Quick — name a newcomer in 2013 who has really kicked some major-league ass this season.
You said “Daryl Smith” right away, right?
And then you said nothing…and you’re still thinking about it, right?
That’s because no other newcomer has had a significant impact on the Ravens thus far in 2013.
I’ll rattle a few names off and give you a quick opinion on them.
Michael Huff — hasn’t really contributed anything thus far.
Elvis Dumervil — has helped, but not nearly as much as we all thought he probably would.
Brandon Stokley — nothing gained, yet…hardly plays, in fact.
Dallas Clark — he’s been OK, but certainly hasn’t made anyone forget about Dennis Pitta.
Matt Elam — looks the part, might be really good in a year or two.
Marcus Spears — no impact.
Chris Canty — minimal impact.
Marlon Brown — has made more of an impression than any newcomer except for Elam.
James Ihedigbo — was with the team last season, but didn’t start, so I included him in this list since he’s a regular at the safety position now. He hasn’t been bad in ’13, but he’s not going to the Pro Bowl, either.
Gino Gradkowski — like Ihedigbo, he was with the club in ’12 but didn’t play…now, he’s a starter…and it hasn’t gone well.
You just can’t strip away eleven key players and expect to rebound gracefully eight months later and shoot right to the top of the football world again.
This isn’t to diminish, in any way, the poor play of the offensive line, the lack of a running game, the defensive front seven getting run over and the secondary not being all that great. This doesn’t reduce the importance of coaching or game-planning, either.
But, the coaches are all trying to implement a winning strategy with a roster that features a huge amount of turnover in key areas of the field.
Just play the game I asked you to play above and scratch those twelve players from the Colts playoff game a year ago and tell me if you think the Ravens would have won.
You know they wouldn’t have.
And, despite the newcomers and draft picks showing up in August and, in a lot of cases, struggling to make an impact thus far, the Ravens are still “only” 3-4 and very much a playoff possibility over the last nine games of the season.
Oh, and take into account, please, the fact that Baltimore DID win the Super Bowl a season ago. In other words, despite claims to the contrary, the much-discussed “hangover” might have very well seeped into that Ravens locker room because that’s just what happens once you’ve won the whole thing.
I wrote a piece at the beginning of the season that spelled a lot of this out for everyone. I said, essentially, “Unless some things really go their way, this is a .500 team — or thereabouts.”
You just can’t take away twelve veteran players, all major contributors in their own way, and replace them en masse like the Ravens did — and expect to duplicate your success from the previous season.
Let the rebuilding continue in Cleveland in twelve days.