Ravens Super Bowl LII Prediction
Plenty of Baltimore fans will be happy to read this recent headline from USA Today: "3 Reasons Why Ravens Will Win Super Bowl LII."
It's a bold prediction three months before the start of the regular season, but USA Today's Wola Odeniran outlines why he believes the Ravens are destined to bring home another Lombardi Trophy.
"After missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the Ravens are a team on a mission," he wrote. "A mission that could spell bad news for every team facing Baltimore in the AFC."
Here are the three reasons he expects to see another Ravens' championship parade:
1. Harbaugh Has the Ravens Focused
The Ravens are well aware of where they have been the last few years, and Head Coach John Harbaugh is working to re-establish consistent success. Baltimore is building its identity, and the Ravens aren't a team that will be content with prolonged playoff absences.
"Since he joined Baltimore in 2008, Harbaugh has 10 playoff wins, three AFC title game appearances and a Super Bowl trophy," Odeniran wrote. "He knows what it takes to get it done, and the Ravens certainly don't have a look of a team in rebuilding mode this offseason."
2. Ravens are Building a Bully on the Offensive Line
A focus this offseason has been to beef up the offensive line. The Ravens are looking to get bigger at center (more on that below), and also drafted a pair of linemen in Nico Siragusa and Jermaine Eluemunor, who weigh a combined 650 pounds.
The Ravens expect the bigger line and power blocking style to help revitalize the ground attack.
"The weight gains are all by design, and with the addition of [Senior Offensive Assistant/Tight Ends Coach] Greg Roman, this can mean good things, especially in the running game," Odeniran wrote.
"Roman has been a part of two teams (San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills) over the last five seasons that have finished in the top five in total rushing yards each season. The Ravens want a reliable running game to help take pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco."
3. Defense Looks Championship-Worthy
The Ravens made some major investments in their defense this offseason by re-signing defensive tackle Brandon Williams, adding safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Brandon Carr, then using their first four draft picks on defenders.
The Ravens now have the talent to get after quarterbacks and cover on the back end, which were both areas of need last season. Veteran defenders haven't shied away from sharing their lofty goals – Jefferson said the defense could be "legendary" and cornerback Jimmy Smith said the Ravens expect to be ranked No. 1 in every category – and they plan on backing that up when the season arrives.
"Winning Super Bowl LII will likely require the defense to lead the team. The Ravens have developed an excellent defense on paper over the last couple of months," Odeniran wrote. "Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have a lot of weapons at his disposal in 2017."
Yanda Slighted With No. 43 Ranking
The Ravens saw their first player named to the NFL Network's Top 100 list this week when right guard Marshal Yanda was announced at No. 43.
Just getting selected is an honor – the list is voted on by players – but USA Today's Matthew Stevens believes that Yanda's ranking at No. 43 should "come as a slap in the face."
"Yanda is arguably the best offensive lineman in the NFL right now," he wrote. "Though he was injured and missed three games in 2016, Yanda sets the bar for guards and perhaps for all offensive linemen. He's a bully on the field, manhandling those lining up opposite him while being soft spoken off the field."
Yanda's 2016 season was remarkable, particularly considering he played through a major shoulder injury. The shoulder forced Yanda to move from his natural spot on the right side to left guard, and he didn't miss a beat.
"It would be hard for any lineman to change where and how they've done things for so long and just be competent, but to actually go out and play just as well immediately is a testament to how great Yanda really is," Stevens wrote.
"So while it's an honor to make the list, it still feels like a slight on Yanda. It'll be even worse if another offensive lineman comes ahead of him on this list."
Is Jensen the Favorite to Start at Center?
When the Ravens hit the field for Organized Team Activities (OTAs) last week, versatile offensive lineman Ryan Jensen was working as the first-team center.
The 2013 sixth-round draft pick out of Colorado State-Pueblo has been a quality backup during his four NFL seasons, and he'll get a chance to earn a starting job over the next couple of months.
Jensen has to compete with John Urschel and potentially a veteran acquisition, but Baltimore Beatdown's Vasilis Lericos believes Jensen could be a good fit as the Ravens look to get bigger in the trenches.
"Jensen measures in at 6-foot-4, 320 pounds after packing on ten pounds of muscle this offseason," Lericos wrote. "His size and aggressive temperament would fit the Ravens and their new offensive line coach Joe D'Allesandris perfectly."
Even though Jensen has limited experience as a starter, Lericos pointed to some of the Ravens' recent internal promotions.
"The Ravens have had good results when promoting backups into prominent roles lately," he wrote. "Former right tackle Rick Wagner was thrust into a starting spot in 2014 after serving as an eligible blocker for much of his rookie season. Wagner responded with his best season to date. Zachary Orr, a lifelong special teamer, posted a second team All-Pro year at linebacker when given an opportunity for extended playing time in 2016."
If Jensen impresses the coaching staff over the next three weeks of offseason practices, that could persuade General Manager Ozzie Newsome to not add a veteran interior lineman. That money could then be spent on addressing any other remaining needs on the roster.
"Jensen's early lead for the starting center job in undoubtedly a positive development for the 2017 Baltimore Ravens," Lericos wrote.