Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ravens don't need a stud receiver to advance beyond AFC Championship Game

We are three weeks into training camp and a game deep into the preseason schedule and the raging debate about the Ravens’ need for a No. 1 receiver continues. How many times have you heard that if the Ravens could acquire a No. 1 wide out it could catapult them from Conference Championship losers to Super Bowl contenders?

How narrow minded is that thinking?

Get an Anquan Boldin or a Brandon Marshall, keep everything else the same and the Ravens will be Miami bound come February, 2010.

If that is how you see it, please for a moment step down from the clouds of fantasy football la-la land.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Ravens wide receivers as a unit are no more productive in 2009 than they were in 2008. To then conclude that since there has been no improvement at the position, the team can go no farther than the AFC Championship Game completely kicks to the curb all of the other positive changes the team has made to augment their roster.

What if special teams are measurably more productive and the Ravens then are able to manage field position and the clock more efficiently. Suppose there is improvement in the secondary and they defend the intermediate routes more effectively. Maybe Joe Flacco’s familiarity with the playbook enables Cam Cameron to open up a few more of its pages and the Ravens more aggressively attack by air within the hash marks.

Ray Rice is stronger and fresher and now understands the rigors of an NFL season while Willis McGahee is rejuvenated and ready to compete to reclaim the starting position. Doesn’t that competition make the Ravens better, all other things being equal?

And then how about this…

What if Michael Oher can hold down the fort at right tackle without perpetual help from the tight ends or tailbacks? The Ravens could then get Todd Heap and LJ Smith out into patterns more just as they could with backs Rice, McGahee and Le’Ron McClain. Wouldn’t that put more pressure on opposing defenses and create more favorable one-on-one matchups?

Of course it would!

So at the end of the day, the emphasis doesn’t necessarily have to be upon finding a prototypical No. 1 receiver but rather upon overall improvement in the passing game. If you can get that with improved pass protection and distributing the football, what difference does it make if Anquan Boldin wears No. 81 in purple?

Had the Ravens made the trade to get Boldin and it would have cost them their No. 1 pick, they now would be without Michael Oher AND Adam Terry. Then the team would revert to holding in the backs and tight ends again and Boldin would see double coverage downfield while Flacco is on his back staring at the clouds.

The point here is that there are ways to improve a football team and the Ravens have done exactly that. They are better on both lines; stronger in the secondary and believe it or not linebacker too; better in the return game; healthier in the backfield and more dangerous at tight end. This team is deep – it has been evident during camp and it was pretty clear when the Ravens hosted the Redskins last Thursday.

The coaching staff has a full year together and familiarity with the roster while organizationally there exists a singularity of purpose. The collective pride of the team embodied in the mantra of ’08, “What’s Our Name?” has manifested itself into ‘09’s credo, “Play Like a Raven.”

Is this Ravens team better than the team that took the field in the 2009 AFC Championship Game?


Does that mean they’ll advance to Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010?

Absolutely not!

As we’ve all seen the NFL season is a marathon and many things happen along the way. Some teams that you expect to be dangerous today may look like freebies on the schedule by mid-season as a result of injury or underachievement. Other teams will surprise you much like the Ravens did in ’08.

The league is extremely dynamic and characterized by an unpredictable ebb and flow. To simply add a No. 1 receiver to the roster of a 2009 AFC Championship participant is hardly a guaranteed ticket to Miami. Such a move guarantees only one thing – a higher payroll and foregone draft picks.

And we’ve seen before how that can set back an organization, haven’t we?


Radio GaGa said...

Thank God! Somebody with a little sense! Somebody please forward this blog to Ms. Miami Marks. Please! Better yet, post her email address and I'll send it over.

Tony did Scott Garceau pay you to write this? By the way, where the hell have you been TL?

Anonymous said...

If Demetrius Williams and Mark Clayton return to health coupled with more experience with Flacco, better protection and throwing more to the backs and Heap, you would think that the passing game will improve. Plus I think the running game improves too and the two go hand in hand.

A stud wideout would be nice, but it isn't a necessity. The best receiver the Ravens had in 2000 was Qadry Ismail and I don't think he was as good as Mason or Clayton (when healthy).

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks the Ravens do not need a top tier WR just does not see things clearly, IMO.

Ben said...

That last comment, about how people don't see things clearly is exactly why this post was necessary. No matter how rationally you put this into perspective Tony, you still have fans clamoring for Boldin or Marshall. WE ARE A RUNNING TEAM. The most important numbers to our offense are 27, 23, 33, and the O line.

If we average 5 yards a carry because of the improvements to our line and the health of our backs, we don't need to throw it. We are not the Colts, the Bungles, the Pats, the Cards or the Packers. We are built around the run first and foremost. The less you control the clock the more likely you are to tire out your Defense and put them in unfavorable situations. We do not want a track meet we want the physical grind it out games. Oher is a much better fit to this team in that situation than any WR available for a kings ransom.

Also as you pointed out Oher would not have been here if we traded away our first pick for a "stud" WR and there's no way you could get a Tackle of his caliber for 12 million dollars over five years. Plus there's as much of a guarantee he will be good as there is for Boldin or Marshall in a new system.

So please look over what Tony said and take a deep breath. Ozzie and Harbs have not decided to forfeit all the games this year, and we will be fine.

Anonymous said...

Actually Ben...logic need look no further than the difference between the 2007 Giants and the 2008 Giants. PLAXICO BURRESS. They still had the same beasts at RB. They still had the same QB. What was missing was the go-to guy in the Red Zone. And in case you haven't really been watching the Ravens much over the past decade, they have a long history of troubles scoring TDs ve FGs in the Red Zone. (Last year was somewhat of an exception, but that was primarily because of McClain -- who no longer has LoNeal, btw, and does not appear to be projected as a major factor in the running game (vs blocking) in 2009.)

And against the better teams, you need TDs, not FGs. Heck, even Cam Cameron said exactly that a couple weeks ago. And THAT'S where a true stud WR makes all the difference. And if that doesn't sink in with you, take a good look at Fitz and how he made catch after catch in the end zone in double and even triple coverage for the Cards.

So you can keep all the "rah rah" for Tony and his OPINIONS, and call it logic all you want -- all it does is make you -- and him -- look pretty silly and illogical.

Tony Lombardi said...

He's back...Anonymous the Great,

Where have you been buddy? Why haven't you taken up my offer to come from behind the curtain and offer your thoughtful prose up in a blog of your own?

Oh and by the way the last time I checked, the Giants who as you point out won a Super Bowl with Plaxico Burress, don't want him back. They kicked him out.

Maybe the disruptive force wasn't worth the trouble. And I think Brandon Jacobs' injuries and those to the defense of the Giants might have had a little something to do with their struggles in '08.

So tell us Mr. Logical, how might the Ravens look now with Boldin and without Oher? How much of a red zone threat would Boldin be without Fitzgerald? You know the same Boldin who averaged less yardage per catch than Derrick Mason last year.

Have someone else in mind? Then please do tell...

Or should the Ravens just feel sorry for themselves because a good receiver wasn't available to them without it costing an arm and a leg instead of improving in other areas on the field?

Please enlighten us all...

I'll be sure to share this with DeCosta so he can pass it on to Ozzie and pave the way to more Super Bowl trophies.

Ben said...

Ok Anonymous I'll bite. The 07 Giants won the superbowl with a dominate D line that pressured Brady all day. Two of those pro bowlers were not on the roster opening day. Jacobs was not completely healthy and the D line rotation was not there so by the time the playoffs rolled around the players were not as fresh. Not to mention Tuck had the Flu.

But here's the thing, what makes you think that if we had Boldin or Marshall that they would automatically ensure we go to the superbowl? You can't just assume a players production on one team will be equal to that of another. This isn't Madden. Marshall put up the numbers that he did because there was no running game, and no D in Denver and Shannahan designed the plays to go to him. However in the Red Zone Cutler still turned the Ball over much more than Flacco even with his #1 reciever. So would you like to trade Field Goals for touchdowns or turnovers?

Boldin is a possession receiver who is difficult to tackle but Fitz is the one who stretches the field. He's a malcontent who needs to be involved in the game so lets see how he would react to Cam telling him in the 4th quarter we're going to pound the ball for the remainder of the game then repeat that speech another 16 weeks strait and see if he's OK with that. And last I checked we have one of the best possession receivers in the NFL.

People screaming for these Wide Outs assume that the Broncos and Cards are simply going to give these guys away for a first round pick. We don't even know if they're available at all and what makes you so sure they don't want what Dallas gave up for Roy Williams (which btw didn't seem like the best move they've ever made). So using Dallas as a model we would have to give up Oher, Webb, Peerman, and a seventh rounder next year. Oh and 45 million dollars (20 guaranteed). That's assuming they don't want another high pick. But hey who needs depth, a salary cap and a dominate O line when you have a WR who was good on another team right?

This is the second year we are in Cam's offense and we have no clue what percentage of his playbook he was running last year. He was working with a Rookie QB who had to learn on the fly and build up a relationship with his receivers and the terminology. Not to mention every QB hits a rookie wall, just ask the great Matt Ryan (who BTW has a legitimate #1 but had no protection in his playoff action).So lets just wait a little before we start screaming for changes to this roster.

Lastly I defy you to tell me another game than the Indy one (thanks C mac) where we didn't have a chance. The playoff game in Pittsburgh was ours to be won until Darren Stone got a stupid penalty called which flipped field position and changed the play calling. We still were backed up on our ten and got another 20 yards before Flacco turned the ball over, 20 yards starting on your 43 puts you on the edge of field goal range. The Giants game was still ours until Mason had a ball bounce off his dislocated shoulder into their DB for a Touchdown. Against Pittsburgh the second time they never had that TD and the first was a breakdown in protection which caused Flacco to fumble the ball. And we don't need to talk about the Titans and the ruffing the passer call.

Those things don't happen and maybe we win those games. But it sure is hard to throw off your back in this league and if you only have two guys running routes out there it is awfully hard to complete a pass. I don't care if you have Larry Fitz and Andre Johnson as your two receivers, if your QB can't get the ball off or they are doubled and triple covered you will have heck of time trying to complete that pass.

So if it's silly and illogical to want a dominate run game, good home grown players and have faith that Flacco will throw the ball to the open receiver then I guess you got me.

Catnip said...

Here little kitty. Come out come out wherever you are and play with TL. What's the matter, tougher cat got your tongue?

Here's a great idea for a kitten's name: Anonymous.


Well why not? Both are little pussies!

I'm a Believer said...

TL I have to give you props here. Shame on me for being lured in by the drivel from Anita Marks. Suddenly with more time to throw and with more options to throw to the receivers are getting open.

Happy to see that someone in this town gets it. Now when are you heading back to the airwaves? The town is screaming for some intelligence on air!