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Sunday August 31, 2008 8:33 am

NFL Preview: Baltimore Ravens




Posted by Scott Sargent Categories: NFL,

Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens defense will be tough

BALTIMORE RAVENS
2007 RECORD: 5-11

Overview: From one of the best teams in the AFC to quite a collapse, the Baltimore Ravens have to deal with a defense that is considered to be aging, coupled with an offense that is still looking for someone effective under center. 

Offense: This could be one of the biggest question marks of the entire division.  Who will be the starting quarterback?  As of now, it appears that second-year quarterback Troy Smith may get the nod.  Kyle Boller just won’t disappear, but the front office just cannot bring themselves to toss rookie Joe Flacco to the wolves, can they?  It could get that desperate.  On the receiving end, veteran Derrick Mason should be good for about 80 catches this season, just mostly on short passes.  The rest of the offensive production will come from current health risks, TE Todd Heap and RB Willis McGahee.  Heap has been as consistent as ever when able, but McGahee may be in danger of losing time to rookie running back Ray Rice.  Either way, you’re looking at one of the worst offenses in the league – and easily the worst in the division.

Defense: Where Baltimore lacks on the offensive side of things, the defense tends to make up for it.  Boasting some of the best linebackers in the game in Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott, the Ravens are hard-hitting and have a great nose for the ball.  Unfortunately, they are all a year older than last.  FS Ed Reed is no longer the defensive player of the year, but it hasn’t stopped him from playing at a high level with fellow veterans Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister in the secondary.  And while the veterans are all household names by this point, younger players like Dawan Landry and Haloti Ngata are definitely underrated.  While they may give up the occasional big play to a high-powered offense, do not be shocked for the occasional big play that goes the other way when this crew of incredibly skilled veterans takes the field. 

Rookies: Already mentioned above, two rookies to watch for the Ravens will be quarterback Flacco and Rice.  Rice has already turned some heads with his preseason play, and Flacco is one play (or a handful of interceptions) away from getting serious playing time under center.  The Ravens traded up to ensure their rights to Flacco, so it is not far-fetched for either of these rookies to get considerable playing time as the 2008 season unfolds.

Prediction: The Ravens will definitely have their work cut out for them this year.  Combining a tough schedule with a division full of younger, more skilled teams will be quite a challenge for new head coach Jim Harbaugh and crew.  While it will take quite a bit of unfortunate luck to repeat last season’s record, this team seems primed for a season that will optimistically win seven games in 2008.

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