FanHouse NFL Season Preview: Baltimore Ravens - How Long Until We See Flacco?
Quarterback: The position has been an issue in Baltimore since, well, the club moved from Cleveland. Brian Billick turned out not to be such a smart guy, after all, which explains Tony Banks, Elvis Grbac, Chris Redman, and Kyle Boller. Second-year player Troy Smith showed promise during a brief stints last season, but Joe Flacco is the team's newest franchise quarterback. Now it's just a matter of getting him up to speed on running the offense. Heat Index: 4
Running backs: Letting Jamal Lewis walk after the 2006 season was a no-brainer, even if he had a resurgence of sorts with the Browns. Willis McGahee is more than capable when healthy, and rookie second-rounder Ray Rice should see plenty of action. Heat Index: 7
Receivers: In recent seasons, it's been hard to tell whether the quarterbacks made the receivers look worse than they actually were, or vice versa. In 2005, Derrick Mason came to the Ravens from Tennessee and immediately made the unit better. Mark Clayton has been a reliable No. 2, although he has the potential to be a legit big-play receiver. Demetrius Williams is primed for a break-out season, and assuming Todd Heap is healthy, he should again be a top-10 NFL tight end. Heat Index: 6
Offensive line: Well, if the unit continue to suffer injuries at the current rate, the Ravens might be the first team to have an offensive line comprised solely of undrafted rookie free agents. Jonathan Ogden is gone and the rest of the o-line is relatively young. They could eventually be very good, just not this season. Heat Index: 3
Defensive line: Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg are among the best in the AFC at clogging up the middle, and Trevor Price, while up there in years, is still effective when healthy. Heat Index: 7
Linebackers: Ray Lewis has apparently made a deal with the devil because he continues to play at a high level, even though he'll be 47 in October. There's also Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs, which makes this group a formidable one. Heat Index: 8
Secondary: Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are getting up there in years, but Charles Woodson and Al Harris have both had success well past the age of 30. Ed Reed is battling a shoulder injury, but when healthy he's a top-3 safety, and the other safety, Dawan Landry, might be one of the most underrated players on the field. Heat Index: 7
Special teams: Since Matt Stover has been the team's primary scoring threat since its existence, I'd say he's a pretty important part of the teams' plans. Punter Sam Koch had a solid '07, but the Ravens' coverage teams were iffy. Second-year player Also, Yamon Figurs looks for more consistency (and fewer fumbles) this season Heat Index: 6
Coaching: Billick is gone and Jim Harbaugh replaces him. Harbaugh doesn't have much of a track record, but the early impressions are good. Cam Cameron was hired as the offensive coordinator, which should only help Flacco's progress. Heat Index: 6
Intangibles: This team has plenty of veterans and potentially more experience than just about every other team in the league. To rebound from a disappointing '07 effort, they will need to avoid injuries and the in-house bickering that ultimately cost Billick his job. Heat Index: 6
Total Heat Index: 60
Seems sorta high for a group that reeled off a whopping five wins a year ago, but this is the same outfit that went 13-3 in 2006. Bad luck and awful coaching conspired against them a season ago. Whether a new coach will get the Ravens back to relevance is another issue, but this team is certainly better than the one that finished 5-11 in '07.