Tag Archive | "Carson Palmer"

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

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

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Chris Pika

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

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

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

AFC East

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

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

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

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

AFC North

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

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

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

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

AFC South

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

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

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

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

AFC West

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

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

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

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

Now for the NFC:

NFC East

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

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

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

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

NFC North

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

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

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

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

NFC South

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

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

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

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

NFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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Give 'Em Credit .... Bengals & Colts Have The Book On Flacco

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Give ‘Em Credit …. Bengals & Colts Have The Book On Flacco

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, it’s the morning after the first inexcusable loss of the Ravens season and as I peered out over the rooftops to the east, early today, I saw the sun start starting to rise.

Yep, my old friend, Harry Lentz, has been proven right, again.

Regardless of how bad any Baltimore football fan feels, we can all count on the sobering reality of another Monday greeting us with the accustomed reminder that it’s time to go back to work.

Hmmm …. do you think that might be the resounding message at 1 Winning Drive, as well? No doubt, you can count on this reality, as strongly as Harry Lentz’s daily prediction on sunrises.

With yesterday’s ugly loss squarely in the rear view, it’s time for all of us who watch the games to complain about that stinker on the Ohio River. But, the Ravens braintrust is already working on improving their quarterback’s vulnerabilities, as well as preparing for the Cleveland Browns.

Speaking of work, Joe Flacco is going to draw as much attention as any one person in this entire world throughout Baltimore’s respective employment communities today. That’s right, MONDAY MORNINGS breed QUARTERBACKS and every slapdick with an opinion on football is going to breakdown Joe’s problems.

“He holds the ball too long”

“He doesn’t look comfortable”

“He stares at his receivers”

“He looks like Kyle Boller.”

Indeed, each of these phases and hundreds of others will be uttered as Ravens fans try to comprehend losing for the first time in 247 days.

That’s right, the last time the Ravens walked off a field as losers of a game that mattered was on January 16th, in Indianapolis. You remember that night, right?

When Flacco digested last season’s playoff loss to the Colts, his passing statistics (20 for 35, 0 TD, 2 INT) must have weighed on his mind. Ironically, yesterday was statistically in the neighborhood (17 for 39, 1 TD, 4 INT) of that Colts loss.

Is there a reason for the similar results? Well, the true diagnostic answer to such a question really lays at the feet of Cam Cameron and his staff. However, a pattern of certain likened end-results is occuring.

Joe Flacco absolutely, positively struggles against the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

There, I said it.

And, there must be an articulable reason, right?

Blame it on the COVER 2 DEFENSE. The Colts and Bengals comprise their own respective versions of tormenting Joe Flacco. But, these teams absolutely obstruct the middle of the field and routinely drop a couple defenders deep on the Ravens.

And, so long as they can apply significant pressure by routinely rushing their front four, such successes will continue.

In his brief NFL career, Joe Flacco has faced the Colts and Bengals EIGHT times. The Ravens have won TWO of those games. And, both wins came against an injury-riddled Bengals team that went 4-11, in 2008.

In these same 8 games, Flacco has thrown 4 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, while completing 162 of 268 passes.

Have things worsened?

It certainly looks like it. Perhaps, the Colts and Bengals have found a way to further complicate this book they’ve developed on Flacco and the Ravens. That’s what they’re expected to do.

In his last 16 quarters against the Colts and Bengals, Joe Flacco has thrown just ONE touchdown, while slinging NINE interceptions. He can’t beat Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer with such performances.

The Colts and Bengals have found Flacco’s glaring weakness …..

He has problems making a play and fitting the ball in a very tiny window. Thus, the safeties are splitting the field, while linebackers fall back and the cornerbacks stay underneath and do everything possible to hinder any routes to the middle.

The Colts and Bengals are not employing any ORGANIZED CHAOS schemes. They’re simply doing what works …..

Is yesterday’s loss lying squarely on the doorstep of Joe Flacco? Hell, no …..

There is plenty of blame to go around, especially in regard to the offensive line, as well as some harrowing special teams breakdowns. And, yes, officiating blunders breathed life into a rather lackluster Bengals offense.

But, Flacco will take the heat today. It comes with the territory and he knows it. The Monday Morning Quarterbacks will make their voices heard late into the afternoon.

That said, it’s just the second week of the NFL season. A week from today, we’ll sit around and celebrate a beatdown of the Cleveland Browns in the home opener and everything will be fine, again.

It’s a “week to week” process, I suppose. This Ravens team can improve in many facets, and yesterday serves as proof of it.

But, be certain of one thing …..

Joe Flacco is still the key component to the future of the Baltimore Ravens. End of discussion …..

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Ravens vs. Bengals  -  5 Keys To The Game

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Ravens vs. Bengals – 5 Keys To The Game

Posted on 19 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, after months of dissecting the New Yorks Jets, followed by an emotionally draining Monday night contest in the Meadowlands, it’s time to get back to SUNDAY football.

The Ravens travel to the Queen City, this afternoon, for a 1pm matchup against the Bengals. It should be another tough, close game …. albeit from a diiferent perspective than the struggle against the Jets. The Bengals will most certainly feature a better passing game, while offering weaker resistance than Gang Green’s defensive attack.

Here are my FIVE KEYS to today’s game …..


This was the one thing the intimidating Ravens defense could not achieve, in 2009. Benson rushed for 120 and 117 yards, respectively, in both meetings. And, he broke runs of 20+ yards both times, as well. This cannot happen today.

Cedric Benson’s success is undoubtedly tied to his large, athletic offensive line. Each lineman weighs in excess of 320 pounds and they provided a formidable shield for 100 yard gains, 8 times, in 2009. The Ravens must find a way to stop the running attack – if Benson is successful, again, it will leave the Ravens defense languishing on the field for long drives.

It would be nice to see “Mount” Cody helping to plug up the middle. Perhaps, we’ll see Paul Kruger – who runs around like his hair is on fire, as well. Regardless, they MUST stop Benson.

It’s simple, see Key #1. Just as Cedric Benson succeeded against the Ravens, in 2009, Ray Rice realized lesser success. He managed 69 and 48 yards, respectively, in both games. The second matchup, in Cincinnati, exploits some misleading numbers. Rice had only 12 touches, with an average gain of 4 yards, per carry.

While the improved Ravens passing game will be a factor in today’s game, Ray Rice figures to offer that same ability to grinding positive yardage and keeping the Bengals defense on the field. It’s going to be 86 degrees and humid, in Cincinnati, today. It will undoubtedly be tiring conditions for each team’s defense.

Chad OchoCinco and Terrell Owens will make catches in today’s game. That’s fine. I worry more about the likes of Jordan Shipley, Andre’ Caldwell (remember him?) and Jermaine Gresham. Each of these guys offer varying targets for Palmer. And, I’m suspicious of rookie Gresham’s possible success across the middle. He’s a lot BIGGER than Dustin Keller and he’s quite athletic.

With Ray Lewis nursing a sore foot, I’ll be watching the middle pretty closely.

Perhaps, today can be the DAY that Joe Flacco serves notice as the most prolific passer in the AFC-North. He now has a surrounding cast comparable to the likes of Carson Palmer. Translation – NO EXCUSES.

The additions of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were evident, last week. However, they can STAND OUT today. And, with Todd Heap hurting, we can rely on better backups than names like L.J. Smith and Quinn Sypniewski. Welcome to the show, Ed Dickson. We just might see some fireworks from one of the NFL’s next rockstar tight ends.

But, it rests upon the shoulders (and arm) of Joe Flacco. With Keith Rivers also nursing a sore foot and Jonathan Fanene OUT, the Ravens will likely benefit from a weakened pass rush. Flacco delivers today …..

He absolutely did it to Rex Ryan, just 6 nights ago. Today, John Harbaugh is tasked with outsmarting Marvin Lewis in the strategical side of the game. Can it happen? Heck yeah …..

Say what you want, a big part of the Bengals embarrassing performance against New England can be attributed to being OUTCOACHED. Bill Belichick was hellbent on putting the Bengals in an early hole, while removing Cedric Benson from a revamped comeback agenda. It worked perfectly.

Today, Harbaugh & Company will need to have a shrewd strategy as the team enters enemy territory for the 2nd time in as many weeks. It starts with DISCIPLINE, and there is little doubt the Ravens will have that angle covered. Now, lets be smart …..
Ravens 27 Bengals 24

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Ravens (1-0) @ Bengals (0-1)

Posted on 18 September 2010 by Derek Arnold

Next up in the “teams whose head coach owes their job to Ray Lewis” are the Cincinnati Bengals. Now we just need the Jacksonville Jaguars (Jack Del Rio) and the 2005-2008 San Francisco 49ers (Mike Nolan) to complete the “#52’s head coach’s tree.” Marvin Lewis’ team is still licking their wounds from that 38-24 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots (a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score) in Week 1, and will look to rebound against a team that they had plenty of success against in 2009.

Those 2009 losses to Cincy were especially surprising for the Ravens and their fans not necessarily because of the outcomes, but because of the manner in which the Bengals were victorious. Running back Cedric Benson rad roughshod over B’More’s usually stout run defense, breaking their streak of 40 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher on his way to 120 yards in Week 5, and duplicating the feat with 117 yards just four weeks later. Benson managed just 43 yards on 15 carries in Week 1, but his opportunities were quite limited due to his team getting blown out of the water early and being forced to play catch-up.

The Ravens will be looking for some revenge against Benson Sunday. If rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody is able to suit up (he practiced this week), it will go a long way to exacting said revenge. Along with Haloti Ngata and Cory Redding up front, Benson will be hard pressed to find even a sliver of daylight. Even without Cody, the Ravens did well against the Jets’ vaunted rushing attack last week, as RBs Shonn Green and LaDainian Tomlinson managed 80 yards on 16 carries.

“Well, wait a minute, that’s 5 yards per carry,” you might be saying. The stat is a bit misleading, as Tomlinson ripped off two 21-yard runs in the game. Take away those two, and the numbers drop to 38 yards on 14 carries, a 2.7 ypc average. Of course, you can’t just “take away” big plays – the Ravens need to avoid giving up similar big plays to Benson and Bengals’ “change-of-pace” back Bernard Scott.

Which of course, isn’t to say that stopping the run = Ravens win. Quarterback Carson Palmer has always done well against our Ravens, putting up a career record of 8-3. Even after throwing a pick-6 to Ed Reed last year, Palmer bounced back and led his team to a last-minute game-winning touchdown in Baltimore.

Palmer threw for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns last week in New England, but again – they were in catch-up mode all day after falling behind 31-3. He again has a full compliment of weapons to throw to, including two reality TV stars.


Along with those two, rookie WR Jordan Shipley is dangerous, and Andre Caldwell (though I ripped Mike Preston earlier this week for bringing him up) is set to return from a groin injury and has hurt the Ravens in the past.

Just as getting Cody back could help the run defense, a return from injury in the secondary could greatly improve the Ravens’ chances Sunday. Lardarius Webb has been removed from the injury report, but is still “working out the kinks,” after ACL surgery. With Webby in there, the much maligned Ravens’ secondary is instantly better. Without him, newcomer Josh Wilson and safety Haruki Nakamura will be forced to line up against the Bengals’ receivers, matchups that favor Cincy.

The Bengals also gave the Ravens fits on defense last year, holding them to 14 and 7 points, respectively, in the two meetings. This despite Ray Rice racking up 143 and 135 yards from scrimmage (mostly receiving). The problem was that Rice was the team’s leading receiver in both games, as cornerbacks Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph gave Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ wideouts fits.

2010 is a new year, though, and now Hall and Joseph have to deal with Anquan “Q” Boldin and former teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who weren’t there last year. Hopefully Housh can also bring some “insider info” to the Ravens in practice this week – the offense and defense could both use all the help they can get after being swept last season. Tom Brady had no trouble finding his wideouts last week, as both Wes Welker (8 catches, 64 yards, 2 TD) and Randy Moss (5, 59, 0) had better days than any Ravens WR had against the Bengals in 2009.

Of course, he’s Tom Brady. While Flacco looked like Brady on occasion last week, skillfully avoiding the Jets’ pressure and converting key 3rd-and-long situations, but looked downright awful at other times, holding the ball too long in the pocket, overthrowing a wide open Le’Ron McClain in the end zone, and throwing from his back foot. To show that he really is ready to step into the next tier of NFL quarterbacks, as so many experts see him doing, Joe needs to start beating quality QBs – not just the likes of Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler – in head-to-head matchups. He has the weapons to do it now, so the time for excuses is over. In his defense, he had a perfect touchdown pass dropped last week (by Todd Heap) and another likely touchdown just flat out missed (by Derrick Mason). But he also underthrew Mason on another deep route, underthrew Boldin from his back foot, and missed Ray Rice on a slant that would have given the Ravens a 1st-and-goal inside the 5. We know he can make the throws. What we need to see now is consistency from #5.

The Ravens have revenge on their minds after being embarrassed by Cincy in 2009. The Bengals have redemption on theirs, after being blown out in Week 1.

I think the Bengals do bounce back this week…just not quite high enough.

Ravens 24 Bengals 20

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Ravens Bengals

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Ravens Head to Cincinnati With Hopes of Kicking Bengals While They’re Down

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Ryan Chell

Despite the Ravens’ poor play at times Monday night in Baltimore’s 10-9 victory over the New York Jets, the Ravens travel to Cincinnati on Sunday at 1 PM on CBS as the division-rival Bengals host the Ravens.

Ravens Bengals

Meanwhile, the Bengals despite some impressive numbers in the second half of their game against the New England Patriots, were very sluggish in Foxborough at the start-one of the reasons why the AFC North Division champs from 2009 fell, 38-24.

And now the Ravens, who had some impressive numbers in the victory against the Jets( 11-0f-19 on 3rd down), will be looking to jump ahead in the AFC North race by kicking the Bengals when they’re down.

The Bengals went undefeated in 2009 in a tough AFC North division (6-0), with wins over the Ravens on Oct 11 in Baltimore (17-14) and in Cincinnati (17-7) on November 8th.

Ray Lewis

Drama also surrounded the Bengals receivers against New England; as Chad OchoCinco and Terrell Owens both left the field early at the end of the first half before  a Hail-Mary shot that slot receiver Jordan Shipley had to come down with.

Running back Cedric Benson rebounded with a late touchdown in the Patriots’ blowout, but he also lost a fumble and struggled at times against an average New England rush defense, averaging only 2.9 YPC on 15 carries(43 yards).

Cedric Benson

Baltimore would hope that they see the Benson of Week 1  as opposed to the Benson of last year, who finished with 1251 yards on a comeback season with Cincinnati and shredded the Ravens in 237 yards in two games last year.

In their first match up in Baltimore, Benson became the first opposing running back to top the 100 yard mark in 40 games. He did it again later in the second Bengals victory, as did Adrian Peterson in the Ravens 33-31 loss to the Vikings on October 18th.

And with the Ravens on a short week, Baltimore could be in line to either ride the momentum from Monday’s win, or they could be in a position to struggle after a physical beating from the Jets and get the Bengals’ confidence back up and get guys like OchoCinco and Owens talking again after a big win.

Ravens Run Offense vs. Bengals Run Defense: Even

Ray Rice

Ray Rice last year against the Bengals gained only 117 yards in two games against Cincinnati , but that wasn’t due to his struggles. The Ravens just did not stick with a true identity in either contest against Cincinnati, and quarterback Joe Flacco turned the ball over several times via interceptions. The Ravens struggled to run the ball effectively against the Jets Monday night, and the Bengals may look to copy that game plan against Rice and  Willis McGahee, who fumbled the ball as well against New York but also had the Ravens’ lone touchdown.

Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene(hamstring) is out on Sunday, which could bode well for the interior of the Ravens offensive line, as well as linebacker Keith Rivers hobbled with a foot injury.

Ravens Passing Game vs. Bengals Pass Defense; Edge: Ravens

Joe Flacco

In both of last year’s match-ups,  Joe Flacco didn’t have trouble finding receivers-the only issue was that the receivers were the Bengals defensive backs. Anquan Boldin lit up Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie Monday (110 yards receiving), and the Bengals failed to generate pressure on quarterback Tom Brady, who in turn threw three touchdown passes against the Bengals.

Wes Welker had success in the slot and had very good yards after the catch against Cincinnati, and the Ravens receivers may have similar success getting YAC. Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall are maybe one of the best 1-2 corner combinations in the league and they sometimes can cover their guys 1-on-1, but I think the Ravens can make some plays down the field against them.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be driven to do well against his old team, but tight end Todd Heap could miss the game with a shoulder injury on a diving catch he made in the fourth quarter against the Jets. And finally, the Bengals could look to exploit the right side of the line where Marshal Yanda could be filling in for Jared Gaither for yet another game at right tackle. Hopefully this wont happen to Flacco on the first play against Cincy like it did against the Jets.

Joe Flacco sacked

Bengals Run Offense vs. Ravens Run Defense; Edge: Bengals

Even as a Ravens follower, I am on the Cedric Benson bandwagon. The Bengals receivers last year were no where near the receiving corps they are now, which is going to prevent the Ravens from stacking the box with eight defenders to stop the former Texas Longhorn. Benson joined longtime Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis as the only running back to rush for over 100 yards against the Ravens twice in the same season, and I think Benson will have the same success again. I think if Benson gets over 100 yards again, the Bengals win no questions asked.

The Ravens are 7-14 all time when allowing a 100-yard rusher.

LB Jarret Johnson may miss Sunday’s game with a back injury that has lingered over the last several years, but WNST’s own Glenn Clark told Rex Snider he expected Johnson to suit up. Jarret has been the Ravens’ “Iron Man” so to speak, playing in 98 straight games.

But with the loss of Johnson, helping the Ravens’ cause for stopping Benson may be aided by the return of DT Terrence Cody, who was limited in practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. If Cody were to play, it certainly shifts the balance of power in the run game toward the Ravens a bit.

Bengals Passing Offense vs. Ravens Passing Defense; Edge: Bengals

The Ravens have had problems with Owens and Chad OchoCinco in the past, but now they’re both on the same team. OchoCinco had 12 catches for 159 yards and a TD against the Patriots, and the Bengals established Owens early, as he caught 7 passes for 53 yards. I think these guys are two physical receivers who are going to be trouble for the Ravens’ smaller corners.

Hopefully this happens to OchoCinco again on Sunday-although without the penalty and on a legal hit…

But two other players who I think will cause matchup problems for the Ravens are two Big-12 receivers in former Texas Longhorn Jordan Shipley and ex-Sooner Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals tight end who drew looks from the Ravens in the draft. Shipley (5-11, 193 lb) may be too speedy in the slot for the Ravens to cover, much like Wes Welker. And the Gresham match-up (6-5, 261 lb.) against anyone on the Ravens defense is a win for the Bengals. If the Bengals don’t run all over the Ravens, I see them certainly passing all over Baltimore.

Jermaine Gresham

What benefits the Ravens is that  defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have one of his best tacklers in the secondary with Lardarius Webb not even showing up on the injury report after coming back from a season-ending ACL tear in 2009. Webb was actually slated to play on Monday, but with the late rain going over the Meadowlands, the Ravens coaching staff got cold feet and deactivated Webb.

The Ravens earned two sacks on Monday against the Jets between Haloti Ngata, Jarret Johnson, and Terrell Suggs against a decent pass-blocking team with New York. The Bengals offensive-line is better at run blocking than stopping the opposing team from sacking the quarterback, and I think Ravens fans hope that Carson Palmer is still having going to have issues with holding onto the football with wrist, finger and elbow injuries sustained over the last several seasons.

The Ravens are 37-13 when Suggs records a sack, and Baltimore is 10-0 when he records two or more drops of the quarterback.

My take:

I don’t like the short week, and I do take into effect that the Bengals picked it up in the second half against the Patriots on Sunday, scoring three touchdowns. The Ravens didn’t look perfect on Monday against the Jets, and barely defeated a team that handed them the victory in all facets of the game. I see the Bengals scoring some points offensively either on the ground or through the air-it will just be the Ravens picking their poison.

And I think offensively, the Ravens will have a better showing offensively as opposed to the two games last year, but I still see Flacco making a bad decision against a team that is just going to sit in Cover 2 and wait for Flacco to throw a pass into coverage. All of these AFC North games are close, but I see the Bengals coming out on top late in the game.

In their last five trips to Cincinnati, the Ravens are 1-4 in those away games, with the only win coming in 2008.

Bengals 21, Ravens 17

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Baltimore Ravens as they move through the 2010 season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Have we overvalued the Cincinnati Bengals?

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Have we overvalued the Cincinnati Bengals?

Posted on 12 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Earlier this afternoon, I plopped down into my Lazy Boy recliner while the REAL WORLD came crashing to a sudden halt, as it will each and every Sunday, through February 6th, 2011.

With the Ravens scheduled for tomorrow night’s primetime matchup against the Jets, I was looking forward to a contentious battle between the Bengals and Patriots, on this first Sunday of the NFL season. Damn, was I wrong …..

Before I could begin picking apart my Royal Farms fried chicken lunch, Tom Brady was doing the very same thing to the Bengals defensive secondary. In a little less than 3 minutes, Brady and company marched 72 yards through a virtual non-resistance by Cincinnati’s defenders.

When Wes Welker snatched the first touchdown, I came to an immediate conclusion …..

Bill Belichick digested that assbeating delivered by the Ravens in last season’s playoffs and employed its sobering effects to serve as an inspiration in rebuilding his fractured organization.

You remember the Ravens’ dismantling of the 3-time Super Bowl Champions, just 8 short months ago, right? Before the collective football world fully tuned into that game, the Ravens enjoyed a 14-0 lead, enroute to a resounding 33-14 victory …..

The Patriots obviously didn’t spend the winter, spring and summer feeling sorry themselves or licking any resulting wounds. They committed to replenishing a talented, but aging roster.

Additions, such as rookies, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes made an impact today.

For the most part, the Patriots spent the offseason and recent pre-season flying well under the radar; in virtual anonymity. That’s right, as Rex Ryan and his HARD KNOCKED Jets stole most headlines, Belichick’s team hid in the grass …. as they usually do.

As for the Bengals, we expected a big splash to begin 2010, right?

They won the AFC-North, in 2009. They, too added young talent since that divisional championship. And, they brought in the guy who would team with Chad Ochocinco to form a dynamic duo …..

Hey, T.O. was money from the start of the game.

But, something happened after the initial hookups with Carson Palmer, to start today’s game. T.O. disappeared …..

Of course, this was most relevant when the Bengals reassumed possession of the ball just prior to halftime. They had time to run a deep play. Yet, there was no Owens or Ochocinco to be found on the sideline – they both headed to the locker room, separately, while the Patriots still had possession and the clock trickled down.

Palmer hit rookie wideout, Jordan Shipley, for a 52 yard gain. But, the catch was downed just outside the endzone.

Where were Owens on Ochocinco?


Filming footage for their respective reality shows?

Posing in front of the visitors mirror?

I know …. they were donning their halftime garb in an effort to inspire teammates and bring more attention to their narcissistic egos …..

The antics of Cincy’s version of BATMAN & ROBIN have been amusing in a grab-ass kinda way. They’re silly, juvenile and virtually harmless – thus far.

We’ll see if that same harmless humor continues if the Bengals continue to play like they did today. I’m betting the OLD (in more ways than one) editions of T.O. and Chad will eventually surface if they don’t start making highlight reports – and WINNING.

Yeah, I know #85 had a touchdown and 159 yards receiving. But, lets be honest, these stats were achieved in “trash time”. He didn’t have any catches when the Bengals were in the game.

Then again, they were NEVER in the game.

And, that’s their problem.

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T.J. Houshmanzadeh

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Live From Owings Mills: Ravens Add Houshmandzadeh, Trade Clayton to Rams

Posted on 06 September 2010 by Ryan Chell

T.J. Houshmanzadeh

The Ravens front office went to work this Labor Day morning, reaching out to ex-Seahawks wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzaeh, signing the former Bengals receiver to a one year deal, worth roughly around 855,000 dollars.

“He’s another proven weapon on this offense,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said, a big receiver with good hands and toughness.”

He does have a guaranteed contract in place, roughly worth around 7 million dollars, but that remaining 6.15 million is the Seahawks’ responsibility.

Houshmandzadeh, who was released last week by the Seahawks because new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and the coaching staff felt like Houshmandzadeh not only didn’t fit in their system but could become a locker room cancer, will join the Ravens and immediately fill the void left by the injuries to third wide receiver candidates Mark Clayton and Donte Stallworth.

Houshmandzadeh will be in Baltimore Tuesday to take his physical, meet with the media, and get right into cramming  before the Ravens opener Monday night against the Jets.

“T.J will definitely be ready to go Week 1,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’ll start working on the playbook tomorrow. He’s been in this system, before which is a plus.”

Houshmandzadeh caught 79 passes last year for 911 yards and three scores, his lowest touchdown numbers since his second year in the league.

Both Clayton and Stallworth’s injuries came in the Ravens third preseason game against the New York Giants, as Clayton suffered a concussion after a devastating hit from safety Antrel Rolle, while Stallworth broke his left foot running down the field on a route sometime during the game.

Both receivers survived cuts on Saturday, but with the Houshmandzedah signing today, one or both could be headed to IR or off the Ravens roster as a whole. Neither can be placed on the physically unable to perform list since both have practiced and played in preseason action.

Houshmandzadeh, who was drafted by the Bengals in the 7th round of the 2001 draft out of Oregon State, has caught 586 passes for 6,693 yards and has scored 41 TDs in his career.

He spent his first eight years of his career in Cinncinnati, where he formed a complementary 1-2 punch with former Beaver teammate Chad Johnson, now known as Chad Ocho Cinco. While Johnson was the premier deep-threat, Houshmandzadeh made his living in the slot and on underneath routes, which is a role that may suit him again here in Baltimore.

His best seasons came in 2006 and 2007, when he caught a combined 202 passes for 2,224 yards and 21 scores. Since he has seen significant playing time since 2004, he has caught no less than 73 balls in a year.

He is also familiar with this division very well playing for the Bengals for eight seasons in the AFC North, and was quite the Raven killer catching passes from Carson Palmer.

“We saw him more than we wanted making a lot of plays against us,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said. “We had interest in him a year ago when he first became a free agent before he signed with Seattle.”

Now he is in purple, and should make one of the better receiving corps on paper even better, joining Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

Some would question the move because now, the Ravens have three wide receivers who literally all do the same thing well-run short routes but aren’t great at getting the deep ball.

Harbaugh shot down that mention to the media Monday.

“You know how you stretch the field? You run deep. They’ve got to cover you-especially when you have guys running down the field that can catch the ball. So, you run deep and you throw it to them.”

“If they don’t cover them, they’ll catch the ball and they’ll score…you put good players on the field and they’re threats.”

3:25- With the addition of Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens had to make a move to clear a spot on the roster for the ex Bengal and Seahawk. With Clayton falling down the depth chart with the additions of Houshmandzadeh and the Ravens not wanting to give up on the blazing speed Stallworth shows when healthy, this meant the end for Clayton in Baltimore.

The Ravens traded Mark Clayton to St. Louis Rams for “late-round considerations”. Signing his tender, Clayton was scheduled to make over  2 million dollars and while he showed some progress in the off-season, his injuries continued to mount up, as he suffered a concussion in the preseason victory over the Giants.

Mark Clayton

“Mark is a good person who did everything he could to help the Ravens on and off the field,” Newsome added. “In the end, we have to do what we think is best for the team, but letting Mark go hurts.”

“He was first class all the way, even when we met with him about the trade. This is the tough part of the business.”

The Rams were in the market for a wide receiver with their top wide out, Donnie Avery, out for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee, and their other top receiver, Laurent Robinson, not catching on to the new offense.

And when it comes to Houshmandzadeh and Clayton, Harbaugh said it isn’t fair to Clayton to compare the two’s capabilities.

“It’s not a fair question… it’s a comparison,” Harbaugh noted. “Both bring a lot to the table to anyone. For us right now, it’s a fresh start with a new guy in T.J. And he’s a big physical guy, and we appreciate that, but they’re both really good players.”

Clayton is re-united with a former Oklahoma Sooner in quarterback Sam Bradford, who was drafted first overall this year by the Rams, and will likely be the #1 option in St. Louis when healthy.

“I had the chance to spend a lot of time talking to the Rams about Mark today…and they’re very excited to have him.  Mark was just one of the most special guys we’ve had here…one of our top leaders.”

Harbaugh made sure to wish Clayton all the luck in the world going to the Rams, the team the Ravens faced last Thursday in their preseason finale.

“I think its good for him to get a opportunity; a little bit of a fresh start there. He’s very talented, and I’m sure he’ll do really well.”

Clayton is the Ravens all-time leader in 100-yard games with nine, and was the Ravens first-round pick in 2005.

Clayton finished his career with the Ravens with 234 catches, 3,116 yards, and 12 TDs.

4:13- Four Ravens were taking snaps from center at the start of practice, including Flacco, Bulger(with a new number, #10 which replaces Troy Smith), Hunter Cantwell who will be on the practice squad, and receiver Anquan Boldin.

Cantwell, who was on the Panthers roster this preseason and saw action against the Ravens in the first preseason game of the year, was picked up by the Ravens over the weekend after being cut from Carolina.

He played his college ball at the University of Louisville.

Boldin, a former prep QB at Pahokee High School, would likely take snaps if something were to happen to both starting QB Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger if both were to fall to injury.

Hunter Cantwell is on the Ravens’ practice squad at this time but not on the active roster.

“I’m obviously disappointed to be cut in Carolina,” Cantwell said, “but my agents and the organization here worked out a deal for me to come on and be the practice squad quarterback and learn the system.”

Cantwell said that he is learning from two of the best in the business in Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger.

“Joe and Marc are great quarterbacks, and have a great reputation,” Cantwell continued. “So to come here and learn from them and be part of this organization, is something I’m excited about.”

4:28- Defensive end Paul Kruger was not on the practice field Monday, still suffering the effects of his injured shoulder suffered during the preseason finale against the Rams.

Willis McGahee, who was absent from practice on Friday, was seen walking out to practice when the media were allowed to view the session.

Both Josh Wilson, acquired over the weekend for a 5th round pick, and Bryan McCann, claimed off waivers after the final roster cuts, practiced.

Wilson was very excited to see a former teammate of his in Houshmandzadeh joining him in Baltimore.

“You get a great player like that, and it’s iciing on the cake,” Wilson said. “I’m happy we went out and got him, and we’ve got something great here. I just want to make sure I can add to that greatness.”

Wilson saw firsthand last year what kind of a player Houshmandzadeh was lining up against him in practice and also got to see what kind of player he was in the locker room.

“With what kind of player he is, he knows how to catch the ball,” Wilson said. “He knows how to get open and make plays. He’s not T.J. Whose-Your-Momma for no reason.”

“He’s a great person,” Wilson continued. “I loved hanging out with T.J. He’s one of your laid back guys who are going to have fun, and I’ve never had a problem with TJ.”

“I love that he’s going to be here. He’s one more person for me to laugh with, hang out with, talk trash with, and just have fun.”

5:53 Also on the field was tackle Oniel Cousins, who has not been cleared to play by the doctors after missing the last two preseason games with a concussion.

Cousins told the media in the locker room that he probably a day or two away from being given the thumbs up to practice.

“I thought I was cleared, but I think I’ve got to go to the doctors tomorrow to make sure everything is finalized and good.”

Cousins said the headaches are behind him.

“Overall, I feel pretty good. The past couple of days, we haven’t really been doing any contact, and practicing more in a conditional and mental thing. I feel pretty good.”

Two other notable injuries came up in conversation at practice, one being linebacker Sergio Kindle and the other being tackle Jared Gaither.

Harbaugh said he has talked to Kindle over the phone about his progression returning from a fractured skull he suffered days before the team reported to training camp.

“I know he’s really excited to get going, and we’ll just have to [wait]… it’s in the hands of the medical people, and we’ll just have to see how that turns out.”

And with Gaither-who is back to lifting weights and is slowly regaining weight-he personally addressed his back spasms, what is described as a thoracic disk ailment.

He has not practiced in full since August 5th.

“It’s really hard with this type of injury, as I’ve been told,” Gaither said.”As soon as it feels better, I want to go out and play. I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens as we get closer and closer to Opening Night against the Jets! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Best Of The Best: My Top 20 QB’s

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Joe Giglio

Imagine you are in the ultimate football draft with only one goal for your football team: win the Super Bowl this year. How would you go about picking a quarterback to lead your troops into battle? Forget past, forget future, and only focus on the present. Who are the signal callers in the league right now that you would go to war with in order to win the ultimate prize?

Here are my Top 20 Quarterbacks heading into the 2010 season:

20. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders

Always liked the guy. Stuck in a rotten situation with rotten coaches in DC for years, yet his completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns went up every single year. Will be playing for his 2,000th offensive coordinator in the form of Hue Jackson this season in the Black Hole. Last season every Raider supporter (so…me) said that if that team had a decent QB they would have made the postseason. Well, Campbell is a decent QB. Should Raider fans start saving up for playoff tickets? Probably not, but it wouldn’t totally shock me.

19. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans

If I had one win one single game, Vince would probably be significantly higher on this list. He is dynamic at moments, but can also show how limited his skills as a passer are at others. His legs are clearly what make him a game breaker, but we’re going to have to get the touchdown-interception ratio better than 32-39 for a career before I truly want to build a team around him. He is still raw and has room to grown and learn, but the 2006 Rose Bowl wasn’t yesterday. It’s time for Vince to show if he is closer to growing into a Donovan McNabb or continuing on a path to becoming a Michael Vick (in terms of on the field only) clone.

18. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins

Yes, I know this is a guy that has only started 13 games in the NFL. Yes, I know that he had more INTs than TDs last season. Yes, I know he plays on a team with a conservative offensive approach, and many times, wasn’t even on the field in favor of the wildcat. Still, the guy can sling it. Big arm, big moxie, big game experience at Michigan. I wasn’t the biggest fan of him coming out of college because I thought he should have won bigger, which I guess can be a backhanded complement at his abilities. Miami has now given him Brandon Marshall to work with on the outside, and I expect Henne’s numbers, and Dolphin victories, to be on the rise in 2010.

17. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

Youth doesn’t scare me when ranking these guys. I don’t believe we can look at Sanchez as the sum of the parts, but rather evaluate him on how he finished the season. Early on in 2009 he looked in over his head, confused at times, and uncomfortable with dealing with the media after tough performances. As the season moved along, and the Jets started playing to his strengths, he was phenomenal. He “managed” the games, but also made a few plays in each of those victories down the stretch that either won the contest or sealed the deal. He throws on the run better than almost any QB in the league, is already respected in the locker room, and will only get better with a full camp as the starter.

16. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks

Still? When he is healthy, absolutely. Seattle is admittedly a tough team to predict, and there is a part of me that believes that Charlie Whitehurst will be the starter by the end of the season. But Hasselbeck can still lead an offense. Pete Carroll raved on The Shore Sports Report about the shape that Hasselbeck is in and the team leader that he is. Short, bald, and without a huge arm is no way to get legitimate recognition in today’s NFL, but at least he is getting some here.

15. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Put up or shut up. I am a big enough man to out myself as a Cutler guy, but even I could barely watch that 2009 debacle in the Windy City. From the 4 picks on opening night in Green Bay to the 0 TD, 5 INT stunt he pulled in San Fran on a Thursday Night we would all like to have back, Jay was a bust in the new city. Still, there is hope for a guy who looked destined for stardom during his early years in Denver. Mike Martz has arrived to run the offense, Chester Taylor is going to help shoulder the load in the backfield, and Julius Peppers should help keep Jay on the field. This is a make or break year for the entire Chicago franchise, led by the QB on this list with the potential for the biggest leap or possibly the biggest fall.

14. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals

I’m comfortable with my team going to war with anyone from Carson on up this list. It looked like this guy was destined for a perennial Top 5 spot on this list during his early days out of USC, but injuries to his knee and elbow, combined with a change in offensive philosophy, have changed the kind of numbers he puts up. Still, this is a guy that has never played a full season without completing at least 60% of his passes, and shouldn’t be evaluated on those last two windy and cold games against the Jets and their ferocious defense. Antonio Bryant, Jermaine Gresham, and Jordan Shipley were great additions to a receiving corps that desperately needed it.

13. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

Let the debate begin. I have people trying to convince me this is a Top 5 guy on a list list like this, and I’m not even willing to put him in the Top 10. I realize the kind of yards and rating this guy had last year, but I need to see more victories, less fumbles, and back to back healthy seasons. Don’t forget the knock on this guy was never his ability to throw it down the field, but rather in knack for being carted off it. Last year was the first time we saw him in all 16 games. Also, there is the fumbling issue and propensity for turnovers at the wrong time. That blown lead at home vs. Indianapolis is part of the reason I don’t trust this guy. This should be the year for him and the Texans to finally break through, but I’m not ready to believe quite yet.

12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

It’s not often that 9-7 can sell me on what a guy is made of, but it did here. I’ll admit that I don’t particularly care for Matt Ryan. I didn’t think he was great at Boston College, didn’t think he deserved the coronation for beating the Bears on a 10 yard post pass in his first game, and certainly didn’t agree with SI’s Peter King ranking him one of the Top 20 players in the sport after his rookie year. That being said, he showed he was a leader last season by coming back from turf toe when the playoffs we’re not a realistic possibility to lead his team to their first back to back winning seasons in franchise history. He’s on the rise…whether I like it or not.

11. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins

I still can’t believe that he was moved in division when Philly decided it was time for the divorce to become final. The city had it out for the guy from the moment Paul Tagliabue called his name in the 1999 Draft. He isn’t the player he once was, but that didn’t stop him from putting up his third best statistical season of his career last year. The last time Mike Shannahan inherited a QB that was 33 and without a ring on his finger was in 1995 out in Denver. That guy? John Elway. Denver never gave up on him and they celebrated together in 1997 and 1998. If history repeats itself, the only fans in the sport that won’t enjoy it will be those in Philadelphia.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it.

Coming tomorrow: The Top 10

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How Much Is The Fox Worth ?

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How Much Is The Fox Worth ?

Posted on 02 August 2010 by Rex Snider

On Friday morning, I packed up a week’s worth of wares and officially brought my vacation to an end, as I departed Dewey Beach. While driving north, thru Rehoboth, my Blackberry sounded with a message from the trusted WNST Text Service …..

“Ravens CB Domonique Foxworth tears ACL in his knee”

While I certainly expected the obvious medical diagnosis – GONE FOR THE YEAR – I did not expect the onslaught of doom and gloom, and occasional panic, that would ensue throughout the afternoon. As much as many Ravens fans have chosen to feast upon the pre-season hype, a proportionate number also greeted Foxworth’s injury with a feeling of insurmountable loss.


While I’ll agree he was the best cornerback on the active roster, as Friday’s full camp opened, I’ve never really considered Domonique Foxworth to be among the irreplacable realities of a Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Michael Oher and Haloti Ngata. Indeed, if one of these players tears his ACL, you can push the PANIC BUTTON.

Let me start by saying I liked Foxworth’s play during the final stages of the 2009 season and he was certainly going to be relied upon for carrying a more significant role as a season opening matchup with the New York Jets neared. But, irreplacable? Sorry, I just don’t see it.

Some optimists might point out his perceived lackluster coverage in the early stages of last season. Indeed, Foxworth appeared to struggle against bigger, physical receivers. Does anyone recall the game in San Diego …..

However, in true fairness it’s also quite rightful to point out the Ravens’ surprisingly substandard pass rush, last season. In fact, it’s just an absolute truth. Domonique Foxworth had very little support from Terrell Suggs and company, when it came to pressuring the likes of Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Carson Palmer.

And, as we all know, pressuring the quarterback, consistently, can make ROCK STARS out of formidable cornerbacks. Conversely, failing to achieve that same attack can make the same cornerbacks look like they’re not doing their jobs.

Welcome to the NFL.

So, as we look back on 2009, did we really have so much of the upcoming season’s potential and promise vested upon the shoulders of Domonique Foxworth? Sure, the injuries to Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb have compounded and magnified the value regarding a player of Foxworth’s caliber.

But, can he be satisfactorily replaced? While Washington and Webb move closer to regained form, can someone step up and cover?

Is it Cary Williams or Travis Fisher? Will Chris Carr play even BIGGER? Who knows …. but a group of collective players have undoubtedly hungered for THAT CHANCE to prove themselves. And, this is that chance …..

After all, who was talking about the potential impact of Danelle Ellerbe, at the beginning of last season’s camp?

Does the Foxworth injury impact other facets of the Ravens defense? Sure. And, one particular name comes to mind …..

So long as Terrell Suggs doesn’t spend another season producing like a member of the Orioles, the pass rush is likely to improve. Given the increased vulnerability of the secondary, I’ll imagine Greg Mattison is already formulating a way to make his attack more dynamic.

The reality is the season-ending injury to Domonique Foxworth just sucks. He’s a damn good cornerback and obviously committed to the “team first” philosophy. But, his injury an ultimate loss is a defining factor of everyday life in the National Football League.

He won’t be the last member of the Ravens lost to injury. And, don’t worry about the bad luck abstaining from other franchises. Every NFL team gets a bite of this sandwich. It’s already hit the Steelers (Willie Colon), Cowboys (Dez Bryant) and Broncos (Knowshon Moreno). The Patriots, Colts, Jets and Chargers will suffer their losses, too.

Speaking of the Patriots and Colts, what will they do if faced with the loss of a vital player? We keep saying the Ravens must beat the great teams, if they’re going to rise to the next level. Well, those great teams lose FRANCHISE players, like Tom Brady and Bob Sanders to injury, yet, they still find a way to win.

And, that’s the challenge facing the Ravens.

There are no “silver linings” to the loss of Domonique Foxworth. Yet, his injury could’ve occured at a more inconvenient time. The Ravens have six weeks to address it. Last season, they had less than six days to address the loss of a starting cornerback …..

Injuries, while detrimental, also create opportunities ….. especially in training camp. I don’t think the value of such a competition can be overlooked. A handful of young, marginal players are going to be afforded the chance to prove they’re more talented than the depth chart suggests. And, some “old dogs” are out to prove they can still hunt.

I suppose Friday’s bad news really serves as a reminder that pre-season predictions aren’t worth a bag of rotten crab shells. Who could’ve guessed Domoniqe Foxworth would tear his ACL or Sergio Kindle would be in a Texas hospital, while recovering from a fractured skull? You can’t …..

Of course, every purple-blooded loyalist couldn’t resist the accolades. The Ravens have been lathered with a layering of “favorite” in the AFC-North. And, while this supposed indestructible Baltimore football machine has spent the past week proving there is no such distinction, a divisional rival has been stealing headlines, for positive reasons, since last Tuesday.

Meet the new AFC-North favorites …. the Cincinnati Bengals.

The good news is their hype is every bit as fragile as the Ravens. They, too, haven’t played a single game, yet. But, that hasn’t stopped the World Wide Leader and others from forecasting a lethal passing attack – especially with the addition of a soon-to-be 37 year old wide receiver.

As a sports community, we’re so damn fickle. On one hand, we wanted nothing to do with Terrell Owens, because he’s known to be a cancerous plague within a locker room – and he’s beyond his most productive years. On the other hand, we fear the addition of the GREAT T.O.’s arrival, in Cincinnati. Remember, he’s the same exact guy nobody wanted in a Ravens uniform.

Yet, we figure up the loss of Domonique Foxworth, coupled with the addition of Owens, in Cincinnati, and the result is DOOM & GLOOM.

The crippled Ravens secondary will never stop these guys …..

Don’t forget Antonio Bryant, Jermaine Gresham or Jordan Shipley. Heck, don’t forget Cedric Benson – who really bulldozed his way thru the Ravens defensive line, twice, last year.

Yet, it’s Owens that instills this uneasiness in Ravens fans, while also rallying those in media to annoint the Bengals as the team to beat. Don’t buy into it. There is a distinct reason why the Ravens didn’t want him, along with 30 other teams.

In fact, don’t get caught up in any of the extreme impressions, one way or another, caused by injuries, additions or anything else.

The Ravens lost Domonique Foxworth for the season. That’s a fact. If their aspirations and Super Bowl hopes were tied to one player of Foxworth’s caliber, then this 2010 team really isn’t as good as many people might think.


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Dan Reeves

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Former NFL Coach Dan Reeves on AFC North: “You’re Talking About One of The Better Divisions In The National Football League Without Question”

Posted on 23 July 2010 by Ryan Chell

Dan Reeves
Dan Reeves, a former NFL head coach for the Broncos, Giants and Falcons, has been around the game of football for a long time.

In his 23-year coaching career, Reeves has a career mark of 190-165, and is 11-9 in the postseason. Despite never winning a Super Bowl as a coach,  he won four conference titles with the Broncos and Falcons, and made it to the playoffs nine times.

He was a quarterback and wide receiver for the Cowboys in his playing days back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, throwing a touchdown pass in the “Ice Bowl” of 1967 against the Packers, missing a ball that the Colts intercepted in Super Bowl V, and finally winning a championship as a player in 1971 in Super Bowl VI.

And since leaving the coaching ranks after 2003 and experimenting with some job opportunities, Reeves has had an opportunity to watch the NFL as a fan, and most recently, as a commentator for Westwood One Radio on Sunday NFL games.

As training camp starts for the majority of the NFL teams next week, Reeves was able to spend a few minutes with WNST’s own Rex Snider to talk about the AFC North, a division he knows all too well.

In the 80’s when Reeves was the coach of the Broncos, Reeves was involved in several big games against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs. With John Elway as his quarterback after getting him in a trade with the Baltimore Colts, Reeves coached in the games that featured “The Drive” in the 1987 AFC Championship Game against the Browns, and the following year, the Browns handed the Broncos the AFC Title on a play ultimately known as “The Fumble“, as future Raven Earnest Byner, on his way to score the game-tying touchdown, fumbled the ball and the Broncos won the game.

Earnest Byner's

The Drive

And Reeves’ owning of the Browns continued in 1989, when the Broncos beat the Browns for their third AFC Championship in four years, but remember; Elway and the Broncos never won the Super Bowl until 1997-1998. And they then beat Reeves for Elway’s second and final championship the following year when Reeves was coaching the 14-2 Atlanta Falcons.

Reeves told Snider that the AFC North may be the toughest division in all of football.

“It always is an interesting league and every year you get surprises,” Reeves said. “Teams go from last place to first place, and you’re talking about one of the better divisions in the National Football League without question.”

Snider asked Reeves to go through the AFC North’s coaches and give an opinion on each of their situations. He started with the lowly Browns, who are no where close to being the franchise  he remembers from back in the 80’s.

But Reeves did say that owner Randy Lerner did take some steps in the right direction this year by bringing in Mike Holmgren to rebuild the team from a personnel perspective, as well as retaining coach Eric Mangini who made some good decisions in the team’s four-game winning streak at the end of the season.

“Mike Holmgren has been successful everywhere he’s been, so there’s no reason to think that given time, that he’s not going to be able to turn that franchise around and make them one of those teams that you have to contend with every year in that division.”

Mike Holmgren's New Job-Rebuild the Browns

Next, Reeves addressed some concerns about the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for at least the first four games of the season, and could be lost for up to six.

“Its unfortunate that their quarterback is going to be out the first four games. You could make a little bit of a cushion there, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are always tough.”

But Reeves did say that if there was any coach in the league to get his team out of a jam like that, it’s Mike Tomlin. Reeves has personally seen him at work.

Mike Tomlin

“I went into some of their meetings, and was able to observe Mike Tomlin. The one thing that you pick up on very quickly is that the players really enjoy playing for him. That’s one thing the coach has to earn is respect, especially when you take over for someone like Bill Cowher.”

“I think Mike Tomlin has shown that he deserves all the credit in the world for taking them to a championship, and last year was one of those unusual years where you get too many injuries and couldn’t overcome them. There’s not too many teams in the league who can overcome those types of injuries and be competitive.”

But Reeves said that the loss of Roethlisberger is going to be felt longer than just the games he misses. He is going to be a step behind when he returns, because the rhythm, timing, and cohesiveness of the team is going to be different when he finally returns under center.

“Not only are they going to miss him, but his ability to practice with the players for that period of time, that’s going to be very difficult for them. The timing, the continuity, all the things you need, it’s going to be difficult for them to overcome them. It’s not to say that they cant.  A lot of times teams rally and know that everybody needs to pick up the slack and play a little bit harder.”

And the Steelers certainly aren’t a young team by any stretch of the imagination. And they are injury-prone, with All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu missing time last year, hurting their playoff chances.

“Missing Troy Polamalu last year was huge for them, ” said Reeves. “He is a catalyst on that defense. When he is flying around, they’re making an awful lot of  plays. So if they can get everyone else healthy, they might be able to overcome that. But its going to be an uphil struggle.”

While a lot of the people that follow the NFL are already crowning the Ravens as division-and even Super Bowl champs, don’t forget-the Bengals are the reigning division champs. And they too had a good off-season and draft, bringing in Antonio Bryant to complement Chad Ocho Cinco as well as drafting Jermaine Gresham to give quarterback Carson Palmer more offensive weapons.

But Reeves said the Bengals’ chances of repeating are mainly going to lie on their defense, and if head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer can make lightning strike twice.

Bengals DC Mike Zimmer

“Mike Zimmer did an outstanding job, and overcame some personal adversity last year. That football team played extremely well. And Marvin does a great job. The one thing you know about him, he’s consistent year in and year out. He doesn’t change. If he gets himself surrounded with some good football players, which they came up last year  and did that, it’s going to be interesting what they can do this year.”

But Reeves had to save his greatest respect for the Ravens, who by his imagination, do also appear to be the favorites to win the division based on their moves.

Reeves said the real strength of the Ravens though may be that they have the best coaching staff in the league, and it all starts at the top with John Harbaugh.

“They have a great coaching staff. And I think John Harbaugh has done an outstanding job with the Baltimore Ravens.”

And the two offensive coaches the Ravens have in Cam Cameron and newly acquired quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn should be a great fit for Baltimore and Joe Flacco this year.

“Cam Cameron is as good an offensive coordinator as there is in the NFL. And now to have those kind of weapons. He does a great job of being innovative with the people he has. And now you have a quarterback that’s got another year under his belt. I like what they do.”

“Jim is an outstanding offensive mind, and he is really a great quarterbacks coach. He is a guy that got the most out of his ability.  And he really came through and became a great quarterback in this league. He’s just going to get better and better. He is just one of the fine young, veteran quarterback coaches and I think he’ll do  great job with Flacco.”

Jim Zorn

And when looking at the schedule for some of the teams in this division this year, Reeves said he has already penciled in one game that he hopes he is not doing a game that day.

It’s the Week 13 match-up between the Steelers and the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football. That’s a game where Reeves just wants to sit back and enjoy it.

“That’s one you always look forward to because it’s like the black and blue division. In particular when those two teams play, I guarantee I’m going to be one who wants to sit right in front of the television and watch that one.”

Stay tuned to WNST as we are 3 days away from the start of Ravens training camp! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Batltimore Sports!

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