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Team needs: Baltimore Ravens

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

We wrap up the pre-draft look at the team needs — only one day late — with a look at one of the teams that I thought would be drafting in the bottom two of the first round.

The Ravens have been knocking on the door for the past three years, but they’ve been unable to kick it in.  Here’s where they need to focus on beefing up the roster, if they hope to get it done in two-oh-one-one.

CB:  Whether it’s veteran Nnamdi Asomugha (on whom Ray Lewis was working at the Pro Bowl, according to Paul Gutierrez of CSNCalifornia.com) or rookie Jimmy Smith, the Ravens need to address one of the most glaring weaknesses on their otherwise stout defense.  They also need to decide what to do with Josh Wilson and Chris Carr, both of whom are poised to become free agents.

WR:  The Ravens have cornered the market on possession receivers.  But those guys can’t do quite as much without a legitimate deep threat to stretch the field.  Last year, Donte’ Stallworth was supposed to fill that role, but he caught only two posses after missing two months with a broken foot.  The Ravens could be one of the few teams with interest in Terrell Owens or Randy Moss, if they don’t add a speedster like Torrey Smith in the draft.

LB:  On the outside, they need a guy who can complement Terrell Suggs.  On the inside, it’s time to start thinking about grooming replacement for Ray Lewis.  And the best way to do that is to let the next Ray Lewis learn from the current one.

OT:  The once-promising Jared Gaither, who was flipped from the left side to the right side last year, showed up much lighter than a right tackle should be, and back trouble knocked him out for the entire season.  Michael Oher has done well on the left side.  The question is whether to find a new left tackle, moving Oher back to the right, or to find a new right tackle.  Oher probably prefers to stay where he is, given that left tackles tend to make a lot more money.  Which is probably why Gaither wasn’t thrilled with being sent from the left side to the right side last year.

RB:  With the position becoming increasingly fungible and Willis McGahee moving toward the end of the line and Le’Ron McClain eligible for free agency, using a low-round pick on a large, between-the-tackles ball carrier could provide a great complement for Ray Rice, a budding star who’d be better off in the long haul if he has some quality help now.

S:  Though Ed Reed isn’t talking about retirement (this year), they need to be ready for it to happen.  Then there’s the fact that Tom Zbikowski seems to be far more interested in boxing, to the point that he’ll retire if the Ravens can win a Super Bowl.  (Of course, most Ravens fans would happily part with Zbikowski if it means the team will have won a Super Bowl.)

QB:  Marc Bulger likely won’t be back as the backup to Joe Flacco.  A young, mid-round guy who could be developed quietly would serve as potential protection against an eventual push by Flacco to go elsewhere.  Given his objection to the firing of Jim Zorn and complaints about the team’s reluctance to sign him to a long-term deal, there’s a vague sense that things could eventually go badly between the Ravens and Flacco.

Overview:  For an elite team, the Ravens still have plenty of holes.  They’ve done well despite more than a few weaknesses, thanks to a solid nucleus and a strong head coach that keeps them competitive.  Like the Eagles in the NFC, however, getting close on a consistent basis eventually won’t be good enough.

This year, the challenge will be to plug a few potential leaks while at the same time addressing those shortcomings that kept them once again from getting past the Steelers.

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34 Responses to “Team needs: Baltimore Ravens”
  1. cornellsteelers says: Apr 23, 2011 1:55 PM

    Um, aren’t “elite” teams expected to win their division once in a while?

  2. 7370355q says: Apr 23, 2011 2:02 PM

    -Prospect List

    1st Round: Jimmy Smith (CB), Akeem Ayers (OLB)

    2nd Round: Titus Young (WR), Jon Baldwin (WR), Torrey Smith (WR), Greg Little (WR)

    3rd Round: Marcus Gilbert (OT), Marcus Cannon (OT), James Brewer (OT)

    4th Round: Ahmad Black (S), Robert Sands (S), Kelvin Sheppard (ILB)

    5th Round: Demarcus Van Dyke (CB), Cecil Shorts (WR)

    6th Round: Brandon Fusco (C), Ryan Bartholomew (C), Greg McElroy (QB)

    7th Round: Jamie Harper (RB), Darren Evans (RB

    Also: Flacco will get his extension the Ravens are very pleased with his performance so far, I see no issue there.

  3. jo3jo says: Apr 23, 2011 2:09 PM

    Glaring omission – Matt Birk has said he is likely going to retire in a year so center is probably high on Ravens list. The most pressing need is left tackle, as Gaither is likely done on this team. Next most pressing is the defensive rusher they had wanted when they drafted Kindle last year. After that a replacement at fullback since LeRon seems bent on becoming a RB and it won’t happen in Baltimore. Then a corner if they aren’t keeping Wilson and Carr, which I think they might. Then a backup QB. And as mentioned, Lewis and Rice are getting to an age where thinking about their successors is not crazy.

    I think WR and RB are very low priorities for the Ravens unless someone crazy drops into their lap. They had more people at both these positions than CamCam knew how to use last year. No way TO ends up a Raven — they already passed on him last year due to historic bad blood (he snubbed them years ago), and aren’t going to get any more excited now.

    Since most of these needs are ones you can ably fill in the second round, it’s possible the Ravens would package their first rounder and some lower picks to get more 2nd round picks.

  4. jo3jo says: Apr 23, 2011 2:14 PM

    Correction – Lewis and Reed, not Rice…

  5. harmcityhomer says: Apr 23, 2011 2:22 PM

    I would love to see the Ravens sign Asomogha and retain Gaither putting him back in the lineup at LT.
    The CB play last year was fine, but adding a physical shutdown guy to the mix would help the pass rush out a lot.
    There are other good front 4 players beside Suggs and Nagta but this seems like a good year to add a pass rushing DL player in the draft.

    A young speedy Wr in the mix would aslo be nice, but I think just getting Gaither back in the mix would get the run game and pass pro back to where it needs to be in order to open up the deep passing game by forcing 8 man fronts just to contain Rice.

  6. 7370355q says: Apr 23, 2011 2:23 PM

    @cornellsteelers

    Elite could also mean making the playoffs every season, something the Steelers failed to do in 2009.

  7. nowathand twitter.com/Chris_M_Bach says: Apr 23, 2011 3:19 PM

    Mike, you are a good journalist and you more times than not have good analysis, but to call Anquan Boldin a possession receiver is an insult to the position. To even call WR a need to ignore what Ryan Clark has said about the predictability of the offense. That is the problem. Why didn’t the receivers perform? Because, most of the time, only two of them were on the field. Cam Cameron is the worst offensive coordinator in the NFL by leaps and bounds.

    I understand it’s difficult to come up with a need list for a team that doesn’t need anything but corner is only #1 need if they don’t think they can re-sign Josh Wilson. “the most glaring weaknesses on their otherwise stout defense.” They will get Domonique Foxworth back. It was Wilson’s first year. Just because on one play – in the most important moment – Lardarius Webb blew the coverage on Antonio Brown doesn’t mean corner is a glaring weakness. 20 TEAMS GAVE UP MORE TOUCHDOWN PASSES THAN THE RAVENS. 21 TEAMS GAVE UP HIGHER COMPLETION PERCENTAGES. Without Domonique Foxworth, without Ed Reed for six games, without Tom Zbikowski for most of the season, the Ravens secondary still had more interceptions than 22 other teams.

  8. qj1984 says: Apr 23, 2011 3:20 PM

    I still dont think the Ravens CB are THAT bad. They played fairly well when alot of people projected them to be the worst group in the NFL. An upgraded pass rush can go a long way for that group. The Ravens need to get something out of Segio Kindle and Paul Kruger, the two guys they drafted to upgrade that pass rush.

  9. ar1888 says: Apr 23, 2011 3:52 PM

    You left out fans that cry about Indinapolis stealing their team, while they are cheering for their own Baltimore Browns.

  10. thefiesty1 says: Apr 23, 2011 3:52 PM

    Ed Reed and Ray Lewis can’t last forever. In fact, they have out played their usefulness of a typical players three and a half to four year career according to their union*. Time for some new meat.

    Flaco may have just enough in the tank for another year or two but a backup like maybe Ponder would e good to have in their back pocket.

    It’s tough having to bet the Steelers two or three times every year. Just a little bit more is needed to get them over the top and consistently be a division winner instead of a wild card.

  11. cmich2006 says: Apr 23, 2011 4:07 PM

    You forgot about adding a coach who doesn’t have the look of a deer caught in headlights when he actually has to coach during the game

  12. Deb says: Apr 23, 2011 4:30 PM

    Ray Lewis was working on Asomugha at the Pro Bowl? See … that’s what star players are supposed to be doing at the Pro Bowl–not skipping the Pro Bowl because they’re over it. That’s another reason I like Ray even if he does play for the rivals. He’s like a cop–never off duty.

  13. melikefootball says: Apr 23, 2011 4:44 PM

    Baltimore has talent and whatever they addresss at draft day will add to the team, there problem lies in having confidence enough to knock off teams at playoff time.

  14. joetoronto says: Apr 23, 2011 5:01 PM

    It figures, the idiot who posted on ALL other “Team Needs”, asking for the “Ravens Team Needs” to be posted, is nowhere to be found.

  15. poodawg says: Apr 23, 2011 5:54 PM

    @7370355q

    No, Elite does mean winning your division now and then. Also, beating the Bengals consistently, and winning 2 Super Bowls in 5 years.

    You know, something the Ravens have never been able to do.

  16. cornellsteelers says: Apr 23, 2011 6:18 PM

    @7370355q

    If making the playoffs EVERY season is the standard for being an elite team, the only team that can be called elite is the Colts.

  17. 7370355q says: Apr 23, 2011 7:11 PM

    @poodawg

    And the Steelers have been an NFL franchise for how many years since the super bowl era began? 44 years. The Ravens, 15 years. Give it time. And if elite in your standards is winning the Super Bowl twice in 5 years, than the pats and steelers are the only elite nfl franchises, which is simply not true.

    @cornellsteelers

    I was referencing since Flacco became the quarterback for the Ravens we’ve gone to the playoffs every season and marked the beginning of when most began declaring the Ravens an elite nfl franchise.

  18. goawayeverybody says: Apr 23, 2011 8:39 PM

    Team needs: refs who won’t look the other way when opposing teams are committing penalties.

  19. goawayeverybody says: Apr 23, 2011 8:41 PM

    Stealers suck.

  20. paredskinwarrior says: Apr 23, 2011 9:08 PM

    I think the ravens should move up maybe trade with the cowturds or the Redskins! Then draft the be cb available!

  21. claydefayette says: Apr 23, 2011 9:12 PM

    Random thought: Wouldn’t it be nice to see Patrick Peterson in the secondary with Reed? Not sure it can happen though.

  22. xebradick says: Apr 23, 2011 9:26 PM

    Man, it must be nice to make money writing about an NFL teams needs without, you know, watching any tape or actual games. Just watch the Oscars, see Sandra Bullock win an award in a movie about Michael Oher’s life, and now you know for a fact Baltimore doesn’t need a left tackle with quick feet who can handle a speed rush or not get called for 9 holding penalties in one season. They just need a new right tackle.

    Truth of the matter is, they have right tackle playing out of position, and shouldn’t hesitate to take a potential left tackle in this draft.

    By the way, if you guys could get someone with actual knowledge of football to write these previews, that would be, like, way coooool.

    Thanks, Scott

  23. golonger says: Apr 23, 2011 10:39 PM

    ar1888 = total clueless moron!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. golonger says: Apr 23, 2011 10:41 PM

    cornellsteelers………i would hardly call winning a weak division every year and getting booted out of the playoffs most years as being elite!

  25. pittman2052 says: Apr 24, 2011 12:05 AM

    Torrey Smith is not the receiver the Ravens need. He is a one trick pony and we don’t need him to just come in on jump balls. Also, with the problems Sergio Kindle has had off the field we don’t need Jimmy Smith. There are corners just as athletic or even better we can use that doesn’t come with all the problems.

  26. cornellsteelers says: Apr 24, 2011 2:49 AM

    @golonger

    Um, 11 out of the 12 teams who make the playoffs every year get “booted out”. The Steelers were one of those this past season, but they were the last one standing twice in the previous five seasons. The Ravens have plenty of experience getting booted out of the playoffs, often at the hands of the Steelers. And do you really think the AFC North is weak? Pittsburgh and Baltimore speak for themselves, the Bengals are competitive even in their off years, and the Browns can be very dangerous as well(just ask the Pats and Saints!). There are plenty of weaker divisions: AFC South, AFC West(until very recently), AFC East, NFC West, etc.

  27. cornellsteelers says: Apr 24, 2011 2:52 AM

    And 7370355q, I’m not sure that three straight WC seasons with no SB appearances is enough of a sample size to say with any certainty that the Ravens are elite. They are very close, but I will remain unconvinced until Flacco proves he can avoid soiling the bed against competent opposition in the playoffs(read: not the Chiefs, Dolphins, or 2009 Patriots).

  28. golonger says: Apr 24, 2011 7:38 AM

    cornellsteelers, aka moron…I never said the AFC North was weak. I was referring to the AFC South.

    Also, genius…..my point was winning a weak division every year doesn’t make you elite. (as the Colts do)

  29. golonger says: Apr 24, 2011 7:42 AM

    cornellsteelers……you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would agree that a team that goes two-deep in the playoffs last year and to the AFC championship the year before is NOT elite…….sorry. The Steelers are elite as well but if you are trying to say the Ravens arent, you dont know what you are talking about

  30. golonger says: Apr 24, 2011 7:46 AM

    xebradick – a movie and an Oscar does not mean Oher is great……he is far from it. He has under-performed.

  31. cornellsteelers says: Apr 24, 2011 1:01 PM

    @golonger

    You should be a little more specific next time then. And how are the Colts not an elite team??? They won 12 games for eight straight seasons, and have made the playoffs 11 out of the last 12 seasons. Say what you want about their postseason performance, but you can’t say the Colts aren’t elite.

    And if you are satisfied with having an “elite” team that gets a WC spot every season while the Steelers take the AFCN title, that works for me.

  32. raven4life21 says: Apr 25, 2011 12:22 PM

    u can only imagine my grief when i read some of these comments on here… the Baltimore Ravens Organization as a whole IS ELITE! Just like the Pittsburgh Steelers Organization is… Both teams play at the same high level and have outstanding Front offices, Owners, Coaches, and Players every year… Now if you are talking about yearly teams (each year is different with different players) the “ELITE” teams are the top 4 or 6 in my opinion in the playoffs to the SB… this past year The Ravens, Jets, Steelers, Saints, Packers were ALL “Elite” teams in my opinion… the Bears have Jay Cutler(pansy) so they don’t make the cut (you can argue their O’line sucks but look at the Steelers O’line, all backups and rookies and they made it to the dance) i’ll even give the Falcons a nod since they had quite the year… maybe im missing someone i don’t know prob the Patriots who should prob be on that list but somehow fell apart against the Jets who they destroyed in the first rematch… but that’s JUST this past season… if you wanna look at organizations i’d say that all four/five of these teams have fantastic Front Offices/Coaches/Players… The Ravens have been Elite for a while now but mostly due to their Defense… Flacco has given them hope to put them over that Steeler hump… though he hasnt’ been shockingly fantastic in the playoffs the Ravens have NEVER been outplayed except for the AFC Championship Flaccos rookie year and when they lost to the Colts 2 seasons ago… but against the Elite Steeler team the past 3 games i have seen NO evidence of the Steelers outplaying the Ravens… i’ve seen some fantastic defensive plays and some HORRIFIC reffing crews that have RUINED this great rivalry over and over again… but that’s another story…. people wanna say the Ravens are trying to copy the Steelers… well hell, i’d sure like to have 6 SB Trophies in Baltimore too wouldn’t you??? and NO i was AGAINST the stupid Purple towel thing, if anything THAT was being a copycat… but the Ravens have their OWN type swagger that the Steelers do not(mostly Ray Lewis induced) and likewise with the Steelers… both teams are elite and deserve so… one has just been around a LOT longer and DEF gets better calls when they play eachother(believe me i wish i didn’t have to say it either)… but the Ravens are Elite… Flacco is not quite yet… but in order to find out if he is… Cam Cameron MUST unleash the collar from Flaccos neck and let him run the show, only then will we see what he’s made of

  33. raven4life21 says: Apr 25, 2011 1:40 PM

    the Colts are an “elite” franchise as well… i knew i’d miss somebody lol…

  34. bebopa says: Apr 26, 2011 10:23 PM

    Smith would be a good no.1 pick, Ray and guys like Derek Mason would keep him in line in the lockerroom.

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