It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Baltimore Ravens.
The biggest loss the Ravens sustained this offseason isn't listed above. Coordinator of the long-feared Ravens defense Rex Ryan left to take over as head coach of the Jets, and he leaves behind the biggest question mark for the Ravens heading into 2009: How much of the greatness of the Ravens defense was due to personnel, and how much was due to Rex Ryan?
As far as personnel goes, the new guy, Greg Mattison, won't have quite as much to work with as his predecessor, though the cupboard is in no way bare. Yes, they lost Bart Scott, but Ray Lewis(notes) and Terrell Suggs(notes) are back, and Tavares Gooden's(notes) got loads of potential as the guy replacing Scott. Mattison will have some new faces to work into the secondary, too, but this is still a defense that should be pretty good. The difference between pretty good, though, and exceptional -- as they were under Rex Ryan -- will be up to Mattison.
Offensively, just about everything's riding on the arm and continued development of quarterback Joe Flacco(notes). I'm a big believer in Flacco, even if he does look like a young version of that guy Phil who Sawyer tied up in his closet. And I'd be an even bigger believer if the Ravens would give him another target to throw to. As far as the running game is concerned, I expect Ray Rice(notes) to make a bigger impact this year, though I'd caution the Ravens that the last team that let fullback Lorenzo Neal(notes) walk away paid for it dearly.
Progress: I do think the defense ends up taking a slight step backwards, which wouldn't be such a big deal if the Ravens had done much to improve the offense. There's still time, though, and the Ravens could be among those teams involved in the bidding for players like Anquan Boldin(notes) and Braylon Edwards(notes). For now, let's say ...
Minus 2 wins. 11-5 last year, 9-7 this year.
- Rex Ryan