Can the Ravens finally reach the summit in 2012?

July 13, 2012 | Mark Brown

PERCOLATING DRAMA

Contract holdout drama is not the usual course for Ravens players, but there are two high-profile instances this year. Ray Rice would like a long-term deal rather than the franchise tag, and the ever-enigmatic Ed Reed would like more years on the back of his contract. Reed, in particular, has been mouthing off to anyone who has criticized his efforts to use what leverage he has to get another contract. The last several years have been a will-he-or-won’t-he-retire for Reed and here we are a gain.

It’s an unfortunate cropping up of what they like to dismiss as “the business side” of the NFL. It’s bad economics to give an aging safety another big contract and it’s about as bad to give an exorbitant second contract to a running back, given the typical shelf life of players at that position. Hopefully the Ravens will find a deal with Rice that is fair for both sides. If not, this may be the last season we see him with the Ravens.

THE SIZZLE-LESS DEFENSE

Terrell Suggs wants to get back from a torn Achilles tendon as soon as possible, but even at the most optimistic he will miss time. Whether he will be himself immediately upon returning is also not a sure thing. The Ravens must rely on the Next Man Up. This has worked out well for the team in the past as long as injuries aren’t all across the board.

Aside from Reed, there is always the question about whether this is the year that Father Time catches up to Ray Lewis. His remarkable career has been that all the more because of the way he has continued to reinvent himself as the league changes and his body changes with age as well. Eventually that has to run out.

While the interior behemoths of Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody should stuff up the middle, with Suggs hurt and Johnson gone, pass rushing will be a question mark for the team. Can Paul Kruger step up into that role? The 2nd-rounder, Upshaw, is also a player mentioned here, though it is not something he had developed in college. On the other hand, the Ravens are good at seeing things in players that other teams don’t see. Perhaps Sergio Kindle will finally assert himself.

Fans have been spoiled by solid defensive play from the Ravens for so long. They are not without talented players this season, but there are potential weaknesses.

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