With the training camp and preseason games well underway, CHARGED.fm is getting ready for the NFL season. As part of that, we reached out to writers/bloggers for all 32 teams to get their takes on the upcoming season. Here is Bruce Raffel of Baltimore Beatdown to shed some light on the Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore just missed out on a Super Bowl trip last season. A missed Billy Cundiff field goal at the end of the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game propelled New England to the Super Bowl. The Ravens got amazing years from Terrell Suggs (Defensive Player of the Year) and Ray Rice (2,000+ rushing/receiving yards) as well as big contributions all around the roster.
This year, the Ravens bring back many of the same pieces, but they will need a big season out of quarterback Joe Flacco to really get to that next level. To get an idea of what to expect from the Ravens, I spoke with Bruce Raffel of the blog Baltimore Beatdown. Here's what he had to say about the team.
1. The Ravens already suffered a big loss when Terrell Suggs tore his ACL in the offseason. He had the best year of his career last year with 14 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 53 tackles. How do they overcome his injury?
Overcome is the correct word, as replacing the NFL Defensive Player of the Year is just not possible. However, the Ravens defense has never been predicated on just one person as the team continued to dominate when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed missed significant time over the past two seasons. A lot of stunts, blitzes and disguised coverages will carry the team and there will be at least one player emerging as a future star until Suggs returns, which could be as early as November if his rehab from the Achilles Tendon surgery goes well.
2. Joe Flacco regressed last year and had the worst completion percentage of his career with just 57.6 percent. What did he do in the offseason to improve his accuracy and bounce back?
While Flacco's 2011 season was not his best by far, his percentage was a lot better over the last half of the season and he did outplay Tom Brady in the AFC ChampionshipGame loss, when he threw for over 300 yards. This is his fifth NFL season and he now seems to have a greater say and more control of the offense and all signs point to a breakout season in 2012.
3. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are both back. Reed will be 34 years old right after the season starts and Lewis is now 37. How long can both of these guys keep playing at such a high level?
Who knows, but both continue to be among the best in the game at their respective positions and do not expect 2012 to be any different. Both reported to camp healthy and in great shape and together will keep this defense at or near the top of the league in team defense once again.
4. Ray Rice easily had his best year as a Raven last year. Can he be better, and does he have to be for Baltimore to take that next step in the AFC?
If Ray Rice has anywhere near the season he had last year, the ravens will be thrilled. Expect the passing game to step it up a notch and Rice's 70+ receptions will be hard to match. However, he is in the prime of his career and there is no reason not to expect another great all-purpose season from arguably the best back in the league.
5. Who is one player to watch this season that is going to surprise people for the Ravens?
Defensive lineman Pernell McPhee had six sacks in a limited role last year, coming in mainly on passing situations. With the injury to Terrell Suggs, McPhee may be in line for more reps and therefore more sacks. He is a fan favorite in Baltimore for his non-stop motor and could become much better known to opposing offenses in 2012.
6. What’s your prediction for the Ravens this season?
As a Ravens blogger but first a Ravens fan, I cannot see this team missing out on the post season for the fifth year in a row. Once a team like Baltimore, with an opportunistic defense gets into the playoffs, anything can happen. An improved Joe Flacco can take this team to the top, and I would not be surprised to see him along with his teammates hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.
Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the Baltimore Ravens all season long.