There will likely be turnover on the offensive line again. That might not be a bad thing. This group had an up-and-down regular season and was outmuscled in both postseason games.

"There were too many times I saw [Flacco] get bogged down under pressure, tuck the ball away or be safe with it, instead of looking downfield to make a play," Ritchie said.

The Ravens want to be physical, even when spreading teams out, but they are clearly shifting into a passing offense. This is an opportunity to add personnel that fits what they want to do. Jah Reid, a rookie in 2011, could move inside to guard. And the Ravens should consider drafting at least one lineman in the first three rounds of April's draft (their first pick is No. 29 overall).

Improving the offensive line, which Newsome acknowledged will be one of his top offseason priorities, is one step that could help Flacco reach that proverbial next level. Eli Manning, now being hailed as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after winning a second Super Bowl, had some great weapons with the New York Giants, but his offensive line was just as important.

3. Keep walking the tight rope.

Even if it's true that Flacco is on the verge of a breakout, balance is the key word in Baltimore.

There was a shift in the run-pass ratio after the Ravens threw 53 times in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Rice averaged 21.7 carries a game as the Ravens won seven of their final nine games.

Flacco appears to be poised to carry the offense on his back when needed, but he doesn't have to do the heavy lifting all the time. Rice, perhaps the NFL's most versatile back, will need to be the focal point often times, like when he rushed for 191 yards and two touchdowns in Week 17.

"Rice is a guy that can get the ball 10 times in a row on a drive," Ritchie said. "Just keep feeding him. I would love to see that. He kind of hearkens back to the early [19]90s when you have a guy like Emmitt Smith that can carry the ball, be your feature back without spreading the ball around."

Ritchie acknowledged, though, that the Ravens were wise to rest Rice instead of running him into the ground. But with Ricky Williams in retirement, they need a new No. 2 running back. Is it Anthony Allen or Damien Berry? Or will they sign another big-body veteran similar to Williams?

Having that 1-2 punch in the backfield was a smashing success for the Ravens in recent seasons.

matt.vensel@baltsun.com

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