Thoughts before Ravens-Falcons tonight

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Walking around the Ravens building on Tuesday you couldn’t help but feel sorry for John Harbaugh and the crew over there.

I love the Ravens. I want them to win 19 games this year. Search the land and I doubt you’ll find a bigger purple supporter than me. Honestly, our business and my life runs much more smoothly when the Ravens win.

But facts are facts, and this looks to be a painful campaign if the early going is any indication.

The situation is pretty dire on the quarterback front unless Joe Flacco is a miracle worker and becomes an instant star in the NFL. And with the current tackle situation, Todd Heap’s iffy status and the WR crew in flux, it doesn’t appear to be likely even if Flacco does show all of the signs of a potential franchise quarterback.

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Maybe Troy Smith can run around enough and work some magic in the early going. It now appears that Kyle Boller will not be a factor anytime soon.

And it’s just a roster-wide, franchise-wide issue on the eve of the season opening next Sunday against the Bengals. The injuries and the age and the abilities and the depth aren’t encouraging, overall.

The problems on the offensive side are apparent. The Ravens are hoping that Ray Rice could flash some signs of life (if not LaDanian Tomlinson’s numbers). And they’re clearly upbeat about Flacco’s possibilities at some point down the line.

On defense, its just been a mess because they’ve been starting the game with the second team unit and going backward creating mistmatches and confusion.

Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg must get on the field for 16 games and that’s not very likely. Ngata has been nicked up and is less of a question mark, but Gregg’s status is a complete mystery and the longer he stays out the more questions are being asked as to how his legs are holding up. The Ravens trade for Marques Douglas yesterday – giving up a 2009 draft pick for a defensive lineman – should tell you all you need to know about how they feel about their defensive line depth. They have concerns about Gregg.

Then there’s the secondary, which 10 days before kickoff of the 2008 regular season is a complete mystery.

Chris McAlister is in the twilight zone. Again…

Ed Reed hasn’t put pads on and the neck issue with him appears to have everyone in the building on edge. It could be a serious issue and folks are starting to questions whether or when we’ll see him this season.

Samari Rolle hasn’t been a factor and the epilepsy issue with him will not go away. Rolle and McAlister are both getting up in age in general for a cornerback in the NFL chasing young bucks each Sunday.

Right now, how many games do you see Rolle and McAlister starting in tandem this season for the Ravens? I couldn’t even hazard a guess but I’ll start with “far less than all.”

Frank Walker, Corey Ivy and Fabian Washington all look like a major step backward from what we’re accustomed to and what will be necessary to succesfully chase Braylon Edwards, Hines Ward and Chad Johnson around the AFC North.

And last – but not least – is the linebacking and pass rush corps, led by “walk year” legend Ray Lewis. You’d like to think this would be the strongest area of the team in ’08, with a disgruntled Terrell Suggs, a healthy but getting older Trevor Pryce and young Antwan Barnes chasing the quarterback. And Jarret Johnson is always solid when he’s on the field.  I’d have to say this is the least of Rex Ryan’s concerns but getting pressure on the quarterback would certainly help to mask the deficiencies in the secondary.

The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Ravens at six wins for 2008. If you think they’ll go 7-9, you could make a lot of money betting the over. But right now, if I were a betting man (and I’m not), I’d have a hard time finding a way for them to win 7 games as currently constructed.

I’m off to the purple palace this evening like about half of you. I just hope no one else gets hurt.

For the season, I have have low hopes and no unreasonable expectations.

In some ways, it’ll make the season more fun because anything good they do will be twice as fun because it will be completely unexpected.

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