Ravens Roost

January 19, 2010 6:37 PM

What do the Ravens have to do to get to the next level?

 First off I think it's safe to say the team is headed in the right direction, regardless of the pitfalls here and there. To reach the playoffs two years in a row doesn't happen by accident. The Ravens have a good nucleus but there are still a few areas that could stand improvement. 
As everyone who follows the team knows wide receiver is probably at the top of the list of areas that need to be addressed. There are two factors that need to be looked at here. The first is all of the Ravens receivers will be free agents this year, and secondly the Ravens will be hampered to sign any big name free agents due to the "Final 8 Rule", which was set up to keep the better teams from buying a championship in an uncapped year. In the NFL it seems parity is their biggest concern.

Of the Ravens current group of receivers the only ones I would like to see them bring back would be Derrick Mason, who isn't sure if he wants to play anymore, and possibly Demetrius Williams. Mark Clayton has shown he isn't up to the caliber of a number two receiver, and Kelly Washington ,while he has been productive, is average at best. So, finding suitable replacements isn't going to be easy, but it's not impossible. For starters there is the draft, and if Ozzie Newsome passes on a top receiver because some other player was higher on his board then he will have a lot of explaining to do. The ravens choose not to draft any receivers last season with Ozzie saying that the need wasn't there because they had a healthy Demetrius Williams. Why then didn't Williams see the field until the last part of the season? Is it because he doesn't play special teams well enough, which seems to be a requirement of John Harbaugh, or doesn't the team think he has enough talent?

The bottom 4 teams in the final 8 will be allowed to pick up free agents, just not the high priced ones, so if the team goes that route they may be replacing mediocrity with more of the same. Those 8 teams will also be free to pick up any players that are cut, but the better receivers aren't going to be among that group. So basically the Ravens are left to the draft to find the next young superstar receiver, and that's always a crap shoot.

Another need of this team is secondary help. It remains to be seen if Ladarius Webb can come back quickly, and if he does come back if he'll be the same player he was. The ravens are committed to Dominique Foxworth due to the extravagant salary they lavished on him, so expect to see him return. Once again the team will need to look to the draft to find a top notch corner, something that is easier said then done. Good corners in college often have trouble adjusting to the talent level and speed in the NFL, so finding one who can carry over his game to the next level is rare.

And then there's the matter of having a good pass rush, something this team lacked for much of the season. Trevor Pryce is getting up there in age and I don't see the team bringing him back. It also remains to be seen if Kelley Gregg can still be efficient next season. The injury he had to his knee is one that often requires two years before it's completely healed so maybe he still has another year or two left where he can be productive, but he and Haloti Ngata are more two gap players then pass rushers. Terrell Suggs, who came into camp with an ass that rivaled Queen Latifah, was a huge disappointment this season. The team had better make sure that he gets that big behind into the training facility during the off season and gets himself back into game shape.

What the team needs to is develop Paul Kruger during the off season, to teach him the moves he needs to learn to be an effective pass rusher at this level. I can think of no better person to teach him those skills then former Raven Michael McCrary. "Mac" had every move known to man and knew how and when to use them. The team could also have Antwan Barnes attend those practices as he's shown ability coming off the edge. Barnes has been with the team for three years now so they must see some worth in him. Why not explore how far he can go?

There really isn't much more this team needs to reach the next level in the playoffs. It will take commitment, good coaching, and a little luck with players not falling to injury to get this team where it needs to go. The job won't be easy, but it's far from impossible. Rave on brothers and sisters.


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