Ravens' Top Breakout Candidates for 2017
The Ravens are on a mission to get back into the playoffs this year.
If that's going to happen, Baltimore will need some of its talented young players to take the next step, and USA Today's Chuck Mills outlined seven candidates primed for a breakout season:
OLB Matt JudonThe Ravens liked the potential they saw in Judon last year when he notched four sacks as a rookie. "Now he'll have to take the next step in 2017 while fending off Za'Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, and Tim Williams," Mills wrote. "It won't be easy, but if Judon can do it, he could have a big season next year."
CB Tavon YoungThe fourth-round pick had a stellar rookie campaign in which he played his way into the starting lineup, and now he's in line to return to a slot corner role. "He played well, but he did struggle against taller receivers such as Dez Bryant," Mills wrote. "But after Baltimore signed Brandon Carr and drafted Marlon Humphrey, the team will be able to move Young to the slot, where he should really thrive."
WR Breshad PerrimanThe speedster had 499 receiving yards and three touchdowns last year in his inaugural campaign, and he's expected to move into a starting role this season. "Now Perriman is coming into the 2017 season without having to deal with rehabbing an injured knee and he is moving up the depth chart after [Steve] Smith's retirement," Mills wrote. "Perriman will have every chance to break out in 2017."
WR Chris Moore **Perriman isn't the only receiver in line for a bigger role. Moore, a fourth-round pick last year, "should get some more playing time on offense as the No. 3 receiver, since Baltimore didn't take one in the draft," Mills wrote. "This is his chance to show everyone what he's capable of."
WR Michael CampanaroCampanaro said this week that he's ready for a breakout season, and Mills agrees. "Campanaro has always hovered on the precipice of being a major part of the offense, but injuries have kept him from really making an impact," he wrote. "Campanaro's speed and agility make him a perfect fit for the slot wide receiver role as we've seen some explosive plays from him. The key here for Campanaro is just staying healthy. If he can do that, expect a good season from him."
DE Bronson KaufusiThe third-round pick missed his entire rookie season after breaking his ankle in training camp, but he's healthy now and will compete for the starting defensive end spot. "He'll have a chance to win a starting spot on the defensive line and become the explosive pass rusher that the Ravens need him to be," Mills wrote.
LB Kamalei CorreaZachary Orr's sudden retirement this offseason opened the starting job next to C.J. Mosley. "Correa will be given the biggest shot at replacing Orr at inside linebacker and it looks like Baltimore is completely content with giving him the starting job," Mills wrote.
Five Numbers That Must Change
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec also wrote about what it will take to get Baltimore back to the postseason, and he examined five numbers that must change if the Ravens are going to do so.
6.42– Joe Flacco's yards per throwing attempt
That ranked No. 29 in the NFL last season, as the Ravens too often had a dink-and-dunk offense. Zrebiec believes "the Ravens badly need to rediscover their downfield passing game to become a more dynamic offense."
22.9 **– Rushing attempts per game
The Ravens ran the ball a franchise-low 367 times last season, and a focus this offseason is to rediscover the ground game. "By now, it should be clear that the Ravens are going to struggle if Flacco has to consistently throw the ball over 40 times per game," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens need to be persistent in running the football, even if it's not necessarily resulting in a lot of yards per carry."
18 – Number of players on injured reserve
Injuries are part of the deal in the NFL, and the Ravens have dealt with their share in recent years. "The Ravens could certainly use a little better fortune in the injury department," he wrote. "They also hope that the workout programs, put in place by director of performance Steve Saunders, will help lessen some of the nagging physical problems players have endured."
31 – Number of sacks the Ravens had
Getting after the quarterback was a struggle for the Ravens, and they've invested heavily in young pass rushers by drafting Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. "The Ravens' top defenses over the years have had the ability to hit and harass quarterbacks," Zrebiec wrote. "The 2017 team needs to be able to do that, too."
109– Number of fourth-quarter points the Ravens allowed
Late-game struggles by the defense cost Baltimore games against the Giants, Raiders and Steelers. "Ravens defensive players talk all the time about how they want to be on the field late in games to close out wins," he wrote. "The opposite happened too often in 2016, and that trend needs to change if the Ravens are going to have a championship-level defense."
Blount Off The Market
Ravens fans can cross a free agent off their wish list.
Running back LeGarrette Blount, who some reporters had speculated as a fit for the Ravens, signed with the Eagles Wednesday.
It's unknown if the Ravens actually had interest in signing the bulldozing ball carrier. They already added one free agent running back this offseason in Danny Woodhead, and signing Blount would have cost them a compensatory pick.
According to Rapoport, Blount also had offers from the Giants and Cardinals before choosing the Eagles.
Ray Lewis Holds First Under Armour Event as Part of New Partnership
Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has been an Under Armour partner for years. The company has featured him on signs, billboards and even a massive water tank in Baltimore, but the nature of their relationship changed last year.
Lewis signed a new seven-year deal with the company that focuses on grassroots football initiatives, and they recently held their first youth camp for 120 Baltimore football players under the revised partnership.
"The session was closed to the media, but Under Armour said it included skill station rotations, agility drills, footwork drills, yoga, football-specific drills and tackling instruction," wrote Jeff Barker of The Baltimore Sun.
Under Armour will hold the Ray Lewis Academy next month in Bradentown, Fla., and the invitation-only event will be for 70 "elite underclass linebackers and running backs," Barker wrote.
Ravens Honored By Baltimore Touchdown Club
The Ravens were honored this week at the Baltimore Touchdown Club's Super 22 banquet. The Ravens were inducted into the club's Hall of Fame for work in the community via the organization's RISE program.
RISE focuses on youth football outreach, and hosts events such as clinics and 7-on-7 tournaments.
Matt Little and Adam Rudel, who both work in Marketing and Football Outreach, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.