2006 Baltimore Ravens Preview

Simply put, this season is a put-up-or-shut-up season for, head coach, Brian Billick and many of the aging veteran players that have been with the Ravens since they hoisted their Super Bowl trophy in 2000.

There should be no excuses either this season. Billick, who was hailed as an offensive genius when he was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings in the late 90s, has a first-rate quarterback in Steve McNair and a solid defense led by two former, defensive Player of the Year award winners.

Whether the Ravens can put it all together to make one last championship run is another question altogether. However, lack of talent won’t be an issue.
Here’s the skinny on the Baltimore Ravens for 2006.

Quarterback
Baltimore traded a fourth-round pick for former Tennessee Titans quarterback, Steve McNair, who is an immense upgrade over the totally clueless, Kyle Boller, who immediately moved to number two on the depth chart with McNair’s arrival.
For this team to have any chance at securing a playoff spot in the tough AFC, McNair has to stay healthy. If he doesn’t, it’ll be the same old song in B-more – or should I say, B-less.

Running Back
My motto as a columnist has always been to call things like I see them. Having said that, I have to say that running back, Jamal Lewis is an absolute disgrace. For Lewis to essentially quit on his teammates because of his desire for a new contract was downright despicable.

If it were up to me, there is no way Lewis would have ever been back, however,
He is back and is the number one back once again.
However, if Lewis doesn’t perform the way he did a few season ago when he rushed for over 2,000 yards, the Ravens have acquired former Denver Broncos 1,000-yard rusher, Mike Anderson, who, at the very least, will provide a change of style from Lewis’ punishing approach.

Wide Receiver/Tight End
McNair will have a familiar target in veteran, Derrick Mason, whom he is already comfortable with. Mark Clayton, last year’s No. 1 draft pick, will start on the other side, giving McNair another excellent receiver – and one that is going to get better with each passing game.

Tight end Todd Heap is an excellent pass catcher and is healthy after playing through several nagging injuries last season.
Clarence Moore and Devard Darling will compete for the third and fourth slots respectively.

Offensive Line
Although veteran tackle, Jonathan Ogden clearly isn’t the player he used to be, he’s still better than 90 percent of the tackles in the league. However, I can’t say the same for the rest of the Ravens nondescript offensive line.
Edwin Mulitalo, Mike Flynn, Keydrick Vincent and Adam Terry are all mediocre at best. Brian Rimpf and Tony Pashos will either come off the bench as rotation players, or earn a starting position somewhere along the line in this disjointed group.

Defensive Line
Not a bad unit on the whole here for Baltimore. Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs are the glue that will hold this foundation together. Justin Bannan, rookie, Haloti Ngata, and veteran, Kelly Gregg round out the rest of the Ravens defensive line.

Linebackers
Ray Lewis may not be the player he used to be either, but he’s still pretty damn good. Whether that’s enough to get the Ravens back into the thick of the playoff hunt in the AFC remains to be seen.
Adalius Thomas is quickly becoming a Pro Bowl caliber player whose growth this season should help Lewis use his distinctive sideline-to-sideline abilities to the utmost. Either, Bart Scott or Dan Cody will start on the other side.

Defensive Backs
Former Defensive Player of the Year, safety, Ed Reed, is the headliner of this group. Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle are certainly above average players at their respective positions. The only weak link could be safety, B.J. Ward.
Special Teams
Matt Stover is rock solid for the Ravens. However, the Ravens don’t have a starting punter at this point. Leo Araguz and Sam Koch will battle for that position. B.J. Sams will man the majority of the Ravens returns, both punt and kickoffs, with Clayton backing him up on both roles.

Coaching
If Billick doesn’t get his act together this season, he won’t be back in 2007 – and rightfully so, if I may say so. However, if the Ravens can pull out a winning season, I think he should get at least one more season with a competent quarterback at the helm – and I’m not talking about Kyle Boller either.

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