The Ravens shocked the world (minus Ravens fans and the fine statgeeks at Football Outsiders) with a 6 game turnaround taking them from a top 10 draft pick to the AFC Championship Game.
|NFL.com Stats||Record||Scoring Off.||Total Off.||Pass Off.||Rush Off.||Scoring Def.||Total Def.||Pass Def.||Rush Def.|
|Football Outsiders||Pythag Wins||Total DVOA||Offense DVOA||Pass Off.||Rush Off||Defense DVOA||Pass Def.||Rush Def.||ST. DVOA
A return to greatness by the D (9th to 2nd in DVOA) with a offensive boost from a much improved running game (26th to 9th) and a once again respectable passing game (25th to 19th) spurred on the improvement.
The D's improvement was almost entirely against the pass (hard to improve from the #1 run D). The Ravens pass D struggled in 2007 with Chris McAllister and Samari Rolle missing a combined 15 starts and now #4 CB Corey Ivy being pushed into the lineup as a 13 game starter. In 2008 the Ravens again saw about a full seasons worth of games missed by it's starting CBs (10 by McAlister, 6 by Rolle) but were better prepared this time with the acquisition of Fabian Washington from the Raiders. They also got more from Rolle in both total games a quality of play as Samari has come out as one of the league top CBs in Football Outsiders measures this past season.The Ravens run D remained as one of the stoutest in the league.
On offense the Ravens turned their 1st round pick into an instant upgrade at QB (from awful to competant). The QB play rejuvenated Derrick Mason making him prolific and effiecent instead of just the recipient of 100 McNair dumpoffs. While the rookie QB got more of the attention it was the running game that really got the Raven O moving. The addition of free agent fullback Lorenzo Neal and 1st round guard Ben Grubbs along with the emergence of Le'Ron McClain as a (very good) ball carrier turned the offense into on of the elite short yardage running teams (3rd best) and let them run 10 more times a game with the same per carry average.
The Ravens have 4 starters plus 5th key role player and their both their kicker and punter hitting free agency. Defensive stars Terrell Suggs (the youngest player in the top 35 in sacks among active players), Ray Lewis (the face of the franchise), and (06 Pro Bowl and author of the greatest penalty reaction ever) Bart Scott are unrestricted free agents. Center Jason Brown and Fullback Lorenzo Neal also will hit the market.
As currently constructed (before 08 contracts expire) the Ravens D is pretty well set in the front 7, a bit old and injury prone at the CBs but deep at safety, the offensive line is reaping the benefits of 3 first day OL picks in the 3 drafts before last years (and they could replace Jason Brown from within by shuffling the line when Marshall Yanda returns from injury). They have their QB in Flacco and a 3 headed RB comittee, so it comes to targets in the passing game. Derrick Mason is still productive, but hits 36 this year. Todd Heap doesn't appear to be the Heap of old, but is still productive and shows flashes of what he was, Mark Clayton was a solid deep threat (41 catches for 17 yards per) and there wasn't much after that. Adding targets to continue to build on their newfound (or newly re-found) offensive success is a primary concern.
The Ravens needs are to replace any front 7 starters lost, add a CB to back or replace the older starters and to add targets to improve the passing game.
Mocking Dan's Ravens pick in his initial mock draft:
|26. Baltimore Ravens|
||Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest: This pick is dependent on what the Ravens can do with linebackers Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs. If two out of the three can be re-signed, Baltimore will have to find the eventual replacement for either Samari Rolle or Chris McAlister, two players who just can't stay healthy.|