The Baltimore Ravens are coming off a disappointing 2007 season where they finished 5-11. With a new head coach and a new quarterback leading the offense, the Ravens are hoping for a turnaround this year.
John Harbaugh was signed as the third head coach in Ravens' history this offseason. Originally a Ray Rhodes hire in 1998, he was one of only four assistants invited by Andy Reid in 1999 to remain in Philadelphia, the only other NFL team for which he has coached.
Quarterback: The Ravens used the 18th overall pick on quarterback Joe Flacco in the first round of this year's NFL Draft. Flacco became just the second NCAA Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) quarterback ever selected in the first round and the first since Tennessee selected retired Ravens quarterback Steve McNair as the third overall pick out of Alcorn State in 1995. Flacco won his first game as an NFL starter last week against Cincinnati, completing 15 of 29 passes for 129 yards. He also showed some mobility, running the ball on a 38-yard touchdown scamper.
Running back/fullback: Running back Willis McGahee bolsters the Ravens' run game as well their pass protection in the backfield. McGahee earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2007 after a season in which he led the Ravens with a career-high 294 carries for 1,207 yards (fourth in the AFC and eighth in the NFL). Rookie running back Ray Rice, a second-round draft choice this year, adds depth. In his first regular-season outing, Rice recorded 22 carries for 64 yards. Fullback Le'Ron McClain, a second-year pro, also proved to be a force on the ground against the Bengals, carrying the ball 19 times for 86 yards.
Wide receiver/tight end: While it is Flacco's first year as a starter in the NFL, the Ravens have plenty of experienced receivers to help make the rookie look good. Derrick Mason, a 12-year veteran, is the first receiver in Ravens' history with 100 receptions in a season. In 2007, Mason set a career high with 103 receptions (third in the NFL) for 1,087 yards (10.6 avg.) and five touchdowns, earning him a trip to the Pro Bowl. Mark Clayton, the Ravens first-round draft choice in 2005, possesses explosive speed. Tight end Todd Heap is a two-time Pro Bowler (2002 and 2003) and enters 2008 as the Ravens all-time leading receiver with 339 catches for 3,897 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Offensive line: Second-year pro Jared Gaither protects the quarterback's blindside as the team's starting left tackle. Gaither started two games as a rookie in 2007. Left guard Benn Grubbs was the Ravens' first-round draft choice in 2007 and was named to the Pro Football Weekly and Professional Football Writers of America's All-Rookie team. Center Jason Brown played left guard last season and was the only Ravens' offensive lineman to start all 16 games. Right guard Marshal Yanda, a second-year player, started 12 games last season and Adam Terry provides a big, athletic presence at right tackle.
Defensive line: With the 12th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens chose 6-4, 345-pound defensive end Haloti Ngata with hopes of bolstering their line. Last season, he finished with career highs in both tackles (94) and sacks (3). On the left side, opposite Ngata, is four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trevor Pryce. Pryce is coming off a season that was plagued with injuries but figures to return this year with a solid season. At nose tackle for the Ravens is nine-year veteran Kelly Gregg. Since 2002, he has accumulated more tackles than any other interior lineman in the NFL.
Linebacker: Linebacker Ray Lewis has made the Pro Bowl nine out of his 13 years in the league and is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He enters 2008 as the Ravens' franchise leader in career tackles with 2,022. Joining Lewis at inside linebacker is Bart Scott, who has three consecutive 100-tackle seasons. At outside linebacker, Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson provide sideline to sideline coverage. Suggs is a two-time Pro Bowler and was voted the 2003 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. Johnson was tied for fifth on the team in tackles last season with 94.
Secondary: The Ravens' first-round draft choice in 2002 turned out to be one of the best players ever at his position. Free safety Ed Reed is a four-time Pro Bowler and the 2004 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Entering 2008, Reed has 418 career tackles and holds the Ravens' franchise record with 34 interceptions (leads all active players since he entered the league in 2002) for 880 yards (with three returned for touchdowns). Strong safety Dawan Landry was sixth on the team with a career-high 91 tackles and a sack in 2007. Cornerback Chris McAlister is a three-time Pro Bowler who is widely considered one of the elite cornerbacks in the league. His 23 interceptions rank third on the Ravens' all-time interception list, behind only Reed (34) and Lewis (25). Cornerback, Samari Rolle was a Pro Bowler in 2000 and enters this season with 427 career tackles, 28 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries.
Kicking: Matt Stover, a 19-year veteran, handles all field goal, extra point and kickoff duties for the Ravens. Stover attended Lake Highlands high school and is from Dallas, Texas. He enters the 2008 season as the NFL's second-most accurate kicker of all time (83.8 percent). Former Nebraska Cornhusker, Sam Koch, has been Baltimore's punter since 2006. In 2007, Koch connected on a career-long 64-yard boot. He doubles as the holder on field goal and extra point attempts. The long snapper for the Ravens is Matt Katula.
Returning: Wide receiver Yamon Figurs is the return specialist for the Ravens. In his first year in the league last year, Figurs became the first Raven player in history to return a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the same season. Safety Jim Leonhard is second on the depth chart for returning punts and kickoffs.