I've had the pleasure of chatting with former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis twice in the past week -- first when I did this piece on Ray Rice's value and again Tuesday to talk to him about making the Ring of Honor.
During our phone conversations, Lewis, the franchise's all-time leading rusher, gave his take on the current Ravens squad, specifically an offense that ranked 15th in total offense a year ago and 12th in scoring offense.
"I like where the offense is heading," Lewis said. "They are passing the ball better. They're still trying to find those wide receivers. I think they're molding a few, a good package of receivers to go along with [quarterback Joe] Flacco. I like their style of play. I like the way they move the ball. I like the way they play together. They do rely on the backfield a lot because they are still getting things situated with the downfield passing game."
Lewis hailed Rice as one of the few every-down running backs left in the NFL, saying that Rice can run, catch the ball and block. But he acknowledged that offenses now must throw the football often to beat the top teams.
He believes the continuing emergence of second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith will help open things up in the passing game as he says the team hasn't had a receiver who can stretch the field like Smith in a long time.
So is this offense good enough to help them win a Super Bowl?
"Most definitely," Lewis said. "They are doing well with putting together the right guys on offense to take them where they want to go. Look at that game last year. They would have won it if they wouldn't have dropped the ball. They could have went in and played the New York Giants better than the Patriots did. I feel like they would have been a better opponent than the Patriots. But it's hard to put that thing together."
Lewis said the Ravens "have the right coaches" and an "excellent general manager" in Ozzie Newsome. It's just about putting the final pieces together. And the Ravens kept a big one in place Monday by signing Rice.
"He deserves it," Lewis said of Rice's lucrative new deal. "I hope that it puts him at ease and he continues on to have a great career. ... If he keeps working hard and saying humble and hungry, I think he'll be OK."