We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Ravens Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of Baltimore Beatdown.
1. For many years now the Ravens’ offense often came from the defense. With the addition of Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco we’ve seen life out of the offense. Do you see another step forward this year? Or is there a chance for a sophomore slump from Flacco?
There is no expectations of a sophomore slump, but the opposite is expected. Flacco was thrust into the starting role only because of injury and illness to Kyle Boller and Troy Smith, respectively. He had virtually no time to prepare for the NFL game, incredibly coming from the College Football Subdivision (formerly Division II) straight to the pro game. While he obviously has the pro arm to make all the throws, his ability to read defenses and slow down the speed at the pro level had to be managed by Cam and his game plan. This time around, he has had the entire off season and now a full Training Camp to prepare and Cameron should take even more of the reins off of him and let the offense win some games for a change.
2. It looks like Willis McGahee might be sharing time in the backfield this year. Do you have confidence that Ray Rice can be an every down back? Will McClain continue to get the goal line carries?
While I believe Rice has what it takes to be a starter, the Ravens will still go with a multi-back running attack. I absolutely believe that McGahee will still get the majority of the carries and if he performs well, he will be just fine. Rice, now healthy, has looked great in mini-camps so far and figures to play a big role this season. Le’Ron McClain has moved back to fullback after a remarkable 2008 Pro Bowl season, but will still carry the rock as many as 8-10 times per game, including the goal line.
3. Derrick Mason has had back to back 1000 yard/5 touchdown seasons. Do you see a repeat performance or does age, Mark Clayton, or (insert wildcard receiver here) catch up to him?
Hopefully, this is the year that Clayton breaks out into the form he flashed a few times in 2008. Mason will still remain the #1 option for Joe Flacco, but the other wideouts need to step up. Demetrius Williams was injured most of last year and he has the ability to stretch the field. Second year WR Marcus Smith has been the workhorse of Training Camp and figures to be an integral part of the passing offense in 2009.
4. Age and offseason losses have some people questioning the impact of the Ravens’ defense this year. It seems like we heard some similar talk in 2008. Do you see another dominant season out of the D? Can they have both a great defense and great offense? Which do you feel coach Harbaugh would rather have?
This defense should actually be better in 2009 than even in 2008. The Ravens might have lost Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, but they have Tavares Gooden in line to replace Scott and a healthy Dawan Landry at safety is definitely an upgrade over Leonhard. Ray Lewis may be a year older but his workout regime is legendary and he is still the best MLB in the game in my opinion and the best motivator in the league. I don’t expect nor feel we need a “great” offense and neither does Harbaugh. It only has to be “good enough” with our defense we just need to move the ball, control the clock and limit turnovers to make it back to the post season.
5. I am hearing some crazy voodoo talk about Troy Smith and his possible role in the offense. Do you foresee Smith making a major contribution this year?
While I don’t expect a “major” contribution unless Flacco gets injured, Smith will absolutely be involved in the offense. He has taken some snaps at wide receiver and will be inserted to run the Ravens version of Miami’s “Wildcat” offense, which is known around here as the “Suggs Package” based on Terrell Suggs coming up with the idea of utilizing Smith in that role.
6. Who should be the first Raven taken in fantasy drafts? Why?
Le’Ron McClain will still get the majority of goal line carries and therefore TD possibilities. I do expect Flacco, while not rolling up yardage, to get his share of passing TD’s, probably between 15-25. McGahee, if healthy, should be able to run up over 1000 yards and even more if he returns to form and regains Harbaugh’s trust. I don’t expect any wideout to break out to the tune of 10 TD’, so I would limit them to Derrick Mason getting around 80+ receptions and close to 1000 yards, but not many TD’s (5?).