This year, the rookies have carried the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens drafted a brilliant class this year, even though it didn't appear so at the time. They drafted Joe Flacco in the first round, followed by Ray Rice, Tavares Gooden, Tom Zbikowski, Oniel Cousins, Marcus Smith, David Hale, Haruki Nakamura, Justin Harper, and Allen Patrick.
Not only are a decent amount of these picks making impacts, past picks are producing. From the 2007 draft class, Ben Grubbs, Le'Ron McClain, Jared Gaither, Yamon Figurs, and Troy Smith are doing very well. I would mention all the other former Ravens draft picks succeeding this year for Baltimore, but I don't have that kind of time.
The Ravens also drafted possible future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis, and Ed Reed.
Every year, General Manager Ozzie Newsome finds a jewel, a hidden gem. This year, those gems are quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.
Joe Flacco has amazed me with his poise. He is 136-for-220 with 1,464 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Despite the unflashy statistics, he has led the team to a 5-3 win-loss record. He has an unflattering 75.6 quarterback rating but has a QB rating of 100 in the last three contests.
He even lit up the Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary on Monday Night Football—at Heinz Field! After a 31-3 loss to the Colts, I thought the season was over. Flacco looked like a rookie: overthrowing, throwing picks, holding the ball for too long. I thought Flacco's first three games were flukes and the Ravens would return to 5-11 or worse—and I expected the worst.
But the next week, he rebounded, as the Ravens beat Miami, 27-13. Flacco was 17-for-23, with 232 yards and one touchdown pass. He then beat Oakland, 29-10. He was just 12-for-24 with 140 yards and a touchdown pass. I know, not sexy quarterback numbers. He also rushed for 25 yards and a touchdown and caught a 43 yard pass, earning Rookie of the Week.
I know what you're thinking: This guy is trash, he's only beaten terrible teams and hasn't made any huge comebacks. He didn't change the terrible team part this week, but he made a HUGE comeback. Down 27-13 with 6:06 left in the third, Flacco didn't get nervous or intimidated.
Flacco was 3-for-4 with 35 yards on the ensuing drive and the Ravens capped the scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run by fullback Le'Ron McClain. So it was 27-20. I know what you're thinking now, too: OK, he's going to comeback against the Browns. "Big deal".
Yes, it is a big deal. He came back to beat the Browns 37-27 in a hostile crowd at Cleveland. Flacco has shown incredible poise and is doing better than any Raven quarterback has done in a long time.
Ray Rice has done incredibly well when given the chance. Last week, he rushed for 154 yards on 21 carries and was beneficial to the victory. He had runs of 20 or more yards twice (26, 60). His ability to catch short passes and make something out of nothing is impressing the Ravens and me. Ozzie Newsome again pulled a miracle landing him.
Not only did he prove he knows what he's doing when he drafted Flacco and Rice, he proved he knows what he's doing when he landed Derrick Mason years ago. This guy has to have had the most underrated career of all time.
Last week, Mason had nine catches, 136 yards, and one touchdown, including a 28-yard touchdown that tied the game at 27. His 136 yards led all wide receivers last week. Mason has 557 yards and two touchdowns this year and is approaching 10,000 for his career (9,581). Nice movie, Ozzie. You did it again.
Who knows what's in store next year?