More Questions Than Answers
On the eve of their 2008 opener, the Baltimore Ravens have more questions regarding the makeup of their 2008 roster than answers. This wasn’t how the Ravens planned it or their fans expected it to be. Injuries have decimated 1st stringers on both sides of the line. Against the plans of the staff and the hopes of most of the fans, a rookie quarterback will start on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s a list of what worries me.
Joe Flacco won the job by default – period. Nobody wants to see this kid start the season but the Ravens have no choice. This Sunday, Marvin Lewis will throw every blitz package in the book against him. It will be 8 or 9 in the box to stop the run and double daring Joe to put it up.
The much anticipated competition between Troy Smith and Kyle Boller disappeared in blizzard of health problems. Smith probably won’t be back for a couple of weeks while he works to regain his strength – not to mention the 20 pounds he lost during his illness. Now it looks like Kyle Boller may have played his last game as a Raven. The Ravens placed Boller on injured reserve for the rest of year and his contract expires after the season. I don’t expect him back. After playing waiver wire bingo for a backup, the Ravens signed Todd Bouman. Huh? Who is this guy? I think that leaves Mark Clayton as the emergency QB. Terrific.
Kelly Gregg’s injury is more serious than the Ravens or most of us thought. It’s not certain he will play Sunday against the Bengals. Justin Bannan has a great motor but he’s no Buddy Lee. While Dwan Edwards is the remaining poster child for the worst Ravens draft in team history (2004), he was coming into his own as a quality backup. Now he’s lost for the season. A few bright spots – Terrell Suggs is back in the fold, Trevor Pryce is healthy, and Marques Douglas is a really nice pickup. Being familiar with Rex Ryan’s schemes, Marques should fit seamlessly into the d-line rotation. This unit and the linebackers better perform because they will have to carry the unit critiqued next.
The black hole, the critical “X” factor in the performance of the defense. Both Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are coming back from injuries and extended layoffs. Chris hasn’t taken a snap all preseason. Word is that his knee swells every time he works out. Ed Reed is out indefinitely with a nerve condition. Fabian Washington and Derrick Martin are suspended for the first game. This Sunday, the backfield may have only one starter on the field from last season – Dawan Landry. As in the Vikings game, I expect the Bengals to visit this unit early and often. If the front seven doesn’t get any pressure on Carson Palmer, it will be a long, long day.
The unit in young and athletic, but injuries to Jared Gaither and Adam Terry have set back their progression as a unit. The line has the potential to be very good, but it has to stay healthy to gain cohesiveness and experience. I hope Flacco can sprint out like Troy Smith; with our two tackles he may be running for his life.
Theatre of the Absurd
This chapter explores ESPN’s highly unscientific NFL Fan Base Rating post late last week. 5 self described “
Oh yeah, I did a quick scan of 7 major NFL sport web sites today. The average Power Ranking for the Ravens is 27 and 2 sites rated the Ravens 30th and 31st. Ouch! But don’t they say the truth hurts? Maybe it’s not so absurd.
The Ravens will have to play ball possession to keep the ball out of Carson Palmer’s hands. The offensive line will really have to step it up and Ray Rice will need to have a big day. Due to Flacco’s inexperience, Cam Cameron will dumb down the play book. The Ravens will need pressure on Palmer, ball possession to eat up the clock, and some timely turnovers. With our secondary, I don’t see it happening.
Bengals 27, Ravens 17.