Five Ravens Predictions, Including Joe Flacco and Justin Tucker's Future
Tuesday marked 100 days until the start of the glorious 2016 NFL season. Football can't get here soon enough!
This calls for two things. First, of course, we need to celebrate with a Cousin Terio Ooh Killem dance. Justin Tucker, will you do the honors?
Second, we need predictions. Luckily, the folks at ESPN (fittingly) made 100 predictions that will shape the season, five of which concerned Baltimore.
Below are the five Ravens predictions, and my quick take on each:
*1) Rest easy, Baltimore: QB Joe Flacco will be ready for the start of training camp. His knee injury will keep him out of spring practices, but Flacco is driven to prove he's an elite healer. -- Jamison Hensley
This isn't the boldest of predictions, but certainly a solid one that will perhaps affect the Ravens' season more than anything else. The goal for Flacco all along has been to return for training camp, and every indication points to him hitting that mark. The bigger mystery is whether Flacco can play at the same level he did prior to the injury, and my bet is he'll hardly skip a beat. Doctors have been impressed with his physical improvements, and Flacco has always been mentally strong, which is a good sign that he'll be able forget about his knee and play as he normally would.
2) The Ravens will run significantly more pass plays with three-plus wide receivers on the field after ranking 27th in the category last season. This will allow intriguing breakout player Breshad Perriman, who has 4.24 40 speed, plenty of opportunities to produce. -- Mike Clay
The return of Flacco and veteran Steve Smith Sr., combined with the additions of Mike Wallace and rookie Chris Moore, will also greatly help boost this stat. That said,* *Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman also loves two-tight end sets and he's got a boatload of talented personnel there.
3) The Ravens will trade Eugene Monroe to the first team that loses a starting left tackle to an injury. No. 6 overall pick Ronnie Stanley is the future at left tackle, and the Ravens drafted him because of their questions about Monroe's ability to protect the quarterback's blind side. -- John Clayton
This one is intriguing. The Ravens and the media continue to push opposing messages on Monroe. Baltimore insists Monroe will have every opportunity to defend his starting job at left tackle, while the media believes he will be cut or traded before the season. The timing of Clayton's specific prediction isn't clear, but I could absolutely see the Ravens at least consider trade offers for Monroe. There's no doubt that Stanley is the future, so at some point Monroe and Baltimore will say goodbye and General Manager Ozzie Newsome would love to get a draft pick out of it.
4) The Ravens, who have pushed the NFL to overhaul and expand replay review, will win a game on an unreviewable bad call. Next year: Abolish replay for everyone! -- Kevin Seifert
I can't tell if Seifert is making an actual prediction or just being sarcastic. Sure, the Ravens could win a game on an unreviewable bad call, but I don't see Head Coach John Harbaugh reversing his stance on replay review. He believes the heart of the issue is the credibility of the game, and one win isn't going to change that.
5) Ravens will reach an extension with franchise player Justin Tucker. The sides have until July 15 to strike a deal, and it was a good sign that Tucker was at voluntary [Organized Team Activities] OTAs. Plus, where else are the Ravens going to find an opera-singing, Matthew McConaughey-impersonating kicker? -- Jamison Hensley
Yup, I agree. These two are going to reach a multi-year deal and become partners for a very, very long time. Maybe Tucker is simply built differently, but tagged players regularly skip the voluntary portion of offseason programs and sometimes even part of training camp. If negotiations weren't going his way, Tucker could easily protest with his absence.
Ravens Still Face A Ton Of Injury Questions
The Ravens' health outlook is positive, but the team is still facing several injury questions. The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec reviewed 16 of them.
Five of those questions have already been answered with several of last year's injured reserve players practicing again, including Perriman, running back Justin Forsett, center Jeremy Zuttah, tight ends Crockett Gillmore and Dennis Pitta.
We also know some of the biggest stars are slated to return for training camp, including outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, Smith Sr. and Flacco.
What about some of the injured players that don't have solid return target dates? What's their status, Jeff?
WR Michael Campanaro (calf): "Campanaro is dealing with a strained calf muscle from offseason workouts. It's an obvious concern because the former River Hill standout has struggled with soft-tissue injuries during his Ravens career. … Campanaro will be in a battle for one of the final wide receiver spots, so getting healthy and returning to the field is imperative."
CB Will Davis (knee): "Davis tore his ACL for the second time in as many seasons last October. He has made another quick recovery and was running near full speed off to the side last week. Davis, who impressed in limited action last season, has yet to be fully cleared for the workouts, but that should happen relatively soon."
RB Kenneth Dixon (hamstring): "Dixon tweaked his hamstring at Louisiana Tech's pro day in March. The injury sidelined him for the rookie minicamp and last week's OTAs. The fourth-round pick, however, should be nearing a return and the Ravens have no concerns to this point about his availability for training camp."
DE Bronson Kaufusi (back): "The rookie third-round pick strained his back at the team's rookie minicamp and he's been sidelined since. Harbaugh wasn't asked about Kaufusi at last week's OTA, so it's unclear how significant the former BYU standout's injury is. The loss of practice time is a setback for a rookie who needs to learn the Ravens defense."
OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder): "Monroe had surgery in December to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and he's still yet to be cleared to return."
RB Trent Richardson (hamstring): "Richardson tweaked his hamstring a couple of weeks ago, knocking him out of the early OTAs. … Anything that takes Richardson off the practice field is a blow for a player who has an uphill battle to make the team."
CB Jimmy Smith (foot): "Smith had the screws removed from his surgically-repaired foot about four weeks ago. He wasn't participating in last week's OTA, but he was on the sideline for most of it, and he didn't look to be in any discomfort. Barring no setbacks, the Ravens' top corner will be ready for training camp."
Two AFC North Teams Make Top-10 Most Talented Rosters List
The Ravens were left out of NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks' list for the top-10 most talented NFL rosters, but two of Baltimore's AFC North rivals made the cut.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals were Nos. 2 and 7, respectively, which likely means Brooks believes Baltimore has the third-most talented roster out of the four-team division. That is, of course, unless he goes against the grain and takes the Browns over the Ravens.
"When I worked as a scout for the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, I discovered that championship teams usually have around eight to 10 blue-chip players on the roster," Brooks wrote. "These guys typically rank among the top players in the NFL at their respective positions."
The Ravens have a few players who could be considered one of the best at their position, including Tucker, guard Marshal Yanda (see tweet below), outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and safety Eric Weddle.
Baltimore also has several other players with the potential to be one of the best, but they aren't there right now, either due to injuries or coming up short of a breakthrough year. That list includes defensive tackle Brandon Williams, linebacker C.J. Mosley, Jimmy Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Forsett, Flacco and Suggs.
Meanwhile, in Brooks' estimation, the Ravens' division rivals possess talent that have already arrived.
- "I'm not sure how Darren Waller's transition to tight end will work out but the former wide receiver certainly looks the part for his new position," wrote Zrebiec. "Waller, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, is a physical specimen. It looks like another offseason in the weight room has done him good." (The Baltimore Sun)