It kills me when I hear the cliche "the Ravens are too old to compete for a Super Bowl"...
I guess some folks are looking only at the aging process of Ray Lewis and the calendar catching up to Ed Reed... both of whom, by the way, played at All-Pro levels last season.
But to those naysayers and clockwatchers I have some sound advice--- look at the youth movement that now dominates the Ravens roster.
Young Pernell McPhee, shown here disrupting a Tim Tebow play formation in the Denver game in 2011, is only in his 2nd season out of Mississippi State... yet is a defensive end the rest of the league has already had to account for in their 2012 game plans...
Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Jimmy Smith, Ed Dickson, Pernell McPhee, Terrence Cody and Courtney Upshaw....What do these players have in common? They’re all 25 years old or younger.
The Ravens’ youth movement began last season. A year later, the team is primed to capitalize on and add to it.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent,” McPhee said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys with potential, from cornerbacks to receivers, O-line, D-line. We’ve got talent stacked everywhere. So that’s a positive thing for the future.”
In a Football Outsiders top-25 list of under-the-radar (wasn’t drafted in the first two rounds) prospects, McPhee came in at No. 6. He notched six sacks as a rookie, primarily as a pass-rush specialist. McPhee could have a bigger role this season with the departure of Cory Redding to Indianapolis, as he will compete with Art Jones for the starting job.
“McPhee is all about motor, and his technique is still developing,” Aaron Schatz wrote. “He came out of Mississippi State as a better athlete than football player.”
Schatz wrote that McPhee “took advantage of defenses’ worries about Terrell Suggs,” an advantage McPhee won’t have for at least some part of the season due to Suggs’ Achilles injury. McPhee will also try to fit into the 5-technique in the Ravens’ base defense, a change from his position last year.
Football Outsiders also put together a ranking of all NFL teams based on the most 25-and-under talent. The Ravens came in 19th, not because they don’t have potential, but because some of their younger players haven’t been seen yet. Among last year’s rookie class, tackle Jah Reid, wide receiver Tandon Doss, cornerback Chykie Brown, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Anthony Allen have yet to see much time. That could change this year. Allen is batting for the second tailback spot, Doss is in the hunt to be the third wideout, Reid is in the mix at guard and tackle, and Taylor could see the field more as a change-of-pace offensive weapon.
“The Ravens are stacked with young guys who played a big role last year,” Danny Tuccito and River McCown wrote. “The Ravens suffer a bit in the ratings because they just didn't give many snaps to youngsters outside of those seven [Rice, T. Smith, J. Smith, Dickson, Cody, McPhee and Reid]. Still, that's an enviable young core, especially once LB Courtney Upshaw is added to it.”
Besides Upshaw, who is in line for a starting job with Suggs sidelined, the Ravens have other potential impact rookies this year with guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele and running back Bernard Pierce.
“The way our young guys act mature, go out and handle business, you won’t even recognize that they’re young,” McPhee said. “Our guys just go out and work. It seems like they’re vets themselves.”
Under the radar, the Ravens find young talent, regardless of whether it's coming from a big school, small school, or even another team. It's the way they have been able to sustain success for many years, which is the name of the game. It's also why teams are always trying to pick their front office/coaching staff apart every off-season.
The Ravens are a lot younger than the national media would have you believe.