Now that Ravens’ training camp has wrapped up and we’re half way through the preseason, BSR decided to get the inside scoop on the team by an expert and fellow blogger.
We decided to ask Joe Barnes of EbonyBird.com to fill us in on the 2009 Ravens…
Image Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun
With training camp coming to a close, what are your expectations of the 2009 Ravens based on their camp performance?
I see a season similar to last year’s campaign. Joe Flacco looks solid, the defense looks solid, every position is pretty deep, and things are looking good. With that said, it is possible that the loss of Bart Scott dooms the defense, but when has the team not replaced a linebacker well? If you want a record, I’d say that looking at the schedule, anywhere from 9-7 to 12-4 seems possible, and most likely with playoffs.
Who were you impressed with?
I was most impressed with rookie Lardarius Webb. He was always buzzing around the field, whether it was rushing the quarterback, picking off a pass or making a tackle in between the trenches on a running play. At the beginning of camp, I thought that the secondary might not be good enough to survive against some QBs like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, etc. but seeing the depth behind Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth, including Webb, has made me think otherwise.
Who were you disappointed with?
I was disappointed with Mark Clayton more than any other player. He just never was on the field. While I understand that they don’t want to risk an aggravation of the injury, it seems like he could be more involved with the team and have a bigger presence in camp. At least he was running routes the last week of camp, but it seems like he might not be in good enough shape, like McGahee last year, and Joe Flacco needs him to have a very good season this year.
What is the team’s biggest flaw?
For me, the team’s biggest flaw is the lack of speed with their top receivers. Flacco’s got an arm, we have all seen that, and Yamon Figurs, Jayson Foster and Justin Harper all have breakaway speed. The issue is getting them on the field enough to have them make an impact with their speed. Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams and Kelley Washington will probably get most of the time on gameday, and none of them have exceptional speed. Mason is great on cutbacks, Clayton great with mid-distance passes, but none could beat a safety 40 yards deep. It’s not a huge flaw, but it’s important for the offense to figure out how to get the speedsters on the field.
What is their strongest point?
The strong point of the team is the defense, in general. The line is great, led by Haloti Ngata. Rookie Paul Kruger looks good enough to start for a lot of teams at DE, but the Ravens’ line is good enough that he’s just depth. The linebackers should be one of the best groups in the league, yet again. And the secondary, led by Ed Reed and strengthened by the return of Dawan Landry and signing of Domonique Foxworth looks to be great as always. This defense is just too good.
Are you concerned about the injuries of Suggs and Clayton?
With Clayton, I’m growing impatient, but see no reason to be very concerned, nor not caring. He should be playing by Week 1, so I’m not worrying about him too much. Suggs has a strained heel and those are incredibly tough to run with. He’s been doing work on exercise machines, but no game action, and if you’re asking which I’m more concerned about, it would have to be Suggs, by a longshot.
Who do you think will win the kicking competition?
Will we see the Wild Cat offense in 2009?
If you mean “The Suggs Package” then yes, I think (and hope) that we will see it a few times this year, maybe even in tight games where the team needs a spark. Just imagine, the Ravens have 4th and 15 on their own 20 against the Patriots, with 20 seconds left, down by 4, and Mark Clayton runs an option with Troy Smith, gets the pitch and chucks the ball downfield to a wide open Joe Flacco. What a great scenario.
Where do you see the Ravens finishing this season?
Official EbonyBird.com prediction: 10-6, wild card, at least one playoff win. Hopefully four.