Tag Archive | "Anquan Boldin"

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I’m glad the Red Sox won. I hope it ticks off the Orioles…

Posted on 31 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

Back in October of 2009, I wrote right here and said on the air that I hoped the Yankees would win the World Series against the Phillies.

I got clobbered by people who couldn’t believe a Baltimore guy would stoop to such a low level.

I had my reasons for doing it, and it looks like I might have been right.

And, for those same reasons, still, I’m happy the Red Sox won the World Series last night.

Really, I am.

I’m happy the Red Sox won because their success might light a fire under the Orioles front office this winter, in the same way the Yankees winning in 2009 might have been the kick-starter for Peter Angelos waking up and realizing that trotting out inferior managers like Perlozzo and Trembley wasn’t going to cut it.  Five months into the 2010 season, Buck Showalter arrived on the scene at Camden Yards and things haven’t been the same – in a good way – since that move.

I’m happy for the Red Sox and I’m glad they won.

They’re an organization that TRIES to win.  Their fans…yeah, they might be jerks, but the football fans in Charm City aren’t exactly gold medal “good winners” either.  The Red Sox, though, understand the same concept the Yankees employ: “We owe it to our fans to be a champion.”

It’s been 30 years since the Orioles played in the World Series and nearly 20 years since the team advanced to the A.L. Championship Series.

I’m all for anything that gets Peter Angelos and Dan Duquette to say, “Enough is enough.  We’re tired of seeing New York and Boston win.”

Does seeing the Red Sox win bother those two enough?

My guess is probably not.

Which, of course, explains why the club has never been to the World Series in the Peter Angelos era of ownership.


Two vested veterans like Huff and Spears getting cut is a very telling statement from the Ravens.

They’re basically saying, “Neither of those players could have helped us for the remainder of the season.”

Quite an admission.

And, a rare swing and miss from Ozzie Newsome.  Make that TWO swings — and TWO misses.

A few people e-mailed me on Wednesday after the news of Huff and Spears getting the boot was made public and once again tried to pigeon-hole a player move into why the Ravens should have kept Anquan Boldin instead of signing those two players.

Let me, I promise, try and educate you all on this one final time.

Anquan Boldin was due to make $6 million this season with the Ravens.

In the Ravens opinion, he wasn’t a $6 million football player anymore.

So, in their estimation, he was worth $4 million and they asked him to play for that.

He said “no”.  The Ravens said, “Well, we don’t think you’re worth $6 million, so we’ll have to part company.”

And that’s that.

The Ravens DID use the money they saved by trading Boldin on other players, yes, but they were going to go out and get football players in the off-season whether or not Anquan Boldin was retained or not.

If Anquan Boldin would have agreed to play for $4 million, he’d be in Baltimore.  Instead, he’s making $6 million in San Francisco, which is what he wanted.

The Ravens wanted Boldin, too.  But, they didn’t think he was a $6 million football player anymore.

Were they wrong on that estimation?  I’d say based on his overall performance in San Francisco this season, probably not.  That said, with Dennis Pitta on the sidelines in Baltimore, Boldin would have been a welcome sight here over the last seven weeks of the 2013 season.

Without money being a consideration, if you asked me “would you rather the Ravens HAVE Boldin on their team or NOT HAVE him on their team?”, I’d absolutely say, “Have…”

Only problem?  Money is always a consideration in the NFL.  It’s the driving force behind the structural formula that gives each franchise hope every March.

We must also keep this in mind anytime we’re discussing a player in one city vs. another city:  Nothing is ever the same.  These aren’t pieces of a puzzle that fit in next to one another.  What Boldin does in San Francisco can’t just be cookie-cuttered into “look at what he would have done in Baltimore for us…”  It just doesn’t work that way.  For all we know, Boldin might have torn his ACL in week two against the Browns if, in fact, he played for the Ravens this season.

People who don’t know sports like to generalize and say stuff like, “Look at what Boldin is doing in San Francisco.  He’d be doing the same thing here for us if Ozzie wouldn’t have let him go.”

Maybe.  Maybe not.  He might be doing worse.  Or, he might be doing better.

The Ravens – in their expert opinion – felt like Anquan Boldin wasn’t worth $6 million anymore and he wasn’t going to be worth it even if they didn’t sign Marcus Spears or Michael Huff.

Now — pay attention here:  If you want to beat up the Ravens for signing a couple of stiffs, that’s where you should point your angry finger.  Huff was a complete zero here.  Spears tried, but he’s not healthy anymore.

Those were bad signings.

But they had nothing at all to do with the fact that the Ravens didn’t think Anquan Boldin was a $6 million football player anymore.


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Loss of a dozen starters has really hurt the Ravens

Posted on 22 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

Everywhere I went on Monday, the question was basically the same:  “What’s wrong with the Ravens?”

A few folks who asked that of me quickly followed up with, “You shouldn’t be this bad a year after winning the Super Bowl.”

Well, what’s wrong with the Ravens is, in fact, a by-product of winning the Super Bowl in New Orleans last February.

The 2013 edition of John Harbaugh’s team isn’t the same one that won the title in 2012.  Simple, right?  Well, yes, it sort of IS that simple, actually, even though people are always trying to find the “hidden secret” or “untold story” of the team.

Try this simple exercise for a second.  You’re going to have to put your pre-conceived negative opinions of John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice on the side for a moment, because this little game won’t work if you can’t do that.


I want you to rewind your brain all the way back to last January.  The Ravens have just finished 10-6, won the AFC North, and get to take on the Colts in the first round of the playoffs.  If they win there, their “prize” is a trip to Denver to take on a Peyton Manning team that rocked you in Baltimore a month earlier.  And, if you’re somehow fortunate enough to get past the Broncos, the last remaining hurdle between you and the Super Bowl is a visit to Tom Brady’s house in Foxboro.

Still with me?

OK — the week before the Colts game, a crippling virus races through the Ravens locker room and these ten players are deemed OUT for the remainder of the playoffs:  Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Dannell Ellerbe, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbedejo, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams and Dennis Pitta.  Add Bryant McKinnie to the mix after Monday’s trade and that makes eleven key players gone. (Keep in mind, as much as people like to beat up McKinnie, the Ravens are 0-2 since they jettisoned him to the bench in favor of Eugene Monroe.)

Could the Ravens have won four straight games in January and February without those eleven players a year ago?


Of course not.  They wouldn’t have moved past Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs given those ten starters missing the game due to the mythical “virus” I described above.

Well — of those eleven players I listed, nine of them were STARTERS from a year ago who haven’t played a single down for the Ravens this season.  McKinnie played 5 of 7 games before they sent him packing on Monday afternoon.

Of the players listed above, only Dennis Pitta remains on the roster, and he’s injured and was unavailable through seven games of 2013.

If you’re looking for the biggest reason why the Ravens are 3-4 at the bye, you just saw ten of them above.  There are, generally speaking, 22 “starters” in any game.  Ayanbedejo wasn’t technically a starter, but he WAS a special teams ace, so I deem him to be an important cog in the machine.  So, ten starters – out of 22 – are gone.  That’s not quite 50%, but it’s a huge chunk of quality missing that needed to be replaced.

(Please see next page)

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You would never trade the 15-7-0 for a sixth round pick

Posted on 09 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

Do you remember how this goes?

15 positive observations from the weekend of football, seven not so positive observations and we acknowledge a “zero” from outside the world of football. A reminder, there’s never any Ravens game analysis here. It’s a trip through the weekend of football via videos, GIFs, memes, pictures, links, Tweets and shtick.

It’s been awhile. Be gentle. You know I would be.

15 Positive Observations…

1. Dear Tennessee Titans. Remember that thing Brian Billick said in the locker room that one time? Can we forget about all of that? We love you. A lot. Like MORE than we love red velvet funnel cake. No. Really.

This particular level of beautiful idiocy is even more delicious because former Terps LB Moise Fokou was the one to come up with the ball. I cried. I hugged a stranger.

Look, the Steelers were awful (which is delicious), but Troy Polamalu still did something AMAZING.

But hey Steel City, at least you didn’t do this.

2. Joe Flacco is so jealous of the guys CJ Brown is able to throw the football to.

Dave Stinebaugh is capable. Deon Long is good. Stefon Diggs is absurd.

3. I don’t really want to get too emotional this early in the season, but if you don’t want to give Ken Niumatalolo a “bro-hug” you’re a terrible American.

Navy is amazing. Just days after Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s mother passed away, they go to Bloomington and beat the Hoosiers for the second straight year. They’re just absolutely amazing. It was their 20th win over a BCS program since 2003. You might ask yourself, is that good? Well…yes.

Much love to you Coach Niumatalolo. And with the return of Navy football, the return of the amazing Navy football pregame videos.

4. The Saints’ decision to have a head coach be the head coach this season has gotten them off to a better start.

Pretty neat moment at the start of the game in The Big Easy, as Sean Payton and former Saint Steve Gleason lead the team out together.

This was one of the better games of the day, and came down to Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro making a damn fine play to end the game. I hope his family treated him to an eclair as a reward. (Raise your hand if you got it.)

5. High five to the guy who randomly picked Shane Vereen because “what the hell he’s still sitting there” late in his fantasy football draft.

Vereen came into the game because Stevan Ridley had a fumbling problem. But it’s understandable when you’re getting by tough opponents like “Air” and “Ground”…

For some inexplicable reason, Tom Brady decided to do his best Mark Sanchez impression.

Bills fans of course handled the arrival of the Pats with class and dignity and…yeah.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ozzie Admits Mistake with Recent Signings

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Ozzie Admits Mistake with Recent Signings

Posted on 13 August 2013 by WNST Staff

Now Ozzie Newsome is one of (and probably the best) General Manager in the NFL, for his entire career in Baltimore.  But that does not make him impervious to mistakes. His “Achilles Heel” has always been the pass-catcher situation; namely Wide Receiver.

He has made smart moves in the past to find targets for Joe Flacco, Trent Dilfer and Steve McNair, such as Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Shannon Sharpe.  But none of them had the monster careers that Baltimore fans hoped for.  Add in his track record in the draft with receiving threats (i.e. Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton, Patrick Robinson, Demetrius Williams, etc.) and you could say Ozzie has been somewhat unsuccessful filling that spot.

Most recently, Anquan Boldin was due $6 million for the 2013-14 season.  After a failed attempt to renegotiate Boldin’s contract, the Ravens sent him Super Bowl foe, San Francisco 49ers, for a 6th round pick.  The move was made thinking that the young core, namely Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss and Dennis Pitta, would take their games to the next level.  The team has already lost Pitta for the season, and seem to be underwhelmed by the rest of pass-catchers.

Since Training Camp began, Baltimore has signed a trio of aging veterans, who made a living across the middle of the field (Brandon Stokley, Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark).  The argument would be that those signings were to supplant what was lost in Pitta’s tragic hip injury.  But the team had already brought in Shiancoe, before their up-and-coming star TE went down.

Ozzie found the need to bring three guys, on the wrong side of 30, to fill the void left by the key losses of their TE and top WR in 2012. Though the organization did not want to pay Anquan Boldin, they sure have spent a lot of time and effort trying to find a replacement.  Unless one of the young players, like Aaron Mellete, Deonte Thompson or Tommy Streeter, begins to wow the Ravens’ brain-trust, those vets will see a lot of time in 2013.  

Anyone is hoping to see the 2007 version of any of those signings walk through the doors in Owings Mills, will be highly disappointed.  Stokley had a somewhat of a rebound season, but had the luxury of playing with Peyton Manning (again), Shiancoe caught zero passes for the Patriots in five games and Clark played his first full season in three years for Tampa Bay in 2012.

The fact that Ozzie started digging at the bottom of barrel, for players no other team wanted, shows a lack of confidence in the players currently on the roster.  Hindsight is always “20/20,” but moving on from a trusted big-game target, like Anquan Boldin, looks like a bigger mistake several months later. His production is clearly already missed and Ozzie has realized that.  Let’s just hope it has not been “too little, too late.”


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Ravens face several question marks on offense

Posted on 26 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

In exactly two weeks, the Baltimore Ravens will play their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Until then, we have training camp to diagnose the Ravens. Training camp will not be without intense competitions as the team has a few holes to fill.

Let’s start with the wide receiver position.

Anquan Boldin’s departure from Baltimore to San Francisco was well documented. Boldin was a stud in the postseason. Even if he wasn’t open, he found ways to make catches in clutch moments. But, the Ravens decided to move on and traded Boldin to the 49ers for a late round draft pick.

As of now, Jacoby Jones is projected to play across from Torrey Smith, the team’s unquestioned number one receiver. Behind Jones, the Ravens don’t have many options. Tandon Doss hasn’t proven anything and Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson are project players. True, Deonte Thompson has great physical abilities but those will only take him so far. In addition, Jones’s impact on the offense is a question mark in itself. When faced with a larger role in Houston, Jones struggled. If Jones struggled with Andre Johnson, how productive can he be with Torrey Smith?

Replacing Boldin’s production will fall on the shoulders of Dennis Pitta. Pitta is a versatile tight end that has played out wide at times throughout his short career. I expect to see Pitta play a hybrid role this season, switching between a slot receiver and tight end. Playing in the slot will allow Ed Dickson to make more of an impact in the passing game. Don’t forget, before Pitta broke out last season, Dickson had 54 receptions for 528 yards and five touchdowns in 2011.

If that weren’t enough, the Ravens can throw rookie Kyle Juszczyk into the picture. Juszczyk won’t play the role of a traditional full in Jim Caldwell’s offense. Therefore, Caldwell could use him as a third tight end in certain packages.

Matt Birk was an unheralded piece to the Ravens postseason run. With the offensive line struggling, the Ravens made some changes. Bryant McKinnie was plugged in at left take. This forced Michael Oher to the right side and Kelechi Osemele to left guard. Matt Birk held the offensive line together and redeemed himself after a putrid performance against the Patriots and Vince Wilfork in the 2011 AFC Championship.

Replacing Birk will be just as important as replacing Boldin. Gino Gradkowski is the favorite thus far but veteran AQ Shipley could take the job.

When the Ravens line up against the Broncos, expect Gradkowski to be the starter. Gradkowski was drafted to be the eventual replacement to Birk and played well in spot duty last season.

As for Joe Flacco, many are projecting a regression. Well, I don’t buy that for a second. An average completion percentage is a common argument against Joe Flacco. Flacco’s completion percentage last season ranked 19th in the league at 59.7 percent. But, that must be taken in context. Joe’s strength is down field passing which doesn’t bode well for any quarterback’s completion percentage.

Plus, did you see Joe Flacco in Jim Caldwell’s offense? Caldwell took over in week 15 against the Broncos. While Flacco struggled against the Broncos, he heated up against the Giants and didn’t look back. Flacco only threw one interception to 15 touchdowns with Caldwell calling plays.

The Ravens offense has a lot of potential this season. Although Boldin and Birk are gone, their replacements have the ability to step in and produce. Flacco has the opportunity to make his first Pro Bowl and with him at the helm, the Ravens will always have a chance to win another Super Bowl.

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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

Posted on 21 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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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

Posted on 22 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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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

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.


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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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