are big enough or fast enough to warrant ownership of the #1 cornerback spot on the team. And neither is Lardarius Webb. True, Domonique Foxworth will be back in 2011, but he’s not a shutdown type either.
Carr and Wilson are both free agents. Would it be nice to have both back? Sure. But if the Ravens lost one or both of them, it wouldn’t be catastrophic…as long as they are replaced with better players.
Bigger. Faster. Better. The Ravens need to use that philosophy on both sides of the ball.
The Ravens definitely have a glaring issue at wide receiver. They have a lot of them. As Glenn Clark likes to correctly point out, they’re all nearly a splitting image of one another. While each has his own little niche, it’s fair to say that Boldin, Mason and Houshmandzadeh are quite similar in either body type or style. And while Donte’ Stallworth has the speed required to go downfield, the Ravens never got comfortable with him in 2010 and he was essentially a waste of $900,000.
What would Drew do?
I said this after last January’s playoff exit that I would have parted company with Mason and gone after a younger, bigger, faster wide receiver and I’m going to write that same script this off-season. With ALL respect given to Derrick Mason – he’s been a GREAT performer in Baltimore – the team has to get younger and faster at his position. Houshmandzadeh is expendable too. He’s what I like to call a complementary player…nothing more, nothing less. The Ravens need to do better at that position if they want to contend in the AFC.
If drafting a wide receiver is the answer, that task is easy to draw up. Think BIG. Thing FAST. Think TOUGH. Get the next Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson or Roddy White. Move up to get that guy if you have to.
More speed and more size at the wide receiver spot is a MUST.
The left tackle spot is surely going to be a point of interest for the Ravens in the off-season. I know the team is privately concerned with Michael Oher’s campaign and I also hear from various sources that Oher was bothered by some legitimate personal problems during 2010 that served as a distraction throughout November and December.
Oher isn’t a bad player. He just might be a better fit at right tackle. And that’s the decision looming for Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta. Go after a high-profile left tackle in the draft? Or via free agency? Try to get Jared Gaither back in the fold and figure out how to keep him injury free? One way or another, the Ravens have to first decide if Oher is their left tackle of the future. If the answer to that is “no” (and for the record, I think the answer is “no”), then they just have to go about the business of bringing in someone to take his spot on the left side and get Oher back over on the right.
There’s also a concern at running back. Although he’s still under contract, the Ravens will once again have to determine whether or not Willis McGahee fits in with the team’s scheme and gameplan and whether or not #23 can handle his reduced role. Le’Ron McClain is the biggest decision facing the team, because he’s a free agent and was rather openly disgruntled at season’s end. McClain fancies himself an every down type of running back. The Ravens do not. Personally, I feel like McClain should have been used more as a running back over the last year or two. I do value his role and his ability to punish a defense with his bruising style of running. But the Ravens say – privately – that McClain’s lack of speed and inability to hit the hole quickly enough makes him a liability in most rushing schemes. I’ll give a nod to their experience on that one. They’re paid to know that kind of stuff.
My guess is that McClain goes elsewhere.
And if that’s the case, the Ravens will need to add a running back and/or fullback to compliment Ray Rice. Some of that will depend on McGahee, of course.
Haloti Ngata and Sam Koch need to be re-signed. That’s easy enough. Neither of those guys are expendable.
If you’re going to beat the Steelers and the Patriots and the Colts when it matters — and let’s all face the reality here, if the Ravens get to a Super Bowl again within the next five years, those three teams will be playoff opponents at some point — you have to construct your team for the inevitable January clash with those titans.
The only way to have a breath of hope against New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh is this: You MUST be able to stop their quarterback from beating you. And in the case of Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger, history shows that you must pressure those guys to have a puncher’s chance.
One need look no further than what Rex Ryan and the Jets did the last two weekends. They shut down Manning and Brady. They didn’t win shootouts 41-38. They beat Manning and Brady with good defense and used a ball-control, multi-dimensional offense to give themselves a chance to rely on their defense and game planning.
The Ravens have one of the game’s premier quarterback chasers in Terrell Suggs. Other than that, they don’t really have a go-get-’em kind of player (or two) to make life miserable for “The Big Three”.
A rush end on the defensive side is a must for the Ravens. Make it two, while you’re at it. Add a weak side linebacker that can get to the quarterback when the opponent double-teams Suggs.
GETTING PLAYERS WHO CAN APPLY PRESSURE ON THE QUARTERBACK HAS TO BE THE RAVENS #1 OFF-SEASON PRIORITY.
The Ravens can win games with the secondary they have now. But ONLY if they improve the pass rush and go about the effort of constructing their team to beat the likes of Indy, Pittsburgh and New England.
Part 3 on Tuesday: My personal review of 2010 and where the Ravens went wrong