Guess Who’s Back in the Purple and Black?

August 14, 2009 | Tom Clayton

The 2009 Orioles baseball season was officially over last night as the Ravens took the field. The Purple and Black are back and they looked like they are going to be ready to roll following a great 2008 season. A 28-0 win in the preseason doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things but it certainly is a good sign of things to come.

Joe Flacco looked spectacular. In the two series he was on the field, Flacco looked poised and seemed to have a better command of the offense going into his second NFL season. Flacco looks like he should have another solid season in 2009 but I honestly believe he will be making the first of many trips to the Pro Bowl in 2010 when the offense should open up even more. I don’t know if he will every reach the lofty statistics of Peyton Manning but Flacco’s demeanor and immersion in everything football reminds me a hell of a lot of the future Hall of Famer.

Cam Cameron seemed to be working a lot on the screen play in the first quarter. The Ravens didn’t seem to have full command of the play but if they can find a consistent screen game Ray Rice could become a Brian Westbrook type player in this offense.

Speaking of Ray Rice, the second year back out of Rutgers looks like he is ready to break out this season. The Ravens are going to use the “three headed monster” that was so successful last year, but I think Ray Rice is going to separate himself from the pack with his ability to be an every down back. Rice is a fluid receiver out of the backfield that could give the Ravens a dimension they haven’t had for as long as I can remember.

First round draft pick Michael Oher looked like he is going to be a monster on the offensive line. He looks like a scary mix of strength and athleticism with a nasty streak I love to see in offensive linemen. After having his head split open in the first quarter Oher absolutely pancaked the defensive lineman in front of him. He also showed great toughness by coming back in to a preseason game after receiving stitches in the locker room.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith doesn’t impress me as much as other pundits in Baltimore. I think he is a middle of the road backup, he has average touch on his passes for an NFL quarterback and he seems like he throws every pass as hard as he can. Smith also seems to hang his receivers out to dry an awful lot and got more than one of his receivers laid out.

The Ravens have a plethora of big, thin receivers. Kelly Washington looked like he could be a solid contributor this season and be a good third option if (but maybe more likely) when Demetrius Williams goes down.

Justin Harper looks like he could be a maddening player to watch. He made some nice plays and has great height at 6’3”. He caught four balls out of the eight that were thrown to him; a 50% reception rate isn’t going to cut it no matter how thin the Ravens are at receiver.

On the defensive side of the ball Tavares Gooden looked really good. He showed great athleticism and looks like he could be the next star in a long line of Raven’s linebackers. Gooden looks quite a bit thinner than the 242 pounds he is listed at, but he showed the strength to fight through blocks and looks to have a body that has a lot of room to grow.

While I am VERY high on Gooden, the Ravens have a ton of talent and depth at linebacker. Antwan Barnes, Dannell Ellerbe, and Jameel McClain all look like NFL caliber linebackers that could all be factors not only on defense but maybe even more importantly on special teams. I think McClain may be the odd man out if the Ravens do not decide to keep all three linebackers.

It was great to see Kelly Gregg back on the field. “Buddy Lee” was the most underrated defensive tackle in the NFL two seasons ago before his injury. I think the trio of “Buddy Lee”, Haloti Ngata, and Justin Bannan could be a scary interior line for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with this season.

While he isn’t as highly regarded as other Ravens defensive lineman Brandon McKinney is the most massive human being I have ever seen. He looks like the second coming of Gilbert Brown and much bigger than the 360 pounds the Ravens have him listed as.

Second round pick Paul Kruger is a player that really excites me. He goes at 100% on every play and is the kind of effort guy that gives offenses fits. If Kruger adds another 15 to 20 pounds to his frame I could see him being a very good defensive end that could pair with “T-Sizzle” to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

On the Washington sideline Colt Brennan is hot garbage and any Redskin fan who think he should start over Jason Campbell is out of their mind.

Well I guess the biggest thing to come out of tonight’s game wasn’t the final score but the fact that the players got to hit someone other than their teammates and nobody got hurt. I apologize to all the Oriole fans in Baltimore but football season has officially begun and it is going to be tough to continue to pay attention to a team battling to avoid 100 loses.

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