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Schmuck: Calm coming from Ravens hints at more positive projections than pundits'

By all accounts, when the Ravens went through their first full-squad organized team activities this past week, the mood could not have been more upbeat.

Apparently, no one has informed them that the rest of the pro football world doesn't think they're going to be very good.

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The various offseason power rankings generally have the Ravens somewhere below the halfway point among the 32 NFL teams, which is unfamiliar territory for a team that has been projected to make the playoffs in just about every year of the John Harbaugh era.

CBSSports.com slotted them 20th in its post-draft rankings. Peter King of SI.com's "Monday Morning Quarterback" has them 18th. The average of all the major media power rankings is only slightly better than that, which is certainly not what your fans want to hear when you're two months away from the start of training camp and haven't made the playoffs the past two seasons.

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So, desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

They might if general manager Ozzie Newsome was capable of desperation, but he and his top-level front office staff are not built that way.

When Newsome was sitting on the rise above the practice field at the Under Armour Performance Center to watch the Ravens begin installing next season's schemes and assimilating the new players he acquired through free agency and in the draft, it's a pretty good bet he wasn't focused on the remaining holes in the roster. He was doing what he always does at this time of year — dwelling more on what he has than what he doesn't.

That might not excite the fans who blow up the message boards every time a free-agent wide receiver signs with some other team, as some have done over the past week. There surely are many who were hoping that the Ravens would reel in former New York Giants star Victor Cruz, who reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears on Thursday, but there was little evidence of a strong attempt to add him to a still-thin receiving corps.

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Newsome has said all along that he intends to add another veteran receiver and he probably will at some point in the next couple of months. He just isn't going to abandon a time-tested team-building philosophy that has held the organization in such good stead for most of his tenure.

The draft was a good example, even if he insisted — as usual — that he was true to the board as he spent his draft capital largely on defensive players. Maybe the whole thing just worked out that way, but it sure appeared that he was doubling down on the defense-first approach that has long been the lifeblood of the organization.

The Ravens have a tradition of drafting defensive players who contribute right away and they hope that will be the case with cornerback Marlon Humphrey, outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, and defensive end Chris Wormley. Newsome already had addressed the defensive secondary before the draft with free-agent safety Tony Jefferson and free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr.

Most of the concern going forward is on the other side of the ball, where the Ravens lost wideout Steve Smith Sr. to retirement and fullback Kyle Juszczyk to free agency. They badly need speedy Breshad Perriman to come into his own in his third season with the team and will again depend heavily on veteran playmaker Mike Wallace. Nobody seems to be in a panic about it, which might mean Newsome is close to bringing back veteran Anquan Boldin.

There is more uncertainty across the offensive line than anyone would like at this point and no one will be surprised when the Ravens add another veteran lineman. But Newsome and Harbaugh have a history of giving their young players a chance to impress during OTAs before sacrificing draft choices or talent to fill a need.

That approach worked well a year ago when Zachary Orr emerged during OTAs and minicamps to relieve pressure on the team to acquire another inside linebacker. Sadly, a neck injury forced Orr to retire after a terrific season and now the Ravens are hoping 2016 second-round pick Kamalei Correa is ready to step into that role.

Harbaugh expressed a lot of confidence in the group of players that came together last week for the start of OTAs and Newsome has seemed content with the familiar direction this offseason has taken.

Maybe they're fooling themselves and overrating their talent … or maybe they know a lot more about their team than the pundits who are poking holes in it.

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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