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Bengals finish off Ravens: 5 things we learned

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Bengals finish off Ravens: 5 things we learned

1. Let the offseason begin:

Ravens coach John Harbaugh isn’t going anywhere, but the 2016 draft and offseason will be one of the most important in team history. Just having a healthier season next year won’t be enough. The Ravens need to get deeper, faster, and more talented to compete with the Bengals and Steelers in the AFC North.

2. The Bengals (12-4) have the kind of young, offensive weapons the Ravens need to find.

The Bengals’ three touchdowns were scored by tight end Tyler Eifert, wide receiver A. J. Green, and running back Jeremy Hill. All three were drafted by the Bengals in either the first or second round. With the talent the Bengals and Steelers have, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If the Ravens want to compete in the AFC North, they’ll need young players like running back Buck Allen and tight end Maxx Williams to keep developing. They’ll also need wide receiver Breshad Perriman to get healthy, and they need to hit often in next year’s draft.

3. A. J. McCarron is serviceable, but the Bengals need Andy Dalton to make a playoff run.

McCarron (17 for 27, 160 yards, two touchdowns) was careful with the football, but at times he was hesitant. The Bengals are simply a less explosive team without Dalton at the helm. If Dalton (thumb) can’t return sometime during the playoffs, it will be much more difficult for the Bengals to make noise.

4. Ravens quarterback Ryan Mallet found out how good the Bengals’ defense is.

Mallet (30 for 56, 292 yards, one TD, two interceptions) threw his first interception as a Raven, and it led to the Bengals’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Once the Bengals took the lead, their pass rush became more ferocious, and Mallett had to move or throw quickly to avoid being sacked. It’s good that Mallett got to play two games during the regular season. But the Ravens will hope for two things from quarterback Joe Flacco in 2016 – a speedy recovery from knee surgery, and a healthy 16-game season.

5. Kamar Aiken (five catches, 76 yards) fell short of 1,000 yards, but had a strong season.

Aiken (944 yards receiving) blossomed into a consistent target this season, both before Steve Smith was injured, and afterward. Aiken is a restricted free agent, but he has done enough to earn a new deal, and re-signing with the Ravens makes sense for both sides.

RELATED: Five final thoughts on Ravens at Bengals

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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