5

Champs of change: Ravens embrace youth and rebuke skepticism

The New England Patriots overhauled their wide receiver position and lost Rob Gronkowski. The Kansas City Chiefs revamped their struggling defense.

But when it comes to the most change on both sides of the ball for a defending division champion, that crown goes to the Baltimore Ravens. After a strong late-season run to an AFC North title, the Ravens parted ways with two starting wide receivers (Michael Crabtree and John Brown), two top pass-rushers (Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith), the quarterback of the secondary (Eric Weddle) and the leading tackler on the league’s top-ranked defense (C.J. Mosley).

The total loss: 17 Pro Bowls, 4,608 snaps and a great measure of respect.

The Cleveland Browns, who haven’t won a division title since 1989, are the trendy team in the AFC North. The Ravens apparently are the forgotten one. They aren’t considered the favorites to repeat or even finish second-best.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

After filling many of its holes with young but unproven talent, Baltimore is projected to finish third, according to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas and ESPN’s Pro Football Index.5

“I guess if a guy has never played in the National Football League, he’s a bad player,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s the exciting part. It’s really fun to see what the next generation is going to do and who they’re going to be and who’s going to make a name for themselves.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Ravens could have as many as seven new starters, including three rookies (receiver Marquise Brown, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson and guard Ben Powers) and a first-year starter (either Kenny Young or Chris Board at weak-side linebacker).

Perhaps this is why the FPI gives Baltimore a 29.9 percent chance to capture the AFC North and a 2.1 percent chance to win the Super Bowl.

“[We] kind of just want to block out that noise,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “There’s been a lot of talk going on, but that’s really for the media to take hold on that. We know, in this building, it’s all about us, and we’re working on getting better each and every week — whether it’s a workout, whether it’s being in meetings, anything of that sort. We’re fully confident, we’re loaded, and we expect to be the best in the NFL.”