Ravens' top "breakout players" for 2011...

Ravens' top "breakout players" for 2011...

Ravens

Ravens' top "breakout players" for 2011...

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Linebacker Dannel Ellerbe (6-1, 243, 3rd year out of Georgia) got a good talking-to from coach Harbaugh in this scene from Game 10 last year… but the Ravens NFL.com site has selected Ellerbe as one of their “breakout player” candidates of 2011 at the LB spot… but did not include Jameel McClain.

The Sporting News Pro Football Guide for 2011 just came out…  and they have picked linebacker Jameel McClain as the Ravens’ “Breakout Candidate” for a big defining season in 2011.

This is somewhat at odds with the Ravens official website, who in a blog by staff writer Ryan Mink named the “Top 10 Ravens To Take The Next Step”… and they had Ellerbe at LB on the list, but not McClain…

I’m going with McClain. He’s in his 4th season, and second as a starter. He has outstanding speed, power and instincts. McClain can stop the run and is also effective as a pass rusher, especially on blitzes or coming off the edge. McClain is ready to have a great year.

Ellerbe is a close second, though. Basicaly, in the Ravens 3-4 defense, their 4-LB alignment starts with Ray Lewis on the inside…and McClain. On the outside, you have Pro Bowl-quality Terrell Suggs and established impact player Jarrett Johnson. Major minutes are still available to Ellerbe, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Tavares Gooden and Prescot Burgess. In fact, Ryan Mink included Tavares Gooden on his “breakout” list…

The comparison of McClain to Ellerbe as to which one is going to have a breakout “statement” year in 2011 probably can better be addressed by asking the question: Why not both?

Barring serious injuries, the Ravens may have one of the best all-around linebacking crews in the NFL.

Ryan Mink at Ravens.NFL.com prefers to list his “ten ‘breakout’ candidates” based on a little different criterion than The Sporting News, perhaps… Looking over his list, I think Ryan is more concerned with the blossoming of “yet-unseen potential”… maybe he considers McClain ineligible for the list because in his opinion McClain is already “there”?…and Ellerbe has yet to establish his presence.

Here’s how Ryan Mink sees it:
They’ve already shown the potential, and in many cases a great deal of production.
Now they’re hoping to take the next step:

DT Terrence Cody

Cody came on at the end of last season, including making four stops against Cincinnati in the regular-season finale and causing a huge fumble in the playoffs versus Kansas City. General Manager Ozzie Newsome tabbed him as his potential breakout player heading into 2011. Cody, who has lost weight this offseason, will look to earn a bigger role on the front line, perhaps stepping in more for Kelly Gregg.

LB Dannell Ellerbe
The former undrafted free agent has shown his potential. In 2009 he logged a career-high eight tackles in his first NFL start. Then he sealed the Ravens’ 2009 playoff berth with an interception and fumble recovery in Oakland. But Ellerbe played in fewer games in 2010 (11), and recorded 26 fewer tackles. Ellerbe’s playmaking ability could earn him some more time in 2011 if he shows consistency.

QB Joe Flacco
Flacco is already one of the most successful young quarterbacks in NFL history. But the next step is leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl, which also means getting over the hump against the rival Steelers. Flacco will have a tighter grip of the offensive reins in 2011, says General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh, and will further become a team leader.

CB Domonique Foxworth
Foxworth was surging at the end of the 2009, logging three interceptions in the final three regular-season games and a deflection that led to another pick in the playoffs. Then a preseason knee injury halted his hopes for 2010. Foxworth will look to prove he’s healthy, and that he can build on his 2009 season to take the next step as Baltimore’s No. 1 cornerback.

LB Tavares Gooden
Gooden is a fine athlete; showing speed and versatility to going forward in pass rush and backwards in coverage. He’s excellent on special teams. His difficulty has been staying healthy, which has limited his progress. Gooden has played in 26 regular-season games and missed 22 because of injury. A shoulder injury sidelined him for six games last year. Gooden has potential to shine if he can stay on the field.

LB Sergio Kindle
Kindle hasn’t yet taken his first step, as a fractured skull kept him sidelined for his rookie season. But with positive reports coming from his doctors saying that he cleared for contact this season, Kindle could be in store for a breakout year. Kindle showed massive pass-rush potential at Texas, where he notched 16 sacks in his final two years.

LB/DE Paul Kruger
The 2009 second-round pick has seen limited playing time with 20 games played, including one start, in his first two seasons. But he’s shown some playmaking potential, including a game-changing overtime interception against Pittsburgh as a rookie. Kruger said he wants more of a starting role in 2011, and after changing positions the past two years, he could have more consistency in his routine.

OT Michael Oher
Oher has become a bright offensive star for the Ravens, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team in 2009 as a right tackle. He switched to the left side last year and played well against some of the top pass rushers in the league. However, Oher did have problems with penalties, particularly false starts. The first-round pick will look to take the next step toward becoming an elite tackle next year.

CB Lardarius Webb
Webb was the toast of the town in 2009 when he stepped in for injured Fabian Washington to start four games. He played very well, especially for a third-round rookie, but his season was prematurely ended by a knee injury. Webb returned last year and was solid in coverage, but he didn’t make a start in 15 games. He’ll look to show that he can once again be a starting cornerback.

S Tom Zbikowski
Zbikowski showed he can be a starter last year when he filled in for Ed Reed for the first six games of the season. Harbaugh said Zbikowski was one of the Ravens’ top coverage men when looking at the stats. If Dawan Landry, who may become a free agent, doesn’t return, Zbikowski will compete with Haruki Nakamura for the starting gig. The offseason boxer will look to become an entrenched starter.

Good read from Ryan Mink…I just thought McClain should be on the list. At the top…

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