With major league baseball releasing their All-Star teams for the mid-summer classic, I wondered about who I believe will be the all-stars for the Ravens in 2010. Some of the players who stand out are guys whose names are on everyone else's list, so we will basically skip over those guys and focus on the ones who might have break-out seasons in 2010 and finally get the respect and recognition they deserve. Some of them will be well-known to most Ravens fans, but others may come out from the shadows of mediocrity this season.
Comment on the names on this list and add yours in the comments section below.
The guys whose names seem to show up either every year (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed) or have been showing up over the years (Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata) are no-brainers. Some of the newer Ravens (Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin) are names that should become regulars on that list for the next few years at the very least. Now comes the hard part. Who are the guys who are going to have throse break-thru season we spoke about, after improving in every year of their short NFL careers? Certainly, the name at the top of that list should be QB Joe Flacco. Flacco now has the weapons and the protection to give him the opportunity to prove this kid from college's second level of competition was worth trading up fro in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
WR Derrick Mason has put up all-star numbers for years now, but always seems to be overlooked due to a combination of not enough TD receptions nor being a flashy game-breaker. Consistency helps win games but never seems to make highlight reels, which is why the Ravens still felt they needed addtional help at the wideout slots.
TE Todd Heap has been mentioned as on the down-side of his career, partially evidenced by the team's decision to draft not one, but two tight ends in this past April's draft. However, with the improvement on the outside of the receiving corps, don't be surprised if the Todd Heap of the past re-emerges in 2010. At the same time, with the addition of the other two TE's, he just may not get the full opportunities he needs to reach the all-star status.
Second year OT Michael Oher should reach the elite level in 2010, as he now moves to the left tackle position to protect Flacco's "blind side." He has the size and more importantly the athleticism and true grit to be a great LT in the league for years.
Next to him, LG Ben Grubbs has always been on the cusp of being mentioned among the better guards in the NFL and the combination fo the two on the left side should open enough holes for our running game to get him to the next level. Center Matt Birk was a six-time Pro Bowler with the Minnesota Vikings and could regain that status in 2010.
Defensively, OLB Jarret Johnson might be the most under rated defensive player on the team, as he seems to have be most well rounded game of all the LB's on the team, able to stop the run and rush the passer with great success. Playing in the shadow of the greatest linebacker of all time could do that to anyone, but this might be the year Johnson shines on his own.
The one guy I think will make a lot of Ravens fans both surprised and happy is cornerback Domonique Foxworth. Signed as a free agent a couple of years ago, he has never seemed to live up to the large contract he received. Now the team has the pieces to put a lot of pressure on the QB and that alone will make all the defensive backs look a heck of a lot better now that the opposing QB cannot sit back in the pocket waiting for a wide receiver to get open. Hurried throws can result in game-changing interceptions and with Foxworth most likely covering the opposing team's #1 wideout, Foxworth should get the opportunities to prove he was worth the big bucks by grabbing some picks and the attention at cornerback that no Raven has received at that position since Chris McAlister left the team.
On Special Teams, punter Sam Koch is a beast and his abilities to drop the ball inside the opponenet's 20 yard line along with the distance he gets to pin other teams deep in their own territory could get him the nod he deserves.
Leading this team to the playoffs the past two years, his first as a head coach, perhaps this is the year that John Harbaugh receives the honor as the Coach of the Year, as his players make him look good by fulfilling their goal after knocking on the Super Bowl door the past two years and now busting it down. Now that would make 2010 an "All-Star" season!