By Samuel Njoku
Currently holding a record of 9-2, Baltimore has taken a commanding 3 game lead over the rest of the AFC North. With a win against Pittsburgh on Sunday coupled with a Bengals loss, the Ravens can lock up the AFC North with four games remaining on the schedule. That shows you how impressive the Ravens have been this season.
Offensively, the Ravens have shown they can be explosive. Defensively, the Ravens have recently shown that they can be dominant. With the loss of Ray Lewis, the defense has looked a lot faster and more effective. But news of his return to action in the near future raises a few questions.
Coach John Harbaugh alluded to the fact that Ray Lewis could practice as early as Thursday if he were able. That’s an impressive feat for any player, let alone a 37-year-old linebacker. But the question remains whether or not Baltimore wants Ray Lewis back on the football field.
“It’d be great to get Ray Lewis back,” stated Harbaugh on Monday. “All of our guys would welcome Ray back with open arms if and when that happens. But, in the meantime, Ray is part of our defense, just like Terrell Suggs is part of our defense. The whole thing is coming together, hopefully, better every week. We could stumble at any time in this league, but adding a great player into the mix is only going to make us better.”
Harbaugh makes a great point. Adding a great player will only make the Ravens better. No one will argue with the fact that Lewis has lost a step or two this season. Dannell Ellerbe is probably the best linebacker on the team. But to suggest, as many have, that the Ravens are better off without Ray Lewis is borderline ridiculous. No one in the NFL can read an offense the way Ray Lewis can. Like Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis is a coordinator on the field. Communication issues are non-existent when 52 is in the lineup.
The Ravens have improved because of the return of Terrell Suggs. The emergence of Upshaw, Kruger, and Jones has also contributed to the success of the unit. With Lewis returning as well, the defense will only get better. That doesn’t mean things shouldn’t be different. Ray Lewis is still a liability on passing downs. The coaching staff has to let him know that he’s off the field on 3rd and long. If Baltimore can’t do that, opposing offenses will pick them apart.
The Ravens were dealt the injury bug in the worst way in the 2012 season. But the Ravens weathered the storm and have picked up their 4th straight win. It’s a scary thought to think a 9-2 football team can get any better. But with the return of Ray Lewis, that’s exactly what is about to happen.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.