Expect Ravens to start slow


Will The Ravens Be Better At The Start Of The 2009 Season Than At The End Of The 2008 Playoffs?

March 13, 2009|By KEN MURRAY

When last seen in the AFC championship game, the Ravens had a lot going for them. They had a defense that body-slammed ball carriers at every turn, a quarterback who didn't shrink at crunch time and a running game that commanded respect.

Since that loss in Pittsburgh, the losses have mounted. Free agency cost them linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard and center Jason Brown. Cornerback Chris McAlister left in a funk and Samari Rolle wants out. Matt Stover is suddenly old news. Worst of all, they watched Rex Ryan leave to take the New York Jets' coaching job, and he took his top lieutenant, Mike Pettine, with him.

Ozzie Newsome can replace the defections on the field. That's what he does. But replacing Ryan's clever deception on defense is another story. Greg Mattison will be a good NFL coordinator, perhaps as good as Ryan in time. But can he replace in seven months what it took Ryan 10 years to build? I think not.

I don't see the Ravens being as good on opening day as they were Jan. 18 in Pittsburgh. That's not realistic, not when they have to infuse new blood on defense, survive another John Harbaugh training camp and await the new wrinkles that defenses will present Joe Flacco after an offseason of tape review.

The Ravens will be good next season, no question. I expect them to make a hard run at the Steelers again. But on opening day, they're going to be feeling their way, hoping the new guys can eventually be as good as the old guys.

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