The Patriots…The Ravens Way: Reload What Works

A quick one during the first half of the Ravens at Patriots game. Please excuse any mistakes..

The Ravens reminded us last weekend against the Steelers that they’re built for the playoffs and, more importantly, they’ve attempted to build their roster the same way they did when they won the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. I felt compelled to write about this as this Ravens at Patriots game kicks off as I’ve been thinking about it all week how the Ravens have created a line-up similar to what they had when they won the Super Bowl and I alluded to it in my betting pick for the game.

They’ve still got Joe Flacco behind center, a more experienced and improved quarterback with two more years under his belt, along with Torrey Smith and they’ve added the similar pieces around them. Of course, being without Dennis Pitta is a huge loss for them, as he had three touchdowns on their Super Bowl run, but Owen Daniels can do a serviceable job, so it’s HUGE that they went out and got themselves a second tight end like him for the injury prone Pitta.

While Daniels was incredibly annoying for anyone who ever played him in fantasy football, he had a respectable year with 48 catches for 527 and four touchdowns and could make an impact down the stretch this postseason.

Justin Forsett even has a very similar running style to Ray Rice and they’re built almost the exact same way and having met Ray Rice, he’s not the 5’9” that he’s listed at. In retrospect from a fantasy football perspective, I can’t believe I didn’t see Forsett taking over Rice’s role and doing it well. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but the Ravens did a great job of finding a running back who could replicate what Rice does in case he were to a) continue to decline or b) miss time to injury on top of the time they already thought Rice would miss to suspension as they signed him two months after Rice’s elevator incident.

Now, by knowing who they are and what works for their offense, Forsett had eerily similar production to what Rice gave the Ravens in 2012 with 92 less yards, but averaging a full yard more than Rice per carry.

The huge signing of the offseason for them was Steve Smith who they got at a discount for 3-years at $10.5 million, which means at $3.5 million a year, they got 79 catches for 1065 yards and 6 touchdowns. That salary has Smith’s salary around guys like Andre Roberts, Andrew Hawkins, Eddie Royal, and Brandon Gibson, which makes him a steal.

In 2012, the Ravens paid Anquan Boldin $7.5 million for less production at 65 for 921 and four TDs, but that huge playoff run of 22 catches, 380 yards and four TDs was pretty legendary. So far, Smith had 5 receptions for 100 yards in Pittsburgh and 3 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in one quarter against the Patriots.

There seriously aren’t any wide receivers who play more similarly than Boldin and Smith. They’re the toughest receivers in the NFL, a brand of tough-nosed, huge blockers on the outside in the running game.

On the defensive side of the football, they’ve still got Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs. While there is no way to replace Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but they replaced Ray Lewis perfectly with CJ Mosley from Alabama who will be a Pro Bowler as a rookie. In the playoffs, Lewis came back from that torn tricep to average a respectable 12.75 total tackles a game, which Mosley could replicate. They replaced Ed Reed with another big hitter, big athlete with Will Hill who has really matured this season. They’ve put good players like Daryl Smith in the lineup when others like Jameel McClain left. They’ve added Elvis Dumervil after the 2012 season with that fumble of his contract by Marty Magid. Dumervil been a huge addition as a pass rusher for them with 17 sacks which is above and beyond what any one player on that 2012 did.

At kick returner, they still have Jacoby Jones who is performing at the same level he was in 2012 averaging 30 yards per kick in both seasons and proved to be a huge asset in the Super Bowl. Jones was second in the NFL in average yards per kick return this season.

What’s critical to anyone or any organization, is to be honest and know who you are, so you know what works for you and what doesn’t. That’s one thing that all of these great NFL organizations have in common. After a disappointing 8-8 season for the Ravens last year, they went out and addressed their issues by getting guys like Forsett, Smith and Mosley. They have some main pieces in guys like Flacco, Torrey Smith, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Jacoby Jones, then they replaced main pieces that left after the 2012 season with cheaper versions of their other main pieces. On top of that, they added a big time rusher like Dumervil which is huge for any defense.

As a guy who loves good business and love football, it’s a pleasure to watch teams like the Patriots and Ravens run their organizations. Another benefit that good organizations have over bad ones is that they’ve been there, they know what works, and they’re smart to continue to go to the well of what works.

(And as I publish this, Owen Daniels scores a big TD for the Ravens!)