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Baltimore Ravens

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Vinnie Iyer and Mike Preston

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Will the defense continue to help the team overachieve?

The Ravens' defense held up well and helped them win some games last season, despite missing its heart and soul, Ray Lewis, for 11 contests.

With Lewis back healthy and wreaking havoc at inside linebacker, a respectable unit will be better, and a big part of it will be the fire and leadership he provides.

That's not to say there isn't good talent around him. Peter Boulware and rookie Terrell Suggs will bring the heat from the outside. Chris McAlister is a solid corner -- when he wants to be. Second-year safety Ed Reed showed a knack for big plays as a rookie last year.

For Mike Nolan's 3-4 to truly excel, it needs much improved play from the three up front. Lewis, Boulware and Suggs can make much happen, but they need the line to occupy blockers.

Nolan again will squeeze everything out of his scheme and Brian Billick will continue to prove how good a coach he is -- he didn't lead his team to a Super Bowl win by accident.

The team will play over its heads, but don't expect a playoff berth. Treading at .500 after last season's 7-9 would be a nice accomplishment. --Vinnie Iyer


A year ago, there were no expectations for the Ravens. This year, it's the playoffs. The Ravens may have completed one of the fastest rebuilding processes in the history of the league, and team officials believe that, after just one year, they can return to prime time.

The Ravens have 11 starters returning on defense and nine on offense. They've added such free agents as right offensive tackle Orlando Brown, defensive back Corey Fuller and wide receiver Frank Sanders, all veterans in the latter stages of their careers, but they can bring personality to a young team.

The Ravens play in the AFC North, which may be one of the worst divisions in the NFL. If the rebuilding Ravens, at 7-9, were in playoff contention last year with 18 rookies or first-year players, they might make the field in 2003. For that to happen, the team needs a leader to emerge at quarterback and a big-time player at wide receiver.

The defense? Don't worry; it will be up to standards.

Quite honestly, the Ravens' blueprint for the future looks a lot like the one that helped them win the Super Bowl after the 2000 season.

"How far have we come? We'll find out," coach Brian Billick says. "Having been on the doorstep last season, we can't come into this year with any less expectation than being a playoff team. Last year, my mantra was I don't care if you win or lose, it's how you develop. Now it's about the winning and losing."


The linebackers: The Ravens have one of the best groups in the league. They will remain in a 3-4 alignment.

Ray Lewis appears to have fully recovered from last year's separated shoulder. Lewis is the league's premier defensive player, the total package of strength, intensity, speed and desire. He will be joined on the inside by third-year linebacker Edgerton Hartwell, who established himself throughout the league a year ago, his first as a starter.

Hartwell doesn't have Lewis' range, but he plays tackle to tackle extremely well and has great instincts. On the outside, the Ravens have Boulware, one of the league's best pass rushers. Early in his career, Boulware relied more on speed but has added a couple of power moves. On the other side is Cornell Brown, who is underrated as a run stopper and has virtually no problems taking on tight ends. Look for Brown to be replaced by Suggs, the No. 10 overall pick, in passing situations.

The Ravens have a lot of depth, which came in handy when Lewis missed most of last season because of the shoulder. The team re-signed Bernardo Harris, who hadn't lost a step last year and was a positive influence in the locker room. The Ravens also have second-year player Bart Scott, who can play inside or outside. Because of his athletic ability, he should be a standout on special teams.

RB Jamal Lewis: Lewis has to carry the offense. A year ago, he erased any doubt about whether he had completely recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee by rushing for 1,327 yards. He got stronger as the season went on, and the Ravens expect him to be even stronger this season.

Lewis is nearly the total package. He is big enough to pound inside for the tough yards -- he can wear down defenses because he is such a load -- and has deceiving speed for a big man. Lewis also can make catches out of the backfield.

His two major problems are pass protection and holding on to the ball. Sometimes Lewis tries so hard to get the extra yard that he fails to protect the football. His pass protection is more of a technique problem than a case of his not being physical enough to deliver blows.

The Ravens went into last season without a proven backup but discovered the ideal relief man in Chester Taylor. He doesn't have Lewis' power or acceleration, but he always gets plus yardage because of his body lean. Taylor also showed he has great hands and will become the team's third-down back, replacing Lewis in passing situations. If Lewis gets hurt, Taylor could probably handle the load. If not, the Ravens have an outstanding rookie in Musa Smith, a north-south runner like Lewis.

The offensive line: This unit has to be one of the most consistent if the Ravens are to be successful. The Ravens want to muscle up with this group and pound away with Lewis.

The left side will be dominant. Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden gets better every year. He has imposing size and uses great leverage. He might be the best technician at the position in the league. Left guard Edwin Mulitalo has a great burst and moves quickly in short space. Like Ogden, he can wear down opponents late in games.

Mulitalo, though, is too stiff and needs to improve in pass protection. Mike Flynn will perform adequately at center, but he is known for slow starts and sometimes gets overpowered. The right side of the line, even with the addition of Brown, is suspect.

Third-year player Bennie Anderson has to address a weight problem before the Ravens can start him at right guard. Anderson has power but is just too slow, especially in pass protection. The Ravens want him to report to training camp at 330 or below. If he doesn't, he'll be in Billick's doghouse instantly.

Brown, despite being out of the league for two seasons because of an eye injury, appears to be in great condition. He worked on foot speed during his absence. Brown has a reputation of being a run blocker and of having a nasty demeanor. One of Brown's biggest roles will be to work with Anderson.

The Ravens have good depth along the line. If Anderson fails to perform, Casey Rabach will move to center and Flynn to guard. The team also has a backup for Brown in Ethan Brooks, who started at right tackle for most of last season. Brooks has good quickness and is efficient as a run blocker but has trouble with speed rushers on the outside.


Ravens fans keep waiting for Billick to deliver an explosive, vertical-type offense similar to the one he built as offensive coordinator for the Vikings. But they shouldn't hold their collective breath.

In the past, the Ravens have spent a lot of money on defense and they are again counting on linebackers Boulware, Lewis and Hartwell and McAlister. The team wants to play conservatively on offense with a running game, win the field position battle and dictate the pace with a dominant defense.

Billick is smart to put the offense in the arms of Jamal Lewis, who should average between 25 and 30 carries. The Ravens always have been strong on the left side but wanted more balance in the running game, so they signed Brown during the offseason. That gives them one of the more physical offensive lines in the NFL. Look for Baltimore to start the season with a two-tight end base offense.

Defensively, the Ravens again will try to control the line of scrimmage by penetrating and holding gaps while the linebackers pursue and make plays out of the 3-4 alignment. Despite having a new defensive coordinator, Nolan, last season, the team stayed with much of the same terminology and philosophy installed by Marvin Lewis.

The emphasis has always been on players being able to stay on their feet and run. Unlike last season, when the Ravens had a young secondary, look for them to use more blitzes.


The Ravens won seven games last year and didn't have Ray Lewis, the best defensive player in the NFL, for most of the season. They should be improved with Lewis back.


The Ravens are a year older and better than last season, when they had an outside shot of making the playoffs late in the year. With Ray Lewis completely healthy again, there is no reason to believe the Ravens won't be serious playoff contenders this season. The goal, though, is for this team to make serious Super Bowl runs in 2004 and 2005.

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Wouldn't that fry the media; if we had a Super Bowl, Redskins vs. Ravens in 2004? Two stud football teams from that little itty bitty state of Maryland? Sure, it won't happen, but I'd like it. BTW, Thanks B&G. IMO, anything football related is welcomed at a slow 'Skins news time like this.

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The Board voted to the tune of 66 or 67% just a couple of weeks ago to have all "football" related articles (otherwise unavailable to members) posted here. In the poll, most seemed to believe that, in the offseason at least, any football news is good.

I do appreciate that some of you don't care to read articles other than those about the Redskins and request that you simply ignore these posts.

Once training camp starts, I plan to post another poll asking if the members would prefer, at that point, to restrict postings to only NFC East news. I'll always be guided by the wishes of the members and administrators of this great board.

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Not my intent to fry you personally B&G, but, IMHO, this is a Redskins board, and by definition content should be somehow related to that team. I, like I'm sure many others here do also, float around the various football sites and pick and choose our news from the NFL. To include news from all NFL sites that have some theadbare relationship to the Skins is, again IMHO, adding bulk of material to a Redskins board that is unrelated. Maybe the Mods would consider a board for ALL NFL talk, i.e. fantasy and the like?

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Originally posted by Long n Left

Not my intent to fry you personally B&G, but, IMHO, this is a Redskins board, and by definition content should be somehow related to that team. I, like I'm sure many others here do also, float around the various football sites and pick and choose our news from the NFL. To include news from all NFL sites that have some theadbare relationship to the Skins is, again IMHO, adding bulk of material to a Redskins board that is unrelated. Maybe the Mods would consider a board for ALL NFL talk, i.e. fantasy and the like?

Dude, it's June, mincamps are over, training camp is still 6 weeks away. I'll take all the NFL news I can get. There's only but so much we can talk about the need to extend champ or how well Ramsey will develop.

Just an aside, i thought it was interesting how they never mentioned the Ravens qb situation. not one mention of kyle boller

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Billick is not that great of a coach.

The success of the Ravens was a combination of Lewis' system on defense and the consistency in personnel over a number of years running it..................


the marvelous ability of Ozzie Newsome in the front office to continue to draft the right players year after year.

Ozzie rarely misses on players, most of his top picks become immediate starters or contributors.

Billick came in as a supposed offensive genius and yet the Ravens under Brian have never been one of the NFL's top scoring teams.

There are coaches that won a Super Bowl yet that one game didn't make them immortals.

I don't think Weeb Ewbank is a genius for the Jets' 1969 victory over Baltimore.

I don't think Mike Ditka is a genius for the Bears 1985 victory over the Patriots either.

In the case of Ditka, once again a superior defense and a top front office that consistently provided star talent was the real engine behind the Bears success.

Ditka's offense (he inherited Walter Payton) was rarely innovative or the reason the Bears won big games in the 1980's.

Usually the team won IN SPITE of Ditka's offense :)

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