The Baltimore Ravens had a very odd season in 2016.
They went 8-8 and it left many fans yearning for more. With an offense that lacked a playmaker and was plagued by injuries, as well as a defense that fell down in the stretch, what could they do to make it back to the playoffs?
Baltimore seriously needed some help in the playmaker department. It was a huge problem to have Steve Smith Sr. (now retired), Mike Wallace, and Dennis Pitta, who was coming off of a major hip injury, to be your go-to guys in the offense.
The Ravens need to draft a big time receiver or cornerback that can make spectacular plays regularly. There are two players that come to mind immediately on the offensive side of the ball. Let’s start off with the more realistic option:
Corey Davis is seen as one of the top receiving prospects in this upcoming NFL Draft. He is a senior and has risen to heights that haven’t been previously seen by any Western Michigan player, let alone any other college player. On November 25th against Toledo, Davis became the all-time FBS leader in receiving yards, thus breaking the record held by Nevada’s Trevor Insley. He had 1,427 yards and 18 TDs in 2016, placing the Broncos at the top of the pack in the MAC.
Another player whose name has been brought up is Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams. Getting Williams would be an absolute game-changer for the Ravens. He can go and grab passes from seemingly anywhere. He’s also an athletic freak that most likely will go before the Ravens have a chance to nab him at #16 in the draft.
Williams had 1361 yards and 11 TDs in 2016 and was one of the biggest factors in Clemson’s National Title run.
Young Players Need to Step Up
Breshad Perriman had 499 yards and 3 touchdowns in his 2016 season. That is a huge step up from his 2015 season, where he was injured for the entirety of the year. He was also injured for the majority of the offseason, thus delaying his development. With an entire offseason ahead of him, he can become a number one receiver. He has the talent.
Along with Perriman, the Ravens also need John Urschel to possibly become the starter at center. Urschel is highly intelligent mathematician and this has carried over to his play. Outside linebackers like Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon may also be propelled into starting roles in 2017.
Jeremy Zuttah will most likely be a cap-casualty, along with other possible casualties like Mike Wallace and Elvis Dumervil. So it is highly important for the Ravens for the “youngins” to step up for the Ravens.
Suring Up the Defensive Secondary
The Ravens had constant issues in the secondary, especially magnified by Jimmy Smith’s injuries. Tavon Young played exceptionally for a 5th round pick. He matched up very well against slot receivers and held his own against some of the best in the game. Baltimore’s cornerback depth just wasn’t very good to say the least.
Shareece Wright and Jerraud Powers aren’t likely to return to Baltimore next season. They were constantly thrashed by wide receivers and they will be replaced either in the draft or through free agency.
Although the cornerback position was in flux, the safeties were pretty solid, sans Matt Elam. Lardarius Webb had a good year as the free safety, which was his first in that position. Eric Weddle provided a playmaker on the back end of the defense, something that hasn’t been seen since Ed Reed.
Building Depth on the Offensive Line
Baltimore’s offensive line was decimated by injuries on a constant basis. It seemed like every game, a starter was missing. This led to many problems up front, and Baltimore suffered for it. Next season, they must replace James Hurst and Ryan Jensen, who weren’t good fits on the offensive line.
Baltimore’s coaching has been suspect during the entire season. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done, it’s always seemed to come back in bite them.
Head coach John Harbaugh has constantly made questionable fourth downs. Most notably, he called a fourth down play in which kicker Justin Tucker lined up left-footed. It was bad to say the least.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has called a very conservative offense. In addition, the offense wasn’t very balanced.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees also called a prevent defense that actually seemed to lose leads. His lack of blitzing caused issues.
All in all, if the Ravens can just solve one of the issues, the team may win one more game. They aren’t in the worst shape possible. It definitely could be much worse, but at 8-8, they need to make some changes to make the next step.