club, and balance it they did, with outstanding long-term picks like Grubbs, Rice, Flacco, Oher and even Marshal Yanda, who has developed into a reliable right tackle. But those picks and that emphasis on offense came at the expense of the defense, with only Haloti Ngata being an arguable “great pick” over the last 6 years.
Even the two most recent high picks who are playing now, Paul Kruger and Terrence Cody, have each failed to generate any kind of buzz in the early stages of their respective careers.
We knew it was coming…I suppose. We just didn’t know it was coming now. This quickly.
The team is slowly being turned over to Joe Flacco, who stepped up in the locker room on Sunday and did the preaching normally reserved for Reverend Ray during the intermission. For better or worse, Joe Flacco will be the guy leading this club next year, in 2012, and beyond. Not that players won’t give Ray his proper respect — they always will. But Ray won’t have a lot to say anymore when “his” defense is giving up 20, 24, 34 points a game, as they might be on the verge of doing if some changes aren’t made that improve the team’s pass rush and their ability to stop the run.
I’m not saying the defense stinks.
I’m just saying this team’s strong suit is no longer its defense. Let’s put it this way: If it this were a game of horse and the word was “DONE” instead of horse, this Ravens defense would have “D”.
Sunday against Buffalo might have been the final swipe of the brush that was needed to finish off the painting entitled: “The offense takes over”. Ray Lewis and his band of characters, looking off into the sunset as Ryan Fitzpatrick and some guy named Steve Johnson teamed up to help take them to the brink of what would have been a crushing defeat.
Three years ago, that game yesterday would have been Ravens 34 – Bills 10.
Three years ago, this team’s defense was still among the best in the league.
Those days are gone.
And the offense is in charge now.
They owe it to Ray Lewis to come through for him — and the team. But that’s a story for another day this week.