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Ravens season off to roguh start

The Baltimore Ravens were in the playoff hunt right until the final seconds of their Week 6 tilt at Heinz Field with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year. For a moment, it seemed the Ravens would be representing the AFC North in the postseason, only for Antonio Brown to somehow stretch across that goal line.

Since that day, things have gone south. The Ravens lost in Week 17 to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals and then began a rocky offseason. First, the shocking retirement of 25-year-old All-Pro inside linebacker Zach Orr due to a neck and spine condition. This accompanied by the retirement of top receiver and future Hall of Famer Steve Smith Sr. In free agency, Baltimore was able to keep defensive lineman Brandon Williams and lure star safety Tony Jefferson, but the team lost right tackle Ricky Wagner and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil.

Then in OTAs, things came off the rails. Cornerback Tavon Young tore his ACL, putting hi on the shelf for the season, and leaving a large hole in the nickel spot. Later in OTAs, it was announced that tight end Dennis Pitta, who led the team with 86 catches last year, re-injured his chronically painful hip and had to retire. Now, word has come out that running back Kenneth Dixon, already suspended the first four games of the regular season, is also out for the season with a torn meniscus, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Every year, there is a team or two that is ravaged by injuries before the season begins. This time around, it appears to be Baltimore. The Ravens are not used to sitting on the sidelines come January and certainly won’t be resigned to that idea just yet, but doubt has to be creeping in about an offense that is dangerously low on talent.

Joe Flacco is a capable quarterback and the receiving trio of Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace does give some hope, but there are major question marks elsewhere. Second-year man Ronnie Stanley will have to shine at left tackle, while the rest of the line finds its identity after significant overhauls in each of the past two offseasons. At tight end, there is no sure answer following Pitta’s injury, and the same could be said about the backfield.

Baltimore will always be a factor with John Harbaugh as head coach and Flacco under center, but it is being tested early and often. If the Ravens can find the right mix offensively — and stop the injury bug from biting — they might be a force still. If not, Baltimore is likely to miss the playoffs for the third time in as many years.

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