Street Talk - The latest street talk and Baltimore Ravens related News from the Russell Street Report Team.
Lombardi’s Way - A column from the 24×7 founder that focuses on the Ravens, the NFL, Baltimore, the world of sports or life’s inspirations.
Word on The Street - In the spirit of the CBS Sports Minute with Boomer Esiason, RSR brings you Word on The Street, a 90 second (or less) podcast on topics exclusively relating to the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens Links - We’ll give you the best stories about the Ravens from around the web three times per week.
The Fanimal - If you are an animal about the Baltimore Ravens, then you are a Fanimal! Follow the Russell Street Report blog Fanimal Crackers!
The Edgar Awards - The Edgar Awards will range from the Maryland county that is home to the best Ravens fans to the best Ravens podcast; from the best collection of displaced fans to the best local craft brews that should be part of your next tailgating party.
The Road to RSR - Our writers explains their journeys as fans and how they came to write for our little corner of sports media.
Ravens Offense Total (17) Rushing (25) Passing (11)
Steve McNair carries heightened expectations into his second season under center in Baltimore. While he’s an accurate passer and a strong leader, his age and arm strength are growing concerns.
The Ravens are banking that their $40 million investment in running back Willis McGahee was a wise one, and that he can breathe life into a dormant running game despite a lackluster preseason.
This shapes up as the Ravens’ most talented receiving corps since the days of Michael Jackson, Derrick Alexander and Eric Green, featuring Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, emerging young receivers Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams and well-preserved veteran Derrick Mason, a former Pro Bowl selection moving into the slot this year.
By installing tackle Adam Terry and guard Chris Chester on the right side, this is a more athletic, younger line even with first-round guard Ben Grubbs in reserve. Center Mike Flynn remains entrenched in the middle, and left guard Jason Brown possesses blocking and leadership ability. All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden has been dogged by a lingering turf toe injury. This could be the final season of a Hall of Fame career.
Total (1) Rushing (2) Passing (6)
With underrated, gritty nose guard Kelly Gregg and defensive end Trevor Pryce coming off Pro Bowl worthy seasons, the veteran component of one of the best three-man lines is in heavy supply. Massive second-year defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been a revelation, though, collapsing pockets with his 6-foot-4, 340-pound girth.
This is one of, if not the, top linebacking corps in the league, including perennial All-Pro Ray Lewis in the middle, intense Pro Bowl injury replacement Bart Scott and two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs. Team officials are confident that undecorated and unheralded Jarret Johnson will be an above-average replacement for departed All-Pro Adalius Thomas.
The NFL’s top-ranked defense led the league with 28 interceptions and five returned for scores last season as safeties Ed Reed and Dawan Landry and cornerback Chris McAlister had banner seasons. However, veteran cornerback Samari Rolle got picked on regularly and has vowed to regain his confidence and form after a rough, injury-plagued campaign.
Matt Stover is an 18-year veteran and the second most accurate kicker in NFL history (83.8 percent), connecting on 28 of 30 tries last season. Punter Sam Koch has a strong leg, averaging 43 yards as a rookie. Incumbent return specialist B.J. Sams and rookie speedster Yamon Figurs are expected to divide punt and kickoff return duties. Special-teams ace Gary Stills should have made the Pro Bowl last year when he set a franchise record with 44 special-teams tackles.
Total (8) Rushing (26) Passing (6)
Carson Palmer is one of the top passers in the NFL, in rarified Peyton Manning, Tom Brady territory. He also tends to have the Ravens’ number ever since an epic comeback victory he engineered in 2004 in Baltimore that sparked his genesis as a quarterback.
Rudi Johnson rarely gets his due credit, but he really should. Hard-nosed and rugged, Johnson has rushed for 1,309, 1,458 and 1,454 yards over the past three seasons, including exactly a dozen rushing touchdowns per season. He doesn’t usually fare well against Baltimore, though, combining for just 124 yards in two games last year.
The Ravens always have to be wary against Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a potent tandem that has haunted them for years. Lately, Johnson has been contained with help over the top from Ed Reed, but Houshmandzadeh is coming off a 10-catch, 106-yard, one-touchdown outing at Pro Bowl corner Chris McAlister’s expense. Chris Henry will be missed.
Offensive tackle Willie Anderson is dealing with a foot injury that sidelined him during the preseason, and Marvin Lewis has been mum on whether Levi Jones or Andrew Whitworth is starting at left tackle against Terrell Suggs. It will probably be Whitworth. Meanwhile, Cincinnati will miss Pro Bowl alternate guard Eric Steinbach, who signed with state and division rival Cleveland.
Total (15) Rushing (8) Passing (16)
Robert Geathers is the most explosive athlete among this undistinguished group, but end Justin Smith is the hardest worker. He plays with a non-stop motor. Defensive tackle Domata Peko is a player on the rise.
This is an athletic, albeit unaccomplished group. Middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks has vast potential, but needs seasoning. Redskins castoff LeMar Marshall is starting outside opposite Landon Johnson. Neither player is over 230 pounds. With Odell Thurman’s season-long suspension and David Pollack breaking his neck last year, Brian Simmons hasn’t been adequately replaced.
They’re beginning to turn the corner here, literally, with first-round picks Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph representing new blood outside. Former Maryland star Madieu Williams is the ace, though, as a hitter who swarms to the football.
Shayne Graham is an elite kicker, but he’s nursing a hip injury. Punter Kyle Larson is extremely solid. The return game sorely misses Antonio Chatman. Can Tab Perry and Skyler Green get the job done?