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Following nearly 15 years of heartbreak after the Colts unceremoniously left Baltimore in the middle of the night, the city rejoiced in the opportunity to once again be a football town when the Baltimore Ravens were born in 1996. Today, 20 years after the Ravens became an NFL franchise, one key principle remains unchanged from the immediate identity that the team carved out for itself; punishing and unrelenting defense.
A solid front office started things off right in their inaugural NFL draft, picking up two players known throughout the sport. First overall pick Jonathan Ogden went on to become an 11-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer. Their other pick in the first round was Ray Lewis, the man who would go on to embody everything that being a Baltimore Raven means.
The impact on the field was felt immediately as the Ravens record improved over the course of their first four seasons, culminating in a convincing 34-7 Super Bowl victory in 2000 over the New York Giants. Ray Lewis was named the Super Bowl MVP.
Lewis would go on to another Super Bowl victory with the Ravens 13 years later with a completely different roster around him. The grizzled veteran served as an inspiration as he overcame an injury to play effectively with one good arm. Quarterback Joe Flacco was the MVP of this game that pitted Coach John Harbaugh against his brother Jim’s squad, the San Francisco 49ers. An epic game in New Orleans ended with a 34-31 victory for Baltimore and the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy. More information about the history of the Baltimore Ravens can be found by clicking here.
Following their momentous victory in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season, Baltimore has been plagued with complacency and mediocrity. While continuing to pay franchise quarterback Joe Flacco an exorbitant amount of money, his production had not lived up to the contact. The team around him, too, had taken a step back. The 2017 campaign netted a record of 9-7, keeping them out of playoff contention. Coach John Harbaugh’s message has not been resonating with his players in any measurable way.
Ratcheting up the intensity in 2018, the Ravens made the playoffs despite a crazy season at quarterback. Flacco’s mediocre performance prior to an injury had everyone in Baltimore wondering what the team had in their backup quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who was taken 32nd overall in the 2018 draft out of Louisville. This dynamic QB got right to work, setting a Ravens franchise record for rushing yards in a game with 117 in his debut. Keeping the team afloat, Lamar’s performance led to a quarterback controversy in Baltimore. In a stunning offseason move, the Ravens traded Flacco to the Denver Broncos, securing Jackson’s starting role for years to come.
Big time pass catching target Michael Crabtree should make Jackson’s job a little easier while the backfield gets a big upgrade from the signing of former New Orleans Saints back Mark Ingram. A depth chart that includes Gus Edwards as the backup.
The defense has been anchored by Terrell Suggs, the star veteran linebacker. Teaming up with CJ Mosley, the Ravens second level was one that most running backs cannot penetrate and one that receivers fear. However, both players have departed in free agency this year (with Suggs going to Arizona and Mosely going to the Jets), leaving this group without a clear leader. It will be interesting to see how Baltimore responds to this big change. Eric Weddle takes charge from the safety position, aided by cornerback Brandon Carr. Earl Thomas signed on for the 2019 season and beyond with a four year deal worth $55 million, further upgrading the Ravens backfield.
Baltimore’s playoff trip was short-lived. A heartbreaking 23-17 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers sent the Ravens home for the offseason.
Expectations are high in Baltimore that the Ravens can hang on to the AFC North title in 2019, an accolade they were able to accomplish this year. However, bitter rivals in the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals always seek to spoil the fun. Some of the greatest players to ever wear a Ravens jersey include Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden, Terrell Suggs, and Jamal Lewis.