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Ravens Mid-Season Report Card

The Baltimore Ravens at the halfway point currently sit in second place at 5-3, one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. For most fans. Media and general prognosticators this is a bit surprising, considering the team opened the season with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback there was much uncertainty surrounding the 2008 campaign. So how have the Ravens done so far?

QUARTERBACK:
Training camp began with a three-way competition for the spot behind center. Then a season ending injury to former first round pick, Kyle Boller and a viral infection to Troy Smith opened the way for Joe Flacco to take the helm. Flacco had his share of rookie mistakes hitting rock bottom against the Colts in week six. Since then Flacco has led to the team to three straight wins, throwing 4 touchdowns with no turnovers. He’s showing off a strong arm and quiet leadership. If he can continue his current development people may start talking about Festivus in Crab town once again. Troy Smith is finally healthy and has been used in gimmick packages so far. He could be a capable option if injury strikes. B-

RUNNING BACK: Willis McGahee has been injury plagued from training camp into week ten. Out of his seven games appearances he’s only finished two. Even still he leads the team in rushing (351 yards – 3 Tds) but hasn’t shown the three-down back capability the staff would have liked. Leron McClain has been a brusing compliment and goal line vulture this season. Previously a blocking back, he’s been effective as a straight-ahead runner, (leads team with 5 Tds) although he’s been a bit too shifty as of late. Rookie Ray Rice is coming off his best game as a pro and displayed an ability to make tacklers miss and toughness after the catch. Lorenzo Neal was a nice pickup, as he can still blow up blockers. A


RECEIVERS: Old vet Derrick Mason is still proving to be one of the league’s best (43 rec. 557 yds. 2 Tds) He is still a solid route runner and has sure hands. Mark Clayton has been a disappointment. He has continually slipped since a decent freshman year in 2006. A good game against Cleveland last week is cause for optimism but he must step up and be the long threat the team needs. Demetrius Williams is hurt AGAIN. Todd Heap has been relegated to protection blocking, of which he is adequate, at best. He may no longer be the player he once was due to injuries but it doesn’t look as if his role will be expanded. Could he be let go at season’s end? That’s a lot of money to pay a blocking tight end. Daniel Wilcox (see Williams above) has caught 4 passes this season. C

OFFENSIVE LINE: With old hands, Mike Flynn and Jonathan Ogden leaving there was a lot to worry about here. This group has exceeded expectations. Jason Brown anchors the group and Jason Grubbs and Marshall Yanda have provided toughness on the interior. Yanda is now on IR and Chris Chester has filled in admirably. Jared Gaither has slowly gotten better at the Tackle position and has athleticism to spare. If this group has another year or two together they could be quite formidable. B

DEFENSIVE LINE:
Haloti Ngata is having a Pro Bowl season, He controls the line and draws double teams all game. Justin Bannan has stepped in and played exceedingly well for Kelly Gregg. Trevor Pryce has caught fire the last three weeks and looks like he did in 2006. Terrell Suggs is playing inspired football and wreaking havoc as well as scoring touchdowns. It will be important for the front four to continue to generate pressure on their own as the season progresses. A

LINEBACKERS: Ray Lewis is the spiritual leader of the group. He still can make clutch plays after all these years and inspire those around him. Jarret Johnson and Bart Scott Have also put together excellent seasons in support. When they are in sync with the line, there is no better team stopping the run. A

SECONDARY: A banged up group to say the least. Injuries to Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle have made this team seem more vulnerable in this position. Frank Walker and Fabian Washington have been decent as backups. Jim Leonhard has been a surprise stepping in for Dawan Landry. Even with the injuries the draftees and free agent signees have helped lessen the bleeding. C+

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Matt Stover is automatic inside 40 yards. Outside of that comfort zone is a different story. His kickoffs have been erratic. He can still boot one into the end zone but usually kicks to about the opposition’s ten. Sam Koch has been superlative. He’s had several booming attempts and has improved his coffin corner kicks. The return and coverage teams have been awful this season. Normally the Ravens have relied on and gotten good performance from these units. Yamon Figurs has been indecisive as a return man. Jim Leonhard, and Ray Rice have been steady but each has been thrown into starting roles as of late. Coverage teams have been guilty of over pursuit and recently allowed a touchdown to Joshua Cribbs. They need improvement in a big way here. D+

COACHING: John Harbaugh has shown emotion and an ability to lead. There are also other times when he appears almost over his head and even comes off a bit corny. If you didn’t know it you’d think he was the head of a college program. His handling of the McAlister situation was puzzling as was his game dedication to Art Modell (Are we still talking about that?) But, winning keeps everyone happy, at least for now. Cam Cameron has proven to be an excellent game planner and has tossed sprinkles on the Ravens old vanilla schemes. He is unpredictable and has allowed players to be in areas to succeed. Rex Ryan has gotten better at not blitzing too much and not getting too cute with the defense. Sometimes you just let talent do what it does best. Overall the staff gives off the confidence that they are ready for everything. B+

OUTLOOK:
There is still much work to do to before we start talking about the P word, just yet. But with the AFC a total mess and the Ravens only a game behind the Steelers anything is possible. They will need to continue to win games they should such as Houston and Cincinnati and be able to compete against some very good teams in November. The schedule has some strong tests, the Giants, Pittsburgh, Washington and Philly for example. A good sign is 3 of the last 4 games in December are at home, where the team often plays it’s best football.


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One Response to “Ravens Mid-Season Report Card”

  1. Donta says:

    You are kinda hard on Harbaugh he Is a rookie coach and he Is still learning he has done a good job.

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