltimore Ravens
To get you ready for the 2016 NFL season, the PFF analysis crew is assembling team “cheat sheets” to catch you up on the latest changes, grades, and rankings of note involving your NFL team.
The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the NFL’s best teams since head coach John Harbaugh arrived, but have missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. Few teams have ever had to deal with the amount of key injuries the Ravens endured last year, particularly on offense, where their starting left tackle, quarterback, running back, and top wide receiver all missed time. Looking much healthier heading into this season, Baltimore will be hoping to rebound and challenge in the AFC North.
Three biggest things to know
1. Big changes at safety with Eric Weddle arrival.
The Ravens’ defensive backfield has been a weakness recently, and they addressed that with two big changes at safety this offseason. Long-time cornerback Lardarius Webb has made the move to safety, seeing 10 snaps at free safety and three at strong safety in Baltimore’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers. They also added Eric Weddle, who earned a 77.8 overall grade for the Chargers last season, ranking 33rd among safeties. However, Weddle earned a rating of at least 88.8 in each of the previous four seasons, and if he can get back to that level, he is a huge upgrade in the Ravens’ defensive backfield.
2. Many options in the backfield.
Running back Justin Forsett is back healthy again, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to carry the load for the Ravens this year. They added Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round of the NFL draft, and he had a solid debut in the preseason against the Panthers, with his first run going for 19 yards in the second quarter. Javorius Allen impressed as a rookie last year, finishing third on the team with 45 receptions, while Terrance West has reportedly had a very strong summer. Almost certainly an offense that will go with an RB-by-committee approach, the competition over the final preseason games should be interesting to watch.
3. Kelechi Osemele the toughest loss to replace.
The big loss on the Ravens’ offensive line this offseason was seeing left guard Kelechi Osemele leave for the Oakland Raiders in free agency. With a grade of at least 79.6 in each of the past four seasons, he leaves a big hole at left guard. John Urschel looks like the man to replace him; he’s done a pretty solid job in the past, grading a little above average at guard back in 2014, though he struggled at center last year. Urschel also looked shaky against a talented Panthers’ interior in the preseason opener, allowing two hurries on just 10 pass-blocking snaps, so the Ravens will be hoping to see an improvement throughout the rest of August and into September.
Key arrivals and departures
Top three draft picks: T Ronnie Stanley (Round 1, pick No. 6 overall, Notre Dame), LB Kamalei Correa (Round 2, pick No. 42 overall, Boise State), DE Bronson Kaufusi (Round 3, pick No. 70 overall, BYU)
Signed in free agency: S Eric Weddle (Chargers), WR Mike Wallace (Vikings), TE Ben Watson (Saints), G Vladimir Ducasse (Bears), CB Jerraud Powers (Cardinals)
Left via free agency: G Kelechi Osemele (Raiders), DE Courtney Upshaw (Falcons), LB Daryl Smith (Buccaneers)
Cut: S Will Hill, DE Chris Canty, OT Eugene Monroe
Rookie to watch
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (Round 1, pick No. 6 overall)
Offensive tackles have generally struggled as rookies over the past several years, with very few making an impact in their first season in the league. Stanley has slotted straight in as the starter for the Ravens, though, and had a solid first outing against Carolina. He earned an above-average grade as a run blocker and didn’t allow a single sack, hit, or hurry in 10 pass-blocking snaps.
Highest-graded player of 2015
Marshal Yanda, G, 92.5 overall grade
So good that he recently made our All-Decade team, Yanda has been the Ravens’ best player on several occasions in his time in the league. He was outstanding once again in 2015, with the second-highest run-blocking grade among guards (92.0) and the second-highest pass-blocking grade (89.0), allowing just one sack, one hit, and 15 hurries over the course of the year.
Maxx Williams, TE
The Ravens have four tight ends who could all feasibly start somewhere in the NFL, but second-year man Maxx Williams is the one to watch. A second-round draft pick out of Minnesota a year ago, Williams made 32 receptions for 268 yards as a rookie. He showed an impressive pair of hands, dropping just one of the 33 catchable passes thrown his way. He caught the only two passes thrown his way in the preseason opener against Carolina, and has the potential to make a big impact in 2016.
Base defense (2015 season grades shown)
Base offense (2015 season grades shown)