Training camp opens in just a few weeks and the Baltimore Ravens will begin their quest towards Super Bowl XLVII. The 2011 season ended with such pain and agony, that fans are still not over Lee Evans dropped pass or Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal. The pain will die on Monday, September 10, 2012, when the Ravens kick off the season against the Cincinnati Bengals.
As training camp approaches, there seems to be a negative aura surrounding the team. Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles Tendon in April. Ed Reed is whining about his contract and threatening a holdout. Ray Rice does not have a long term contract. Joe Flacco does not have a contract extension. Bryant McKinnie had to exercise during minicamp because he is still out of shape. Ben Grubbs is off the New Orleans. Jarrett Johnson is gone to San Diego. We have our fourth defensive coordinator in five seasons, and Cam Cameron is still here as our offensive coordinator. Has not felt like a great off season has it?
Don’t worry Ravens fans, the doom and gloom is going to stay in the offseason. You see, the Washington Redskins win the offseason, the Ravens, win during the season. Lardarius Webb signed a long term deal to stay with the Ravens. The Ravens kept linebackers Jameel McClain and Brendan Ayanbadejo which helps our defense and special teams. The Ravens added depth on the offensive line by signing veteran guard Bobbie Williams. Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith have had a full off season at the Castle to get bigger, faster and stronger. Paul Krueger has been groomed for the opportunity to contribute and in case he falters Sergio Kindle and rookie Courtney Upshaw are around as well. Matt Birk is back to anchor our offensive line and the line was injected with some youth as Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski were drafted to compete for center, guard and tackle spots. Jah Reid is looking to build on his 2011 season and in reality, things are not bad.
Ed Reed is going to play in 2012. He is not going to sit out and miss a chance to make $7.2 Million. Ray Rice is also going to play in 2012. Once July 16 passes, his agent has virtually no leverage because the Ravens cannot sign him to a long term deal and thus he will be back and playing looking to increase his worth. McKinnie will be in shape in time for camp and if he is not, Oher can play left tackle and either Reid or Osemele will play right tackle. Vonta Leach, the best FB in football is still here.
Most importantly, we have Joe Flacco. The best quarterback in Ravens history and the man who may have the strongest arm in the NFL. Flacco is in year five and proved in January that he can lead this team to victory. For the second year in a row a wide receiver dropped perfectly thrown would be touchdown passes and have robbed Flacco of the opportunity to be considered elite. Flacco will make the throws this year and notch 4,000 yards passing and throw for over 30 TDs as he leads the Ravens offense in 2012.
Ray Rice will return and rack up nearly 2,000 yards of total offense and while the Ravens tight ends and receivers will finally reach their potential. David Pitta is a move the chains TE who runs great routes and will be Flacco’s go to guy and 3rd down. Ed Dickson will shake off his drops from 2012 and dominate just like he dominated the ugly Steelers safety with long curly hair in week one of 2012. Anquan Boldin will benefit from the development of Torrey Smith and the improved TE play and return to being the WR he was in Arizona and catch passes all over the middle of the field. I have faith that Cam Cameron will improve the scheme and the playbook to take advantage of the great weapons the Ravens have.
Defensively, the loss of Suggs hurts, but we will be back. Partial Achilles tears are not a season death sentence. Four to six months is a reasonable estimate for healing and I expect the dean of Ball So Hard U to return just in time to kick Big Ben’s butt. Haloti Ngata is the best defensive lineman in football and is still getting better. He will make players around him better. The loss of Suggs means more people will double and triple team Suggs and that will allow guys like Parnell McPhee, Kindle, Upshaw, Krueger, Cody and others better ball players. On the back end of our defense are Jimmy Smith, LWebb and Carey Williams. Find me a better trio of cornerbacks on another team. Pollard is the nasty, hard hitting safety we need and as I said Ed will be back. The last piece of the equation is number 52. Ray Lewis, the heartbeat of this defense and this team still patrols the house. I will never not have faith in a Ray Lewis led defense. McClain and Ellerbe showed they have what it takes to play good football. Number 52 only makes them and this defense better.
The 2012 season will show how good a coach John Harbaugh is. He has his first real adversity to deal with this year and he is up for the challenge. He knows what is at stake and understands the effect the NFL business has on players. He will massage the egos of Rice, Flacco and Reed and will make sure that the 2012 Ravens are in contention to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore.