Ravens Will be Better in 2013

Lombardi Gras 728

Tonight is the final dress rehearsal – the preseason curtain call. In one week the Ravens will officially begin their defense of the title as the reigning Super Bowl Champions.

I’m asked often what I expect from this season’s team. And it’s interesting how the question is presented or phrased. It’s almost as if the questioner winces a bit anticipating a not so pleasant answer.

They then look surprised when I respond…

The Ravens will be better in 2013!

Yes I do realize that they are the champs but being a better team doesn’t necessarily mean that the end result will be as good.

The Ravens will be faster, younger and more explosive.

Defensively, they will return to a dominant, attacking unit. Their speed has improved exponentially. The depth in the front seven rotation is the best that it’s been in years. They are healthier.

And they no longer will they be handicapped by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed!

No, that’s not a misprint.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will no longer be hamstrung by an aging middle linebacker who refuses to come off the field in nickel and dime situations. He will no longer have to worry about the integrity of his zone coverage schemes on the back end due to a freelancing free safety.

Of course those players were great – emphasis on the “were”.

Offensively the Ravens will be more challenged not so much by the loss of Anquan Boldin, but rather the loss of Dennis Pitta.

Pitta was expected to assume some of the tough intermediate routes usually assigned to Boldin. The plan was to distribute the load between Pitta and the next in line amongst a rather unimpressive stable of receivers. Now offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will be more challenged and they’ll look to the long-in-the-tooth Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley to pick up the slack.

If Cam Cameron were still at the control switch when the Ravens have the ball, this could be a big issue. Caldwell however, with his ability and willingness to utilize the skill sets of his players in a way that enables their productivity will find a way to spread the field and the ball around.

Don’t be surprised to see Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce on the field at the same time. Caldwell will look to pressure defenses, sending Rice in motion to create mismatches against linebackers while creating space for Pierce to operate out of a single back set. This approach could even help Bobby Rainey make the 53-man squad provided special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg can get comfortable with an adequate replacement for Anthony Allen who possesses plus “teams” skills.

Of course there will be required adjustments and there will be sloppy moments on both sides of the football until the talents mesh together. And when they do, the end result will be a team that is better than the one that took the Lombardi home last season.

The key for any team is to have their ticket punched for the postseason dance. Once they put on those dancing shoes, anything is possible. We’ve seen it. We’ve experienced it.

Take a look around the AFC. Do any teams scare you?

Any pose a major threat to the Ravens?

Denver is led by an aging quarterback who struggles to get it done when the weather takes a turn for the worse and they will be without two players for the first six games of the season that combined for 57% of their sacks in 2012 (Von Miller & Elvis Dumervil).

New England showed signs of weakening last season and they are a team that the Ravens match up well with. Tom Brady will start the season without players that accounted for 75% of his passing targets in 2012.

Houston? Tough to take them seriously in the post season when their quarterback is Matt Schaub who just doesn’t have “it” in the postseason. Yes Houston has a problem.

Cincinnati? The team that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season? Those guys? Not worried.

Indianapolis? Not that “Luck-y” yet…

The point is, the AFC has no dominant team. There is no team that is the benchmark and that sets up perfectly for a Ravens team that will be far better later in the season than they may be to start the campaign.

Let the prognosticators, pundits and the court jesters like Skip Bayless have their fun at the Ravens expense.

Come February it may be John Harbaugh & Company who get the last laugh.

And then next season, the club’s motto will be, “Here We Are…Again!”

What outcome is most likely for the 2013 Baltimore Ravens?
Super Bowl XLVIII Champions (45%)
AFC Champions (21%)
AFC Runner-up (23%)
1 and done in playoffs (8%)
Miss the playoffs for the 1st time under John Harbaugh (3%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.

22 Raves on “Ravens Will be Better in 2013

  1. J.B. on said:

    Tony, once again you have hit the nail on the head! Ed Reed and Ray Lewis were a hinderance and both were selfish players (Lewis more so than Reed).

    We will be better this year! So bring it on!

  2. spy on said:

    Thanks Tony,,,,,,,,,,this article really excited me , sorry Sandy , that’s my wife ……………………Go Ravens………

  3. jws on said:

    TL- Yes a ,Better season record but no Super Bowl in spite of your poll that fans here ,where they live in la la land and not the real “NFL world” of accomplishments. The facts of reality are….. no team since the Patriots (early 2000′s) have ever won 2 Super Bowls in a row. The average to again of winning a Super Bowl is every 8 years. Many never make the playoffs the year after winning it all. You will see as the season wears on how much you are wrong in wanting Lewis gone and Pees in charge totally. He now has the players so his coaching short comings that have shown here for 2 years ( he took a top defense and made it in the 26th worse in the league) and why the Patriots let him go will be covered up by talented players. This team now is just like all the others, so those that are happy Ray Lewis is not the leader and coach on the field will be watching players do it all on their own which so far has shown lack of communication skills on both defense and offense as Flacco as their leader.. We will see how much Ray’s leadership is missed in every game.

    • bogeyroy on said:

      And you have NFL “D” Coordinator experience where ? If you don’t realize that Lewis hurt the Ravens just as much as he helped them, you weren’t watching close enough. I love Ray, but the past 2 years, the vast majority of his tackles were 5-6 yards down field and not at the line of scrimage or for a loss…he just wasn’t quick enough to get there. Nor could he fight thru blocks like he once did.

      Ed Reed is a HOFer, but injuries cost him and the Ravens quite a bit the past couple of years.

      As for Pees, maybe you are right, but Ray was allowed a lot of say in the “D”, and that is fine, except for the fact that he refused to come out on passing downs, even though he couldn’t keep up.

      The reality is that Dean Pees has forgotten more about the defensive side of the ball than you and I ever thought we knew !

    • Mac in Va on said:

      Respectfully jws,
      You’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of a Raven fan who thought we’d win the SB last year. I can respect the fact that no one has won back to backs since the Pats in 2000 and if I may paraphrase Harbs’ pitch when interviewing for the HC job, “Why not us? Why can’t we be that team?” Statistical averages over time do not preclude the Ravens from winning another SB. They can only assess what is likely to happen not what will happen.It’s about time that particular accomplishment fell and it may as well be us that does it.
      In regards to Dean Pees, the Pats defensive ranking has declined each year since Pees left. Coach Hoody or whoever is the DC up there, has not been able to bring that defense up to where it was and if too much is made of Pees absence than surely too much is made of his arrival here and our defensive woes. I think it takes talent and an aggressive DC to lead the league defensively and I think we have both.
      Of course Lewis’ leadership will be missed but that doesn’t mean leadership will vanish. Our guys are seasoned professionals who know what it takes to win; who played alongside “the General” in his best years. We have the best owner, the best FO the best coaching staff and the legacy of a singular talent at MLB who’s on his way to Canton. We’ve got plenty of leadership on both sides of the ball and we’ll be pretty good this year, I think.

  4. JerryB on said:

    Totally agree with your assessment, Tony! The better QB’s throughout the league have a way of making receivers look good. And, despite the loss of Boldin and Pitta, I look for Joe Flacco to spread the ball around. The big question always has to do with injuries and the “O” line in particular, cannot afford to lose a starter as their ranks are vey thin. But, as you note, on balance, this team is better than last years……..

  5. Terpmaniac on said:

    I couldnt agree more. NOBODY, NOBODY on that schedule scares me, NOBODY! There is not a team on that list I dont think we can beat. The two games will be difficult, Pitt at Pitt and Green Bay at home, the rest not worried about(no the Denver game does not concern me at all) I think defensively the Ravens will be back to performing like the dominant defenses of old. Our Offense will be fine, not worried. Looking forward to the Ravens proving the naysayers wrong…AGAIN!

  6. Mista T on said:

    Tony: I sure hope that your assessment is correct; however, I just don’t see how the passing offense overcomes the losses of Boldin (by far our best WR ever) and Pitta (potentially our best TE ever).

  7. paulie on said:

    Pretty good article. My only real disagreement is Dallas Clark. I think he’s a veteran who plays a lot tonight and if he doesn’t do significantly better than last outing, he takes a seat on the sofa next to Vinsanthe Shiancoe. Stokley appears to still have game and I’m hoping that either Juice, Brown or Mellette step up ‘to run with the big dogs’. If there is no intermediate threat, then Smith draws doubles and triples all season long.

  8. Robert Fuse on said:

    I just spent 30 minutes typing a wall of text only for it to say that javascript is turned off when I hit “Post Comment”. I will now mourn the death of my fantastic post with a good cry.

  9. EdgarAllanPro on said:

    Where’s the “Host and win a wildcard, but lose in divisional round”?
    I think that’s most likely – though I wouldn’t be surprised with more.

  10. Quaz on said:

    Spot on TL. It is almost impossible for an SB champ to fly under the radar but the Ravens are as close as they come. People have dismissed and written them off already. I live our chances for the playoffs and more!

  11. Fran Vojik on said:

    Tony,

    I definitely agree with your assessment on defense with one caveat…while we will not miss Ray Lewis’ slow first step, blowing tackles, and being run off the field by receivers like Vernon Davis, we will miss his instinctive, tribal knowledge in making defensive check off calls at the line of scrimmage. No amount of youth and speed can overcome that. That will take time so….. I think our defense, early in the year, will be W.I.P. (work in progress).

    The offense without Dennis Pitta and a dinged Ed Dickson is more problematic. Torrey Smith can’t do it all and, while Brandon Stokely in the slot will pay huge dividends, I’m still waiting for a true #2 receiver to step up. Maybe we will get some clarity tonight but with Caleb Hanie and Dayne Crist behind center I’m not sure what we will learn.

    My prediction: Ravens make the playoffs. After that, let’s see what happens.

  12. Mac in Va on said:

    “Take a look around the AFC. Do any teams scare you?”
    Nope.
    Within our division, the stillers aren’t as bad as they seem but the Bengals aren’t as good as people say. The Browns, though improved, can’t match up. While the competition is fierce there is nothing scary here. We can win a third AFCN title, not easily, but we can win it.
    With regards to the rest of the AFC…come playoff time we can beat whoever the media says is the “best”; in their house or ours. Houston has great talent on both sides of the ball but, as you said, Schaub folds when things get heated. Just like last year, nobody thinks we’re good enough and that’s fine with me.

  13. bruce_almty on said:

    Denver scares me; Green Bay, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets scare me. Unless we bring the ‘A’ game, we could be in trouble. We can beat all our opponents this year, but how many of you are predicting a 16-0 season??? I’m optimistic, but lets keep it real.
    Baltimore Ravens —> Playoff Bound

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