Saturday quarterback

Driving in to Baltimore today, I heard the word "declining" used on sports talk radio in reference to the Ravens, uttered by a national pundit saying he believes it's possible they're a non-factor in the AFC North.

His argument was simple - a defense getting up in years with few standout replacements in place.

Is two preseason games too soon to come to such a conclusion?

The secondary seems to have plenty of work ahead of it. The linebacker corps has had Ray Lewis out there for just a handful of plays and Terrell Suggs' replacements have put next to no pressure on opposing quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford. One can only hope they have a problem with passers named Matt.

This is pretty close to the same team which was a couple of plays away from appearing in last year's Super Bowl. Saying this team will be a non-factor is likely a stretch. But to think the Ravens might be in decline, that's not so far-fetched.

Even without Suggs, Ben Grubbs and a couple others, this is likely a playoff contender.

The two preseason games so far haven't been pretty for the top offense and defense. Joe Flacco has only sporadically found a rhythm with his receivers, but he hasn't had Torrey Smith out there yet.

Ray Rice hasn't been too productive either. So it's easy to let fear that it'll be same old creep in. Whether the offense becomes a more significant part of the Ravens' success remains to be seen.

But if the secondary continues to struggle and age translates into a less potent defense, the offense will be relied upon as much as ever.

So the next couple of weeks will be worth watching, just to get an idea if this can be the contending Ravens of recent years, or the declining bunch some believe has seen its best days pass.