2009-2010 NFL Season Preview: Baltimore Ravens

Derek PeifferCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  Haloti Ngata #92 and Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrate after Ngata recorded a sack in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

2008 Record: 11-5, Second AFC North; 2-1 in postseason, lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Championship game

Head Coach
: John Harbaugh; Second year

Key Additions: C Matt Birk, CB Domonique Foxworth, TE L.J. Smith, CB Chris Carr

Key Losses: LB Bart Scott, OT Willie Anderson, CB Chris McAlister, FB Lorenzo Neal, CB Corey Ivy

1st Round Draft Picks: Michael Oher – Offensive Tackle

2nd Round Draft Picks: Paul Kruger – Defensive End

This is a team that flies under the radar media-wise. Of course no NFL team will overlook such a great defense.

That's how this team wins. Defense, defense, defense, but it wasn't just the defense making noise in 2008.

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who many dismissed because he had played at Division I-AA Delaware, was serviceable for a rookie quarterback.

Apparently enough to give the Ravens an 11-5 mark, and a spot in the 2008 NFL Playoffs.

A magic run would end in Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game. Flacco would throw 3 interceptions that would prove to be too much extra time for the Steelers offense for even the Ravens D to slow down.

Along with Flacco, the emergence of halfback/fullback Le'Ron McClain was huge for the Ravens.

McClain had 902 yards with 10 touchdowns on the season, to go along with Willis McGahee's seven.

The defense was stellar with Ray Lewis just doing what Ray Lewis does. Haloti Ngata emerged as a top-tier defensive tackle in the NFL.

The Ravens have big hopes for Flacco's 2nd year, and rightfully so.

He has a full season of experience under his belt, including a run to the AFC Championship game. He should be poised to improve for a similar run this year.

Matt Birk should help in that. He is a very intelligent center, and should improve this offensive line.

The loss of Lorenzo Neal may hurt, but Le'Ron McClain will step into that spot leaving McGahee and Ray Rice to handle the running duties.

Todd Heap did have a down year in 2008, but the signing of free agent L.J. Smith from the Philadelphia Eagles should light a fire under him and force him to produce or lose his job.

Despite the acquisitions on the offensive side, the team lost some key faces on the defensive side of the ball.

Rex Ryan, former defensive co-ordinator, is now Head Coach of the New York Jets, and he took LB Bart Scott along with him.

You don't just replace a coach and linebacker such as those two.

Ray Lewis is playing for his new, expensive, extension he signed this off-season. This deal coming after rumors surrounding the team, and Lewis, had him exiting Baltimore this off-season.

Joining Lewis in the front eight is standout linebacking partner, Terrell Suggs, along with the run stuffing defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and Trevor Pryce.

The defensive backfield is stacked with talent, despite the loss of former pro-bowler, Chris McCalister.

Fabian Washington, Samari Rolle, Dominique Foxworth, and Dawan Landry will all make some big defensive plays, and you can always count on ball-hawk Ed Reed to make a game-changing play.

Season Prediction
: 11-5, Second In AFC North