Who are the most important Ravens for the 2010 season? Flacco, Rice, Boldin, Lewis, and Reed all are names that come to mind, but let’s think outside the box. Football is a team game where eleven individuals work together on each play to produce a result. All players are interdependent on each other. Just ask Ray Lewis if he would have been as productive in 2K without Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa.
With that, here are the five most integral Ravens for this upcoming season.
LS Morgan Cox: Most of the special teams press this offseason was given to Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff, but the performance of the undrafted rookie from Tennessee could make or break the Ravens season. The Ravens handed Cox the job after Week 1 of the preseason when Matt Katula was released. Cox has had no problems so far this preseason, but there have been no pressure situations. Cundiff may have ice in his veins come the fourth quarter, but if they get an off-target snap from Cox it won’t really matter. The success of the Ravens special teams this year will hinge largely on the performance of Morgan Cox and one can only hope his inexperience won’t ruin the 2010 season.
DL Cory Redding: A very key but unheralded position in the Ravens 3-4 scheme is the defensive end spot opposite of Haloti Ngata. Like Anthony Weaver and Trevor Pryce before him, Redding will be asked to contribute heavily in the run defense as well as creating a pass rush. Redding has perfect size for the position at 6-4 298 lbs, almost exactly the same size as Trevor Pryce. If Redding does not put up huge sack totals, fear not. He simply needs to occupy blockers and take up space to allow Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg to take care of running backs and free up Terrell Suggs to put hits on the quarterback.
WR Mark Clayton: With the addition of Anquan Boldin to an offense that includes Derrick Mason, Ray Rice, and Todd Heap, Mark Clayton should see a lot of single coverage this season. If Clayton, a former first round pick, can put up solid numbers out of the slot, opponents will have nightmares trying to stop the Ravens’ offense. A recent example to take note of is the Saints’ Robert Meachem. The Saints are a high octane offense, and Meachem caught 45 passes last year and nine touchdowns as their third receiver. If Clayton can be as efficient as Meachem was last year, the Ravens could be hoisting the Lombardi trophy just as Meachem and the Saints did last year.
CB Chris Carr: With the multitude of uncertainties the Ravens have at cornerback, having Chris Carr step up and perform at a high level will be crucial to their success early in the season. Carr stepped in late last season after Lardarius Webb injured his ACL and filled in admirably. To begin 2010, Carr will most likely start opposite of Fabian Washington. This is no dynamic duo and they’ll be tested often, but if Carr can eliminate big plays and not make mental mistakes, the Ravens’ secondary will help the team win games. Even once Webb returns to 100% and Josh Wilson becomes fully acclimated, Carr will be no less important in the pass happy NFL.
OLB Jarret Johnson: For the last three seasons, the Ravens have struggled with generating a pass rush. Much of the media has come down hard on Terrell Suggs for not producing high sack totals even though he has become an extremely well rounded defender in that span of time. While an improved Suggs would boost the rush, impressive sack totals from Johnson would help both Suggs and the questionable secondary. Double J is the most versatile defender the Ravens have and his sack totals have increased each year since 2006. However, he has never totaled more than 6 sacks in one season. Suggs is a great pass rusher but could be even better if Johnson can reach the 9 to 12 sack level. Shawne Merriman and Dwight Freeney are sack artists just like Suggs, but they have Shaun Phillips and Robert Mathis, respectively, attacking quarterbacks from the other side. Yes the Ravens need more sacks from Terrell Suggs, but if both he and Johnson can near double digit sacks totals, both may be spending time in Honolulu come February.