Ready For Some Football?

| August 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

Anyone who has been reading my articles on this site or following me on Twitter knows how obsessed I have been with the Orioles, so much so that I didn’t even know the date that training camp started. Why wouldn’t I pay more attention to a competitive baseball team instead of voluntary mini camps and rookie camps, etc? It’s not a situation we have had in Baltimore in over a decade, so I definitely have embraced it. With all the said, make no bones about it, I bleed purple and live and die by every play during the Ravens season and I am READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!!

Ever since the ball sailed wide left in New England, the Ravens have been looking forward to August 9th when the Purple and Black would again take the field and erase the bad taste that was left in everyone’s mouth after the AFC Championship. The time is here and Ravens will take the field for the first time in the 2012-2013 season against the Atlanta Falcons tonight.

For me the first preseason game marks the start of questions being answered and there are a lot of questions coming into this game. Here are some things I am looking for this preseason:

Can the offensive line be effective?

There is no question that the offense is the biggest question mark surrounding the Ravens heading into the preseason and quite frankly it is a huge concern. In the offseason the Ravens saw their Pro Bowl left guard sign a huge deal with the Saints, their starting center have surgery and get another year older and their starting left tackle eat his way into a new uniform size causing him to miss the start of camp.  Even worse are the solutions they have in place should these problems continue. If McKinnie fails to lose weight or his work ethic puts him out of favor with the coaching staff, Michael Oher would then be moved to left tackle (…and last I checked all he did last time he was there was set a record for false starts in a season.) If Oher has to slide to left tackle someone then has to fill his spot at right tackle and that person will either be a guard forced to slide or a rookie, not exactly ideal situations. In addition to that they are working out Jah Reid at guard and do not look to have an adequate enough replacement for Matt Birk if and when he goes down.

Joe Flacco has yet to miss a game in his career but if the offensive line is not a cohesive unit then that streak could come to an end this season. And, if he gets seriously hurt that all but spells an end to the Ravens season.

I know around draft time I downplayed drafting a lineman in the first round but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how important it is. Hopefully they somehow prove everyone wrong and are good enough to protect Flacco and help the offense.

Can the offense take the “next step”?

This is a question that has seemingly been asked every year for the last decade and for the most part has been a resounding “no” every year. I truly believe there are better weapons on this offense than there have been in the Ravens existence and it’s time for the offense to step up. Joe Flacco is a good enough quarterback to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl and his play will take the next step if the coaching staff allows it and if the receivers are healthy and productive.  Flacco gets a full offseason to work with Torrey Smith, which I believe will lead to a monster year from Smith and thus make Anquan Boldin more effective as he will not have the focus of the opposing defenders. Ed Dickson is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body and he can cause a variety of mismatches provided the play calling allows for that.  In addition to the weapons I mentioned, Ray Rice returns and should put up MVP-like numbers and will cement himself as one of the best players in the league. The running game should be great no matter who the backup is.

In my opinion, the only thing holding this offense back is the play calling as the Ravens often play not to lose on the offensive end as opposed to playing to win and bury teams. The defense lost their best player and may fall back quite a bit so the offense needs to step up if this team wants to be one of the top seeds in the AFC. I just hope Cam Cameron and the rest of the offensive staff get the memo.

How will the defense replace T-Sizzle?

Over the last few years the mantra “next man up” has been said so much that it should really be put on a t-shirt and sold outside the stadium. This season that phrase will be put to the ultimate test and I don’t know if the Ravens can pass that test. It’s one thing to lose an aging Ray Lewis for four games or Ed Reed for six, but it’s another to lose the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, who is not yet 30, for the entire season. Next man up indeed, but can and will those men be effective? Certainly they will need to be if the Ravens defense wants to resemble the defenses of the last few years.

So who do we have who can replace Suggs? Is it Sergio Kindle who has fallen down more steps over the past two seasons then he has made plays? Is it Paul Kruger who looks like a world beater one game and then is nowhere to be found the next game? Or is it Courtney Upshaw, the highly-touted rookie who has all the potential and talent in the world but has yet to play an NFL game? These options certainly can’t have John Harbaugh sleeping comfortably at night and they certainly don’t strike fear in the heart of opposing offenses.

All I have been hearing from fans and other people is that someone will definitely step up like always and the defense will be fine, but I don’t know how anyone could be comfortable saying that.

I hope I am wrong, but until Kruger, Upshaw, Kindle & Co. can show me consistent play, I will be worried.

It is very hard to make the playoffs in the NFL and even harder to win playoff games and go to the Super Bowl. Ravens fans have been spoiled over the last four years with playoff trips and two AFC Championship appearances but as quickly as a team has success, they can miss the playoffs that easy as well. I still believe there is enough talent for this team to contend for a Super Bowl and believe they should make the playoffs but you can’t just assume that since it happened the last four seasons. The Ravens have a lot of issues, what looks to be a tough schedule and so far some key injuries to Suggs and Pitta. Luckily it is just the preseason and things can work themselves out, new talented players can emerge and hopefully the Ravens don’t miss a beat.

Regardless of what happens against the Falcons in game one, it sure is nice to break out the purple and cheer on the Ravens.

I am definitely ready for some football, how ’bout you? September 10th can’t get here quickly enough!!

Follow me on twitter @mromanell and @southbmore1



About the Author:

I have spent my entire 30 years living in Maryland and I love everything about this city. Despite the bad reputation the city has, Baltimore will always be a special place to me and I love living here. There is nothing better then Sunday afternoons at M&T Bank Stadium and summer nights at Camden Yards when the Yard is packed. You can find me all over the city so don't hesitate to share your opinion of me good or bad. Who knows, if you see me out maybe I will buy you a Natty Boh. Lets go Ravens and Lets go O's!!! Follow me on Twitter at @MRomanell.
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