Some might say the Baltimore Ravens already have what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl. Others may say it is anything from a shutdown corner, a fierce pass rusher, a left tackle or a wide receiver with blazing speed. There are those critics that have said they will either need a new Offensive Coordinator, Head Coach or even a replacement for QB Joe Flacco if the Ravens ever expect to reach the Promised Land.
Skeptics of the current Ravens point to playoff losses against the Pittsburgh Steelers in two of the last three years as reason that our current group cannot make that next step to the Big Game. They say John Harbaugh has blind support for Cam Cameron and that Cameron will not loosen the reins on Flacco enough to open up the offense. Others say that Flacco just does not have what it takes to be that elite QB that is needed to utilize those offensive weapons brought in here to equal out the contribution to winning games with the defense.
I for one, do not agree with those last statements.
While I was disappointed with the play-calling and lack of offensive production in the tough games, I see the main culprit being what has always been considered the number one reason why teams win or lose games, and that is the play in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Offensively, between injuries and less than satisfactory performance, the Ravens offensive line just did not do their collective job this past season. Call it playing out of position or whatever, Flacco routinely didn't have time to pick up his second and third reads and therefore got way too used to checking down to his safety-guy, Ray Rice, all too often. The lack of their ability to open up running lanes to complement the pass certainly added to the opponent's abilities to blitz on obvious throwing plays, which led to sacks and QB hits that turned the ball over, especially noted in the Ravens 13-10 loss to the Steelers here in Baltimore when Troy Polamalu made one of the key plays of the year by any player in he NFL.
Perhaps the re-signing of Jared Gaither will help. Perhaps there will be free agent signings this off season, if the owners and players can get their Collect Bargaining Butts to agree on a new contract. Drafting some quality help in a bunch of positions will go a long way, although the fruits of those labors might not be realized for a few years. Hopefully, LB Sergio Kindle will recover and add depth to our pass rush. Hopefully.
Is Michael Oher truly a left tackle or should Gaither or someone else play there and Oher move back to RT? Who can stretch the field at WR and can the line give Joe the time to find him? For a team poised on the brink of making the Super Bowl the past three years and one that definitely should be in the conversation for getting there next season, there sure seems to be a lot of questions and holes on this this team, according to sports talk radio, as well as the many comments posted here on Baltimore Beatdown.
Hopefully, many of these questions will be answered over the next few months as the 2011 NFL Draft looms in late-April and who knows when free agency will begin, based on the current state of confusion regarding the stagnant CBA and potential lockout of the players by the owners? Stay tuned and in the meantime, what do the Ravens need to get to the Super Bowl?