Ravens Secondary Has Time
Baltimore’s back four isn’t ready, but it doesn’t need to be just yet
The Baltimore Ravens were not that far away from beating the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round, well before DeflateGate ever entered our lives, but it was a whole other controversy that was overshadowed after that loss.
The Patriots used a very legal deceptive scheme to confuse a depleted Ravens secondary and hit a double pass for a score as Julian Edelman, a converted college quarterback, found Danny Amendola for a 51 yard score that changed the complexion of the game.
In 19 degree weather where you are supposed to play smashmouth football, New England threw the ball 51 times (versus 13 rushes) for 418 yards and four touchdowns. Tom Brady was hit many times early in the game (sacked twice) as the Patriots rallied from a 14-0 hole by targeting inexperience in cornerback Rashaan Melvin and exploited mismatches with Rob Gronkowski against safety Will Hill.
Baltimore welcomes the return of corners Jimmy Smith (Lisfranc foot sprain) and Lardarius Webb (back) with hopes they can remain healthy. It has been two seasons since Webb played all 16 games, and has done so only twice in his six years in the NFL. Like Webb, Smith has been unable to play a full slate playing in all 16 games just once in his four years. Despite the inability, Baltimore gave Smith a $48 million extension including $21 million in guaranteed money.
Good news for the Ravens is that as this repaired group will only face a pair of high powered offensive attacks before December. Granted, the opener in Denver is going to be no walk in the park, but the retooled Broncos offense may not be as ferocious without Julius Thomas and a renewed focus under new head coach Gary Kubiak. But if Peyton Manning is on the other sideline, a defensive back better be prepared.
Next Baltimore sees Derek Carr and the Raiders who might be ready for primetime in 2016, but to this point won’t be invoking fear across the league. Week 3 Baltimore steps into divisional play in their home opener against Cincinnati, before having a short week to play at Pittsburgh on a Thursday night.
The two best QB’s Baltimore faces all year come in the seasons first four weeks, both on the road.
Then games against Cleveland (Hoyer/Manziel?), at San Francisco (Super Bowl 47 rematch against Kaepernick), at Arizona (maybe a healthy Carson Palmer), then three straight home games against San Diego, Jacksonville, and St. Louis before wrapping up November at Cleveland the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend.
If this secondary can stay healthy, they have plenty of time to solidify things before heading into the post season before facing Brady, Peyton, Big Ben, or Andrew Luck in the playoffs.