Ravens thoughts with two weeks to go
Here are some positive and negative thoughts as the Baltimore Ravens near their 2009 Opener.
Positive - Overall, I feel better about this team then I did at the start of camp. There is an air of confidence after what they achieved last year, but also a dire to take the next-step. It is a very-deep team in-terms of the players capable of helping in one-form or another.
Negative - There is a difficult schedule awaiting the Ravens, with two-trips to the West Coast, and three games in prime-time. Beyond the schedule, I think it is a team-full of good talent, but not elite.
Positive – If football is won in the trenches, you have to feel good about the prospects of this team playing deep into January. Gaither, Grubbs, Birk, Chester, Oher is a strong, and athletic offensive-line. Adding Gregg, and Edwards back to the defensive-line, provides the opportunity to rotate multiple bodies, and keep everyone fresh.
Negative – Adam Terry going down to injury, really hurt the existing depth at Tackle. Cousins would be a liability, if he was forced into a starting position for multiple-games. The former soccer player has some physical-skills, but is still relatively new to the game, and is still learning basics of football. I wanted Chester to hold-off Yanda at RG, but I had hoped Yanda would be healthy enough to push Chester in-camp. Yanda provides good depth, but is still working himself all the way back from his injury. Birk is 33 years-old, and I am not excited about David Hale being his back-up. Most of the D-line depth is at-tackle, and unless Edwards proves capable of helping at the end, I worry about Pryce breaking down.
Positive – With Oher at RT, the TE’s on the roster should be able to get off the line and into pass patterns more often. Heap spent a lot of time after practice working with Flacco, and Smith had a nice reception against the Redskins. Two TE sets with Heap, and Smith are going to cause problems for the opposition.
Negative – Flacco still does not seem comfortable working the middle of the field, and Smith is dealing with a hamstring and several other leg injuries. Combine that with Davon Drew having an uninspired training-camp, and there is some reason for concern.
Positive – Tavares Gooden has answered the call, from the training-camp pressure put on him by Jameel McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe. In the first two preseason games, Gooden has been all over the field, flashing his athleticism.
Negative – Even basic plays from Gooden, get him celebrating as if he was just named to the NFL All-time team. I will feel better about Gooden, when I am convinced he cares more about winning, vs. making a name for himself.
Positive – Ray Rice and Willis McGahee have worked extremely hard in camp, and been productive. Le’Ron McClain has made the conversion back to FB, and seems to have lost the extra-weight he had put on prior to the start of camp. Cedric Peerman has excellent speed, Matt Lawrence is a straight-ahead pounder, and the team has good things to say about Parmele.
Negative – Not really a negative, just a reality that you can not keep everyone. If you keep just four, I expect the Ravens to keep Peerman. If you can keep a fifth, I would keep Lawrence.
Positive – After 20 catches the past 3 seasons combined, Kelley Washington has asserted himself in camp, and in the first two preseason games. Justin Harper has not been overly consistent, but he has shown big play ability. With these two showing signs of life, it does help you feel better about the entire unit.
Negative – Clayton has been out of action for weeks, and will miss tonight’s game vs. Carolina. He has been a slow healer before, will the hamstring bother him all year? I would want to see him get a little game action vs KC in the opener, and be ready to participate fully vs San Diego in Week 2. Demetrius Williams goes in the game tonight, needing to make some plays with Flacco.
Positive – Terrell Suggs’ heel injury is regularly described as nagging vs. something more serious. Suggs has never missed a regular-season game in his career, and has recently as the AFC Championship has shown an ability to play through pain.
Negative – He has missed the last month, and there are now whispers about him missing the opener. Even if he is ready to play vs KC, how many snaps is going to be able to go? If the heel requires a couple of more weeks off, will that lack of pass-rush help cost the Ravens a game or two?
Positive – The Secondary has outstanding depth with Washington, Foxworth, Landry, Reed, Webb, Zbikowski, Nakamura, Walker, and Carr. Webb has the rare physical skills, that could make him a star. If Walker does not step-up vs. Carolina, Oglesby or Martin have a chance to make the roster.
Negative – Rolle seems destined to start the season the PUP list, and you just hope he can return in Week 7. Washington, and Foxworth have excellent speed, and good cover-skills. Both are going to be picked on at times by bigger, stronger receivers.
Positive – Hauschka and Gano have had a spirted battle for the FG kicker, and both have shown positives, with Hauschka having the lead going into Game 3. With either kicker, the Ravens can avoid also carrying a kick-off specialist as they would have had to do with Stover.
Negative – The 2009 Ravens are a team with Super Bowl aspirations. For a team with those goals, going with an inexperienced kicker is a difficult proposition. Part of the benefit of having Stover, was the mental knowledge of knowing they would make the kick. For good, or bad, each kick that either Hauschka or Gano take in 2009 will be a question mark. If these miss a kick that matters, you will not get to take a mulligan.