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Mike Preston: Will the draft solve the Ravens' identity crisis?

The Sun's Ravens beat writer Jeff Zrebiec along with Ravens editor Mark Selig goes over which players should be available when the Ravens draft the six pick. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

The Ravens are in an identity crisis, one they might begin solving through the upcoming NFL draft.

Besides leaving the 2015 season with a 5-11 record and failing to make the playoffs for the second time in three years, the Ravens were a team in limbo. Were they an offensive-minded team or a team trying to re-establish strong defensive credentials?

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There is still no definitive answer. Maybe that's because the Ravens, who have nine picks including the No. 6 overall selection in the first round, have too many holes to fill.

So if they take Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil or Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott in the first round and a couple of offensive players later, does that mean they are committed to the running game or just finding a future left tackle?

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Of if they select a defensive end like Oregon's DeForest Buckner or Ohio State's Joey Bosa or Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, are they committed to adding more youth to a defense that already has several promising players?

The Ravens don't have a calling card, but it's easy to recognize the good teams and their strengths. With Denver and Seattle, it's defense. In New England and Pittsburgh, it's about quarterback play and their offenses.

In Baltimore, it's about ...

Well, it used to be about defense. Opposing teams feared playing against middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. They had to game plan against pass rushers like Michael McCrary, Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs.

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Now, they don't fear or have to game plan against any player with the exception of Suggs, who has to prove he has fully recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

That's what makes this draft so intriguing for the Ravens. If they take Buckner, they will have one of the best young defensive lines in the league with Buckner, Timmy Jernigan, Carl Davis and Brandon Williams. If they get Bosa, that gives them two veteran pass rushers in Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, and two aggressive young players on the outside in Bosa and Za'Darius Smith.

Selecting Ramsey, combined with the recent addition of safety Eric Weddle and a healthier Jimmy Smith, would be a significant upgrade to the secondary and give coordinator Dean Pees more options as far as play calling.

The old theory still prevails about defense winning championships. Just ask Denver, or even Carolina.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has stressed that his philosophy has always been to draft the best player possible, but he has been known to stretch for picks too like other GMs in the league.

Elliott might be the best running back in the draft but if the Ravens take him what does that means for current starter Justin Forsett? If the Ravens take Elliott, does that mean they failed by drafting Buck Allen in the fourth round last year and Lorenzo Taliaferro in the fourth round in 2014?

Tunsil would be a good choice in the first round and it is hard to find and keep quality offensive linemen in this league, But would Tunsil have as much of an immediate impact as a Bosa, Buckner or Ramsey?

At this point, there is more confidence in the Ravens offense than the defense, but it isn't overwhelming. The Ravens have some weapons on offense like receivers Steve Smith, Ben Watson and Mike Wallace even though they are older players. The key on offense is if players like Smith, tight end Crockett Gillmore, quarterback Joe Flacco and Forsett can recover from major injuries a year ago.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh believes in a strong running attack to control the tempo of the game, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman didn't display that same type of attitude last year. There are still questions about Trestman's philosophy.

There are just so many questions about the Ravens period. But maybe over the weekend we'll finally get some answers. Maybe we'll find out where exactly the Ravens are headed.

Maybe an identity will start to emerge.

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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