2009 Baltimore Ravens Preview
Prediction: 11-5 (Second AFC North)
Head coach: John Harbaugh (Second year)
QB Joe Flacco: At 24, he’s one of the bright quarterbacks in the NFL.
RB Willis McGahee: Was hurt all of 2008, and returns healthy in 2009. If he can shine in 2009, he may play out his entire contract.
FB Le’Ron McClain: After an All Pro season in 2008, it’ll be difficult for McClain to repeat.
WR Derrick Mason: One of the most consistent receivers in the NFL.
WR Mark Clayton: At 5’10”, he’s small, but can make an impact.
TE Todd Heap: The team drafted OT Michael Oher, so Heap will have more of an impact on the passing game.
LT Jared Gaither: The 22-year old had a good season last year and has All-Pro potential.
LG Ben Grubbs: The 2007 first-round pick has shown durability the last two seasons.
C Matt Birk: At 32, he’s aging. But six Pro Bowls speak for themselves.
RG Marshal Yanda: He’s underappreciated, but makes an impact on the line.
RT Michael Oher: There is a battle between Anderson and Oher, and due to youth and versatilty, the rookie takes it.
QB Troy Smith: Had he not gotten sick, he would have started last season.
RB Ray Rice: One of the best third-down backs in the league, and when McGahee leaves, he’s the running back.
WR Demetrius Williams: Can be a reliable No. 3…when healthy.
WR/KR/PR Yamon Figurs: One of many track athletes in the NFL.
TE L.J. Smith: Leads league in dropped passes, injuries, and missed blocking assignments every year.
OG Chris Chester: The Oklahoma alum is the backup guard and can even be the Ravens future center.
DE Trevor Pryce: Entering the last year of his contract and could end his career a Raven – in 2009.
DT Kelly Gregg: Had a solid 2007, missed all of 2008.
DE Haloti Ngata: Played defensive tackle in 2008 and was snubbed of a Pro Bowl. Shifts back to DE with Gregg returning
LB Tavares Gooden: The Miami alum will replace Bart Scott.
LB Jarret Johnson: A converted defensive tackle was a constant in the backfield in 2008.
LB Ray Lewis: Does anything need to be said?
LB Terrell Suggs: With contract issues, this could be his last year with the Ravens.
CB Domonique Foxworth: The Baltimore native signed a four-year contract with the Ravens the day free agency began and has great playing speed.
FS Ed Reed: Does anything need to be said?
SS Dawan Landry: After solid 2006 and 2007 seasons, Landry missed most of 2008. It’ll be huge to have him back.
CB Fabian Washington: A great cover corner, Fabian needs to work on tackling.
DE Dwan Edwards: The former second-round pick is starting to blossom.
DE Paul Kruger: Has a high motor and great character.
LB Jameel McClain: Known as the “safety machine.” That would be a good thing.
Could even steal Gooden’s spot.
LB Antwan Barnes: Can make impact as a pass-rushing linebacker.
LB Jason Phillips: Was an emotional leader in college and quietly productive.
FS Haruki Nakamura: Provided some great play on special teams and appears to be the guy at free safety when Reed leaves.
SS Tom Zbikowski: Like Nakamura, is a good special teamer, and if Nakamura isn’t ready when Reed leaves, can prove to be a good replacement.
CB Lardarius Webb: The rookie is small, but versatile and can do whatever it takes.
CB/KR Chris Carr: Signed for a bargain, and provides great return presence, as he carried the Titans special teams last year.
2009 Ravens Draft Class
1 (23) – Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi.
2 (57) – Paul Kruger, DE, Utah.
3 (88) – Lardarius Webb, CB, Nicholls State.
5 (137) – Jason Phillips, LB, TCU.
5 (141) – Davon Drew, TE, East Carolina.
6 (185) – Cedric Peerman, RB, Virginia.
The Ravens fell in love with Oher’s great personality, versatility, and work ethic. They may even decide to throw him into the fire immediately. Now, it’s unlikely they will call for a position switch and put Oher at left tackle and Gaither on the right side, but since Oher is so versatile, the team will likely decide to put him at right.
That is, if he earns a job. Kruger is a speedy defensive end who, if Trevor Pryce leaves after the year, may start in 2010.
Webb was a confusing decision because the Ravens have stocked up on cornerbacks the last two offseasons, but Webb can play corner, safety, and can make a significant role in the return game. Phillips may end up being the future emotional leader of the Ravens, as he was at Texas Christian. He’s not very athletic, but is very productive.
Davon Drew was an odd selection with Cornelius Ingram on the board, but Drew is productive, can block a lot better than Ingram, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can utilize his tight end like no other offensive coordinator can. Peerman was even more confusing, with all the running backs the Ravens had, but he was the best player available
The Ravens went into this offseason with a busy road ahead of them. The dominant linebacking trio of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Bart Scott were scheduled to become free agents.
After undergoing a clump of trade rumors, the Ravens and Ray Lewis agreed to terms, as the future Hall of Famer signed a seven year, $44.5M contract. But don’t be fooled. This is really a three year, $22M deal.
Terrell Suggs had a breakout season in 2008, but wasn’t awarded with a long term extension, as he was again slapped with a franchise tag. The odd-man out turned out to be Scott, who signed a six year, $48M free agent contract with the New York Jets, reuniting with former defensive coordinator and current Jet head coach Rex Ryan.
Stay tuned for tomorrow as we take an in depth look at the Ravens offense.