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Offseason Predictions: What changes should the Ravens make?

Offseason Predictions: What changes should the Ravens make?

The Ravens season did not finish in the manner they were hoping, so it's time to look to the offseason to make the neccessary improvements.

With Steve Smith Sr. and Zach Orr retiring, the team has some major areas of need.

Here are five offseason predictions for the Ravens, as they try to build a playoff team for 2017:

RELATED: 2017 SUPER BOWL ODDS

1. The Ravens will add a veteran wide receiver.

Whether it’s a free agent like Pierre Garcon of the Redskins, or a cap casualty from another team, look for the Ravens to add a veteran presence at wide receiver. They only have four wide receivers under contract, and the retirement of Steve Smith Sr. leaves a void that needs to be addressed.

2. Joe Flacco will get together with some wide receivers for private throwing sessions.

Flacco needs to build chemistry with Breshad Perriman in particular, and the Ravens need a better Flacco in 2017 for the offense to reach its full potential. A year removed from knee surgery, Flacco can concentrate less on rehab, and more on getting quality offseason reps.

3. On either Day 1 or Day 2 of the draft, the Ravens will take a cornerback.

Drafting a top cornerback is overdue for the Ravens, who haven’t taken a corner in the first three rounds since Jimmy Smith in 2011. Lack of depth at cornerback has been a major issue for years. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens take two corners in this year’s draft.

4. The Ravens will re-sign free agent defensive tackle Brandon Williams.

It will take deep pockets to re-sign Williams, who turns 28 years old February 21, and whose career arc is ascending.

But losing Williams in his prime would be a major blow to a defense that can’t afford to be vulnerable against the run.

5. The Ravens will explore adding a veteran offensive lineman, via free agency or trade.

Right tackle Rick Wagner is a free agent, and starting center Jeremy Zuttah could be replaced.

The Ravens are serious about becoming a team that runs the football more effectively. They need a more physical offensive line to accomplish that goal.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 2.0

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Ravens' John Harbaugh credits early offensive success to Joe Flacco

Ravens' John Harbaugh credits early offensive success to Joe Flacco

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- John Harbaugh has seen Joe Flacco play in more than 170 games for the Ravens, including 15 in the postseason with an MVP effort in the Super Bowl.

Though Baltimore's coach is hard-pressed to remember them all, Harbaugh ranks Flacco's performance against Denver on Sunday among the best.

Flacco went 25 for 40 for 277 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in Baltimore's 27-14 victory . He's put up better numbers during his 11-year career, but this outing stood out because of the fashion in which Flacco zipped the ball short, long and in between.

"He's had a lot of good throwing days, right? But definitely ... it's in the top category," Harbaugh said Monday. "That's what you'd like to see Joe do. I just think it's a combination of a lot of things, including confidence in the guys that he's throwing to."

Harbaugh became Baltimore's head coach in 2008, the same year Flacco entered the NFL. The pair has gone through a lot together, most recently three straight seasons without a playoff appearance.

The Ravens (2-1) hope an improved offense will turn things around.

It's been a long time since Flacco has had so many capable receivers to choose from. Offseason acquisitions Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree and John Brown have been excellent, and Mark Andrews got into the mix Sunday with 59 yards receiving, a Ravens record for a rookie tight end.

"I'm really pleased with all those guys. They're playing really well and they've made big plays," Harbaugh said.

With Flacco leading the way, the Ravens went 8 for 16 on third down against a team that stopped 17 of 22 attempts in its first two games.

"All the receivers have a good chemistry with Joe," Brown said. "It's all about trust, starting with practice and talking with him to see if we're seeing the same thing. That plays a big part of it."

The Ravens have long been known for their defense, and that unit has played well. But, at least for now, the offense is doing its part, too.

After Denver bolted to a 7-0 lead, Baltimore went the distance on a soothing touchdown drive.

"That was the tone setter for us as a team, to have them answer for us and really get us back to even," safety Eric Weddle said. "And, once we settled down, shoot, defense played lights out."

As did the offense -- again. The Ravens are averaging 32 points per game, and Flacco has completed 82 of 129 passes for 889 yards and six TDs with just two interceptions.

Most impressive of all is Baltimore's performance in the red zone: 12 trips, 12 touchdowns, including 3 for 3 against Denver.

"We've had a good mix. I think we've probably thrown the ball in six times and run the ball in six times," Flacco said. "If you can do both of those things, especially when you get down tight inside the 5-yard line, that helps a lot. We've got good playmakers, and we put a lot of pressure on the defense with the guys that we have out there."

Give credit to the receivers, along with the running back tandem of Alex Collins and Javorius Allen, but Harbaugh knows the real reason why Baltimore has been unstoppable inside the 20.

"It probably starts with Joe," Harbaugh said. "I think Joe has done a great job making plays, making throws, trusting his guys and also extending some plays. That's been big."

The Ravens escaped the Denver game without any serious injuries, and Harbaugh hopes middle linebacker C.J. Mosley (knee) can return for an AFC North showdown Sunday night with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Ravens Week 3 Player of the Game: LB Kenny Young

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens Week 3 Player of the Game: LB Kenny Young

What the Ravens have lost in three-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley due to injury, they've gained in rookie Kenny Young.

Week 2 against the Bengals, Young stepped in for Mosley and put up five solo tackles and three assists. Then when Week 3 came around and Mosley was still too injured to play, Young got the start and logged 44 snaps. He finished with eight solo tackles, two assists and a critical third-down sack on Broncos quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter. Young's stingy performance helped fuel a stellar defensive effort in the Ravens' 27-14 victory.

A fourth-round draft pick out of UCLA, Young has the maturity needed to succeed in this league.

Obsessed with perfection, as noted in a profile done via the Ravens' website, Young is already impressing his coaches and veteran teammates. 

He’s a smart guy, so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a mistake,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s not scared to make a mistake. He’s willing to play fast even if he does make a mistake. And sometimes, some of the plays you see him making? He might not be perfectly where he’s supposed to be, but that willingness to play fast overcomes it, and you go make a good football play.

While the timetable for Mosely's return is unknown, the Ravens can find solace in knowing their young replacement is a steady hand.

The 23-year-old currently leads the team in tackles (17), followed by Tony Jefferson (12). 

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