And finally, we get to the champs. Well ... sort of, as Barnwell points out early on. The Ravens rode a highly improbable playoff run to their second Super Bowl win in franchise history last season, but these are preview podcasts. Taking stock of this year’s Ravens means evaluating a different group.
After rehashing Baltimore’s 2012 postseason, we get into all the changes Baltimore has made since winning the Super Bowl (7:09). Gone are Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, replaced (hopefully) by Baltimore’s first- and second-round picks from April’s draft. Playoff heroes Paul Kruger, Cary Williams, and Anquan Boldin are also gone, and although Barnwell has some concerns about how quickly all the new defensive pieces can come together, I chose to put my faith in Ozzie Newsome & Co. (OK, so did Barnwell; he just doesn’t think it happens this year).
One topic on which we’re a little further part is Joe Flacco (15:05). You can read our Flacco conversation in full below, but where Barnwell thinks the playoff Flacco is closer to the real Flacco, I still have my doubts:
In celebration of the NFL's release of the all-22 and end-zone film for the 2012 season, each week we'll be bringing you the best in offensive- and defensive-line play. For the winners of last week's Trenchie's, click here.
The John Hannah Award for General Road Grading
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line
Coming into the season, Tampa Bay’s offensive plan was clear. With Vincent Jackson, the Bucs added a new option on the outside for their young quarterback, but each of their other two major personnel decisions seemed like moves toward a more grounded attack. First, Tampa signed All Pro guard Carl Nicks away from New Orleans for $47.5 million — the hope being that the combination of Nicks and Pro Bowler Davin Joseph could replicate the Nicks–Jahri Evans tandem that gave the Saints the best guard combination in football. A month later, the Bucs traded back up into the first round to grab Boise State running back Doug Martin — a needed replacement for the ineffectual LaGarrette Blount. Nine weeks into the season, Tampa Bay has finally developed that devastating running game they envisioned this spring. It just hasn’t come about exactly as planned.
Joseph, lost in the preseason to a knee injury, won’t play a down this year. Nicks joined him on injured reserve last Tuesday following Martin’s breakout game against Minnesota. The thought was that, now missing its top two interior linemen, the Tampa running game would slow — both against Oakland and for the rest of the season. Then Doug Martin went and had one of the best rushing games in NFL history. The rookie’s 251 yards came on just 25 carries, and they came on a mix that seemed one part scheme, one part Doug Martin, and about three parts relentlessness.