And so it ends, the Ravens 2015 offseason.
The scouting combines, pro player days, free agency, draft eligible player visits, the NFL Draft, OTA’s, training camp and the preseason – all of it in the rearview mirror, all of it part of the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
The “Boys of Winter” have finally arrived.
Each new season holds promise and hope. Today both will be on full display as all teams except the Pittsburgh Steelers are undefeated.
The game will be at its fastest today and it may shock the league’s rookies. Bodies are healthier than they will be tomorrow and certainly the next week and the next. Playing surfaces are pristine and weather will be ideal. Today is built for speed.
Today is also built for false hope and its alter ego, over-amplified pessimism. So much stock will be placed in today’s games. The winners will not be as good as they appear while the losers should not be so unnecessarily forlorn.
It is but one game.
That said, the Ravens do need to develop some rhythm, a pace that generates momentum. They are coming off their most lackluster preseason since John Harbaugh arrived in 2008 and five of their first seven are on the road – four of which are at or to the west of the Mountain Time Zone.
A surprise win today would set the Ravens up with the possibility of a 5-2 start – the same start they had the last time they were forced on to the road for five of seven to start a campaign (2000). A loss however isn’t devastating.
Next week the Ravens will stay and play in the Bay Area against Jack Del Rio’s Raiders. A return home for the M&T opener on September 27 with a 1-1 record is key. Success at home (v. Bengals) will send them to Heinz Field with a 2-1 record (which by then is the best the Steelers can hope for). If the Ravens hold serve at home on October 11 (v. Browns) and split the road games in San Francisco and Arizona, even a loss at Heinz would then put them at 4-3 with six of the next nine games at home.
Manage the season!
A loss today isn’t catastrophic even if fans and/or the media paint pictures of gloom and doom following a bad outing. That said, it’s important to see progress in these areas:
• The play of starting corners Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb
• The pass rush without blitzing
• How the offense compensates for a limited vertical presence
• Consistency from Eugene Monroe
• Production in the running game
• Reliability in lieu of explosiveness in the return game
We’ve waited a long time since tasting the bitterness of defeat at Gillette Stadium back in January. Today we’d like to cleanse our palates.
But if we have to wait a week for some football sorbet, let’s not get overly concerned.
Just remember in Week 4 of 2014 the media started chronicling the demise of Brady/Belichick. We don’t need to be reminded of how that season ended.
Today is just the beginning.
The twists and turns of the 2015 story for the Ravens will be many.
Keep volatile swings of emotion in check.
Enjoy the ride.