Despite losses, Ravens still optimistic about defending title
In Baltimore, things aren't looking up for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Still, with all the holes to fill, coach John Harbaugh often sounds as if the Ravens simply have reloaded after the core of the franchise was gutted by free agency and linebacker Ray Lewis' retirement.
This is not the same team that summoned a miracle to defeat Denver in the AFC playoffs before holding off San Francisco in the Super Bowl.
There is an inordinate number of strange faces in the locker room. More importantly, some familiar faces are gone.
No Ed Reed. No Anquan Boldin. No Paul Kruger.
No problem, Harbaugh said.
Still, the Ravens likely will be chasing their shadows much of the season. Aside from special teams, they are weaker on offense and defense, mostly because of some losses through free agency.
If that wasn't enough, quarterback Joe Flacco lost one of his key targets, tight end Dennis Pitta, to a season-ending hip injury. Then backup Ed Dickson went down with a knee injury.
Torrey Smith is still a feared deep threat, but he'll find out how effective he was with Boldin pulling double coverage.
“When Joe throws the ball, I catch it,” Smith said. “When Ray (Rice) is running, block.
“So my role doesn't necessarily change — just running routes like everyone else. Obviously I expect more out of myself performance-wise.”
Still, Harbaugh doesn't appear overly concerned.
“You love those guys when they're here, and it's pretty easy to realize the fact that they're not here,” he said. “So what are you going to do about it? You've got to move on.
“We've got a lot of talented players out there, and I think we feel really good about what we have the ability to do.”
Harbaugh is among the few who believe the Ravens can make the playoffs. They lost eight starters, including Miami linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams, Reed and Kruger.
The Bengals, considered the division favorite, have a history of underachieving with such lofty expectations bestowed on them. The Ravens still have a solid run game with Rice and Bernard Pierce, and general manager Ozzie Newsome has proven he can manipulate a roster to develop a surprising contender.
But if Baltimore is too repeat as Super Bowl champs, it again will have to lean on its defense.
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL could delay punishment
- NFL notebook: Bills coach Marrone halts practice, rips team for fighting
- Browns give nod to Hoyer to start at QB in opener vs. Steelers