The final report card for defensive starters and those seeing significant playing time – along with the special teams.
Trevor Pryce (B-) – Sack and pressure numbers were down from ’06 when he had a monster year (missed most of last season) but he is 2 years older. Still turned in a decent campaign and always goes up against the other team’s top offensive lineman — and is looked upon highly in the locker room for his professional approach and demeanor.
Justin Bannan (B) – Helped absorb the blow of losing Kelly Gregg in training camp and became a fixture in the team’s run defense. Wasn’t called upon to do much in passing situations, but one of the reasons the Ravens were so good against the run was because of him.
Haloti Ngata (A) – Had a monster year and deserved a Pro Bowl nomination. Great against the run and can get to the quarterback as well as any nose tackle in the league. One of the team’s five best players in ’08.
Marques Douglas (B) – Quietly filled in and did a nice job after coming over from San Francisco at the start of the season.
Bart Scott (B) – Hitting the free agent market at the right time of his career, as he has become of the more versatile linebackers in the league. Can chase the QB down, can stop the run and is adequate in pass coverage although a Ravens staffer says that’s his one area of vulnerability.
Ray Lewis (A) – Seemingly getting younger, not older. Call it what you want – invigorated by the new QB…”contract year”…the team winning – #52 had a sensational season and is likely going to cash in with a new contract in Baltimore that will allow him to finish his career in purple.
Terrell Suggs (A) – One of the team’s best draft picks ever…continues to improve each season and turned into a above average contributor in pass defense this year. Pressures the quarterback as well as anyone in the league.
Ed Reed (A) – What can you say about this guy? Started the season dealing with the fallout from of a neck injury from ’07 and some wondered how much he’d even play in ’08. Not only played, but was the league’s best defensive player in the final half of the season. There’s no doubt about this: Without Ed Reed in 2008, the Ravens don’t advance to the AFC title game. Enough said about #20.
Chris McAlister (C) – He was average when he did play…and his season was cut short by a combination knee-injury and coach feud that culminated with an incident in Miami that wasn’t well received…and two weeks later, he was done. Likely a “cap casualty” in the next month or two.
Samari Rolle (B) – His season got off to a slow start due to the death of his father in July and a pre-season injury that forced him out of the first few games, but it’s not a surprise that when Rolle returned and got healthy, the Ravens started winning. No longer a shut-down cornerback-type, but still a reliable performer who knows the game well.
Jim Leonhard (B+) – Stepped in for Dawan Landry and was a major contributor throughout ’08. Helped out considerably on special teams as well, subbing for Yamon Figurs as the team’s main punt return specialist over the last 2 months of the season. His only weakness? Tackling. Other than that, he’s a guy the Ravens are thrilled with and will try to re-sign for ’09 and beyond.
Fabian Washington (B-) – On again, off again throughout most of the season. Battled injuries from time to time and wasn’t as physically strong as the Ravens would like him to be. Still, he helped the ease the pain of the McAlister departure by playing a decent cornerback. Like Leonhard, his tackling needs to improve.
Frank Walker (C+) – Would probably grade higher if not for the fact that he seemed to pick up a dumb penalty about once a month. Turned out to be better in coverage than some thought he might be, but, like a lot of the guys in the secondary, he needs to work on his tackling in order to improve his overall game.
Matt Stover (B) – Still one of the league’s most reliable kickers, particularly from 45 yards and in. Started the season on a down note with a couple of misses in the first two games, but that was more a by-product of special teams coach Jerry Rosburg making some changes in the team’s kicking process than Stover “losing it”. Won the playoff game at Tennessee with a late field goal to put a stamp on his season. His only negative? His lack of overall leg strength forces the team to waste a game-day roster spot on a “kick-off specialist”.
Sam Koch (A) – The best punter in team history. And he just had the best season of any punter in team history. What more can you say about his ’08 season? The Ravens won games because of Sam Koch. When the punter helps you win games, he’s very valuable.