Reed and Lewis - Long in the Tooth?

 At about the 25 yard line with the Bengals driving again, Bernard Scott ran a sweep out of a shotgun formation in which he beat Ray Lewis to the hole (badly) and then ran through Ed Reed’s shoulder tackle (where Reed continued his trend – failing to wrap up ball carriers as he was effectively bounced to the sidelines).

Lewis is still nursing a lingering toe injury that slows him down and Ed Reed claims he took a bad angle that cost the team.  But this play illustrates what many fans have been fearing but not apt to discuss, the window is closing.  Like it or not, Ed and Ray’s careers are nearly over.

Reed has more seasons left in the tank than Lewis because he is such a gamechanger in the passing game.  If you ever saw the video of Brady and Belichick going over the game plan before they played the Ravens in ’09, then you’d know how disruptive Reed is.  Even when receivers come open, quarterbacks are scared to throw at him.  Revis has an island.  Reed has a continent.  He changes quarterback progressions, route combinations, and the primary target on passing plays.

~ 0: 40 – 3: 40 and 4:20 – 5: 14

Reed has not been making plays this year because he doesn’t have to.  After his performance last year while missing 6 games, offenses finally got the hint.  Do not throw at Ed Reed.  Not even in the vicinity.  Even if he doesn’t intercept it outright – if the ball is tipped it could mean 6 for the Ravens.

There have been times this year where teams have made big plays where Reed appears to be chasing down the receiver after being beaten.  But according to Pagano and Harbaugh, these plays show that Reed is still playing at an elite level.  Those plays constitute Reed using his instincts to peel off his responsibilities to try to save mistakes made by his teammates.

As for Reed’s lack of authoritative tackling the past few weeks – I’ll take it every day and twice on Sundays.  The man has a bum neck (and shoulder).  It’s obviously bothering him, and he is trying to protect himself.  Teams do not gameplan against Reed for his big hits, especially with the defenseless receiver rules this year.  Reed is a safety-valve.  His job is to make sure a 15+ yard play doesn’t go to the house.  He messed up one time this season against Bernard Scott.  Would you rather have Reggie Nelson who was responsible for 2 Ray Rice TD’s and several long passing plays that almost were (sans receiver drops)?

Reed is such a special ballhawker and cerebral talent in the back end, that he is still the best player on the field at 75%.  For Mike Preston to say that Harbaugh needs to discuss cutting down on his playing time is ridiculous.

However, Ray Lewis is a different story.  He is the heart and soul of the defense.  He is the face of the franchise.  He does more for the city of Baltimore than any other sports figure I’ve heard of.  But his play is suffering – ever so slightly.  He is still a pro-bowl linebacker on first and second down.  But he needs to come off the field on 3rd and +5.  He just cannot stay with tight ends and running backs.  Dude is 260lbs.  He’s a 36 year-old man-child who fills the hole, but he’s lost his quicks.  Toe injury or no.

Nothing will happen to his playing time this year.  When you sweep the division, sweep your home games, and sweep all playoff bound teams in the regular season, you don’t rock the boat in the playoffs.  But if Lewis returns next year, something should be done to maximize our 3rd down defense.  Lewis remains a great player, but our linebacking core proved itself in the 4 games without him.

The Bernard Scott play scared me and not the touchdown which Suggs has publicly stated was his fault for slanting down on the wrong gap losing contain.  It was the passing play that never was in which Scott juked Lewis over the middle but Dalton and he could not connect.  It would have been a touchdown.  Well, woulda-coulda-shoulda.  The Bengals are now eliminated from the playoffs and the Ravens are the 2 seed.

And like it or not Mike Preston, Reed and Lewis are not going to have diminished roles.  Things are setting up quite nicely with the Texans coming to M & T and the Steelers and Patriots destined to beat up on each other.

Let’s enjoy the playoffs and then allow the offseason to proceed where I predict the Ravens will reinvent themselves.  If we win the Super Bowl – both Reed and Lewis may retire.



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