RAVENS REVIEW

The Baltimore Sun

5 THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT FOR RAVENS

1

Joe Flacco has to limit rookie mistakes. The quarterback has remained composed throughout the preseason, one of the reasons the Ravens believe he's ready to handle the starting job. But Flacco can't put the Ravens in bad situations with interceptions or fumbles.

2

The defense has to step up again. Brian Billick is gone, but the Ravens' winning formula remains. With the offense still coming together, the Ray Lewis-led defense needs to intimidate teams once again and take control of games.

3

Todd Heap must remain healthy. The Ravens tight end is the most viable playmaker on offense. He could put up numbers similar to those of Antonio Gates, who was the centerpiece of Cam Cameron's passing attack in San Diego.

4

Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle can't show their age. The 30-something cornerbacks missed most of last season because of medical issues, and the Ravens' pass defense suffered mightily. The Ravens can't afford to lose them again because Fabian Washington is the only reliable backup.

5

John Harbaugh brings a sense of discipline that keeps players in check. The Ravens have lost games in the past because they have lost their cool. With a tough schedule, the Ravens' new coach has little margin for error.

5 THINGS THAT COULD GO WRONG

1

Ed Reed's injury keeps him out for most of the season. The Ravens won't scare as many quarterbacks if Reed isn't back in the secondary. But it is unknown how long his neck and shoulder injuries will sideline him.

2

Willis McGahee struggles in his second season here. The running back got back into some bad habits, missing most of the voluntary camps this offseason and reporting to training camp in less-than-stellar shape. The Ravens wanted him to be a three-down back, but he hasn't shown the same commitment to them.

3

The offensive tackles can't hold up in pass protection. Jared Gaither and Adam Terry remain two of the biggest question marks on the team. If they can't prove they are legitimate starters, Flacco could get a rough initiation by NFL defensive ends.

4

Players get distracted by contract years. It was only a few years ago that the Ravens fell apart because many players were concerned about their status heading into free agency. The locker room can't get disjointed again by personal interests of star players (Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott).

5

The early part of the schedule could create a snowball effect. In their first six games, the Ravens face only one team that had a losing record last season (the Cincinnati Bengals). If the Ravens get off to a lousy start, the losses could pile up at an alarming rate.

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