...as it was reported yesterday that cornerback Chris McAlister has finally been placed on Injured Reserve, ending his 2007 season. With the Ravens only playing for personal pride and auditioning for jobs next year, why risk any further injury to his knee by playing him in meaningless games the rest of the season? When healthy, he is a sutdown corner, as evidenced by his blanket coverage of New England's Randy Moss in their almost-upset of the Patriots a couple of weeks ago. McAlister wasn't even healthy for that game, but wouldn't have missed it as long as he could crawl onto the field. Moss did beat him for a short TD reception, but that was as much safety Ed Reed's fault for not backing him up as it was McAlister's. Unfortunately, McAlister's absence has proven that what the Ravens have as backups are not the future of this franchise either, as they have been repeatedly burned by opposing quarterbacks.
This move was a long time coming, as McAlister hurt his knee earlier in the season, but hung around, waiting to see if the Ravens season would progress to a point that it might be worth it to do whatever necessary to get better and help this team's push to the playoffs. That goal done, I'm sure the decision to shut him down was an easy one, at least for McAlister.
This move should open doors for other injured Ravens to officially end their seasons, and perhaps their careers, at least with the Ravens. That has already happened with Steve McNair, whom I will be shocked if he isn't released sometime between the end of the season and beginning of training camp, depending on how the cap hit is figured. Tight end Todd Heap hasn't played much the past six games and probably has no legitimate reason to force his rehab and return in 2007. The same goes for WR Demetrius Williams and Samari Rolle. There are other Ravens who are playing through injuries and should be shut down, not only for their own protection, but to determine the future benefits of their backups on the roster. They include All-World Jon Ogden, of course, and center Mike Flynn.
Finally, injured or not, the Ravens will have to decide where they want to go in the off season, quarterback-wise. Kyle Boller is signed through the 2008 season, but has proven that he is not the future of this franchise. How can they use their first round pick on a QB while they have an untested Troy Smith on the bench? Smith should get plenty of playing time the rest of the season, even if it means losing the last three games (yes, even to the Dolphins, although that won't happen, as Boller will definitely start), just to see what he can do. None of this mop-up duty, though, as that gives no true indication of his worth as he gets a few snaps in against the other teams' third stringers. While I personally don't believe Smith has the tools to be the future QB, he certainly deserves a chance and has showed some decent qualities in his few moments on the field last week, albeit in mop-up duty against Indy.
These injuries have been the primary reason of the Ravens poor performance this season. It is not a coincidence that the two embarrassing blowouts this season (Pittsburgh & Indy) just happened to be the two games that both starting CB's were out. Combined with an ineffective, turnover-prone offense, has doomed the team to failure this season. However, now is the time to start looking at next year and the Ravens can turn to their youngsters to begin the tryouts process - NOW!
PS- A day after coach Brian Billick said he'd be back in 2008, it has been reported that owner Steve Bisciotti has confirmed this as well.