Reed is recovering from offseason hip surgery, and in his own words, is about about “35 percent” at this point in time. There is zero chance Reed will be ready for the start of training camp, and plenty of doubt about whether he will be ready for the Ravens’ season opener against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football September 13.
I’ve read it several times now, and I’ve also heard it from the talking heads on the radio and tv: the Ravens’ defense without Ed Reed will suffer the same way that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense did last year without Troy Polamalu.
Comparing Reed and Polamalu has been the fun and popular thing to do now for about the last half-decade. Polamalu, of course, missed most of the 2009 season, and the Squealers’ defense suffered, especially in the secondary and especially late in ballgames – very uncharacteristic of them. With Reed potentially missing time this year, the easy corollary to make, then, is that the Ravens will be in the same boat in 2010 that the Steelers were in in 2009.
It’s a valid talking point, no doubt. But let’s take a step back and look at some numbers, shall we?
Ed Reed started 14 of the Ravens 18 games in 2009 (12 regular season games and 2 postseason). He missed weeks 13-16 with pain in that same hip, and Tom Zbikowski started in his stead. How did the defense play in those two scenarios?
In the 14 games WITH Reed, the Ravens were 8-6, and allowed 16.8 points, and 217.5 yards passing, per game.
In the 4 games WITHOUT Reed (with Zibby playing Free Safety) – 2-2; 15 points, 187.8 yards passing, per game.
Also, Zibby had 2 interceptions in 4 games, compared to Reed’s 5 in 14.
Some caveats, of course:
- Zibby has a much smaller sample size
- Two of Zibby’s games were against the Lions and Bears
- A white free safety? WTF year is this?
Kidding on the last one, of course.
Without Ed Reed, the Ravens’ defense certainly becomes one that is less exciting to watch, and one that is far less likely to produce a touchdown on any given play. On the other hand, it may also become a more fundamentally sound defense, as Reed has often been accused of too much “gambling” on the field, and by extension, one that allows fewer big plays.
Another point to bring up is that the Ravens hope to continue their recent trend of not NEEDING points from the defense to win ballgames. As much hub-bub as there has been about Reed this offseason, there has been even more about how explosive the Ravens’ offense has the potential to be. If the offense can indeed put points on the board more consistently than they’ve been able to in recent memory, Reed’s 100-yard interception returns may not be nearly as missed on the scoreboard as they may be on the highlight reels.
Look, any reader of this site knows that I couldn’t be a bigger Ed Reed homer. I’m not trying to downplay the effect that his absence may have on this year’s squad. I’m just trying to keep my fellow Ravens fans, as many of you are wont to do, from starting your annual march off the cliff while we’re still sweltering through another humid B’More summer.
Should Mr. Reed be unfit to start the 2010 season, Tom Zbikowski, and the Ravens new offense, may very well be more than properly equipped to prop the purple and black up as we wait for the return of #20.