After winning the AFC North with a 13-3 record, the Ravens attained the #2 seed in the 2006 playoffs and used the bye week to lick its wounds and begin preparation for a game at home that, with a victory, would send them to the AFC Championship. The Ravens offense managed to only put a feeble 6 points on the scoreboard and send their fans home scratching their heads and wondering what happened. The defense held the vaunted Peyton Manning led offense to 5 FGâ€™s and no TDâ€™s â€“ 15 total points allowed in the playoff loss.
Once the dust settled and the game film was reviewed, the Ravens stated a commitment to improving the rushing attack and much of the off season activity was focused on just that. After losing RB Jamal Lewis (Browns), RT Tony Pashos (Jaguars), LG Edwin Mulitalo (Lions), and FB Ovie Mughelli (Falcons), the running game will have a completely different look in 2007 with the addition of RB Willis McGahee and a youthful and perhaps more athletic offensive line including draft day acquisitions G Ben Grubbs and G/T Marshal Yanda.
The Ravens also return a couple of a youthful linemen who are slated to get more playing time in the likes of Chris Chester and Jason Brown. With QB Steve McNair in his second year as a Raven and developing WRâ€™s Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams to be joined possibly by draftee Yamon Figurs, the Ravens are looking to score touchdowns in the 2007 playoffs and simply rely on the foot of the dependable Matt Stover. The key questions for this offense revolve around the productivity of McGahee, i.e. will he be more productive than Lewis was, and can the O-Line be effective gelling given the 2 new starters on the unit.
Defensively, the biggest change in the off season was the departure of LB Adalius Thomas, who signed a lucrative deal with the Patriots. With versatile Jarret Johnson on the roster and the draft day pick up of Antwan Barnes, the team is hoping that it can compensate for the talent loss that accompanied Thomasâ€™ departure. They are also hoping for a healthy Dan Cody. Depth could be a concern and the team will be challenged if Ray Lewis or Bart Scott goes down with an injury. There were no changes made to the secondary and the team appears confident that CB Samari Rolle will rebound from a mediocre 2006 performance. The team does have depth in the backfield with the likes of Evan Oglesby, Ronnie Prude and Gerome Sapp who all played in 2006.
Photo by Sabina Moran