For years every time Ozzie Newsome has made a decision that some fans questioned;Ozzie supporters uttered the statement “ in Ozzie we trust”. I can not knock Ozzie Newsome’s track record, but his lack of ability or desire to bring in a big time wide receiver has my trust waning just a little bit.
Coming into the off-season many fans believe that the Ravens were just one big time play-maker away from being a perennial Super Bowl contender for many years. Many fans were clamoring for the Ravens to address the wide receiver position via the draft or free agency and many “experts” predicted them to draft a receiver in the first round. Seven rounds and two days later the Ravens only drafted one pass catcher, Devon Drew a tight end, leaving many fans puzzled but other still uttering “ in Ozzie we trust”.
In his tenure with the Ravens Ozzie Newsome only drafted two receivers in the first round in Travis “ hands of stone” Taylor and Mark Clayton. Taylor is with a doubt a bust; however the verdict is still out on Clayton. I wanted the Ravens to bring in Hakeem Nicks but ultimately supported Ozzie in his decision. I even went as far as giving the Ravens draft a “B” grade.
I assumed that the Ravens were happy with their receiving corps which at that time consisted of Mason, Clayton, Williams and Smith. Two months later, Mason is taken out of that equation, leaving Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams as the team’s top two receivers; not exactly a tandem that strikes fear in opposing secondaries. While it is likely the Mason returns, the Ravens have replaced him by singing Drew Bennett( who then retired), Biren Ealy( 1 career catch) and Jayson Foster who stands at 5’8” and has no career NFL receptions. While these two are likely to end up on the practice squad, one injury to a player on the roster will lead to them getting called up. Are these the “weapons” Joe Flacco should have around him? I think not.
Now before I get criticized by potential readers, I want to make it known that I do understand football. I know you can win without play- makers and I know that Ravens have been successful with a run oriented offense. All that being said, I think the organization would have won at least one other Super Bowl had they brought in some offensive play-makers. Having a top 5 defense every year is fine, but having an offense that ranks in the bottom 10 of the league, makes it that much harder to win. The Ravens defense will still be good, but let’s face it, they are aging. It is time for the identity of this franchise to start moving towards the offensive side of the ball and that needs to start.
Last season, the Ravens and Steelers were virtual mirror images of each other, with both teams possessing talented, hard hitting defenses. Ultimately, the difference why the Steelers beat the Ravens three times was the ability of Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward to get open for Ben Roethlisberger, particularly when he was scrambling. Holmes then went on to win MVP of the Super Bowl showing how important he really was to his team.
Every time the name of a receiver like Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall gets mentioned, people are quick to dismiss them by asking “ how many rings do they have?” Everyone who is an Ozzie supporter is quick to say that one player does not make the difference in winning a Super Bowl and I agree to an extent. However, the Giants and Steelers would not have won the last two Super Bowl’s without Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes.
One of the criticisms of bringing in a receiver like Marshall, Boldin or Buress is that they come with a lot of baggage. The Ravens are one of the class organizations in all of professional sports and do not like to deal with players that have a lot of “character” issues. I totally understand and support the stance of the front office on this subject, but outside of three receivers I just mentioned there are no other options out there. Biren Ealy, Jayson Foster and Kelly Washington may be better “character” guys but are they going to draw double teams and get open for Joe Flacco? I think not.
I am aware of the pros and cons of bringing in a talented but volatile receiver, but at this point I think it is worth a shot for the Ravens. The Ravens were five minutes from the Super Bowl last year but,Joe Flacco lacked the weapons to get the team over the hump. Even when Flacco got great protection in the AFC Championship game- which was often- aerial shots showed the receivers in ability to get open against what is at best a mediocre Steelers secondary. Add a Brandon Marshall, Plaxico Burress or Anquan Boldin and the pass game is not only helped but so is the run game because the Steelers have to fear the pass.
Football is a team sport, and I get that. Every one could spout off as many stats as they want and list as many teams as they want that have won a Super Bowl without a big time play maker ,but it won’t change my opinion. I hear people saying the offense will be fine and that Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams will step up, but what happens if they don’t?
Suddenly, you have a franchise quarterback with an aging tight end and two mediocre receivers to throw to. Having a great line and three good running backs is all well and good but if you can’t get teams to respect the pass then they will eat up your running game. Normally I give Ozzie Newsome the benefit of the doubt give his track record, but in this case he dropped the ball.
Fans can continue to look at things through purple colored glasses and cheer when Joe Flacco hits Biren Ealy with a long pass in training camp but this does not mean that things will be alright.
I still trust in Ozzie, but that trust is waning. I will have no problem eating crow if Clayton, Williams, Washington,Smith, Ealy and Foster prove me wrong, but I don’t think they will. When the Ravens take the field against the Patriots on October 4th and Randy Moss is having a monster game, just remember we could have brought in a receiver of his ability but chose not to.
So when you say “ man I wish we had a guy like that” just remember the events of this off-season and the team’s inability to bring in a play-maker.
Do you still trust in Ozzie? If you do, you are more optimistic then me; I just hope you have the last laugh.