June 4, 2009
By Donald Starver
I’m Baaaaack! After taking the month of May off to rest, I am back and ready to get the party started again here on Steelers Today.
May was a quiet month, so I really didn’t miss much. The Steelers went to the White House. James Harrison stayed home. Harrison’s kid got bit by his dog. That’s about it. See, we’re all caught up.
To kick things off here at Steelers Today, we are going to start with a review of what each team in the AFC North has done during the off-season. Rather than give the update myself, I am going to have a blogger from each AFC North team provide the update on what his team has done during the offseason. First up is Joe Barnes from the Baltimore Ravens blog The Ebony Bird. Tomorrow we will feature Adam Kiefaber from the Cincinnati Bengals Blog Bengal Stripes. On Saturday we will have Don Delco from the Cleveland Browns blog No Logo Needed. And finally, I will finish up on Sunday with my review of the Steelers’ off-season.
Take it away, Joe.
AFC North Offseason Review: Baltimore Ravens
2008 Record: 11-5 (AFC North: 4-2)
Key Losses: LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leohnard, K Matt Stover, C Jason Brown, CB Chris McAllister, FB Lorenzo Neal
Key Free Agent Signings: CB Dominique Foxworth, C Matt Birk, TE L.J. Smith, QB John Beck, CB Chris Carr
Key Draft Selections: 1st Round: OT Michael Oher (Ole Miss), 2nd Round: DE Paul Kruger (Utah), 3rd Round: CB Lardarius Webb (Nicholls St.), 6th Round: RB Cedric Peerman (Virginia)
Best Free Agent Signing and Impact: The best signing would have to be that of cornerback Dominique Foxworth. While he may not be as established as Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, Foxworth adds a young, solid talent in the secondary that can mature in the Ravens defense with emerging star Fabian Washington.
Biggest Loss and Impact: Lorenzo Neal’s departure hasn’t been talked about as much as that of Bart Scott or Chris McAllister, but Neal was a huge reason for Joe Flacco’s success last season. Neal was an incredible pass blocker, but was .even better blocking in the run game. The emergence of both Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice was in part due to Neal’s blocking. Moreover, Joe Flacco was put at ease by the success of the running game.
The defense, especially the linebacking corps, always manages to replace their players very well. Bart Scott was once one of these “replacement backers”, but the offense has never been good at replacing its main contributors.
What is your reaction to the Ravens’ draft?: The Ravens managed to pull in a draft that took the best players available in their slots, while still addressing team depth. They managed to get stud lineman Michael Oher at the #24 slot, and got FCS 2-time All-American cornerback/safety Lardarius Webb in the third. Without drafting players that were household names in college, it will take more than just a month or so to judge this draft, but as of now, it looks like a classic Ozzie Newsome success.
Was the Ravens’ biggest need addressed?: This question has varying opinions among Ravens fans. Many feel that cornerback was the most pressing need, especially after losing McAllister. But the team signed Foxworth and Carr, as well as drafting Webb to replace him. That leaves wide receiver, where the team flirted with the option of trading for Anquan Boldin, but never pulled the trigger. The only player they acquired at the position was Kelley Washington, who was added more for depth than for impact. There could still be time for the team to trade for a guy like Chad Johnson or another second-tier receiver.
What storylines will you follow in camp?: There are multiple things to look for going into training camp this July: (1) Who will emerge as the starting kicker? (2) Can Joe Flacco build on his success? (3) How will the team deal with the loss of 6 starters? (4) How will Greg Mattison replace Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator?
Well, there you have it, Steelers fans. That is Joe’s review of the Ravens’ off-season. I noticed he didn’t mention how they plan on addressing the 3 losses they suffered at the hands of the 6-time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ll have to ask him that question next time I talk to him.
Personally, I think the Purple Dragon‘s power will be somewhat diminished this year. The biggest loss, in my opinion, isn’t even on the field. It’s the loss of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Buddy’s son was an important component of that team. Just imagine losing Dick LeBeau. That’s how the loss of Ryan is going to affect the Ravens.
Chris McAllister and Bart Scott are important losses, but the Ravens will get over them. I really like the addition of Michael Oher. I watched him throughout his college career, and I really like him as a player and as a person. Paul Kruger is also a nice pick.
Ray Lewis has to start showing the effects of age soon. But even if he slows down on the field, he is still one of the best leaders in the game (you don’t know how much it hurts for me to openly admit that). His presence will keep the Baltimore “D” near the top of the NFL.
So what do you guys think of Joe’s review of the Ravens? Do you like their draft choices? Think Joe Flacco will be even better this year? Can the Ravens challenge the Steelers for AFC North dominance? I’d love to hear your thoughts. After a month of vacation, I am can’t wait to start talking about the Steelers again.
Also, since we still have quite a bit of time until training camp starts, are there any subjects that you’d like to see me cover? I definitely take requests. If there is something you’d like me to write about, just let me know.
Once again, I’m happy to be back, and I can’t wait to start talking Steeler football with all of you.
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