The Webb and Ray Lewis injuries will not help the team. Anyone who thinks the Ravens are going to be helped by Webb or Ray-Ray NOT being available for the rest of the year is just living in fantasy-land. The Ravens do not have a linebacker on their roster who is better than Ray Lewis. Ray’s in the December of his career, maybe even the third-week of December, but Dannell Ellerbe is not an improvement over #52. True, Ellerbe stepped in and handled things fairly well a season ago when Ray missed four games, but the burden of playing out the season wasn’t on Ellerbe last year like it is now. He has suddenly become the starting middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s replacing a 37-year old player who is smarter, wiser and clearly more experienced. It will be an uphill fight for Ellerbe between now and January, if you ask me. I hope he responds.
And Jimmy Smith, while a #1 draft pick and all, is not going to perform as well as Lardarius Webb did. Do you know how I know that? Because Smith wasn’t even able to beat out the team’s outside cover corner, Cary Williams, and wasn’t even close to taking the inside corner job from Webb. That doesn’t mean Jimmy Smith can’t fill in admirably. If he’s worthy of that #1 draft pick, he’ll take this role and kick some ass with it. But to think the Ravens are going to be BETTER with Jimmy Smith as the team’s inside cornerback is silly. They aren’t.
So I ask again, how are guys like Ellerbe and Smith supposed to dramatically improve on their technique when they’re only allowed to “really” practice one day a week?
Here’s the final piece of this puzzle, and perhaps the most important one.
In the recent off-season, the Ravens allowed five valuable (in varying degrees) defensive players to leave the team; Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, Brandon McKinney, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura. Those players all left, primarily, because of money and because the Ravens had players to fill their spots who had been waiting in the wings.
Well…it’s time for those players who have been waiting for their big chance to step up and prove that Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh made the right decisions.
So far this year, we’ve seen little from Pernell McPhee, Terrence Cody, Paul Kruger and Jimmy Smith. Asa Jackson was a 2012 draft pick who at times was impressive in training camp and pre-season. He, too, needs to fill the “next man up” role and do the job.
Just remember this as you look ahead to the next three months of the season: No one – including you – has any idea at all right now who’s going to do what between now and New Year’s Day. You don’t know which team’s star quarterback will go down with a shoulder injury in week #11. You can’t possibly predict which team’s best defensive player will be out for the year with a knee injury next week. Go ahead right now and pick the “final four” of this NFL season when the AFC and NFC Championship Games are played next January — and put $1,000 on it with your “approved” bookmaker. You’ll lose. Guaranteed.
The NFL is the craziest league ever invented. Week-to-week, game-to-game, team-to-team…it all changes every 7 days.
The only people who have it figured out are the folks in Las Vegas.