Tag Archive | "atlanta falcons"

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Ravens Falcons Preview

Posted on 07 August 2012 by jeffreygilley

The Baltimore Ravens will open the preseason in Atlanta this thursday, Aug. 9, at 7:00 PM.  Many questions surround the Ravens this year with an emphasis on the loss of Terrell Suggs.  Here are some things to look out for this thursday in Atlanta.

1. Which back up running back will step up?  With Ray Rice getting a big time contract, the Ravens must find a solid backup.  As of now, the job seems to belong to Bernard Pierce.  He has looked good in camp but is injured, giving an opportunity for others to step up.  Bobby Rainey was impressive at M&T Bank Stadium this past Friday but must also compete with Damien Berry and Anthony Allen.  The Ravens traded up for Pierce so expect him to get the job.  Look out for Rainey this thursday though, I think he will have a big time game.

2. How will the Ravens deal with the Falcons receivers?  The Ravens secondary is the team’s biggest strength this season.  They will face a tough test this thursday when they go up against Roddy White and Julio Jones.  White and Jones make up the best receiving tandem in the league and will most likely have 1,000 yards each this season.  But, the Ravens secondary is not healthy and will most likely not be at full strength.  Lardarius Webb will play but the Ravens second and third cornerbacks, Jimmy Smith and Carry Williams, are dealing with injuries and may not play.  This will give a big opportunity to players such as Corey Graham, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson, and Jordan Mabin.  None of these players, with the exception of Brown have the size, strength, or physical tools to compete with the Falcons receivers.  Therefore, expect to see the secondary struggle a little bit.

3. Can Flacco build off his AFC Championship performance?  The best quarterback on the field in the AFC Championship was Joe Flacco, not Tom Brady.  Flacco played exceptionally well and showed many leadership traits that many critics of Flacco have been looking for.  The problem with Flacco last season was that he didn’t have many reliable weapons.  All of his receivers and tight ends with the exception of Anquan Boldin were young and inexperienced.  The Ravens basically played with two receivers, two tight ends, and that was it.  Now, Flacco has more weapons to work with, many of which have a unique blend of size and speed.  The Falcons cornerbacks are smaller and dont play much press coverage.  Expect to see a lot of back shoulder throws and fade routes when the Ravens reach the red zone.  Although the Falcons corners, Asante Samuel and Brent Grimes are small, they excel at reading and jumping routes.  Flacco must be at the top of his game when it comes to looking off the receivers.

4. Which outside linebacker will stand out?  Last preseason in Atlanta, Michael McAdoo and Chavis Williams had very good games.  McAdoo, unfortunately, tore his ACL so will not play in the later portions of the game.  With Suggs out for an undisclosed amount of time, players like Courtney UpShaw, Sergio Kindle, and Paul Kruger must show that they can put pressure on the quarterback.  UpShaw has been injured but will most likely play more of a run stopping role throughout the season.  That leaves Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle as the pass rushing threats at outside linebacker.  Both have a lot of talent and I expect them to have good games this thursday.  Albert McClellan is another name to keep an eye on.  He is a former defensive end from Marshall and played middle linebacker once last season.  McClellan is getting a lot of reps at outside linebacker in training camp and could be a starter on thursday night.

Overall, this is a good test for the Ravens.  Flacco and Ryan will be compared for years to come and both have good weapons to work with.  It doesn’t matter who wins this game because its just the preseason and the game is about making the final 53-man roster.  Special teams is another unit to keep an eye on.

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Lingering legends aside, Ray Rice might be the most popular and productive Raven today. One thing’s for sure…at $550K or so in the final season of his contract, Ray Rice is easily the Ravens best pound-for-pound bargain, and arguably the league’s best. One other thing that seems assured is that Rice is going to get paid. When, how much and where that happens however may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as it would seem.

This has been “the year of…” lots of things in the NFL, the year of the 5K quarterbacks, the year of the rookies, the year of the power forwards at tight end and the year of the disgruntled running back.

 

As running backs league wide from Chris Johnson to Frank Gore, from Matt Forte to Peyton Hillis have barked and in some cases dogged it (allegedly…and no pun intended) over their “contract to performance ratios”, Rice with arguably the strongest case of all has remained silent. Silent about the contract that is, on the field he has been anything but silent or dogged.

 

It’s been a running topic of conversation all season on the MobTown Sports Beat and everyone seems assured that Rice will be taken care of by the Ravens and some have speculated that there’s no reason Rice shouldn’t feel confident that the team will take care of him.

 

It’s all but 100% (in my mind at least) that Rice will be back next season, but under what circumstances and for how long are still debatable.

 

If you subscribe to the school of WWBBD (What would Bill Bellichick do?) the answer is to franchise Rice. Given Adrian Peterson’s new contract, the franchise tag will be a big number, but only for one season. Whether Rice would maintain his decorum for another season under similar (albeit more lucrative) circumstances to this one would remain to be seen as well.

 

In addition to Peterson’s contract, his injury will also likely factor heavily into the Ravens impending decision of whether to franchise Rice or to pay him long term money. Peterson’s injury is a not so subtle reminder of just how quickly a running back in particular can see his season (or even his career) ended. Having all of your eggs in that proverbial basket is a high-risk high reward proposition (as we learned in 2001 with Jamal Lewis’ injury).

 

The value of NFL running backs is on the decline, but the pay scale on the top end of the position is still rising. There are lots of Pro Bowl caliber and highly compensated running backs in the NFL watching the playoffs from home this season, and most of the league’s most productive offenses have plug and play backfields and use the running game as an afterthought for little more than window dressing it would seem at times.

 

Only one running back went in the first round of the last NFL draft and while still promising, Mark Ingram has done little to make teams sorry for passing on him. DeMarco Murray, taken on the second day of the draft was the league’s best rookie at the position.

 

One year prior, Ryan Matthews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best all went in the first round and all were summarily outperformed by undrafted rookies LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. An undrafted practice squad player from one season earlier led the league in rushing last season and the Packers marched through the Super Bowl after losing their bell-cow in Ryan Grant and replacing him with little known and lightly regarded James Starks.

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a look at my positional power rankings for the players and teams that are left in the playoffs. This year’s stats accounted for a lot but at the end of the day it’s my opinion on who I’d suit up today for the best chance at winning.

Quarterbacks

 

1 – Aaron Rodgers (GB)

2 – Drew Brees (NO)

3 – Tom Brady (NE)

4 – Eli Manning (NYG)

5 – Matthew Stafford (DET)

6 – Matt Ryan (ATL)

 

* I gave 6 here since the first 3 were fairly obvious (if not their respective places in that top 3)

 

 

Running Backs

 

1 – Ray Rice (BAL)

2 – Arian Foster (HOU)

3 – Michael Turner (ATL)

4 – Frank Gore (SF)

5 – Darren Sproles (NO)

 

 

Wide Receivers

 

1 – Calvin Johnson (DET)

2 – Andre Johnson (HOU)

3 – AJ Green (CIN)

4 – Victor Cruz (NYG)

5 – Wes Welker (NE)

6 – Roddy White (ATL)

7 – Greg Jennings (GB)

8 – Jordy Nelson (GB)

9 – Mike Wallace (PIT)

10 – Hakeem Nicks (NYG)

 

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Washington Redskins v Baltimore Ravens

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Don’t Believe the AFC North Hype…Yet

Posted on 03 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

 

Of all of the changes that the NFL has brought forth in the last couple of seasons, one that went without a great deal of notice has certainly had a profound impact so far. The line that teams have walked all too often in recent seasons after wrapping up playoff fortunes with games still remaining on their schedule has been too much of a story lately, but this year not so much. Whether a direct result of the decision to put divisional match-ups in the season’s final weeks or not it made for one of the most exciting final weeks of any NFL season in recent memory. Add “Goodell’s Grand Finale” to the once celebrated “Pete’s Parity” and you have the excitement that was week 17 of this NFL season.

The Ravens run through their own division unblemished is cause for celebration, and with 3 teams qualified for this year’s playoffs the AFC North is being hailed as the league’s best division. The Bengals are young and dangerous, and now stocked with picks courtesy of the Carson Palmer trade, the Browns are tough and physical and also stocked with picks courtesy of the Julio Jones trade and perhaps in better position than any team to trade into the first overall pick if the Colts should choose to shop it. And the Ravens and Steelers are simply the Ravens and Steelers. But before we proclaim the AFC North the class of the NFL, we should at least acknowledge that parity is more relative from division to division than league wide, and that the AFC North may simply be the most accomplished division in football because they had the easiest trek though the 2011 season.

 

You never can quite tell how teams will be from season to season in the NFL, but sometimes you can. While every year brings a fresh example of a team with no expectations suddenly becoming a force on the back of a few “minor” tweaks to the coaching staff, roster or approach, we should also acknowledge that those examples aren’t as plentiful as the attention that they get would suggest, and that more often than not we have a pretty good idea going into the season who’ll be good and who’ll struggle.

 

If you were picking a schedule for the Ravens or any AFC North team to have success in 2011, and charged with using the NFL formula of matching up against 1 whole division in the AFC and 1 in the NFC you probably would have picked the AFC South and the NFC West. Surely you would have picked the NFC West as maybe one or two teams in that less than mediocre division could have been expected to be competitive (as the 49ers became this year’s surprise team) but expecting the entire division to have a resurgence would have been unfathomable, as the division has been floundering for years now without improvement.

 

The AFC South would have looked almost equally ripe for the picking even before Peyton Manning was announced to be out for the season, and despite the Texans best attempts at representing the division respectably, injuries ultimately took their toll on them too.

 

Add the bottom dwelling Cleveland Brown to the mix and the formula was just right for the successes of the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. The Browns are scrappy and can’t be totally dismissed, but they did play their divisional schedule to the tune of 0-6 this season, serving up 2 wins each of cushion for the division’s other 3 teams.

 

In 2010 the NFC South had 3 double digit win teams. The Falcons won 13 games, the Saints won 11 and both made the playoffs and the Buccaneers picked up 10 wins and narrowly missed the playoffs while looking promising. They did so while matching up against the terrible NFC West, and an AFC North with 2 bottom dwellers in Cincinnati and Cleveland that offered up “easy” chances at racking up wins. The NFC South also had the floundering Panthers in 2010 who served up 6 wins to the rest of the division in struggling through a miserable campaign themselves.

 

This year the NFC South still looks relatively strong although slightly less promising beyond the top two as they were charged with matching up with an NFC North that was better than last year’s NFC West draw but also took advantage of this year’s weaker AFC South.

 

In 2008 the AFC East and NFC East both looked equally promising as both took advantage of similar scheduling “opportunities”.

 

Next year the AFC North will be afforded the opportunity to feast of the AFC West if they’re able to take advantage, and if the NFC is in the disarray that it appears to be in all of a sudden there too may lie an opportunity. While I won’t yet acknowledge the AFC North as football’s best division, the likelihood of them getting 3 teams into the playoffs again next season (especially if the Browns serve up another 6 wins) might look pretty good again. What they do once they’re there will determine which division is best.

 

 

 

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 7: 2-3 (-130 pts)    season: 13-12 (-20 pts) 

 

Saints -14 @ Rams 

 

Lions -3 @ Broncos

 

Steelers +3 vs. Patriots

 

Browns +9 @ 49ers

 

Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 7: 2-2-1 (-10 pts)    season: 10-12-1 (-160 pts)

 

Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings

 

Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants

 

Bills -6 vs. Redskins

 

Bengals -3 @ Seahawks

 

Cowboys +3.5  @ Eagles

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 7: 1-2(-24 pts)    season 9-10-2 (-40 pts)

 

Titans -9 vs. Colts

 

Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans

 

Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals

  

Last week Total: 5-7-1  (-164 pts)     Season Total: 32-34-3 (-220 pts)

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The Ledge: Lions, Sparano, BCS Contenders & NBA Fans

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The Ledge: Lions, Sparano, BCS Contenders & NBA Fans

Posted on 24 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

When great expectations collide with poor performances fans tend to find themselves at the ledge. It’s that fan purgatory where blood pressure always seems to be rising and the sky always seems to be falling. Let’s take a look outside to see who’s on the ledge this week:

 

 

 

The Detroit Lions – Losers now of two straight, the Lions could surely use some good publicity to take some of the spotlight away from coach Jim Schwartz’ loss of decorum during his post game exchange with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh immediately following the Lions first loss of the season. Getting into a pre-game dust up with the Falcons probably isn’t going to do it, nor is Ndamukong Suh going to do much for his quickly devolving reputation for antics by standing over Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan while heaping on celebratory trash talk and reveling in Ryan’s apparent injury.

 

Beating the reeling Falcons away from the safety of the Georgia Dome would have been a nice feather in the Lions’ cap, but yesterday’s loss to those Falcons 23-16 may instead serve as a real stumbling block to the Lions potential playoff fortunes. Having seen the Packers run their record to 7-0 with a win on Sunday, the Lions can now look to the NFC wildcard as their most likely passage into the playoffs. As the also-rans of the AFC South look to be fighting for the very same, the Lions may have lost an important tiebreaker on Sunday.

 

Either way their running game is in apparent shambles, the failed Ronnie Brown trade looks to hurt a lot and the oft injured Matthew Stafford may have gone down to injury on the last play of Sunday’s game to boot.

 

Prognosis: Hang tight Lions fans. Next up: @ Denver, Bye, @ Chicago & vs. Carolina before a Thanksgiving Day showdown with Green Bay. There’s plenty of time to right the ship.

 

 

Tony Sparano – Sunday’s game at Miami against the Broncos might have felt like the whole world (or at least the whole stadium) vs. Tony Sparano. And for a while it looked as though Sparano might have won.

 

The coach surely began the season on the hot seat, and if Jim Harbaugh had been compelled to take his talents to South Beach there may have been no seat at all for Sparano. There clearly has been no quarterback for Sparano and the Dolphins since making due with Chad Pennington to moderate success in 2008.

 

Sunday though was strange. Tim Tebow, making his debut for the Broncos this season, enjoyed a great deal of crowd favor from those who showed up to celebrate Tebow’s 2008 Florida Gators National Championship team, and most Dolphins fans it seems have succumbed to the “suck for Luck” philosophy that wins at this point will only inhibit their chances at the top pick in next year’s draft.

 

As Tebow was crossing the goal with the game tying 2-point conversion, fans of both teams (plentiful in Miami on Sunday) seemed united in their hopes that Sparano and his Dolphins would find a way to lose…and they did. Everyone but Sparano left happy (or at least appeased).

 

Prognosis: Prepare to be pushed Tony Sparano. Your boy Bill Parcells bailed on you already, and the only purpose you’re serving at present is to be the means to a 0-16 season that will deliver Andrew Luck and likely the next head coach as well. No need for the Dolphins to rush that move though, they can save money now and keep the new guy from being associated with this ongoing mess.

 

 

NBA Fans – The NBA lockout got shock value attention courtesy of Bryant Gumbel last week, they got impartial mediation courtesy of the federal government and they got the best wishes of seemingly every fan still clinging to hopes of an NBA season at all this year. The end result, talks broke off at an apparent impasse with not only no apparent resolution in sight, but it seems there aren’t even any official plans to continue the talks as yet. The players are into the “making plans” phase of taking their talents to wherever paychecks are imminent and many owners seem contented to let the whole season go un-played, and David Stern will probably cancel Christmas this week.

 

Prognosis: Hang tight; college basketball is just around the corner. Accept the fact that there probably won’t be an NBA season and get over it. That way if there is one you’ll be imminently happy but you won’t waste any time, energy or emotion sweating it out in the meanwhile.

 

 

Clemson, Stanford & Boise State – It’s that time of year again too. The national championship picture is down to 7 teams after undefeated Oklahoma and Wisconsin fell last weekend. For those 7 teams, their chance at a national title just became a lot more real, and suddenly a lot more important too.

 

In fairness, it’s probably only 5 of the 7 legitimate title contenders that are seeing the championship picture with more clarity this week, as it’s been all but ordained that the winner of the SEC’s loaded western division would roll though the conference title game and into the BCS National Championship game as a result. For weeks we’ve been touting the LSU and Alabama winner as one half of the title picture at least, that part hasn’t changed.

 

What has changed is the likelihood that the Big-12 winner would get the other side of that bracket as that may be suddenly not be so likely. The Big-12 still has 2 undefeated teams in Oklahoma State (3rd in the BCS) and Kansas State (8th in the BCS) but both still have to play each other and a still strong Oklahoma team now relegated to the role of spoiler. Oklahoma State also still has Baylor with Heisman candidate Robert Griffin III and the Texas Tech team that just beat Oklahoma on their schedule and Kansas State has Texas and Texas A&M still remaining too.

 

Mathematically there could still be 5 undefeated powers left at season’s end (but likely won’t be). Where the ones who don’t reside in the SEC shake out should be quite interesting and is still very much up in the air right now.

 

Prognosis: If you’re a fan of any one of the three listed in the title, you might as well jump as no matter which team you side with, the odds are stacked against you. Beware though that if you do, you’ll surely miss out on an exciting and controversial finish to the college football season.

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 4: 4-1 (290 pts)    season: 11-9 (110 pts) 

 

Chargers -2 @ Jets 

 

Texans +3 @ Titans

 

Steelers -3.5 @ Cardinals

 

Packers -9 @. Vikings

 

Ravens -7.5 @ Jaguars

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 4: 3-2 (40 pts)    season: 8-10 (-150 pts)

 

Redskins +2.5 @ Panthers

 

Browns -3 vs. Seahawks

 

Broncos +1.5 @ Dolphins

 

Raiders -4.5 vs. Chiefs

 

Saints -14 vs. Colts

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 4: 1-1-1 (-2 pts)    season 8-8-2 (-16 pts)

 

Buccaneers +1 vs. Bears (in London)

 

Lions -3.5 vs. Falcons

 

Cowboys -12.5 vs. Rams

  

Last week Total: 8-4-1 (328 pts)     Season Total: 27-27-2 (-56 pts)

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Ravens LBs Johnson, Gooden see final preseason game as test for Steelers

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Ravens LBs Johnson, Gooden see final preseason game as test for Steelers

Posted on 01 September 2011 by Ryan Chell

Tonight’s final preseason test for the Baltimore Ravens against the Atlanta Falcons may be more of a challenge for those on the outside looking in when it comes to the 53-man roster, but several members of the Ravens linebacking corps are looking at tonight for different motivations.

In most instances, starters-both on offense and defense-play little to not at all in the fourth and final preseason game-so guys like Jarret Johnson-who joined Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check”-are circling September 11th versus Pittsburgh on their calender.

Jarret Johnson

“We haven’t played in the last preseason game the last three years, so I assume it will be the same this week,” Johnson said. “We’ll get a good four days leading up to the game, and start gearing up for the Steelers.”

But at the same time, Johnson said he knows how much a game like this means to the younger players  and for the entire team when it comes to confidence and their competitive edge.

“Any time you know you’re on the field when you’re a professional, you’re a competitive guy,” Johnson said.  “The atmosphere doesn’t matter…and when you get on the field, you’re going to want to compete and you’re going to want to win. Even when you lose preseason games-even if you play well-and it may still be a preseason game, it still hurts. You still don’t want to lose.”

Fellow linebacker Tavares Gooden-who may be playing for a roster spot after struggling early in preseason (he played in significant time in the 34-31 victory against the Redskins and didn’t record a tackle)-joined Thyrl Nelson as well to talk about his reasoning for tonight’s contest.

In a sense, his fellow teammates may be his friends and comrades in action, but he still needs to perform well in his own right if he wants to remain a Baltimore Raven.

“You can only be told what you’ve been told,” Gooden said.  “If there’s guys that you’re competing against that arent’ taking their job seriously, that’s always a plus for you as a player who has been taking it seriously. The strength level, the dominance level, it’s going to be on different services and I think I took advantage of my training this off-season and get ready for this season so that I could have a dominant season.”

But he knows that pressure to keep a roster spot and have every member of the team playing at the highest level possible is the best thing for a team wanting to reach the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl.

“We all love to compete,” Gooden told Nelson, “so we’re going to try our hardest to lead this team and to help out in any role we have to try and get the ultimate goal, and that’s to bring another championship back to Baltimore.”

Johnson said that after Saturday when the roster is trimmed down to 53 guys, he and the other Raven veterans will know what their team will look like both on the football field and in the locker room morale-wise.

“As far as starters with me and Ray, and then with some of the younger guys coming on, there was no new additions. We do have some young competition right now. We have a real stacked group, and our room is full of great players. There is a lot of competition right now, but as far as being used to each other and stuff like that, it’s business as usual.”

To sum it all up, tonight is a good use of time for the starters to rest themselves for the long run that is the regular season with the ultimate goal of getting first and second Super Bowls for a Ravens team not getting any younger.

“There’s always pressure on you to win, and to produce-especially with the talent that we have,” Johnson said. ” The expectations are always high. With everyone having some years under them now, and you know teams can’t stay together forever, you do want to get a Super Bowl together.”

“You want Ray to get that second championship and all those great defensive players that came through here, we all want to get our first. We want to do it as a group.”

Be sure to jump into the Purple Haze chat tonight at WNST.net as we talk Raven football! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Former NFL All-Pro CB Ashley Ambrose on coaching Jimmy Smith: “I wish I had the ability of this kid”

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Former NFL All-Pro CB Ashley Ambrose on coaching Jimmy Smith: “I wish I had the ability of this kid”

Posted on 01 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ashley Ambrose

Ashley Ambrose was a 13-year veteran corner back playing for four different NFL franchises including the likes of the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Atlanta Falcons.

The 1996 All-Pro recorded 42 interceptions in his dozen-year NFL career, and during his playing days was often tasked with covering the opposing team’s best receiver.

And since retiring in 2005, the 40-year old former CB has found his mark in the coaching ranks, and as of recently found his way to the University of Colorado coaching their defensive backs.

It was that move-and his eventual association with Ravens first round pick CB Jimmy Smith-that forced the former NFL veteran to do a different kind of defending.

Jimmy Smith

Doing his best to cover the character concerns of his pupil in Smith-who’s off-the-field incidents while in Boulder include marijuana use, arrests for possession and underage drinking, assault, and impregnating several women-eventually became a common practice for Ambrose the past two off-seasons as NFL teams probed him for inside information about Jimmy Smith the man as well as the corner.

Ambrose-who recently took over the defensive backs’ coach at the University of California-joined Rex Snider of “The Afternoon Drive” Friday afternoon after the Ravens selected Jimmy Smith with the 27th pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft, and he had nothing but good things to say about his former player and the situation he was ending up in Baltimore.

“I know there was a need for you guys,” Ambrose told Snider, “and I knew if Jimmy was going to fall down there that the Ravens were a possibility. I’ll tell you what…I’m happy for him. It’s a great place for him to be.”

Ambrose was probably Smith’s biggest fan Thursday night, and it began to worry him when the Ravens allowed the Chiefs to move ahead of them to make a selection because he was afraid that Smith’s rap sheet of character issues would force him to drop out of the first round and hurt his confidence.

“I read about it,” Ambrose said. “I didn’t know what was going on at first. I was nervous at first cause Jimmy’s a great kid. A lot of people go off what happened his freshman year and stuff like that.”

But he was glad to ultimately see the Ravens take the leap of faith on Smith and he assured the Baltimore coaching staff through Snider that they know they won’t regret the decision because of the man Smith has become recently.

“I said to myself that if they get a chance to see who Jimmy is as a person, they really would know what kind of kid he is being so mature now.”

Ambrose joined the Colorado program in 2008, with Smith having been a Buffalo since redshirting in 2006.

From the moment the two met, the two were inseparable and Ambrose brought with him a mentor-like approach when it came to guiding Smith down the right path and helping him become not only a better corner, but a better man.

“I really am confident in that. I was more of a mentor and a big brother to Jimmy as well as his coach,” Ambrose said. “While he was there, he did everything he was supposed to do. He was always on time. Jimmy was just really young when a whole lot of stuff happened.”

Ambrose didn’t want to make excuses, but he said a lot of young kids get themselves in similar trouble that Smith did and don’t get caught or the attention thrown their way.

“You get any kid going to high school to college, get them in a different environment, and things happen,” Ambrose replied. “Jimmy just happened to be one of those kids that messed around and got caught a few times, whatever it was. Some people go through it and never get caught, but it just so happens that he was a freshman, he got caught with it, and it was always over his head. But he’s not that kind of a guy.”

How fitting that Smith’s last known deviant act caught on the record was in 2007-the year before Ambrose joined the Colorado staff.

“I’m so proud of him. He grew up, and you’re talking about a kid who graduated from college,” Ambrose said. “Most kids like that..they’re not graduating from school. This kid was so focused about his academics that he got a degree, and I’m proud of him….and I don’t see him getting in any trouble.”

The only trouble Ambrose sees? The opposing receivers in the AFC North who have to go up against Smith.

“I wish I had the ability of this kid, and the sky’s the limit for him.”

“This kid is going to be awesome. I’ve been around the NFL for quite some time, and just being around the guy, there is no one with his size. Usually guys like that don’t have any hips, but Jimmy has very good hips. He can run, and he can be physical. It is rare to see that.”

Ambrose compared him to a similar corner in today’s game in Jets CB Antonio Cromartie-but hopefully without the off-the-field concerns as the New York defender.

And Smith’s other beneficial trait? He is eager to get better and takes learning seriously.

“I was amazed to see the things he can do just trying to teach him techniques. He is very coachable, he is willing to learn, and that’s the thing that makes him such an elite athlete because he’s ready to learn and he’s willing to do what you ask of him.”

Ambrose knows he’ll fit right in with player-coaches like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed-who hails from the same hometown as Ambrose-and he knows that those two in particular will guide Smith down the right path toward being an excellent football player and human being.

He knows so because he was forced to do the same thing several years ago.

“That’s what players do,” Ambrose said. “Ed Reed is from my hometown, and I know a lot of his family. Ed Reed is a great character person. Ed Reed is going to be the person to be there to help Jimmy out with anything. He’ll put him under his wing, and guide him in the right direction.”

“Now it is up to Jimmy to do the right things, but I think it’s perfect for Jimmy because he gets to be with a Hall-of-Fame type guy that’s doing it and leading by example on and off the football field. I think it’s a great thing, and he’s going into a great situation.”

But for now, Ambrose said Smith should take advantage of a fresh start as a Raven and be solely focused on adjusting to the speed of the NFL because for the former Mississippi Valley State star in Ambrose, that was the toughest thing to get adapted to coming out of college.

“It’s always a challenge,” he said. “Having now coached at the collegiate level, I kind of talk to these kids about it…telling them about the transition and those sorts of things.”

“You’re going to be in meetings all the time, and everyone’s going to be great players. You can’t take a week off and things like that. The thing for me when I first came out I thought I was so good at my level of college football that I could just bring it right to the NFL, and that opened up for me real fast.”

But he knows Jimmy’s ready for that change, and when he does, he should ultimately be able to kill two birds with one stone as he knows succeeding on the football field will push some of his past character-concerns under the rug.

“It’s a great fan-base, and what’s going to happen is he’s going to win a lot of fans over cause he’s going to play some good football.”

WNST thanks Ashley Ambrose for joining “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider and welcomes Jimmy Smith to Baltimore! Check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the chat with Ambrose as well as tune into WNST Monday as we talk with Torrey Smith for the first time since being drafted by the Ravens! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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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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