2010 NFL Question Marks: Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens' Ed Reed warms-up prior to his game against the Washington Redskins at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on August 13, 2009. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. First up is the Baltimore Ravens and their question marks surrounding their secondary.

After dismantling the Patriots in the postseason last year, Raven fans are more excited about the team’s Super Bowl hopes this season than I am about “Shark Week” every year. (I think it goes without saying that sharks are the greatest fish, human and/or breathing organism on the planet. I mean, they’re sharks.)

And who could blame the Baltimore faithful? Joe Flacco is heading into his third season (which is the year when things are supposed to really “click” for players), Ray Rice is on the verge of superstardom and the passing game added a legitimate No. 1 wideout this offseason thanks to Ozzie Newsome’s trade for Anquan Boldin.

But just like all 32 teams at this time of year, the Ravens have some concerns and most of theirs lie within the secondary.

First and foremost, Ed Reed isn’t healthy and that’s a huge problem. At 31, some note that he isn’t as physical as he was earlier in his career, but the guy can still cover ground with the best of them. His ability to read what formation an offense comes out in, bait the quarterback into making a poor throw and then actually make a play on the ball is unrivaled. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to say he was the best coverage safety in the league last year, along with Arizona’s Adrian Wilson.

But again, he’s also hurt. The Ravens recently placed him on the active/Physically Unable to Perform list and he’s a candidate to miss the first six weeks of the season as he continues to battle a hip injury. He missed four games last year and the Ravens still made the playoffs, but playing without him isn’t something the team wants to make a habit of.

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2010 NFL Playoffs Fan Battle: Ravens vs. Colts Preview

To get you ready for the Ravens-Colts’ Divisional Round battle in Indy this Saturday, here’s a preview of the game via a mock dialogue between two fans.

Colts Fan: If you think the Colts are going to be as disinterested in playing the Ravens as the Patriots were last week, then you’re delusional.

Ravens Fan: Oh, I see – the Patriots lost, but the Ravens didn’t win. Do I have that right? Face it, the better team won last weekend in Foxboro. We came prepared to play and they couldn’t match our intensity. And if I were you, I’d be highly concerned that the Colts haven’t played in three weeks.

Colt Fan: No, the starters haven’t played in three weeks – there’s a difference. But Peyton Manning, ahem, the MVP this year, will be ready to go as always. And if anyone should be concerned, it should be Baltimore’s pass defense.

Raven Fan: Have you even been watching lately? The Ravens are tied for eighth in passing yards allowed per game with 207.3. Our total defense ranks third in the NFL and we’re allowing just 16.3 points per game. Plus, we almost beat you in the regular season.

Colt Fan: There’s no prize for “almost,” my friend. Plus, that game was in Baltimore; now you have to travel to Indy this time. Had Jim Caldwell not pulled the starters in the second half against the Jets, we would have easily gone undefeated at home this season.

Raven Fan: Now who’s talking about whoulda, coulda, shouldas? Speaking of Caldwell pulling the starters, that same philosophy has hurt the Colts in the past. Bill Polian insists that momentum means nothing for teams heading into the playoffs but he must be trying to block out all the times that his team has choked after resting starters before.

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