This week in the AFC North blog we will look at the biggest plus and minus for every team in the division. Also, credit goes to ESPN.com's college football team, which devised this format.
We begin our series with the Baltimore Ravens, who finished 12-4 last season.
Biggest reason for hope: Wealth of talent
Even without free agency, it's difficult to find many glaring holes on the Ravens' roster. A case can be made that, on paper, this is the most talented team in the division and one of the most talented in the NFL. Two areas of concern were patched up in the draft when the Ravens selected Jimmy Smith (Round 1) and Torrey Smith (Round 2). The Ravens found a potential No. 1 corner and also a speedy deep threat at receiver to complement starters Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. For the most part, the starters are set. But look for the Ravens to add depth in free agency at positions like quarterback and the offensive line. General manager Ozzie Newsome has done a very good job of putting together a roster with enough talent to make a title run this season.
Biggest reason for concern: Lack of pass rush
Since Rex Ryan left the Ravens two years ago to become head coach of the New York Jets, Baltimore's pass rush hasn't been the same. The Ravens generated just 27 sacks in 16 games last year, which was tied for 27th in the NFL. Conversely, the Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL with 48 sacks. Even the Cleveland Browns (29 sacks) had more sacks than Baltimore in 2010. Pro Bowl linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs accounted for 11 of Baltimore's 27 sacks. The Ravens believe they can improve those numbers schematically, but I think an upgrade in personnel is needed. No one on the roster outside of Suggs specializes in getting to the quarterback.
On Tuesday we will continue our "Hope and Concern" series with the Cincinnati Bengals.