Thanks to Mike Brown of Ravens Roost, MVN’s Baltimore Ravens site, for participating in this question and answer exchange with Total Titans. Following are our questions for Mike, who will give us his answers from the Ravens’ point of view.
Total Titans: Going into the 2008 season, almost nobody had high expectations for the Ravens. They were coming off a 5-11 season and would be led by a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. Not exactly a proven formula for success. What did the rest of us miss and to what do you attribute the success almost nobody expected?
Ravens Roost: You would have to start with John Harbaugh, and the team first philosophy he instilled early on. He grew up in a football family and discipline was instilled in his personality by watching his father, Jack Harbaugh, former football coach of Western Michigan University and Western Kentucky University, and competing with his brother Jim Harbaugh, former Colt and Raven quarterback. The rest can be attributed to Ozzie Newsome and coming up with players like Fabian Washington, Jim Leonard, Willie Anderson, and Jemal McLain.
Simply put the Ravens added depth to their roster, and the players they acquired have played beyond expectations.
TT: The Titans and Ravens played a very close game in Week Five. What are the changes and the major improvements for the Ravens since that game?
RR: The biggest ones are the play of the offensive line, the increased maturation of Joe Flacco, and the entire offense getting in tune with Cam Cameron’s offensive philosophy. While the Ravens defense has continued to play at their usual high level, the offense has upped their game significantly.
TT: I am intrigued by Baltimore’s quarterback situation. Rookie quarterbacks rarely play as well as Flacco has, both as a quarterback and a leader. How improved is he since Week Five? Do you trust Flacco with the game on the line? If he’s ineffective can the Ravens still win? If Flacco is injured, can they win with Troy Smith, who’s even less experienced?
RR: Before the draft I sized up the college quarterbacks, and came to the conclusion that Flacco was the best fit for the Ravens. I thought he had more “game” then Matt Ryan when I compared the two. Flacco suffered early on from the lack of repetitions during training camp. He was slated as the 3rd string QB, and usually only did mop up duty during practice. When he was thrust into the starting role he started off slowly, as you might expect. But by Week 6 he had grown up tremendously defeating the Dolphins, for the 1st time, and learning from past mistakes.
Do I trust Flacco? Why wouldn’t I? He’s grown into a legitimate NFL quarterback, and will only get better as time goes on. Add to that the fact that the kid doesn’t get rattled, no matter what the circumstance. This kid is the real deal.
TT: What matchups do you like the best for the Ravens? Which matchups concern you the most?
RR: I like the Ravens defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Justin Bannon against the interior of the Titans offensive line, especially if center Kevin Mawae misses this game. I’m worried that the Ravens linebackers won’t be able to cover the short routes over the middle while trying to stuff the running game. This has hurt the Ravens all season.
TT: What do you expect to see from each side? If you’re Harbaugh, what’s your game plan? Your predictions, please?
RR: I expect to see two of the best teams in the NFL fighting it out on the playing field and giving it their all until their last breath. That’s the passion these two teams play the game with.
If I’m Harbaugh I’m letting Cam Cameron and Rex Reed be themselves. Harbaugh will shape the game plan, but he’s smart enough to let his coordinators execute it.
My prediction? Ravens 24, Titans 10. The Ravens are in a groove, and the Titans are coming off of what amounts to a bye. How many times have you seen a team get that week off and come out flat?
Thanks again to Mike for his thoughts on the game from a Ravens fan’s point of view.