Can Joe Flacco rise to the occasion?

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco comes to the line during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on January 15, 2012. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

It’s been a tough week for Joe Flacco, as Ed Reed’s comments have made Flacco the center of attention going into today’s playoff game with the Patriots. Flacco has added even more pressure on himself with comments before last week’s game suggesting that he wasn’t getting respect from the media.

This game will be a defining moment for his career. He has to show that he can rise to the occasion in the playoffs on the road. The Patriots aren’t known for their defense, so Flacco should have his chances.

The Ravens don’t wan’t to get into a shootout with Tom Brady, but Flacco is going to have to come up with some big plays to win this game. I’m skeptical.

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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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Ravens could be without Ed Reed for the first six weeks of season

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on against the New England Patriots during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Ed Reed (hip) will probably begin the regular season on the PUP list.

• Ed Reed, safety: The Pro Bowl safety is almost a certainty to start training camp on PUP. In fact, it would be surprising to see Reed play in the preseason. He recently said he is 35 percent recovered from offseason hip surgery. The most likely scenario is placing Reed on the Reserve PUP at the start of the regular season, which would mean he misses at least the first six weeks.

Ken Hamlin and Tom Zbikowski will battle for the starting free safety position in training camp and preseason. Hamlin has started in all but two games throughout his career, so he has the leg up on Zbikowski in terms of experience. But Hamlin’s production has decreased over the last couple of years, so it isn’t a foregone conclusion that he’ll win the job.

It’s a little odd that Reed told a local radio station in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago that he would like a new deal in place before returning to the field, even knowing that he’s doubtful to return anytime soon. Granted, he did say he wouldn’t push the issue until he was healthy, but he nevertheless has awful timing.

He still has three years remaining on the six-year, $44.4 million contract extension that he signed in the summer of 2006 – the same deal that included $15 million in guaranteed money. It’s not surprising that Reed wants to cash in one last time, but considering he’s not healthy and was even complementing retirement as recently as April, he’s not in position to be pushing for a new deal.

Ed Reed expected to play in 2010

According to the National Football Post, Ravens’ safety Ed Reed is definitely expected to play in 2010.

It would take a major setback with his nerve impingement in his neck and ligament tears in his hip and groin for Reed to stop playing football.

The All-Pro defensive back didn’t change his public stance during an interview with Sirius Radio. Reed said following a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts that he was contemplating retirement.

“I’m feeling good,” Reed said. “It’s still early in the offseason. The comment was made right after the game because that’s the truth of the matter. I’ve got some things I got to take care of before I continue to go there. But the comment hasn’t changed, it still is what it is.

“I mean, for most people in the world, 50/50 is just that. If you’re able to go, you know, most people who know me, when I’ve been hurt over the years, and lately, these last two years, a lot. But if I can walk and talk, I’m out there communicating and making plays.”

Although multiple injuries hurt his play in 2009, Reed can still play at an elite level at his age. So as the article notes, unless he suffers another setback in his recovery process then he should be back in 2010, which is a great thing for the Ravens.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Ravens’ Ed Reed contemplating retirement

Following the Ravens’ 20-3 loss to the Colts on Saturday night, safety Ed Reed indicated that he might retire in the offseason.

Reed is only 31, but hip, neck and groin injuries limited his mobility and production throughout the season. He told the Baltimore Sun that he would speak with his medical team soon and then make a final decision about whether or not to continue his playing career. He indicated that he has aspirations to coach at the college level and might peruse those interests sooner rather than later.

When healthy, Reed still plays at a high level and it would be surprising if he hung ‘em up with $19.7 million left on his remaining contract. Money isn’t everything, but if he can fully recover in the offseason and enter the 2010 season with a full bill of health, it’s doubtful that he would retire.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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