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Ravens Final Grades

The 2008 season is in the books. By all accounts the season was a resounding success as the team was one step away from a second Super Bowl appearance and coming off a 5-11 mark a year ago everyone has to be pleased. So how did I grade out the team?

QUARTERBACK: The search appears over finally. Great names such as Tony Banks, Stoney Case, Chris Redman, Jeff Blake , Kyle Boller have all tried but it looks as if Joe Flacco is the man for the job. Showed nice composure and a strong arm. At least next year it will Flacco to go back to his real name as opposed to Rookie Joe Flacco. There is always room for improvement, as in finding checkdowns and taking more charge of the huddle. Troy Smith appears capable as a backup. I would have liked to have seen him more in some of the blowouts this year. It’s unusual to see a QB get through all the games upright. I do wonder how this season would have been different if Smith hadn’t gotten sick, since it was his job to lose.

RUNNING BACK: The three-headed monster was loose in Baltimore. Le’Ron McClain was a pleasant surprise leading the team in touchdowns (10) and rushing yards (902). Willis McGahee had his struggles but finished strong. He will probably stick around for next year since the cap hit would sting quite a bit on his release. Ray Rice showed flashes but an injury against the Skins kept him on the shelf for weeks. He should have a larger role next season.

OFFENSIVE LINE: What was supposed to be the weakest link, turned out to be a strength. Jason Brown patrolled the center and has All-Pro potential. Jared Gaither displayed athleticism. Marshall a provided toughness. Chris Chester reminded people why he was a second rounder (getting demoted to TE will wake you up) and Willie Anderson gave a veteran presence. Solid line blocking and goo protection. Resigning Brown is a MUST. This young line could be really tough with more seasoning.

RECEIVERS: Derrick Mason is a pro that continues to stay under the national radar. Another 1,000 season for the tough vet. Mark Clayton rebounded closer to his rookie season. Todd Heap was a mystery. He was relegated to blocking duties for half the season to protect the young QB. It still took him weeks to get on track and at times looked tenative. In his defense he always seem to take the most brutal hits after the catch. His best days may be behind him. Demetrius Williams got hurt AGAIN. He has potential as a deep threat but can’t stay on the field. Marcus Smith had ZERO catches this season.

: I wonder how good they will be once Kelly Gregg returns from IR? Justin Bannan filled in very nicely. Ngata stepped up another level this year. Trevor Pryce was active and held the most times around the ball I’ve ever seen. Marques Douglas was a solid addition. Terrell Suggs needs to be resigned. Any fools who brought up this made up rumor that the team would sign and trade Suggs for Anquan Boldin better think again. He has 4 post-season sacks and played the AFC title game with one arm.

LINEBACKERS: Another superior group. Ray Lewis looked like the player of old, punishing foes and inspiring teammates. Bart Scott was second in tackles and kept his mouth at a minimum. Jarret Johnson had 4 sacks and was a nice compliment on the weak side. There are a host of players that could only get special teams work because the group was so tough. Edgar Jones, Jameel McClain and Tavares Gooden should get their chance one day too.

SECONDARY: It’s time to wave the lone wolf, Chris McAlister good bye. Funny how people stopped mentioning his name once Fabian Washington got comfortable. He’s a great cover guy buy not the best tackler. Samari Rolle played well when he wasn’t injured, which unfortunately wasn’t that often. Corey Ivy was tough in the nickel. Ed Reed picked up steam and played like the best defender in the NFL for about 4 weeks. Hitter supreme Dawan Landry went out and Jim Leohnard stepped in. A player with great skills and ran back punts as well. Depth from the draft was evident too.

: Stover had his bumps and then still hit some clutch Field Goals. Sam Koch may have been the best coffin corner punter in the AFC. The return and cover games got better but still were inconsistent. Yamon Figurs was rightfully replaced and looked way too unsure of himself and at times scared. Leonhard provided the best runbacks of any of those who were put back there.

COACHING: Ok, the millionare was right to fire Billick and hire the young, energetic Harbaugh. He won over the surly vets (winning helps) and appears to have won over most of the team with his group first message. Cameron and Ryan game planned with the best of them and you truly had the confidence that these guys would put the talent in a position to succeed.

A very exciting season. The team looked more disciplined and were better coached in all aspects of the game. The future looks bright. Of course there will be changes and I’ll take a look at them in the coming weeks to see how this team will look in 2009.

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