As we inch our way closer to the start of the regular season, we continue our opponent preview of each team the San Diego Chargers will face this year. They have all made different moves in order to improve their rosters, and this series will help you become more familiar with each opponent.
In other words, KNOW YOUR ENEMY...
The Baltimore Ravens followed up a Super Bowl victory with a disappointing 2013 campaign, culminating in an 8-8 record, and missing the playoffs. Joe Flacco entered the season as the highest paid quarterback in the league, but could not live up to the bill, as he threw a career-high 22 interceptions and only 19 TD's, which led to this offense finishing 30th in DVOA. The defense lost several players following their championship run, with their leader, Ray Lewis, retiring, along with more leaving via free-agency, however, this reworked defense did manage to finish 7th in DVOA last year.
Entering this season, the Ravens look to bounce back, especially on the offensive side of the ball, with Gary Kubiak the new offensive coordinator. The Ravens didn't make a big splash in free-agency this year, but they did extend Daryl Smith, along with Terrell Suggs, while re-signing Dennis Pitta, Eugene Monroe, and Jacoby Jones to long term deals. The addition of Steve Smith should also help the passing game, but the 35-year-old’s impact might be limited as he enters his swan song of his career.
Additions: Steve Smith, Will Hill, Justin Forsett, Aaron Ross
Losses: Arthur Jones, Corey Graham, Michael Oher, Jameel McClain,
17. CJ Mosley ILB Alabama
48. Timmy Jernigan DT Florida St.
79. Terrence Brooks FS Florida St.
99. Crockett Gillmore TE Colorado St.
134. Brent Urban DT Virginia
138. Lorenzo Taliaferro RB Coastal Carolina
175. John Urschel OG Penn St.
194. Keith Wenning QB Ball St.
218. Mike Campanaro WR Wake Forest
Pairing up Mosley with Daryl Smith at inside linebacker could pay off huge dividends for this team down the road. Jernigan should help replace Arthur Jones on the defensive line, but the glaring concern on this team is the lack of depth at the corner-back position, after losing Graham in free-agency, along with Aaron Ross and not much else behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.
Reports from training camp have suggested this offense has shown some improvement. Second-year receiver Marlon Brown is off to a good start, and looks to continue to be a play-maker for Flacco, and compliment Torrey Smith in the passing attack. However, the running game will need to find its stride if they look to improve from last year, as Ray Rice will need to show that last year was a fluke. But after an unflattering video of him and his then-fiance surfaced and knotted him a 2-game suspension, it might make things a little more difficult for him to get back on track.
The Chargers went 3-2 last year in 1:00 p.m. EST start times, with a 4-4 record on the road, while the Ravens went 6-2 at home, losing only to the Packers and Patriots. The Ravens did finish the year 3-2 after week 12, but won those games by a combined total of seven points, while the Chargers looked like one of the hottest teams in the league the last month of the season.
Entering this week 13 match-up, this will be the 10th time these two teams meet, as Baltimore leads the all-time series 5-4, with the Ravens winning their last meeting in 2012. Depending on how each team ranks at this point in the season, they both could be fighting for a playoff spot coming into this game.
With the Patriots, 49ers, Broncos and Chiefs on the horizon, this is a game the Chargers shouldn't overlook, as this Ravens team looks to show that last year’s 8-8 record is not an indication of who they are. For the Bolts, their defense will need to show that they have improved, and not allow something like this to happen again, if they look to prove that they are serious contenders as well.
Baltimore should still have a top 10 defense, finishing last year ranked 9th against the pass and 2nd in DVOA against #1 WRs. Keenan Allen might have a tough day against the physical and athletic Jimmy Smith, but Philip Rivers is adept at spreading the ball around, this might be a match-up the Bolts may exploit, with the offensive targets Rivers has at his disposal against a team that lacks depth in their secondary.