Welcome to part two of our preview of the Ravens; we’re going position by position evaluating what the team has and what it lacks. Today we’re looking at a pair of positions that have long haunted the Ravens: receivers and the offensive line. Wednesday we’ll give the defense it’s first glance, focusing on the linebackers and defensive backs.
The theme from this weekend’s post continue: this team, as impressive as they were in 2008, is still going to have to work hard to prove they belong among the NFL’s elite.
Those two words induce a collective groan among Baltimore fans. They just about always have. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say that anything has happened in the past eight months to change that.
In perhaps the most surprising move of the Ravens off-season, Ozzie Newsome and company did not draft a single wide receiver and also failed to sign or trade for any noteworthy talent. The Ravens did make two additions worth at least mentioning: receiver Kelly Washington (formerly with the Bengals and Patriots) and tight end LJ Smith (formerly of the Eagles).
The Ravens believe their problems at receiver have long been a symptom of other ailments, though. Namely, the lack of a franchise quarterback, faulty play-calling and a lackluster offensive line. In 2009, though, most of those excuses are expected to disappear, meaning the receivers will have to carry their own weight.
For the last four seasons only one Raven has been able to produce through the air: wide out Derrick Mason. But even the bright spot that is Mason might be fading. Mason is 35 years old and, just a month ago, retired temporarily following the murder of former teammate Steve McNair. Additionally, Mason was crippled for parts of last season by a serious shoulder injury. Amazingly, Mason still played and produced with one arm nearly pinned to his side.
Beyond Mason, however, the Ravens shine fades fast. The team is still waiting for first round pick Mark Clayton to step into his own. And Todd Heap, tight end, is still trying to find his way back to the Pro Bowl after five years of nagging injuries. (more…)