One of pro football's absolute truths is a team's offseason decisions shape what happens in the fall. The Ravens are no exception.
After missing the playoffs in 2016, they shook things up during the offseason. Thirteen of the 22 players currently listed as starters either weren't on the team or weren't starters a year ago. Injuries have played a role, but it's a serious wave of change.
How are the offseason moves working out?
Acknowledging that it's still a little early for such assessments, here's a rundown. As always, some moves seem to have worked out better than others. Generally, though, I think you can see why the Ravens' arrow is pointing up heading into Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.
Move: Didn't re-sign Rick Wagner; signed Austin Howard.
Skinny: The price tag for Wagner, a top right tackle, was too high for the Ravens. But they didn't want to take a step back, and Howard, a late signing, has come through. According to Pro Football Focus, Howard is the NFL's third-ranked right tackle through five games, while Wagner, now in Detroit, is ranked fourth. Howard is quite a bit cheaper.
Move: Drafted a cornerback in the first round.
Skinny: Some eyebrows went up when the Ravens selected Marlon Humphrey. There was little doubt about his talent, but the Ravens had other needs and O.J. Howard, a top tight end prospect, was available. Now, though, as Jimmy Smith deals with a sore Achilles, Humphrey provides starting-caliber depth at a crucial position where the Ravens have sorely lacked it. Meanwhile, Howard has four catches in five games with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Move: Re-signed Brandon Williams.
Skinny: The Ravens busted the market for run stoppers to retain Williams, who has been sidelined since Week 2 with a foot injury. As the run defense struggles without him, his value is clear. The Ravens aren't second-guessing the move; they can't wait until he's back.
Move: Traded Jeremy Zuttah and didn't sign Nick Mangold.
Skinny: It was believed those decisions cleared the way for John Urschel to become the starting center, but he retired, which cleared the way for Ryan Jensen to get the job. That was deemed a bit of a gamble because Jensen had never started, but he is the third-ranked center in the league so far, according to PFF. The Ravens may have found a long-term answer at a key position.
Move: Traded Timmy Jernigan.
Skinny: After giving Brandon Williams a big deal, the Ravens figured they weren't going to re-sign their former second-round draft pick when he hits free agency after this season. They traded him for the chance to move up in the third round of the 2017 draft, a move that netted rookie Chris Wormley, who has played sparingly. Meanwhile, Jernigan is playing better for the Philadelphia Eagles than he did for the Ravens in 2016.
Move: Released Elvis Dumervil; went with young pass rushers.
Skinny: The Ravens need someone other than Terrell Suggs to get to quarterbacks, and they knew they might experience growing pains without Dumervil, who is healthy again and playing well at age 33 for the San Francisco 49ers. His 3½ sacks are more than all of the Ravens' young edge guys combined. Those growing pains are forcing Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees to invent pressure via schemes and blitzes.
Move: Signed Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr.
Skinny: I'm putting these moves together because they were both part of the plan to bolster the secondary, which needed help. Both players are starting, and while neither is getting much love from PFF so far, my eyes tell me the secondary has become much tougher to puncture.
Move: Picked up expensive option on Mike Wallace.
Skinny: In need of more playmakers, not fewer, the Ravens couldn't afford to part ways with their top big-play receiver in 2016. It was an easy call, actually, with no dollar commitment beyond this season. Meanwhile, Wallace continues to make plays.
Move: Signed Danny Woodhead.
Skinny: The veteran back was relatively inexpensive and there's little doubt he would play a huge role in the offense if he could stay healthy. But so far, he can't stay healthy.
Move: Strived to bolster running game.
Skinny: This organizational initiative included tweaks to the coaching staff, led by the hiring of Greg Roman. The last piece of the puzzle was buy-in from Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhingweg, which we have seen. The results are positive. Even with multiple injuries on the offensive line and no clear-cut No. 1 back, the Ravens are ranked No. 6 in the league in rushing. A year ago, they ranked No. 28.