AFC North: Ray Lewis

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Baltimore Ravens plan to unveil a statue of linebacker Ray Lewis at M&T Bank Stadium before the start of the 2014 season, owner Steve Bisciotti told

The Ravens hired Frederick Kail, the same artist who sculpted the Johnny Unitas statue at M&T Bank Stadium in 2002.

"He's well into it," Bisciotti said at the NFL owners meetings Monday. "I haven't seen any progress pictures, but the original stuff was just off the charts. We think we'll have it done before the season starts."

Bisciotti wouldn't reveal details about how the Lewis statue will look. Lewis will either be depicted in a linebacker pose or a celebratory pose. The Ravens left the decision up to Lewis.

The Ravens announced plans to put up a statue in Lewis' honor just four days after the team won its second Super Bowl title. Lewis retired after that Super Bowl victory, ending the career of the best player in Ravens history.

"I think he set himself apart in Baltimore sports history," Bisciotti said of Lewis last year.
Offensive tackle Michael Oher signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Tennessee Titans last week, becoming one of a handful of Baltimore Ravens' first-round picks not to remain with the team beyond their rookie deal.

Oher, the 23rd overall pick of the 2009 draft, will be known as a durable yet not dominant offensive tackle during his five seasons with the Ravens.

Let's take a look at where Oher ranks among the Ravens' first-round picks:

1. Ray Lewis, linebacker (1996): He will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NFL history. Few can match Lewis' resume: Two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, two Super Bowl rings, 13 Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl MVP award.

[+] EnlargeOher
AP Photos/David DrapkinMichael Oher has been a durable, if not outstanding, tackle for the Ravens.
2. Jonathan Ogden, offensive tackle (1996): How revered is Ogden? He became the first pure offensive tackle to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility since Jackie Slater in 2001. Ogden went to the Pro Bowl in each of his final 11 seasons in the NFL.

3. Ed Reed, safety (2002): He was the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the first safety in 20 years to win the award. Reed led the league in interceptions for three seasons, and he holds the NFL record for most career interception return yards (1,541) and longest interception return (108 yards).

4. Jamal Lewis, running back (2000): In 2003, Lewis was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year for rushing for 2,066 yards, falling just 39 yards short of the NFL's all-time single season rushing record. He carried the Ravens' offense in the 2000 Super Bowl run and still ranks as the franchise's all-time leading rusher.

5. Terrell Suggs, linebacker (2003): He became the third Ravens player to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, earning the award in 2011 by leading the AFC with 14 sacks and topping the NFL with seven forced fumbles. Suggs has recorded 94.5 career sacks, which is 24.5 more than any other Ravens player.

6. Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle (2006): A five-time Pro Bowl player, Ngata was considered the NFL's best interior defensive lineman a few years ago.

7. Chris McAlister, cornerback (1999): The Ravens' first shutdown cornerback, McAlister forced quarterbacks to throw away from him for years before a knee injury and off-the-field issues caught up to him.

8. Joe Flacco, quarterback (2008): He led the Ravens to a Super Bowl with a Joe Montana-like run and has produced more wins than any other quarterback since 2008. But Flacco's pedestrian regular-season numbers have stopped him from becoming an elite NFL quarterback.

9. Todd Heap, tight end (2001): Overshadowed by Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates in the AFC, Heap remains the Ravens' all-time leader with 41 touchdown catches.

10. Peter Boulware, linebacker (1997): The 1997 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Boulware finished with 70 sacks (second all-time for the Ravens), including a team-record 15 sacks in 2001.

11. Duane Starks, cornerback (1998): He struggled mightily at times, but he had three interceptions in the Ravens' 2000 championship run including a 49-yard return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

12. Ben Grubbs, guard (2007): He started 70 of 74 games for the Ravens and made the Pro Bowl in 2012, his last season with the team.

13. Michael Oher, offensive tackle (2009): He never missed a start in his five-year career, but he fell short of expectations because of false starts and inconsistent pass protection.

15. Mark Clayton, wide receiver (2005): He never led the team in receiving, and he had nine 100-yard receiving games. His best season was 2006, when he caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns.

16. Kyle Boller, quarterback (2003): A flop as a franchise quarterback, Boller had one 300-yard passing game for the Ravens and seven starts where he threw under 100 yards. His five seasons with the Ravens produced a losing record as a starter (20-22) and just one more touchdown (45) than interceptions (44).

17. Travis Taylor, wide receiver (2000): Yes, Taylor is a bigger bust than Boller. The 10th overall pick of the 2000 draft, Taylor eclipsed 60 catches once and produced a grand total of two 100-yard games. If that doesn't convince you, Taylor didn't score a touchdown in his final 22 games with the Ravens.

Note: Safety Matt Elam was left off the rankings because he's only played one season.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Terrell Suggs signed an extension with Baltimore on Monday that could keep him with the Ravens for the next five years. If Suggs does play out his contract, he’ll become only the third defensive player drafted in the past 30 years to play at least 16 years with the same team, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Ronde Barber (16 years) and Ray Lewis (17 years) accomplished the feat with Tampa Bay and Baltimore, respectively.

Suggs isn’t the only defensive player with a chance to also play at least 16 years with the same team.

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis is in line to do it, too.

Mathis was selected by the Colts in the 2003 draft. He's not showing any signs of slowing down now that he’s in his comfort zone in coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme.

Mathis, who will be 33 later this month, is coming off the best season of his 11-year career. He led the league in sacks with 19.5 and finished second in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Mathis has two years remaining on his current contract. He and the Colts will have to agree to at least one more deal in order for him to join Lewis, Barber and possibly Suggs in elite company.
Here's your morning briefing on the Baltimore Ravens beat with the wake-up caw ...
  • Tight end Ed Dickson told The Baltimore Sun he isn't frustrated by his slow start. He's motivated. "Things may have gotten off to a rocky start but it is a long season," Dickson said. "As a team, it is working the way we want it to go. We want to keep getting better and I want to get better. Who knows? This might be a big week for me." Dickson's inability to catch the ball consistently has hurt the Ravens, and I would think twice throwing the ball to him. But he's too athletic to write off this quickly. He'll emerge again in the game plan.
  • Continuing our tight-end storyline, Dallas Clark told USA Today that his improvement comes from extra film study with quarterback Joe Flacco. "Joe has us in there and goes over where he wants us, what he expects on each play," Clark said. "That's a huge help so everyone can see the big picture of where they belong, what their responsibilities are."
  • Daryl Smith's sure tackling has impressed the Ravens. “When that guy grabs you, you go down,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said, via Comcast SportsNet. “I can’t say enough good things about the guy." Smith is one of three linebackers with at least 25 tackles, one sack and one interception this season.
  • A year after injuries limited his game plans, Pees is enjoying being more creative with his personnel groupings this year. “It’s a lot of fun,” Pees said, via the team's official website. “I think it gets boring to me as a coach and I think it’s boring as a player if you go out and every week it’s the same dang-gone thing. ... You put in little tweaks here and there. I think the players like it, and I like it.”
  • Matt Vensel of The Baltimore Sun broke down the snaps of the outside linebackers, which show the Ravens have been keeping their top pass-rushers fresh. Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw have played at least 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Suggs, the team’s starting rush linebacker, has played 161 out of a possible 191 snaps. Dumervil, who usually splits time with Upshaw at strongside linebacker, has played 125. Upshaw has been on the field for 119 plays.
  • Former Ravens defensive lineman Trevor Pryce doesn't agree with Ray Lewis that the "party bus" incident means there is a leadership void in Baltimore. "Here's the thing about the Ray Lewis leadership thing, when you start telling the media that things would be fixed if you were there, that can be a little self-serving," Pryce told The Baltimore Sun.
Here is what's happening on the Baltimore Ravens beat in your Thursday edition of the Wake-up caw ...

Ray Lewis said Monday that the Ravens have a leadership void. His former teammates took exception to that on Wednesday (quarterback Joe Flacco said, "Ray should know better.") Now, Lewis is responding to the Ravens' response.

Follow that?

"I'm totally confused with how someone can take something and make more of it, when what I was saying was so general," Lewis told USA Today. "If anybody takes offense to that, I don't get it. What did I say that was so bad?"

Well, the Ravens didn't take too kindly to Lewis' comments Monday that the Ravens are "missing leadership right now" because they are without him or Ed Reed in the locker room. This followed a report about wide receiver Jacoby Jones getting hurt in a party bus.

Lewis told the newspaper that he received countless text messages Wednesday.

"It's like, 'How can you attack your team?'" Lewis said of the gist of the messages. "I'm the biggest Baltimore Ravens fan there is. When I speak, I bring the locker room perspective. I don't understand. Who did I attack?"

The Ravens obviously felt they were being attacked, and the leaders (the ones that Lewis questioned) spoke out.

Here are other links about the Ravens:
  • Starting defensive lineman Chris Canty is optimistic about playing Sunday. He sat out the last game with a groin injury. "Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to be out on the field Sunday," Canty told Comcast SportsNet. "I feel pretty good. It’s a day-by-day situation, but I’m excited about getting back on that practice field today, being with the guys.”
  • The last time Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam faced Bills quarterback EJ Manuel was when both were in college. Elam picked off Manuel in Florida's victory over Florida State. "I know Matt’s going to be ready, and I plan on being ready as well," Manuel said in a conference call, via The Baltimore Sun. "I watched him a ton on film these past couple of weeks. Of course, I’d love to throw a touchdown on him. He knows that."
  • The team's official website took a look at the chemistry building between Flacco and tight end Dallas Clark. “We got into a rhythm,” Flacco said of his four passes to Clark for 46 yards in Sunday's victory over Houston. “There were a couple of times where I could have gone to [Brandon] Stokley or Torrey [Smith], but you know you have such a good matchup with Dallas that you have to stick with him, and he did a good job.”
  • The Ravens celebrated the 44th birthday of O.J. Brigance, the team's senior assistant for player development who has been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for six years. This is the full story from the team's official website.
  • Here's the link if you want to see pictures of Flacco's newborn son.
If Ray Lewis wants to know where the Baltimore Ravens' leaders are, he should take a look at how quarterback Joe Flacco responded to the former linebacker's criticism.

Lewis questioned the Ravens' lack of leadership on Monday after a report surfaced about wide receiver Jacoby Jones getting hit over the head by a stripper wielding a champagne bottle.

"Ray knows better than that," Flacco said Wednesday. "Things happen. We’re usually a pretty good team with stuff like that. If you look around the league, there’s a lot of leadership problems then. Like I said, Ray knows better."

This is just another example of how Flacco has become the voice of the Ravens. Of all the Ravens asked about Lewis' comments, Flacco was the one who came out the strongest against them.

Some will say Flacco has stepped up because Lewis and Ed Reed are no longer on the team. But I believe Flacco has taken more control because of what he's done on the field.

From my viewpoint, Flacco didn't assert himself previously because he really didn't earn the right to do it. After winning the Super Bowl and becoming the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, Flacco felt empowered to take a bigger role on the team.

Listen to how Flacco addressed the insinuation from Lewis that this type of incident wouldn't have occurred if he and Reed were still on the team.

"People are going to go out and do things after games and celebrate and do that kind of stuff," Flacco said. "Everybody cannot be everywhere. Nobody can prevent crazy things from happening. Stuff’s going to happen and you just have to deal with it."

Asked if he has addressed this incident in the locker room, Flacco said, "When you get the information of what happened, it is what it is. You laugh about it kind of. It’s funny some of the things we deal with. I don’t have too many comments on it because it would be taken the wrong way. It’s not really an issue."

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs texted Lewis about his comments this morning.

"We have a lot of leaders on this team," Suggs said. "I don’t think that’s one thing we’re stressed (about). We don’t worry about that. We’re worried about what we’re trying to do as a team."

Lewis' questioning of the Ravens' leadership didn't bother guard Marshal Yanda.

"We understand the leadership that we have with our team guys and our team," Yanda said. "Obviously, Ray was a huge vocal leader and very enthusiastic. We all loved him and miss him. It’s going to be a different type of leadership obviously. No one is going to jump into Ray Lewis’ role and be exactly the same. We have a lot of good leaders on this team and we’re not sweating it one bit."

There's no leadership void on Ravens

September, 25, 2013
For the second time this month, former linebacker Ray Lewis said the Baltimore Ravens lack leadership. And I'll say, for the second time in two months, that I just don't see this void.

This is a Ravens team that has come back to win two straight after getting ripped apart in Denver on national television. This is a Ravens team that beat the Houston Texans by three touchdowns without running back Ray Rice. This tells me, after three weeks, that someone in the locker room is steering the Ravens in the right direction.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco and John Harbaugh
AP Photo/Nick WassJoe Flacco and John Harbaugh have helped fill the leadership void left by the offseason exodus of veterans from Baltimore.
The one player who has stepped up the most is quarterback Joe Flacco. Even though he hasn't looked like the Super Bowl MVP, he has been one of the most valuable players when it comes to leadership.

Flacco has been the anti-Tom Brady in dealing with his inconsistent receivers, encouraging them instead of scolding them on the sideline. He also showed his commitment to the team a couple of weeks ago when he chose to play against the Cleveland Browns even though his wife had gone into labor that morning.

Lewis' latest comments came after wide receiver Jacoby Jones was involved in a brawl on a party bus early Monday morning and was hurt when he was hit over the head by a stripper wielding a champagne bottle. Lewis, now an analyst on ESPN, said the Ravens are "missing leadership right now" because they are without him or Ed Reed in the locker room.

As I pointed out previously, Lewis and Reed were the ones who vouched for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, the organizer of the party bus, when the Ravens signed him a few years ago. And during Lewis' 17 years, he wasn't able to police everyone on the 53-man roster.

It was under his watch that cornerback Chris McAlister missed a team meeting in training camp because he was arrested in another state for drunken driving. Lewis was the leader of the team when cornerback Corey Fuller hosted a high-stakes card game that ended in a shootout. While the "party bus" incident was embarrassing, no one was arrested or seriously injured.

"For one incident to happen and say it's a leadership issue when most of the team wasn't there, it's an overreaction," wide receiver Torrey Smith told The Baltimore Sun.

It really is an overreaction when you look at the other NFL headlines. San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Aldon Smith is in rehab after another DUI arrest. Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was given a disorderly conduct citation in another run-in with the law.

The Ravens are taking this matter seriously. Coach John Harbaugh could have simply responded "no comment" when asked about the incident. But Harbaugh wanted it known he was upset by the actions of his players.

"It's not something we want to be known for," Harbaugh said. "We'd like to think it's not something those guys would want to be known for. It's nothing to be proud of, so I'm kind of disappointed in that sense."

It sounds to me like the Ravens still have leadership, and it starts at the top.

For the second time this month, Ray Lewis questioned the lack of leadership on his former team. His latest criticism came after the incident where wide receiver Jacoby Jones was involved in a brawl on a party bus early Monday morning.

"This is something that we spoke about earlier in the year when we talk about the transition of losing so many guys, a guy like myself and Ed Reed and other guys that are based off leadership," Lewis said. "Because I've said it earlier: 'Where would the leadership come from?' Because the leadership being strong in the locker room and winning games, listen talent sometimes can win you games. But when you talk about what's going on off the field, that's the most important place where leadership steps up."

Lewis added, "When you think about the Baltimore Ravens and the transition that they went through, they're missing leadership right now. When you have an incident like [late Sunday] night, the first thing a leader is going to do is find some way to dissolve everything that's going on -- and actually dissolve it before it comes to that type of head or even gets to this point. When you talk about the Baltimore Ravens, they're going to have to refocus and find some quick leaders in that locker room very quickly."

It should be pointed out that the party bus was organized by offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, who was signed by the Ravens a couple of years ago after Lewis and Reed had vouched for him. I agree with Lewis that the leaders in the Ravens locker room have to make it clear that a similar incident like this can't happen again.

But it's impossible for the Ravens' new leaders like Terrell Suggs and Joe Flacco can police everyone on a 53-man roster. Lewis wasn't always able to keep every player in check during his 17 years with the team. It was during Lewis' watch when cornerback Chris McAlister had his off-field problems.

This incident with Jones and McKinnie is just one incident, albeit a very embarrassing one for the organization. How many party bus references did Ravens fans see on Facebook today? If mistakes like these are repeated, then it's fair game to say the Ravens miss the leadership of Lewis and Reed.

You can click on the video above to hear Lewis address the Ravens' leadership issue. Lewis also talked about the Ravens' leadership void before the team's game against the Cleveland Browns.

Ravens playfully jab Ray Lewis

September, 20, 2013
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ed Reed isn't the only former Baltimore Ravens defensive star returning for Sunday's game with the Houston Texans. Ray Lewis will become the 16th member inducted into the franchise's Ring of Honor.

But, before he gets toasted, some of his former teammates decided to poke fun at their former leader, who retired seven months ago.

When told Lewis was going into the Ring of Honor, quarterback Joe Flacco said with a smile, "Well, that was quick."

Flacco continued with his jab of Lewis, saying, "Ray is already corporate, man. He’s already giving the company line about whatever they want him to say. He’s probably off the Raven bandwagon already -- whatever. He’ll be on it this week, of course."

Flacco did acknowledge that it's always good to see Lewis. "Come on, he defines this city. It’ll be pretty cool to have him back.”

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has a message for Lewis on Sunday.

"I’ll just make sure when I see him, [I’ll tell him] don’t talk trash about our team when he’s talking about us," Ngata said. "We text each other often. It’s been like he’s gone, but not far away.”

Lewis told reporters this week that he doesn't have any plans to deliver a fiery speech to the players. Ravens coach John Harbaugh sounded like he would be open to it, but wouldn't approach Lewis about giving one.

“If it happened and it felt right, it would be great," Harbaugh said. "And if it didn’t happen because it didn’t make sense, that’d be fine, too. Those are the kinds of things best left to providence.”

Linebacker Terrell Suggs has taken on the role as the vocal leader of the Ravens and speaks to the players in the team huddle after warm-ups, just like Lewis used to do.

Asked if he would encourage Lewis to speak, Suggs said, “I think we’ll leave that up to Ray [Lewis], but I think he should just enjoy his moment. It’s his day. He’s going in [to the Ring of Honor], and if he feels he needs to say something to the team, he can say something. If anybody has the right of way, it’s him. If he just wants to enjoy it, take it in and be a fan of football, that’s fine, too.”
Ed Reed, Ray RiceGetty ImagesEd Reed returns to Baltimore for the first time as a Texan, while Ray Rice looks to improve from his slow start.
Sunday's AFC showdown between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens features the return of safety Ed Reed to Baltimore. Reed went to nine Pro Bowls during his 11 seasons with the Ravens and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He has missed the first two games of the season because of his surgically repaired hip and would make his Texans debut if he plays.

While there will be plenty of attention placed on the reunion with Reed, this game will factor into how the balance of power in the AFC shakes out. The Texans (2-0), one of five undefeated teams in the AFC, are the first team since the merger in 1970 to win each of their first two games of a season on the final play of the game. The Ravens (1-1), the defending Super Bowl champions, are trying to get back on track after getting routed by the Denver Broncos and struggling to beat the Cleveland Browns.

Texans team reporter Tania Ganguli and Ravens team reporter Jamison Hensley discuss how this emotional and pivotal game will unfold.

Hensley: The big storyline heading into this game is whether Reed will play. Like Ravens coach John Harbaugh, I would be surprised if Reed sat out this reunion game. But it was only three years ago when Reed underwent a procedure on his hip while with the Ravens and missed the first six games of the season. When Reed returned, he picked off two passes in his first game and eventually led the NFL in interceptions despite playing just 10 games. If Reed plays, how much of an impact can he make in his first game with a new team and a new defense?

Ganguli: Anything can happen when Reed plays. He’ll have a lot of free rein when he returns, as he’s helped not just his teammates but also given coaches advice. The Texans are being cautious with him. He had a blood-spinning procedure done three weeks ago that has a range of results in patients. Reed said it helped his hip feel better. He also said this hip injury feels more mild than the surgery he had three years ago. He practiced more last week than he did before the Texans’ season opener against the San Diego Chargers, so he is progressing toward playing.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak said last week that if Reed does play, the Texans don’t plan on starting him in his first game back. They’ll use him in certain defensive packages and continue to start Shiloh Keo. Asked about it this week, though, Kubiak said he would listen to Reed’s evaluation of his health.

Reed isn’t the only legacy gone from the Ravens’ defensive roster. How has that changed Baltimore’s defense?

Hensley: The two longtime faces of the Ravens defense will be there at M&T Bank Stadium, but both won't be wearing purple. Reed is on the other sideline, and Ray Lewis will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime. The Ravens have seven different starters from the defense that lined up against -- and got beaten up by -- the Texans last October.

The biggest improvement has been the Ravens' run defense, especially with Daryl Smith in the middle. This is key because the Ravens gave up 98 yards and two touchdowns to Arian Foster in the last meeting.

Baltimore also upgraded its pass rush with Elvis Dumervil, but there are questions in the secondary. The Ravens have already benched cornerback Corey Graham and safety Michael Huff and replaced them with cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Matt Elam.

Talking about new looks, how much has rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins -- whom the Ravens liked in the draft -- helped the Texans passing game?

Ganguli: Hopkins had a breakout game in Week 2, catching seven passes for 117 yards and scoring the game-winning touchdown. He wears size 3X gloves, only one size smaller than J.J. Watt, who is four inches taller and 70 pounds heavier than Hopkins. Those big hands give him the confidence to catch with his hands and not worry about bringing the ball into his body. Because of that, Hopkins is excellent on contested catches.

Getting to the heart of your question, though, Hopkins’ impact will be big this season. He finally gives the Texans a complementary threat to Andre Johnson. Quarterback Matt Schaub became more confident in Hopkins through the game, especially when Johnson left with a concussion and he had to. That trend will continue during the season. The Texans threw to Johnson more than all their other wide receivers combined last year, and that will surely change this season.

Sticking with offense, what would be the impact of not having Ray Rice if his injury prevents him from playing?

Hensley: Rice injured his hip toward the end of the Ravens' not-so-thrilling win over the Browns. He will likely be questionable for Sunday's game against the Texans. He's always been a big factor in the Ravens offense. Rice was one of three running backs last year (with Doug Martin and C.J. Spiller) to produce more than 1,000 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving. The Ravens are 37-6 when Rice gets at least 15 carries.

The problem is the offensive line hasn't opened many holes for Rice, who is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Backup running back Bernard Pierce has been the more physical back and has broken more tackles than Rice this season. The Ravens need to establish the run because they've lost too many weapons -- wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded, tight end Dennis Pitta is on injured reserve and wide receiver Jacoby Jones is sidelined -- to rely solely on the passing game. Any chance the Ravens' ground game can come to life against the Houston front seven?

Ganguli: The Texans’ front seven has played inspired football in spurts this season, especially inside linebacker Brian Cushing, whose play is showing just how much he missed being out there for most of last season. The Texans gave up an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers but contributed to the biggest comeback in franchise history by allowing just 10 yards the rest of the game. In Week 2, Chris Johnson had only five rushing yards in the third quarter and 19 in the second half.

On one hand, the Texans defense hasn’t put together a complete game yet. On the other hand, it's been excellent with halftime adjustments. Even if the Ravens get going early, there’s a strong chance that won’t last.

A big part of that is Cushing, who has resumed his position as a leader on the defense. We talked about the on-field differences on the Ravens defense, but has anyone filled the leadership void?

Hensley: The Ravens' leadership in the past came from the veterans, like Lewis, Reed and Boldin. This team is going to rely on the likes of Terrell Suggs, Dumervil and Lardarius Webb. Suggs has taken over Lewis' role as the vocal leader, and I can see Webb becoming a more behind-the-scenes influence like his mentor Reed. The Ravens offense has strong character players such as Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Suggs and Dumervil have made a similar impact on the field. Last year against the Texans, Suggs played his first game since tearing his Achilles. Now, fully recovered, Suggs looks even better than before because he is in the best shape of his career. Dumervil has been just as disruptive and destroyed right tackle Mitchell Schwartz last week. They've each had a sack in the first two games. How are the Texans tackles going to hold up against these Ravens' edge rushers?

Ganguli: That will be an interesting thing to watch in this game. Derek Newton is new as the Texans’ starting right tackle this year, and left tackle Duane Brown thinks he could be a game-time decision after suffering a turf toe injury against the Tennessee Titans. Losing Brown would be damaging to the Texans, who rely on him to win one-on-one matchups. Another matchup to watch is the kicking game.

Hensley: One of the biggest surprises last season was the consistent kicking from Justin Tucker, who hit 30 of 33 field goals. The biggest surprise Sunday was Tucker's inconsistency, missing twice wide right after only missing once in Baltimore as a rookie. Tucker isn't worried, and a short but strong body of work doesn't have the Ravens panicking either. But given all the injuries on the Ravens offense, they can't afford for Tucker to be off his game. It seems like the Ravens aren't the only team having a problem with a kicker.

Ganguli: Randy Bullock has struggled in his first two games, making only one of five attempts. They haven’t been easy attempts, none shorter than 40 yards and three longer than 50, but the Texans know he has the leg for making those. It might help his confidence if he was put in the position to kick shorter field goals. Though fans are upset, the Texans aren’t giving up on him. Why would they? He’s only two games into his NFL career, having spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

Harbaugh believes Ed Reed will play

September, 16, 2013
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh doesn't have any insider knowledge on Ed Reed's health status. But Harbaugh does know Reed, having coached the Pro Bowl safety for five seasons.

That's why Harbaugh believes Reed will be suited up to play his former team Sunday, when the Ravens meet the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium. Reed tested out his surgically repaired hip before the Texans' game Sunday in pregame warmups before ultimately deciding to sit out his second straight game.

"We'll have to assume that he's going to play," Harbaugh said. "We'd be surprised if he didn't play in this game."

Reed, 35, went to nine Pro Bowls during his 11 seasons with the Ravens and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He holds the NFL record for the two longest interception returns (106 yards in 2004 and 108 yards in 2008). He also is the all-time league leader for interception return yards (1,506) and postseason interceptions (nine).

Reed left the Ravens to sign with the Texans in free agency six months ago, agreeing to a three-year, $15 million contract that included $6 million guaranteed.

For years, Harbaugh saw how teams would have to game plan for Reed and how he changed games. Now, the Ravens have to figure out a way to attack Reed if he's on the field Sunday.

"It's a little tougher because we haven't seen him on tape, so we really don't know how he fits into their defense," Harbaugh said. "We'll have to fit him into their scheme, which in a lot of ways is similar to what we've done here. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out where he's going to be. We'll just kind of envision him out there playing the way he's played for us all of those years."

The return of Reed coincides with the Ravens inducting linebacker Ray Lewis into the team's Ring of Honor. Lewis and Reed were the longtime faces of the Ravens' dominant defenses. Lewis retired after last season, which culminated in a Super Bowl title.

"It'll be great to see Ray for us," Harbaugh said. "I don't know how emotional we'll be about that. We'll be emotional about the game and we'll feel great about Ray being here for that. It's a great honor. It's something we'll all take pride in. Maybe Ray will be ready to give us a little fire-up talk."

Ray Lewis on Ravens' leadership

September, 15, 2013
One of the big questions heading into this season was how the Baltimore Ravens would fill the leadership void without linebacker Ray Lewis. Count Lewis among those interested in who will step up on the Ravens.

"I really want to see where it comes from," Lewis said on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown." "Does it come from Terrell Suggs or does it come from Joe Flacco? Mr. (Steve) Bisciotti gave him $100 million. Does that $100 million calculate to you now spending bonus time with your young receivers, with your young team? There's one thing about talent -- talent is seen with the eye; leadership is rarely seen because it's done most of the time after-hours. And that's where I think the biggest issue is: who's going to be the leader to invest in that team?"

Lewis added, "For so many years when I was there, the No. 1 things that I did so much was spend times with guys off the field, when the coaches wasn't around, when the film wasn't showing. That's the most crucial time when you're talking about players development. How do you develop a man into a man? You've got to spend quality time with him. So now the question with the Ravens is: does Terrell Suggs spend that time? Does Joe Flacco spend that time with those young guys to get this ball club back where they need to be?"

The Ravens are banking on Suggs and Haloti Ngata to be the leaders on defense, with Suggs obviously taking more of a vocal role. On offense, the team is going to lean on the likes of Flacco, running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith.

If the Ravens can't beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and fall to 0-2, there is going to be pressure on the Ravens' new leaders to get the defending Super Bowl champions on track.

Lewis: Steelers are a different team

September, 13, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Ray Lewis was long one of the faces of the rivalry that has churned out one classic slugfest after another.

And the former Ravens linebacker turned ESPN NFL analyst doesn’t recognize the team he loved to hate but also grew to respect because of its physicality.

Lewis said on ESPN’s "Mike & Mike" show Friday morning that the Steelers have gotten away from what has traditionally defined them: hard-nosed football.

“They are a totally different team,” Lewis said.

The offensive side of the ball, Lewis said, is where there has been pronounced change. Lewis said the Steelers have gotten away from drafting a certain type of player, and that they have targeted “smaller, quicker” wide receivers in recent years.

That is another way of saying the Steelers don’t have a tone-setter like Hines Ward, who played wide receiver with the mentality of a linebacker.

The Steelers’ inability to run the ball --- they have rushed for less than 100 yards in seven consecutive games -- is one reason the offense has been criticized from all sides.

Lewis said such struggles reflect a bigger problem in that the Steelers have gotten away from who they are -- and that things could get worse in Pittsburgh before they get better.

Steelers fans won’t like such an appraisal coming from the greatest player in Ravens history. But will they have an issue with the messenger or the message?

By the numbers: Ravens-Broncos

September, 5, 2013
Here are some numbers, many of which come courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, to remember for Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos:

10 -- Times the Ravens pressured Peyton Manning on 24 second-half dropbacks (41.7 percent) in the AFC divisional game.

12 -- Wins by the defending Super Bowl champions in the past 13 season openers. The only loss came from the 2012 New York Giants.

13 -- Victories by the Ravens in prime-time in 19 games under coach John Harbaugh. That's a .684 winning percentage.

30 -- Carries by Ray Rice in the last meeting with the Broncos. It was his most in the 2012 season.

37 -- Percent of the Ravens' receptions lost with wide receiver Anquan Boldin traded and tight end Dennis Pitta on the injured reserve-designated for return list. They combined for 126 of the Ravens' 334 catches in 2012.

80 -- Consecutive regular-season starts by quarterback Joe Flacco, tied with Jarret Johnson for the longest streak in Ravens history. He will break that mark Thursday night.

148 -- Combined career sacks by Terrell Suggs (84.5) and Elvis Dumervil (63.5).

2,839 -- Days since the last game the Ravens didn't have either Ray Lewis or Ed Reed in the starting lineup. It last happened on Nov. 27, 2005.