Before we get into this weeks edition of 5 Questions, I wanted to take the time out and congratulate the Baltimore Ravens for wining the Super Bowl. I don’t know about anybody else, but I did not see the Ravens making the playoffs last year. They had injury woes and yet they kept on winning games. They had some rough spots, but they still made the Playoffs and ultimately won the Lombardi Trophy.
This weeks 5 Questions is with Tynan Patrick from Ebony Bird, the Baltimore Ravens fansided site.
What did you like and/or dislike about what the Ravens did in free agency and the draft?
I loved what they did to the defense. The Ravens completely rebuilt their D from the ground up in one offseason. It was really an incredible piece of work by Ozzie Newsome and his staff. they retooled their defensive front to allow Haloti Ngata to move back to his more natural nose tackle position. The only real question mark is at inside linebacker, but they have enough solid players to be able to piece together a pair of starters than can operate behind what should be a world class defensive line. I was on board with the offense, but in hindsight, knowing what we know about Dennis Pitta, They probably should have signed a receiver or drafted one earlier than the 7th round. Again though, I thought the offense would be fine until a week ago, but still, they probably shouldn’t have left themselves so thin of experienced pass catchers.
Which rookie are you most looking forward to seeing this season?
Brandon Williams. To me he is the most interesting player in this class. He has incredible physical tools and athleticism. He has great speed for a man his size and he has a huge burst in his first step. The problem is, he is a nose tackle, and like I said earlier, the Ravens want to get Haloti Ngata back into that postion. Generally rookies don’t win roster battles against guys that are top 3 at their position. Williams should see plenty of time in rotation this year but is he good enough to keep Ngata at DE?
Will losing Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta hurt the team this year?
Ray Lewis, No. Ed Reed, No. Those two guys brought huge amounts of leadership and experience. That said, they were both steeply declining players who were clearly past their primes. Reed gambles way to much. He used to cash in more often on those gambles, even when he whiffed he had the speed to close on players who got behind him. The last two years he hasn’t had that ability and he seems to be miscalculating more and more often. HE takes risks because if he doesn’t, he cant keep up physically with younger, faster, healthier players. The Ravens current safety duo will be better than the duo they started last year. AS for Boldin, before Pitta got hurt I would have said no. Pitta was a better version of Boldin at this point in their respective careers and Boldin hasn’t been very productive in Baltimore outside of last years playoff run. to outsiders watching the Super Bowl run, Boldin looked like the key cog in the Ravens offense, but for people who have been watching for the past 2 years, we know Torrey Smith has clearly been the dominant receiver since basically the second he stepped on the field. Smith has drawn the most coverage and the oppositions best corner in nearly every game since his 2011 week 3 explosion against the Rams (his first start). With Pitta going down though, the Ravens have absolutely no proven commodities behind Torrey. Dickson has been spotty and is injured, Jacoby flamed out as a no.2 WR in Houston and every other pass catcher is either a rookie or has never started. Not a lot to hang your hat on there.
Do you feel that Jim Caldwell is a good fit as offensive coordinator?
An emphatic YES. Caldwell and Flacco immediately developed a great relationship early last year when Caldwell was still the QBs coach. They are similar personalities and they have similar opinions about scheme and tempo in their vision for the Ravens offense. IF we remove the Denver game (which Caldwell had 2 days to prepare for) and the Cincinnati game (in which Flacco played not even 2 full series), Flacco has thrown 13 TDs against 0 INTs and is 5-0. The offense averages over 30 ppg in that stretch. Now it isnt realistic to expect that to be the new normal, but I think Flacco and Caldwell will surprise people this year. Flacco just needed the reigns to be loosened a bit so he could work the offense to its potential. Cam Cameron did a lot of good things in Baltimore, he basically taught Joe everything he knows about playing in the NFL, but his lack of trust in Flacco was criminal and it held the Ravens back. Flacco now has confidence and freedom to do as he sees fit. I strongly believe that if Flacco and Caldwell stay together for a few year, they could go down as one of the great QB-OC combos in recent NFL history. I expect them to be highly productive.
What do you feel is the Ravens weakest link is?
The Ravens should be in pretty good shape across the board, but if they do have a weakness (Not to sound like a broken record) it is their inexperience at WR And TE. I think they will end up using Ray Rice split out wide in the slot quite a bit this year based entirely on necessity. they don’t have anyone besides Rice and Torrey who can get open underneath consistently. I would expect they cover their weakness by using Rice and Torrey underneath and using Deonte Thompson and Jacoby Jones as their primary deep ball specialists taking over the role that Cam Cameron pigeon-holed Torrey Smith into for the past 2 years. By doing this they dont need to rely on their inexperienced/mediocre players to get open with route running and precision, but rather just raw speed which they both have. That puts more burden on Torrey Smith, but I think he will excel underneath because he is so hard to tackle in the open field due to his speed. That strategy will work over the course of the regular season because bad games are expected, but in the playoffs (if they make it), that weakness could prove fatal to a team with a good pass rush and secondary (like the Broncos, Seahawks or 49ers).
I want to thank Tynan Patrick for taking the time to answer our 5 Questions. Make sure you go to Ebony Bird for all your info on Chicago Bears 2013 Season opponent Baltimore Ravens.