Baltimore Ravens' Depth Is Keeping Them Rolling

Sean O'BrienCorrespondent INovember 6, 2008

NFL organizations this year are really starting to appreciate the importance of having depth on their roster. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers entered the season star-studded and ready to go all the way to the Super Bowl. That is until stars like Tony Romo and Shawne Merriman went down with injuries. 

Suddenly, the Cowboys are 5-4 and in the NFC East Cellar and the Chargers are 3-5, looking up at a horrible Broncos team that owns their division.

Guess they should have paid more attention to backups.

If there's any one division that stands out as having depth right now, it's the AFC North.  We saw it on Monday Night Football, when backup quarterback Byron Leftwich led the Steelers to victory over the Redskins, and we've seen it all season with the Baltimore Ravens.

A good organization uses the offseason effectively, utilizing both the draft and free agency to add quality backups and superstar starters alike.

During the preseason, quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Troy Smith both went down for the count, one with injury and one with sickness. 

What did the Ravens do? Started rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. He's been improving every game and is starting to look like the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be.

When right guard Marshal Yanda's knee injury forced the team to put him on injury reserve, 2006 draft pick Chris Chester stepped up and has been effectively protecting Flacco ever since.

Wideout Demetrius Williams was also placed on IR, giving Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton opportunities to step up and put their names out there.

Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee's knee and ankle injuries have kept him out of two games so far this season and limited him in others. That should have effectively shut down the Ravens' running game, right? Wrong. Rookie Ray Rice and 2nd year player Le'Ron McClain have both been playing great football in McGahee's stead.

The above injuries have only thus far been on the offensive side of the ball. What Baltimore is really known for, however, is its stellar defense.

After two surgeries on his knee, nose guard Kelly Gregg was lost for the season. Talented defensive tackle Justin Bannan has stepped in for Gregg without missing a beat.

Trading for Marques Douglas and signing the 324-pound mountain that is Brandon McKinney out of free agency has solidified this defensive-line rotation.

Because of this, Baltimore's rush defense is the best in the NFL, allowing only 64.3 yards a game on average.

Baltimore's secondary starters: Dawan Landry, Chris McAlister, and Samari Rolle have missed a combined 14 games.

Guess it's a good thing that Baltimore traded a fourth-round pick for Fabian Washington and brought in veteran CB Frank Walker and safety Jim Leonhard through free agency.

Combined, these three have shored up 68 tackles and 14 pass defenses. The Baltimore "D" is only giving up 182.1 yards per game in the air, good for fourth in the league.

It's safe to say that general manager Ozzie Newsome, along with director of pro personnel George Kokinis and assistant director Vince Newsome know what they're doing. New coach John Harbaugh credits them with filling up the roster with able bodies and I, as a fan, would like to thank them for keeping us in the playoff hunt.