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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 has not lived up to the contact. The team around him, too, has 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. Expect him to ratchet up the intensity in 2018 and push this team to the next level.
Pass catching targets in Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson should make Flacco’s job a little easier while the backfield currently features Alex Collins as the starter. An unlikely hero signed off the practice squad, Alex Collins emerged in the backfield as the feature back last season and finished his sophomore campaign in the NFL just shy of 1,000 yards. The team has decided to part ways with Jeremy Maclin this offseason, opening up a spot for a new receiver to catch Flacco’s eye in the passing game.
The defense is anchored by Terrell Suggs, the veteran linebacker that opposing teams always have to game plan against. Teaming up with CJ Mosley, the Ravens second level is one that most running backs cannot penetrate and one that receivers fear. Eric Weddle leads the charge at safety, aided by cornerback Brandon Carr. The Ravens are striving to achieve a certain level of comfort in the backfield that hasn’t been the same since the departure of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed.
Expectations are high in Baltimore that the Ravens can regroup in the offseason and recapture the AFC North title, which was won by the rival Pittsburgh Steelers yet again. However, another bitter rival in 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.