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Ravens must reload after third playoff KO
A 31-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Now, the Ravens (9-7) front office is left to pick up the pieces and will have to make some tough decisions on the coaches and players.
Baltimore could have advanced to the postseason with a win or losses by both Buffalo and Tennessee. However, the Bills and Titans won their games and took over the final two spots of the postseason.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees confirmed Monday that he was retiring. As a result, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh must decide whether to promote an existing coach or look outside the organization to fill that role.
If Harbaugh decides to stay in-house, linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale would likely be the top candidate to be promoted because of his familiarity with the players and the organization. Martindale formerly served as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos.
Harbaugh could also try to hire Chuck Pagano, the Ravens former defensive coordinator who was fired as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Other potential candidates include Jack Del Rio, Ted Monachino and potentially Vic Fangio.
The Ravens need playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they will need to free up salary-cap space to make those improvements. That means the team will have to make tough decisions about keeping some veterans such as linebacker Terrell Suggs and receiver Jeremy Maclin. Tight end Benjamin Watson and receivers Mike Wallace are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Ravens (9-7) finished with a winning record for the first time in three seasons. They also led the league in interceptions (22), takeaways (34) and turnover differential (plus-17). Baltimore was in the playoff hunt throughout the second half of the season. Linebacker Terrell Suggs, 35, showed he can still make plays and led the team with 11 sacks. Suggs, fellow linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Eric Weddle made the Pro Bowl.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Ravens missed the postseason for the third consecutive season. The offense sputtered for much of the season before making some late-season improvements. A home loss to the 5-11 Chicago Bears proved to be devastating. A revamped secondary once again struggled to make plays at the most critical moments.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Receiver Jeremy Maclin was expected to be a playmaker for quarterback Joe Flacco. Instead, Maclin struggled to make a meaningful impact, and at times, appeared disinterested. He missed four games because of injuries and was fifth on the team, behind running back Javorius "Buck" Allen with 40 receptions for 440 yards with three touchdowns. Maclin's future with the team is uncertain.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Running back Alex Collins earned a starting role after being signed off the practice squad in September. He finished the season ranked ninth in the league with 4.6 yards per carry. Collins had 973 yards on 212 carries with six touchdowns.
ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Greg Roman, senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach, was hired to bolster the running game and the Ravens finished the season ranked 11th in the league despite dealing with several key injuries. Roman also helped settle an offensive line that was also decimated with injuries.