Ravens Veterans To Pave Way For Rookies

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 15: Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates his interception with teammate Ray Lewis #52 during the fourth quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on January 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Texans 20-13. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

When many people look at the Baltimore Ravens, they think they see an aging team of veteran players that will soon be ready to hang up their cleats, forcing the team to rebuild from the beginning. Not nearly accurate, if you look at the teams roster. Sure, the face of the team is the 37-year old Ray Lewis,with the 33-year old Ed Reed right next to him.

However, take away those two and the only players on the Ravens defense on the plus-side of 30 are LB Brendon Ayabadejo and newly-signed DT Ma'ake Kemoeatu. on the offensive side of the ball, the list is just as short, with only four players over 30 years old. Center Matt Birk (35), WR Anquan Boldin (31), FB Vonta Leach (30) and LT Bryant McKinnie (32) are the older players on offense.

Only McKinnie's position should be of concern to the team, as his ultimate future replacement may not be on the team as of now. Michael Oher has proved that he is best suited on the right side and there is no indication that second-year pro Jah Reid or rookie Kelechi Osemele will be ready much less able to ever move into that position protecting QB Joe Flacco's blind side.

The other veteran players over 30 all have younger players either behind them on the depth chart or newly drafted and signed to ultimately follow in their footsteps. The Ravens drafted Delaware center Gino Gradkowski to one day take Birk's spot in the starting lineup. Gradkowski will have the opportunity to learn from one of the best and may even compete with Jah Reid and Osemele for the starting left guard position.

Boldin continues to mentor 2nd-year WR Torrey Smith and also has Tandon Doss and now rookie Tommy Streeter to teach. However, at 31 years of age, Anquan still has at least a few years to continue to line up and play at a high level. Like Boldin, Vonta Leach just turned 30 and should be the guy leading Ray Rice through holes for the foreseeable future.

On defense, while both Ayanbadejo and Kemoeatu are over 30 and in the waning parts of their respective careers, both are also bit-players with BA mostly playing on defense based on situational reasons and also on special teams. Ma'ake will be strictly providing depth and insurance in the trenches behind the starters and other reserves.

Regardless of the reliance the team has on these older veterans, especially Lewis and Reed on defense, the Ravens are a team filled with young stars and promising players. The veterans will be prepping their backups to take over one day in the future, but for now they will lead the way and keep this team among the best in the league as they prepare for another season and the goal of the playoffs and a Super Bowl berth.

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