The Baltimore Ravens finished the 2014 regular season with a respectable 10-6 record and managed to get to the second round of the playoffs. This was quite an improvement over their lackluster 8-8 performance in 2013. The reasons behind the Ravens turnaround are a little complicated but the 2015 season will present much greater challenges for the Purple and Black.
“Defensive Coordinator Dan Pees worked wonders with a defensive unit that had glaring deficiencies “
As usual, General Manager Ozzie Newsome worked his “magic” with the roster. He and Head Coach John Harbaugh made tough decisions that allowed the Ravens to get the most from their players. Defensive Coordinator Dan Pees worked wonders with a defensive unit that had glaring deficiencies and the addition of back-up players (who became starters) like Justin Forsett and Will Hill helped the Ravens through some very difficult situations.
Although the Ravens improved their 2014 roster, the return of key players, like Kelechi Osemele, to the starting lineup played a tremendous role in the team’s success. Another important factor was the Ravens’ anemic schedule that featured opponents from the NFC and AFC South; the weakest divisions in the NFL.
Although 10-6 is generally seen as a “good” record, the Ravens cannot be satisfied knowing that their record was “padded” by the weak schedule (of their 10 wins, only two were against teams that finished .500 or better).
The Ravens’ Offense, although it was still plagued with some inconsistency, performed well. In fact, the Offense posted its best numbers of the John Harbaugh era and showed it will be better in 2015.
The Defensive front seven was among the best in the league and was nearly impossible to run against. However, the defensive back end often seemed confused and disoriented. They were continually exposed by receivers with speed, quickness and superior route running skills. Receiver like A. J. Green, Dwayne Allen, Antonio Brown and Malcolm Floyd took the Ravens secondary to school, exposing them for all to see.
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The Secondary problems are not new. Since 2012 when the Ravens won their second Super Bowl championship, NFL analysts, sports writers and fans have cried out about the defensive backfield issues. The team had to know that the Safeties and Cornerbacks couldn’t cover, couldn’t track the ball and couldn’t tackle.
As free agency and the Draft approach, the Ravens will have to address the secondary. Although highly skilled Corners are at a premium, the Ravens will have to use every resource they have to get the players they need.
The Ravens will have to cast a wider net in their search for good Corners and Safeties. Their search should include a strong examination of local talent. There are a number of talented defensive backs in the Baltimore area and one such local product is a former Morgan State University Cornerback named Sa’Quan Hicks.
Da Windy City
I became acquainted with Hicks almost a year ago and believe he has the skill to compete in the NFL. Hicks is 25 years old, 5’10” tall, 181 lbs. and a little “raw.” He has a high “football IQ”, is very “coachable” and has the kind of confidence that engenders confidence in those around him. With his speed (4.38 40 yards dash time), leaping ability (40” vertical), agility, quickness and instincts, he would be a good candidate for the Ravens’ defensive backfield.
Hicks sent me links to some of his work outs and game film (posted on You Tube) a few months ago and I was impressed. I was impressed with his dedication and work ethic as well as the proficiency with which he ran his drills.
“cannot afford to field a Defense that cannot protect its back end”
Although I haven’t seen Hicks against NFL players, it appears he has the skills, technique and speed to cover most receivers. In a December 13, 2014 article by Jazmine Ng, Hicks was described as having the “the rare ability to shadow top receivers [which] has drawn comparisons to Darrelle Revis.” Hicks firmly believes he would be a more effective cover Corner than the Ravens’ Jimmy Smith or Lardarius Webb. He also believes he could make the Ravens’ 53-Man 2015 regular season roster if given a chance.
Currently Sa’Quan Hicks is preparing for his third season as a professional indoor league Cornerback and has posted a number of his clips (primarily on You Tube) in hope that the Ravens, Redskins or another NFL team will see them and invites him to workout.
This season, the Ravens, with their more rigorous schedule (which includes the NFC and AFC West), cannot afford to field a Defense that cannot protect its back end. They must find the right personnel and spend the money to secure those players. Failure to do so will set the Ravens back several years and make it difficult for them going forward. The ball is in the Ravens’ court.