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Friday, September 25, 2009
Thought of the Day II: Ravens

By James Walker
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker


In this week’s version of "Thought of the Day," we asked our community if the Baltimore Ravens are changing their longstanding identity right before our eyes.

Through two weeks, the Ravens are No. 2 in the NFL in scoring and No. 17 in total defense. Both rankings are equally surprising.

Here is what Ravens fans had to say about their team:

Tyler Smith from Washington, D.C., writes: The Ravens are in transition from a defensively-focused team to offensively-focused team. The proof is in the drafting. Clearly, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has spent his last three first round picks on OG Ben Grubbs, QB Joe Flacco, and OT Michael Oher for a reason. With this young, powerful and talented O-line, the offense will only get better as Newsome adds the needed speedy receiver and a TE who can block.

Cliff from Baltimore writes: The Ravens' identity cannot change just after two games. Their offensive success is simply the dividends of having to focus on improving that side of the ball for the past 10 years. The defense simply misses Rex Ryan more than it thought it would. Greg Mattison will iron things out before long (particularly the secondary) to make the unit a top 10 defense again. There's too much defensive talent for them NOT to finish with a top-10 ranking. The John Harbaugh regime's goal from the start has been balance. Well, a potentially top 10 offense and top 10 defense is certainly balanced. And if that happens, few teams will be able to challenge them.

Kim from Manchester, Md., writes: The Ravens team isn't what it used to be—not that it’s entirely a bad thing. I'm loving the productive offense, but the defense is worrisome. I'm very afraid of our pass defense, and I’m sure that other teams are very excited about it. So what can the Ravens going to do to change that?

Randy D. from Annapolis, Md., writes: Defense is still the identity. They have always been stout against the run and still are at an average of 40-ish yards per game. Big plays are still an issue but we bend and don’t break and have been dominating in the red zone. A new face as the D-coordinator along with replacing Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs missing all of training camp are the cause of the slow start on defense. But there is no doubt they are going to tighten things up.

Eric from Aberdeen, Md., writes: James, the only thing you can take from the first two weeks about the Ravens is that the offense is for real. The defense has a new coordinator and they are adjusting to his schemes. The run defense is still the best and expect the pass defense to get better. As a Ravens fan, I'm glad we aren't clicking on a cylinders everywhere on our team. It's too early to peak now.

Dennis from Upper Marlboro, Md., writes: The identity of the Ravens will always be defense as long as Ray Lewis is on our team. However, it does seem that the new regime is trying to incorporate a more balanced approach. Ultimately, points need to be scored in the playoffs when it gets down to the fourth quarter. Remember, the real difference between the Ravens and Steelers last year was that the Steelers were able to put points on the board when they needed it. That's why I think the Ravens are trying to alter their philosophy.

 Kim Ryan from Pasadena, Md., writes: I think the Ravens are a well-rounded team. They are still adjusting to a new defensive coordinator, and teams have made a few big passing plays or special teams plays against them. But the Ravens’ defense is making the big plays when they need to win games. Sunday against the Chargers proved that! Offensively, the Ravens finally have a quarterback to build around with Flacco who can match the defense’s intensity. So ultimately, I think the Ravens are a well-balanced team that can win games either way, and that makes them dangerous!

Steven from Baltimore, Md., writes: Everybody said the Ravens needed to boost the offense to score points, now all of a sudden they're doing that, everyone want to say they're changing identities. The Ravens are just a balanced team, and the defense will become elite again real soon. I think people like Kelly Gregg, Dawan Landry and Domonique Foxworth who are either new to the team or were injured last season needs to get their groove back.

AFC North final say

James Walker: Based on the way Baltimore's money is being allocated within the salary cap, the Ravens are still investing most of their big contracts on the defensive side of the football. That tells me the Ravens' brass still believes defense wins championships. The unit just hasn't performed up to its usual standard through two games. However, efforts in the draft, such as taking quarterback Joe Flacco and tackle Michael Oher in the first round in back-to-back years, also shows the willingness to be more balanced. And the fact general manager Ozzie Newsome is hitting home runs with those picks right away has made the Ravens a very dangerous team.

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