BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Wide receiver Torrey Smith #82 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with teammates after scoring the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won, 31-24. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The Baltimorehave many players at many different stages of their careers. That is one of the best things about this team, there is so much unproven talent to go with the very proven talent that they have acquired over the years.
On one hand you have guys like Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, Ray Rice, etc. On the other hand you have guys like Rookie running backs Bernard Pierce and Bobby Rainey entering their first season. Guys like Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee, Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith who have shown the potential for stardom and are expected to take the next step along the road to greatness this year.
It's seems the Ravens have done an excellent job of reloading on the go without having those awkward rebuilding years in between that gets coaches fired. Each season there is a player or two that seems to come out of nowhere and prove to be a force at the highest level of the game. In recent memory we have Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb and Pernell McPhee who have stood out. Of course the Ravens were never surprised though, they knew what all these guys were capable of, that's why they drafted them, right?
The team has also had a knack for bringing in undervalued free agents that have been discarded by other teams and turned them back into Pro Bowlers or at least above average NFL players for the most part. Players like Bernard Pollard, Bryant McKinnie, Cory Redding and Cary Williams. So many players from so many different places have landed here in Baltimore and for some reason this team has helped make them all better and given them a common goal to work towards.
So who's it going to be this season? Will Torrey Smith break out as the true number one receiver that he has looked like since the end of the season last year? Will it be Anquan Boldin who has been the Ravens most prominent receiver over the pas few seasons but most still think has underachieved. Now that he can play the slot most of the time can he return to his 1,000 yard double digit TD form? Will Jacoby Jones be the next player to come to Baltimore and turn his career around? How about quarterback Joe Flacco, who has taken his team to the playoffs for his first four seasons as a Pro but still faces much criticism from the fans and media alike. Will he finally shut up his doubters and show the country what we in Baltimore all know he is capable of?
Or, will it be one of the rookies who steals the spotlight this season. the Ravens have certainly brought in a lot of young talent in the off season. Could Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele or Bernard Pierce blow up this season and help the Ravens take the next step? Or, will it be an undrafted or late round guy that steps up and takes his game to the next level? the problem is I'm not sure that a guy like Bobby Rainey or Deonte Thompson will get the playing time to make a huge impact this season.
Rookie kicker Justin Tucker most certainly will though. Tucker will get every opportunity to make himself a household name this season. Tucker may be the only Ravens rookie to end up on a fantasy roster this season and fantasy play can turn any player into a cult superhero. Maybe this will be the year of Tucker in Baltimore? Or, maybe it will be Steve Hauschka all over again. You never know until the season starts and, before you know it, you're in the thick of it and somehow someone unexpected has managed to put the team on his shoulders time and time again. Perhaps it will be someone on special teams who turns in a Devon Hester type performance and wins over the Ravens fans that way. I have every confidence someone will come through this season, it's just a matter of who???