The Baltimore Ravens had a disappointing 5-11 2007 season, but with a new head coach and a rookie quarterback leading the way, the Ravens have started this year 5-3.
John Harbaugh was signed as the third head coach in Ravens history this offseason. Originally hired by current Texans assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes in Philadelphia in 1998, he was one of only four assistants invited by Andy Reid in 1999 to remain with the Eagles, the only other NFL team for which he has coached.
Quarterback: The Ravens used the 18th overall pick in the first round of this year's NFL Draft on quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco became just the second NCAA Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) quarterback ever selected in the first round and the first since Tennessee made retired Ravens quarterback Steve McNair the third overall pick out of Alcorn State in 1995. This season, Flacco has thrown for 1,464 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions with a quarterback rating of 75.6. He has also rushed for two touchdowns.
Running back: Running back Willis McGahee provides the Ravens with a strong running attack as well as effective 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 in 2007). McGahee has rushed for 351 yards and three touchdowns so far this season. With McGahee missing some time due to and injured ankle, rookie Ray Rice from Rutgers has rushed for 339 yards on 70 carries this season. Second-year fullback Le'Ron McClain has run for 347 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Wide receiver/tight end: While it's Flacco's first year as a starter in the NFL, the Ravens' receivers have plenty of experience, which has helped with his transition to the pros. Twelve-year veteran Derrick Mason is the only receiver in Ravens history with 100 receptions in a season; he set a career high with 103 receptions (third in the NFL) in 2007 for 1,087 yards (10.6 avg.) and five TDs, earning him a trip to the Pro Bowl. Mason has caught 43 passes for 557 yards and two touchdowns this season. Mark Clayton is second on the team this season with 185 yards on 17 receptions and one touchdown. Tight end Todd Heap is a two-time Pro Bowler and entered 2008 as the Ravens' all-time leading receiver with 339 catches for 3,897 yards and 27 TDs. He only has 13 receptions for 137 yards this season.
Offensive line: Second-year player Jared Gaither protects the quarterback's blind side 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 last season. Center Jason Brown played left guard last season and was the only Ravens' offensive lineman to start all 16 games. Right guardChris Chester is a third-year player and has started two games this season for the Ravens. 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, his second in the league, Ngata finished with career-highs in both tackles (94) and sacks (three). Ngata has 26 tackles, one sack and one interception so far this season. 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 has returned this year with 15 tackles and three sacks. At nose tackle for the Ravens is seven-year veteran Justin Bannan. He has 26 tackles and one sack this season.
Linebacker: Linebacker Ray Lewis has made the Pro Bowl in nine out of his 13 years in the league and is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He entered 2008 as the Ravens' franchise leader in career tackles with 2,022. Lewis leads the team this season with 54 total tackles to go along with one sack and one forced fumble. Joining Lewis at inside linebacker is Bart Scott, who has three consecutive 100-tackle seasons. Scott enters the game with 40 tackles and one sack this season. At outside linebacker, Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson provide sideline-to-sideline coverage. Suggs is a two-time Pro Bowler who was the 2003 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and has 36 tackles and five sacks this season. He also returned an interception 42 yards for the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter last week against the Cleveland Browns. Johnson has 30 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble so far this season.
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 had 418 career tackles. He holds the Ravens' franchise record with 34 interceptions, which leads all active players since he entered the league in 2002, for 880 yards. Reed has three career interceptions returned for touchdowns. He has 19 tackles and six passes defensed this season. Strong safety Jim Leonhard has filled in for injured safety Dawan Landry nicely, registering 30 tackles and one sack on the season. 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). McAlister has 16 tackles and seven passes defensed this season. He has been working through a knee injury and if he is unable to play, Frank Walker will step in for him. Walker has 20 tackles and seven passes defensed in 2008. The Ravens' other cornerback, Fabian Washington, has filled in for injured Samari Rolle, a former Pro Bowler. Washington has 12 tackles and three passes defensed in 2008.
SPECIAL TEAMS Kicking: Kicker Matt Stover is a former Pro Bowl player and also owns the NFL record for consecutive games with a field goal (38). Stover has made 12 out of 15 field goal attempts his season and has made all of his extra point attempts. Punter Sam Koch has a 45.9 yard punting average this season.
Returning:Wide receiver Yamon Figurs handles both punt return and kickoff return duties for the Ravens. Through eight games this season, he has 13 punt returns for 95 yards and 12 kickoff returns for 235 yards.