Well it's been a busy few months since the Ravens devastating playoff loss to the Steelers, so I'll give you a quick recap of the events and a preview of what's next to come. After beating the Ravens in the Divisional Playoff, the Steelers went on to beat the Jets, and then eventually lose to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by a score of 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.
As you may or may not have heard, the upcoming NFL season is in serious jeopardy after the owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players. Some of the main issues debated upon in the agreement are the proposed 18-game schedule (as opposed to the current 16-game format), a rookie wage scale, and the division of the league's $9B revenue. After two delays of the expiration of the agreement, the NFL lockout finally began on March 11, 2011 after the players union officially decertified. After federally mediated meetings continued unsuccessfully for an entire month, Judge Susan Nelson declared the lockout invalid, and ordered the league to resume normal operations. The owners immediately filed for a stay of the ruling as well as an appeal of the ruling. The stay of the ruling was granted to them until June 3, when the full appeal will be heard in court. Right now, we are over two months into the lockout, and June 3 remains the date circled on the calendars of NFL players, coaches, and fans alike. If the owners appeal is rejected, chances are that the two sides will agree on a deal quickly and we will be right back on the track to an NFL season. If their appeal is granted, then meetings will resume and the chances of a deal will be slim until August or September, when the players will most likely give in so they'll be able to get back on the field and play. In my opinion, there will be a 2011 NFL season. It may be short, it may be modified, but there will be some sort of season.
Now that we have the depressing part of this post over with, on to the Ravens and what they have done to prepare for next season. Keep in mind that free agency has been halted due to the lockout, and players are not even allowed into team complexes to work out.
First to the release of next year's schedule. The NFL released the dates for next season despite the looming lockout, and here is the schedule for your 2011 Baltimore Ravens.
Pre-season (Dates To be Determined)
at Philadelphia Eagles
vs. Kansas City Chiefs
vs. Washington Redskins
at Atlanta Falcons
Week 1: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 2: at Tennessee Titans
Week 3: at St. Louis Rams
Week 4: vs. New York Jets
Week 5: Bye
Week 6: vs. Houston Texans
Week 7: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 8: vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 9: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
Week 11: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 12: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Thanksgiving game)
Week 13: at Cleveland Browns
Week 14: vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 15: at San Diego Chargers
Week 16: vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 17: at Cincinnati Bengals
Notes on the Notable Games:
The Ravens-Steelers rivalry will be over just halfway through the season, meaning there the winner of the game will most likely not decide the winner of the division, as it has the past few years. But as a side note, there is always the post-season. Despite this, the Ravens will end the season with two division matchups, but if those teams are anything like they were last year, the winner won't necessarily take the division as well. For many, the most intriguing game on the schedule is the Week 13 home matchup against the Niners. This game will mark the first time in NFL history that two brothers will face each other as head coaches as Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh will go head-to-head with his brother, new 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh. The thing that makes this game even more interesting is that it takes place on Thanksgiving, a family holiday. Other good games include a home meeting with the professional football team from Indianapolis, a road game against the Chargers, a home game against outspoken former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and his Jets, and a meeting against the Seahawks in Seattle.
Now to the 2011 NFL Draft, in which the Ravens layered the team with extra starters as well as depth. Here are, in order, the Ravens eight picks in this year's draft.
1st Round: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado- Smith is easily the best cover corner in this year's draft, and will provide the Ravens with a man to cover the top receivers on the teams they will play. He would have been a higher pick if it weren't for his off the field issues, which include past failed drug tests. But all we can say about this issue is that the Ravens have veterans in the locker room that will put him in his place if he even thinks about acting out.
2nd Round: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland-Joe Flacco finally has his big play wide receiver he has been looking for. The speedy Smith comes from Maryland to fill this important void in the Ravens offense. Be sure to see Flacco look long for Smith all year, as this will be Torrey's specialty in the coming years.
3rd Round: OT Jah Reid, UCF- Reid, more than anything else, provides more depth at offensive line for the Ravens, who have been plagued with injuries to key members of the line like Jared Gaither. Reid can play most positions on the line, so consider him the fill-in for the first injury we'll see.
4th Round: WR Tandon Doss, Indiana- Doss has great size, standing at six foot three, and is bigger than most corners. He has tremendous hands, and will be a go-to-guy on third down for Joe Flacco.
5th Round: CB Chykie Brown, Texas- Injuries have hurt Brown in recent years, but if he can get past them, he is a great press corner who also gives the Ravens more depth at cornerback.
5th Round: DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State- McPhee is a big physical presence on the defensive line who will help out Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs on the line with extra pressure on the quarterback.
6th Round: QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech- With the probable leave of last year's backup Marc Bulger, Taylor will be Flacco's backup and won't likely see the field too much in 2011. He is a running quarterback who can help the Ravens run specialty plays like the Wildcat offense.
7th Round: RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech- With Willis McGahee likely leaving, Allen will help add depth to the Ravens running game along with Ray Rice.
Overall Ravens Draft Grade: A- The Ravens filled much needed gaps at positions like cornerback and defensive line, as well as adding depth to other positions.
That's it for this offseason version of my Ravens Report, hope to see you back soon for 2011 Baltimore Ravens football.