The Baltimore Ravens are hoping to do something that their franchise has never done before by making it to the playoffs for their third consecutive season. In order for that to happen these players must make a difference.
1- Joe Flacco
He’s shown toughness, a strong arm, and surprising mobility in his first two full seasons as the starting quarterback. However, for the Ravens to make a serious championship run he must elevate his game to the next level. He’ll need to spread the ball around, show better leadership in the huddle and use the middle of the field effectively.
2- Terrell Suggs
2009 was a huge disappointment for Suggs. Legal issues and decreased productivity were his headlines instead of quarterback sacks. He’ll need to come to camp in better shape and show a greater willingness to prepare as well as develop a second move to get to the ball. The pass rush must improve and it starts with the highly paid Suggs.
3- Anquan Boldin
Boldin seems a perfect match to Baltimore’s style of play. He gives Flacco another excellent option and is tough after the catch. But will he be able to play a full season?
4- Shayne Graham
I’m expecting Graham to overtake Billy Cundiff in their competition but I think most fans would. The kicker’s spot was an Achilles heel in 2009. I can think of at least two regular season games that were lost due to missed Field Goals as Raven kickers were only 70% on attempts. Graham immediately upgrades the position with an 85% career success percentage. But can he shake his playoff failure of a season ago?
5- Ray Lewis
Entering his 15th season he is the general of the defense and can still play at a high level. In fact he had one of his best statistically last year. However injuries can strike at any time and one to Lewis could prove costly to the Ravens playoff hopes.
6- Domonique Foxworth
Foxworth had his struggles early in his first season in his hometown. But he rebounded well and posted a career high 4 interceptions in 2009. He will need continue his development and justify the 4-year 28 million dollar contract he signed.
7- Ray Rice
Rice had a breakout All-Pro campaign in his second season in the league. The hope is that Baltimore will have a more balanced attack with the addition of several new players. But it helps that he can break a long gain either off the rush or a short pass. He’s the home run hitter that this offense has lacked for years. He should be the NFL’s top fantasy back this season.
8- Lardarius Webb / Fabian Washington
Both corners went down with ACL tears last year but both appear to be on the mend. Washington appears further along than the rookie Webb and could be ready for training camp. The secondary has been a shaky spot over the past few seasons and having either one or both of these players step up will be a great asset to the team.
9- Jared Gaither
Trade talk, and a poor work ethic have surrounded Gaither’s name over the past six months. But with the apparent switch of Tackle spots between he and Michael Oher a certainty he needs to settle into his role on what could be a very good offensive line. Gaither is still an imposing physical specimen and could be an excellent Right Tackle.
10- Ed Dickson / Dennis Pitta
Todd Heap enjoyed his best season since 2006 as he was injury free for the second season in a row and was a renewed red zone threat. The Ravens hope that with the additions of Dickson and Pitta that Heap will continue his strong play. However that does mean that the rookies must provide more targets for Joe Flacco and allow Heap to become a situational player.