Remember how the New England Patriots destroyed the Colts in the AFC Championship and then beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl? Well, it could have been the Baltimore Ravens doing that.
But it wasn’t. The Ravens lost to the Patriots, 35-31, in the divisional playoffs in Foxboro this past January.
“Well, first of all, they lost that game in the playoffs because they lost two double-digit leads,” Baltimore 105.7 The Fan host Rob Long said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “ They had a depleted secondary. Jimmy Smith was out, he’s back healthy. Lardarius Webb was playing, but Lardarius Webb showed up out of shape, failing his conditioning test and he’s been out with a (hamstring) injury for probably about two weeks now – and that’s a concern for the Ravens. Matt Elam is out for the year as well well, so the secondary is different. But unfortunately, I don’t know whether the secondary is better.”
That puts a little more pressure on the front seven, especially Timmy Jernigan, who must step up with Haloti Ngata now in Detroit.
“To me, Jernigan is going have to perform,” Long said. “Everybody remembers C.J. Mosley, but the second-round daft pick was Jernigan out of Florida State. He performed well during the Haloti Ngata suspension. They’re expecting big things from him this year.”
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens gave their offense a “shot in the arm” by using a first-round pick on Breshad Perriman, an explosive 6-3 receiver out of UCF. Unfortunately for Baltimore, Perriman has been out since July with a knee injury.
“Breshad Perriman is going to be huge,” Long said. “If you look at that receiving corps, he is the only guy that can really take that top off the defense. They got a lot of guys that’s good route runners, that can play sideline to sideline, but end zone to end zone is a problem.”
With Perriman still out, the Ravens are hoping Justin Forsett can duplicate his success from a season ago (1,500+ total yards, eight touchdowns) and that Steve Smith, 36, can be productive for one more year.
“Justin Forsett burst on the scene last year,” Long said. “Justin Forsett has never had that type of season before where he had so many carries, so they went out and drafted Buck Allan from USC. They have (Lorenzo) Taliaferro from the year before, but he’s injured right now. So the running game, as always, is big for the Baltimore Ravens. We talk about the passing game. Steve Smith announced that he will retire at the end of the 2015 season. If you look at his stats overall, he had a very good year, but if you look game by game, there were games where he disappeared and he reemerged himself after the bye week that the Baltimore Ravens had. So I don’t know. Out of a 16-game schedule, he may line up for 16, but last year he didn’t show up for 16. And you wonder, one year older, if he’ll be able to do that.”
In the end, though, Long expects another career year for Joe Flacco. In fact, he believes Flacco will reach 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns for the first time in his career.
“Joe Flacco is the staple of this offense,” Long said. “The running game is very important, as it is for any quarterback – even Hall of Fame quarterbacks. But this offense goes as Joe Flacco goes.”