Top Five Quarterbacks Ravens Will Face In 2016
Of all the areas on the team, the Ravens may have tinkered most with the secondary this offseason. That's saying a lot for an organization that has turned over more than one-third of its roster.
The Ravens brought in a respected voice in Secondary Coach Leslie Frazier to lead the group, signed a pricy high-profile free agent in Eric Weddle, added a solid nickel cornerback in Jerraud Powers, moved Lardarius Webb from cornerback to safety and extended Shareece Wright. These additions will surround a healthier Jimmy Smith with quality players on the back end of the defense.
Baltimore is hopeful all these changes will make a big difference after notching a league-low six interceptions and allowing 51 passes over 20 yards last season.
Will it be enough to slow down some of the best quarterbacks in the league, including Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger?
Time will tell.
The folks at BaltimoreBeatdown.com looked at all the quarterbacks Baltimore will face this season, and put together their top-5 list:
1. Tom Brady, Patriots
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
3. Andy Dalton, Bengals
4. Derek Carr, Raiders
5. Blake Bortles, Jaguars
Obviously, there is a big drop-off after Brady and Roethlisberger. Those two will unquestionably be the Ravens' toughest challenges as they both boast multiple Super Bowl rings and consistently play at a top level each season. Neither is expected to slow down in 2016.
Dalton is scary because he has A.J. Green, a.k.a. the "Ravens killer," who always seems to find a way to beat Baltimore in the final moments of games.
Carr and Bortles are two up-and-coming talents heading into their third years. Bortles notched 4,427 passing yards last year, breaking the 4,000-yard milestone that has eluded quarterback Joe Flacco for eight years. Carr was just 13 yards shy of that mark last year.
Bortles beat out more accomplished veterans on the list, including the Cowboys' Tony Romo and the Giants' Eli Manning. And don't forget about the Bills' Tyrod Taylor, who will visit M&T Bank Stadium for the season-opener on Sept. 11. It will mark the first time Taylor faces his former team after the Ravens allowed him to walk via free agency in March of 2015.
Below are the 16 quarterbacks the Ravens will face next season:
Week 1: Tyrod Taylor, Bills
Week 2: Robert Griffin III or Josh McCown, Browns
Week 3: Blake Bortles, Jaguars
Week 4: Derrek Carr, Raiders
Week 5: Kirk Cousins, Redskins
Week 6: Eli Manning, Giants
Week 7: Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick (if he signs), Jets
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Week 10: Robert Griffin III or Josh McCown, Browns
Week 11: Tony Romo, Cowboys
Week 12: Andy Dalton, Bengals
Week 13: Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Week 14: Tom Brady, Patriots
Week 15: Sam Bradford, Eagles
Week 16: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Week 17: Andy Dalton, Bengals
How Will Josh Gordon's Reinstatement Affect Ravens?
Well, look who's back to wreak havoc in the AFC North: Josh Gordon.
The NFL announced yesterday that the Cleveland Browns wide receiver has been conditionally reinstated, but he'll first have to serve a four-game suspension to start the season.
Gordon was initially suspended in February 2015 for violating the NFL policy and program for substances of abuse. He hasn't played in a game since December 2014.
"As we discussed at our (July 19) meeting, as Commissioner, I want nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and succeed," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Gordon released by the league. "Countless others including your agent, teammates and coaches, Mr. Haslam and the leadership of the organization, the Program professionals and Jim Brown also have pledged to provide you with every resource at their disposal. But as you acknowledged, ultimately, your future is your responsibility. I have every belief that you can make the right choices, but it will be up to you to do so."
While Gordon will be suspended for the Ravens-Browns Week 2 matchup, Goodell's decision will certainly have an effect on the Ravens. Baltimore will still have to defend against Gordon at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 10, and he's eligible to play in all of the Browns' other division games.
When on the field, Gordon has shown the ability to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. In 2013, he amassed 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. His return also gives the Browns a promising wide receiver starting duo when paired with first-round rookie Corey Coleman.
After a year out of football, it will be interesting to see if Gordon picks up where he left off.
The good news is the Ravens have limited Gordon in the past to just six catches for 98 yards and no touchdowns in their three matchups.
Training Camp Questions And Answers
With the first practice of training camp set to begin Thursday morning, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec answered many lingering questions.
Below are five that stood out to me:
*Can rookie Ronnie Stanley provide immediate stability to Flacco's blind side? *Zrebiec: "He looked fluid and comfortable at left tackle in minicamp, but he needs to get stronger. He's going to be tested this summer by the Ravens' cadre of edge rushers. Expecting Stanley to play at a Pro Bowl level from the start is probably unreasonable. However, the Ravens need him to grow up fast. The worst thing for a quarterback coming off a significant injury would be a left tackle he couldn't trust."
*Are there any updates on receiver Breshad Perriman? *Zrebiec: "Nothing definitive. He's rehabbing after having his left knee scoped six weeks ago. … Partial tears can take about 10 to 12 weeks to heal. Obviously, Perriman's issues last season when what was initially believed to be a day-to-day knee injury morphed into a season-ender prove that it isn't prudent to speculate on when he'll be ready. The Ravens seem optimistic that Perriman will return in time to be ready for the regular season, but that's hardly a given."
*Who are some of the veterans who enter training camp "on the bubble?" *Zrebiec: "The Ravens love maintaining a young roster, so with an 11-man draft class and a 12-man undrafted free agent class, there obviously will be some veterans who need a strong training camp to save their roster spots. Some of the veterans in this category include running backs Terrance West and Lorenzo Taliaferro, wide receivers Michael Campanaro, Chris Matthews and Jeremy Butler, offensive lineman James Hurst, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, cornerback Kyle Arrington and safety Matt Elam. There are others, too."
Are all 11 draft picks guaranteed roster spots?
Zrebiec: "No. In fact, as much as general manager Ozzie Newsome abhors moving on from draft picks early, it's going to be difficult to find room for all 11. … It would be hard to imagine the Ravens dumping any of their five fourth-round picks this year. However, I'd stop short of calling fifth-round pick Matt Judon and sixth-round selections Keenan Reynolds and Maurice Canady roster locks."
*Will the Ravens still make roster moves? *Zrebiec: "Newsome usually has a move or two up his sleeve at this time of the year. The Ravens have at least one open roster space and more than $13 million in salary cap room, so they have the necessary flexibility. They figure to make a minor move before Thursday's first workout and then Newsome and Harbaugh will likely monitor practice for a little while and see where there is a need. The Ravens could probably use a more accomplished veteran left tackle and weak-side linebacker, and they believe you never can have enough cornerbacks. There's not a whole lot available at any of those three spots, but that could change when roster moves start occurring."
Avoiding A Sophomore Slump With Marc Trestman
You wouldn't think it given the Ravens' 5-11 record and multiple injuries last season, but the offense had one of its better seasons in team history under first-year coordinator Marc Trestman.
As ESPN's Jamison Hensley pointed out, the unit produced the second-most yards in team history and set a franchise record in passing yards despite being without Flacco for the final six games. With six starters set to return from injury and Trestman getting his first year under his belt, it seems reasonable to expect even bigger things in 2016.
"But] Trestman's track record suggests [the bigger challenge is in Year 2," Hensley wrote. "He has a history of elevating teams when he initially takes over the offense, but there are often struggles the next season."
Hensley reviewed three times Trestman started strong and then slowed in his second season:
Arizona Cardinals (1998 to 99): No. 13 ---> No. 29
Oakland Raiders (2002 to 03): No. 1 ------> No. 25
Chicago Bears (2013 to 14): No. 8 ---------> No. 21
"Baltimore is looking to reverse this trend," Hensley wrote. "In Trestman's first season in Baltimore, he acknowledged that it was 'unnatural' to take over a preexisting offense. He didn't make major changes to Gary Kubiak's system, and tried to adapt to it so the players wouldn't have to make a significant transition. Trestman didn't have to play catch-up this offseason."