The off season is a magical time in the NFL when all the teams go back to even in the record books and championships are easily won on paper by big spending general managers and owners.
It is in this magical time that fans of the less fortunate franchises get to spend their time gloating over big free agent acquisitions and hoping for that big draft pick that that completes their team. " you'll see, this is our year, (insert college stars name here) is gonna come in and put us over the top!"
It can sometimes be frustrating being a Ravens fan this time of year seeing all the inferior teams from last season bringing in big time stars to get better while our team seems content to do some patch up work on a few details. Luckily, we all know that the season is right around the corner and that is when we do our talking.
Sure it is fun to bring in shiny new big name players that make your team look that much better just for having them wear your colors but that's for teams that were not one play away from the Super Bowl last season. We are already ready, we just want to get started.
The best thing about this Ravens team is that many of our young players have not yet reached their potential and the best play for most of them is yet to come. So do not fret Ravens fans our big name stars are already on our roster, some of them are well known and some will be very soon. I can't wait to see what they can do with another year under their belts and a real off season to work with.
Here are the three young studs I'm most excited to see play next season.
1.) Torrey Smith
Smith showed last year that he is more than just a talented and fast athlete. He showed that he is a football player. A football player with an extremely high ceiling that is. Torrey is not just a deep threat, he can run every route in the book. However, as a deep threat he could turn out to be one of the best. This past season Smith showed that he has that extra burst that only a few other players in the NFL have. This is something that can not be taught. he's got an extra gear, when he get's going there's not a defender in the league that's going to catch him.
The most exciting thing is, last season, he barely had any off season to work with the team. When the season started he was slated as their fourth receiver behind Lee Evans but by the end he was top two. He even served as the number one for a few weeks with Anquan Boldin out with an injury. Now he will have a whole off season of working with the team to develop his skills.
2.) Jimmy Smith
Just like Torrey, Jimmy has elite skills that can not be taught. He is tall, fast and strong right off the bat but there is something else to Smith's game that excites me. If you have played football and know what to look for in a player, you look at Jimmy Smith and know he has it. "It" is natural play-making ability, some guys just always seem to find themselves around the ball. I think it's an instinctual thing that some people just have. This attribute always shines through in the great ones.
Ed Reed is the perfect example. Of course, film study also has a lot to do with Reed's game as well and that is exactly what Jimmy needs to start learning from him. You know, Those little things that turn you from great to legend. I'm glad that Smith got here while he still has Ray Lewis and ed Reed to learn from
Smith has something that Reed has never had though, shut down pass coverage skills. Smith may never be the ball hawk that Ed Reed is but as a cover corner he could be great. For Jimmy Smith it all starts with the way he's built. He has these long arms that he knows how to use to break up passes. His natural abilities are almost limitless, let's hope that his mental capacity follows in suit.
3.) Joe Flacco
For a long time I was on the fence about Flacco. It's not that I didn't think he could be great, I knew he had it in him. It's just that I wasn't sure if he would find his way there. Well, I'm sold, he is there.
For the first time last season I was left wanting more Flacco at seasons end and I liked it. Last years was a tough year for Joe. He was forced to grow up fast as many NFL analysts marked 2011, his fourth season, as his "put up or shut up" season. Joe had playfully called out the media before the season for blaming him for everything and he seemed to have made the media monster angry. Every time anyone talked about the Ravens it was some random analyst that barely knows Flacco or the team saying how the Ravens win in spite of the young quarterback and he shouldn't defend himself in public. I still can't believe how much criticism he took over all of that. Notice how nobody talks about it now?
Well Flacco put up alright, he nearly took his team to the Super Bowl on his back. In a game where the defense was slipping, the special teams not so special and the team had everything on the line, Joe took charge and did everything necessary to get his men to the promised land. It wasn't Joe that failed us it was the depth at key positions that let us down in the end.
Joe Flacco can take the Ravens to the Super Bowl and win. Let's just hope that the rest of the players around him are ready to do the same this time.