The Ravens will travel to
But the Ravens face a fork in the road of their season now and it appears that they could be heading down a dangerous path. Reality bites hard and its jaws could clamp down on John Harbaugh’s squad very soon unless the defense can maintain its brilliant pace.
Rex Ryan’s unit ranks at the top of the league in total defense (192.5 total yards per game), rushing defense ( 64.0), passing defense (128.5) and they are tied for third in scoring defense (14.0 points per game). The Ravens’ defense is also leading the league in opposing completion percentage (44.2), quarterback rating (44.6), yards per attempt (4.9) and passes of 25 yards or more (3).
Yet injuries threaten the depth of the unit and another key injury could crumble Ryan’s house of cards.
Starting with the secondary, the Ravens are dangerously thin – again. Samari Rolle cannot be counted on for much this season. His frame and NFL mileage probably won’t allow it. Rolle’s back up Fabian Washington appears to be a bit of a china doll and is very touch and go. Behind him there’s Derrick Martin and problems with his shoulder make him iffy at best. Chris McAlister is having a very solid season but he has lingering knee issues and like Rolle, he isn’t exactly a spring chicken in NFL years.
Dawan Landry is out with a spinal concussion and Ed Reed is avoiding contact like a vampire avoids light due to his neck and shoulder nerve impingement. Reed is extremely removed from the line of scrimmage and despite his warning track-like positioning in centerfield, film of all three touchdown passes against the Ravens this season will show the perennial Pro Bowler failing to execute.
Corey Ivy and Frank Walker have shown that they can be effective nickel and dime backs but as starting corners in the NFL they are nothing more than inviting targets for opposing quarterbacks. Yes
The Ravens struggled to get pressure on the relatively immobile Kerry Collins on Sunday and it isn’t because Collins has a quick release. His wind up is rather exaggerated. If the Ravens can’t get to Collins, how will they get to Peyton Manning?
The front seven for the Ravens have been spectacular stuffing opposing runners and there’s little reason to believe that that will change in the foreseeable future. Yet the Ravens need to be mindful of wear and tear and it could affect them going forward.
So far in 2008 the Ravens defense has yet to be on the field for more than 57 snaps. That is an astounding number! But when that number does increase as expected, it will call into question the Ravens’ depth on the defensive line which took a huge hit with the loss of Kelly Gregg, now on injured reserve. Justin Bannan has played extremely well but will the added reps for this career reserve diminish his effectiveness as the season wears on? Can the next man up, Lamar Divens meet the challenge?
And what if the defense begins to slip? Can the offense pick up the slack? Clearly that is a daunting task for an offense that features a rookie quarterback, the youngest starting offensive line in the league and one that has no deep threat and no prototypical No. 1 receiver.
Where will the points come from when the defense bleeds a bit?
Can Matt Stover regain his form?
Recently Stover acknowledged that he is adjusting to an accelerated snap-and-hold operation implemented by new special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. The intent is to give Stover a better look at the ball.
But why change anything with Stover? Did Rosburg have to put his thumbprint on special teams that badly that he changed the approach of one of the NFL’s most accurate field goal kickers in league history?
It doesn’t add up.
But the losses might.
Low expectations invite happy endings when your team performs well. However solid performance elevates expectations making it more difficult to maintain that happy face.
The Ravens injuries and depth won’t help either and unless Cam Cameron’s unit can somehow discover how to threaten opponents down field, finish teams and be far more prolific on the scoreboard, the Ravens season will be as shaky as a house of cards in a thunderstorm.