For the past several seasons, the Baltimore Ravens faithful have heard it all. We’ve heard that when Ray Lewis and/or Ed Reed retire that it will signal the end of Baltimore’s storied defense. We’ve heard that Joe Flacco doesn’t have what it takes to lead this team to Super Bowl glory. We’ve heard that our defense is aging and becoming too slow and that our offense won’t be able to pick up the slack.
This is the way it’s always been in Baltimore. Each year our team is on the decline…apparently, but somehow the Ravens go out and prove every time that statements such as these aren’t true in the least. No matter though, every off-season experts, pundits, and even fans question the Ravens’ ability to remain a dominant force in the NFL. I expect that this off-season these questions will arise just as they always have, but the question is: When will this ridiculous cycle start all over again?
So, before I have to hear it from someone else, I’m going to ask the question this time around. Is the window closing on the Ravens to win a Super Bowl?
The short answer is no, the window isn’t closing on the Ravens at all. To even suggest something as this, in my opinion, is daft. While Baltimore doesn’t have the youngest roster in the NFL, they are by no measure the oldest either. Heading into the 2011-2012 season, the Ravens ranked 8th in average age on defense, 10th on offense, 23rd on special teams, and finished 9th overall in average age combined . In comparison, AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, ranked 1st overall for having the oldest roster in the NFL. To even further my point that age isn’t everything, the New England Patriots, who moved on to the Super Bowl by winning in the AFCCG against the Ravens, were ranked one slot higher than the Ravens for having a slightly older overall roster.
To look even more closely, there are several Ravens that are entering the prime of their careers. On defense, Haloti Ngata is just 28 years old and looks to maintain his dominance in the trenches for years to come. Sack artist Terrell Suggs is 29 years old and will continue to be a cornerstone of the Ravens’ vaunted defense. Lardarius Webb, who outplayed almost every defensive back in the entire NFL, is only 26. The list goes on and on. In fact, most of the Ravens’ defensive backfield is under 27 years old and looks to become one of the best secondary units in the NFL in upcoming seasons.
On offense it’s a similar story. Quarterback Joe Flacco is only 27 with his best years ahead of him. Versatile running back, Ray Rice, is 25 and has proven to be extremely durable and reliable while setting the NFL on fire. Young wide-out, Torrey Smith, showed his potential this year and is just 23 years of age. If I’m honest, the only place where the Ravens show signs of aging on offense is on the line, but with young players like Jah Reid waiting in the wings, there still isn’t reason to worry.
Although it will be a major blow to the Ravens when Ed Reed and Ray Lewis decide to call it a day, they both have stated that they plan to return next season as they continue to be the "generals" of the defense. There is a quote from head coach John Harbaugh that has really stuck with me since the loss to the Patriots. He said this in reference to the jacket that he was wearing when he gave the team his post game locker-room speech following their 23-20 heartbreaking loss: "Four years ago, we talked about 53 mighty men making up this team. That’s why I wore this jacket today. We win as a team of 53 mighty men, and we lose as a team of 53 mighty men, along with the rest of us in this circle."
The logo on Harbaugh’s jacket read: "53 MIGHTY MEN OF BALTIMORE"
Though they may be the face of the Ravens, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are still just two men on a roster of 53. Their contributions on the field are hard to measure, but for some to say that without them that this team wouldn’t remain dominant is thoughtless. The Ravens will still be the same dominant force they are now for years to come.
So again, before someone else asks us first. Is the window closing?
No. We’ve just got unfinished business.