1. The Ravens no longer have an identity now that Ed Reed signed with Houston, Ray Lewis retired, Bernard Pollard was cut and Anquan Boldin was traded.
Really? REALLY? Does anyone actually believe this?
I guess Suggs, Ngata, Rice, Oher, Joe, Torrey, Webb, Dumervil, Daryl Smith, Corey Graham, Art Jones, and several other players just sit back and don’t offer any leadership quality at all?
Furthermore, folks are acting like losing Ed Reed and Ray Lewis is going to negatively impact the defense. I’m sure there will be a major drop in overall defensive knowledge, but all of the media pundits and gullible fans thinking that this defense isn’t going to perform without Reed and Ray need to take a breather. There are plenty of quality locker room personalities on this current team and the overall speed of the defense has increased tremendously.
Even though the Ravens won the Super Bowl, last year’s defense was one of the worst units the city of Baltimore has seen in a long time and almost lost a lot of games for the Ravens. The reality is that as fans we will probably never see consistently top tiered defensive units in Baltimore again because it is not easy replacing two Hall of Fame players.
I assure you Baltimore Faithful, this team will have an identity and this team will have quality leadership on and off the field.
2. Gino Gradkowski is too small.
I’m not really sure where this all got started. The guy weighed in at his combine at 6’3” 300lbs. First, even at that size, he is not small. Some of the best centers in the league (Jason Kelce, Chris Myers, and Scott Wells) are under 300lbs. Does anyone remember Terrence Cody (6’4” 350lbs) getting man-handled by Chris Myers of the Houston Texans (6’4” 290lbs)? I sure do.
Myers is a technician at center and even though he isn’t a 300+lb lineman, he does an excellent job because he knows how to play the position. By all accounts, Gino is a smart guy with a nasty streak. He handled himself really well last year against the Bengals and it wasn’t like he was playing against the Bengals’ 2nd and 3rd stringers. He was lining up across from Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, two of the better defensive tackles in the AFC. This is also assuming that after an entire season (and off-season) with NFL strength coaches, an NFL nutritionist, and an NFL weight room he is still lingering around his combine weight of 300lbs.
Folks, Gino is going to be fine. He may have some growing pains as the starting center, but keep in mind he will be on a very experienced offensive line right between two Pro-Bowl caliber guards.
3. Courtney Upshaw is a bust because he showed up overweight.
This one makes me chuckle. Yes, the guy needs to hire a nutrition specialist, but keep in mind this is a 23 year old kid. Yes, he is a kid.
When you’re used to eating a certain way for so long, it is difficult to all of a sudden change gears and take your diet seriously. Suggs only recently started taking his diet seriously and he has been in the league for a decade. I think Ravens fans need to consider why Upshaw was drafted and it wasn’t to be a 12+ sack per year outside linebacker. Upshaw was drafted because he is a heck of a run defender and sets the edge very well. In fact, I believe statistic sites like PFF had him ranked as one of the top run defenders in the league last year.
Additionally, there is a reason why Upshaw played almost the entire Super Bowl while Paul Kruger (the team’s best pass rusher last year) sat on the sideline: Upshaw could stop Frank Gore and keep Colin Kaepernick contained. Upshaw has never been an explosive player. He’s got short arms and he is built like a tank. He allegedly played in the high 260’s last year (weight wise) and supposedly right now he is in the 280’s. Clearly he has to drop some pounds, which won’t be hard for a 23 year old, but even if he did drop into the 250’s, he still likely wouldn’t become an elite pass rusher. That’s just not his game.
Upshaw was drafted to replace Jarrett Johnson, plain and simple. Look for guys like Dumervil and even John Simon to pick up the slack for losing Paul Kruger’s sack total. My bet is that Suggs and Dumervil can be one of the most effective pass-rushing duos in the NFL.
However, that doesn’t mean that Upshaw won’t see the field and won’t be an effective component of this defense.