Who Wears the Crown: Identifying the Ravens's Best Player at the Midseason Mark
Despite being wildly inconsistent, the 5-2 Baltimore Ravens still have a lot to be proud of.
Some individuals have played lights out so far, especially on offense. The offense is tenth in the league in scoring, and some individuals have played a major role in that.
The defense, meanwhile has struggled significantly. The loss of the team's best defender, Lardarius Webb, will hurt immensely, but it does not take away from what Webb accomplished early this season.
These are the top five players on the Ravens so far this season, but only one can wear the crown.
He's only played one game so far this season, but Terrell Suggs proved once and for all that he is truly elite.
In his first game returning from a torn Achilles, Suggs racked up a sack, a pass defended and numerous hurries. He even dominated in the running game, setting the edge effectively throughout the game.
The Houston Texans attempted to run at him early but he set the edge so effectively that they changed course mid way through the game. The fact that were able to run to the other side so effectively is further proof how good Suggs really is.
As long as he stays healthy, T-Sizzle will find himself higher on this list at seasons end. He is the Ravens' best defender, and he proved it in his one game during the first half of the season.
With or without the ball in his hands, Vonta Leach is a game-changer.
That Leach is among the best lead blockers in the NFL is common knowledge, and that hasn't changed this season. When running behind Leach, Ray Rice is among the most effective backs in the NFL. Even operating behind a mediocre offensive line hasn't held Rice back, and Leach deserves a lot of the credit.
Even better, Leach has really improved this season with the ball in his hands. He's caught ten balls for 81 yards, and he has been a reliable outlet receiver all season. He looks faster and more athletic than in seasons past, and he has retained his strength and explosion.
As long as Leach is around, the Ravens have the potential to run the ball effectively. He is the best fullback in the NFL, and he is invaluable to the Ravens' offense.
This was supposed to be the year that Torrey Smith took control of the Ravens' receiving corps. Someone didn't tell that to Anquan Boldin, who is on pace for his best year as a Baltimore Raven.
Boldin has been the offensive catalyst in multiple games this season, but especially against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4. Boldin caught nine balls for 131 yards in his best outing of the season, and he single-handedly proved the offense with the spark it needed to put away the Browns.
When the Ravens need a big play, they've been looking to Boldin, who has found a way to once again get open. He has benefited from the attention that Torrey Smith gets opposite him, but Boldin still deserves credit for the way he makes defenses pay in single-coverage.
Boldin so far has 31 catches for 453 yards, despite little consistency from his quarterback or his offensive line. He has become a true leader for the Ravens' offense and team.
How important was Lardarius Webb to the Ravens' defense? Just look at how they did without him. Andre Johnson toasted Cary Williams for nine receptions, while Kevin Walter racked up 74 yards and a touchdown while being covered by Jimmy Smith.
Webb was playing at an elite level before tearing his ACL. He was the Ravens' best blitzer, best run defender on the outside and best cover cornerback.
This year, Webb contained A.J. Green to just five catches for 70 yards, Jeremy Maclin to one reception and Dwayne Bowe to 60 yards.
Without Webb, the Ravens' pass defense is done. They have no one else who can cover an opponents' top receiver, while Webb does it as well as any corner in the league. He will be missed, but he more than deserves his spot on the Ravens' top-five players of 2012 so far.
Ray Rice is a victim of poor blocking, poor play-calling and occasionally poor quarterback play, and yet, he will still easily rush for over 1,000 yards and be near the top in yards from scrimmage.
The Ravens are completely misusing Rice this year, and he has still been elite. He has saved his best performances for the Ravens' closest games. In a three-point victory over the Chiefs, Rice rushed for 102 yards on just 17 carries, while he gashed the Patriots' defense for 101 yards and a touchdown in a one-point victory.
When Rice finds open field, he's the most dangerous player in the NFL. Finding it has been harder than ever this year with defenses focused on stopping him and abysmal offensive line play. Yet, Rice has still been productive.
Simply put, without Ray Rice, the Ravens have no offense. They've proven again this year that they can't live by the pass: they need Ray Rice to move the ball on the ground. He has done all that's been asked of him and more, and he deserves to wear the crown as the Ravens' top player at the mid-season mark.