2000 Ravens take stock of 2010 Ravens

Ten seasons after the Ravens hoisted up the Vince Lombardi Trophy, members of that Super Bowl team believe the team is primed to do it again.

They rave about the 2010 team's passing attack. They respect the defense, which is remarkably still being led by Ray Lewis. They remain impressed by John Harbaugh and his coaching staff.

Their confidence in this year's Ravens has grown throughout the summer, towering as large as Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams did in the middle of that relentless, record-setting defense.

"On paper, they have the makings of being a Super Bowl team, probably better than what we had in 2000," said Jonathan Ogden, the Pro Bowl offensive tackle who retired after the 2007 season. "I like their chances. I really do."

Where the players from the Super Bowl team differ is this: Could the 2010 team eventually be considered better than the 2000 one?

Some think this year's Ravens are a more complete team. Others believe that's sacrilege.

"We had something that not many teams can replicate," said Trent Dilfer, who quarterbacked the Super Bowl team. "We absolutely trusted one another beyond a shadow of a doubt. We were physically more dominant than anybody else. We had the greatest defense that ever lived. So, it would be very hard to compare the two teams."

Players from the Super Bowl team aren't looking in the mirror when watching the 2010 Ravens. Actually, the teams couldn't be more different.

In 2000, the Ravens' defense set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season. This year, the Ravens' offense has the potential to lead the league in scoring.

Qadry Ismail, the leading receiver for the Super Bowl champions, envies this year's receivers for being able to catch passes from Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger. And while he believes the receivers on the 2000 team (which included Brandon Stokley, Travis Taylor and Patrick Johnson) were probably more explosive, they couldn't match the overall productivity of this year's tandem of Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

It's hard to think this year's Ravens team will go through a five-game touchdown drought like the 2000 team. Scoring over 30 points in five straight games seems more realistic.

"This [2010] team is a better team," Ismail said. "Outside of trading out veteran Ray [Lewis] for the younger Ray, this team is just better."

Picking the best running back ( Jamal Lewis or Ray Rice) comes down to a style preference. The tight ends ( Shannon Sharpe and Todd Heap) are both at a similar stage in their career. And the offensive lines are anchored by the only tackles selected in the first round by the Ravens (Ogden and Michael Oher).

The major contrast is at wide receiver and quarterback. Dilfer's charge was to manage games; Flacco's challenge is to win them.

"From the offensive standpoint, they're the strongest they've been," said Matt Stover, who was a Pro Bowl kicker in 2000. "You know you have the running back, the three wide receivers and Todd Heap. It's really going to come down to the offensive line. If you look at the Super Bowl team, the offensive line played good enough to keep them off of Trent."

Defensively, there are more similarities between the eras.

In 2000, Adams and Siragusa stuffed the run. These days, it's Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg.

During the Super Bowl run, quarterbacks were harassed by Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett. A decade later, passers have to worry about Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson and Trevor Pryce.

Both defenses are linked by Lewis, the enduring middle linebacker who outran running backs in 2000 and outsmarts them now.

"The 2000 defensive line is one of the best of all-time because of their disruption," Ismail said, "and the linebacker corps is the best that the Ravens will ever see."

The biggest disparity is in the secondary. The Super Bowl team took its cue from a future Hall of Fame defender at safety ( Rod Woodson) and thrived with two first-round cornerbacks ( Chris McAlister and Duane Starks) hitting their strides.

This year, injuries have taken away Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed (offseason hip surgery) for at least six weeks and sidelined top cornerback Domonique Foxworth (torn anterior cruciate ligament) for the entire season.

"You're going to be asking an awful lot of Suggs, Ray and Haloti to cover for Foxworth and Reed," Sharpe said. "Then, when you start doing that, you start getting compromised because you've got guys trying to do too much."

Sharpe added, "I like their chances in that division. I just think we need to see how this thing plays out before I can say they're a slam dunk [for the Super Bowl]."

The odds of the Ravens winning the Super Bowl are currently 10-to-1, according to Bodog. Only the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers are favored more than the Ravens.

Some players from the 2000 team would enjoy celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the team's only Super Bowl title by seeing the Ravens capture another one. This isn't like the 1972 Miami Dolphins who pop open champagne whenever the last undefeated team loses.

"It does feel good to know everyone is aspiring to be like you," Ogden said. "But I'm such a fan that I'm rooting for them."

Still, some players won't entertain the thought that the 2010 team could be better than theirs until Flacco, Rice and Ngata win the Super Bowl.

"Myself, Goose, Rod Woodson … we've posted our score and we're drinking lemonade in the clubhouse," Sharpe said. "So, we'll see what the 2010 Ravens can do."

And if these Ravens are grasping the Lombardi Trophy in five months …

"Well, that's more power to them," Ogden said. "I don't know if I would ever say 'they're better' … maybe 'just as good.'"



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