Friday, April 30, 2010

Ravens Weak Secondary NOT a Liability!

Media experts and fans are poking and prodding at every NFL roster trying to find potential holes. The consensus hole for the Ravens is at the CB position because Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb are both coming off of knee injuries and may not be ready to start the season. Emphasis should be put on “may not” because from all accounts both are well ahead of schedule and at least one of them will be ready week 1. But ignore that for the moment, let’s say they both start the season on the physically unable to perform list and don’t return until week 6, what kind of trouble are the Ravens in? None and it is not because I think Ozzie Newsome is a master at filling holes, even though he is. I think the Ravens will be fine with or without Washington and Webb for a few reasons.

Assuming the Ravens bring back Frank Walker, the secondary that they will start the season with is the same one they played the last 4 games of the season with. In the last 4 games of the season the Ravens faced Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. The Steelers, Colts, and Patriots all had top 10 passing attacks last season and the Ravens walked away 2-2 in their last 4 games, including the playoffs. That’s not too shabby, for a group that most people think is terrible. In fact even in the two losses the secondary was not overmatched and they played well enough to win. At Pittsburgh, they held Roethlisberger to an average 259 yards passing before the Ravens entire team went into meltdown mode. In the playoff loss to the Colts, the Ravens offense was the reason they lost the game not their secondary. So, what does all this have to do with why the Ravens will be fine with their current backfield if Webb and/or Washington are not able to start the season? Look at the opponents the Ravens will face the first 8 weeks of the season. 4 of the 7 teams ranked 25th or worse in passing last year and none of them made upgrades that would catapult them into an elite passing game. Only the Patriots ranked in the top 5 and again the Raven beat the Patriots convincingly with their current secondary. The Steelers, who ranked 9th, will be without Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes. A closer look:

Jets: Mark Sanchez was a below average starting QB last year and the Jets 31st ranking in the passing game proves that. The Jets did acquire wide receiver Santonio Holmes to bolster the passing game and help Sanchez develop but he’s suspended the first 4 weeks of the season and therefore will not play against the Ravens. Which means Sanchez’s improvement is the only upgrade to the Jets passing game that the Ravens will face. Sanchez should improve considerably, he can’t really get much worse but I doubt it is enough for the Jets to beat the Ravens through the air. Add in the fact that the Jets are a run happy team and the Ravens secondary should be fine in this matchup.

Bengals: The Bengals beat the Ravens twice last year but it wasn’t because of their 26th ranked passing game. It was because of defense and a solid run game. Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson have both lost a step and are not as explosive as they once were. The Bengals didn’t do anything to drastically upgrade their pass offense this offseason. In my opinion, Antonio Bryant equals Laveranues Coles. They did add two wide receivers in the draft but drafting wide receivers is such a crap shoot that neither can be considered a real upgrade at this point. Jermaine Gresham will be valuable to them but the Ravens were the best team in the league at defending TE’s last year. So, this isn’t a game where the Ravens secondary will be overmatched.

Browns: Ranked 32nd in passing last season. Whether it is Jake Delhomme, Wallace, or Colt McCoy, the Browns upgraded at QB this offseason but it is not enough to catapult them into an offense that can take advantage of a “weak” Ravens secondary. Besides who are the Browns receivers again?

Steelers: Ranked 9th in passing last season but the Ravens will be facing a very much watered down version of this passing game. Roethlisberger has been suspended for at least the first 4 games of the season and the Steelers, as was stated earlier, traded their number 1 receiver Santonio Holmes to the NY Jets. Hines Ward and Heath Miller, will not be enough for the Steelers to exploit the Ravens secondary, and it doesn’t matter which backup QB they use.

Broncos: The Bronco’s 13th ranked passing offense didn’t matchup well with the Ravens defense last year and without Brandon Marshall and Ryan Clady, the Bronco’s passing game has been downgraded. Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn have not faired well against the Ravens. The Ravens held Orton to 137 passing yards on 37 attempts and number 1 receiver Eddie Royal to 2 receptions for 10 yards.

Patriots: This 3rd ranked passing attack faced the same undermanned Ravens secondary in the wildcard round of the playoffs and the Ravens secondary did just fine that game.

In my opinion, the only team with enough fire power in the passing game to expose the Ravens secondary is the Patriots and again the Ravens, not to beat a dead horse, beat the Patriots with this same secondary in the playoffs last year. So, as long as Webb and Washington are ready by the week 8 bye , (wk 7 they face the 30th ranked Bills passing attack) the Ravens secondary will be fine with their current group. That doesn’t mean the Ravens are going to start the season 7-0 but the secondary will not be as big of a liability as some people seem to think. The Ravens should look to add more bodies and hope all their current guys can stay healthy but there is no need to make any drastic changes, even if Webb and Washington are not ready to go, unless their injuries will keep them out for the entire season.

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