2009 Baltimore Ravens Season Preview
2009 Baltimore Ravens preview from MadduxSports.com. With the football season around the corner grab the internets best football picks handicapper Maddux Sports and turn a profit while betting against the nfl point spread each and every week.
2009 Baltimore Ravens Predictions
By Adam Barone
The Ravens did a lot in 2008 to influence a league-wide movement to young coaches with the success of rookie head coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. The loss of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was the most significant change in the offseason, and he took linebacker Bart Scott with him. Greg Mattison will take over Ryan’s job, with no shortage of pressure on him, as defense has been the calling card of this team for years. There is, however, a chance that jhFlacco may be ready to carry the team.
Flacco was good last season, though probably not as good as the fanfare and media acclaim have made it seem. His quarterback rating for the season was just 80.3, while throwing 14 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions. He threw for 2,971 yards, which is respectable, but far from impressive. Receiver Kelley Washington was the only addition to an average group of skill position players, which won’t help Flacco’s progression. Flacco did show toughness and leadership capabilities, especially late in the season, that suggest good things for the future of this team. He also now has playoff experience.
Derrick Mason is the best receiver on the team, but is 35 years old. He did have 80 catches for 1,037 yards in ’08, though Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams have been less than impressive. Clayton, a first round pick in 2005, has gone over 50 receptions just once. Williams has topped 20 receptions once in three seasons. The Ravens signed former Eagle L.J. Smith to team up at tight end with Todd Heap after Heap caught just 35 passes a season ago.
The Ravens have a group of running backs that were successful as a committee last season, but none proved to be dependable individually. Usually a fullback, Le’Ron McClain led the team in rushing with 902 yards. Willis McGahee was expected to be the featured back, but had just 671 yards, while Ray Rice had 454. The committee approach is likely to continue, unless someone proves deserving of more time.
Center Matt Birk was added to a young, deep offensive line. Tackles Jared Gaither (second year), and Michael Oher (a rookie), are promising bookends. The guards, Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs, will both be just 25 when the season starts. The Ravens did allow 33 sacks last season, but with the line and quarterback growing together that should improve.
The defense was able to get to the opposing quarterback 34 times in 2008, and a large portion of the credit for that goes to nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Ngata is a 345 lb. monster who takes up blockers on blitzes and is capable of swallowing an entire running game. The ends are Trevor Pryce and Kelly Gregg, though neither has been particularly impressive lately.
The Ravens, similar to the Steelers, run the 3-4 defense and have been known for years for their linebackers. Scott is gone, and will probably be replaced by Tavares Gooden. Gooden was a third round pick in 2008 and played in just four games, making five total tackles. Studs Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs still lead the group, while Jerret Johnson will man the outside opposite Suggs.
Safety Ed Reed still headlines the secondary, picking off nine passes in 2008. Dawan Landry is back from a neck injury and will start alongside him. Longtime Raven Chris McAlister was released in the offseason, and Domonique Foxworth was signed to replace him. Foxworth has never held a full-time starting job. Opposite him is Fabian Washington, whom the Ravens are high on after four seasons as a quality cover man.
Kicker Matt Stover was not re-signed after ’08, and will be replaced by either undrafted rookie Graham Gano or Steve Hauschka. That’ll be an interesting situation to watch, as it could have a significant effect on the Ravens’ success in ’09. Cornerback Chris Carr should hold down both return jobs, as he was more than solid last season averaging over 28 yards per kickoff return.
There’s plenty to be excited about in Baltimore, but also reason for caution. Flacco was impressive, but certainly not elite. There are few weapons on offense, and the key players on defense are aging. The loss of Ryan will be a significant one to overcome, while Harbaugh will now have even more pressure to prove that last season was no fluke.