On Monday the Baltimore Ravens announced that cornerback Lardarius Webb and legendary linebacker Ray Lewis suffered season-ending injuries. Webb left Sunday’s win against the Cowboys after he fell to the turf clutching his left knee due to what we now know is a torn ACL. Lewis left the game after tearing his triceps muscle.
So what does this mean?
1. Next Man Up: LB, CB
These two losses come as a big blow to a struggling Baltimore defense and leaves Dean Peas, the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, with a host of personnel challenges to tackle. Webb was arguably one of the best defensive backs in the league and the name Ray Lewis speaks for itself. The Ravens will look down the depth chart to hungry players battling for a starting job. Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham will likely be the major players at defensive back. At linebacker, three of four starters from last season are out (either injured or not on the team). The team will look to Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe to step up. They played well last season when Lewis was out for several games. The bigger test and personnel challenge will be for the Ravens’ young defensive backs to fill Webb’s shoes.
2. Next Man Up: Pass Rush or Bust
It is no mystery that the Ravens’ pass rush (or lack thereof) is a direct result of not having Terrell Suggs on the field. It is also no mystery to any opponent the Ravens will face this season that the defense is having trouble stopping the run, stopping the pass, and stopping a nose bleed. For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens gave up 200+ rushing yards in back to back games. The defense has been exposed and if the Ravens don’t develop a pass rush to help relieve the pressure on the defensive backs, it will continue to be a long season for the defense.
3. Next Man Up: Whose Team?
Traditionally the Ravens have been known as a defensive powerhouse. This season the tides have turned and this team belongs to the offense. For the first time, the offense is outperforming the defense; and it couldn’t have come at a better time for this squad. It’s gut check time for Joe Flacco’s offense. He along with Ray Rice, Vonta Leach, and a host of talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions must put this team on their backs. For the Ravens to have a chance, the offense must put up 35+ points a game.
4. So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance…
The news out of the Ravens’ camp wasn’t great on Monday, and the Ravens’ schedule isn’t getting any easier any time soon. A talented Texans team is waiting in the wings. On the bright side, aside from the Texans the AFC is a weak conference this season. Only two of the 16 teams have winning records – those two teams being the Ravens and the Texans. It’s a host of mediocre teams with very few clear front-runners at this point in the season.
The Ravens will look forward to a week eight bye, which is quite timely given the tweaks that need to be made.