Keep the Ravens' Problems in Perspective
Just a few days in to training camp, there's too much talk about what's wrong with the Ravens and not enough talk about what's right. We don't need to be Pollyannas and think everything is perfect with this team, but we do need to keep everything in perspective.
Let's consider some of the "problems".
Sergio Kindle Won't Play
Kindle, the second round pick (and first overall for the Ravens), fell down a couple of flights of stairs and fractured his skull. Hopefully everyone's first thought is for him to have a full and speedy recovery, as that's a pretty serious injury.
Kindle was expected to make a difference on the field this year contributing to a massive pass rush (something that they'll need as we further address some weak areas on the team).
While that contribution will be missed, the team does still have Jarret Johnson, who came into camp much bigger and stronger. We haven't heard much out of Paul Kruger, but he'll be in the mix this year. They still have Ngata, Gregg, and the massive Terrance Cody. Maybe these guys aren't the fastest (other than Ngata), but I sure wouldn't want any of them chasing me. And you may have heard of a fellow named Terrell Suggs, who has shed some of the extra weight he had last year and sounds determined to be the superstar the Ravens are paying him to be.
So losing Kindle stinks for Kindle, and it may change the way this team would have looked in the future, but for this year, the team still looks strong.
Terrance Cody Is Too Fat
The Ravens under John Harbaugh are known for having a tough training camp, and they simply won't stand for a player who can't keep up. He'll keep up, and he'll contribute this year. You want to try to run past him? And even if you can, he'll be taking up the blocker you were expecting to get to Lewis, Ellerby, or Dawan Landry (who just knocked out one of McGahee's teeth.)
The Linebackers Are To Old
I heard this one on sports talk radio. Ray Lewis is getting a little long in the tooth for a Linebacker, and maybe he's lost a little bit. He is still one of the best in the game, and his leadership ability as well as his ability to read offenses will continue as a huge strength for the defense. Other than Ayanbadejo, he rest of the linebackers are youngsters, and there is a great deal of depth at the position. Ellerbe, Gooden, McClain, all can start in the NFL.
This is the only real area of weakness on this team. With Foxworth out for the season with a knee injury and Washington suiting up but probably not 100%, the Ravens sure look thin at Cornerback.
Chris Carr is OK, and Walt Harris is a veteran, but if these are your starters on opening day, there are going to be some issues.
That said, remember last year, when a rookie named Lardarius Webb, who no one considered a starting CB, stepped up and played very well to the point that he's now greatly missed as his ACL heals.
We don't know if one of the young CBs on the roster will step up like Webb did. We just don't know if there's a diamond sitting there waiting to be polished.
At Safety, the Ravens look solid, even with Ed Reed being uncertain. I'd like him to keep his mouth shut for the rest of the season, and focus on getting healthy so he can contribute (and maybe earn that contract renegotiation he seems to want). If Reed can play later this year, the Ravens will be set at that position, with outstanding depth with Zbikowski, Landry, Nakamura, and Ken Hamlin lending some veteran savvy.
Even in a worst case scenario, with the massive pass rush this team should have, the secondary will have the support they need.
A Quarterback Controversy?
The Ravens brought in veteran Pro Bowl QB Marc Bulger in the off season. The move was a little surprising. Clearly they wanted a veteran around for Joe Flacco. When coupled with the addition of Jim Zorn as QB coach, the move should accelerate and solidify Flacco's development, and give the team a QB they can plug into the system if Flacco gets hurt. As much as we like Troy Smith, his skills won't fit as well in the system; I think you need to change the offense if he has to come in for Flacco. I think he's a fantastic player, and would love to see him find a role on the team (or another team). John Beck has been a placeholder, he's serviceable, and he knows the offense. I'm not sure which of those two won't be on the roster in week one; it probably depends on what value Smith can bring as a trade as we get closer to the start of the season.
I also don't think it hurts to have Joe Flacco looking over his shoulder a bit. I'm sure no one, including Bulger, expects anyone but Flacco to be the starter, but I think it's a good thing to keep him grounded. How many teams out there can say they have this level of depth and talent at the QB position?
That keeps the perceived problems in perspective. The 2010 Ravens are a good team, and they are going to be fun to watch this year.
So what's right about this team? Consider the improvements in the receiving corps, the depth, talent, and versatility at running back, the outstanding offensive line, the up and coming QB, and oh, let's not forget the best linebacker to ever play the game. I'll cover it all later this week.
Paul Stagg has recently started writing for the Bleacher Report.
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