- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
The Brian Billick era is over in Baltimore because the offensive ineptitude could not be tolerated any longer. While Billick took the fall for a terrible 2007 season, injuries were a major culprit as well. Two years ago, the Ravens stayed healthy and were an outstanding football team. Last year, they were decimated by injuries to key players and were among the worst teams in the NFL.
The Ravens also have had continuous quarterback problems, which also influenced Billick's removal. New head coach John Harbaugh has a major project on his hands at the most important position on the field, but this team does still have a lot of star power and some exceptional leadership within the locker room. Harbaugh was the Eagles' defensive backs coach last year and must prove immediately he won't be overwhelmed by his new job.
The Ravens did not make any whopping signings this offseason, and their salary-cap situation ensures they will not. But LB Terrell Suggs was given the franchise tag, which should ensure that he remains a key component in the Ravens' pressure defense.
Harbaugh has an extensive special-teams background and obviously will put a premium on that phase of the game. The signing of special-teams ace LB Brendon Ayanbadejo is an excellent addition and sends a message to the Ravens' locker room that special teams will be extremely important under this regime.
Baltimore released RB Mike Anderson and starting C Mike Flynn to open some cap room. Anderson will not be missed, but Flynn's experience could be missed on what potentially could be a very young but talented offensive line. Plus, future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden has not yet announced whether he plans to retire. His play has fallen off as of late, and his loss would not be as substantial as many tend to think.
Serious questions surround the quarterback position in Baltimore, and the answer may not be on the present roster. On draft day, general manager Ozzie Newsome could be very aggressive and put a package together to trade up for Boston College QB Matt Ryan, draft Louisville QB Brian Brohm in the first round or make a play in the second round for someone like Delaware QB Joe Flacco or Michigan QB Chad Henne.
Even though the Ravens' problem at quarterback looms large, cornerback could be equally as worrisome. CB Chris McAlister is getting older and missed a lot of time due to injury last year, while CB Samari Rolle is no longer suitable for a starting role because he has looming health issues, epilepsy among them.
Baltimore desperately needs to add a starting cornerback and allow defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to be as aggressive with his play calling as he has become accustomed. No one understands that a great defense can keep you in every game as well as the Ravens do. Baltimore also gets four compensatory picks to use on draft day, which should add some much-needed depth.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
7hEric D. Williams
2dBy Ian O'Connor