Yesterday we talked about all the players that showed improvement for the Ravens in 2011. There is no question that the team had many pleasant surprises on their way to an AFC North title and AFC Championship game.
Baltimore got great contributions from the veterans they brought in like Bernard Pollard, Vonta Leach and Bryant McKinnie.
The Ravens were also able to get quality play out of their rookie class. Torrey Smith, Jimmy Smith and Pernell McPhee all played much better than most had expected. Even Jah Reid looked like he could be a quality NFL lineman in his limited time on the field.
There is a flip side to that coin however. There were also some players that were expected to be key contributors that underachieved. Some more than others obviously. Who was the biggest underachiever this season? Let's decide together, shall we?
In 2010 the Ravens looked to have there kick off return problems solved with David Reed stepping in and leading the NFL for some time in return yard average. Reed was also thought to be one of the leading candidates for the third wide receiver position until the Lee Evans signing.
Reed however had the worst season of his short NFL career. Not only could he not get on the field on offense due to health issues and poor play in practice, he single handedly lost a big road game for Baltimore in Seattle. Yes, I know there is no guarantee that the Ravens would have won that game had Reed not given Seattle the ball inside our own red zone on multiple occasions. However, I think it goes without saying that he put the team in a hole that was next to impossible to get out of on the road, in a hostile environment.
Speaking of Lee Evans, what a disappointment he turned out to be. In the preseason Evans and Joe Flacco showed surprising chemistry. This gave Ravens fans hope that the team would finally have two above average NFL receivers. Three if Torrey Smith progressed as well as he did had Evans not been injured.
I know much of Lee Evans' issues can be directly traced to his lingering injury but even when he returned he struggled to get separation and he and Flacco looked like they were on two completely different playing fields at times. Then, down the stretch run into the playoffs, it looked like Lee was returning to form. In the AFC Championship game the speedy wide out matched his season total of catches with four until "the Drop" happened.
Now, many fans will tell you that Lee Evans was the single reason the Ravens were not playing the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Evan though "the drop" was not actually a drop but a fine play by a Patriots defensive back, Lee Evans was quite a disappointment this season. You have to tuck that ball man. Something tells me had Lee been playing all season he would have had the natural instinct to grab that ball, wrap it up and drop to the ground in the end zone. Again, just my opinion but damn man, come on...
I hate to say it but one of my favorite players of all time was a big disappointment to me this season. Ed Reed had a great first week against the Steelers but from then on it seemed there were more missed arm tackles and straight up whiffs than there were quality plays coming from number 20.
To Reed's credit he did step it up in the playoffs and he was a major reason we won that first game against Houston but where was that play all season long? There were a few games that I found myself wondering if Reed was even on the field.
It is hard to judge disappointment when dealing with a player you expect so much of. For many safeties in the league this would have been a fine season and people would probably be happy with the numbers from that position. But hey, we are talking about Ed Reed here, the greatest safety of all time. I know he has been slowed by his neck injury but after last season, I guess I, like most fans, expected much more from Mr. Reed.
I suppose we can't talk about disappointment without talking some Billy Cundiff. Cundiff made his first Pro Bowl in 2010. Ravens fans felt they had their kicking problems solved with his booming kick-offs and 89% field goal rating. Billy set the NFL touch back record and looked real good doing it. Baltimore did the right thing in camp as well, bringing in competition for Cundiff and making him earn his roster spot again so he did not get complacent.
Billy went on to beat out former Bengal Shayne Graham and started 2011 as the Ravens only field goal kicker on the roster. Unfortunately for Baltimore whatever magic that had propelled this long time journeyman kicker the previous season had long worn off this year. Cundiff went on to miss 10 field goals in 2011 including the one that ended the Ravens season and kept them out of the Super Bowl.
His field goal percentage dropped from 89.9% to 75.7% and he missed more than one field goal on four different occasions.
The good far outweighed the bad for the Ravens in 2011 but the bad has to be mentioned sometime. Let's hope that these guys can turn things around in 2012 if they are all still here in Baltimore. If not, let's hope for more of the same!