The Baltimore Sun



The Ravens have brought quarterback Joe Flacco along slowly with safe passes, but all the signs of a good quarterback are there. Flacco has a strong arm and good feet and reads the game well. He needs to develop more touch, but that will come in time. He is 5-3 as a rookie, which is outstanding in itself.



Willis McGahee got off to a slow start because he reported out of shape and then had knee problems. He hasn't produced the way he did last year. Rookie Ray Rice has played well during the past three games and might force McGahee into a backup role. Le'Ron McClain has been tough in short yardage, and fullback Lorenzo Neal has been a major asset as a player and tutor.



Veteran Derrick Mason has been outstanding and Flacco's go-to guy. But the Ravens haven't gotten steady production from anyone else. It might be because they don't get separation, or maybe it's because Flacco hasn't become comfortable with them. Mark Clayton played well last game, but the Ravens haven't gotten tight end Todd Heap involved.



This group was supposed to be the weak link this season, but it has been a major strength despite injuries. The Ravens have been strong up the middle with guards Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda and Chris Chester and center Jason Brown. The guards are athletic and run well. Tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry have improved, and so has Willie Anderson.



Tackle Haloti Ngata is a beast. He can disrupt the opponent's running game with penetration or by occupying two offensive linemen. The Ravens haven't missed a thing with tackle Justin Bannan filling in for Kelly Gregg. End Trevor Pryce hasn't been spectacular, but he has been consistent, and backup tackles Marques Douglas and Brandon McKinney have been solid.



Inside linebacker Ray Lewis has had a great first half and shows no signs of slowing down. Fellow inside linebacker Bart Scott isn't posting big stats but is playing extremely well. The Ravens' outside linebackers, Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, have been excellent. Johnson can bring heat just like Suggs on the pass rush.



Despite injuries to three starters, this group has been solid. Considering the extensive playing time the starters have missed, the Ravens have given up few big plays. Cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Frank Walker have been steady, and the coverage should improve with cornerback Samari Rolle's return. Safety Ed Reed got off to a slow start but has improved.



Kicker Matt Stover was in a mini-slump but has rebounded. Punter Sam Koch has been outstanding. The Ravens need to find a steady punt and kick returner, one who can also make a big play. The coverage on punts and kickoffs has been atrocious. These teams need a significant upgrade for the second half of the season.

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