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Offensive Shake-Up Coming In Baltimore

Posted Jan 9, 2014

Owner Steve Bisciotti said he expects a lot of changes in personnel and offensive approach.

The Ravens defense got an overhaul last offseason.

The offense can expect to get the same this spring and summer.

The Ravens ranked in or near the bottom five of every prominent offensive category in 2013. They were 29th in overall offense, 25th in points per game, 30th in rushing and 31st in red-zone touchdown efficiency.

Owner Steve Bisciotti called it “striking.”

“I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to look at the offense with the same fine-tooth comb that we looked at the defense last year,” Bisicotti said “So, I think you’re going to see a lot of changes in personnel and how we approach that.”

Last year, the Ravens defense was its weakness.

It was good enough to win the Super Bowl while being, in large part, carried by the hot play of quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense. But the defense ranked in the bottom half of the league by most measures.

That led to the Ravens letting some players go and retooling in other areas. The Ravens had seven new defensive starters. They watched safety Ed Reed leave and linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe got big contract elsewhere.

Then Baltimore went to work, signing players other teams cut, including outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, defensive end Chris Canty, inside linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Marcus Spears and safety Michael Huff. Some worked out better than others, but it made an overall positive impact.

The Ravens defense had difficulties getting off the field in the fourth quarter, but improved across the board in average yards and points allowed per game (12th in each category). It finished fourth in the league in three-and-outs.

So where would the Ravens shake up the offense?

The Ravens have their franchise quarterback in Flacco and are confident that better health, among other factors, can lead to a rebound for running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.

The changes will mostly likely occur on the offensive line, tight end and wide receiver.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome said that the Ravens want a bigger interior offensive line. That begins at center, where somewhat undersized Gino Gradkowski started last year. Kelechi Osemele’s return from back surgery should bring bulk at left guard.

The Ravens also have to sort out what they want at tackle with Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher both set to be unrestricted free agents. Head Coach John Harbaugh has said Monroe did enough to earn a long-term contract.

Baltimore also has question marks at tight end. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are both unrestricted free agents, and Pitta could be too expensive to bring back. The Ravens could look to draft one or even two tight ends.

Lastly, there could be a shake-up at wide receiver. The Ravens were banking on Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson or David Reed last season in taking over for Anquan Boldin in the slot. None of them did enough, and Baltimore is again looking for a reliable pass catcher on third down. Big-play threat Jacoby Jones is also an unrestricted free agent.

Newsome said the Ravens will bring in a wide receiver or tight end for third-down situations, but didn’t want to reveal exactly what type of player that would be.

The offense could also change in philosophy and scheme. The Ravens tried to have a speed and athletic-based offense this year, but it never came together. They could become more of a big, physical run team that can move the chains more consistently.

Overall, the offense will be expected to make a quick turnaround in 2014.

“I’m pretty proud of the defense for being able to retool on the fly, and I’ve got the same amount of confidence with these guys in building the offense,” Bisciotti said.

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