Tag Archive | "Anquan Boldin"

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Baltimore Ravens 2013 Season Preview Part One

Posted on 05 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

Baltimore’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII was bittersweet. The Ravens had a reason to celebrate but it must also be put into perspective. Ray Lewis will never play for the Baltimore Ravens again. Neither will Ed Reed.

Many fan favorites are gone from Baltimore. Guys like Bernard Pollard, Carry Williams, and Anquan Boldin weren’t just great players. They were tempo setters. They brought intangibles to the team that personified the Ravens playing style and can’t be replaced.

Even with all the departures, the Ravens still stand a chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Don’t forget, they still have number five and 27 in the backfield. The Ravens offense will live and die by Flacco and Rice this season. Both are highly regarded by their peers and are a dangerous duo when Rice is involved in the passing game.

Even though Rice remains, the heart and soul of the offense is gone. Anquan Boldin will be wearing a 49ers jersey this season and will be greatly missed. In my opinion, the Ravens received too little for Boldin who is worth much more than a sixth round draft pick. Experts say he was getting old and could not separate but what does it matter if he still catches everything thrown his way?

In the coming season, the Ravens will replace Boldin’s production with Dennis Pitta. Pitta should play a hybrid position in 2013 between tight end and wide receiver. He will line up in the slot more often, which will allow more opportunities for Ed Dickson to be a pass catching threat. Don’t forget that Dickson can be a dangerous weapon when utilized. Before Pitta broke out in the 2012 season, Dickson had nearly 60 catches and 528 receiving yards.

Having Pitta in a hybrid role would also allow the Ravens to utilize versatile rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell could have a lot of fun with Juszczyk who played fullback, running back, and tight end at Harvard last season. His versatility will cause matchup, spelling, and pronunciation nightmares.

Speaking of nightmares, the Ravens defense will cause many of them this season. This defense has the ability to be one of the best in franchise history. Possibly the best Baltimore has seen since 2006. If you have followed the team closely, that must be music to your ears.

The main point behind my argument is this. The Ravens are younger, faster, more athletic, and extremely versatile.

The trio of Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata will be a lethal combination. All three players are elite at their respective positions and can take over games by themselves. Just think of all the fun they will have!

Ngata is so dominant that he will occupy blockers on the inside. In turn, other defensive lineman like Arthur Jones and Chris Canty will have an easier path to the quarterback. Suggs and Dumervil will then face less blockers on the outside but will also open things up for Ngata, Canty, and others when offenses are forced to put more attention on them. So in a way, offenses will have to pick their poison when facing the Ravens defense.

Despite the promise I see for the Ravens, a tough season still lies ahead. Thanks to the Orioles, the Ravens are forced to open on the road against Denver. Unless Jacoby Jones and Joe Flacco have another miracle up their selves, I don’t see this game ending well.

Following a tough opening game, the Ravens return home to face the Browns and Texans in consecutive weeks. If the Ravens do not perform well, the season could easily start with two losses to the Broncos and Texans. Following the Texans, the schedule gets progressively tougher. There are weaker teams on the schedule but the Packers, Steelers, Bears, Vikings, and Patriots will test Baltimore to their limits.

The Ravens have many factors in their favor for the 2013 season. Their recent dominance over the AFC North indicates they should win the division yet again. In addition, Joe Flacco is better than most of the quarterbacks the Ravens will face this year. The only quarterbacks better than Flacco on the Ravens schedule are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning. Flacco is also very good in clutch situations so the Ravens will have an advantage over 13 teams they will face at the most important position on the field.

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Rice, Flacco among Ravens players named to NFL Network top 100 list

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Rice, Flacco among Ravens players named to NFL Network top 100 list

Posted on 21 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Ravens didn’t exactly needed more respect after winning their second Super Bowl title in February, but NFL players provided it anyway through the NFL Network’s annual top 100 list.

Nine players from last year’s championship roster were selected to the list voted on by players around the league. Three of the players — safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard and wide receiver Anquan Boldin — no longer play in Baltimore, but the Ravens have six remaining members on their projected 2013 roster to have received the honor.

Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice was the highest-ranked Baltimore player, voted 13th overall, while Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player Joe Flacco ranked 19th after coming in at No. 74 in last year’s edition. Flacco’s jump should be viewed as validation for what he’s accomplished in terms of wins and postseason performance in the first five years of his career despite regular-season statistics that wouldn’t make a strong argument for his inclusion in the top 20.

Reed was the third member of the 2012 Ravens to be included in the first 20 as he was ranked 18th. Others to make the list were Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (42nd), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (56th), Pollard (87th), Pro Bowl return specialist Jacoby Jones (88th), Boldin (93rd), and tight end Dennis Pitta (100th).

Admittedly, I don’t put much stock into this NFL Network concoction nor have I paid much attention to the weekly televised specials, but it sparks interest and fun debate for fans during the offseason. Based on knowledge and conversations I’ve had about the voting process, I have my doubts over how seriously most players take the exercise, but the same could be said for virtually any list or rankings you see floating out there.

I respect players’ opinions when they do take the voting seriously, but those assessments are often incomplete since they simply don’t have the time to pay close attention to anyone besides their teammates or opponents over the course of a season. For instance, Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings — one of the best defensive players in the league — has no reason to study the players in the AFC North since he hasn’t played any team in that division since 2009.

Here’s the recap of the Ravens from last season’s team represented in this year’s list:

13. RB Ray Rice
18. S Ed Reed
19. QB Joe Flacco
42. DT Haloti Ngata
56. LB Terrell Suggs
87. S Bernard Pollard
88. KR/PR Jacoby Jones
93. WR Anquan Boldin
100. TE Dennis Pitta

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Flacco unwavering despite changes all around him

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Flacco unwavering despite changes all around him

Posted on 22 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco has the Super Bowl ring — or at least he officially will in a couple weeks.

The Ravens quarterback has the lucrative $120.6 million contract and the long-term security it provides.

And he has a heightened level of respect, even if some of his biggest critics now want to see him replicate some semblance of his record-setting playoff run in the regular season.

But an offseason full of changes brings more questions for the franchise quarterback. The retirement of Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Ed Reed have left a gigantic leadership void that many expect the 28-year-old to fill as he enters his sixth season. The exits of center Matt Birk and wide receiver Anquan Boldin suddenly makes Flacco one of the elder statesmen on the offensive side of the football.

Ask anyone in the Baltimore locker room whether Flacco is treating this offseason or his style of leadership any differently and you’ll receive a similar response. The Super Bowl XLVII MVP was already the kind of leader teammates respect, even if it lacks Lewis’ camera-friendly fire or Reed’s outspoken nature.

“Joe has done a great job throughout his career in his own way,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Nothing is going to change Joe. Joe is going to be who he is. I don’t think a change in the roster is going to change Joe [and] who he is. A change in the contract isn’t going to change Joe. Joe is Joe, and that’s what you love about him.”

Flacco is also experiencing his first full offseason with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. While many have wondered what the former Indianapolis head coach can do with the offensive system with ample time to plan after being thrown to the fire last December, Flacco downplayed any notion that the Ravens will look dramatically different on offense in 2013.

Of course, the start of the regular season is still more than three months away, so much could happen, both from schematics and personnel standpoints. The Ravens will hope the dramatic breakthroughs made in December that carried over into their postseason run to a Super Bowl title were only scratching the surface in terms of production under Caldwell.

“We may have changed a couple things here and there, but for the most part, it’s the same,” Flacco said. “He’ll probably add some of his concepts in just because he’s the guy that is driving things for the most part now. So, we’ll have new wrinkles in there, but for the most part, it’s pretty similar.”

Perhaps the biggest change we’ll see between now and the start of the season is at the wide receiver position as the Ravens continue to adjust to life without Boldin as their most reliable receiver. To this point, general manager Ozzie Newsome hasn’t added a veteran receiver with a track record to supplement the outside threats that Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones provide.

Instead of looking at a scrap heap of free-agent receivers headlined by the productive but baggage-heavy Brandon Lloyd, the Ravens appear content with evaluating a cast of young receivers that includes Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, and David Reed. All three saw time working with Smith and the starting offense during Wednesday’s practice as Jones was absent on the heels of his third-place finish in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Asked if outsiders have made too much of the Ravens’ need to add an established wideout to the mix, Flacco sees potential in the homegrown players who have received few opportunities to this point in their respective careers. The three young receivers who’ve been sharing time with the first unit this week have combined for 17 receptions and just 35 targets.

With tight end Dennis Pitta expected to work more from the slot, the Ravens don’t need any of the young options to match Boldin’s impressive production, but they do need at least one to become a viable target. And much of that development will fall on a veteran quarterback entering the prime years of his career. For years, it was veteran pass catchers such as Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, and Boldin nurturing Flacco’s development, but the Ravens believe Flacco can now do the same for younger receivers.

“I like the idea of having guys that we’ve had, we’ve drafted here, or we’ve picked up here and grooming them and getting those guys to become great wide receivers,” Flacco said. “They definitely have the talent to do it; I think we just need to get them some [game-time] reps and their confidence can take off.

“One of the biggest things about Anquan is that he knew he was the man. So, when he went out there, he didn’t care what happened. He was the man. You don’t realize how much that helps out your play and your team’s play. And when these young guys can get to the point where they’re out there and their attitude is that, they have all the ability in the world, and I feel very confident with those guys.”

None of the Ravens’ many youthful options are a sure thing. Doss has drawn the strongest comparisons to Boldin because of his crisp routes and strong hands shown in practices, but those skills haven’t transferred to game action in limited opportunities and he’s struggled to stay healthy. Thompson shows breakaway speed, but the biggest knock on him at the University of Florida was his inconsistent hands. Reed faces questions about both his durability and his hands.

Perhaps a receiver from a second tier of players that includes LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter, and Aaron Mellette will turn heads over the next few weeks and push their way into the conversation.

And there remains a very real possibility that the Ravens make that veteran addition through a trade or by simply waiting until cuts are made over the course of the preseason.

None of these uncertainties seem to faze Flacco, who views change as part of life in the NFL. He simply takes the lessons learned from the veterans before him and passes them along to newcomers. The Ravens hope the confidence Flacco holds in his own ability will hopefully rub off on an unproven group of players in which he sees much promise.

His style hasn’t changed, but his success speaks for itself in terms of how he’s viewed as a leader in the locker room and on the field. It’s a major reason why the Ravens aren’t nearly as concerned about the veteran leadership lost this offseason as everyone else seems to be.

“We’ve always had a locker room where everybody kind of shares roles,” Flacco said. “You have so many guys that are very responsible and know how to go to work, and I think that’s why we’ve been able to continuously have success even though our team has changed a lot. It’s because all of those guys that have been there before us really show us how to do it and then everybody just kind of takes that lead.

“And I think that’s where we are. I think that’s where I am.”

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Your Monday Reality Check: Ravens’ Draft actually provides offensive answer

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Your Monday Reality Check: Ravens’ Draft actually provides offensive answer

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Glenn Clark

Since the Baltimore Ravens claimed a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, I’ve found myself asking one particular question in regards to QB Joe Flacco. I’ve probably asked some 15 or 20 NFL analysts who have appeared on “The Reality Check” on WNST that same question.

“Do the Ravens need to put the right playmakers around Flacco to prop him up or should they assume he’s good enough to make lesser players around him better?”

I have probably tended to lean a little bit more to the former. I made my feelings about the team’s decision to trade Anquan Boldin over a desire to save a couple million bucks quite clear. The Ravens however have made it clear at least thus far that they’re operating with a lean to the latter.

The Ravens lost six starters from their Super Bowl winning defense, replacing them with potential starters in Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Elvis Dumervil, Rolando McClain, Michael Huff and top Draft picks Matt Elam and Arthur Brown. At this time, three starters from their Super Bowl winning offense are currently not on the roster and the Ravens have replaced them with…well…I mean…I guess they DID draft a reserve fullback?

Coming out of the NFL Draft, the Ravens still find themselves particularly thin at receiver. Torrey Smith and his freshly-trimmed locks lead the way with Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, David Reed, LaQuan Williams, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter and Aaron Mellette falling in some sort of similar order behind. The Ravens will certainly have high expectations for TE Dennis Pitta (who we might not see back in Baltimore for awhile as he hopes to get a long-term deal) as well as fellow TE Ed Dickson.

This group makes you believe the Ravens are thinking more along the lines of “Joe Flacco is good enough to make these guys better.” It’s not so terribly unthinkable that this group could help the Ravens win a third straight AFC North title. Certainly the New York Giants felt comfortable enough with Eli Manning under center that they were willing to simply elevate Domenik Hixon and some unknown receiver from UMass named Victor Cruz going into the 2011 season. For their troubles, the Giants were rewarded with their second Vince Lombardi Trophy in the Tom Coughlin era.

Returning with this group would inherently mark a belief that Joe Flacco has reached the level where his ability in Jim Caldwell’s offense is enough to make those he throws the football to better. A decision to obtain a veteran WR cut before the start of the season (similar to what the Ravens did with T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2010) or to deal for a veteran WR (similar to what the Ravens did in 2011 with Lee Evans) or even to add one more current free agent receiver (Brandon Stokley remains on the market?) might mark more of a belief that the team still needs to help prop up their quarterback via more talented offensive weapons.

A similar situation continues to play out at left tackle. 5th round pick Ricky Wagner is unlikely to be of any sort of help this season, meaning the Ravens’ options are Kelechi Osemele, a possible return of Bryant McKinnie and similar late offseason considerations.

The Ravens may well believe Flacco’s quicker release in the Caldwell offense makes the need for a left tackle upgrade less necessary. The team won a Super Bowl with a left tackle who played significantly in only one regular season game. The Super Bowl winning left tackles in the prior three seasons were Jermon Bushrod, Chad Clifton and David Diehl. All were nice players, none Hall of Famers. The quarterbacks they protected for were Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning.

The Ravens made it quite clear that they feel Flacco is in that group, giving him a contract worth $120 million ($52 million guaranteed) this offseason. That decision made the organization’s faith in their sixth year starter evident, but the decisions they’ve made since then have made it even more so apparent.

The roster we see at OTA’s and minicamp in the next month won’t be a direct reflection of the roster that invades Denver September 5th to face the Broncos, but there won’t be many drastic roster changes to be made.

The Ravens won’t be better offensively in 2013 because of the big splash they made in free agency. They won’t be better offensively in 2013 because they drafted a hot shot receiver or mountainous offensive tackle out of the SEC at the back end of the first round.

Instead, they’ll hope to be better offensively in 2013 simply because of how they REALLY spent their money in free agency…their quarterback. They clearly think the guy is ready to make the rest of the group even better.

I guess my question has essentially been answered. The only question moving forward will be whether or not the decision was the right one.

-G

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Ravens conclude draft with two major concerns remaining

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Ravens conclude draft with two major concerns remaining

Posted on 27 April 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appeared to accomplish a great deal by the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Frankly, to evaluate a draft as good or bad immediately after it takes place is a pointless endeavor, but you can look at a team’s list of needs entering the annual event to determine how successful an organization was in addressing those positions. Whether those picks ultimately work out or not won’t be known for a few years in many cases.

General manager Ozzie Newsome did what he set out to do after stating just a few days after the Super Bowl that the Ravens needed to get stronger up the middle defensively. With their first three picks of the draft, the Ravens selected Florida safety Matt Elam, Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown, and Missouri Southern State defensive tackle Brandon Williams to add to the middle of defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ unit.

Baltimore added more depth to its front seven with the selections of defensive ends John Simon (Ohio State) and Kapron Lewis-Moore (Notre Dame), though the latter is currently recovering from a torn ACL sustained in the BCS national title game. The Ravens added interior offensive line depth with the additions of Wisconsin’s Ricky Wagner and Ryan Jensen of Colorado State-Pueblo. A cornerback was drafted with California’s Marc Anthony, reinforcing Newsome’s proclamation before the draft that you can never have too many despite the Ravens already having quality depth at the positon.

The Ravens found their fullback of the future in Harvard’s Kyle Juszczyk, who may even push veteran Vonta Leach off the roster should Newsome decide the team needs an extra $3 million in cap space to address other areas. Juszczyk isn’t the same punishing blocker that Leach is, but he could serve in an H-back capacity with his impressive ability as a receiver out of the backfield.

Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, director of college scouting Joe Hortiz, and head coach John Harbaugh deserve praise for addressing many of the needs created by a plethora of free-agent departures, difficult releases, and retirements made earlier this offseason.

But the fact that the Ravens were unable to significantly address two of their most glaring questions, left tackle and wide receiver, is one that cannot be dismissed. The fifth-round selection Wagner played left tackle for the Badgers, but he isn’t considered quick enough for the position at the next level and the Ravens have already said they view him as more of a guard. Seventh-round receiver Aaron Mellette posted big-time numbers at FCS school Elon, but to say he’s any better the other young receivers currently in the mix on the roster would be a stretch.

Protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside and providing him another trustworthy receiving target are two obligations that remain unfulfilled, which is concerning when most looked to the draft as the primary avenue to address them. As Newsome said in the Ravens’ post-draft press conference on Sunday evening, much could still change between now and the start of the season on Sept. 5.

As it relates to those two positions, many will certainly hope so.

“If you look at our history, we picked up Willie Anderson a week before our first game,” Newsome said. “We picked up Bryant McKinnie before the last preseason game. It’s so fluid. We don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then, so everything has to remain fluid.”

In fairness to the Ravens’ brass, the possibility of adding anything more than a project at left tackle was never going to be easy when picking at the end of each round as the Super Bowl champion. The top three left tackle prospects in this year’s draft were gone in the first four picks of the first round and the tier of tackles — including Florida State’s Menelik Watson and Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Terron Armstead — that was available to the Ravens didn’t stack up as favorably as the defensive selections of Elam and Brown in the first two rounds.

The Ravens said before the draft that second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele would be their starting left tackle if the season were to begin today and it appears nothing’s changed in that regard. Of course, the absence of a new tackle prospect will reignite desires for Baltimore to re-sign the veteran McKinnie to at least serve as an insurance policy for Osemele.

The only other obvious option out there appears to be the exploration of a trade for Kansas City’s franchise player Branden Albert, who sees the writing on the wall after the Chiefs took Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick. However, the Chiefs’ asking price for Albert won’t be cheap and the 28-year-old seeks an expensive long-term contract.

Even if new run-game coordinator and highly-respective offensive line guru Juan Castillo believes Osemele is capable of handling the left tackle spot, it’s difficult to imagine the Ravens not bringing in another tackle to at least compete. Newsome didn’t sound too concerned when asked about the potential need to add a veteran, however.

“We’ll get the chance to roll the ball out there this week,” Newsome said. “You just can’t go against each other. We’ll have somebody lined up at left tackle.”

Replacing the production of veteran Anquan Boldin was another need many viewed as a priority for the Ravens and the organization praised the depth of the position in this year’s draft. As a result, most assumed the Ravens would come away with a wideout at some point during the first two days of the draft, but a receiver’s name wasn’t called by the Ravens until Mellette was announced as the 238th overall pick of the draft.

The outcome was similar to last year when the Ravens did not choose Tommy Streeter until the sixth round. Once again, Newsome remained true to the board this year, even as several well-regarded receivers appeared to slide more than many experts thought they would on Day 3.

Of course, the Ravens were also able to sign wide receiver Jacoby Jones after last year’s draft and the speedy return specialist also served as an upgrade at the No.3 receiver spot. It’s possible a similar scenario will play out when teams around the league readjust their depth charts with a new batch of rookies joining the fold.

“Were there receivers in every round that we considered? Yes,” Newsome said. “Did one receiver get taken when we were set to take the guy? No, that did not happen at that point. As far as [Mellette], when we got to that point in the draft, he was our highest-rated guy and that’s why we decided to take him.”

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Mellette was wildly productive in his career at Elon, catching a remarkable 210 passes and 30 touchdowns over his final two collegiate seasons. His 4.54-second 40-time suggests he may have enough speed to complement his impressive size, but to consider him to be anything more than a long-term project would be too ambitious.

The Ravens have thrown out many compliments for the likes of Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, and David Reed as it pertains to the slot receiver spot, but to expect any of the aforementioned names to step up in a dramatic way to replace Boldin’s production is asking to be disappointed. Maybe Mellette or Streeter can be a diamond in the rough, but there were reasons why so many teams — including the Ravens multiple times — passed on these tall and speedy receivers.

For now, the burden falls heavily on Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta as well as Flacco to overcome the absence of the safety net Boldin provided when the vertical passing game was struggling.

As they will at the offensive tackle position, the Ravens will keep their eyes open to other teams potentially releasing veteran receivers or dangling them in trades as a result of what they fetched in this weekend’s draft. Newsome has used future draft picks to acquire veterans before and certainly wouldn’t hesitate if the right opportunity were to come along.

Perhaps another veteran receiver or left tackle drops into the Ravens’ lap between now and the start of the season, but it’s impossible not to feel uneasy about each position with the draft now coming and going.

And as good as this draft might ultimately end up being in other areas, it did very little to answer those two major questions.

 

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Boldin’s void still lingers as Ravens move closer to draft

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Boldin’s void still lingers as Ravens move closer to draft

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Luke Jones

If you’re reading this, congratulations on making it through the difficult part of the Ravens’ offseason.

Needless to say, it’s been an interesting five weeks as a number of key contributors to the Super Bowl XLVII championship team have departed with several newcomers arriving to fill those voids. And once again, general manager Ozzie Newsome has emerged to look as shrewd as ever just a few weeks after many fans and media alike questioned what exactly the Ravens were trying to accomplish by gutting their roster after winning their second NFL title in 13 years.

It was painful waving goodbye to the legendary Ed Reed as well as other defensive contributors such as Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, and Cary Williams, but Newsome has walked away from free agency with an elite pass rusher (Elvis Dumervil), good defensive line depth (Chris Canty and Marcus Spears), a solid replacement for Reed (Michael Huff), and a low-risk, high-reward inside linebacker just three years removed from being a first-round pick (Rolando McClain). Though far from a guarantee, the argument can be made that a flawed Baltimore defense last year will emerge even stronger with the wholesale changes made this offseason.

With the Ravens now less than two weeks away from the draft, one position and one particular departure stands above all others in terms of the urgency felt to address it.

No, it isn’t left tackle, where the Ravens see veteran Bryant McKinnie dangling on the free-agent market while looking internally to find — yes — Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele as potential candidates to man the blindside for quarterback Joe Flacco. The mere suggestion of Oher moving back to the left side — not a decision I endorse, mind you — is enough to keep many fans awake at night, but the Ravens aren’t nearly as concerned about the position as everyone else, even though they’ll keep their eyes open during next week’s draft for a long-term solution.

For all the encouraging moves made by the Ravens in response to the mass exodus that occurred in mid-March, it’s still difficult to move past the trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick. There’s no need to rehash the details; the Ravens made it clear they didn’t believe Boldin was a $6 million player anymore and the 32-year-old wasn’t willing to take a $2 million pay cut.

It was a business decision that cleared enough cap space to make the signing of the Pro Bowl pass rusher Dumervil and several others first conceivable and eventually a reality, but that still doesn’t replace the production left behind by the veteran receiver. Over the last two seasons, Boldin accounted for 23.7 percent of the Ravens’ total yards via the air. His 2012 postseason is well documented as the possession wideout was on the receiving end of exactly 1/3 of Flacco’s 1,140 passing yards and reined in four of the quarterback’s 11 touchdown passes.

Make no mistake, we’re not talking about a bona fide No. 1 receiver and Boldin was struggling more and more to gain separation in man coverage, but his strong hands and ability inside the red zone must be replaced by someone — or some combination of players. The Ravens say they’re confident in tight end Dennis Pitta as well as young receivers Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson to compete to fill the void in the slot, but there’s a reason why the latter two were little more than afterthoughts on the 53-man roster last season. Maybe one or both will emerge to become serviceable receivers, but the Ravens can’t possibly count on either to bring even a modest fraction of what Boldin offered.

Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones certainly remind you that the cupboard isn’t totally bare at the position like it was a decade ago, but neither provides enough consistency in the short-to-intermediate passing game and are too valuable as vertical threats on the outside.

It’s worth asking how much of the burden will fall on Flacco, who is entering his sixth NFL season and is in the prime of his career after signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract earlier this offseason. Is the quarterback dependent on good receivers to be successful or are young receivers relying on the Super Bowl MVP in their own development at this stage in the game?

Still, you have to wonder what the Ravens have up their sleeve with barely a whisper of any significant interest in this year’s crop of free-agent wide receivers. Are the Ravens simply turning to the draft with confidence in a late first-round option such as Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, Cal’s Keenan Allen, or USC’s Robert Woods to potentially step in and contribute from Day One? Would a second-day target such as 6-foot-4 Justin Hunter of Tennessee or troubled Tennessee Tech wideout Da’Rick Rogers strike their fancy?

Or should we be on alert for a trade? Manned with 12 selections in next week’s draft, the Ravens have never shied away from dealing picks for established talent as they completed draft-weekend deals for wide receiver Kevin Johnson and cornerback Fabian Washington in the last decade.

Their summer trade two years ago for Lee Evans may have failed miserably, but it was another example of Newsome’s willingness to part with a mid-round selection to snag a wideout. And, of course, the Ravens dealt two picks to the Arizona Cardinals for Boldin three years ago in a deal that worked to perfection.

This offseason, all is quiet on the wide receiver front with no big names publicly on the block, but it’s difficult to imagine the Ravens simply standing pat with what they currently have at the position. Baltimore tried to enhance its wide receiver depth in each of the last three years by signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2010, trading for Evans in 2011, and inking Jones last year, so the thought of Newsome and the front office allowing draft weekend to come and go without an impact draft selection or failing to explore a trade to address the void left behind by Boldin just doesn’t seem plausible.

By no means does it need to be a carbon-copy replacement, but Boldin’s giant shadow is still too great not to address with either a savvy veteran or a young player holding a higher ceiling than the candidates already on the roster.

In an offseason in which patience has been preached over and over, the Ravens will ask for a little more as nearly every other position has been handled in some shape or form for the short term. Even left tackle has several accessible backup options if a young prospect doesn’t fall into the Ravens’ laps in the first two days of the draft.

But failing to address the Boldin departure would be too great of a risk to take.

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BOLDIN

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The Dismantling of the Ravens

Posted on 28 March 2013 by Tom Federline

It has been 7 weeks. What just happened Baltimore? Where have all our Ravens gone? I’ll tell you what happened, the Baltimore Ravens organization is in mass salary shedding mode. Bisciotti and Newsome are playing the shrewd business man game. They have a product that sells, they have a product at the top of its’ market, they have the upper hand. It’s time to ride the wave and make some cash. While they are on top, why not increase ticket prices, why not renovate the 15 year old stadium with 35 million dollars of upgrades, why not unload salary and dump over-priced contracts? Where are they going to find $120 million dollars to over-pay the Super Bowl QB with a new contract? The time is right for “re-building”, they have an excuse, they  breakdown the championship team and blame it on  ”the salary cap”.

Nice purge Ravens, it’s not the first time you have done this, is it? Well they didn’t really purge in 2001, they just didn’t renew the contract for the leader of the offense, Super Bowl winner, Trent Dilfer. I guess they did learn some lessons from that screw up. This time they kept the QB and are letting 40% of the starters go. Ok, two are retiring. Hey, it might work. Just hard to swallow in such a short turnaround time. And Horribaugh, I know you are just on for the ride, so who is going to drive the bus now? It appears the Ravens Nation and front office need an SOS in the form of a ”Message in the Bottle” – The Police.

My outlook hasn’t changed, I’m old school, you don’t get rid of the people that got you there. The Ravens organization lost me when they let Trent Dilfer go after winning the Super Bowl in 2001. At that time, the possibility existed for the Ravens to create an NFL dynasty with that defense. Ray-Ray in his prime and they had an offensive leader. The Ravens front office blew-it then. And unless the front office can pull the Easter Bunny out of a hat, they have lost me again, with the “roster purge” of 2013.

This whole Salary Cap excuse - not buying it. They are in panic unload mode, they made to many promises they can’t keep, they extended contracts and monies beyond their means, they got lucky with the Super Bowl win. They had two high salary veterans retire and they still were above the salary cap? Oh that’s right they have a new 20 million dollar man. We just won the Super Bowl – time to raise ticket prices. Come on Ravens – who you trying to kid? Ok, you got your quarterback and made him one of the richest NFL players ever. Good move. Now what do you have? Defense is devastated. Offense may survive. Although losing Boldin, was just plain…………..”fixed”. Nice brotherly bet payoff, huh? By the way, I’m calling it now – the San Francisco 49ers with a real head coach – Jim Harbaugh, just won Super Bowl XLVIII.

Offensively, the 20 million dollar/year mans go to wide receiver - is gone. The heart of the offensive line, the veteran center, the man who called the blocking schemes and delivered the ball to the 20 million dollar Flacco, retired. Defensively – the heart and one of the greatest of all-time, Ray Lewis – retired. The inside linebacker who picked up the slack when Ray was out – Dannel Ellerbe – gone to Miami. The defensive end, Paul Krueger, finally coming into his game – gone to the Browns. The smash mouth sticker of the defense, Bernard Pollard – gone to the Titans. The surprisingly reliable defensive back who picked up with the loss of Lardarius Webb – Cary Williams, gone to the Eagles. And finally the artery that fed the heart, the second in command on defense and one of the greatest safeties of all time – Ed Reed – gone to Houston. All were starters – all are gone.

The Ravens could pull this rebuilding, salary restructuring off. Hey, they pulled off the improbable ”Ray-Ray, Last Dance, Super Bowl Run”. Let’s see who they replace these guys with. Elvis Dumervil? Could be a start, even though I think this cat is carrying some excess baggage. Now a new DB in Mike Huff from Oakland. Mike who? We all knew Ray-Ray was done. We figured Birk was on the same boat. And Mr. Two Tickets to the Hospital, Ed Reed………..is one plough-over from a juiced up fullback to be put the DL, for the rest of his career. The loss of Ellerbe and Pollard hurt. The line backing crew is in dire straits. At least “Ngata Chance” is still here! Or will they dump all hope?

Are the Ravens just letting it ride this year? Are they grabbing the cash while they can? Are they really rebuilding? We’re not going to know until November. Let’s also see what they say about the “salary cap” next year, after they have adjusted to the 20 million dollar/year one man contract. Hey, I am a Flacco fan. Always have been, always will be, he’s a leader. I am not a fan of the obnoxious sports salaries and contracts. It has ruined the game. Bottom line – The Ravens won another Super Bowl and that is cool. Watching the exodus of the players that got them there - is not. And “O” yeah, no Ray Lewis next year. Cha, cha, changes……….time to face the strange.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Your Monday Reality Check: Can the “regression” talk regress now?

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Your Monday Reality Check: Can the “regression” talk regress now?

Posted on 25 March 2013 by Glenn Clark

Two of my absolute favorite people on the face of the planet are WNST.net’s own Luke Jones and Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole.

I really mean that. They’re not just two of my favorites in the business, they’re two of my favorites in the world. I love to talk shop with those guys, I love to chat about the world in general with them and I love getting the chance to spend time with them socially.

(This type of statement always leads to a “BUT….”, right? Not exactly this time.)

Both Jason and Luke joined me on “The Reality Check” during the first week of NFL free agency and separately brought up the same word, a specific word that has been repeated to me by a number of callers and e-mailers over the course of the last couple of weeks.

The word is “regression.” If you were playing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the moderator would tell you the word was of latin origin and could be defined as “a trend or shift toward a lower or less perfect state.” Perhaps the word could be used in a sentence along the lines of “After losing the players the Baltimore Ravens have lost thus far, we can expect regression from the team in 2013.”

That was essentially how both guys (and others) used the word over the last few weeks.

(You’re now CERTAIN there’s going to be a “BUT…” coming, aren’t you?)

I had to start every discussion about the term that I’ve had both on-air and off since the offseason began by accepting that Luke, Jason and everyone else who has suggested the Ravens are going to “regress” in 2013 are…well…probably right. I’m sorry. It had to be said.

They’re right because the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012 and it will be very difficult for them to win the Super Bowl again in 2013. Any scenario that doesn’t involve the Ravens hoisting a third Vince Lombardi Trophy would technically mean they had “regressed” from where they were last season.

(Okay, now it’s time.)

BUT…I was never REALLY willing to accept the notion of “regression” for the Ravens at any point. Sunday’s signing of former Denver Broncos pass rusher Elvis Dumervil re-inforces that belief, but it absolutely did not establish it. I just hope the addition of Dumervil will force others to similarly push aside the notion of “regression” in 2013.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens fans need to take a deep breath and trust in Ozzie

Posted on 14 March 2013 by BaltimoreSportsNut

It is amazing that just roughly six weeks after our beloved Baltimore Ravens hoisted their second Lombardi Trophy in 13 years and their fifth consecutive playoff appearance that Ravens fans have totally lost their mind.

This week has been comparable to the reaction I saw after Baltimore got crushed at home by the Denver Broncos towards the end of the season and fans were saying the Ravens wouldn’t win another game and that Ozzie Newsome cannot possibly give Flacco a contract that would make him the highest paid quarterback in history. Ravens fans have been so outraged these past few days with the trade of Anquan Boldin, the release of Bernard Pollard and their inability to retain Dannell Ellerbe.

First, there is no way Baltimore was, or could even afford to pay Ellerbe $35 million over five years, and honestly, he is not worth that kind of money.

Boldin was immediately rumored to be a salary cap casualty as soon as the Super Bowl was over, so we all knew, at least if you paid attention, that Boldin was likely not going to be back in Baltimore next season. Keep in mind, the Ravens did attempt to keep Anquan asking him to take a pay cut to stay, which has happened before in the world of the NFL, and some have taken that option, and others, like Boldin did, reject it because they do not want to play for less, which he had every right to do. I love Boldin, he played like a Raven, and is one of my favorite players, but the NFL is a business, and the financials did not support keeping Boldin at his $7.5 million cap number, and the Ravens did not feel he was worth that kind of money. It happens, remember Ben Grubs last year? Jarret Johnson? What happened? Our Ravens WON THE SUPER BOWL!

In regards to Bernard Pollard, this is not a power play by John Harbaugh, so if you think this is the case you need to get a clue and check out Drew’s blog this morning regarding it. Pollard was not only a disruption on the field sometimes with his constantly penalized hits (I will admit, that did not bother me, he played the game hard and did the Raven thing and intimidated the opponent), but Pollard’s locker room antics were the biggest disruption. Again check out Drew’s blog for the full details and read about his incident with Josh Bynes after the loss to the Washington Redskins. Next season, Pollard will be playing with his fourth team in the NFL in just eight seasons, there is a reason the Chiefs, Texans, and now the Ravens let him go. His teammates do not want him there.

Lastly, and most importantly, Ravens fans need to wake up and realize they have without a shout of a doubt, the best GM in the NFL. Ozzie Newsome has been our GM ever since we came to Baltimore and he has delivered two Super Bowls titles, four Division titles, and nine playoff appearances over 17 years. For you math estute readers, that is more playoff appearances than non playoff appearances, there are not many teams out there that can make that claim over the last 17 years. In fact, if you want to get even more technical, Baltimore has gone to the playoffs nine times in the last 13 seasons!! Newsome has also put together a full out defensive team that won the Super Bowl and a primarily offensive team that won the Super Bowl, thus proving he is not one dimensional in that regard as well. We praise Newsome for ten months of the year, but right around this time of year, all of the sudden Ravens fans either forget or ignore what Ozzie has done for this franchise.

I am not saying that I haven’t been surprised for some of the moves that have occured over the past week, but I sit back and always say to myself that “Ozzie must have a plan, like he always does.”

So please step back from the ledge Baltimore and join me in saying “In Ozzie we Trust!”

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Ravens GM Newsome releases statement on Boldin trade

Posted on 12 March 2013 by WNST Staff

The Ravens officially announced the Anquan Boldin trade on Tuesday afternoon and general manager Ozzie Newsome released the following statement about the veteran receiver:

“Managing and assembling your roster is difficult and among the most important things we do. It is not always pleasant, and in the case of Anquan, it is unpleasant. We know he can still play at a high level. What he has done in his three seasons with us goes well beyond the numbers, and his numbers are very good. He fit in as a Raven from Day One. His leadership, just by the way he played and prepared, was a powerful force for us. And when we needed the tough catch in important times, he made those. Look at his production in our Super Bowl run. He stepped up in a big way. When he wasn’t targeted, or when we weren’t passing, his blocking was outstanding. We all thank ‘Q’ for what he did for the Ravens over the last three years.”

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