Early Look At Ravens Defensive Depth Chart
Analysts continue to look at the Ravens depth chart with the draft and the bulk of free-agency moves complete. The Ravens could always add another player or two as other NFL teams make cuts, but there will be more subtractions than additions to the roster before the start of the 2016 season.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec examined the Ravens defense, writing this is "one man's opinion" as to where the Ravens defensive depth chart stands today:
Rush linebacker: Terrell Suggs, Kamalei Correa, Victor Ochi
Strong-side linebacker: Elvis Dumervil, Za'Darius Smith, Matthew Judon, Chris Carter, Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
The Ravens added a lot of pass-rushing help after Suggs went down with an Achilles injury last year and Courtney Upshaw left via free agency. Zrebiec sees limited snaps for both Suggs (33) and Dumervil (32) as they continue to age. Plus, Dumervil "wore down by season's end" because he was forced to become an every-down player.
"The Ravens have plenty of depth now, so that shouldn't happen again," wrote Zrebiec. "Correa, a second-round pick, is an athletic rusher who should provide a nice change of pace. Upshaw is gone, but Smith, who had 5 ½ sacks as a rookie, is a capable replacement. The Ravens also can employ Judon, Correa and Ochi as situational rushers. If Carter makes the roster, it will be mostly because of special teams."
Defensive end: Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Nordly Capi
There will be a competition for the snaps that starter Chris Canty had last year. Zrebiec sees Guy getting obvious running downs with Urban entering in passing situations. "Kaufusi, who also can rush from the outside, is the wild card. The Ravens can utilize him in a similar way they used Pernell McPhee," he wrote.
Defensive tackle: Timmy Jernigan, Willie Henry, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Trevon Coley, Michael Pierce
Jernigan returns as the starter, while Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has plenty of depth for rotational options.
Nose tackle: Brandon Williams, Carl Davis
Not only is Williams the obvious starter, but the hope is that he finally gets a well-deserved Pro Bowl nod. Writes Zrebiec: "Davis hit the rookie wall last season and his snaps dropped significantly. After a full offseason in the weight room, Davis should be ready to solidify a spot in the defensive line rotation."
Middle linebacker: C.J. Mosley, Albert McClellan
Mosley moves over to the starting middle linebacker role and wants to take on more leadership responsibility after Daryl Smith left for Tampa Bay. McClellan is an experienced backup and key cog on special teams.
Weak-side linebacker: Zachary Orr, Arthur Brown, Patrick Onwuasor, Cavellis Luckett
This will be an interesting competition to keep an eye on during this offseason and training camp. Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the draft that the Ravens were looking at the free-agent market, but they also have confidence in those already at the top of the depth chart.
"Orr may have a slight lead over Brown for the open weak-side linebacker job after the undrafted free agent out of North Texas played well when his snaps increased last season," wrote Zrebiec. "Brown, the second-round pick in 2013, figures to finally get an extended look this summer."
Cornerback: Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tavon Young, Julian Wilson
Cornerback: Shareece Wright, Will Davis, Maurice Canady, Sheldon Price
Smith and Wright finished the season as the top corners last year and are expected to return as the starters. In a passing league, three corners will often be on the field, and Arrington, Young and Davis will battle it out for No. 3 cornerback role. "Lacking depth, the Ravens will need draft picks Young and Canady to contribute immediately," wrote Zrebiec.
Strong safety: Lardarius Webb, Matt Elam, Anthony Levine Sr.
Free safety: Eric Weddle, Kendrick Lewis, Terrence Brooks, Nick Perry, Jermaine Whitehead
The Ravens are expected to have two new starting safeties in the backfield with Weddle and Webb. Weddle, a three-time Pro Bowler the Ravens signed this offseason, will put everyone in position and Webb hopes to make a smooth transition from corner. Zrebiec sees Lewis as the No. 3 safety. Elam, the 2013 first-round pick, will have to fight for a roster spot against some of the other young defensive backs.
ESPN Post-Draft Power Rankings
Just about everyone says they don't care about power rankings, but then they read them anyway. This particular list especially bugs WJZ's Mark Viviano.
Feel free to skip this section if you don't care what the ESPN voters think about how the Ravens' draft picks affect their standing among the 31 other NFL teams. For those that think it's just a fun exercise, here ya go …
Baltimore is ranked as the 14th best team, which is the same standing it had before the draft. Meanwhile, the AFC North foe Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 6) and Cincinnati Bengals (No. 7) are ranked ahead of the Ravens. The Cleveland Browns are at the bottom of the list at No. 32.
"In order to sustain their first losing season since 2007, the Ravens had to lose their starting quarterback, running back, No. 1 wide receiver and top pass-rusher to injury," ESPN voters wrote. "Fair to assume they'll be back to slug it out in the AFC North with the Steelers and the Bengals."
Football Outsiders' early 2016 AFC projections fall in line with ESPN's power rankings. Here's how Football Outsiders' sees the division playing out:
- Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4 (11.8 mean wins; strength of schedule: 23)
- Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6 (9.8 mean wins; SOS: 20)
- Baltimore Ravens: 10-6 (9.6 mean wins; SOS: 24)
- Cleveland Browns: 4-12 (3.6 mean wins; SOS: 7)
"We talk a lot about which NFL division is the best top to bottom, but no division can compete with the AFC North when it comes to 'top to almost bottom' quality," wrote Aaron Schatz. "Three AFC North teams made the postseason in 2014, and the same will happen in 2016 if the season plays out according to our mean projections."
Victor Ochi Among Top Undrafted Free-Agent Rookies To Watch
It seems General Manager Ozzie Newsome finds an undrafted gem every year that ultimately becomes an impact player. Who will it be this year?
Well, ESPN's Mel Kiper listed 30 undrafted rookies to watch – in no particular order – and Ravens outside linebacker Victor Ochi made the cut.
"Most teams didn't feel his dominant play in the FCS would translate to NFL production, but Ochi can set the edge and has the potential to stick," wrote Kiper.
The knock on Ochi is his size (5-foot-11, 255 pounds), but that is the identical height and weight of Dumervil, who has made a career out of terrorizing quarterbacks. Kiper actually predicted Ochi would be drafted as early as the third round, but reality set in for Ochi on the third day of the draft that no team was going to select him.
He is now using it as motivation to prove to NFL scouts that they passed up a good thing.
"I feel like the Ravens got a steal signing me, and I'm going to go out there and prove what I need to do," Ochi told Newsday. "It's something that I've been used to before in the past, and I just get another chance to rewrite my own history again.
"The NFL will hear about me soon."
Ray Lewis' New Energy Project To Help Low-Income Baltimore Families
You didn't expect Ray Lewis to slow down even though he is no longer an ESPN analyst, did you?
Lewis is now the vice president of Power52, a Maryland-based nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the cost of energy for low-income families. The future Hall of Fame linebacker wanted to do more to help Baltimore after watching the riots last year.
In the video interview below, Lewis explains how the project began.