Late For Work 6/25: Ravens Graded For Offseason Moves

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Ravens Graded For Offseason Moves

The Ravens aren't known for making a big splash during the offseason.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome prefers to make shrewd, affordable signings, and then stocks the cupboards with young talent in the draft.

That was again the approach this year, and ESPN's Jamison Hensley thinks the Ravens did it right. He gave the Ravens an offseason grade of "B," and expects those moves to pay dividends in the upcoming season.

"Baltimore addressed most of its needs this offseason, despite having limited salary cap room, and drafting towards the bottom of nearly every round," Hensley said in the video below.

"With what the Ravens have done this offseason, it wouldn't be a surprise if Baltimore won its first division title since 2012."

Winning the division has been an elusive task, as the AFC North has arguably been the best division in football the last few years. The division had three playoff teams again in 2014, and the Bengals and Steelers are again primed to compete for another postseason bid.

But Hensley thinks the Ravens may have the edge in the AFC North based on the upgrades they made to their secondary. The unit was in need of repair after an injury riddled 2014 season, and he expects the under-the-radar additions to make a difference.

"Baltimore signed Houston Texans free-agent safety Kendrick Lewis, whose range in the secondary is a much better fit than last year's starter Darian Stewart," he said. "The Ravens also added New England Patriots nickelback Kyle Arrington, who might be the most underrated signing in the division."

Lewis was quickly inserted into the starting lineup after signing with Baltimore, and he took first-team reps throughout the offseason program. Arrington also spent plenty of time with the starters, and his specialty as a slot defender meshes with what the Ravens need.

"The Ravens didn't have the salary-cap room to make a splash with players such as Darrelle Revis, but they did enough to improve the weakest part of the team," he wrote.

5 Players Who Needed To Show More

The offseason practices over the last two months allowed the coaching staff to get a sense for their roster before training camp, and they also gave local reporters an opportunity to make some assessments during the sessions open to the media.

Competition is the most intense during mandatory minicamp, and The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec came up with his list of players who needed to show more at minicamp:

TE Maxx Williams
"The second-round NFL draft pick is the youngest player on the roster and nobody expected him to be a finished product. But everything looked to be moving a little quick for him last week and he didn't make too many plays."

CB Asa Jackson
"Jackson fumbled a couple of punts and struggled to stay with several of the Ravens' wide receivers. For a guy who is entering a fourth season and started six games last year, you'd expect more."

WR DeAndre Carter
"The undrafted free agent out of Sacramento State was the talk of organized team activities and was compared, by teammate Steve Smith, to Green Bay Packers star Randall Cobb. But last week, he had a couple of drops and didn't seem to be open all that often."

WR Marlon Brown
"It's not that Brown played poorly. He made some plays. However, there were several times where he was given an opportunity in the end zone against a smaller cornerback and couldn't come up with the ball."

ILB Arthur Brown
"It should be noted that defensive coordinator Dean Pees praised Brown's development, and the former second-round NFL draft pick did work with the first team for part of the week. But it was still a little jarring on Thursday to see Brown lined up next to undrafted free agent Andrew Bose while Zach Orr was with the starting defense."

Steelers To Honor Bettis vs. Ravens

In case the Ravens-Steelers rivalry needed any extra juice, Pittsburgh just added some excitement to the Week 4 meeting at Heinz Field.

The Steelers announced yesterday they will honor Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis during the Thursday Night Football showdown against the Ravens.

"It seems like every time the Ravens visit Heinz Field to play their biggest rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers are honoring one of their greats," Zrebiec wrote.

Bettis rushed for 13,662 yards over the course of his career, and he was one of the original players to help make the Ravens-Steelers rivalry one of the best in sports.

"Bettis had some memorable matchups against the Ravens, knocking heads with linebacker Ray Lewis," Zrebiec wrote. "In 16 regular-season games against them, Bettis rushed for 969 yards and two scores."

The Ravens would love nothing more than to spoil Bettis' homecoming with a win over their rivals.

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