NFL Preseason Preview - Baltimore (0-0) at Tampa Bay (0-0)|
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens get back to
business on Thursday, opening up their preseason against the Tampa Bay
The Ravens group taking the field in central Florida, however, will be quite
different than the one which won the big game in February, and much has been
made about what Baltimore has lost since edging San Francisco to win the
franchise's second NFL title.
Superstar linebacker Ray Lewis and veteran Pro Bowl center Matt Birk retired
after the Super Bowl, while wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded to the
49ers. Safety Bernard Pollard was cut and signed with Tennessee, linebacker
Dannell Ellerbe went to Miami as a free agent, rush linebacker Paul Kruger
signed with Cleveland, cornerback Cary Williams went up I-95 to Philadelphia
and veteran safety Ed Reed took his act to Houston.
Things got even murkier earlier in camp when Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who
signed a monster contract extension in the offseason, loss his security
blanket when tight end Dennis Pitta went down with a season-ending dislocated
General manager Ozzie Newsome has done a decent job of replenishing things
especially of defense, bringing in ex-Broncos pass rusher Elvis Dumervil as
well as veterans Marcus Spears and Chris Canty. He also got younger at safety
by brining in former Oakland No. 1 pick Michael Huff and drafting Florida's
Matt Elam in the first round. The trio of Jameel McClain, former Jacksonville
standout Daryl Smith and Kansas State rookie Arthur Brown will have the
unenviable task of trying to replace Lewis and or Ellerbe in the middle of the
"I've just been watching, listening and reading what people have been saying
about us, and I don't feel people respect us for what we accomplished last
season and the group we have assembled this year," star pass rusher Terrell
Suggs said. "I know critics are supposed to have their opinions, but I'm
getting pumped to prove them wrong. I love this new group."
Under head coach John Harbaugh Baltimore is the NFL's only team to make the
playoffs each of the last five years so chances are good the Ravens will
remain very competitive.
"We have a very competitive training camp, and that brings out the best in
everyone," Harbaugh said. "The competition we have every day between our
offense and defense will have us ready for games. We have the most unique
challenge in football: There's only one team that has the opportunity to win
two Super Bowls in a row. That's us, and we're excited about that. The game at
Tampa is another step in our process and another test to see where we are
Tampa Bay, which finished 7-9 under first-year head coach Greg Schiano
in 2012, has done much to bolster its anemic secondary from a year ago, the
key flaw in a team which started 6-4 but dropped five of its final six
contests en route to missing the postseason for the fifth-straight year.
Even before Ronde Barber called it a career, cornerback was an obvious need
for the Buccaneers and general manager Mark Domenik pulled the trigger on the
Darrelle Revis trade before the draft, giving up his first-round selection to
the New York Jets for the best corner in football when healthy. Revis, though,
is coming off an ACL injury so watching his progress in the preseason will be
The Bucs supplemented the Revis pickup in the second round of the draft by
snaring a very lengthy corner in Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks, a player
who would have had a first-round grade if he had a little more speed.
On offense all eyes will be on quarterback Josh Freeman, who will be given one
final chance to prove he is the answer moving forward. Schiano hedged his bets
on Freeman by drafting a solid developmental signal caller in North Carolina
State's Mike Glennon, a strong-armed, accurate passer in the mold of Flacco.
These two clubs have never met in the preseason before and have split four
games in the regular season.
08/07 11:44:00 ET