The Baltimore Ravens head into the 2011 NFL seasn as one of the stronger teams in the league with definite designs on reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since their 2011 Super Bowl 35 victory. Off season moves have strengthened the defense, spread out the offense and another year of experience for QB Joe Flacco makes them a contender for both the AFC North as well as beyond. However, as in the past, they will have to get by their arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers once again and will get their chance right off the bat as the Pittsburgh Steelers visit Baltimore in the regular season opener n Setember 11th.
The Ravens finally added that deep threat for Flacco in former Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans an drafted another burner in Marylnd’s Torrey Smith. They brought in RB Ricky Willias to back up the all-purpose Ray Rice, and added the best blocking FB in the NFL in former Houston Texans Vonta Leach. TE Todd Heap is gone, but the combination of second-year guys Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will offer multiple options. The offensive line has been completely re-tooled, with the addition of former Minnesota Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie to left tackle, moving Michael Oher to the right side for additional protection.
Defensively, this will be another top-ranked Ravens defense. Ray Lewis may be another year older, but he is still among the best prepared linebackers in the game and with Ed Reed patrolling center field behind him, all that is needed is a better pass rush and cover corners. They re-vamped their defensive line and linebacking corp under new Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano who will return this defense to the “Organized Chaos” invented by Rex Ryan. Terrell Suggs is one of the best pass rushers in the league and they drafted big, fast and hard hitting cornerback Jimmy Smith in the first round of the NFL Draft. They also added bruising strong safety Bernard Pollard for additional depth.
Finally, the Ravens kicking game is among the best in the NFL, with punter Sam Koch regularly booming punts and dropping them inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Placekicker Billy Cundiff has one of the strongest legs in the league and tied an NFL recrd with 40 touchbacks last year and now the league moved the kickoff spot up five yards.
All in all, this is a veteran team with eyes on game one and then playing deep into January and ultimately focusing their collective eyes on the goal of playing in Indianapolis for the Lombardi Trophy in February.