CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 29: Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens throws a pass during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Solomon Wilcots of NFL Network joins Scott and Jeremy on The Fan to breakdown the Ravens’ week one matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens certainly had a disappointing campaign in 2013, as they finished with a record a .500 record. Most people in NFL circles expect a different result in 2014, but their division did not get softer.
“You expect the Baltimore Ravens to bounce back, and of course Cincinnati is the defending division champs, so it’s going to be highly competitive from day one,” said Wilcots.
A win in week one would kill two birds with one stone for Baltimore, as it would set the Bengals back from the start.
“It’s like two wins. You’re stepping up a notch, but you’re also taking them down a peg as well,” said Wilcots.
Though the stars of the Bengals offense are well known, there are still some unknown producers within Cincinnati’s attack.
“For one, you can’t forget about Jermaine Gresham,” said Wilcots. “He’s a pro-bowler. But, Eifert in his second year is going to be that much better. Dalton is playing with an embarrassment of riches.”
Cincinnati also bolstered their backfield in the offseason with an acquisition at running back.
“I think it starts with Gio Bernard, but Hill will factor in. In talking with Hugh Jackson, they really wanted Hill from day one in the draft, as well as [cornerback] Denard. They were able to get both, which really strengthen weak areas of their team,” said Wilcots.
However, the Bengals were not the only team in the division to add skill players, as the Ravens added veteran play maker Steve Smith.
“He gives you what you lost in the absence of Anquan Boldin,” said Wilcots. If there’s any receiver who you could say is tough as nails and brings physicality to that position, it’s him. If Anquan is one-A, he’s one-B.”
Bengals defensive end Geno Atkins is coming back from a torn ligament in 2013, but the team looks solid overall.
“He’s been slow to come back. He can still bring it, but it’ll take a while. They certainly have enough depth to overcome Atkins’ slow start. The key thing with the Bengals is they’re bringing in a rookie to block Haloti Ngata in his first assignment. That’ll be crucial. Wilcots added.
As for the Ravens, the consistency needs to improve on offense, particularly in the running game, but also moving the chains on third down.
“Joe Flacco’s got to get back to being Joe Flacco–that playoff run where he had twelve touchdowns and no interceptions. It might take a while for them to get that run going,” said Wilcots.