The Ravens continued to tinker with their roster over the weekend, signing Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode to bolster the offensive line. It was the third significant roster move the Ravens have made since the start of the preseason; they also addressed areas of concern by bringing in wideout Lee Evans and tackle Bryant McKinnie.
Baltimore didn’t undergo a total overhaul this summer, but we saw pretty significant roster turnover. The Ravens let veteran players Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Willis McGahee and Kelly Gregg go, making way for younger replacements on the roster. They signed Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach as an upgade over Le’Ron McClain. And they are counting on draft picks such as Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith to contribute early.
The NFL regular season is now unofficially underway as the Ravens, their roster mostly solidified, shift into preparations for their Week 1 game against the Steelers. But have they gotten better this offseason?
The Ravens have started to rebuild on the fly, and their young movement -- along with the additions of explosive players like Evans, Smith and the rookie receivers -- will make this an exciting team to watch. The offense added playmakers and the defense looks like it will wreak havoc under Chuck Pagano, just like the new defensive coordinator promised when he was tabbed to replaceGreg Mattison.
In a column for Tuesday’s newspaper, Mike Preston wrote that “this season, they are a better team, at least on paper.” However, he cautioned that it might not show until the second half of 2011.
Unfortunately, the most important game of the season could take place at M&T Bank Stadium five days from now. It is a critical game for both the Ravens and the Steelers, but there is more pressure on the Ravens entering the season opener. For one, their new players are still getting acclimated. Meanwhile, the Steelers decided to let it ride this summer, keeping their Super Bowl roster mostly intact.
And though the Steelers don’t want to open with a loss to the Ravens, they know they get another crack at the Ravens at Heinz Field later in the season. That makes this a bigger game for the Ravens, who will try to defend their home turf with a revamped offensive line that hasn’t taken a snap together in an actual game, two unproven cornerbacks in the starting lineup and another new cast of characters in the receiving corps.
It won’t be the end of the world if the Ravens don’t win Sunday -- they still play 15 more games -- but it’s certainly not ideal.
Anyway, I know it’s Steelers week, but let’s think big picture here. Have the Ravens improved their personnel this offseason?
Your turn: Are the Ravens a better team than they were a year ago?