With the final preseason games this week, experts are writing and talking about their season previews. I’ve read and listened to a lot of them recently, and call me a homer, but I don’t understand why everyone thinks so lowly of the Ravens this year.
I understand that they are coming off of the worst season in John Harbaugh’s tenure. They lost one of the top guards in football in free agency. Their top receiver is 37 and coming off a torn achilles. There’s question marks in the secondary, on the offensive line, and at linebacker. However, this team has still has a ton of talent (more than last year), an elite head coach and front office (yes, I use elite deliberately), and a winning pedigree.
Last year was merely a blip on the radar. The team had 20 guys on the IR by the end of the year, including more than 10 starters/quality contributors. If you take any teams starting quarterback, running back, wideout, tight end, center, left tackle, and outside linebacker, they will struggle. That was coupled with secondary plagued by injuries and underachievement and a less than stellar
pass rush. Neither the offense nor the defense had much going for it.
I’m supremely optimistic this year though (maybe too optimistic, thanks to the optimism that I no longer have for the Os). They made efforts to improve major problem areas.
This offense is so intriguing. The pass catchers are head and shoulders above last year. The addition of Mike Wallace in free agency was a low risk, potentially high reward pick up. The guy seems to have something left in the tank and his best seasons (albeit several seasons ago) came with a big, strong armed quarterback. If he is able to stretch the field any, it will create some much more opportunity underneath for the talented tight ends, Kamar Aiken, and Steve Smith, Sr., who seemingly is more fired up then ever. Speaking of Kamar Aiken, this guy broke out last year and demonstrated how truly talented he is. I foresee another big season for him. Steve Smith was also dominant last year before going down. Assuming this will actually be his final season, Smith is poised to go out on a high note and improve upon his Hall of Fame career numbers. Beyond these guys, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, and Jeremy Butler could also become key contributors and legitimate threats in the passing game. Not only is the receiving corps improved, but the backfield is packed with talented options. Justin Forsett, Terrance West and Buck Allen all have the potential to carry the load for this offense. This isn’t even considering Kenneth Dixon, who was raved about after the draft.
The offense could really be something special, but the defense has also improved vastly. There’s not enough that can be said about the addition of Eric Weddle. Since the departure of Ed Reed, the Ravens have really struggled to find a leader in the secondary. Weddle is a playmaker, superstar, and true professional who brings grit to a defense that needs it. He and Lardarius Webb seem to be working well together as well. Brandon Williams has really come into his own as a force on the interior of the line, and T-Sizzle and Dumervil are back from injuries. The defensive line on both pass and rush downs looks solid. Younger pieces, like Timmy Jernigan, Carl Davis, Brent Urban, among others, will be given a real chance to succeed. Up and down, the defense is improved.
Steps forward on defense and major improvements on offense lead me to feel optimistic, but two others factors are what really provide me with a positive outlook: Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh. Flacco and Harbaugh are proven winners. Flacco returns from injury with a new contract and perhaps the most talented group of weapons he’s ever had. Harbaugh has never had back to back losing seasons (albeit, he’s only had two) and is truly one of the best in the game. As long as Flacco is under center and Harbaugh is roaming the sidelines, I feel confident that the Ravens will have a competitive team.
Call me a homer, but I think the experts have it wrong. The Ravens have a good team, and they’ll have a chance to prove it very soon.