the guard, so to speak, as the defense hands over the keys to the offense.
The offense will now control the ultimate destiny of the Ravens in 2010. The Ravens defense will now be charged with “keeping it close” long enough for the offense to put the final nail in the opponent’s coffin.
This is for certain: if this team wins 11 games – or more – and has post-season success, they’ll do it on the basis of their offense and not their defense.
Like I said, those are fightin’ words here in Charm City, where defense and “smash-mouth football” have long been the franchise’s calling card and the offense was just something to occupy time until Ray and Co. could get back out on the field and do their damage.
Those days…those dominating days…they’re gone, I’m afraid.
Sure, the Ravens will still have games where they’ll give up 2 field goals and the offense will be productive enough to win 20-6. There are still prominent, Pro Bowl players on this current edition of the Ravens defense. Haloti Ngata is probably second only to Clay Matthews of the Packers right now in terms of “dominance” at his position. Ray Lewis, while clearly not the “old Ray”, is still smarter than everyone else on the field and wants to win more than anyone ever wanted to win. Ed Reed remains one bad hit away from filing his retirement paperwork, but as we saw on Sunday when he played against the Bills, the football has a certain attraction to #20. He can still play. And Terrell Suggs has the pedigree for greatness, but ever since that heel injury last August which rendered him nearly useless for all of 2009, Suggs hasn’t been the same player who dominated throughout 2008 and earned that Brinks Truck contract in the spring of ’09. Jarret Johnson remains a steady performer at his position, but in no way is Johnson a game-changing player at his position.
Ngata, Suggs, Lewis and Reed. In order, those are probably the team’s most reliable defensive performers. And if you’d like to play word association with those four, it would go like this: Dependable, Mysterious, Wise and Diminishing.
Those aren’t four words that most championship teams would use as symbols for their four best defensive players.
Don’t get me wrong…they still have GOOD players on that side of the ball, like Dawan Landry and Fabian Washington and Cory Redding, but that’s all they are — GOOD players. The days of trotting out ball-busters like Chris McAlister, Bart Scott and Trevor Pryce to compliment Ray Lewis are long gone.
And so is this team’s ability to dominate games defensively.
As good as Baltimore’s draft has been on offense over the last five years, it’s been equally as unreliable on the defensive side. That makes sense, of course, when you realize the organization was completely top-heavy defensively throughout most of the 2000’s. They HAD to draft offensively if they wanted to balance their