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Ravens guard Yanda aiming for another chapter of greatness

Posted on 07 August 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last season was supposed to be the continuation of Ravens veteran Marshal Yanda’s reign as the best guard in the NFL.

His six straight Pro Bowl selections had tied Ray Lewis for the third-longest streak in franchise history behind only Jonathan Ogden (11 straight from 1997-2007) and Ed Reed (seven in a row from 2006-12). That exclusive company began prompting some discussion about Yanda’s chances of joining that trio — and perhaps current teammate Terrell Suggs — in Canton one day, especially if he were to add a few more years of elite play to his impressive resume. The Hall of Fame is certainly rare territory for a guard, but momentum had been building as analytic sites like Pro Football Focus touted his excellence and Yanda was even profiled by a national website last summer.

Then, his 2017 season was over soon after it started when he fractured his left ankle in Week 2, an injury that required surgery to repair the damage. After battling through countless ailments to play all but five games in the previous eight seasons, Yanda would sit out the final 14 contests and the Ravens would miss the playoffs for the third straight year, in part because of an offensive line that struggled to gel without its best player in the first half of the season. The 2007 third-round pick has shown little interest in individual accolades over the years, but the thought of not being there for his team was difficult to take.

“It was a heart-breaking deal. I thought I was going to maybe miss some time but be able to find some way to fight through it and get back on the field,” Yanda said. “But to have the news that it was season-ending was really tough. It was really hard for me being away, but that’s part of football. You have to deal with it.”

The frustration didn’t end there as Yanda hurt his shoulder lifting weights just as he was winding down his ankle rehabilitation last December. Instead of risking further damage to his rotator cuff by trying to push through the injury, the 2007 third-round pick chose to have surgery early this offseason, a move that further delayed his return to the practice field.

There was no doubt that Yanda would return to action in 2018, but it’s fair to wonder if he’ll regain his elite playing status as he turns 34 next month and comes off his third shoulder surgery — each arm has been worked on — in the last five years. Of course, he need look no further for inspiration than Suggs, who has recorded a total of 19 sacks in two seasons since suffering the second torn Achilles tendon of his career in 2015. At the time of that injury, many thought a 33-year-old Suggs might be all but finished, but he’s only strengthened his case for an eventual place in the Hall of Fame.

It isn’t difficult envisioning the 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman following a similar script to put himself in the conversation at the very least.

Yanda swats away any mention of him eventually being worthy of such a historic honor, but he has every intention of again being the leader and linchpin of the Baltimore offensive line after returning to the practice field this week for the first time in 11 months.

“You understand that guys can definitely come back from [injuries], and even though they’re older players, they can still be productive,” Yanda said. “They can still do everything they want to do, so I’ve just attacked [rehab] every single day. I feel like, as you get older as a player, this game means more to you every single year that you play.

“I obviously understand that it’s a young man’s game, but I’m going to be fighting every single day to be ready to roll and to be productive.”

Whether it was returning from emergency leg surgery in days to help the Ravens clinch a division title in 2011 or switching from right guard to left guard because of a serious shoulder injury and still making the Pro Bowl in 2016, Yanda has proven time and time again not to doubt him. His place among the top 10 players in franchise history is cemented, but his toughness is second to none in the 22-year history of the franchise.

How much longer Yanda will play remains to be seen as his current contract runs through the end of next season. With more than a decade in the NFL under his belt, the Iowa native is taking a year-by-year approach to his career.

“Me not playing pretty much at all last year, there was no question I definitely wanted to play this fall and get after it and be a part of it,” Yanda said. “You reassess and reevaluate. I’ll take my time after the season, but right now I’m focused on this year and doing my part.”

The Ravens are hoping it’s that same gigantic part as before.

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lamarjackson1

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Ravens-Bears preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 01 August 2018 by Luke Jones

At a time when most teams are still settling into the training camp routine, the Ravens will kick off the NFL preseason schedule while celebrating the most iconic player in franchise history.

Baltimore will face the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night, the opening of induction weekend as Ray Lewis officially joins football immortality. This marks the first time the Ravens will be playing in the Canton, Ohio exhibition in their 23-year history.

“We’re excited. A really good couple weeks of practice, but it’s time to go play a game,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s what you work for, a chance to play the game. It’s going to be a great opportunity for a lot of our players.”

It remains to be seen how many notable veteran players will take part as Harbaugh made it clear months ago that the likes of Joe Flacco, Eric Weddle, and Terrell Suggs would not play in the extra preseason contest preceding the typical four-week schedule. In recent years, participating teams have typically held out most starters and some key backups in the Hall of Fame Game with young players on the 90-man preseason roster receiving most of the playing time.

The message is clear for young players competing for a starting role or simply trying to be noticed in their quest to earn a spot on the 53-man roster or 10-man practice squad.

“Keep it simple, pay attention to what’s important, and that’s going to be knowing your assignment and playing hard,” Harbaugh said. “If you’re on defense, run to the football. If you’re on offense, make the catch, finish the play. Keep it simple, play football, and let the chips fly.”

Thursday marks the second time the Ravens and Chicago will meet in the preseason with Baltimore winning the only other meeting in 1998. However, the Bears won a 27-24 overtime contest at M&T Bank Stadium last October and lead the all-time regular-season series by a 4-2 margin.

Baltimore has a 28-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh and has won eight straight exhibition contests.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday night’s game.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not include the extensive list of veteran players and starters expected to be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/ankle), LB Bam Bradley (knee), CB Jaylen Hill (knee), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (quadriceps), TE Mark Andrews, OL Greg Senat
DOUBTFUL: RB Kenneth Dixon
QUESTIONABLE: LB Tyus Bowser, S Tony Jefferson, S Kai Nacua, CB Bennett Jackson, TE Hayden Hurst, G Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon), CB Maurice Canady (knee)

Five players to watch Thursday night

QB Lamar Jackson

Who else would top the list? It remains to be seen whether Jackson or Robert Griffin III will get the start, but all eyes will be watching how effectively the first-round rookie commands the huddle and offense in general. Quarterbacks coach James Urban wants Jackson to simply “compete and complete” on Thursday, taking what throws the defense gives him and using his athletic ability if receivers are covered. Predictably, Jackson has been inconsistent this summer, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make a highlight play or two, especially against reserves with little shot of making the Bears’ 53-man roster. Jackson’s presence alone makes this arguably the most anticipated preseason in team history.

LB Kamalei Correa

Many thought a move back to outside linebacker might finally allow Correa to reach his full potential as a former second-round pick, but he’s had a quiet start to summer and is on the roster bubble. His best path to a roster spot continues to depend on special-teams play and serving in a versatile reserve role like Albert McClellan, but that’s not what Ozzie Newsome envisioned when drafting Correa in 2016.

WR Jordan Lasley

Lasley has been as advertised coming out of UCLA, flashing big-play ability and showing inconsistent hands. He’s an emotional player, which can serve as a strength or a detriment depending on the situation. Fortunately, the Ravens don’t need Lasley to step into an impact role immediately, but seeing him connect with Jackson a few times Thursday night will have fans daydreaming about the future.

LB Kenny Young

Defensive coordinator Don Martindale went out of his way to mention the 2018 fourth-round pick being in the thick of the competition with incumbent Patrick Onwuasor for the weak-side inside linebacker spot, a surprising development based on practice reps to that point. Since then, Young has seen some snaps with the starting defense, but making an impact in pass coverage would certainly help his cause.

RB Mark Thompson

With third-year running back Kenneth Dixon sidelined with what’s believed to be a hamstring issue, the Ravens will be taking an even closer look at their trio of undrafted rookie running backs: Thompson, Gus Edwards, and De’Lance Turner. Thompson’s 6-foot-1, 235-pound frame immediately stands out, but the Florida product has shown some ability as a receiver out of the backfield to go with his physicality.

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My snapshots & memories of the great life of Arthur B. Modell…

Posted on 06 September 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a crazy morning to awaken with such enthusiasm for the Orioles and mourn the loss of Art Modell, who died at 4 a.m. this morning at Johns Hopkins Hospital with David and John by his side.

On a personal level, it’s devastating. I loved Art Modell. And he always brightened my day with some kind words, jokes and he brought the Baltimore Ravens to this city and it changed my life. I’ll be eternally grateful.

I have so many memories with Art that it’s hard to even formulate them this morning. So, I’m putting together some of my memories here on this blog as my own therapy to remember our many great times together.

The last time I saw him was about two months ago in Owings Mills. He was always on a golf cart, always calling me over to tell me a joke or make me smile.

Here’s a WNSTV video I shot in 2008 of his big night at Sports Legends Museum:

 

I also famously lobbied Pro Football Hall of Fame voters many times on behalf of Art Modell, who deserves to be in Canton on the merit of his contributions and accomplishments for the NFL. It’s a crime that he died this morning never having been inducted.

So, in 2009, I went to Canton and inducted him myself:

 

Click on Page 2 to see more of my personal memories

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Turning Canton Square into Scunny Square: remembering a legend

Posted on 28 August 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

You never know when or where you’ll find yourself when news breaks. That’s what we all tell ourselves as journalists and over the years I’ve found the toughest “breaking news” happens when it involves my friends and tragedy.

The date August 24th has been a rough day for me two consecutive years running. Last year I was on my couch watching the Orioles play when I learned in the early evening of the death of Mike Flanagan. This past Friday night and into Saturday morning I was awakened on a summer vacation in Moncton, Canada to learn that another friend had died unexpectedly while I was asleep.

In the era of social media and via the power to propel information into the palms of our hands from anywhere in the world, I learned of the death of my friend Scunny on my mobile phone in the middle of New Brunswick while having morning coffee.

In the hours following, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded with condolences, memories and immense cyber sadness regarding the passing of a giant in our community, a guy who we all kind of took for granted and thought would be immortal.

I also learned about the power of  love in the world — a life well lived — and the legend of a man whose death dominated every corner of my friendship, business and civic circle in Baltimore. “Smalltimore” works that way and it’s especially illuminated in our time by the internet.

I’m convinced “Scunny” was the Kevin Bacon of our city, once removed from virtually every person in town.

For those of you who didn’t know him – and I’m not really sure that’s really possible that you could be from the Charm City and not know him because he seemingly knew everyone  – Patrick “Scunny” McKusker owned Nacho Mama’s (and later created Mama’s On The Half Shell) and was truly a one-of-a-kind Baltimore character, restaurant owner, entrepreneur, civic champion, charitable soul and part-time beer drinker and philosopher.

Scunny died on Friday night just a few blocks from his Ocean City beach home while riding his bicycle that collided with a bus. He leaves behind a wonderful wife and two children.

There are varying reports about what happened and there’s an investigation going on as his tangled myriad of friends, peers, loved ones, family members and many patrons are left investigating this unthinkable tragedy that we all learned about at some point in the middle of our blessed lives on a Saturday morning.

I’m not really sure where to begin but writing is my therapy at times like these.

I met Scunny at Nacho Mama’s (like almost everyone else) when I began my radio career in the early 1990’s and was recruiting sponsors.

Scunny and I had a whole lot in common. We both loved beer. We both loved the Orioles. We both missed the Colts. We both welcomed and immediately loved the Ravens. We both loved Baltimore.

Scunny was missing a finger.

I was missing a finger.

Every time we ever saw each other he insisted that we “touch nubs” before we parted. It was our bond, right along with his amazing salsa and the soft chicken tacos that I’ve tackled at least a hundred times.

The stories about his generosity have been well chronicled and it was impossible to know him and not know about his work with Believe In Tomorrow. He also hired developmentally challenged people and gave them jobs and a purpose. He was a sweet man who would’ve won any “Character Bowl” competition John Steadman would’ve

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Rock your red with WNST.net Wednesday night for your chance to win a signed Caps stick!

Posted on 24 April 2012 by WNST Staff

Rock your red at either of our two Capitals vs. Bruins Game 7 viewing parties on Wednesday night for your chance to win a Washington Capitals signed hockey stick!

Join Drew Forrester, Damon “The Bulldog” Yaffe, and Peter DiLutis at Jilly’s Pikesville for your chance to win an Alexander Ovechkin autographed stick!

During the game you can enjoy $2.50 Natty Bohs and half-priced wings. Plus, receive 15% off your bill if you’re wearing your Capitals red!

Or, hang with Nestor Aparicio at The Gin Mill in Canton and you’ll have a chance to win a Mike Green autographed stick! You’ll also find $2 Natty Bohs and $2 Miller Lites. Plus, it’s Sushi Night!

Both parties will start at 7PM.

We hope to see you at either The Gin Mill or Jilly’s Pikesville on Wednesday night.

Rock your Red!

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Salisbury Dominates Washington College in War on the Shore

Posted on 22 April 2012 by WNST Staff

SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 1 Salisbury University men’s lacrosse team had a lot to celebrate on Saturday as it defeated No. 17 Washington (Md.) College 17-5 at Sea Gull Stadium to capture the Charles B. Clark Cup during the Sea Gulls’ second annual Lax for Leukemia game on Senior Day.

The Sea Gulls’ silent auction and t-shirt sales for Lax for Leukemia raised $11,000 that will go toward the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the National Marrow Donor Program.

Eighteen Salisbury seniors played in their final regular-season home game in the win and were recognized before the game.

With the victory, Salisbury has now won 12-straight contests against the Shoremen to improve its all-time record to 26-19 in 45 official meetings with the Eastern Shore rival.

Midfielder Sam Bradman and attackman Matt Cannone, both seniors, combined for 17 points to lead the Sea Gulls to an undefeated regular-season record of 17-0. Bradman led the team with seven goals and added an assist to finish with eight points. Cannone netted two scores and led the team with a career-high seven assists for nine points.

The Gulls started the game on a 5-0 run after junior midfielder Ryan Clarke sparked the offense with the game’s first goal just 47 seconds into the contest. Cannone netted two of the scores while Bradman and senior attackman Erik Krum each added one.

The Shoremen cut the lead to three with goals at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter. Both defenses stiffened up in the second period, holding each team to only one goal. Krum added the Gulls’ tally with 2:45 left in the period, and Salisbury took a 6-2 lead into the half.

Salisbury outshot Washington College 23-17 and won 5-of-8 faceoffs in the first half but was only able to score on 1-of-7 extra-man opportunities.

In the third quarter, Bradman caught fire with two goals within one minute of each other to ignite the Sea Gull attack. He added four more tallies in the fourth period to put the game out of reach. The Canton, N.Y. native netted six of the Gulls’ first nine goals of the second half.

The Sea Gulls took a 9-4 lead into the fourth quarter before exploding for an eight-goal quarter. Along with Bradman’s four, senior attackman Kyle Quist had two scores in the period, and Krum and Clarke both added one.

Sophomore goalkeeper Alex Taylor played 55:44 in the cage and made seven saves on route to a perfect regular-season record (17-0).

Salisbury will next be in action in the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. The Gulls will have a first-round bye and will host a CAC semifinal game on Wednesday against an opponent that is to be determined.

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Sharpe

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Live From Indy: Shannon Sharpe gives Ray Lewis retirement advice

Posted on 30 January 2012 by WNSTV

Shannon Sharpe dropped by our Indianapolis set on Radio Row to discuss a myriad of topics including Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, John Elway and the pending retirement status of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

First, it’s Tebow and Manning…

Then, it’s all Baltimore Ravens talk here:

 

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Here are the Details on our “Coats & Cans in Memory of Fergy” Charity Drive

Posted on 31 October 2011 by WNST Staff

From Monday, October 31 through Friday, November 18, WNST.net will collect canned goods and non-perishable food items at the AM1570 WNST studios (1550 Hart Rd. Towson, MD 21286).  Those items will be collected during normal business hours (6am-6pm).

We will also collect at all scheduled WNST events, including “Monday Night Live” with Baltimore Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo at Hightopps in Timonium, our Miller Lite Towson pep rallies at the Greene Turtle and other events specific to the drive that we will announce in the future.

We will give those items to the Canton Baptist Church for their distribution to Baltimore’s homeless and we’ll also give some of the donated food to the Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Last year we donated 2,400 cans to the Canton Baptist Church.  This year we’d like to do 5,000 cans. For counting purposes, we count EVERYTHING, meaning if someone drops off oatmeal or some other “non-can” item, we count that as a can.

In addition, we’re going to ask that members of the WNST commuinty who can’t contribute food (or even if they can) to donate a penny per-can to a scholarship fund that has been set up for Fergy (in White Marsh)’s children.

Listeners/readers can make their checks out to:

The Cameron and Adrianna Commodari Scholarship Fund and send them to Drew Forrester’s attention at the radio station. We will announce the amount of cans raised on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We ask that WNST community members donate UP TO 5,000 cans-so donations will not exceed $50 no matter how many cans are collected.Fergy’s brother Marshall will come to the studio sometime in December and do a few minutes on the air and we’ll present him with the money. We obviously won’t collect any of the money until after the canned food drive is over on November 18 and we see how many cans we did.

If you don’t have the important information on Fergy (Fernando Commodari), you should know that he was a longtime listener of the station and an active supporter and contributor to any and all of our charitable endeavors.  He brought 100 cans of food to the Fullerton Pub last December when Drew & Glenn Clark did the first canned food drive.  Anytime we did some sort of fund-raiser, he always contributed. He was killed in a car accident this past July.

Once the canned food drive is over, we’ll start with the coats and winter apparel drive.  We’ll take coats, sweaters, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, etc.  All of those items will be donated to Helping Up Mission downtown.  The coat/apparel drive will run from Monday, November 21 through Friday, December 16.  We will drop off those items on Tuesday, December 20 at the Helping Up Mission downtown.

Please help us make the most out of these three worthwhile charity drives. As you know, we pride ourselves at WNST for being a community of contributors, sponsors, listeners, readers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, etc. The one thing we have in common is that we all care DEEPLY about this area. We’re grateful for the opportunity to try to do further good.

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WNST Purple Football Roadtrips now on sale to San Diego, Jacksonville, more…

Posted on 02 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

With all of the frenzy of the lockout and the ensuing fallout of free agency and mayhem, I’m getting tons of requests for the WNST Purple Football Roadtrip information. It took a week to put it all together but we proudly announce four total roadtrips for your selection and we’ll also be throwing our traditional Purple Pep Rallies and Parties in virtually every city on the road in 2011.

Our first trip is next Thursday to Philadelphia to see the Ravens first game of the preseason. It’s just $89 for the entire evening of fun in the City of Brotherly Love.

If you are interested in a specific party on the road and you’ve already made your travel plans, simply drop me an email: nasty@wnst.net and I’ll get you on the “first information” list once the parties go on sale next week.

To purchase seats for all of our roadtrips, simply click on the TRIPS tab at www.wnst.net or here.

If you want to see what our Purple Parties look like, just click here to see the evidence from Charlotte last fall:

Here’s a full lineup of all of our trips for 2011:

2011 Purple Roadtrip to Jacksonville (Oct. 22-25)

You asked for a more inexpensive way to get to Jacksonville for the HUGE PURPLE PARTY so we’re offering our longest busride of the year — but they’re always kind fun, really — down to North Florida for the Baltimore game the weekend of Oct. 22 through 25.

THIS IS OUR FEATURED TRIP FOR 2011!!!!!

We’ll leave White Marsh Mall area on Sat. Oct. 22 at 6 am with a quick stop at I-95 UMBC Park and Ride at 6:30 am and will set sail for the 764-mile journey straight down I-95. We expect to arrive in time for dinner on Saturday night. You’ll have all day Sunday and most of the day Monday for the gigantic WNST Purple Party.

The game isn’t until Monday night so we’ll have plenty of time to roam, gather in purple masses and tailgate before the big game.

Our WNST bus will leave Jacksonville at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, Oct. 25th and return to Baltimore later that night.

WNST Purple Roadtrip includes: bus ride on Gunther Motorcoach plus beer, soda & Chick-fil-A for the ride down, three nights hotel at Courtyard Marriott in Jacksonville, WNST Purple Party ticket, plus an upper deck seat for the Jacksonville-Baltimore game.

SINGLE: $575

DOUBLE: $450

TRIPLE: $400

QUAD: $375


2011 Purple Roadtrip to San Diego (Dec. 15-19)

The best trip in the sports — bar none — takes place during the holidays as WNST takes purple fans to sunny Southern California for four days in San Diego for the Baltimore date there on Sunday night, Dec. 18th. Our trip leaves on Thursday morning via Southwest Airlines at BWI and we’ll arrive at the Sofia Hotel in The Gaslamp District for four nights of sun, beaches and purple parties.

Our trip returns on Tuesday, Dec. 19th to BWI.

Many more details are coming regarding our downtown parties on Saturday and our partnership with The West Wing in San Diego for the Sunday tailgate.

Trip includes: RT air via Southwest Airlines (BWI-SAN), four nights at the Sofia Hotel in The Gaslamp District, upper deck game ticket for Baltimore at San Diego and entrance to WNST Purple Party on Sunday.

SINGLE — $1,399 per person

DOUBLE — $1,099 per person

2011 Purple Roadtrip to Pittsburgh (Nov. 6)

Join us as the purple warriors travel to Pittsburgh to take on the black and gold on Sunday, Nov. 6. Our bus will leave White Marsh Mall Area at noon with a stop at the I-70 West Park and Ride at 12:30 p.m. We’ll have a limited supply of beer, snacks for the ride up to Pittsburgh.

Our bus will leave immediately following the game and return to Baltimore at approximately 4 a.m.

Trip includes ride on Gunther Motorcoach, game ticket, drinks and snacks for the ride.

Price: $250 per person

2011 Purple Roadtrip to Cleveland and Canton Pro Football Hall of Fame (Dec. 3-4)

Join us on a special holiday trip to Ohio as we see the Pro Football Hall of Fame plus Baltimore at Cleveland on the weekend of Dec. 3-4.

Our bus will leave White Marsh Mall area at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3 and depart for Canton, where we’ll spend the afternoon checking out the hallowed Hall of Fame. Late that afternoon, we’ll make our way up to Cleveland and stay at the Holiday Inn Express downtown. On Sunday, we’ll provide upper deck seats for the game and the bus will depart immediately following the 1 p.m. game. We expect to return to Baltimore around 11 p.m.

Trip includes: bus ride on Gunther Motorcoach, limited beer, soda and Chick-fil-A breakfast for the ride, upper deck game ticket in Cleveland, plus admission to Pro Football Hall of Fame & hotel in Cleveland for Saturday night.

$375 — Single (going it alone!)

$325 — Double (2 people in hotel room)

$300 — Triple (3 people in hotel room)

$275 — Quad (4 people in hotel room)

To purchase seats for all of our roadtrips, simply click on the TRIPS tab at www.wnst.net or here.

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Ravens 10-Pack: Baltimore feeling Super at 4-1

Posted on 12 October 2010 by Luke Jones

Even with the daunting task of traveling to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots this Sunday, you have to feel good about the Ravens’ 4-1 start and the early lead atop the AFC North with the first month of the season already in the books.

With three of the first four on the road (two of them division games), you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the Ravens would fare better than they have after road victories against the Jets and Steelers. And when you take a look around the rest of the league, the Ravens’ accomplishments look even more impressive.

Parity is a word all-too-familiar to NFL fans, but the notion seemed to be waning over the last few seasons with the regular-season success of the 2007 Patriots and extended runs at perfection by the Colts and Saints last year. However, with the 1972 Dolphins uncorking the champagne before Columbus Day — with no 4-0 teams in the NFL since 1970 — and only eight teams sporting one loss through the first five weeks of the season, 2010 appears up for grabs in mid-October.

Are the Ravens the best team in the NFL?

Being this early, who cares? But it’s difficult to argue any team has looked better than Baltimore.

If the Ravens can beat New England (3-1), it will mark just the second 5-1 start in franchise history, the other coming in the 2000 season.

However, for some perspective, at the time of the 5-1 start, Tony Banks was the starting quarterback and the Ravens had just won their second straight game without scoring a touchdown.

Things changed very quickly — in a bad way — before a historic run began and Trent Dilfer and the Ravens found themselves holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of January.

1. Since taking over as head coach in 2008, John Harbaugh has shown the uncanny ability to take care of business against inferior teams, home or away.

In 37 regular season games under Harbaugh, the Ravens have never lost to a team that finished the season with a losing record. As unimpressive as that might sound to the casual observer, you’ll find a “bad” loss by a playoff-caliber team nearly every week in the NFL.

Of course, the opposite argument can be made that the Ravens have fallen short too many times against quality opponents — especially last season when they struggled to get to the playoffs at 9-7 — but winning the games you’re supposed to win and holding your own against winning teams will put you in an enviable position.

The postseason.

Time will determine whether their Week 2 loss in Cincinnati breaks the string, but the Harbaugh-led Ravens have managed to avoid the unwarranted defeats the team suffered in previous seasons.

2. All eyes will be on Bill Belichick and the Patriots in their first game since trading disgruntled receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings and re-acquiring former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The removal of Moss will undoubtedly impact the New England offense, but how much?

Expect a little gadgetry on Sunday as Tom Brady deciphers where everyone fits in the post-Moss era.

Of course, Belichick had an extra week to figure it out with the Patriots’ Week 5 bye, and his record in New England coming off the bye week is an impressive 8-2, including seven straight wins. But before we write off the Ravens at Gillette Stadium and bow to the genius of Belichick, we should remember that four of the last six have come against the Buffalo Bills.

Not to belittle an impressive feat, but game-planning against a team led in recent years by the likes of Dick Jauron and Mike Mularkey is a bit easier than facing the team that blasted you in the playoffs just nine months ago.

In the Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 2-1 when playing teams coming off their bye week. All three games were last season, which included wins against Cleveland and Denver as well as a road loss to Cincinnati.

3. Putting aside the obvious threat of Brady to Wes Welker, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s biggest concern might be a pair of rookie tight ends.

Through the Patriots’ first four games, Welker leads the team in receptions (26), but not receiving yards. That distinction belongs to Aaron Hernandez (18 catches for 240 yards) despite being the second tight end drafted (fourth round) by New England in April. Rob Gronkowski, a second-round selection, has posted modest numbers (six catches for 62 yards) but was an impressive talent eyed by the Ravens leading up to the draft.

The Ravens have struggled covering the intermediate middle of the field in recent years, so the inside linebacker corps of Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe will need to keep a close eye on these rookie targets.

4. As much as we lamented the absence of Matt Stover a season ago, let’s tip our caps to Billy Cundiff. His ability to boot the football deep into the end zone on kickoffs is an underappreciated factor in the Ravens being 4-1.

His four touchbacks against the Broncos on Sunday matched the total number by Baltimore kickers all of last year.

Whispers of Stover will not dissipate — if they ever do — until we see Cundiff make a 47-yarder to win a late-season game, but the distinct upgrade on kickoffs cannot be overlooked.

As great as Stover was with the game on the line, fans easily forget his kickoffs barely traveling inside the 10-yard line, often setting up the opponent with good field position.

5. Plenty has been said about Cam Cameron’s choice to use Haloti Ngata at tight end on Sunday’s opening drive and the near-disaster that followed with the defensive tackle down on the field.

I offer you three names: James Jones (1996), Herman Arvie (1996), and Jonathan Ogden (1996 and 2003), three linemen who all registered touchdown catches with the Ravens.

The difference in this case? Cameron and Harbaugh have too many offensive weapons at their disposal to risk losing one of the greatest defensive players in the game today. Why spend draft picks on two tight ends to complement Todd Heap and then risk your best defensive player trying to be too cute?

Ngata playing offense was a fun spectacle until we saw what nearly happened with the Ravens’ season flashing before the eyes of 71,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium.

Lesson learned — hopefully.

6. It was natural for questions to arise whether the Ravens had any interest in bringing back Antwan Barnes after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but  Harbaugh promptly shot down the idea on Monday. (Update: Barnes signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday afternoon)

In three years with the Ravens, the linebacker-defensive end managed only five sacks and sealed his fate last October when he whiffed on a tackle of Cedric Benson that led to a 28-yard touchdown run and an eventual loss to the Bengals.

Barnes is too small to provide help at defensive end, where the Ravens need a consistent pass-rush threat, and not athletic enough to play linebacker on every down. If they didn’t want him before the season, what would have changed a month later?

“I haven’t had a conversation with him,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We don’t really have a roster opportunity right now for that. We wouldn’t be opposed to it. Antwan’s a good person, a good player. Obviously, he’s done some good things here. But, right now, there’s no way roster-wise we could pull that off.”

In other words, “Thanks, but no thanks — we’ve moved on.”

7. If all goes to plan and you believe the recent comments made by Harbaugh, Sunday will mark the final game before All-Pro safety Ed Reed returns to the 53-man roster after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list.

During training camp, I said Tom Zbikowski would do an adequate job at free safety in Reed’s absence, and the third-year safety has done just that. So with the Ravens currently having the second-best pass defense in the NFL (behind only the New York Giants), the question must be asked:

How well will Reed fit into the secondary when he returns to the starting lineup?

The Baltimore defense no longer plays the exotic, aggressive schemes of Rex Ryan, but employs a conservative, “bend, but don’t break” style under Mattison. Reed has always gambled in the defensive backfield, at times leaving teammates out to dry in coverage while also making some of the greatest plays in NFL history.

With the 32-year-old returning from hip surgery, it will be interesting to see whether Reed takes a more conservative approach in coverage or returns with a bigger chip on his shoulder to prove he’s still one of the best defensive players in the league and deserving of the new contract he so desperately wants. If Reed proves to be a lesser player than he was prior to the hip procedure but plays with the same aggressive style, the secondary could be more vulnerable to the big play.

That said, it is hard to doubt a player who will one day be enshrined in Canton.

8. Speaking of injured players, you have to wonder how long the Ravens will continue to wait for Jared Gaither to return. Other than being a limited participant in one practice a couple weeks ago, the offensive tackle has been out with a thoracic disc injury since training camp.

With roster decisions looming with Reed and fellow PUP list members Brendon Ayanbadejo and Matt Lawrence, Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh may need to pull the plug on the projected starter at right tackle.

The improved play of Marshal Yanda at right tackle and Chris Chester at right guard has eased concerns on the right side of the line. Cohesion upfront is difficult to develop, so Gaither’s potential return would require another period of adjustment, something the coaching staff might be uncomfortable with later in the season.

Keep in mind, Gaither has not played right tackle regularly since the early part of his collegiate career at Maryland, so this isn’t a savvy veteran who can step right in to his regular position when healthy.

If Gaither does not make significant progress by the bye week, his season will likely come to a disappointing end.

9. Much has been said about the return of the three-headed running attack and the 2008-like feel to Sunday’s win over the Broncos, but don’t expect it to last.

Like it or not, the Ravens’ current profile is a pass-first team that runs the ball efficiently. The dominating 233-yard rushing performance against Denver was more the effect of a comfortable lead than some epiphany for Cameron.

Of Joe Flacco’s 97 completions through five games, 50 have been for under 10 yards, looking a little like the “running” game of the Patriots with Brady under helm. However, his 6.6 yards per attempt (the lowest of his career) needs to increase for the offense to continue growing.

Despite the profile change — which really began last season — the ability to pound the football looms large when the elements grow harsh, and the Ravens will use it when appropriate.

10. Ranking 19th in the league in total offense (328.2 yards per game) and tied for 17th in points scored (18.4 per game), the Baltimore offense has room for improvement with Cameron and Flacco trying to distribute the ball to keep a plethora of talented players — and egos — happy.

As well as the defense has played, it hasn’t done its counterpart any favors in the turnover department with only three takeaways and a -6 turnover differential, both last in the AFC.

Nothing gives an offense more confidence than starting drives on a short field, and a few more turnovers might be the serum the offense needs to excel. Fortunately, the defense and kick coverage has played well enough to win the field-position battle in most instances, but the turnover differential must improve if the Ravens are to take a step toward elitism, offensively and as a team.

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