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Former VT QB and Ravens sixth-round draft pick Tyrod Taylor on backing up Flacco: “I can’t wait to learn from Joe”

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Former VT QB and Ravens sixth-round draft pick Tyrod Taylor on backing up Flacco: “I can’t wait to learn from Joe”

Posted on 02 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ravens fans heard some of the rumors over this draft weekend that we may have seen the last of Marc Bulger in a Baltimore uniform should the NFL’s lockout be lifted.

The Arizona Cardinals appear to be ready to sign Bulger-the longtime NFL veteran of the St. Louis Rams who backed up Joe Flacco this year-to a contract when the teams are allowed to sign free agents pending a new CBA.

If the Ravens were to lose Bulger, it would absolutely create a gaping hole in the depth chart behind Flacco, and on Saturday, Baltimore’s personnel department made a move in the draft to ensure that they have at least one quarterback behind Flacco should Bulger decide to move on to Arizona or another NFL team.

Tyrod Taylor

With the 180th pick in the sixth round of this weekend’s draft, the Ravens selected Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor-a 6-foot, 217 pound quarterback who started all four years for the Hokies  in Blacksburg.

Taylor joined Thyrl Nelson of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” to talk about becoming a Raven and taking the short drive up I-95 to begin his NFL career.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Taylor told Nelson. “But there’s still a lot to learn, and I can’t wait to learn from Joe Flacco.”

“It’s always good to get drafted by a team close by so I can keep track of the Hokies and stay close to home for the family.”

In his four years playing for Frank Beamer starting 41 of 49 games for Virginia Tech, Taylor finished with 6,795 passing yards, 43 TDs to just 19 INTs.

He really put it together in 2010, earning ACC Player of the Year honors while passing for 2,521 yards, 23 TD and 4 INTs.

His passing yardage, 2,174 rushing yards and 23 rushing scores over his Hokie career also set school records, and it shows that his versatility being able to throw the ball as well as make a play with a legs can help the Ravens offense move the chains.

If Ravens fans want to make a correlation, you can compare Taylor to that of a Troy Smith.

Taylor hopes that the Ravens use all his physical skills as an asset.

“Will the Ravens plan plays just for me? I want to help out any way I can,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s biggest concern coming into the draft was the lack of a proven track record playing at VT.

Despite his stellar numbers as a Hokie his senior year, most of those numbers came too late in his college career for NFL scouts to give him due notice.

That was one of the reasons why he lasted till the sixth round when the Ravens took a chance on him and his athletic ability.

“Going into it, my agent and I talked about what might happen,” Taylor said. “It was disappointing to slip to the sixth round. I was hoping for the third, fourth, or fifth.”

In a way, it was his post-season work after the page was turned on his college career  that caught NFL GM’s eyes the most, especially January’s East-West Shrine Game where Taylor completed four of five passes for 59 yards.

“Early in the process looking at the numbers, some teams had mixed feelings,” Taylor said of his visits. “But I think after evaluating film, teams changed their minds about me, especially after the East-West Shrine Game.”

Still, the biggest question mark for Taylor will be if he can be a pocket-passer in the NFL who relies on his arm first-and his legs second.

Taylor answered that doubt with all the confidence in the world.

“It shouldn’t be hard for me,” Taylor said. “It’s just learning the reads and trust in the system. Be yourself and move the chains.”

The Ravens see him as a quarterback as well.

“We feel like he has the skill sets to play quarterback and he also brings the added dimension of being a terrific athlete that can-as we see so much now-get out of the pocket and hurt people,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said Saturday after the draft was completed.

Taylor said he already has that chip on his shoulder for being drafted so low over the weekend by the Ravens.

Could there be a comparison to another big-time college quarterback who had to wait till the sixth round in Tom Brady?

“With him being drafted in the sixth round also, I also feel motivated to prove them wrong. Ten quarterbacks were drafted ahead of me, so again, it’s all motivation,” Taylor said.

But, at least he’s not motivated to take #5 away from his incumbent teammate after having it at Virginia Tech the last several years.

“It’s Flacco’s number,” Taylor laughed, “so I’ll change it.”

WNST welcomes a former ACC-rival in Tyrod Taylor to Baltimore! Check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the chat with Tyrod as well as many of your other Ravens draft picks! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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In year after character concerns with 2010 draft picks, Ravens take another leap of faith in Colorado CB Jimmy Smith

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

The big saying around the Baltimore area when it comes to Ravens fans and the personnel decisions regarding the team is “In Ozzie We Trust”.

Well, with the Ravens selecting Colorado CB Jimmy Smith Thursday night with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft-after letting the Kansas City Chiefs move ahead of them-it goes to show you that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will take all the advice he will hear regarding a player, but when it comes time to make the final decision and turn the card in, Ozzie’s the one to make the call.

Smith was the third corner back taken off the board behind LSU’s Patrick Peterson who went fifth overall to the Arizona Cardinals and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara who went to the Giants at pick #19.

And it could be said that Smith may be the best corner out of the three, but other factors dropped his stock when it came down to draft day.

Numerous draft experts had the Ravens picking  Smith, the 6′ 2”, 210-pound CB out of Colorado, but leading up to the draft, early impressions out of the Ravens front office and scouting department was that given Smith’s issues off the field-including the likes of citations for underage-drinking, marijuana usage and more, that would cause the Ravens to go elsewhere.

He was arrested twice in Boulder, Colorado for possession charges and failed a drug test in 2007.

He was said to have had a drinking problem and has been caught with marijuana in his early college days.

I imagine this being the scene in the Ravens war room as time slowly clicked away as  Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, coach John Harbaugh, and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz were all fighting over who to take or what to do with the 26th pick.

However, a four year player for the Buffaloes, he is said though to have taken on a more mature role as an upperclassmen the last two seasons.

“I went to college and I made some mistakes,” Smith told NFLDraftScout.com. “”I was a young player who mistakes. But I grew as a person.”

He has stayed off the police blotters since that 2007 season, and during his junior and senior years at Boulder, he only allowed 11 completions in man-to-man coverage and began to get the “Nnamdi Asomugha treatment” as teams began to avoid throwing his way.

Still, Smith will be yet another question mark taken by the Ravens in consecutive drafts-with last year’s first pick in linebacker Sergio Kindle proving that he too was a concern given his demeanor off the football field when it came to alcohol abuse.

This also combined with several high draft picks in recent years not producing on the field including DT Terrence Cody and DE/LB Paul Kruger could be heating up the seat that Ozzie Newsome is sitting in right now.

Could it be time to wonder if the magic dust is wearing off “The Wizard of Oz?”

Plus, given the Ravens’ position with both Wisconsin tackles Gabe Carimi and hybrid Temple DL Muhammed Wilkerson on the board-both positions of need for Baltimore, one must wonder why a team that has several good-not great-corners on the roster decided to go that route.

Don’t forget. Domonique Foxworth is coming back healthy from a torn ACL, and  Josh Wilson, Lardarius Webb and Chris Carr played well when pressed into duty last season. Even Fabian Washington could be in the mix as well should he be brought back on the team, although that appears unlikely.

And while Smith will automatically help a CB group that only nabbed seven interceptions last season, the Ravens did only record 27 sacks a team, with close to a third of those coming from one man, Terrell Suggs (11).

Again, going back to Ozzie Newsome’s mantra over his tenure in Baltimore-it has always been to “take the best player available.”

And while Smith may have been a Top-10 talent on the football field, are his character issues something that is going to pop up yet again-much like a former Raven first-round pick malcontent in Chris Mcalister?

Only time will tell. And Ozzie-you do have the 2nd round to make it up to doubters like myself.And I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume Sergio Kindle was a bump in the road.

And hey, look at the bright side. If Smith does get in trouble again and has to hold a press conference, at least we’ll be granted an audience to one like this…

WNST has you covered as we welcome your newest Ravens to Baltimore! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Anquan Boldin on hope for next year: “If I can get the ball more than 10-15 times a game, I’ll be more than happy”

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Anquan Boldin on hope for next year: “If I can get the ball more than 10-15 times a game, I’ll be more than happy”

Posted on 08 March 2011 by Ryan Chell

If there is to be football next year, Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin not only wants to be a bigger part of the offense, he wants to be able to have the opportunity to speak his mind and offer his suggestions to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on how best to get the Baltimore offense going.

Anquan Boldin

Boldin joined “The Afternoon Drive” last week to not only plug his upcoming “Chalk Talk” session with the fans at Morgan State on March 10th, but to also shed some light on the improvements he hopes comes from the coaching staff and the acquisitions made by the team in the draft and free agency(once it occurs) to bolster his new team’s offense.

“If I knew there was a player available that can really help us out, I might talk to Ozzie or something like that,” Boldin said.

A lot of the criticism in the off-season came at the expense of several of the offensive coaches, mostly notably guys like John Matsko and Jim Zorn, who both were given their walking papers by the team.

But most under fire was offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who as a friend of coach John Harbaugh may have had his job saved for another year.

Boldin however-who had career lows in catches(64) and yards (837) while playing a full 16-game season-unexpectedly gave Cameron all the confidence in the world going forward into next season.

But, that didn’t mean he wasn’t frustrated about being under-utilized compared to his previous seven seasons in Arizona where he averaged 83 receptions a year.

In short, he wants the ball more. He wants to be a useful tool for the Ravens to rely on down the stretch.

“I think every player wants to be productive,” Boldin said. “Every player wants to contribute as much as possible. If I can get the ball more than 10 to 15 times a game, I’ll be more than happy.”

Boldin said it was very frustrating coming from a pass-friendly offense where even as a secondary option to Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona he still was getting #1 receiver numbers.

“At times it would get frustrating because I came from a place where I was used to getting the ball and at least getting thrown to 8-10 times a game, and then you go and get one to two passes a game, it can get frustrating,” Boldin admitted.

But the 30-year old out of Florida State did want to emphasize the fact that as long as he is used on a consistent basis somewhat close to his standards…he has no problem being a secondary option still as long as the team is winning.

He hopes that belief is unanimous amongst his teammates.

“For me, if we’re winning I’m okay,” Boldin said. “I would never let that get in the way of the team.”

When it came to his frustration this year with his lack of productivity or when asked about his trust in the coaching staff, Boldin used the example of playing for an NCAA school the same as applying it to the pro game.

You don’t have the ability to choose and impact who your coaches are, but you do hope they put you in the best position to succeed on the field.

“With us, you don’t make decisions in college of who’s going to be your coach and who’s not,” Boldin said. “I think the thing is we need to get in and whoever our coach is, we try to develop a working relationship with where the team comes first and all egos are put aside.”

Boldin said he and Cam Cameron may have had some issues with the likes of each other during the season, but from what off-season the team has had has been focusing on-putting together a combination of good plays from Boldin and a well-drawn up game-plan from Cam Cameron-has him already feeling better about next year.

“With Cam Cameron, me and him have a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to get done. As soon as the season was over, I was in there with the coaches and we went over different things with the offense…ways we could get better…different features with the offense that could have been used better…all that stuff.”

Ultimately, Boldin left Owings Mills with an even higher respect for what Cameron had in the works for next season and his approach toward trying to fix the mistakes of 2010.

“I respect the fact that they allowed the players to have an input, because you know, my desire is to win. I respect him for having that same desire.”

WNST thanks Anquan Boldin for joining the Afternoon Drive! Be sure to check out his Chalk Talk at Morgan State this Thursday!

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

 

The playoffs sure have a way of punishing perfection, or near perfection. I have relayed several times on air this week a conversation I had with a friend on the night before the Vikings played the Falcons in the 1998 playoffs. On that occasion, one of the sports news shows was touting Gary Anderson, who had been perfect to that point in the season, as automatic. To that, my friend opined that the 15-1 Vikings were sure to see their season end on a missed field goal. That it happened the next day, at the hands of the Falcons was still quite a surprise.

Last weekend saw Tom Brady enter the postseason on the NFL’s all-time streak of passes without an interception. An early interception set the stage for the Jets’ improbable win. Likewise, Ray Rice entered the post-season without a fumble all year. While his fumble on Saturday was hardly the pivotal moment in the Ravens’ season ending loss, it certainly contributed.

 

You could even throw in Brady’s ’07 Patriots who went unbeaten into the Super Bowl, while striking a fear in opponents that kept them reluctant to blitz. The Giants ended that run unceremoniously with constant pressure on Brady. We could also mention that last season’s Colts were perfect in the times that they were trying to win. They too failed to finish the deal.

 

If we apply that logic to the remaining match-ups, we might guess that the Jets would beat the Steelers by running right at them. While that doesn’t seem to be the textbook game plan for beating Pittsburgh, the Jets already rode that strategy to a degree of success in the regular season. Perhaps instead they’ll win by causing Ben Roethlisberger to melt down in the two-minute offense, as that seems to be the Steelers other inherent strength. If the Steelers hope to win, they might make it happen by attacking Darrelle Revis often, or by backing out of their stacked fronts and spreading the field defensively, by making the Jets run and move down the field methodically.

 

In the other match-up, the Packers might win by kicking to Devin Hester or by attacking Julius Peppers at the line of scrimmage. And the Bears’ best bet might be to stuff the box and stop the Packers improbably successful ground game, and put the game on Aaron Rodgers’ seemingly able shoulders.

 

If history has shown us anything, it may be that regular season trends are subject to change in a big way once the post-season rolls around. On the other side of the coin, the ’06 Colts found their only opportunity in the Manning era to hoist the Lombardi trophy only when their historically bad (even for Colts standards) run defense turned stout for their playoff run. Or what about the ’08 Cardinals who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way on the road in the regular season? They became road warriors in the playoffs.

 

From that perspective it may make a little more sense. That teams would try to beat the Colts by running at them was predictable, so the fact that they were ready for it should have been equally predictable. Once teams found themselves at a loss to do it however, they had no answer for Indy. Maybe the Jets strategy against the Patriots on Sunday only worked because it was so out of the realm of the typical Jets / Pats game plan. Maybe Brady struggled with the pressure in ’07 only because the copycat nature of the NFL had teams backing away from the pressure against New England from at least week 6 on. Once charged with dealing with it again, as late as in the Super Bowl, the Patriots simply weren’t ready. And perhaps teams in ’08 simply failed to take the Cardinals seriously, assuming travel alone would have taken a heavier toll on them than in did.

 

To that end, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky as fans that the Ravens with perhaps the NFL’s best ever defense in 2000, were still able to ride that defense through the post-season. To that I’ll offer this, I always found it curious that as dominant as that defense was, they never scored on their turnovers. In week 17, against the Jets, Chris McAllister had an interception return for a TD, and Jermaine Lewis returned 2 punts for TDs too. Those were (by my count) the only defensive or special teams TDs that the team scored all season. Of course once the playoffs began the defense made up for lost time, piling up TDs on their way to the title. Maybe that was their saving grace against a shift in trend.

 

This much I’d bet. These have been some of the most curious / interesting playoff games in recent memory. If you could hit the reset button and start back over from the beginning 10 times, you’d almost certainly get at least 6 different winners. As the conference title games get closer and closer, someone else’s luck (2 more in fact) is bound to change for the worst.

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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The best seat…In the house

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The best seat…In the house

Posted on 30 November 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

Sports culture is changing, there’s evidence of it everywhere, and nowhere does it seem more prevalent than from a fan’s ever improving point of view. Between HDTV, discussion, debate, and even live game broadcasts streaming regularly on the internet, smart phones and the advent of social explosions like Facebook and Twitter, and don’t even get me started on NFL RedZone, we seem to be moving closer and closer to a point in time where the best place to enjoy the action isn’t the 50-yard line or behind home plate, the best seat in the house, is indeed in the house.

Here’s how Monday looked and Tuesday is shaping up from my perspective, from the best seat…In the house.

 

Random Ravens Related Rants: As much as we seem to be painting a match up with the Steelers this week as must win, it seems pretty clear that two teams from the AFC East and two from the AFC North will likely be in the playoffs. Someone will win the West and South respectively, but in some order, the Ravens, Steelers, Jets and Patriots seem all but assured to make the playoffs. All that seems to be up for debate at this point is who’ll win their divisions and enjoy home field and a likely first round bye, and who’ll take to the road to start the playoffs as wildcards.

 

Remember before the 2009 season, when the Ravens requested the league stop sending them to Pittsburgh in primetime, claiming it was a consistent disadvantage? Since that infamous request, not only have the Ravens been spared the trip to Pittsburgh in primetime, but the Steelers have been charged with heading to Baltimore instead for primetime football now twice. The first time, the Ravens beat a Dennis Dixon led Steelers team in OT. Is the league really doing Baltimore a solid here, or trying to put them in a position to eat their words?

 

I’m sure that I’m not the only one feeling salty about purple towels being distributed at M&T Bank Stadium for Sunday’s game. Do we really want to be showcased on national television looking like a cheap imitation of our most hated rivals? The folks in charge of marketing this thing should know better. Instead of giving Ravens fans something to rally around and be excited about, they have given fans a reason to be divisive, as some will surely be emphatically waving their towels in the sightline or faces of folks who are feeling completely disgusted with the whole notion of towel waving. Count me amongst the latter for the record.

 

Here’s what I saw last night from the best seat…in the house.

 

Heat 105 – Wizards 94

 

I wouldn’t take this as a sign of resurgence or anything on the part of the Miami Heat. Riley’s Angels still have lots of work to do, but for one night at least, winning, and the Wizards (2 words that don’t often go together) proved to be great deodorant for a locker room that’s clearly beginning to stink.

 

To their credit the Wiz were short handed, going into last night’s contest without the services of John Wall, now for the 6th time in the last 8 games. Hilton Armstrong was in the starting lineup for the Wiz last night, as JaVale McGee started the game in reserve due to back spasms. McGee still played 26 minutes collecting 6 points 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks off the bench. Armstrong was limited to 17 minutes in his rare start after being ejected from the game on a flagrant 2 technical against the Heat’s Joel Anthony. Armstrong finished the night with 2 points and 4 boards.

 

In addition to Armstrong’s ejection, former Wizard Juwan Howard saw the door as well for his retaliatory shove to the back of Armstrong after the tech. Kirk Hinrich and James Jones were also assessed technicals for getting a little pushy with each other, but otherwise the Wiz couldn’t find much of a spark, and may have helped to galvanize and ignite the Heat in the process.

 

Miami’s big 3 all chipped in 20 points or more, as Bosh finished the night with 20 points and 7 boards, Dwayne Wade poured in 26 points of his own along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists and LeBron James led all scorers in the game with 30 points 6 boards and 5 assists. Gilbert Arenas, pressed back into the starting lineup as a result of Wall injury led the Wizards with 26 points and added 5 rebounds and 7 assists on the night.

 

Despite their win last night, Miami’s slow start has led to rumors about Erik Spolestra’s future, or lack thereof. Despite the addition of Eric Dampier, who debuted for the Heat last night, they still look remarkably incomplete, even in dispatching of an undermanned Wizards team. It’s my best guess that Pat Riley would only take advantage of the opportunity to insert himself onto the Heat bench if he felt that they had a reasonable chance to compete for a title. I’m betting that for as long as the Heat continue to look, on the court, like they have, that Riley will be perfectly content to sit back and let Spolestra absorb the criticism. We’ll see, this one is probably going to have to get worse before it really gets better.

 

 

49ers 28 Cardinals 6

 

Outside of the Troy Smith vs. Derek Anderson angle that may have gotten a little bit of local interest as both are former Ravens’ QBs, there didn’t seem to be many compelling reasons to expect this one to be very interesting. If you tuned in with that in mind, then you couldn’t have been disappointed, otherwise, you likely were.

 

In what looked to be a pedestrian effort on both sides, the Niners proved themselves much more adept pedestrians than the Cardinals on Monday night. I wonder how bad Matt Leinhart is looking to the Cardinals and their fans right now. I wonder if calls have been made to Kurt Warner, as the NFC West title never seems quite out of reach for any team.

 

If the Niners are the best that the NFC West has to offer, or even close, then to quote Dennis Green, “they are who we thought they were”, the whole division.

 

Frank Gore left the game early for San Francisco, with 5 carries for 52 yards, and although Brian Westbrook (in LT like fashion) conjured up a version of his former self for last night at least with 23 carries for 136 yards and a TD and Anthony Dixon chipped in too with 14 carries for 54 yards and a TD, Gore’s availability, or lack thereof has to be a major concern for them team going forward. Reports are saying that his hip is broken,

 

For those who did manage to hang in for the whole boring contest, your patience was rewarded with Derek Anderson’s post game meltdown. Apparently, Anderson was taken to task by a member of the press for being too cheery on the sidelines at the end of the blowout, so he gave the reporter a taste of what he was looking for with a pretty funny tirade. Here it is:

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khi7YoqZIWM[/youtube]

 

 

From the Box Scores: NCAA Basketball – Virginia 87 #17 Minnesota 79

 

The Cavaliers stared off the ACC / Big 10 Challenge on a good foot with an upset at Minnesota, in a game that according to the highlights played a lot closer that it looked in the box.

 

Here’s what on tonight:

 

College Basketball

 

The ACC / Big 10 Challenge resumes on Tuesday night, providing fans with wall-to-wall basketball action. Keep in mind that the ESPN3 listings are available on your computer, so you can keep an eye on those while watching your game of choice on TV.

 

7 pm – Georgia Tech @ Northwestern ESPN2

7 pm – Iowa @ Wake Forest ESPNU

7 pm – Boston U @ #11 Kentucky ESPN3

7 pm – Cornell @ #7 Syracuse ESPN3

 

7: 30 pm – #2 Ohio State @ Florida State

 

The Buckeyes are ranked second in the nation and it’s hard to tell much more about them. They’re led by a veteran backcourt of David Lightly, William Buford and Jon Diebler along with Dallas Lauderdale back up front, but with 3 freshmen logging serious minutes, Ohio State will be worth a watch tonight. Freshmen forwards Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas are logging serious minutes and putting up serious points so far, as is freshman guard Aaron Craft.

 

The Seminoles return a big and savvy team all the way around, built primarily around junior Chris Singleton. The only guy seeing any amount of serious playing time that hasn’t been in the system logging big minutes for at least a year is JUCO transfer, Bernard James a 6’9″, 240 pound power forward. The Noles lost to the Buckeyes in last year’s challenge 77-64.

 

7:30 pm – New Hampshire @ UConn MASN

 

9 pm – Michigan @ Clemson ESPN2

9 pm – UTEP @ New Mexico State ESPN3

9 pm – #14 Georgetown @ #8 Missouri ESPNU

 

Obviously anytime two teams with little numbers next to their names match up this early; it’s an easy indicator that it’s a game worth watching.

 

9:30 pm – North Carolina @ #24 Illinois ESPN

 

After watching the Illini in consecutive nights in the 2K Sports, Coaches vs. Cancer Tourney, one of which was against the Terps, this should be an interesting measuring stick before ACC play begins. Plus it will be my first chance to lay eyes on Harrison Barnes, the early favorite to be the 1st overall pick in next years NBA draft.

 

NBA

 

There are 3 NBA games on local TV, to my knowledge on Tuesday night. All are somewhat secretive. Two of the games are playing on a channel that’s listed on my channel guide as TEAM (channel 787 on Comcast in Baltimore County). The third is on NBA network, but teams are not listed. It does however show an 8 pm start time, if that’s correct, than it must be Lakers at Grizzlies, as that’s the only game listed with an 8 pm tip time.

 

7 pm – Portland @ Philadelphia TEAM

 

The Blazers and Brandon Roy in particular have been killing my fantasy team so far this season. I doubt I’ll be turning off college hoops to subject myself to this.

 

8 pm – LA Lakers @ Memphis (probably) NBA Network

 

The Lakers have struggled lately, and Phil Jackson is getting cranky in his old age.

 

10 pm – Indiana @ Sacramento TEAM

 

The Pacers are quickly becoming one of this year’s must sees.

 

NHL

 

I’m not much of a hockey fan, but these listing kind of make me wish I were. Like the TEAM channel that gives a look in on a local NBA broadcast almost every night, the NHL has a similar offering (as does MLB in season) on channel 786 on my Baltimore County digital cable. This shows up on my channel guide as GAMED, and like the TEAM channel doesn’t require the league’s all access subscription.

 

7 pm – Tampa Bay @ Toronto GAMED

8 pm – St. Louis @ Chicago Versus

10 pm – Atlanta @ Colorado GAMED

10:30 pm – Detroit @ San Jose NHL Network

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For Certain, Ravens Must Become Team That Holds Ball Last

Posted on 12 November 2010 by Glenn Clark

ATLANTA, Ga. — If you think I wasn’t tempted to write a column that came off as “I told you so”, you’re wrong.

In fairness, I DID pick the Falcons to win 24-20 and said it would be the type of game that would come right down to the final seconds before it was decided.

I’d have every right to say “you should have seen this coming.”

But if I’m being fair, I didn’t REALLY see this coming at all.

I mean, who could have ever seen the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) barely touching the ball for the majority of the first half of their 26-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (7-2) Thursday night at the Georgia Dome?

Who could have ever seen the Ravens being forced to respond from two different 13 point deficits in the second half only to forge ahead on a TD strike from QB Joe Flacco to TE Todd Heap with 1:05 to play?

And certainly, who could have ever seen the comeback foiled by a methodical drive from Falcons QB Matt Ryan that culminated in a 33 yard TD toss to WR Roddy White?

I mean, I guess the script could have been written in a SIMILAR way, but not that exact way.

It’s funny, because the first “parting thought” that came to my mind as the game was ending was one that I shared via Twitter (you can follow @WNST to see my thoughts on Twitter). I said “Everyone wants someone to blame for a loss. I think I’ll blame Matt Ryan and Roddy White.”

And while it wasn’t the FINAL thought that came to me, I still stand by that. Sometimes good teams just lose to other good teams on the road. The Ravens are a good team (they don’t need me to apologize for them, they’ve proven how good they are throughout the season); but the Falcons are a good team too. And they played at home.

As Ravens RB Ray Rice said postgame “that’s the NFL.”

But even that wasn’t really the most important takeaway I had after the game.

The most important takeaway hit me as I was getting ready to scribe this column.

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Chris Pika

Week 4 is the first week that byes take place in the NFL, so this is a great time to take short stock of each of the clubs through three weeks. And by short, I mean one line on each team — some stats, some observations and some conjecture.

First up, the AFC teams by division. Records are through Week 3:

Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

AFC East

New York Jets (2-1): Despite crippled Revis Island on defense, brash Jets are only team in AFC East with perfect division record (2-0).

New England Patriots (2-1): QB Tom Brady (8 TD, 109.1 passer rating) is back to form as Patriots have AFC’s highest point total (90) and highest TD total (12) so far.

Miami Dolphins (2-1): Even with deep threat WR Brandon Marshall and RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins have same amount of TDs (5) as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore.

Buffalo Bills (0-3): Another lost year for Bills, which have scored fourth-least points (47) in AFC and have given up most points (87) on defense in the conference.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0): The question for head coach Mike Tomlin is if the Steelers are 4-0 after a win over Baltimore in Week 4, why change QBs to Ben Roethlisberger?

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1): Bengals, despite record, have struggled on offense as QB Carson Palmer (12th rated AFC passer at 71.3) hasn’t found rhythm with T.O.cho Show.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Defense, led by MLB Ray Lewis, continues to carry a team expected to score much more in 2010 (44 points; 2nd-lowest in AFC), despite breakout game by WR Anquan Boldin (3 TDs) last week.

Cleveland Browns (0-3): Browns are led by Peyton … not Manning, but RB Hillis (220 yards, 3 TDs) as Browns gave popular AFC Super Bowl pick Ravens much trouble in Week 3.

AFC South

Houston Texans (2-1): Texans got over the hump of beating the Colts, but Houston is not the best team in state of Texas after bad loss to Cowboys.

Tennessee Titans (2-1): Titans defense has allowed fourth-fewest points in the AFC (42), and the Tennessee offense has RB Chris Johnson (4 TDs), but continuing issues at quarterback.

Indianapolis Colts (2-1): Despite loss to Houston, Colts still have potent passing attack with QB Peyton Manning and are arguably still best club in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jagaurs (1-2): Jaguars have worst scoring differential in AFC (-43), and Jack Del Rio could be the AFC’s first fired coach.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): Most surprising number for unbeaten Chiefs is that defense has allowed least points in the AFC (38), and in weak AFC West, KC might have enough to win the division.

San Diego Chargers (1-2): Special teams burned for two scores at Seattle, and Chargers QB Philip Rivers (AFC-high 4 INTs) is missing a suddenly resurgent RB LaDainian Tomlinson, now with the Jets.

Denver Broncos (1-2): Broncos getting decent offensive production from QB Kyle Orton, but overall have a minus point differential (-4; 61 PF, 65 PA).

Oakland Raiders (1-2): High-priced K Sebastian Janikowski could have made Raiders a 2-1 team with made kicks at Arizona, but Raiders need more than 3s (4 TDs, tied for lowest in AFC with JAX) to be competitive in up-for-grabs division.

Now for the NFC:

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1): The Eagles have gone from a transitional season with QB Kevin Kolb to division title hopes with QB Michael Vick, who might be a legit NFL MVP candidate down the road.

Washington Redskins (1-2): Opening victory over Dallas doesn’t look as good after defense was shredded in last two weeks and Cowboys’ struggles.

New York Giants (1-2): A minus-30 scoring differential (55 PF, 85 PA) is third-worst in NFC, and head coach Tom Coughlin is starting to feel the heat.

Dallas Cowboys (1-2): Cowboys avoided 0-3 start in Week 3 with big win over Houston, and Dallas has the personnel to rebound in a wide-open NFC East race.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (3-0): Most unlikely last remaining 3-0 team in NFC gives head coach Lovie Smith some breathing room as O-line tries to keep QB Jay Cutler upright in Mike Martz offensive system.

Green Bay Packers (2-1): Despite mental miscues in Week 3 loss at Chicago, popular Super Bowl XLV NFC pick has plenty of offensive weapons for QB Aaron Rodgers, but need run game to be re-established after Ryan Grant injury.

Minnesota Vikings (1-2): QB Brett Favre looks very old right now, and Vikings best chance to win is to get away from pass-first mindset to get the ball into Adrian Peterson’s hopefully sure hands more often.

Detroit Lions (0-3): Injury to QB Matthew Stafford put dent into head coach Jim Schwartz’s immediate rebuilding plans, and Lions don’t get a break in Week 4 against Packers.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (2-1): Falcons posted most-impressive win of Week 3 as they marched out of New Orleans with a OT win, and Atlanta has NFC best-tying +31 point differential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1): AFter 2-0 start, Bucs ran into Steelers’ buzzsaw in Week 3, and Tampa Bay is staring at possible 2-3 record with games vs. Cincinnati and New Orleans after bye week.

New Orleans Saints (2-1): Saints run defense was exposed in loss to Falcons, and defending Super Bowl champs need fast starts in order to avoid same fate against strong run teams going forward.

Carolina Panthers (0-3): Winless Panthers have least TDs in NFC (3), and head coach John Fox may be running out of rope with owner Jerry Richardson.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Head coach Pete Carroll sidestepped Southern California mess and he has put Seattle in early position to make headway in weak NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals (2-1): Despite record, Cards have minus-29 point differential (48 PF, 77 PA) and would be 1-2 if Oakland made a field goal or two in Week 3.

St. Louis Rams (1-2): Rookie QB Sam Bradford will have to grow up in a hurry, but the shame is that the Rams can’t play Washington every week.

San Francisco 49ers (0-3): Head coach Mike Singletary used the next-to-last bullet in his gun after firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, and the last one might be used by 49ers ownership at end of the season if disappointments continue.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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Blog & Tackle: Week 1 NFL scoring struggles

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Blog & Tackle: Week 1 NFL scoring struggles

Posted on 14 September 2010 by Chris Pika

If you thought the amount of scoring in the NFL’s Week 1 games was less than usual, you were right in a big way. A total of 21 teams scored less than 20 points in the 16 games — that number was the highest total of Week 1 sub-20-point team scoring since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, according to research through Pro-Football-Reference.com.

The 2010 teams under 20 points? Minnesota 9, New Orleans 14, Cleveland 14, Tampa Bay 17, Miami 15, Buffalo 16, Denver 17, Atlanta 9, Pittsburgh 15, Oakland 13, Carolina 18, Detroit 14, Chicago 19, Arizona 17, St. Louis 13, San Francisco 6, Dallas 7, Washington 13, Baltimore 10, New York Jets 9 and San Diego 14. The league, as a whole, averaged just 18.3 points per team in Week 1.

Here are the year-by-year teams scoring 19 points or less in Week 1 from 1970-2009 (via Pro-Football-Reference.com.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is sacked by Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata during the second half in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 13, 2010. The Ravens won the game 10-9. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The 21 teams was a far cry from last season’s Week 1 total of only 14 teams. In the decade of the 2000s, 153 teams scored under the 20-point mark in Week 1, an average of 15.3 per season. Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams and eight divisions in 2002 for 16 opening weekend games, the average was 15.25 per season from 2002-09.

There are a lot of factors at play in why this was the case in this particular opening weekend. Better defenses, weather issues and injuries to key players certainly played a part. But one other factor might also be in play.

The last time most clubs play their starters for an appreciable time in the preseason is Week 3. Most clubs hold out starters or play them very little (one or two series) in the final week in order to look at players fighting for the final spots during the remainder of the game.

It’s almost a bye week for the starters on both sides of the ball, since they will not face live competition for two weeks until the regular season starts. So, when the starters get back on the field in Week 1 of the regular season, the timing is off when it needs to be at its sharpest.

Here are the year-by-year totals of Week 1 teams at or under 19 points in the decade of the 2000s.

Total Teams Scoring 19 Points or Less in Week 1 (2000-09)
2009: 14
2008: 17
2007: 18
2006: 19
2005: 15
2004: 15
2003: 14
2002: 10
2001: 15
2000: 16

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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Blog & Tackle: How TJH was used in 2009

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Blog & Tackle: How TJH was used in 2009

Posted on 07 September 2010 by Chris Pika

The Ravens acquisition of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh yesterday gave the club a tough receiver who will help Baltimore in the short term by giving QB Joe Flacco another target in the expanding passing game.

What kind of numbers will the about-to-be 33-year-old TJH put up in 2010? It’s obviously hard to say as the Ravens will have to get him up to speed on offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s playbook and Flacco’s passing style. But, we can look back on how he was used in Seattle last season, thanks to STATS, Inc.

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seahawks targeted him 61 times (31 receptions) on first down, 39 times (28 catches) on second, 31 times (18 receptions) on third and four times (two catches) on fourth down. Of all game situations of down and distance, he was thrown to the most on first down and between 8-10 yards to go — 58 targeted passes.

He averaged over 10 yards per catch, regardless of the down, and had six plays of 25 yards or more. Of his 79 catches, 52 resulted in first downs, a 65.8 percent rate.

After a two-touchdown day at Arizona in mid-November, he did not catch a touchdown the remainder of the season. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. He was targeted almost the same in each half of the season — 68 targets/41 receptions/417 yards in the first eight games; 67 targets/38 receptions/494 yards in the final eight games.

Seattle threw to him the most between the 40s (43 targets/29 receptions/311 yards) and also from their own 20 to their 39-yard line (40 targets/23 receptions/249 yards).

In the red zone, the Seahawks targeted him 19 times, and he caught just four passes for 19 yards and two scores. The four red zone catches were his lowest total since 2002.

Inside the opponent 10, he was targeted 10 times, and he made three receptions for six yards and one TD.

Where did Seattle throw him the ball, direction-wise? Mainly to the right side of the field with 36 targets to the right (23 catches), and 40 (21 catches) to the right sideline. He also caught as many balls behind the line of scrimmage (eight) as he did over the middle in 2009. But, interestingly, 13 of his 16 receptions caught on the left side of the field went for first downs, an 81.3 percent rate, while eight of his 11 catches to the left sideline moved the chains (72.7 percent).

The Seahawks looked for him the most in three-receiver sets (67 targets/34 catches/3 plays of 25+ yards/23 first downs) and in four-receiver sets (45 targets/31 receptions/2 25+ yard plays/17 first downs).

One oddity was that despite playing just four games on grass in 2009, TJH averaged more yards per catch (15.7 to 10.0), had more catches go for first downs by percentage (76.2 to 62.1) and had more 25+ yard pass plays (4 of 6) on the real stuff.

Finally in yards after catch, he averaged 3.6 per reception, which was 102nd in the NFL. Bookending him at 101 was Ravens TE Todd Heap (3.7) and former Baltimore WR Kelley Washington (3.6). TJH’s average was better than Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco (3.3), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (3.2) and now-former Ravens (and current Rams) WR Mark Clayton (2.6).

TJH was tied for 56th in the league in total yards after catch (284) with New England’s Kevin Faulk and Denver’s Jabar Gaffney. His YAC total was better than four players with at least 1,000 yards receiving — Derrick Mason (273), Carolina’s Steve Smith (246), Ochocinco (239) and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson (228).

While not one of his best overall statistical seasons, Houshmandzadeh led the struggling 5-11 Seahawks in both receptions and receiving yards in 2009. While he won’t be counted on to lead the 2010 Ravens in those two categories, he can still be an important part of Baltimore’s passing game as someone opposing pass defenses shouldn’t forget about when checking on Anquan Boldin deep and Ray Rice coming out of the backfield.

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