The NFL season has just begun with the start of training camp with teams gearing up for pre-season and regular season play. Each training camp presents challenges that will breathe fire into the eventual next world champion, starting a new journey for a team in rebuilding mode, and rekindle the hunger to win again. For the Baltimore Ravens, unfinished business was left on the field.
The Ravens are coming off of a great season in 2011 with a 12-4 record, division crown, and a hard-fought AFC championship game with one catch away from a chance to play in the Super Bowl. For fair-weather fans, that’s great, but for a Ball-So-Hard nation, it wasn’t enough. Fans were expecting more from the Ravens and a season short of a world championship is a bust.
Who will step up in 2012? This is the year for new blood to emerge and to be a part of a special run for the Lombardi trophy. The “next in line” players will take on a more pivotal role this year because of the departures of key players, and will be an indicator as to whether or not they belong in a Ravens jersey. Training camp is here and those questions will be answered.
Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons going into the 2012 season:
The Ravens have holes to fill and it will not be done in one setting.
The coaching staff will see what they have right now and will put the best team on the field.
The Ravens have added some key additions to bolster the roster at key positions.
Key positions include:
1. WR Jacoby Jones
2. LB Courtney Upshaw (draft pick)
3. OG Kelechi Osemele (draft pick)
4. OG Bobbie Williams
5. S Sean Considine
Jacoby Jones gives the Ravens a third option at wideout and help on special teams. He is not going to be expected to carry the load but can be that possession receiver to keep the chains moving. 16.5 yards per carry is not bad for a third option.
Offensive line is a concern going into training camp. To lessen the concern, Bobbie Williams was signed to give the offensive line some depth and veteran experience. Williams knows the Ravens very well – playing them twice a year while he was on the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. That familiarity could help in his transition to the team.
With their first pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. Upshaw will be asked to step into a key role to help fill the void of Terrell Suggs. He has a high motor and star talent and could be a factor early. And it doesn’t hurt that he will be nurtured under the leadership of Ray Lewis.
Along with key additions are also key departures of proven talent that were vital to the championship run last year.
The departures include:
1. Offensive guard Ben Grubbs, who was picked up and signed by the Saints.
2. Linebacker Jarrett Johnson who signed with the Chargers.
3. Running back Ricky Williams who retired this year.
The offensive line concerns took a turn this year when the Ravens lost their Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs to the Saints. Ben Grubbs gave the Ravens a consistent talent on the field and helped Ray Rice have a breakout season. Securing Ben Grubbs long term was the best move, but the Ravens had to go in another direction.
Jarrett Johnson also left in free agency to sign with the Chargers. His leadership and continuity is one of the reasons why the Ravens defense is in the top ten every year. They will miss what he brings to the game every Sunday.