Tag Archive | "Cedric Benson"

Ranking the Ravens’ biggest offensive needs

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ranking the Ravens’ biggest offensive needs

Posted on 13 February 2012 by Luke Jones

If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, or so the saying goes.

It’s been three weeks since the Ravens fell a few tenths of a second short — how much longer Lee Evans needed to hold the ball in the end zone — of advancing to Super Bowl XLVI. The organization is now faced with difficult decisions while trying to improve but also acknowledging just how excruciatingly close it came to reaching the pinnacle contest of the NFL.

With free agency set to begin in one month (March 13 at 4:00 p.m.) and the draft just over two months away, the Ravens are evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the first of a three-part series, I offer thoughts on the offensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need entering the offseason.

1. Left guard

I’ve tried to think of as many conceivable scenarios as I can for the Ravens to re-sign Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs while not putting their future salary cap space in jeopardy, but I continue to come back to the same theme over and over.

In the modern era, NFL teams simply cannot and do not spent an extraordinary amount of money at the guard position. And after signing Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to a $32 million contract with $10 million guaranteed, it’s difficult envisioning general manager Ozzie Newsome forking over even more money for Grubbs, especially with quarterback Joe Flacco and cornerback Lardarius Webb set to become free agents following the 2012 season.

Neither the Ravens nor Grubbs have spoken with any level of confidence that the 2007 first-round pick will be back in Baltimore, so a hometown discount appears unlikely. Though Baltimore has retained all but one (2005 selection Mark Clayton) of its first-round picks since 2002, it appears Grubbs will find a new home in 2012.

So, how do the Ravens replace him? The only viable in-house candidate might be 2011 third-round tackle Jah Reid, who practiced at both tackle and guard last season, but his 6-foot-7 frame isn’t ideal inside and he’d be making the transition from the right tackle position.

The draft would figure to be the logical outlet, with a young guard such as Stanford’s David DeCastro or Georgia’s Cordy Glenn potentially available at the end of the first round. However, the Ravens could elect to address other positions of need in the early rounds and roll the dice in finding a competent veteran on the free-agent market.

2. Center

On the surface, the center position would appear to be an urgent need with no veteran currently under contract for 2012, but the Ravens have short-term veteran options in Matt Birk and Andre Gurode.

Birk has yet to decide whether he’ll play in 2012 or retire, but the Ravens could elect to re-sign the five-time Pro Bowl center Gurode, who is three years younger. Regardless of which way the Ravens go, they will need to think about the future at the position with both players close to the end of their respective careers.

Former Ohio State product Justin Boren finished the season on the practice squad and could be a center to groom for 2013 and beyond. Should the Ravens elect to draft a center in April, it likely wouldn’t be until the middle or late rounds unless Wisconsin’s Peter Konz would strike their fancy at the end of the first round.

3. Wide receiver

The receiver position has seemingly showed up on the list every year, but this unit appears to be in better shape than it has in quite some time.

Veteran Anquan Boldin is clearly not a No. 1 receiver at this point in his career, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a better season in 2012 after he played with a partially-torn meniscus for most of 2011. When he returned for the postseason after late-season surgery, Boldin appeared more effective, catching 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games.

Torrey Smith figures to only get better with a full offseason to work on his route-running and build a stronger rapport with Flacco. If he can become a bigger threat in the short-to-intermediate passing game, Smith might become the No. 1 receiver the Ravens have lacked since the infancy of the franchise.

The disappointing Evans is under contract for the 2012 season, but it’s hard to envision the Ravens paying the receiver a $1 million roster bonus in March and tolerating his near-$6 million cap number for the upcoming season. He’ll likely be released, with a small chance for a return at a reduced rate.

The Ravens would love a young receiver with height to complement the speedy Smith moving forward, but it’s easier said than done in the pass-happy NFL where every team is looking for big, speedy targets on the outside. A veteran free agent such as Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, or Dwayne Bowe would provide another threat at receiver but would not provide the height the Baltimore receiving group lacks. San Diego wideout Vincent Jackson would be the ideal 6-foot-5 name in free agency, but his price tag will be hefty.

Adding another impact wide receiver might be the only way to truly gauge whether Flacco can take the passing game to the next level, and the Ravens will try their best to do it this offseason.

4. Running back

(see next page)

Comments (3)

Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Comments (4)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens Get Long Odds to Win Super Bowl

Posted on 05 January 2012 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv). Below are wild card team props, exact playoff results for each team, players stats for the four wild card games this weekend, and odds for defensive player of the year. There’s also a quote from Bovada.lv Sportsbook Manager Kevin Bradley on the playoffs.

“A few weeks back the New York Giants were up to 100-1 to win the Super Bowl and we could not write a bet on them, but with their resurgence the last few weeks they are the fancy pick going into the playoffs with the bettors at 20-1 and now we even had to drop them to 18-1 because of the volume we are taking on them. They have gone from one of our biggest winners on Super Bowl futures to our biggest loser, so even though I like the way they have been playing especially on D with Pierre-Paul and think they are peaking at right time I could not be more of a Falcons fan this weekend!”-Kevin Bradley, Bovada.lv Sportsbook Manager

Wild Card Team Props
2012 NFL Playoffs – How many Wild Card teams will win this weekend?        Over      1.5        -180    
Under    1.5        +150           

2012 NFL Playoffs – How many Wild Card teams will win this weekend?        0                      10/1
1                      9/5
2                      7/4
3                      4/1
4                      30/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – Will a Wild Card team win the Super Bowl?       
Yes                  6/1
No                    1/10

2012 NFL Playoffs – Will a Wild Card team play in the Super Bowl?  
Yes                  +220
No                    -280

Exact Playoff Results For Each Team
2012 NFL Playoffs – Green Bay Packers Playoff Progress       
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round                     13/4
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game               3/1
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       3/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        9/5

2012 NFL Playoffs – New England Patriots Playoff Progress    
Eliminated in AFC Divisional Round                     3/1
Eliminated in AFC Championship Game               2/1
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       2/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        4/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – San Francisco 49ers Playoff Progress      
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round                     11/10
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game               6/5
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       10/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        11/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – Baltimore Ravens Playoff Progress          
Eliminated in AFC Divisional Round                     2/1
Eliminated in AFC Championship Game               5/4
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       15/4
Super Bowl Champion                                        15/2

2012 NFL Playoffs – New Orleans Saints Playoff Progress       
Eliminated in NFC Wild Card Round                    9/2
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round                     11/4
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game               7/5
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       8/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        9/2

2012 NFL Playoffs – Houston Texans Playoff Progress            
Eliminated in AFC Wild Card Round                    7/5
Eliminated in AFC Divisional Round                     1/1       
Eliminated in AFC Championship Game               6/1
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       20/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        40/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – New York Giants Playoff Progress            
Eliminated in NFC Wild Card Round                    7/4
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round                     5/6
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game               9/1
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       16/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        18/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – Denver Broncos Playoff Progress             
Eliminated in AFC Wild Card Round                    1/4
Eliminated in AFC Divisional Round                     9/2
Eliminated in AFC Championship Game               14/1
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       25/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        50/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – Atlanta Falcons Playoff Progress             
Eliminated in NFC Wild Card Round                    5/8
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round                     11/4
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game               9/2
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       22/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        35/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – Pittsburgh Steelers Playoff Progress        
Eliminated in AFC Wild Card Round                    3/1
Eliminated in AFC Divisional Round                     6/5
Eliminated in AFC Championship Game               3/1
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       13/2
Super Bowl Champion                                        11/1 2012

NFL Playoffs – Detroit Lions Playoff Progress      
Eliminated in NFC Wild Card Round                    1/6
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round                     5/1
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game               16/1     
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       30/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        40/1

2012 NFL Playoffs – Cincinnati Bengals Playoff Progress        
Eliminated in AFC Wild Card Round                    2/3
Eliminated in AFC Divisional Round                     8/5
Eliminated in AFC Championship Game               10/1
Super Bowl Runner Up                                       30/1
Super Bowl Champion                                        65/1

CIN vs. HOU Player Stats
Total Rushing Yards – Cedric Benson (CIN)    
Over./Under                   62½ 

Total Receiving Yards – A.J. Green (CIN)        
Over/Under                    67½ 

Total Rushing Yards – Arian Foster (HOU)       
Over/Under                    105½ 

Who will record more Passing Yards in the game?    
Andy Dalton (CIN) QB                -9½     
T.J. Yates (HOU) QB                  +9½      

Who will record more TD Passes in the game?          
Andy Dalton (CIN) QB                8/5
T.J. Yates (HOU) QB                  8/5
Tie                                            2/1

Who will record more Interceptions in the game?     
Andy Dalton (CIN) QB                3/2
T.J. Yates (HOU ) QB                 7/4
Tie                                            2/1

DET vs. NO Player Stats
Total Passing Yards – Matthew Stafford (DET)            
Over/Under                    300½ 

Total TD Passes – Matthew Stafford (DET)      
Over                              2½ (+135)
Under                            2½  (-165)

Total Interceptions – Matthew Stafford (DET)  
Over                              ½  (-200)
Under                            ½ (+160)           

Total Completions – Matthew Stafford (DET)   
Over/Under                    26½ 

Total Receiving Yards – Calvin Johnson (DET)           
Over/Under                    100½ 

Will Calvin Johnson (DET) score a TD in the game?   
Yes                  -190    
No                    +155     

Will Ndamukong Suh (DET) get a 15 yard penalty in the game?         Over                              2/1                   

Total Passing Yards – Drew Brees (NO)          
Over/Under                    330½ 

Total TD Passes – Drew Brees (NO)    
Over                              2½  (-165)
Under                            2½ (+135)

Total Interceptions – Drew Brees (NO)            
Over                              ½  (-175)
Under                            ½ (+145)

Total Receiving Yards – Marques Colston (NO)           
Over/Under                    80½ 

Total Receiving Yards – Jimmy Graham (NO)
Over/Under                    80½                                    

Will Jimmy Graham (NO) score a TD in the game?    
Yes                  -150    
No                    +120     

Which team will have more time of possession in the game?           
Detroit Lions                  +120
New Orleans Saints       -150

New Orleans 3rd down conversion % in the game     
Over/Under                    50%      

ATL vs. NYG Player Stats
Total Passing Yards – Matt Ryan (ATL)           
Over/Under                    265½            

Total Rushing Yards – Michael Turner (ATL)   
Over/Under                    75½ 

Total Receiving Yards – Roddy White (ATL)   
Over/Under                    77½                                    

Total Receiving Yards – Julio Jones (ATL)      
Over/Under                    70½ 

Total Passing Yards – Eli Manning (NYG)        
Over/Under                    295½ 

Total Receiving Yards – Hakeem Nicks (NYG)
Over/Under                    80½ 

Total Receiving Yards – Victor Cruz (NYG)     
Over/Under                    85½ 

Longest Reception – Victor Cruz (NYG)           
Over/Under                    45.5 Yards        

DEN vs. PIT Player Stats
Total Passing Yards – Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)          
Over/Under                    265½            

Total Rushing Yards – Isaac Redman (PIT)     
Over/Under                    79½ 

Total Receiving Yards – Mike Wallace (PIT)   
Over/Under                    70½ 

Total Passing Yards – Tim Tebow (DEN)         
Over                              150½ 

Total TD Passes – Tim Tebow (DEN)   
Over                              1 (+120)
Under                            1  (-150)

Total Interceptions – Tim Tebow (DEN)           
Over/Under                    1/2 

Total Rushing Yards – Tim Tebow (DEN)         
Over/Under                    45½ 

Total Rushing Attempts – Tim Tebow (DEN)    
Over/Under                    8½ 

Total Completions – Tim Tebow (DEN)            
Over/Under                    10½ 

Will Tim Tebow (DEN) score a Rushing TD in the game?       
Yes                  +145    
No                    -175     

(PIT vs DEN) Total Offensive Yards allowed by the Steelers    Over/Under                    265½ 

Awards Odds
Who will win NFL Defensive Player of the Year?       
Terrell Suggs (BAL)                    5/6
Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG)             5/4
Jared Allen (MIN)                       5/1
Darrelle Revis (NYJ)                   7/1
DeMarcus Ware (DAL)               7/1
Charles Woodson (GB)               10/1

Comments (2)

The 15-7-0 Might Be Tricky, But It’s Always A Treat

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The 15-7-0 Might Be Tricky, But It’s Always A Treat

Posted on 31 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

You know how it works. 15 positive football observations, 7 “not so” positive football observations and one “oh no” moment from outside the world of football.

(As a reminder, we don’t do Baltimore Ravens analysis here. We do PLENTY of that elsewhere. This is about the rest of the world of football.)

15 Positive Observations…

1. With the entire country winning, Andrew Luck looked like a Heisman Trophy winner and future #1 pick Saturday night in Los Angeles.

It’s a shame the USC Trojans gave the ball away just outside the endzone in overtime number three against Stanford. Not only because I picked the Cardinal to lose last Thursday when I played John Allen (of Charm City Devils fame) in “Everybody Beats Glenn”, but also because it was a hell of a game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx7vpD_D4g0[/youtube]

I’ll go ahead and move Luck ahead of Boise State QB Kellen Moore on my Heisman Watch list. Yeah, I guess I’m a sellout. But it’s hard not to like what you see with this kid. Alabama RB Trent Richardson is third on my list; which now ends at three because one of those guys will be your winner.

Going back to Saturday night, Andrew Luck also did this…

luck

2. Marvin Lewis is (very deservingly) the winningest coach in Cincinnati Bengals history.

I get more and more concerned about the Ravens’ pending matchups with the Bengals every time I watch them…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0an-M9us5Y[/youtube]

They did all of that without Cedric Benson and they were playing the Seahawks IN Seattle.

By the way, did you know Adam “Pacman” Jones was still in the NFL? Me neither.

3. I’ll assume Frank Gore is particularly happy to no longer be thought of as “the best player on a bad team.”

Also part of the San Francisco 49ers’ win over the Cleveland Browns? Joe Staley playing the role of “Offensive Lineman” in “Offensive Lineman makes catch, runs with football”….

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDTJcYX4hQA[/youtube]

Just beautiful. By the way, I guess the Niners have to be number two in my new NFL power rankings, right? How’s that possible?

4. Penn State controls their own destiny to reach the Big Ten Championship Game, but their schedule leads you to believe Ohio State is still very much in the mix.

Joe Paterno passed Eddie Robinson as the all-time winningest coach in Division I history as Penn State beat Illinois. It was the only time the word “pass” was used in Happy Valley Saturday. I don’t care for much of anything about the Nittany Lions, but I respect their students for packing in behind the goalposts to try to make the Illini’s tying field goal try harder…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-4XhbiILGI[/youtube]

Things get VERY difficult for PSU now, as they host Nebraska in State College next week before finishing conference play with trips to Columbus and Madison. Speaking of which…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwuXzK5Mehs[/youtube]

Wisconsin fans were once again hoping a penalty flag could save them, but Braxton Miller did NOT cross the line of scrimmage before throwing the game winner to Devin Smith. Russell Wilson’s Heisman hopes are totally up in smoke, and the Badgers are now a long shot (at best) for the Rose Bowl, while the Buckeyes are still very much in the picture.

5. Nebraska is firmly back in the race for the Other spot in the Big Ten title game, and Michigan is by no means out of the picture.

Michigan State had no magic left after an incredible two weeks-or more realistically had no answer for some dude named Rex Burkhead, who reportedly plays for the Cornhuskers…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiYLzEwG16Y[/youtube]

Elsewhere in the world of bizarre football names, the Wolverines stomped Purdue thanks to a running back whose name is (seriously) Fitzgerald Toussaint. Shouldn’t he be playing for Dartmouth?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXTWG9xmjgs[/youtube]

Not part of the Big Ten title picture? Iowa. They lost to Minnesota. Yes. That Minnesota.

6. Stephen Tulloch may have shut down the internet after sacking Tim Tebow in the Detroit Lions’ win over the Denver Broncos.

We’ll start with the highlights…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc7Zp6FdEVU[/youtube]

And now for those that missed it in the video…

tulloch

I like Tim Tebow. I also like this. It is what it is.

7. I guess we can assume the Philadelphia Eagles are just fine at this point.

The Eagles DESTROYED the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Sadly the highlight of the game was a Laurent Robinson catch that didn’t count at all…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FwDZz-a6r8[/youtube]

The SNF broadcast was obsessed with Philly O-Line coach Howard Mudd. I actually have no issue with that. Howard Mudd is awesome. Otherwise they’d have been obsessed with Rob Ryan, and I’m about done with that.

Also of note, Jason Kelce snapped the ball off his own ass at one point…

kelce

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Comments Off

Peyton Hillis Joins Elite Company …..

Tags: , , , ,

Peyton Hillis Joins Elite Company …..

Posted on 28 September 2010 by Rex Snider

With Sunday’s virtual “field day” of running and doing as he pleased, Peyton Hillis joined an exclusive and rare group of running backs who’ve experienced a BIG GAME at the expense of the Baltimore Ravens Defense.

Trust me, I understand the overall importance of each game. Winning supercedes anything and everything. But, on Sunday we witnessed something that sparingly occurs. In 14+ seasons, only 23 running backs have posted triple digits in rushing against the Ravens.

Perhaps, one of the most meaningful distinctions of this reality has been the abilities of Ray Lewis and his castmates to shut down some of the best running backs in the NFL. With Sunday’s 144 yard ground game, Peyton Hillis joins a select group of players who’ve overcome a very aggressive defensive attack, as well as the 100 yard threshhold …..
.
.
Terrell Davis – Broncos
.

.
.
Karim Abdul Jabbar – Dolphins
.

.
.
James Allen – Bears
.

.
.
Marshall Faulk – Colts
.

.
.
Eddie George – Titans
.

.
.
Amos Zereoue – Steelers
.

.
.
Deuce McAllister – Saints
.

.
.
Fred Taylor – Jaguars
.

.
.
Ricky Williams – Dolphins
.

.
.
Ladanian Tomlinson
.

.
.
Jerome Bettis – Steelers
.

.
.
Corey Dillon – Patriots & Bengals
.

.
.
Curtis Martin – Jets
.

.
.
Priest Holmes – Chiefs
.

.
.
Domanick Williams – Texans
.

.
.
Rudi Johnson – Bengals
.

.
.
Greg Jones – Jaguars
.

.
.
Thomas Jones – Bears
.

.
.
Larry Johnson – Chiefs
.

.
.
Travis Henry – Titans
.

.
.
Adrian Peterson – Vikings
.

.
.
Cedric Benson – Bengals
.

.
.
Peyton Hillis – Browns
.

.
Of the above list, some fun trivia questions are born …..

Have the Ravens ever allowed a 200 yard rushing performance? No

Can you name the running back who’s gained the most single-game yardage against the Ravens? Terrell Davis – 194 yards (1996)

The only running back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Ravens, while playing for two different teams? Corey Dillon – Bengals & Patriots

Which running back has rushed for the most 100 yard games against the Ravens? Jerome Bettis – 5 times

Has a Hall Of Famer ever rushed for 100 yards against the Ravens? As of today, the answer is NO. However, that will change with the future enshrinements of Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis and Ladanian Tomlinson.

And, finally, you’ll have to wait a couple years to allow the most recent event to escape our short-term memories, before asking this question …..

Has a white running back ever rushed for 100 yards against the Ravens? Yes, Peyton Hillis

Comments Off

Another Peyton Dominates Ravens Defense

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Another Peyton Dominates Ravens Defense

Posted on 26 September 2010 by Ryan Chell

Usually when you hear the name Peyton dominating the Ravens’ defense, it is usually a Colt with the last name of Manning.

On Sunday instead, it was a Cleveland Brown with the last name of Hillis.

Coming into the Ravens game on Sunday at home against the divisional-rival Cleveland Browns, the Ravens felt like they really needed to focus on Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs in order to contain the Cleveland offense, but it turned out that the real weapon for the Browns was fullback Peyton Hillis, who rushed for 144 yards on just 22 carries and one touchdown.

Hillis’ effort wasn’t enough, as the Browns could not contain quarterback Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin as the pair connected for three scores through the air, but early on in Sunday’s 24-17 Baltimore victory, the Browns continued to gain yards and move the chains on the legs of Hillis.

Peyton Hillis

Hillis got the bulk of the carries with the injury to fellow running back Jerome Harrison, and he excelled. Browns head coach Eric Mangini rode Hillis on their two early scoring drives, as he had 38 total yards on the Browns first drive of the game, when the Browns hit a 38 yard field goal from Phil Dawson to go up 3-0 with 6:14 in the first quarter.

Later, with the Browns trailing 14-3 with 5:51 left in the second quarter, Cleveland continued to pound the rock with Hillis, as he gained 54 yards on their next scoring drive, highlighted by a 25 yard run by Hillis through safety Dawan Landry that nearly led to a big play by the Browns.

Landry stood Hillis up but could not bring down the 6-2, 250 lb back until the rest of the Ravens defense chased down the field and gang-tackled Hillis to the ground.

“Hillis just did a good job finding those holes, and with a big back like that, once he gets that full head of steam going, and it’s hard for anyone to stop him,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said after the game.

Playing the time of possession game, Cleveland took their time driving down to the Ravens’ red zone. They continued to commit to Hillis, who always seemed to gain yards after first contact. Hillis eventually walked into the end zone with 13s seconds left on the clock to make it 14-10 in favor of the Ravens.

Hillis had 73 rushing yards in the first half, and his 1-yard run was the first touchdown allowed by the Ravens defense in almost 10 quarters.

It was a similar situation two season ago when the Ravens went up against Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, a similar big back. Jacobs was poised to be one of the few running backs to rush for over 100 yards against the Ravens, but he left due to injury in the Giants 30-10 victory over Baltimore.

And despite the Browns being down in the second half, they were still committed to getting the ball to Hillis. Backed up in their own 5-yard line, Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace handed the ball off to Hillis. He broke through for a 48 yard gain through the Ravens defense, and with safety Tom Zbikowski tackling him out of bounds, it turned into a 61 yard play for the Browns.

The Browns eventually scored on a yard-pass to tight end Ben Watson as the Ravens defense was sure the Browns were going to pound the ball with Hillis again.

But after Flacco found Boldin for the third time, the Browns were forced to pass in an effort to get back in the game, and Hillis didn’t factor much in the Browns’ offense from that point on.

Cleveland did try a toss to Hillis with 9:07 left in the fourth quarter that went past the Cleveland back down to the Browns’ 3-yard line. Hillis appeared to be putting his arms up to take the snap directly from Wallace as opposed to catching the ball from Wallace.

“We just had to adjust those holes a little bit, and try and shut those holes,” Ngata continued. “He did a great job of hitting those holes, and getting some yards against us.”

The offense putting up 24 points and 3 touchdowns may have taken Cleveland’s axe in Hillis off the Ravens’ throats.

“”It was great that our offense and special teams did a great job today-basically getting that win for us.”

Hillis also had the most receptions for the Browns, catching 7 passes for 36 yards.

Hillis, who was acquired in the off-season from the Broncos in the Brady Quinn trade, has always been a versatile player since coming out of college in 2008 for the University of Arkansas. As a Razorback, Hillis lined up at a variety of positions including running back, fullback, wide receiver, tight end, and also factored in the return game at times.

Hillis was drafted by the Bronocs in the seventh round of the 2008 Draft by the Broncos, and with numerous injuries to the Broncos running backs in 2008, Hillis-once the Broncos starting fullback-saw time as the lead back for Denver, and actually finished as Denver’s leading rusher with 343 yards and five scores.

Hillis returned to a more traditional fullback role for the Broncos in 2009 and paired with a falling-out with Broncos rookie head coach Josh McDaniels, Hillis was shipped to the Browns along with a conditional draft pick for Quinn.

Now Hillis not only may have snatched the bulk of the carries from starter Jerome Harrison, he also ran himself in the history books as one of few running backs to ever rush for over 100 yards against the Ravens.

But it wasn’t as if the Ravens didn’t think Hillis had this kind of potential.

“Watching him on film, he basically did the same thing against Tampa Bay and Kansas City.  We knew he was going to be a hard runner.”

Before last season, the Ravens had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 40 games. In the last two years, they have allowed four 100-yard performances-two to Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson and Hillis’ 144 yards.

The Ravens have always had problems dealing with the big backs, and they will have to face another potential road block in the Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall next week when the Ravens take on the division-leading Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Their offensive line did a great job of opening it up in the middle for him,” Ngata added. “He just found those creases and hit them. We just have to have a good week of practice and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to track the Ravens during the 2010 season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens Through Three Games: I’ll Go With “Hard to Figure”

Posted on 26 September 2010 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — At times, the Baltimore Ravens (2-1) have looked absolutely brilliant in their 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns (0-3) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. At other times, it would have been difficult to describe them as anything but lost.

Still, the Ravens improved to 2-1 and can get right back to the top of the AFC North with a win next week against the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

And I’m sure everyone in Charm City is absolutely 100% convinced the Ravens will have no trouble in the Steel City, right?

Right?

Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the game Sunday that he thought his AFC North foes played “really really well.” And truth be told, they absolutely did. But did anyone think the Ravens would find themselves in a one possession game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter? Did anyone think there was much of ANY chance that the Ravens would find themselves trailing at any point in the fourth either?

I find it hard to believe anyone did.

Credit the Browns for using RB Peyton Hillis very effectively (29 total touches, 180 yards and a touchdown) against a Ravens defense that has struggled against bigger backs in the past (Brandon Jacobs, Cedric Benson, etc). Credit QB Seneca Wallace for showing an ability to escape and not force throws into coverage. Credit the Browns’ Offensive Line (behind all world OT Joe Thomas) for opening holes in the run game and keeping pressure off of Wallace.

In the same way, credit the Cincinnati Bengals for getting pressure on Ravens QB Joe Flacco with their front seven in a Week 2 win. Credit the Bengals’ secondary for forcing Ravens WR’s into the same place on the field and not allowing them to make many big plays. Credit Bengals kicker Mike Nugent for connecting 0n all five of his attempts to account for the team’s 15 points.

And for that matter, credit New York Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson for showing he still had some tread left on his tires and credit the Jets’ pass rush (as well as NYJ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and head coach Rex Ryan) for getting after Flacco despite falling 10-9 in Week 1.

With all of the credit for opposing teams out of the way, the focus shifts back to the Ravens-who were a trendy preseason choice to win the AFC North and represent the AFC at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.

The Ravens have been particularly impressive at times, and particularly lackluster at others.

Flacco was rightfully maligned following a dismal four interception performance in Week 2. On Sunday, he bounced back with a game that was practically flawless after his first completion (a deflected grab by WR Derrick Mason that should have been intercepted by Browns S T.J. Ward). Flacco finished the day 22/31 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He showed impeccable touch on a few passes, including his first of three touchdown tosses to WR Anquan Boldin. For the season, Flacco has played well in roughly six quarters (the four against Cleveland and the second half at the Meadowlands), and has played poorly in 6 others (the four at Paul Brown Stadium and the first two against the Jets).

Speaking of Boldin, he’s quite simply been the team’s best player thus far this season. On Sunday, he brought down eight catches for 142 yards and tied a franchise record with those three TD receptions. He now has 20 catches for 287 yards on the season, and has been a particularly reliable target on 4th down.

But for as well as Boldin has played, there are still questions within the passing game. The Ravens’ other top receivers (Mason and post-Training Camp acquisition TJ Houshmandzadeh) combined for just five catches and 34 yards Sunday. For the season, the duo has managed just nine catches, 113 yards and one touchdown (Mason’s 3rd quarter TD haul in Cincy). At times they’ve looked lost, at times they’ve looked frustrated (including Mason’s delay of game penalty for flipping the football Sunday-where he subsequently asked Harbaugh to take him out of the game) and at times they’ve simply looked ineffective.

The Offensive Line struggled mightily through the first two games, but was vastly improved Sunday. Not only did the unit (which has played without RT Jared Gaither) prevent Flacco from getting sacked even once in the game, but they also paved the way for Ravens running backs (Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain) to average nearly five yards per carry. (Rice left Sunday’s game with a knee sprain, he will be re-evaluated Monday.)

Defensively, the Ravens are even more difficult to figure. The unit was less than a minute away from opening the season without allowing a touchdown for the first ten quarters; but Hillis plunged in just before halftime Sunday to break that streak. Even worse, after allowing an average of just 105 total rushing yards in the first two games; the Ravens were gauged for 173 by the Browns; including 144 from Hillis-who only started because of an injury to the Browns’ primary back Jerome Harrison.

The Ravens have still given up only 41 points on the season; but they’ve also forced just one turnover through three games as well (a Shonn Greene fumble recovery in Week 1). Over the last two weeks, the Ravens have started just one drive in opposing territory. Even that drive (a fourth quarter drive Sunday that started at the Cleveland 42) had more to do with a botched pitch from Wallace on the previous Cleveland possession than it did anything related to the Ravens defense.

Like I said, hard to figure.

Presumably, we’ll learn much more about this Ravens team when they get to Heinz Field next Sunday and square off with the 3-0 Steelers, who looked superb in their 38-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road Sunday.

To their credit, Ravens players don’t seem to be particularly concerned about the up-and-down nature of the start to their 2010 season. “Bottom line is (that) the scoreboard said W-Ravens win, we’re 2-1″ said Pro Bowl LB Ray Lewis. “(It’s the) same thing I told (Flacco) before the game. Last week’s over, go on to the next week. That’s what he came out and (did). For us, with a couple of adjustments here and there-we’ll get right back to football.”

Maybe so, but until it looks like a complete performance, it will still be hard to figure this team out.

-G

Hear from Harbaugh, Lewis, Flacco, Boldin, DT Haloti Ngata, LB Terrell Suggs and CB Cary Williams following the game in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

Comments Off

Ravens vs. Bengals  –  5 Keys To The Game

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 …..

1) STOP CEDRIC BENSON
.

.
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.
.
.
2) WATCH RAY RUN
.

.
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.
.
.
3) SHUT DOWN CARSON PALMER’S ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
.

.
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.
.
.
4) FLACCO OUTGUNS PALMER
.

.
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 …..
.
.
5) OUTCOACH ‘EM
.

.
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

Comments Off

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

br

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

Comments Off