Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ravens Have a Long, Long Way to Go

It seems as though the entire city of Baltimore (and the whole state for that matter) is in denial when it comes to their beloved football team the Baltimore Ravens. It may be the same psychological condition that afflicted many in the Baltimore area when they insisted that the Orioles were “one or two players” away from contending for the playoffs in the American League for the last ten years. It took an intervention by Andy MacPhail to get the fan base out of that condition and onto the road to recovery, but it appears they may have lapsed back into this state, but for another local team.

From my opening post on this blog I have hinted that perhaps Ravens fans should curb their enthusiasm somewhat for this season, that the football team had more holes than it could possibly plug, and that the door may have shut for this era of Ravens success. A topic on Free Kicks and the occasional other mention may not do it however, as I believe the hysteria has reached an epidemic level, and some harsh reality needs to be laid bare in front of fans before the season begins.

How many years have we said that the Ravens D was approaching their last legs? Now we sit back and assume the defense will be alright while the offense may struggle a bit. Have we forgotten that we are relying on the health of Trevor Pryce, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Samari Rolle, and Chris McAllister? These are quality starters, but this defense reminds me of a heavyweight fighter in the waning years of his career- he will occasionally get the knockout blow, but sometimes he will embarrass you by falling flat against a younger, faster opponent. And who is at nickel or dime back? Corey Ivy and a 1st round bust in Fabian Washington. Please, excuse me if I hold my applause. All injuries aside, this is not a unit that is as good as it used to be- and that is fine, it is the cyclical nature of the NFL. But the cyclical nature of the NFL also assumes that as the defense weakens, more emphasis will be placed on the offense.

Well the good news is that there is certainly emphasis on the offense, even if there isn’t success. I will place the quarterback controversy aside, as it is like choosing someone to hire between the employee who has 5 years experience doing poorly or the kid straight out of college who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Flacco isn’t in this discussion, and no I don’t care how far he can throw the football. The offensive line is offensive. Excuse the pun, but even last year the o-line was in the bottom half of the league. Without Ogden you are left with the dreaded p-word “potential.” Translation: whoever the quarterback (or running back for that matter) is, they will be on their back as much as they are on their feet. As for the tight ends, are there any left on the team at this point? Moving Edgar Jones to tight end (from a thin position to an even thinner one) should be some indication that if we ever see Todd Heap on the field again, he won’t get much help. The lone bright spot could be the continued maturation of Demetrius Williams, should he finally take the leap to starter material.

This will not be a bounceback season like it was two years ago. The Browns are better, the Steelers are just as good, and the Bengals will still score on the tired legs of Samari and Chris as they have for the last 2-3 years. Add in a brand new coaching staff and, well, this won’t be pretty. I simply don’t see any part of this team that is particularly strong and reliable down the stretch (Dwan Edwards is already on IR), and with everything being in flux as it is, 4-12 is not an unlikely outcome for this team.

I am not saying that Ravens fans shouldn’t be excited- they should. They should be excited in the same way they were excited for the Orioles season to start. Not an excitement about doing well necessarily, but an excitement of seeing young players take shape and the future of the Ravens begin anew. For a fan base that seems oblivious to the disastrous signs ahead, this could be a rude awakening. However, it could be an opportunity to take a peak at a brighter future much further down the road.

(Photo Credit: AP, David Duprey)

UPDATE: ESPN is reporting that Kyle Boller may be out for the season with a shoulder injury, though he will be consulting another physician before he makes a decision. Well I guess we are down to Smith and Flacco. This should be fun...

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