Looking at the team now, we really know what we have.
They don't look bad, to be honest.
We really know what we have in a majority of areas. Jimmy Smith's performance against Calvin Johnson is really being overblown. Smith had only begun practicing a week prior and Johnson is a top 3 WR in this league, one of the few WRs that could actually do that to Jimmy.
On the defensive line, it seems like Pernell McPhee is ready to be a starter. What he might lack in run defense, compared to Cory Redding, he will make up for in pass rushing ability. Maake Kemoeatu seems ready to take on the role vacated by Brandon McKinney.
At Linebacker, Paul Kruger seems ready to take over for Jarret Johnson. I suppose you could question whether or not Sergio Kindle is ready to take over the role that Kruger played last year. Courtney Upshaw will probably do fine as a run defender. Even the combination of he and McClellan will not make up for the pass rush that Suggs provided.
Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain have returned for their roles and Ayanbadejo looks good for his coverage role.
In the secondary, they have three starting caliber CBs and two nickel caliber CBs. The only difference is that Jimmy will likely start, while Cary will play the third guy who goes outside in the nickel. The starting safeties look fine as well.
On the offensive line, as much shuffling as they've done, they seem able to run the ball effectively. The only issue that I see is that they are struggling to run the ball out of these lighter formations. So, they'll just have to be effective throwing the ball to set that up. Birk is in to make sure that the blitzes are picked up. Oher looks better at both tackle positions. McKinnie, for all the criticism that we have given him, is in better shape than last year. Osemele looks good for a rookie, wherever they put him and Williams gives them a vet option at G (Something they lacked last year, trying to make LeVoir and Gurode guards when one was a tackle and one was a center), if Williams doesn't start.
Now that he is finally practicing, you can clearly see why the Ravens moved up to draft Benard Pierce. Whereas, they were probably going to have to sacrifice explosiveness if they used Allen as their short yardage back, they can now use Pierce in that role, with plenty of vets left on the market, in case of an emergency.
Rainey looks like he has Sproles 'potential'. He has to make the team at this point.
Joe is slinging darts out there. We've argued about whether or not Joe Flacco is a top ten QB. The way Joe is looking right now, I don't think that will be up for debate much longer.
Torrey, I mean, it's like night and day, from this time last year, when it comes to him. He's even running some of Mason's old routes, to take advantage of the cushion that defenses are giving him. I suspect that Joe is going to favor him, the way he did Mason as well.
Boldin just looks like he's going to have a quiet 80 catch season. He looks so much more comfortable in the slot, like he's back in Arizona. He isn't breaking tackles anymore, but he still looks good.
If Pitta is ready for the opener, they should be fine at TE and Joe will definitely get him the ball.
That would leave the only question mark, as the third WR, which really shows how far this offense has come. LaQuan Williams is a fit for the scheme, but Jones is probably a better fit. However, we know the story with him. We'll just have to ride this one out.
All in all, I don't see why this team can't win the division again. I don't see anything that Cincinnati brings to the table that could take them down. I don't see that defense doing a better job of stopping Rice and I don't see them stopping Torrey. They'll have to pick one, but I don't see them stopping both. That was their problem last year.
Pittsburgh?, it's hard to count them out, but it's just not looking good.
Barring major injuries, the season will probably come down to week 3 versus New England. That will likely decide who has homefield throughout the playoffs. If the Ravens get it, I don't see anybody coming into M&T and beating them. The Texans game shouldn't have even been that close. Ed Reed dropped two picks in that game that would have stopped two scoring drives.
The pass rush will be weaker. There's no way to deny that. They'll have to blitz more, but I think they have the CBs to handle it. The run defense should be the same. You can run on the Ravens with high quality zone blocking, but only if you have the back to hold up. Guys like Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson won't last.
No, Bobbie Williams is not an upgrade over Ben Grubbs, but Grubbs was hurt for a large portion of last season and at least they have a backup plan this time.
The only other issue that I could see is if Gradkowski is not ready later in the season, in the case that Birk goes down.
I could see the Ravens getting another twelve wins and, to be honest, it might take 13 to get the number one seed.
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