In 2013 the Ravens went from Superbowl Champs to 3rd Place in the AFC North. Heading into Training Camp, the Ravens will need to find out who can fix their declining passing game and bring consistency to their young defense.
The Baltimore Ravens have a lot of catching up to do in the AFC North. The Bengals are defending division champions, the Steelers still have one of the most consistent units in football, and the Browns have almost nowhere to go but up.
For the Ravens to return to the postseason in 2014, they will need to find out which players can bring stability to the offense.
The big-name addition was former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, who may be the front-runner for the #1 receiver position despite his age (35) and decline in production from 2013. A return to his regular 1,000+ yard receiving form would do well for a team that was 29th in total yards in 2013.
The defense got younger at all three phases drafting Alabama ILB CJ Mosley in the 1st round and taking FSU stars DT Timmy Jernigan and FS Terrance Brooks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Any or all of those players could become training camps stars.
The offensive line, which was so bad it only allowed star RB Ray Rice and top backup Bernard Pierce to average only 3.1 and 2.9 yards per carry respectively, appears to have improved – and the addition of 5th round rookie John Urschel may prove to be a steal if he can crack the lineup.
The issue that has been hanging over the Ravens’ heads like a swinging pendulum will be the team’s legal problems. Ray Rice and four other players have been arrested at least once, or may face disciplinary action for substance use since the end of the 2013 season. If, when and how the hammer falls on these players may significantly impact the Ravens either during the pre-season or at worst, once the season starts.
The Ravens will report to training camp in Owing Mills, Maryland on July 23rd.