Reasons Ravens Are Betting on Offensive Potential
Much of the outside talk about the Ravens right now revolves around the team's questions on offense.
The Ravens lost starters at wide receiver, fullback, right tackle, and center, and they have not brought in any clear replacements through the draft or free agency.
The Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler, however, outlined two reasons the Ravens are betting on their offensive potential going into the 2017 season.
1. Breshad Perriman will solve the biggest issue
The uncertainty at receiver has created plenty of angst among Baltimore fans, but third-year wideout Breshad Perriman may have calmed some of those nerves last week with his strong start to Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
Perriman looked every bit the part of a No. 1 receiver, and he had teammates singing his praises.
As the roster currently stands, Perriman and veteran Mike Wallace are in line for starting jobs. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has said that he'll continue to search for a complementary wide receiver leading up to the season opener, but the fact that he hasn't added a veteran yet is a vote of confidence in his former first-round pick.
"There is no way that the Ravens would wait this long to address a thin spot on their roster if Newsome didn't think Perriman was going to blossom," Schisler wrote. "Perriman has incredible speed, size and maybe he is about to break out. The talent is there, we just have to see it come into fruition."
2. The offensive line will fix itself
The Ravens don't have clear-cut starters in place at center or right tackle.
Versatile second-year lineman Alex Lewis could end up at either of those spots, but right now the Ravens are keeping him at left guard. Baltimore is using OTAs to get a good look at Ryan Jensen and John Urschel at center, and James Hurst, Stephane Nembot and De'Ondre Wesley at right tackle.
The Ravens have experienced players in Urschel, Jensen and Hurst who could step into the starting lineup, and Schisler points out that the line already has a solid foundation in place.
"Think about the Ravens offensive line in terms of what you're not worried about. You're not worried about [right guard] Marshal Yanda, he's the man. You're not worried about Ronnie Stanley at left tackle and you know Alex Lewis can play tackle and guard," Schisler wrote. "This means that Newsome has the numbers in his favor. Three of the five starters are locked up as known commodities."
The Ravens also drafted a pair of linemen in Nico Siragusa and Jermaine Eluemunor. If they prove to be fast learners in training camp, then they could find themselves in competition for a starting role.
"By adding two players to the equation, Newsome isn't fixing the problem," Schisler wrote. "He's increasing the probability that the offensive line will find a solution to it."
Ravens Could Use Breakout Season From Maxx Williams
Perriman stole the headlines last week thanks to his standout performance during OTAs. But there's another high draft pick from the 2015 class who the Ravens would love to see have a big season.
Tight end Maxx Williams.
Head Coach John Harbaugh delivered some good news when he said Williams' rare knee surgery was a success and the former second-round pick should be ready to go in training camp.
Baltimore Beatdown's Matthew Cohen believes it's now time for Williams to step into a larger role.
"In 2017, Williams must prove the front office and coaching staff to be correct in having faith in him by having a breakout season," Cohen wrote.
"Coming out of college, the scouting reports on Williams all described him as having the potential to be a truly dynamic weapon. Williams is a fantastic athlete who was one of the stars of the combine, and he also possesses a large catch radius. No other tight end on the Ravens roster has Williams' athletic ability."
Tight end is one of the most interesting positions on the roster because the Ravens have so many options. Williams, Dennis Pitta, Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller are all competing for spots.
Ranking the Divisions in Terms of Competitiveness
The AFC North is widely considered one of the NFL's toughest divisions. Teams in the division play a brand of rough, physical football, and the AFC North has consistently produced multiple playoff teams over the last several years.
NFL.com's Conor Orr recently ranked every division based on the competitiveness within the division, and he had the AFC North at No. 5. The rationale for that ranking is that he believes the schedule largely benefits the Steelers.
"The reason I note that the division could be decided in late November, though, is a fortuitous opening schedule for the Steelers," Orr wrote. "As I noted in my 2017 easiest schedules piece, Pittsburgh has a decent chance of rolling into the bye week in early November undefeated. All of the Steelers' difficult games come with a caveat in their favor -- for example, their first matchup against the Ravens comes the week after Baltimore returns from London."