Much has been made regarding the scheduling conflict with the Ravens’ opener on September 5. Yes, it would be nice for the fans….but that’s about it. From the team’s perspective, I don’t think they really care where they open up – and they shouldn’t! What I love about this team, what I love about this organization, what I love about it’s leadership, is that they get it!
They clearly understood that the championship that they won was for last year! To his credit, John Harbaugh quickly and clearly set and established the tone mere hours after the team had won the Super Bowl. He matter of factly stated that hey, we’re back to work, and we’re working on the next season! Coach Harbaugh had finished celebrating, and was back with his game face on, looking at the future – free agency, the draft, Jim Caldwell redesigning the offense, etc.
The moves thus far have not only been necessary, but have clearly sent the message that the team believed that it needed to get younger and faster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It was the defense that allowed the 49ers to storm back in the second half, and Ozzie made it clear that the team needed to get stronger up the middle. The additions of Canty and Spears have confirmed that our GM wasn’t simply giving us lip service, and I’m sure that he will continue to fortify the defense with defensive tackles, inside linebackers, and safeties through the draft.
It is also already a buyer’s market in regards to the remaining free agents, of which there is no short supply of. I am sure that Ozzie will get some bargain basement acquisitions, even late into August. This team will no doubt be dramatically different six months from now.
I love the attacking mindset that this team has! I am sure that they are thinking that if they start the season on the road, they will come home at 1-0. I am sure that they don’t care if they play the Steelers or the Broncos on the road. I am sure that they would play any team in a parking lot, on the moon, or anywhere else. Just look at what this organization overcame last year! The injuries, the change in offensive coordinators, the turmoil after the Houston and Washington losses, etc. This organization is resilient, and it knows how to win!
It is also laughable at how many people are writing the team off for this season. As I look at our division, I see and old Steeler team, that’s in salary cap jail. It’s a good organization, but they are in trouble at this time. The Browns are the Browns. They’ve been in a rebuilding mode since they got back in the league, and this year will be no different. They are still very much in turmoil. The Bengals have been a poor organization forever. They’ll spike up every once in a while, but just look at their past. Oh, and someone please let me know when Marvin Lewis wins a playoff game.
I don’t think that I am being overly optimistic by thinking that this team will win the division once again this year. I also think that we will make the playoffs, and as we’ve seen, once we are in anything can happen! We have the quarterback and the running backs to be successful. The offensive line will be solid once again, as I trust Ozzie to properly address our left tackle position. The tight ends are solid, and I expect the team to add one more via the draft. Same with the receivers. The kicking game and special teams overall are very solid. Deonte Thompson will have the opportunity to do the bulk of the damage, as Jacoby Jones transitions into the team’s number two receiver.
On the defensive side of the ball, I look forward to seeing a healthy Suggs, as well as the return of a healthy Lardarius Webb. Corey Graham developed into such an outstanding corner, that the other team’s stayed away from him and picked on Cary Williams instead. With Webby back, who’s the opposing QB going to pick on? He’ll just have to pick his poison! Jimmy Smith will also press to get into the starting lineup, and Chykie Brown adds great depth as he continues to develop!
I am sure that the draft will bring us a safety or two, a couple of inside linebackers, a defensive tackle or two, perhaps an outside linebacker as well as a corner. Can’t have too many of those guys!
As Ozzie stays busy with free agency, I am really looking forward to April 25, when the NFL draft begins!