Baltimore Ravens

Ravens face one of their biggest offseasons yet

When inside linebacker Zachary Orr unexpectedly retired last week, it left the Ravens with one of their biggest offseason building jobs in the team's 21-year history.

There is always pressure to acquire talent, but it got turned up a notch on general manager Ozzie Newsome when Orr left the sport because of a congenital neck and spine condition.


Other big offseasons? There was enormous interest in 1996 because that was the team's first year in Baltimore. And it was even greater following the 2001 season because after a failed attempt to win a second straight Super Bowl, salary cap problems forced the Ravens to get rid of high-paid veterans such as defensive linemen Rob Burnett, Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, tight end Shannon Sharpe and safety Rod Woodson.

A lot is at stake this season for a franchise that has missed the playoffs three of the past four years.


Orr's departure created another hole because the Ravens don't have anyone who can replace him. One candidate is Albert McClellan, entering his seventh season, but he hasn't been consistent and might be more of an outside linebacker than inside. Undrafted rookie Patrick Onwuasor filled in for Orr during the last game against Cincinnati, but had trouble getting off blocks and finding the ball.

Kamalei Correa, the team's second-round pick last year, will probably get a shot, but there are many more questions than answers about his game. So, Newsome has to find a starter.

And while he is looking through the draft and free agency, he also has to find a speedy, impact receiver, pass rushers and a top-notch cornerback. It's a lot to ask, but the Ravens have to make up ground on the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who played in the AFC championship game Sunday.

It's game on.

Coaching staff not yet settled: The addition of Greg Roman to the Ravens' coaching staff as a senior offensive assistant was a plus but the move to hire Joe D'Alessandris as the new offensive line coach wasn't impressive.

He has overall experience but since 2008 he has spent two seasons with Kansas City, one in Buffalo and three in San Diego. When a coach jumps around so much, it's not a good sign.

Also, the Ravens need to find a defensive backs coach to replace Leslie Frazier, who recently took a job as Buffalo's defensive coordinator. Right now, Chris Hewitt is the Ravens secondary coach, and he held that job in 2015 when the Ravens had one of the worst secondaries in the league.

That is why they hired Frazier in the first place.


Matt Ryan is impressive, ring or not: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is elite.

Fans get all tied up in statistics and Super Bowl wins, but it is also important to remember that this is his offense and he runs and directs it. Elite quarterbacks look like traffic cops out on the field, orchestrating and directing personnel.

Ryan goes through his progressions, makes some difficult throws look easy and is the unquestioned leader of the Falcons. If he doesn't win a Super Bowl, I still like watching him play. Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl, but he was elite.

Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls and Joe Namath won one, but I never thought either was a great quarterback.

Snooze-worthy postseason: It's time for the Super Bowl hype and we'll get plenty of it during the two weeks leading up to the game. It's already started with this being Tom Brady's redemption tour after he was suspended four games by commissioner Roger Goodell for his involvement in "Deflategate."



And then we will hear non-stop about how this game will be a shootout with Brady vs. Ryan

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There has been very little to get excited about during this NFL postseason. Of the playoff games, only one has been outstanding — when Green Bay beat Dallas in the divisional round. Other than that, these games have looked a lot like the regular season contests.

Super Bowl LI pick: The reason New England will beat Atlanta is because the Patriots play better defense and they have a secondary that can at least challenge and slow down the Falcons.

The Falcons have some playmakers on defense, but they might be a little too young. The Patriots have cornerbacks Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, who can stay with Atlanta's receivers. McCourty and Chung also can serve as extra linebackers against the run; all of these guys tackle well.

Combined with Brady using those short passes as a running game, New England will slow the Falcons' offense and win another Super Bowl title.


Odds and ends: The Ravens tried to run the same fast pace no huddle offense as the Patriots, but the key is completing passes. If you have an accurate quarterback like Brady, it's a great offense to use. When you don't, the offense can become a disadvantage because it can put your defense on the field too quickly.

Also, Le'Veon Bell's deliberate running style tells me that the Steelers need to improve on the offensive line. He might be patient, but if your offensive line is aggressive and knocking people off the ball, there is no need for hesitation.