I was wrong. I can admit that I was one of those people that counted the Baltimore Ravens out. I said there’s no way this old, slow bunch of guys could get it done on defense. But I’m not alone.
You all said the Ravens couldn’t do it with that roster too. You complained that Joe Flacco wasn’t ready. You sat befuddled as you watched Ray Lewis get bullied and punked in the box chasing the rush as a shell of his former self. Then the Ravens went on and won a title.
When it comes down to it, there will be no replacing guys like Reed and Lewis. Those guys were mainstays in Baltimore and did it the right way. More importantly they won the hearts of fans and without a doubt are first-ballot Hall of Fame selections. No question. You can’t replace that kind of dedication and leadership and stability. But can you retool it?
With so many players purged from the team, specifically on defense, you wonder what kind of serious talent the team has left. Reporters asked that same question recently and were answered with chuckles. Apparently the Ravens are just fine with being counted out. For a creaky banged up crew with tons of mileage, those guys delivered when it mattered most. Ed Reed held up as a great defender, but his body could not. That’s something the Houston Texans know too well as they wait for Reed to heal from a bum hip. Lewis faded into the shadows and presumably into a broadcast chair. Center Matt Birk retired as well. So who will be the fresh faces tasked with leading the rebuild?
John Harbaugh leads a faster, stronger defensive core this year. It showed no signs of distress as they dismantled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their preseason opener at Raymond James Stadium. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs showed they are a potent duo and can wreak havoc on offensive lines. Chris Canty, a tackle/end hybrid, also managed to create pressure up the middle, while Marcus Spears adds talent and depth. It’s another deadly dimension to the Ravens’ refurbished defense.
Everyone on Baltimore’s schedule will find ways to try and exploit the Ravens’ untested defense. It isn’t the 2000 Ravens, but they may be better than the 2012 Ravens and that’s saying a lot obviously. The first team to figure it out will have their blueprint replicated and run to perfection — something that may bite the Ravens in the end. They may be faster and stronger, but you can’t replace experience like the ones that left.
Then again, on occasion, I am wrong.