The Baltimore Ravens preseason came to an end Thursday night in Atlanta and many fans were left unsatisfied. After enduring a lock out spanning over 4 months the good fans of Baltimore were hoping to have some of their questions answered in the four preseaseason games leading in to the 2011 NFL season. Who will be the Ravens 3rd receiver? Will the O-line hold up against NFL caliber competition? Is Joe Flacco Ready to take the next step towards leading this team to the promised land? Does Rickey Williams have enough left in the tank to be a viable option when Ray Rice needs a rest? Who will be our opening day Cb tandem? Can Bryant McKinnie move his massive body to block anyone?
Everyone seems to have an opinion on these matters but the Ravens front office seems to be content leaving these questions unanswered and open for speculation. (Ingenious marketing strategy if you ask me.) Maybe they have been waiting to see how things pan out to make their decisions or maybe they are hoping that a healthy competition will bring out the best in all players involved. However, I think management has a pretty good Idea as to who will be where in most cases. For most fans, after watching the preseason these questions loom larger than ever with the hated Pittsburgh Steelers just around the corner and looking as good as ever.
After cutting many key veterans this off season the Ravens have done a nice job bringing in talent to fill the voids left by the highly productive players they lost. I can say that as a fan I have no idea what to expect come September 11th at M&T Bank Stadium. The most glaring questions surround the offensive line where Micheal Oher will be moving back to the right side where he excelled as a rookie. Taking his spot on the left will be big Bryant Mckinnie, who at a plump 370 lbs. will be counted on to protect Joe Flaccos blind side from the likes of Harrison and Woodley. I like the move of bringing in McKinnie but why did the front office choose to sit him the entire 4th preseason game? I think a lot of fans would have felt much better having seen him keep Tyrod Taylor upright and off the DL. Hopefully this was only a precautionary move and not a sign that McKinnie is simply not ready for live competition.
Perhaps the most perplexing spot on this team is in the secondary where no starters have been named at either corner position. For a team that is considered a SB contender this is almost unheard of. I have heard cases made for all sorts of combos this preseason but the duo that makes the most sense to me against the Steelers is Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams. Smith has shown to be a very physical player and a sure tackler that always seems to get a hand on the ball. He has had his ups and downs but the 6'2" corner out of Colorado has the physical tools to really make a difference for this team. On the other side I think Cary Williams has solidified himself as a starter even though he has not yet been named one. Williams has outplayed everyone so far and the coaches have acknowledged it as well. More than anything I think it is time to see some new guys take a crack at the Steelers this season. We have seen what Fox, Carr and Webb can do against Big Bens receiving corps. and it isn't pretty.
Adding Lee Evans to Joe Flaccos arsenal was an excellent move and he will do wonders for an offense that has been missing a legitimate deep threat for years. Anquan Boldin should benefit from this the most. If teams decide to double Evans Boldin is a master at getting open over the middle of the field. and if the defense brings a safety to his side Evans has the speed and hands to make them pay deep on the other. But, Who will the Ravens third option be? David Reed seemed to have the position locked up for about a week. Before that it was Torrey Smith. Both seem to have come up with a sudden case of the dropsies lately. The Ravens will most likely run packages that feature different receivers at different times depending on the situation and what the other teams weakness may be. My vote however goes to Tandon Doss. He may not have the speed of a Reed or Smith but the guy catches everything in sight and was a straight play maker in college.
Perhaps my 2 biggest question marks this preseason are Joe Flacco and Ricky Williams. After hearing Cam Camerom rave about how sharp Flacco has looked in camp it was back to "good Joe" and "bad Joe" in the limited time he got in the preseason contests. Joe has always been a guy who seems right on the cusp of greatness if it were not for those few boneheaded plays every so often. So far this year it has looked like more of the same. Granted he has been playing with a makeshift offensive line and a group of receivers that he is still gelling with but wouldn't it stand to reason that he and the offense would have benefited from playing at least a few snaps against the Falcons Thursday? Especially since they had their starting D on the field. Ricky Williams is a seasoned vet. I'm sure he is used to walking through preseason and turning it up on game days but I haven't seen a burst from him yet. I think his longest carry may be 5 yards. He has not played much, I may be overreacting but I hear all these fans talking about how he is an upgrade over Willis McGahee and I'm not sold. McGahee played well for the Ravens, he was a touchdown machine. Some of the most memorable plays over the last few years were from Willis. I admit I have not payed much attention to Williams since he came back to the league. He had over 1,000 yards in 2009 I believe but I guess we will all have to hope he can still bring it this season at the ripe old age of 34. Which is pretty old for a RB.
all of these questions will be answered in the coming week. I'm sure some will work out and some won't but it sure is a different feeling from past years when the good old boys were in camp and we all knew what to expect on Sundays. I'd have to say at this point I'm cautiously optimistic about this team even with uncertainty surrounding Key positions. Ozzie and Co. have done a nice job of finding cheap high reward players to fill the void left by those who were cut. Man... What a way to start a season though!