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Guidelines beginning to fall into place for Ravens’ potential deal with Rice

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Luke Jones

Though a long-term deal is not expected to be completed any time soon, the Ravens and Ray Rice are beginning to see parameters take shape that could lead to the ultimate goal of keeping the Pro Bowl running back in Baltimore in the years to come.

After the Ravens placed the franchise tag on Rice on Friday, which will pay the 25-year-old an estimated $7.7 million during the 2012 season if a long-term deal is not reached, a pair of deals have been struck elsewhere in the last 24 hours to better define the market for running backs.

On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks signed Marshawn Lynch to a four-year, $31 million deal that includes $18 million guaranteed. While there is no doubt Rice will command more money than Lynch, who has revitalized his career under head coach Pete Carroll in Seattle over the last two season, the reasonable payday does not upset the market for running backs in the way the deal reached between the Carolina Panthers and the inconsistent DeAngelo Williams (five years, $43 million) did last year.

A better gauge for establishing Rice’s market came into focus Monday when the Houston Texans and 2010 NFL rushing champion Arian Foster agreed to a five-year, $43.5 million contract that includes $20.75 million guaranteed. ESPN reports Foster will receive $18 million in 2012 and $30 million over the first three years of the contract.

Strictly looking at Foster and Rice from a production standpoint in 2011, the two compared favorably as Foster collected 141.61 total yards per game in 13 contests while Rice averaged 129.25 yards from scrimmage in 16 games last season. Foster has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his three-year career (659 rushing attempts) while Rice holds a 4.6 yards-per-attempt average in 959 carries over four seasons.

While many will make the argument that Foster is the better player — and would presumably deserve to make more money — a deeper look at each situation suggests Rice and agent Todd France will likely command more in negotiations. While the Texans discussed using the franchise tag as the Ravens chose to do with Rice, Foster was only a restricted free agent and held less leverage as a result.

If a long-term agreement was not reached, Houston would have elected to place a first-round tender of an estimated $2.85 million on Foster, which would have forced potential suitors to not only sign the running back to an offer sheet but to forfeit a first-round pick to the Texans had they refused to match the offer. Given the affordability of a first-round draft choice under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement and the potential scenario of completing the heavy lifting of negotiating a deal only to have the controlling team decide to match the offer, many teams avoid dealing with restricted free agents.

In other words, if Foster’s side had balked at the long-term offer, he likely would have been playing for less than $3 million in 2012 before becoming an unrestricted free agent next year. The Ravens never held that luxury with the unrestricted Rice, leading to the franchise tag and the drawn-out negotiations that are sure to follow.

With Foster receiving just under $21 million in guaranteed cash, it will be interesting to see how serious France and Rice are about working out a fair deal. If Rice’s side is truly after Adrian Peterson money ($36 million guaranteed in a seven-year, $100 million contract) or even a deal comparable to Chris Johnson’s ($30 million guaranteed as part of a four-year, $53 million extension signed last September), general manager Ozzie Newsome will be more than willing to wait it out.

A contract slightly higher than Foster’s seems like a fair compromise for both sides. The Ravens will not overpay simply because the Minnesota Vikings and the Tennessee Titans handed out questionable contracts, and Rice’s agent France will have a difficult time convincing anyone that his client deserves to be paid significantly more than Foster.

One thing is certain despite continued suggestions to the contrary: the Ravens have made it clear they fully intend to keep Rice’s services for the long haul.

“As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract,” Newsome said on Friday. “Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven. We’ve done this with other outstanding players through our history, including Haloti Ngata a year ago.”

Though plenty of work still remains, the means for making that happen appear to be a little clearer with Foster’s contract now settled.

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Small stature, giant impact: Ravens’ Rice, Jaguars’ Jones-Drew drive respective offenses

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The two shortest players on the field at EverBank Field in Jacksonville will have the biggest impact when the Ravens face the Jacksonville Jaguars in a primetime meeting on Monday night.

It’s the same story every week for the 5-foot-8 Ray Rice and Jacksonville’s 5-foot-7 Maurice Jones-Drew as they’re each the most dynamic player on their respective offenses. Rice is responsible for 38.1 percent of Baltimore’s offensive production while Jones-Drew accounts for 41.4 percent of Jacksonville’s total yardage.

Both will be opposed by defenses familiar with going against a small-statured back every day in practice, but Jones-Drew will deal with the third-ranked rush defense while the 1-5 Jaguars only offer the 19th-best unit when it comes to stopping the run.

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“They are facing our defense — a great defense,” Rice said. “We get to face them. Regardless of their record, they have a great defense, we all know. You sort of have a little battle — myself vs. Jones-Drew. Let’s see who comes out as the better running back that day. It’s just a nice game, nice Monday Night Football game. It doesn’t matter what anybody’s record is, [on] Monday Night Football, a lot of great players and legacies have been made.”

Jones-Drew ranks third in the league in rushing (572 yards in seven games) and second in attempts, all while defenses key on him exclusively since Jacksonville possesses the worst passing offense in the NFL. The sixth-year back ran for 96 yards on 22 carries against Pittsburgh in a narrow 17-13 loss at Heinz Field last Sunday and gathered 85 rushing yards two weeks ago against Cincinnati, who possesses the second-ranked defense in the league.

Jones-Drew’s recent production against two AFC North rivals was more than enough to grab the Ravens’ attention in a game that otherwise appears to be a mismatch on paper.

“They’ve got a premier running game with one of the very best backs in the National Football League,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Major tackle-breaker. This guy breaks them, he’s elusive, he makes you miss. [I] had a chance to work him out when he was at UCLA, way back when, when he came out and he’s really a great young man, too.”

Rice has benefited from playing in a more balanced offense as well as utilizing his own skill set that includes catching more passes out of the backfield. Of Rice’s 700 total yards of offense for the season, 302 have come via the air while catching screens and check-downs or even splitting out as a receiver on a number of occasions.

In contrast, Jones-Drew amasses yardage with a more physical style between the tackles. Even when defenders are able to spot the diminutive runner behind a massive offensive line, bringing him to the ground can be a different challenge entirely.

“He plays the game very hard,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “He runs the ball very hard. And one thing you do see on film, more than anything, is you see him making a lot of people miss, because people are really just bouncing right off him. Some people are squared up right in the hole — you watch the Pittsburgh game that they played last week — and he broke a couple tackles just right in the hole. That’s just his leverage. He’s one of those smaller backs that can get behind those linemen and hide and get up out of there. I just think, overall, he’s a complete back.”

Rice has faced off against an impressive list of backs through the first five weeks of the season, but going up against Jones-Drew will present the latest personal challenge for the Ravens’ dynamic playmaker. The two spent time together at the 2009 Pro Bowl, cultivating a friendship and competitive rivalry they’ll be able to continue on Monday night — even if the game winds up a mismatch.

The Ravens star back isn’t losing perspective on what’s really important, but the competitor in him wants to continue the early-season trend he’s started against the likes of Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson.

“You want to do well, because he is a great running back,” Rice said. “He has proven [himself] in this league. Arian Foster was the guy last week — he was the NFL’s leader in rushing last year. You want to kind of have that battle to get you up, but at the same time, the overall goal is to win the game.”

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Ravens-Titans: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 17 September 2011 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will take on the Tennessee Titans franchise for the 17th time in the regular season. The teams are deadlocked at 8-8, though Baltimore holds the 2-1 edge in postseason meetings. Baltimore is 4-4 when playing on the road in the regular season against Tennessee.

Of course, the two are old rivals from the now defunct AFC Central. Since NFL realignment took place in 2002, the Ravens are 3-3 against Tennessee in regular-season games.

Without further ado, here are five predictions for what to expect in Week 2 …

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1. A pick-six gives the Ravens their first defensive touchdown of the year. Perhaps the only stat more surprising than Pittsburgh’s seven turnovers in the Ravens’ 35-7 win last week was that none of those takeaways resulted in defensive touchdowns with the Baltimore defense’s reputation for turning turnovers into instant points. Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tossed 34 interceptions over his last two seasons with Seattle and likes to take chances from time to time. With the Titans likely falling behind as the game progresses, Hasselbeck will be forced to take more chances in the passing game. Cornerback Cary Williams was a seventh-round draft pick by the Titans in 2009 and would be an appropriate candidate for a defensive score against his old team.

2. Joe Flacco throws a touchdown pass to a rookie wide receiver. With Lee Evans’ left ankle continuing to be an issue, you have to wonder how effective he’ll remain as a decoy in stretching the opposing defense. Teams aren’t going to respect a deep threat without the breakaway speed. The Ravens need bigger contributions from receivers not named Anquan Boldin currently on the roster, as no other wideout caught a pass against the Steelers. The return of second-year player David Reed throws another name in the equation, but Torrey Smith is the best bet to break through against a Tennessee pass defense that ranked 29th in the NFL last year.

3. The Ravens only lead by one score in the third quarter. Head coach John Harbaugh was defiant on Friday when dismissing the notion of a letdown in Tennessee. Despite posting a 5-3 road record in 2010, the Ravens won on the road by more than one possession only twice last season. Road blowouts just don’t happen very often in the NFL, no matter how confident fans — and media members — might be. With the Titans playing their home opener and their fans remembering Baltimore’s past postseason triumphs at LP Field, it figures to be a hostile atmosphere that could boost Tennessee early in the game. A big play or two from Chris Johnson or Kenny Britt certainly wouldn’t hurt the Titans’ chances, either.

4. Ray Rice eclipses 100 rushing yards for the second straight week. The Titans allowed 163 yards on the ground last week in Jacksonville while the Ravens ran for 170 against Pittsburgh’s stout run defense. Rice accounted for 107 of those on 19 carries before giving way to backup Ricky Williams late in the game. With Evans not 100 percent and left guard Ben Grubbs doubtful with a toe injury, Baltimore may remain more conservative than normal. Then again, if you can run all over an opposing defense and control the clock, it’s far more intelligent than it is conservative when playing on the road.

5. The Ravens pull away in the second half, winning 27-10. Say what you want about the Titans playing the Jaguars close in a road game, but the unheralded Luke McCown was making the start only days after starting quarterback David Garrard was released by Jacksonville. The Baltimore ground game will wear down an underwhelming Tennessee defense in the second half and win this one comfortably. While it’s true the Ravens must keep Johnson off the edge and Britt in front of them, the pair’s big-play ability won’t be enough to keep the Titans from falling to 0-2. Baltimore improves to 2-0 to stay atop the AFC North.

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Titans’ Johnson one of many “casualties” of Ravens defense over years

Posted on 15 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have been fortunate not to face Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson over the last two seasons in which he’s rushed for a combined 3,234 yards — 2,006 of those coming in 2009.

The last time the two teams faced was the 2008 playoffs when Johnson ran all over the Ravens in a 72-yard first-half performance in an eventual 13-10 defensive struggle that sent Baltimore to the AFC championship game. If not for an ankle injury that sidelined the rookie running back late in the first half, the Titans may have been the ones taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers the following week.

Rex Ryan’s defense had no answers for the lightning-fast tailback, who also compiled 28 yards receiving out of the backfield, prior to being sidelined.

“I’m happy he left the game, because he was on the verge of breaking over 200 yards on us, I think,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “He did really well in that first half, and I think it was a good thing he went down.”

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The memory of that disappointing loss for the Titans — the No. 1 seed following the 2008 season — has resurfaced this week with Johnson still believing the Baltimore defense used questionable tactics prior to his exit in the second quarter. The ankle injury forced Johnson to miss the Pro Bowl in what was his rookie season.

“They were trying to hurt me a little bit,” Johnson said to The Tennessean on Wednesday. “But the play I actually got hurt on, it was a fair play, somebody landed on my ankle the wrong way and I fell back the wrong way. It was a fair play when I got hurt.”

Johnson took issue with a play in which his body was twisted backward — with his legs secured — as the whistle blew (see below). However, the injury occurred a few plays later near the sideline, according to safety Ed Reed.

It isn’t the first time the rugged Baltimore defense has been accused of dirty tactics, but the Ravens maintain their innocence while defending their physical style of football against their opponent.

“Nothing is ever intentional to try and take any guy out,” Reed said during a conference call with the Nashville media on Wednesday. “My game has never been like that, and I know these guys don’t play like that either.”

While Johnson said he holds no grudge against the Baltimore defenders, he will be motivated to recapture his past success against the Ravens, especially after he was held to a paltry 24 rushing yards on nine attempts in the Titans’ season-opening loss in Jacksonville.

Preventing Johnson from getting to the edge will be a challenge for the defense, one that is very much a priority with Tennesee starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck still getting fully acclimated in offensive coordinator Chris Palmer’s offense. The big-play capabilities of Johnson and wide receiver Kenny Britt figure to be the Titans’ best chance of pulling off an upset in an otherwise lopsided-feeling matchup.

“We have to contain him,” said safety Bernard Pollard, who played against Johnson twice a year as a member of the Houston Texans in 2009 and 2010. “He’s an explosive weapon on the field. You can use him in the passing game or the running game, outside, in the middle, it does not matter. I think he’s explosive whenever the ball’s in his hands. We have to contain him as a defense.”

While an interesting subplot in an otherwise mundane matchup — especially with long-tenured coach Jeff Fisher no longer in charge of the Titans — what happened over two years ago won’t figure to noticeably impact Sunday’s outcome. The Baltimore defense will continue playing its brash, intimidating style of defense as it has for over a decade.

If teams find it dirty or unsportsmanlike, that’s their problem to deal with at the end of the day.

“It’s how we roll,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “It’s our brand of football. It’s straight up, it’s clean, it’s physical. We try to impose our physical and mental will on everybody. There’s going to be some casualties. That’s just the way we play.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Chuck Pagano, Haloti Ngata, Bernard Pollard, Cam Cameron, Jerry Rosburg, and Bryant McKinnie right here.

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Navy Announces 2011 Football Recruiting Class

Posted on 30 June 2011 by WNST Staff

ANNAPOLIS, Md.-Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo released the names of the 2011 Navy football recruits on Thursday evening as 52 prospects representing 16 states went through induction ceremonies and began plebe summer.

“We are very excited about the group we have coming in this year,” said Niumatalolo. “If they work hard and do the things they are supposed to do in Bancroft Hall, in the classroom, in the weight room and on the practice field they have a chance to be a part of something special.”

The state of Florida produced the most prospects with eight, while six incoming recruits hail from Texas.  Georgia, Tennessee and California produced five prospects each.

Navy football season tickets are currently on sale at the Ricketts Hall Box Office, by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY or by logging on to the web at www.navysports.com. Navy opens the 2011 campaign on Sept. 3 against Delaware.  The Mids will play five games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this fall, including an Oct. 1 date with Air Force, and will play host to Army at FedExField in Landover, Md.

NAVY FOOTBALL CLASS OF 2015
Name                          Position            Hgt.            Wgt.            Hometown/High School
Kody Akers                QB                   5-10            190            Delaware, Ohio/Rutherford Hayes
Colin Amerau             PK                    6-2            185            Alexandria, Va./Mount Vernon
Adrian Barnaby                        DL                    6-1            275            Deltona, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy
DJ Beard                        DB                        6-0            180            McDonough, Ga./Ola
Pablo Beltran              P/K                   6-2            200            Humble, Texas/Atascocita
Jimmy Britton                        DB                        6-2            210            Togers, Ark./Heritage
Greg Bryant Jr.                        QB                   6-2            185            Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt
Allen Caldwell                        DL                        6-3            250            Crestview, Fla./Crestview
Joe Cardona                        LS                    6-3            200            El Cajon, Calif./Granite Hills
Ruben Carson              SB                    5-8            170            Hoover, Ala./Hoover
Noah Copeland                        FB                    5-10            205            San Antonio, Texas/Brandeis
Kyle Cregge              OL                    6-2            279            Alpharetta, Ga./Milton
Aaron Davis                DL                    6-0            265            Manvel, Texas/Dawson
Jordan Drake                        OLB                        6-4            210            Douglasville, Ga./Chapel Hill
Brendan Dudeck             QB                   6-0            188            Hamilton Square, N.J./The Hun School
Chris Ferguson                        DB                   6-2            195            Angier, N.C./West Johnson
Tanner Fleming                        OL                    6-2            260            Deltona, Fla./Deltona
Parrish Gaines                        DB                        6-2            185            Smyrna, Tenn./Smyrna
Daniel Godkin              DL                    6-4            230            Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde
Bradyn Heap                 OL                    6-3            265            South Jordan, Utah/Bingham
John Hendrick                        QB                        6-1            185            Tampa, Fla./Sickles
Sam Holguin                        WR                        6-3            195            Pacific Palisades, Calif./Saint Monica
Dale Howard             DL                    6-0            275            Baxley, Ga./Appling County
George Jamison             DB                   6-0            190            Memphis, Tenn./Evangelical Christian
Chris Johnson                        OLB                        6-1            205            Cape Coral, Fla./Cape Coral
Eric Johnson             SB                    5-10            185            Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt
James King                 WR                  6-2            195            Orinda, Calif./Miramonte
Anthony Lewis                OLB                 6-0            210            Salt Lake City, Utah/Cottonwood
Carrington Lewis             OLB                 6-3            197            Helena, Ala./Pelham
Marcus Lewis                SB                    5-8            170            Cape Coral, Fla./North Fort Myers
Austin Marshall                        OL                    6-3            300            Rossville, Tenn./Evangelical Christian
Isaiah McElrath                        DL                    6-2            280            Milton, Fla./Pace
Brice Musgrove                        DL                    5-11            275            Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill
Chris Nurthen             DL                    6-3            226            Phoenixville, Pa./Great Valley
Nate Otto                        OL                    6-2            265            Houston, Texas/Clear Lake
Togasii Peko                        DB                        6-0            177            Henderson, Nev./Bishop Gorman
Maika Polamalu                        FB                        6-0            200            Pottstown, Pa./Pottsgrove
AJ Pouncy              DB                   6-1            190            Humble, Texas/Atascocita
Paul Quessenberry            DL                    6-2            230            Carlsbad, Calif./LaCosta Canyon
Lonnie Richardson            DB                   5-11            195            Wallingford, Pa./Strath Haven
Vinny Rider                DL                    6-4            260            Athens, Ohio/Athens
Dan Ring                        DL                        6-2            270            Lighthouse Point, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons
Shakir Robinson                        DB                        5-10            190            Brunswick, Ga./Brunswick
Quinton Singleton            FB                    6-0            190            Manning, S.C./Scotts Branch
Will Strauss              OL                    6-5            245            Brentwood, Calif./Heritage
Josh Tate                        DB                   5-11            180            Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood
David Thurston                        LB                    6-1            225            Broomfield, Colo./Arvada West
Obinna Uzoma                        OLB                        6-3            215            Wake Forest, N.C./Knightdale
Kody West                 QB                   6-2            195            Murfreesboro, Tenn./Riverdale
Geoffrey Whiteside            SB                    5-10            177            Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Hartley
Ryan Williams                        SB                    5-8            170            Helena, Ala./Pelham
Jake Zuzek               OL                    6-0            290            Brookhaven, Pa./West Philadelphia Catholic

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ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Rex Snider

A week ago, I introduced my first LIST chronicling sports and events, in 2010. At the time, I guaranteed variations of such rankings, including the GOOD, BAD and downright PATHETIC. For some odd reason, developing this year’s lists has not been an easy endeavor. Hence, the delay in posting …..

Today’s list regards the “MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS OF 2010”. The criteria are simple; the list applies exclusively to professional athletes and the 2010 year. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions …..
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10) Donovan McNabb – while he certainly maintains a healthy core of supporters, it’s pretty difficult to blindly overlook McNabb’s tumultuous, yet brief stint in the nation’s capital. He’s grinding thru a tough season that has yielded the fewest touchdown passes (14) and most interceptions (15) of his 10 seasons as a starting quarterback.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s become quite obvious that McNabb and Mike Shanahan are not on the same page, as two benchings would certainly indicate. The Redskins are mired in another losing season, and regardless of a potential Hall of Fame career, McNabb must accept a great deal of accountability for a lackluster offensive attack.

Hmmm …. do you think they’re smiling up in Philly?
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9) Alex Rodriguez – I never thought this name would appear on such a list; well, not in 2010, anyway. However, I think it’s pretty fair to say A’Rod easily suffered through the worst season of his career as a starting 3rd baseman/shortstop.

Aug. 11, 2010 - Arlington, Texas, USA - August 11, 2010. Yankees third baseman ALEX RODRIGUEZ in the dugout as The New York Yankees played the Texas Rangers in a Major League Baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

While the Orioles (and a few other teams) would gladly receive a 3rd baseman who hits for a .270 clip, with 30 homers and 125 RBI, the New York Yankees expect much more production. And, when they’re paying that player an annual salary of $33 million, I’d say such demands are warranted.

The 2010 season was a downer for A’Rod, as he’s still counted as a true five-tool player. At 34, his best days are assuredly in the rear view mirror …. but, I’m sure the Steinbrenner’s still expect a batting average in the vicinity of .300, with 35 homers, 30 doubles, 10 steals and 125 RBI.

And, for the money they’re spending …. I don’t blame them.
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#8) Chris Johnson – I think everybody remembers Johnson’s season of domination, in 2009, right? He became the sixth player to rush for 2,000+ yards, in NFL history. He basked in the spotlight and became the top pick in most 2010 Fantasy Football Drafts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson  of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 18, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Of course, Johnson fed the adoration and suspense by predicting he would rush for 2,500 yards, in this 2010 season. It was a ludicrous goal to set and an even crazier hope for a growing collection of fans. With a couple games remaining, Johnson finds himself with 1,267 rushing yards.

Not a bad year, huh? By most accounts, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season …. but, even Johnson expected and guaranteed more.
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7) A.J. Burnett – here’s the one guy who justifies Andy MacPhail’s reluctance to overpay free agents, huh? Just a couple years ago, A.J. Burnett shared prospective shopping lists with Mark Teixeira. As we know, the Orioles made token offers and both players ended up in pinstripes.

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 17, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

While Teixeira has produced at an expected level, Burnett has struggled to achieve the lofty statistics that rendered him one of the most coveted pitchers in the 2008 shopping market. And, 2010 was simply a season to forget, as Burnett produced a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while finding a way to lose more games than he won.

Perhaps, A.J. Burnett is on the shortest leash, heading into 2011. The Yankees are a team that can withstand bad contracts, and unless he recaptures some dominance, Burnett might find himself pitching in Kansas City or Baltimore …. sooner rather than later.
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6) Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I have never maintained the belief that Earnhardt was among the very best talents in NASCAR, let alone comparable to the legend of his father. However, I also never foresaw him performing this badly, either.

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 14: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the  AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We’re approaching three years since Earnhardt won his last race, and he’s finished outside the Top-20 in season standings for two straight years. On a weekly basis, he’s being viewed as just part of the field, rather than a threat win any particular race.

Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’S most popular competitor and he easily earns more money than any fellow driver (and most ballplayers) on an annual basis. Only in America, huh? What’s the incentive to win? Perhaps, Earnhardt’s popularity really is undermining any hunger to win …..
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5) Greg Oden – as he’s shelved in his fourth season as a pro basketball player, Oden stands to potentially become one of the biggest BUSTS in NBA history. To date, the former #1 overall pick has earned almost $20 million, while playing in just 82 career games.

ATLANTA - MARCH 30:  Greg Oden #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up during practice for the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on March 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hmmm …. my calculator says that’s about $230,000, per game. Not bad for a night’s work, huh? In 2010, the figures are even uglier – Oden hasn’t played a single game, this year. But, he’s being paid $4.3 million for such services.

To suggest Greg Oden has been a disappointment, in 2010, is an absolute understatement. Then, again, maybe the Trailblazers don’t expect anything from him – which is exactly what he’s giving them.
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4) Randy Moss – how about a standing ovation and resounding applause for the first dude who makes both of my BAD lists, in 2010. As the 2010 season winds down, Randy Moss finds himself making no real contribution to the Tennessee Titans offense.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Randy Moss  of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ironically, the same can pretty much be said for his brief stint, in Minnesota, as well. That’s right, it’s been a couple months since Moss forced his way out of New England – where they’re readying to seize the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

He entered the 2010 season as one of the most legitimate receivers in the NFL. Yet, thru 14 games, Moss has just 5 touchdowns and 27 receptions. Of the 5 scores, he has only two over the last couple months. Is he disappointment? Yes, very much so …..
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3) Lebron James – you can call him King James, All Star or Chosen One …. just don’t call him a WINNER. While his 2010 has been the tale of two cities and teams, Lebron James has failed to establish himself as the driving force behind a corps capable of winning BIG GAMES.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on April 22, 2010. The Bulls won 108-106 and trail the Cavliers 2-1 in the best of seven series.  UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

He packed it in against the Celtics, back in May. He chose to flee a team he commanded for a team where he’s surrounded. Leaders don’t need such security – just see Jordan, Magic or Bird.

The story of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat has not been written. They’re winning regular season contests, but will they win the postseason games, where leadership is a MUST? Based on his past, it’s pretty safe to assume Lebron cannot be counted upon when it matters most – and such a reality defines disappointment.
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2) Brett Favre – if he just had a crystal ball, huh? In some distinct ways, I feel badly for Favre. He obviously plays the game with a sheer love for the competition, and a legend of his stature should not walk away in such a beaten state.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05: Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after defeating the Buffalo Bills at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But, Brett Favre gambled on one season too many. Buoyed by last January’s NFC Championship Game …. and near miss, he caved to pressure from the Vikings and returned for another season and shot at the Super Bowl.

It has proven to be a mistake. Favre wasn’t healthy when the season began and he should’ve been smart enough to realize and accept it. Of course, America’s favorite bimbo, Jenn Sterger, has only added to the dysfunction of this disastrous season.

In the words of the great Clint Eastwood, “a man must know his limitations.” Unfortunately, Brett Favre did not recognize his limitations, as 2010 became his worst season, ever.
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#1) Tiger Woods – well, could it really be anyone else? As the entire world knows, Tiger’s life unraveled into a sordid, corrupt mess, in 2010. From adulterous affairs, to domestic discord and lost sponsorships, Tiger lost an awful lot …..

Tiger Woods waits to hit off of the 11th tee box during the first round of the Quail Hollow Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The losing also carried onto the golf course. He played the worst golf of his professional career and looked totally lost, at times. From the hecklers speckled in the galleries, to the gaudy airplane banners soaring overhead, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament became very “tabloid-ish”.

However, I think Tiger Woods is the MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMER of 2010, because we expect such greatness from him. He is easily the most dominant athlete of the last decade. And, to see his game struggle due to something other than the natural progressions of age or injury is very sad, indeed.

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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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2010 NFL Forecast: Will the Ravens raise the Lombardi Trophy?

Posted on 08 September 2010 by Luke Jones

With the beginning of the 2010 NFL season only hours away, expectations have never been higher in Baltimore as the Ravens have their eyes fixed on their first Super Bowl title since the 2000 season.

Questions remain in the secondary and whether Joe Flacco can reach elite status with an abundance of new weapons in the Baltimore offense, but contenders and pretenders alike face some level of uncertainty on the eve of Week 1.

Easy schedules — and the unsophisticated attempts to predict a team’s fate week by week — in early September frequently transform into daunting slates in the unpredictable nature of the NFL. An injury to a key performer at the wrong position can derail even the strongest teams’ championship aspirations.

Inevitably, a sexy preseason contender or two will collapse under fatal flaws, and an anonymous outfit that no one is even pondering as a victor will find itself playing long into January.

We just never can tell.

And with that digression, I toss my hat into the futile, but enjoyable, pool of forecasting the 2010 season. If nothing else, predictions offer damning proof that most of us (all of us?) really don’t know what we’re talking about when the dust settles in early February.

AFC East
New England – The Jets will continue to steal the headlines, but the Patriots will happily take the division title.
New York – Rex Ryan speaks loudly and carries a big stick, but Mark Sanchez is not ready for the big stage yet.
Miami – No one is happier about Brandon Marshall’s arrival in South Beach than Chad Henne.
Buffalo – Did Chan Gailey really get another head coaching gig in the NFL?

AFC North
Baltimore – Can Joe Flacco keep three former Pro Bowl receivers happy in a potentially explosive passing game?
Cincinnati* – Coordinator Mike Zimmer and the defense will prove their No. 4 ranking in 2009 was no fluke.
Pittsburgh – An aging defense and a shaky offensive line will not be able to overcome Ben Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension and ensuing rust.
Cleveland – It’s rarely a good thing when all people want to talk about is the new front office.

AFC South
Indianapolis – Would the NFL have tweaked the umpire’s positioning if Peyton Manning had not been the one to complain the loudest?
Houston* – After being the chic pick for a couple seasons, Gary Kubiak and the Texans finally crack the postseason.
Tennessee – Does Chris Johnson hold up long enough to touch the ball over 400 times again?
Jacksonville – Three straight losing seasons could spell the end of Jack Del Rio’s eight-year stay with the Jaguars.

AFC West
San Diego – Ryan Mathews won’t make Chargers fans forget LaDainian Tomlinson, but the rookie back is poised for a dynamic rookie campaign.
Oakland – Picking the Raiders any place other than last seems foreign, but Tom Cable has some semblance of a football team if Al Davis doesn’t meddle too much. Good luck with that.
Denver – Kyle Orton is serviceable but not enough to make a difference in the Broncos’ fate.
Kansas City – Safety Eric Berry is a future star and one of several young players giving the Chiefs hope for the future.

NFC East
Dallas – No Cowboys coach has lasted longer than four seasons since Jimmy Johnson (1989-93), so Wade Phillips (entering his fourth year) needs a big season in Big D.
New York – The Giants’ Steve Smith (107 receptions in 2009) has officially turned the Carolina wideout into the “other” one.
Philadelphia – Kevin Kolb will seal Andy Reid’s fate as a genius or mark the beginning of the end for the coach in Philadelphia.
Washington – Donovan McNabb will limp through a hapless season without enough talent surrounding him.

NFC North
Green Bay – This might be the year that Aaron Rodgers exorcises the ghost of Favre by bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown.
Minnesota* – The absence of Sidney Rice will hurt more than Brett Favre’s ankle, taking the Vikings down a small notch.
Chicago – A fortune was spent for Jay Cutler a year ago and Julius Peppers this offseason, but a small return this season will mark the end for Lovie Smith.
Detroit – Rookies Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best give Lions fans two reasons to be excited for the future.

NFC South
New Orleans – Drew Brees might be the one quarterback in the league you wouldn’t grow tired of seeing in the Super Bowl.
Atlanta* – Though he took a step back in his sophomore year, far too many people are overlooking Matt Ryan and the Falcons this season.
Carolina – Whether the Panthers surprise or wilt with Matt Moore at the helm, it looks like this is the final act in Charlotte for John Fox, whose contract expires after the season.
Tampa Bay – At least they have those “creamsicle” throwbacks to look forward to at some point this season, right?

NFC West
San Francisco – Alex Smith is no Joe Montana or Steve Young — or even Jeff Garcia — but the 49ers are the strongest team in a pedestrian division.
Arizona – Cardinals fans wish Kurt Warner would be more like Brett Favre in his retirement practices.
Seattle – As if his first two go-rounds in the NFL weren’t bad enough, the shadow of the sanctions at USC makes Pete Carroll an easy guy to root against.
St. Louis – Sam Bradford has 50 million reasons to smile while he takes a beating in his rookie season.

* = Wild-card berth

Wild-Card Round
New England over Cincinnati
Houston over San Diego
Minnesota over San Francisco
Atlanta over Dallas

Divisional Round
Indianapolis over Houston
Baltimore over New England
New Orleans over Atlanta
Green Bay over Minnesota

AFC Championship
Baltimore over Indianapolis

NFC Championship
Green Bay over New Orleans

Super Bowl XLV
Baltimore over Green Bay

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ryan Mathews
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndamukong Suh
Coach of the Year: John Harbaugh

The exhilarating journey begins Thursday night.

Enjoy the ride.

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The Real Key to the Ravens Success

Posted on 11 August 2010 by bigbrad

There has been a lot of talk about what the Ravens have done in the offseason, as well as key personnel returning from injuries. The Ravens offense has been seriously upgraded due to the acquisition of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth as well as the drafting of tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Many people, including myself, are interested to see how Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington will progress with their knee injuries. These have been the hot topics leading up to the first preseason game of the season tomorrow night against the Carolina Panthers. Personally, I feel that there is a more important set of players who will dictate the Ravens success this season. That group of players is the Ravens offensive line.

 

Michael Oher. Ben Grubbs. Matt Birk. Marshal Yanda. Jared Gaither. These five guys are the most important pieces of this Ravens team. Throw in a few key back-ups in Oniel Cousins and Chris Chester, and you have a group of the most important guys on this Ravens roster.

 

When the likes of Mike Flynn, Jason Brown, Adam Terry, Edwin Mulitalo, and Jonathon Ogden departed a few season ago, I got nervous. Ravens fans got nervous. Baltimore was losing a core of guys who helped keep Kyle Boller alive. I remember hearing a lot of negative press about how the Ravens would be able to replace Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers. But once again, Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office came through again.

 

Last season, Joe Flacco was sacked 36 times. That’s just over two sacks a game on our beloved quarterback. This was about average in the NFL last year. The team who got sacked the least was the Colts with 13 sacks, followed by the Titans, Patriots and Saints. There is an easy explanation for why the Titans sack total was so low, and that is because they ran the ball more than anyone else, which was a good idea since it got the ball in Chris Johnson’s hands. But look at the other three teams on this list. Now think of their quarterbacks. There is a reason that Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are considered the best quarterbacks in the NFL. And their offensive lines are keeping them for being hit.

 

Not to mention, the Colts and the Saints played one another in the Super Bowl. What I am trying to say is that if the Ravens can cut down on sacks on Joe Flacco, then they have a better chance of going further. I’ll say it right here. If the Ravens offensive line gives up less than 20 sacks this year, then the Ravens will make it to the Super Bowl. If Flacco is only sacked once a game, then there is an extremely good chance that he will be healthier, which he had a problem with at the end of last season. And if he is healthy, then our passing offense will be remarkable, which will consequently open up the running game as well.

 

I hope to see a lot of the Ravens offense selected to the Pro Bowl this year. Just be sure to watch the offensive line to gauge this year’s Ravens success.

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Two weeks notice: The long offseason is almost over

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Luke Jones

After a long and eventful offseason, we’re exactly two weeks away from the start of the NFL season when the hated Pittsburgh Steelers host the Tennessee Titans for the Thursday night opener.

In Baltimore, an impressive 2-0 preseason start has only raised expectations for the Ravens entering the 2009 regular season.

With two preseason encounters remaining before the Ravens kick off against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13, much has gone well, but questions still remain before the real games begin.

Here are my purple thoughts as we approach the Ravens’ meeting with the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night.

– Receiver Mark Clayton returned to practice yesterday after missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury.  Though he won’t play against Carolina, it’s definitely a positive sign for him to be practicing more than two weeks before the regular season opener.

Considering his history with hamstring issues, the Ravens will be extremely careful with Clayton.  If his hamstring responds well to practice, he’ll likely play against Atlanta to get some game reps next Thursday night, but don’t be surprised to see the Ravens limit his reps into the early stages of the season.

It helps that Clayton had an entire offseason to work with Joe Flacco, but the two will need to regain their timing.  As WNST’s Glenn Clark has mentioned, Clayton’s absence has opened the door for Kelley Washington to become a factor in the passing game, and the veteran has responded well.

Staying on the injury front, you have to be a little more concerned with Terrell Suggs’ injured Achilles tendon than a week ago when the team was still “roughing” it in the Westminster heat.  Throughout training camp, we received reassurances that the heel injury was not serious, so most assumed it was a convenient excuse for the Pro Bowl linebacker to cruise through training camp.

But with the Ravens back at their comfy facility in Owings Mills this week, Suggs remains sidelined and has been since Aug. 2.  If he doesn’t play against the Falcons next Thursday, one would have to question his status for the start of the regular season, not just in terms of the Achilles but also his overall conditioning.

– Is Samari Rolle’s career over?

Whenever you learn about a football player dealing with a neck injury, it’s never taken lightly, and Rolle’s long stay on the physically unable to perform list only adds to the concern.

On Aug. 5, John Harbaugh said he expected Rolle to return to the practice field in the “next day or two,” but since then, the veteran corner has seen a second specialist regarding his injured neck.  There is no timetable for his return, and the organization has been very quiet regarding any specifics of the injury.

At this point, it seems likely Rolle will begin the season on the reserve PUP list (and not counting against the 53-man roster), keeping him sidelined for the first six weeks before the team must decide to activate him within a three-week window or place him on injured reserve.

Considering the Ravens have good depth in the defensive backfield, they will be patient with Rolle, especially since he would not count against the active roster.

Rolle dealt with two previous neck and spine injuries in his career, so you have to wonder if the cornerback has reached the end of the line.  If the current condition is as serious as it seems, why put his long-term health at risk?  Despite the appeal of playing on a team with Super Bowl aspirations, no one would blame the veteran for walking away from a very impressive NFL career.

– Much has been made about the Ravens’ difficulty in stopping the run on Monday night in their 24-23 victory over the New York Jets, but I still have a difficult time getting worked up over a small sample size in a preseason performance.

While the defense had difficulty with Leon Washington and—to a lesser extent—Thomas Jones, most of the breakdowns appeared to be related to hitting the wrong gaps when blitzing.  Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison confirmed this on Thursday and did not seem to be overly concerned with the lapses.

It did not surprise me to see the Ravens struggle with a shifty back like Washington, especially when you remember NFL teams do not game-plan for preseason opponents like they do in the regular season.

Keep in mind that despite the Ravens’ impressive run defense last season (third in the NFL), the unit struggled against Dallas’ Tashard Choice in Week 16 (17 carries, 90 yards) and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (11 carries, 72 yards) in the playoffs before the rookie left the game with an ankle injury late in the first half.

In other words, the defense is very good—but not invincible—in stopping the run.  Shifty backs can match up well against the Ravens’ scheme, but I’m not ready to raise any red flags until we see the same breakdowns happening in the regular season.

– While most continue to focus on the uncertainty at the wide receiver position, the Ravens would also be wise to acquire a veteran offensive tackle.  Jared Gaither and Michael Oher are clearly the starters, but an injury to either would throw second-year tackle Oniel Cousins into the starting lineup, a potential disaster in the making.

Cousins has improved from a season ago but still commits too many penalties and is too inconsistent.  Though the coaching staff could shift Marshal Yanda to right tackle if something would happen to either Oher or Gaither (Oher would then slide to left tackle), a veteran tackle would not only add depth but would be a positive influence on the very talented—but young—starting tackles.

Perhaps there will be another Willie Anderson floating around next week, and the Ravens will give their offensive line depth a boost.

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