Baltimore Ravens
(AP –/Patrick Semansky)

Could this be Steve Smith’s final season with the Baltimore Ravens? (AP – Patrick Semansky)

The Baltimore Ravens did not play up to their expectations a year ago finishing 2015 with a disappointing 5-11 record. Joe Flacco’s torn ACL certainly didn’t help their chances last year as his health is something to watch this offseason. Terrell Suggs will also return from a torn Achilles. Can Baltimore return to their winning ways in 2016 after an action packed offseason?

3 Position Battles To Watch:

  1. Inside Linebacker: Arthur Brown vs. Zachary Orr

The Ravens made a catastrophic mistake passing on Myles Jack but I wasn’t the general manager in charge of making that decision. Now the Ravens are tasked with finding C.J. Mosley a counterpart at inside linebacker and the options aren’t pretty. Arthur Brown is a former 2nd round pick who can’t ever find his way on the field, probably because he isn’t very good. Outside of that they have former undrafted players in Zach Orr and Albert McClellan. The team has flirted with moving 2nd round pick Kamalei Correa from outside to inside linebacker. Correa of course didn’t even make the first team mountain west last year from Boise State, good thing they passed on Myles Jack to take him (sarcastic).

2. Slot Receiver: Mike Wallace vs. Breshad Perriman vs. Chris Moore vs. Michael Campanaro

A common theme with the entire Ravens roster is they have a lot of depth with virtually no superstars on the entire roster. Look no further than wide out where the slot receiver will be a battle as Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken figure to be starters. Mike Wallace hasn’t been the same since leaving the Steelers while Perriman is a freak athlete that can’t seem to stay healthy. Joe Flacco has a bunch of weapons just not a whole lot of great options.

3. Tight End: Ben Watson vs. Crockett Gilmore vs. Maxx Williams vs. Nick Boyle vs. Dennis Pitta

The tight end position is very similar to the wide out position. There are way to many players on the roster with not enough playing time to go around. Ben Watson had a great season with Drew Brees but that happens to a lot of players. Maxx Williams is probably a Kyle Rudolph at best case scenario. Dennis Pitta of course has a worse hip than my 70 year old grandfather so no one should expect anything from him. The best case is for Crockett Gilmore to continue to improve while they wait for the return of Nick Boyle from suspension.

Ready To Break Out: Timmy Jernigan

The former 2014 2nd round pick started to come into his own in 2015 showing a ton of promise. Last season he recorded 4 sacks from the 3-4 defensive end position. Jernigan, 23, entering his 3rd season is about to become one of the better defensive ends in the game earning high praise from Warren Sapp earlier this offseason.

Fantasy Sleeper: Trent Richardson

Let’s go with a very deep sleeper here. There are no obvious choices on the Ravens roster but Trent Richardson figures to be worth a shot as he has transformed his body this offseason. There is a ton of competition on the Ravens roster at the running back position so T-Rich figures to have his hands full.

Rookie To Watch: Ronnie Stanley

I’ll be the first to admit I did not approve of the Ravens draft outside of Stanley and their two 6th round picks Keenan Reynolds and Maurice Canady. Others are higher on Stanley than I am but he figures to slide in nicely as the starting left tackle. The team has showed confidence in him early releasing Eugene Monroe earlier this offseason.

After a busy offseason I’m not so sure the Ravens improved. Losing Kelechi Osemele and Courtney Upshaw probably makes Baltimore worse than gaining Eric Weddle and others. Unless Joe Flacco takes a big step forward (something not likely under Marc Trestman) I expect the Ravens to miss the playoffs again this season.