BY:Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime
Baltimore lost six Super Bowl starters and Paul Kruger on defense, but quietly reloaded. A defensive draft, plus Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith, will keep the Ravens’ D formidable.
The defending champions re-loaded their defense with six new starters and Elvis Dumervil, but look for Joe Flacco to struggle in the red zone without go-to threats like Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.
And most quarterbacks don’t have anything to prove after being crowned World Champs, but this one does. Flacco signed a deal that pays him $120.6 million. He is going to have to put together an even better year than last year (is that even possible?) as one of the highest paid players in the game.
In five NFL seasons, Flacco has never thrown for more than 4,000 yards or thrown more than 25 touchdown passes in a single season. The Raven’s believe that with Jim Caldwell remaining the playcaller, Flacco will carry over his spectacular post season (11TDs and 0 ints).
Without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on defense, the entire unit is going to have to take a beating. I love it when I hear the so-called sports experts claim the Ravens are going to be even stronger, or fast on the defence! That is like saying when Tom Brady calls it quits in New England, that the Patriots are going to be stronger on offense! Baltimore may replace the talent, and some of those tangible qualities that Lewis and Reed brought, but they may never replace that leadership they brought.
No one is ever going to replace Lewis and Reed as far as what these future Hall of Fame players have meant to the franchise, and the Ravens aren’t trying to do that. Baltimore, though, thinks it can replace two great players who were at the end of their careers. Daryl Smith, the all-time leading tackler in Jaguars history and the Ravens’ new middle linebacker, has been Baltimore’s best defensive player this preseason. Safety Michael Huff is more versatile than Reed and provides more of a physical presence. Plus, Smith and Huff will combine to make $1.7 million this season, which is $13 million less than what the Ravens paid Lewis and Reed last season. The biggest challenge is filling the leadership void.
3. Offensive identity: How much can the Ravens let this contract they awarded
Flacco affect their offensive attack? Or are they going to be a run-first team after the losses of wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta? The Ravens’ identity is going to be a little of both. A balanced attack isn’t a haphazard guess. This is based on what the Ravens did in the playoffs with Caldwell running the show. In the postseason, Flacco dropped back to throw 132 times and the running backs received 128 carries. The two most proven playmakers are Flacco and Ray Rice, and it would be unproductive to take the ball out of either one of their hands for an extended period.
4. Dynamic defensive duo: Over the past six seasons, Terrell Suggs has had one only teammate record more than seven sacks in a season. That’s why no one is more excited than the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year over the Ravens landing an elite pass-rusher like Elvis Dumervil in free agency. Dumervil has the most sacks over the past three seasons with 37.5, which is 11 more than anyone else in the league. This addition certainly got the attention of Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton and Brandon Weeden.
5. Receivers need to step up: The Ravens lost more than their top two receivers when Boldin was traded and Pitta went down with a dislocated hip. They also lost their most-clutch receivers. Over the past two seasons, Boldin and Pitta combined for 17 touchdowns in the red zone. Last year, Boldin and Pitta led the team in third-down catches. The pressure to convert inside the 20-yard line and move the chains falls on wide receiver Torrey Smith, tight end Ed Dickson and two recent veteran additions in Brandon and Dallas Clark.