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Will Ravens continue to be haunted by the four deadly sins of defense in 2012?

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Will Ravens continue to be haunted by the four deadly sins of defense in 2012?

Posted on 04 November 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Let’s get this out of the way right away – the Baltimore Ravens are 6-2 and any complaining about Sunday’s 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns won’t change their slim lead in the AFC North or color the obvious breakdowns and weaknesses that are apparent to anyone who has watched their choppy work.

But as a Ray Rice told me at the podium on the shores of Lake Erie after another win: “There are no bad wins in the NFL.”

We can deal with the offensive inconsistencies later but my concerns center around a defense that will continue to take the field with a squad of patchwork underachievers and glaring fundamental issues.

The four deadly sins of defense continue to haunt the Ravens, if only for the first 80 yards of the field in Cleveland on Sunday. Rushing the passer. Stopping the run. Covering in the secondary. And tackling in general.

Let us count and assess the issues one by one…

The Ravens have no pass rush. Despite having the return of a seemingly spry Terrell Suggs in Houston two weeks ago, he was no factor in Cleveland. Joe Thomas ate him up and most teams will simply get some help on No. 55 if he becomes a pest and the Ravens lack a backup quarterback chaser with any push. Paul Kruger hasn’t been effective. Pernell McPhee, who flashed some visions of a pass rush specialist last season, has been mostly invisible this year and was an injury scratch on Sunday. Haloti Ngata continues to struggle physically and the leaks continue all around him on the defense.

Of course, no pass rush leads to trouble in the secondary with any quarterback and wide receiver tandem that has is given ample time to make a play. This will be an especially daunting issue when the Ravens see the Steelers in two weeks as Ben Roethlisberger has made a Hall of Fame career by making positive plays happen after the play breaks down.

With the injuries to Lardarius Webb, the Ravens secondary has been stressed tremendously because Cary Williams is now carrying the weight of marking every team’s No. 1 receiver. Aside from the obvious with Sergio Kindle being unable to play after his brutal fall and head injury, Jimmy Smith has been the Ravens’ most disappointing first-round draft pick since Travis Taylor. He’s the most penalized defensive player on the team and is consistently getting beat by top-notch receivers on a weekly basis. To my eyes, they’re simply targeting him and the likes of Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and the Manning brothers will literally be frothing at the mouth awaiting a chance to throw the ball into this secondary.

After more than a decade of dominance against the run – and a source of massive pride of a local fan base that would routinely chant “you can’t run” from my seats up in Sect. 513 – the Ravens’ run defense has been porous as it’s been four straight weeks of allowing running backs to gash the front seven and get deeper down the field where the secondary becomes a de facto part of the tackling corps.

And all over the field tackling has been a consistent source of frustration. You can blame not-so-new-anymore defensive coordinator Dean Pees. You can talk about the loss of personnel like Ray Lewis via injury or Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, etc. to free agency, but there have been leaks all over the field when it comes to second chances and fellows in purple flailing and missing.

Eight games into the season, the Ravens are 6-2 and there’s ample reason to be energized by their gaudy record and seat atop the AFC North.

The offense has certainly been capable as witnessed by their early-season success and it even managed 25 points yesterday on the road in Cleveland by managing to play about 20 minutes of decent football and still spending more than an hour without a first down. But there have been many times recently when Joe Flacco and the offensive crew have been stumbling their

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Suggs says Pittsburgh is his Madison Square Garden

Posted on 02 November 2011 by WNST Staff

It’s Pittsburgh week in Owings Mills and Terrell Suggs always has some thoughts on his mind about Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward. Here’s his thoughts when pressed by Nestor Aparicio:

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

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Confessions of a lifetime of hatred for Pittsburgh from a real Baltimore sports fan

Posted on 12 January 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s a big, emotional week of football in Baltimore and the reason it’s so significant is because of our civic desire to have another purple parade at the Inner Harbor and the sheer nausea we all feel in the pits of our bellies about the fact that at 8 p.m. on Saturday night this could be the worse loss of our lives all over again.

Just like all of our January losses to the likes of Indianapolis and Pittsburgh and Cleveland and New York.

Or, it can potentially extinguish the 40 years of domination from the city of Pittsburgh, but specifically the Steelers and their arrogant, obnoxious fan base here in the region.

This is an epic throwdown between two cities that don’t like each other but a rivalry that is so embarrassingly lopsided that it makes the Roadrunner look like a winner.

I’m up to my eyeballs in rattlesnakes throwing parties, organizing bus trips and running WNST.net – 12 hours of radio, the daily newspaper, text service plus all of our social media endeavors on Facebook and Twitter that truly is Baltimore’s best and most comprehensive sports coverage in the world. And for those of you who know me, you know what a massive time commitment it is being a washed up sports talk show host and new media entrepreneur of the station that no one listens to but the website and social media that everyone in Baltimore seems to visit and read.

This whole “Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore” thing takes on such a personal, vitriolic part of my inner soul that it’s almost best that I not focus on it too much and keep my head down and wait for the game at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday to release that part of my energy.

But some jackasses from the “out of town media club” (which encompasses the greater part of the whole local scene outside of WNST.net) have written, said and defended their typically insensitive and uneducated remarks just to remind us how out of touch and clueless they really are about what this community is about and WHY the Ravens are important in the first place.

Nothing in the local sports community divides like Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh. The Colts thing, while far from dormant, is now a distant second place. And the “I Hate Washington Club” is shrinking because the Redskins and Nationals are weak and irrelevant and the Capitals are the fastest growing brand in Baltimore and I have statistics to prove it.

And the out-of-town media geniuses all talk about expertise, ethics and journalism while all taking a chunk of your Orioles/MASN money to hush up criticism of an oozing, open sports cancer in Baltimore while waving purple pompoms in January like they really care about the Ravens and like they invented Festivus.

To anyone with half a brain from Baltimore, it’s insulting.

I attended a Smart CEO event last Thursday night where I was summarily subjected to a pair of morning show faux sports imposters from Boston and New York standing in front of a room full of mostly Baltimore upper-crust businessmen and patronizing them

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With Big Ben & Polamalu out, no excuses for Ravens tonight

Posted on 29 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As we all now know, the Steelers will play tonight’s game here in Baltimore without their two best players, with the late subtraction of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joining safety Troy Polamalu in the black and gold infirmary.

It is not lost on any Ravens fan that tonight it’s clearly: advantage Baltimore.

Big Ben, as ‘yins from ‘donton affectionately call him, has been poison for anything in purple since he entered the league. He is the Ravens kryptonite. Polamalu’s interception of Joe Flacco in Pittsburgh last January must be considered the most heartbreaking play in the history of the franchise.

I don’t think I need to remind you that the Ravens are on a three-game losing streak to our friendly neighbors from the northwest.

Or that this is their first appearance on Baltimore turf since hoisting a second Lombardi Trophy to the Tampa skies last Febuary.

Or that, at 5-5, a loss to the Steelers tonight will effectively end the Ravens season.

I hate the Steelers. You hate the Steelers.

Let’s hope that attitude — and a few first downs and quarterback pressures along with some goofy white towels we’ll all be waving — are enough to keep the Ravens season alive tonight.

I get the feeling we’ll be feeling the loss of Fabian Washington more than we realize — just like when Chris McAlister went away two years ago — but there are no excuses for a Ravens loss tonight.

We can’t cry about Terrell Suggs not suiting up (of course, John Harbaugh has played the cat and mouse injury report game all week with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.)

Flacco needs to be crisp and sharp. Billy Cundiff can’t miss field goals. Matt Katula needs to snap straight. The offensive line can’t create pre-snap penalties. The defensive front seven must make Dennis Dixon run for his life like the rookie quarterback he is tonight.

The game is on national television. It can’t be a coming out party for some guy from Oregon we’ve never heard of.

The only thing worse than losing to the Steelers at home to effectively end our season with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving would be the thought that it happened at the hands of some guy named Dennis Dixon putting on a black and gold cape.

A disturbing thought.

Let’s hope we don’t go there…

The Ravens must win tonight.

My updated prediction: Ravens 34, Steelers 9

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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Live From Westminster: Cousins carted off field in AM practice

Posted on 07 August 2009 by Luke Jones

6:39 p.m. –The Ravens will hold two practices tomorrow, a morning session at 8:45 a.m. and an afternoon workout at 2:45 p.m.  Both practices are expected to be full-squad.

Just a quick note to anyone planning to head out to Westminster on Monday to watch the Ravens in action.  The morning practice will be closed to the public.  The afternoon practice scheduled for 2:45 p.m. will be open for fans to attend.

3:24 p.m. — Despite the defense thoroughly dominating this morning, there were a few highlights for the offense.  Flacco threw a long touchdown pass to Mason during a 7-on-7 drill, beating Frank Walker in coverage.

Justin Harper also made another spectacular one-handed catch.  Harper must still prove he can hold onto the ball when getting hit, but he certainly has shown an ability to stretch the field.  He continues to share time at the No. 3 receiver spot with Kelley Washington with Mark Clayton sidelined with a hamstring injury.

3:17 p.m. — The special teams practice lasted about an hour, as the team focused on kick return and punt team alignments.

Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Ray Rice, and Jayson Foster worked on returning kicks.  Punt returners included Carr, Yamon Figurs, Rice, and Foster.

Tavares Gooden was present but did not participate in the special teams workout.

1:20 p.m. — Here’s a fun story from today’s practice:  Derrick Mason had joked during his return press conference on Sunday that the team did not have a marching band or the girl scouts come out to celebrate his return.  A local girl scouts troop from Westminster came out to practice this morning, and Mason greeted them and even conducted an interview with the girls after practice.

The audio is up in the WNST vault if you’d like to take a listen.  Mason also talked about his health and the other wide receivers in camp.

1:19 p.m. — We did see our first “fight” of the camp this morning.  Frank Walker and Evan Oglesby mixed it up a little bit, but it wasn’t exactly Ali-Frazier.  With the first preseason game still six days away, these players are definitely getting tired of hitting each other and are ready to hit an opponent.

12:51 p.m. — I just saw Oniel Cousins walking around the hotel.  He was walking with a limp, but there was no apparent wrap or support or anything of that nature on his left leg—definitely a good sign.

12:49 p.m. — The kicking battle was fairly even again, as it has been for the better part of camp.  Graham Gano made two kicks beyond 40 yards but missed from 53.  Steve Hauschka missed from 42 but hit from 45 and 53 yards.

I continue to be impressed by both kickers.

12:46 p.m. — Domonique Foxworth is really starting to settle in with his new team.  On a deep pass attempt to Demetrius Williams, Foxworth was step-for-step with him as the pass fell incomplete.  Ray Lewis was heard praising the new cornerback, the calling card of knowing you belong in the Baltimore defense.

12:28 p.m. — One of the more intriguing stories of the morning was the player lining up next to Ray Lewis in Gooden’s absence.  While most would have expected Jameel McClain, rookie free agent Dannell Ellerbe was running with the first team.  I mentioned Ellerbe earlier this week, but he is clearly making an impression with the coaching staff.

McClain was lining up at inside linebacker with the second unit, so it appears Ellerbe has passed McClain on the depth chart—for now.  It will be interesting to see what happens if Gooden is out for any extended period of time.

12:22 p.m. — Prior to sitting out with an ice pack on his left knee, McGahee displayed some nice moves in the open field after catching a screen pass from Flacco in 11-on-11 thud.  McGahee has had a solid camp, so hopefully the ice pack is just a precautionary measure.

Speaking of running backs, Le’Ron McClain displayed some nice cuts during live action this morning.  Despite the fact that McClain will be used as a fullback this season, I still expect him to receiver his fair share of carries along with Ray Rice and McGahee.

12:09 p.m. — With Gaither not participating in any live drills, Michael Oher once again lined up at left tackle with Marshal Yanda shifting to right tackle on the starting offensive line.  David Hale took Ben Grubbs’ place at left guard.

The Ravens are incredibly thin on the offensive line right now with Grubbs and Gaither out and the left leg injury to Cousins this morning.  They’re fortunate to have Chester, who can play both guard positions and center, and Yanda to play both guard and tackle.  If not for the versatility of these two, a bad situation would be even worse.

Considering the Ravens were in need of another tackle before Cousins’ injury, you would have to think the Ravens will bring in another tackle to camp.

10:39 a.m. — Morning highlights were ALL defense. Todd Heap dropped one into the hands of Ed Reed who returned it for a TD. Ray Lewis rocked Jalen Parmele at the line of scrimmage that got a big “ohhhh” out of the crowd. And — either good or bad news depending on your view — the defense sacked Joe Flacco three times when going live for a series. It’s been quite the defensive show, but the Cousins injury was bad news this morning. We’ll see how he progresses.

10:34 a.m. — Oniel Cousins just went down on the field. He walked over to the cart and is now being carted off the field. There will certainly be more to come…We just sent a WNST Text on this. Join our text service here…

10:10 a.m. — Frank Walker has been subbing in for Fabian Washington this morning.

10:06 a.m. — Willis McGahee has now joined Jared Gaither in the “ice club.” McGahee is icing his left knee.

10:01 a.m. — Jared Gaither is on the field with an ice pack on his neck and shoulder. We’ll know more when the practice is over. John Harbaugh is NOT speaking to the media today. He will be leaving immediately following the morning practice for Philadelphia to attend the memorial service for his good friend and former Eagles defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson.  More with Bob Haynie in a little bit…

9:17 a.m. — Jared Gaither appears to be limited on the field this morning, not participating in the 11-on-11 right now. But he is on the field and looks to be mostly fine.

8:46 a.m. — Jared Gaither is back on the field practicing this morning. Demetrius Williams is also on the field this morning, a beautifully cool summer day.

There are three noticeable Ravens missing today: Terrell Suggs, Ben Grubbs and Tavares Gooden.

I’ll be tweeting today (Twitter seems to be down or slow again today) as well as checking in at 9:30, 10:30 and all day at WNST AM 1570 with Drew and Bob.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens put 11 on “active” PUP to start camp

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Luke Jones

7:23 p.m. — The Ravens have waived former Terps receiver Isaiah Williams.

6:44 p.m. — Defensive back Derrick Martin made the defensive play of the afternoon, picking off a pass from John Beck during 7-on-7 drills.

Only two offensive linemen practiced today, Robby Felix and Bryan Mattison (the defensive coordinator’s son).  Offensive line coach John Matsko really worked the two linemen hard.

Newly-signed Jayson Foster jumped right in, snagging a pass after signing with the team today.  Foster’s signing was such a secret that many of the assistant coaches had to ask his name on the field.  He wore No. 18 today—with no name on the back.

Though Marshal Yanda is sporting a bulky brace on his knee, he was moving around fairly well on the sideline today.  He wasn’t as active as Ben Grubbs or Adam Terry in his running, but it was good seeing him moving around after the horrific knee injury he suffered in Indianapolis last season.

6:23 p.m. — The afternoon practice was pretty uneventful and similar to the morning workout.  It lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, though rookies stuck around for a little longer to work with special teams coach Jerry Rosburg.

The most exciting moments came from 7-on-7 drills when Joe Flacco connected on a 15-yard fade route to Demetrius Williams over defensive back Frank Walker.  With Williams now the projected No. 2 receiver, it was nice to see him making a play after spending a large portion of last season on injured reserve.

More to come in just a few moments.  Time to make my last Ravens Report of the day.

3:31 p.m. — The Ravens have just signed diminutive WR (hey, he’s 5-foot-7) Jayson Foster. Foster went to Georgia Southern and here’s his mini bio. He spent time in Denver and Pittsburgh and we’re still researching him. Even the PR folks in Westminster don’t know much about him. More to come…

2:52 p.m. — If you’re following WNST on Twitter, you just saw that free agent wide receiver Robert Ferguson told Glenn Clark he wants to play for the Ravens.  Ferguson will join Drew on the Comcast Morning Show on Wednesday at 9:40 a.m.

We give live “Tweets” from the field at McDaniel College throughout the morning and afternoon practices.  You can follow it here.

2:45 p.m. — We have less than an hour to go until the players are back out on the field for the afternoon workout.

Veterans will be reporting tomorrow and are scheduled to take their physicals at 3:00 p.m.  If you’re planning on attending training camp tomorrow, remember it will only be rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans.  The remaining veterans will not be practicing on Wednesday.

1:48 p.m. — A name to keep an eye on during training camp is Jameel McClain.  The Syracuse linebacker came to Baltimore as a rookie free agent last season and really impressed coaches, earning a roster spot and playing time in the second-rated defense in the NFL.  His two safeties—a blocked punt and a sack of JaMarcus Russell—was a franchise record.

McClain has been moved to the inside linebacker position and will compete with Tavares Gooden.  While Gooden is the favorite to start next to Ray Lewis, McClain’s endless motor will make it nearly impossible to keep him off the field.

“The guys that work hard at this program are the guys that do the best and are [guys] who can have a chance to play,” Mattison said.  “That’s a real endorsement to our personnel people.  They saw some great things in him, and he just proved it throughout the year.  And I think he’s going to take off from here.”

1:42 p.m. — We heard from new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison after this morning’s practice.  He is pleased with the mix of experience and youth in his defense.  His top priority is to get the defense to play at the same high level the fans have come to expect every season.

He mentioned the “Raven” mentality and bar that has been set over the past decade.

Mattison also touched on the health of a secondary that had several players recovering from injuries dating back to last season.  He thought several of the players looked bigger and healthy.

12:18 p.m. — McGahee looks trimmer and feels healthy entering the preseason.  He emphasized to reporters that his placement on the PUP list is strictly precautionary.  The running back simply doesn’t want a repeat of last season.

When asked whether he lost weight, McGahee jokingly said “no comment.”  You can check out this interview in the WNST audio vault.

12:02 p.m. — John Harbaugh spoke to the media after the morning practice, describing the first workout as “good” and “crisp.”

Harbaugh talked about the improved strength and size of receiver Demetrius Williams.  It was Williams’ goal to become stronger and build muscle mass around the joints.  Harbaugh was pleased with how Williams looked in the morning.  With Derrick Mason currently retired, Williams is the project No. 2 receiver behind Mark Clayton.

The Ravens coach said the placement of McGahee on the PUP list is strickly a precautionary move after the running back underwent knee surgery in the offseason.

11:54 a.m. — The morning practice was very brief, lasting only 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Players were dressed in shorts, and there was no full-speed contact.

The player who drew the loudest applause from the crowd was wide receiver Mark Clayton who caught a long touchdown pass during offensive drills.  Rookie running back Cedric Peerman also grabbed a nifty one-handed catch.

Quarterback Joe Flacco looked pretty sharp in his first training camp workout, but the keystone moment for the former Delaware Blue Hen was actually an incomplete pass to running back Matt Lawrence who ran the incorrect pattern.  The second-year quarterback corrected his teammate, ran the play again, and completed the pass to Lawrence.  It was a simple example of the leadership Flacco has with this offense.

Veteran Kelly Gregg was back on the field and looks to be in great shape.  The nose tackle’s surgically-repaired knee was only wrapped in an ace bandage, a good sign for Greg Mattison’s defense.

11:43 a.m. — To clarify the PUP list a bit more, this list is referred to as the active PUP list.  These players are eligible to practice any time, and John Harbaugh even said some of them could be ready to go as early as tomorrow.  The purpose of this list is to keep these players eligible for the reserve PUP list—the one where players do not count against the 53-man roster but must miss the first six weeks of the regular season.

PUP list players still count against the 80-man training camp roster, so there is no added roster flexibility in regards to the preseason.

11:21 a.m. — The Ravens initial PUP’ers are Willis McGahee, Lamar Divens, Davon Drew, Yamon Figurs, Ben Grubbs, Adam Terry, Jason Phillips, Samari Rolle, Lou Saucedo, Marshal Yanda and Joe Reitz.

Definition of “physically unable to perform”: This List designates players with serious injuries that will keep them from being able to start a season on the 53-man protected list but may be able to return to the roster during the regular season. The players must be placed on this roster at or before the league-wide 65-man summer roster cutdown to be eligible for this designation, and they must stay on this list for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. After this time teams have 3 weeks to evaluate such players after which each such player must be placed on the 53-man roster, season-ending Injured Reserve (IR) or waivers.

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Wanna follow the MLB Draft?

Posted on 09 June 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

If you listened to today’s edition of Limited Access, you now know about Ben Hyman, a local product and son of longtime sportswriter Mark Hyman, who is doing all things MLB Draft tonight at his website www.withthefirstpick.net.

Hyman will be live blogging (on caffeine no doubt) for the next three days as the MLB Draft unfolds. So, in the world of overkill with NFL and NBA Draft coverage, Hyman is going where few have dared to travel: the world of figuring out the very inexact science of drafting MLB players.

Follow his live blog and have some fun with the draft.

Who knows? Maybe the next Matt Wieters is coming tonight…

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A gloomy forecast — today and for the ’09 Birds

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The sky is gray across the horizon in downtown Baltimore this morning as the Orioles kick off their 2009 campaign amidst a city full of Yankees fans and the inaugural appearance for Baltimore’s homegrown Mark Teixeira as a pinstriper. It was a dark day even before the clouds and scattered showers moved in from the south.

The Orioles, who haven’t played a meaningful game since October 1997, appear to be about to put another 162 insignificant games into the record books as the “dark era” of Birds baseball continues, the longest stretch of inepetitude in the history of the storied franchise. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Orioles “win/loss” total at 71 1/2, which means if the Orioles play just “18 games under .500″ you win the bet.

I’m not a betting man, but based on what I’ve seen for six weeks in spring training regarding their pitching, I’d be jumping at the “under” on this proposition. That said, I like this team, these position players and the quality of the character it appears Andy McPhail has assembled.

I want to cheer for Brian Roberts. I like Luke Scott and Adam Jones. I’m interested in Felix Pie, although I think he’ll probably be this year’s version of Jeff Stone. I think Aubrey Huff looked inspired for six months last summer and I’m not convinced he won’t rebound with another big year. I’m not sure what to make of Melvin Mora at this point in his career and I think Cesar Izturis will be fun to watch field the ball. And Nick Markakis is just a solid ballplayer, almost a throwback.

On the rare nights that the bullpen will be delivered a 7th inning lead, it’ll be fun to see if they’re as good as advertised.

Some things I’m watching for this season:

When will Matt Wieters arrive for good and how will he perform? It’ll be the biggest franchise mid-season debut since Ben McDonald, which was a very, very big deal.

Let’s be honest: these current starting pitching is a joke and if Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon and Adam Eaton are the real five starters we’ll use all season, this team is probably 10 games under .500 before Memorial Day and then it becomes a “what to do?” for McPhail.

How will Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman do on the farm this year, especially before the All-Star break. If the current O’s veterans are as bad as we think they’ll be, which of these guys will be heatlthy, effective and ready to promote?

And will the Orioles start the M.L. service time on any of these kids with a summer call up? Or will McPhail allow the current veteran group to get their heads beaten in night after night? Or will Danys Baez or Brian Bass or David Pauley step in and perform? Or not?

That’s why we watch and certainly I’m poised to talk baseball every single day on WNST and AM 1570.

I just hope in these tough economic times, perhaps the people of Baltimore will return to baseball this summer and come to care again about the Orioles, if not in the stands perhaps on their TV’s around town. Of course, it would help if the franchise actually did its fair share and “came back to the people.” During the last six months, the team did exactly two events to promote their team. One of them was two days ago.

They continue to do foolish, selfish and mindless things that almost go unnoticed by the media that is in the business of making excuses for their sins so they can benefit financially.

Today’s starting pitcher — their No. 1 guy and big “hope” for the season — had his paycheck cut by 15% four weeks ago. Happy Opening Day, Jeremy Guthrie!

They continue to ban free speech, even daring their current players to not speak out about unsafe playing conditions in spring training.

We’ll see how much “progress” the organization has over the next six months. Let’s see how the puppies do on the farm. Let’s see how the young emerging stars perform in a mostly empty stadium and with starting pitching that no one can takes seriously as a team that will compete in the AL East in 2009.

But, let’s see how the season goes. My prediction: 65-97. Probably worse if someone doesn’t come in and save the rotation by July.

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Wigginton’s signing is a good one for the O’s

Posted on 03 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

It might have jammed up the team’s “utility-man-infrastracture” but today’s signing of Ty Wigginton is a good addition by the Orioles. 

He’s better than Kevin Millar.  He’s better than Chris Gomez. And, he’s better than Ryan Freel.

Personally, I think, he’ll be the O’s everyday third baseman in lieu of Melvin Mora by July 4th.

Look, he’s not A-Rod.  Ty Wigginton is a journeyman.  But he’s a good journeyman.  

That’s been my debate about their pitching additions this off-season.  They passed on GOOD pitchers like Jon Garland, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe and, likely, Ben Sheets, who is still out there for the taking but evidently not better than, say, Rich Hill, Mark Hendrickson or a Japanese pitcher who has the same major league ERA as I do.

However, as unnecessary as the Hendrickson signing was, the Wigginton signing is beneficial.

He’s a GOOD journeyman.  You need one or two of those along the way to patch up the holes and give you some consistency in the dog days of August when, in the O’s case, you’re 25 games out of first place and the games don’t matter anymore.  ”Someone” has to play in those games.  

The Wigginton addition also potentially paves the way for a spring training trade of either Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, or both.  They’ve tried to sign Roberts over the winter but he’s heard “the story” one too many times from the O’s – “we’re gettin’ better, hang in there with us” – and is begging for a transfer, as Private Santiago did in “A Few Good Men”.  Scott is a decent-enough-hitter but not a gold glove candidate…and with Pie’s arrival from Chicago – and Freel and Wigginton both able to play left field – the O’s could also part company with Luuuukkkke if they could pull off a reasonable deal.

On the whole, It’s been an off-season filled with low-budget, “take a chance on me” type of player signings and acquisitions and Wigginton probably fits that criteria…but he’s a career .270 hitter and a capable defensive player and he’s only 31.  He can still play.  His history shows that.  He’s not a gamble, unlike a Rich Hill, Brad Hennessey or David Pauley.  Best of all, he’s actually coming to the O’s on the heels of a decent season in Houston, unlike some of their other off-season reaches like Hill, who, for example, pitched in 5 games a year ago before he was shut-down by the Cubs.  

It does create a possible logjam in the part-time player category, as Freel, Gomez and Wigginton are nearly identical images of each other.  Freel plays more outfield than the other two.  Gomez is the only one who can play shortstop – or has in the past – and Wigginton’s best position is probably third base.  But, in general, all three are fill-in types and that might be one more part-timer than the O’s really need.  Make no mistake about it, though, if you’re ranking the three, Wigginton is the best of the trio.

I like this signing.

It feels good to say (write) that.  

I must be getting soft.

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