Baltimore Ravens: 5 Names Ravens Fans Need to Know for the 2012 Season
Every season it seems like they can plug in a no-name player and turn him into a star.
But this season could be trying for Baltimore. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are a year older and it's no guarantee Reed will even play in 2012. To top it all off, sack-master Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon and will miss most if not all of the season.
This year, the Ravens will need some new players to step up in a big way. So let's take a look at five guys who could be big names by the end of the year.
Paul Kruger, Outside Linebacker
Paul Kruger is a name many Ravens fans probably already know, but they'll have to get to know him a lot better this season.
Kruger was already in line to compete for a starting job left by Jarret Johnson, but after the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles, the former Utah defensive end was almost assured of a starting role.
Kruger has been somewhat of a disappointment to Ravens fans so far. After being drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft, Kruger accumulated only one sack over his first two seasons.
Last season, however, Kruger showed signs of improvement, appearing in all 16 games and recording 5.5 sacks and recovering two touchdowns.
Rookie Courtney Upshaw and Kruger will both have to step up big this year for the Ravens if their defense wants to be anywhere near as good as it was a year ago.
Bernard Pierce, Running Back
Going to Temple the last four years, I've seen a lot of Bernard Pierce on the football field and let me tell you, he's a special player.
Ray Rice's previous backups, Willis McGahee and Ricky Williams, both found success in Baltimore and there's no reason Pierce shouldn't be able to do the same.
When Williams retired at the end of the 2011 season, he left the Ravens with a major hole in their running game. Many people don't really realize, but Williams accounted for over 100 rush attempts and 13 receptions last season and appeared in all 16 games.
Pierce is a great replacement for Williams because he's a very similar back in style.
At Temple, Pierce ran for over 1,400 yards and scored 27 touchdowns on the ground. He's a great runner between the tackles and is very strong after contact.
He'll have to prove he can stay healthy, something he struggled with at Temple. But if he does, Pierce could be the Ravens immediate answer to the Williams retirement.
Sean Considine, Safety
This one's kind of a shot in the dark, but there has been some speculation (as there seems to be every year) that Ed Reed is going to retire before the start of the 2012 season, leaving the Ravens in a precarious position.
The situation is made even worse by the losses of former backup safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura.
Luckily, Baltimore found a veteran they could rely on in free agency.
Sean Considine has been a bit of a journeyman. He'll be heading to his fifth team this year as he enters his eighth season as a pro.
Considine showed his most promise early on in his career with the Eagles, but has never had more than one interception in a season.
I think it's very unlikely Ed Reed doesn't play in 2012 but the possibility is real. Considine is a strong safety and would have to beat out rookie Christian Thompson, but should have the advantage. Ravens fans should expect Reed, but get to know Considine just in case.
Pernell McPhee, Defensive End
The Ravens lost another veteran up front in Cory Redding, adding to the young players who will need to step up in Baltimore.
McPhee is a second-year player out of Mississippi State who played very well in 2011.
He finished the season appearing in all 16 games, totaling 23 tackles and recording six sacks in his rookie season. McPhee has to be the favorite to take over for Redding.
The Ravens will see a camp battle at this position between McPhee and Arthur Jones, but it was clear last season who the guy was. Jones did have one start, but missed two games, had less tackles and didn't record a sack.
McPhee could be a monster for the Ravens, playing on defensive line that already features Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody, two guys who draw enough blocks as it is. Ravens fans should acquaint themselves with the best pass-rusher they'll have of their front three.
Kelechi Osemele, Guard
Overshadowed by the Terrell Suggs injury was another big loss for the Ravens on the offensive side of the ball. All-Pro guard Ben Grubbs is on his way to New Orleans, leaving a big hole in the Baltimore offensive front that has been so good over the past few seasons.
To make matters worse, Jah Reid, the favorite to take over for Grubbs, was carted off the practice field just a few days ago.
Now, it has become apparent that Reid's injury wasn't anything too serious, but it opens the door for a competition. And that competition will be with rookie second-rounder Kelechi Osemele.
Osemele was a monster at Iowa State and was considered at some points to be a potential first-round pick, but the Ravens leapt at the chance to take him with their second pick in the second round.
With Reid injured, Osemele has a great chance to make an impression on the Ravens coaching staff and earn himself a starting spot. Fans should familiarize themselves with this guard, as he could be an anchor on this line for the next decade.