Ravens Awards

By PFC Ravens Writer Martin Steger

Though the Baltimore Ravens and their fans are getting ready to watch their most hated rival play in the Super Bowl, they have nothing to hang their heads about. The Ravens just finished the second-best season in franchise history, having advanced to the AFC Championship game. This feat falls just short of their Super Bowl-winning 2000 campaign. Their season was all the more impressive considering that many people–even their fans–would have been surprised to see the team break .500. Before jumping into the offseason, it’s time to look at the players who made this great campaign happen by giving out some awards.

MVP–Ray Lewis, Linebacker.

New season, new coach, same old story with Lewis. Number 52 anchored the defense once again, which meant he anchored the entire team. He racked up 117 tackles, 3 picks and 3.5 sacks to go with 2 forced fumbles. He was also a calming presence for rookie Joe Flacco, who wisely listened to Lewis’s advice throughout the season. Re-signing this player is a primary goal for Baltimore this offseason, and with good reason. Though Baltimore promoted from within to replace Rex Ryan, Lewis’s knowledge of the game and the defense he plays in will be a huge boon to the new defensive coaching staff.

Defensive Player of the Year–Ed Reed, Safety

Reed held the secondary together despite missing 3 starters by the end of the postseason. The Ravens lost rising star Dawan Landry to a spinal concussion and their best corner in Chris McAlister to knee problems. Samari Rolle also missed some time. Jim Leonhard and Fabian Washington stepped up, but they couldn’t have done it without Reed, who coordinated the secondary while hauling in a league-high nine picks.

Offensive Player of the Year–Joe Flacco, Quarterback.

This rookie arguably played just as well as his counterpart in Atlanta, but got his squad deeper into the playoffs than Matt Ryan. Flacco’s arm shouldn’t be described as “big,” because words like “titanic” and “gargantuan” seem more fitting after watching Flacco scare defenses out of the box all season with his sky-piercing throws. He developed a nice rapport with Derrick Mason, but then again, who hasn’t? The next step for Flacco is to get players like Todd Heap more involved…and beating the Steelers would be nice, too. That will come in time, though. It’s still too soon to tell, but it looks like Baltimore fans can stop losing sleep over the quarterback position

Breakout Player of the Year–Le’Ron McClain, Fullback/Halfback.

McClain began seeing time at halfback after Willis McGahee struggled early in the season and, much to the chagrin of opposing linebackers, McClain made the most of the oppurtunity. He led the team in rushing and eventually became a scary presence at the goal line, scoring ten touchdowns. McClain’s physical style set the tone for Baltimore’s new, more aggressive offense.

Rookie of the Year–John Harbaugh, Head Coach

Ok, he’s not a player, but Joe Flacco already got an award. Harbaugh was probably the most important ingredient in Baltimore’s turnaround. He gave this team the energy, direction, toughness and discipline it needed to bounce back from its disastrous 2007 campaign. Though the Ravens suffered some key injuries, Harbaugh’s tougher offseason workout regimen helped the team last as long as humanly possible without a bye: starting in the third week of the season, Baltimore played 18 straight games and didn’t show signs of breaking down until their second playoff game. That’s not to mention his influence on special teams, which improved throughout the year. Like the quarterback position, it seems like Baltimore is set here for years to come.

The Ravens are going to have a very challenging offseason, but they have a more-than-solid foundation entering it thanks to these people and the other players, coaches and executives who put together an excellent 2008 season.