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Injuries were not only story in Ravens' lost season

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Injuries were not only story in Ravens' lost season

The Ravens 2015 season came to a close with a thud at Cincinnati on Sunday, with the Ravens losing 24-16 to finish at 5-11, the first losing season in coach John Harbaugh’s eight-year tenure. And the cast of characters on the field at times in that finale – Ryan Mallett at quarterback, Chris Matthews at wide receiver, Terrance West at running back, John Urschel at center, Chris Carter at outside linebacker, among others – speaks to just how much injuries ravaged the Ravens this season.

A total of 20 players ended up on injured reserve, and that list included some of the biggest cogs in the machine -- Joe Flacco, Terrell, Suggs, Steve Smith, Justin Forsett and Jeremy Zuttah, among others. And while it’s true that injuries decimated this team, it’s a bit misleading to suggest that was the only reason for the Ravens struggles.

Would they have been a better team had those players not gotten hurt? Of course. But remember, this team started 1-6 with most key players (other than Suggs) still in uniform. There were plenty of other reasons this season ran off the rails for the Ravens. Among them:

-- Little to no production from high-round draft picks

Rookie first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman didn’t play a down. Neither did 2013 first-round draft pick Matt Elam. Arthur Brown, a second-rounder in 2013, hardly saw the field on defense. The Ravens can and should expect more production from lofty draft picks, and whiffing on high picks has long-term ramifications.

-- Poor construction of the roster in places

The Ravens knew that Steve Smith was 36, and it was fair to wonder whether he could hold up for an entire season. After letting Torrey Smith walk away in free agency, the Ravens banked on the ageless Smith and the rookie Perriman being the anchors of the passing attack, with players such as Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown filling supporting roles. They obviously hoped that Michael Campanaro could stay healthy and contribute. But when first Perriman and then Campanaro and Smith went down for the season, they were ill-prepared. Brown’s regression from his rookie season continued, and the Ravens were left to scrape together a receiver corps from the likes of Chris Givens, Chris Matthews, Jeremy Butler and Daniel Brown. In short, those receivers were just good enough for this team to go 5-11.

-- Disappointing free-agent acquisitions

As usual, Ozzie Newsome didn’t overpay in the splashy early days of free agency. He looked for bargains, such as safety Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Kyle Arrington. Both proved to be disappointments. Lewis had his moments, but too often he showed poor ball awareness, and he failed to come up with a couple of interceptions that could have been game-changers. Arrington was ultimately pushed aside as the Ravens tried to find answers in a secondary that was riddled early in the season.

-- Tough calls went the other way

There were a lot of officials calls that cost the Ravens. A questionable penalty on Will Hill wiped out what would have been a game-clinching interception at Oakland. The NFL came out and publicly said that the officials erred in giving the Jaguars one final play, which led to a face-mask penalty on Elvis Dumervil and a game-winning Jaguars field goal. But as is always the case, those games never should have come down to a single call.

RELATED: Bengals finish off Ravens: 5 things we learned

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

Football is back in session for the Ravens.

Their rookies are set to report to the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md Wednesday. Veterans report next Wednesday, the 18th.

The team is reporting to training camp a bit earlier than most NFL teams. Due to Ray Lewis being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 4 in Canton, Oh, the Ravens will face the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2. Teams participating are eligible to begin training camp earlier.

This rookie class is already generating national attention. While the Ravens stand by Joe Flacco as their QB1, first-round pick Lamar Jackson could cause a shakeup at some point during the season. And when it comes to much-needed offensive help, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews could begin to provide relief. 

Third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. begins his journey with the Ravens in a more sentimental fashion. His father, Orlando "Zeus" Brown, also played tackle for the Ravens from 1996-98 and then again from 2003-05. Brown passed away in 2011. 

Stay with NBC Sports Washington throughout the next several weeks as we keep a close eye on the Ravens' preseason. 

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Early 2018 NFL playoff odds have Ravens in similar situation

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Early 2018 NFL playoff odds have Ravens in similar situation

There's only six months until the NFL playoffs and we've got no time to waste.

OK, maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves but online betting site, Oddshark, released their early 2018 NFL playoff odds and the Ravens are in a similar situation as previous years.

The Ravens are sitting at +135 — tied for 13th with the San Francisco 49ers — for the best odds to play January football. This would place them in the seventh seed among AFC teams and just outside contention.

The Patriots (-1500), Steelers (-550), Chargers (-145), Jaguars (-140), Texans (-135), and Chiefs (+120) are seeded above them respectively. 

During the 2017 season, the Ravens were constantly in the hunt for the fifth or sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture. Several weeks ahead of training camp, Vegas is predicting that to be the case in 2018.

Playoff odds in July mean nothing, but considering their offseason changes, the Ravens' 2018 season should bring positive change.

They added weapons for Joe Flacco in free agents Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown, and drafted tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews.

Then there was the late first-round draft pick of QB Lamar Jackson. Flacco remains the starter for now, but it will be interesting to see if that changes midway through the season or if they get them both on the field at the same time.

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