Tuesday, August 4, 2009

2009 NFL PREVIEW- Baltimore Ravens


2008 RECORD: 11-5
(2nd in AFC North)

HEAD COACH: John Harbaugh

Key Additions: TE L.J. Smith (FA/Eagles) CB Domonique Foxworth (FA/Falcons) C Matt Birk (FA/Vikings) CB Chris Carr (FA/Titans) QB John Beck (FA/Dolphins)

Key Losses: LB Bart Scott (FA/Jets) QB Kyle Boller (FA/Rams) QB Todd Bouman (FA/Jaguars) CB Corey Ivy (FA/Browns) CB Chris McAlister (FA) K Matt Stover (FA)

Offense: Quarterback Joey Flacco is asked to manage the game and does a good job at doing just that. The rookie QB reminded many of how Trent Dilfer guided the offense in 2000 when the dominant Ravens' defense led them to a Super Bowl title.
Flacco passed for 2,971 yards and 14 TDs with 12 interceptions in 2008. The backups are Troy Smith and John Beck.
The running backs in the smash-mouth style offense the Ravens play are Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain. McClain led Baltimore in rushing last season, gaining 902 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. McGahee gained 671 yards and scored seven TDs. Ray Rice spelled McGahee on occasion and ran for 454 yards as well.
The wide receivers include Derrick Mason (who announced a very brief retirement this summer), Mark Clayton (41 catches for 695 yards and three TDs) and Tight End Todd Heap.
Mason had 80 catches for 1,037 yards to lead the team in '08 while also scoring five touchdowns.
Heap has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons, but still managed 35 catches and three touchdowns last year.
Marcus Smith, Demetrius Williams and tight end L.J. Smith (free agent from Philadelphia) are the backup receivers for the Ravens.
The offensive line is solid and has a new center in Matt Birk, who comes over from Minnesota as a free agent signee. The guards are Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda and the tackles are Jared Gaither and Michael Oher.

Defense: This is the definite strength of the Ravens as proven by their number two ranking overall on defense in 2008.
The Ravens defense was number three against the run and total points allowed and second against the pass. Baltimore also led the NFL with 26 interceptions a year ago.
Ray Lewis (middle linebacker) is the leader of the defense. Along with Tavares Gooden and Jarret Johnson, Lewis spearheads a great group of linebackers to lead the defense.
Up front in the 4-3 formation the Ravens use, Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg are the tackles and Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs are the ends. Lamar Divens, Justin Bannan, Paul Kruger and Dwan Edwards are ready to step in where needed.
The secondary is among the best in the NFL, evidenced by the team picking off 26 passes a year ago.
Fabian Washington and Domonique Foxworth will be the cornerbacks with Dawan Landry and All-Pro Ed Reed (free safety) also ready to do damage in 2009. Reed led the league with nine picks in '08, including returning two for touchdowns that saw Reed go 107 yards for a score after one interception. Cornerback Samari Rolle (three INT in '08) is also ready to step in when called upon.

OUTLOOK: If the Ravens get a big defensive effort like they did in '08, the team will have big success once again. Injuries are always a factor and some of the stalwarts on the Ravens 'D' are not getting any younger. Just something to think about.
Baltimore needs to see Flacco continue to develop as a young quarterback and just do his part by hitting his receivers and guiding the offense. He doesn't get rattled on the field and that was a big plus for the team last year.
McClain and McGahee, along with Rice, gained a lot of yardage on the ground as the Ravens averaged 148.5 yards per game on the ground and ranked fourth in rushing. More of that will be a plus as well in 2009.
If Baltimore follows the formula Head Coach John Harbaugh set last year the same way, they once again will make the playoffs. How far they go this season will depend a lot on Flacco's progression at quarterback.
The Ravens made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game last season, losing to Pittsburgh for the third time in as many tries.
Baltimore faces a tough schedule in 2009 and teams know what to expect from them and Flacco will not be under estimated this season.
However, the Baltimore defense is a great one and should carry them to the post-season once again following a 10-6 finish. But once again, the Super Bowl will be out of reach.

Week 1- vs. Kansas City (Sept. 13)
Week 2- at San Diego (Sept. 20)
Week 3- vs. Cleveland (Sept. 27)
Week 4- at New England (Oct. 4)
Week 5- vs. Cincinnati (Oct. 11)
Week 6- at Minnesota (Oct. 18)
Week 7- BYE WEEK
Week 8- vs. Denver (Nov. 1)
Week 9- at Cincinnati (Nov. 8)
Week 10- at Cleveland (Nov. 16)
Week 11- vs. Indianapolis (Nov. 22)
Week 12- vs. Pittsburgh (Nov. 29)
Week 13- at Green Bay (Dec. 7)
Week 14- vs. Detroit (Dec. 13)
Week 15- vs. Chicago (Dec. 20)
Week 16- at Pittsburgh (Dec. 27)
Week 17- at Oakland (Jan. 3)

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