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Tuesday 3-Pointer: McGahee’s End Lets Ravens Spend, Is LT Last of the H.O.F. RBs? & Melo-Dramatic Ending

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: McGahee’s End Lets Ravens Spend, Is LT Last of the H.O.F. RBs? & Melo-Dramatic Ending

Posted on 22 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Tuesday 3-Pointer

#1 – McGahee’s End Could Help Ravens Spend

This is one crazy NFL off-season already, and with fans forced to face up the reality of the impending labor strife, it seems that any opportunity to turn their collective focus toward anything moderately on-field related will have NFL fans jumping in with both feet. For evidence of that look no further than the apparent stir caused among Ravens fans yesterday based on the speculation by the Sun’s Mike Preston that the Ravens are likely to release Willis McGahee.

The reaction was a much bigger surprise after all than the realization regarding McGahee itself should have been. McGahee’s original deal with the Ravens, was reported to be a 7-year deal structured to be 3 years, meaning that by the end of the third season McGahee’s salary cap number would likely be preclusive to the team’s ability to keep him around beyond that time. The fact that Willis was a Raven at all in 2010 should have been a moderate surprise in the first place, and is likely at least somewhat attributable to the absence of a salary cap last season. Add to that the Ravens apparent wait and see approach, indicating that no players were likely to be released before the expiration of the league’s collective bargaining agreement in March, and it’s apparent that fans are dying for something…anything unrelated to labor negotiations to talk about.

Given the recent trends at the running back position league-wide, and the apparent wear and tear that has been exacted on Ray Rice of late, it’s easy to envision the Ravens looking to get younger at running back for 2011. What’s more, the failure of a number of recent highly drafted running back prospects, and success of almost as many undrafted free agents in recent seasons could lead to a bounty of running back talent in the late rounds of this year’s NFL draft and beyond. Say what you want about Ozzie’s recent draft record, but his success at finding running backs has been consistent throughout his tenure with the Ravens.

The league, in recent seasons, has shown a willingness to use running backs for all they’re worth while they’re young and relatively cheap, seemingly exhausting most of their talent before having to commit to big, long-term paydays. In the modern salary cap environment (presumably coming back in 2011) facilitating a position like running back “on the cheap” might free teams up to spend outlandish money for the types of talent that’s tougher to come by through free agency.

While I can’t envision the Ravens looking to break the bank and salary cap on a player like Nnamdi Asomugha, it’s reasonable to think that they could afford to if they were sure they could cover the running back position credibly with 3 low paid options. They might look elsewhere in the system too, to places like tight end and/or safety, places where they’ve always been able to find inexpensive, late round talent, at positions that are propped up to a degree by the system, and places where they’re reasonably certain that they could maintain strength in that system without committing a ton of money to the effort. If Joe Flacco matures and becomes a reliable top-10 in the league quarterback instead of a top-5 QB, that too could mean a savings of $5-$8 million per season, in this NFL, where corners and rush ends have seemingly been recognized as the most valuable defensive commodities, spending through free agency might be the only way outside of finishing 2-14 of coming by these types of players.

#2 – LT - Last of the Hall of Fame Running Backs?

Speaking of the plight of Willis McGahee, or the plight of the modern running back in general for that matter, it seems that we may be moving quickly toward the end of the Hall of Fame running back era.

There are 28 players in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame listed as modern era halfbacks (more than any other position but offensive and defensive line) with Marshall Faulk on his way in 2011. There are another handful of hopefuls who are retired and waiting hopefully on the call for induction, and there’s LaDanian Tomlinson. After that, it might be quite a while before we see another halfback able to put together the type of career that merits induction into the NFL’s hallowed hall.

In this modern landscape of multi-headed backfields, and where running backs are being employed more and more in short, over the middle passing options that wide receivers used to build their reputations on, the league seems to be chewing up and spitting out running backs at a record pace. While guys like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson might be well on their way, at this point they’ve done little more (or arguably less) than Terrell Davis, who is still waiting on a call from the hall, and unlikely to get it in the minds of most or Jamal Lewis for that matter.

I’d encourage you to enjoy LT while you still have the chance, it may be a long time before you see another hall of fame running back.

#3 – Melo-Dramatic Ending

At long last, and after countless speculation, offers, counter-offers, and innuendo, the Knicks and Nuggets have finally agreed to a deal that will deliver Melo to his stated destination of choice in New York. There he’ll join forces with Amar’e Stoudemire to form their own “little big 2“, with arguably nothing else to speak of.

In getting the deal done, and thanks to the pressure provided by the Nets, the Knicks parted company with Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, along with a bevy of draft picks (only 1 first rounder), and some cash to boot. The Nets, for their trouble are reportedly set to get Mozgov and one of the Nuggets’ other new acquisitions for a pair of first round picks that were central to those two teams’ own Carmelo talks. The Knicks will also reportedly send Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota for Corey Brewer.

That leaves the Knicks with 2/3 of their own big 3 in the making in Anthony and Stoudemire, along with uber-second round pick Landry Fields, Brewer and Chauncey Billups if he reports for duty with the Knicks in the backcourt, but next to nothing in support of Amar’e up front. Rony Turiaf remains from the Knicks original roster and he’ll be supported, lightly, by Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams (also acquired in the Anthony deal).

The Knicks were a nice early story, and will ultimately benefit from the attraction that is Anthony and Stoudemire, but for this season at least, they look to have taken a pretty significant step backward. Felton could be viewed as found money by the Knicks, but was one of the most effective (and seemingly quickest) point guards through the first half of the season in Dantoni’s system. Gallinari was having a disappointing season, but was a legitimate threat from the outside with a developing post game, and Mozgov is a reasonably skilled 7-footer with a pretty legitimate upside; he’ll be a welcome addition in New Jersey. But since New York had no real stake in the Eastern Conference this season anyway, it may be one step backward with the intent of taking two big steps forward with two franchise forwards in tow.

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NFL Draft Season Kicks Off In Orlando at East West Shrine Game

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NFL Draft Season Kicks Off In Orlando at East West Shrine Game

Posted on 22 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

For NFL Draft nerds (like myself), this week has marked the true start to NFL Draft season.

Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome lead a group of staffers who traveled to Orlando to watch practice ahead of this year’s annual East West Shrine Game.

With the NFL Draft likely to take place before free agency begins this year, it can be argued that Draft season is more significant than it has been in years past.

Before we start to look at players involved in Draft season, I think we should first identify the Ravens’ biggest areas of need. With free agency still to determine many things, here are the areas where I believe the team most needs to improve.

1. Defensive End-Newsome said this week the team needs a “companion” for LB Terrell Suggs in pass rush. I agree, and I believe it needs to be a true edge rusher.
2. Offensive Tackle-If the team feels comfortable with bringing back Jared Gaither (and Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated they were), re-signing him could address the problem. If not, they’ll need to upgrade.
3. Wide Receiver-The Ravens will have to make decisions on TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth; but need to come away with a big receiver and a speed receiver that can both be counted on offensively.
4. Cornerback-Only Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb are under contract, so the team needs to make decisions on Chris Carr, Josh Wilson, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams. Either way, they would be well served to add a bigger, more physical corner.
5. Fullback-If Le’Ron McClain returns, this wouldn’t be an issue. With the current expectation that he won’t return, the team will be looking for an option here.
6. Inside Linebacker-At the MIKE spot, the team knows Ray Lewis can’t play forever. At the WILL spot, the team has three players (Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe) who are all coming up on some form of free agency and who have not separated themselves from each other at all.
7. Safety-While it doesn’t appear Ed Reed will retire this offseason, the Ravens have to think about the possibility it could happen in the near future. At the same time, Dawan Landry is a free agent and appears to be one of the more likely free agents on the team to get bigger money elsewhere.
8. Center-Whether or not Matt Birk retires (I’ll guess he doesn’t), the team clearly needs to review the position. If Birk returns, it will only be for one more season. I don’t think the team has future plans for Chris Chester in the middle. Daniel Sanders could be an option, but the team might be well to draft a center as well.
9. Running Back-Willis McGahee is a very likely departure this offseason, leaving the team with a need to compliment Ray Rice.
10. Quarterback-If Marc Bulger departs, the Ravens will need someone else to backup Joe Flacco. Hunter Cantwell could be an option, but they might want to at least CONSIDER a doomsday theory scenario with Flacco and draft a mid to late round QB as well.

Some of these positions will be addressed whenever free agency finally does begin, others can be addressed simply by signing the team’s own free agents. Before free agency is even an issue, the Ravens will have to get through Draft season.

Here are a look at 10 players participating in the Shrine Game, which you can watch at 4pm on NFL Network.

RB Evan Royster (Penn State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tWf1NOPkL0[/youtube]

After an explosive sophomore season (1,391 yards of total offense and 12 TD’s), Royster immediately gained attention.

Incredibly, he posted two more very steady seasons, tallying 1,356 yards of total offense and 8 TD’s in 2009; 1,216 yards of total offense and 7 TD’s in 2010. He has the size of a back who could compliment Rice (6’1″, 228 pounds) and many scouts think he’ll have a solid career as a third down back at the NFL level.

So what’s the problem? Well, Royster’s biggest performances as a senior came against Temple and Michigan, neither or which can really be considered premiere defenses. He also doesn’t fit the bill of the dynamic backs in the Naitonal Football League currently like Rice, Jacksonville Jaguars back Maurice Jones-Drew, Houston Texans back Arian Foster, Tennessee Titans back Chris Johnson or Kansas City Chiefs back Jamaal Charles.

As of right now, he’s probably a mid to late round pick. If so, he might be a solid pick-up should McGahee leave Charm City.

WR Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mihM5auuXx0[/youtube]

As the Ravens look for a receiver who can  extend the field, they might want to think about Jean. He’s 6’3″ (and somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds), and has deceptive quickness.

While the Owls don’t exactly play against top caliber opposition in the Sun Belt conference, Jean also managed to post big games against Texas (see above) and Michigan State. He finished the 2010 season with 64 catches for 988 yards and 8 TD’s, wrapping up a career with 146 catches for 1,992 yards and 15 touchdowns.

He’s probably a late round pick at this point, but what he does at the Citrus Bowl Saturday and what he does at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis could lift him to late Friday night or early Saturday morning. If the Ravens don’t go receiver early, he could certainly be an option for the team later in the weekend. Jean wasn’t exactly hotly pursued out of High School in Miami, but he could be a hot name in April.

DE Justin Trattou (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DBWhBn75KM[/youtube]

Maybe an interception isn’t the greatest highlight to offer for a player the Ravens would be looking to see handle an edge rush, but I can only work with what I have.

Trattou is a rising end whose size has never matched his ability to bring down a QB. He tallied just 8 sacks over his four seasons in Gainesville despite his 6’4″, 255 pound frame. In fairness, he was surrounded by top notch rushers like Carlos Dunlap during much of his Gators career.

Trattou may pan out to be more of a Dwan Edwards or Cory Redding contain type of end, but NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks says he’s put together an impressive mix of rush moves this week in the shadow of Disney World. If he continues to show a rush presence, he could be an intriguing name for the Ravens to consider on Saturday.

S Jermale Hines (Ohio State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atBM7zf2IAw[/youtube]

Hines’ career interception total over four years in Columbus (three) looks more like a single game for a future Hall of Famer like Reed, but that doesn’t mean Hines hasn’t had a nose for the football. The safety from Cleveland also finished his Buckeyes career with 159 tackles and two sacks, and was named first team All-Big Ten by conference coaches in 2010.

At 6’1″, 216 pounds; Hines is bigger than your typical free safety-but is also quick. In fact, Hines could be an option as a returner at the next level as well. He’s as much an athlete as a football player, but his football skills certainly developed well at OSU, and could very well still improve as he reaches the NFL.

As the Ravens approach Saturday, Hines could be a valuable depth option at safety. While Tom Zbikowski handled FS well with Reed on the PUP list, he didn’t necessarily convince anyone he was absolutely the team’s replacement for Reed longterm. Hines could be that type of player someday if groomed appropriately at a young age.

WR Terrence Toliver (LSU)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhIrQn1Nd7w[/youtube]

His numbers are by no means overwhelming, but exactly how many times was Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron able to call a play like the TD pass Toliver caught from Jarrett Lee above?

Exactly.

The Ravens finished 22nd in red zone efficiency in 2010. For the numerous complaints about the lack of creative play-calling, there was only so much for Cameron to work with. Namely, he missed a target the size of Toliver.

Toliver caught just 41 balls for 579 yards and five TD’s during his senior campaign in Baton Rouge. All five TD’s happened either in the Florida game above or in the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M, where he caught three.

But there’s another number that’s significantly more important.

6’5″.

The only receiver the Ravens have with such size is James Hardy, and he’s James Hardy. If the Ravens are truly looking to get more dynamic offensively, Toliver could be a solid pickup on Friday night or Saturday.

FB Anthony Sherman (UConn)

anthonysherman

I would love to have been able to share a YouTube clip of the Huskies FB with you, but when you rush just four times for a total of one yard in your senior season I guess there’s not much to post.

Sherman might not have big numbers, but he can help take credit for a rushing attack that finished 2nd in the Big East in 2010, just four yards behind conference leading Louisville. He also showed himself to have reliable hands in the Connecticut offense, grabbing 48 passes for 477 yards and a TD over his four seasons playing football in Hartford.

More importantly, Sherman lead the way for RB Jordan Todman to finish fourth in all of the NCAA FBS in rushing with 1,695 yards. If the Ravens are going to want a traditional blocking back (and the way they used McClain would make you think they are), Sherman could very well fit the bill. At 5’11″, he has a very effective way of throwing around 244 pounds.

OT Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada)

I know what you’re thinking.

“Canada?”

Yeah, I’d usually just ignore a Canuck and let CFL teams fight over who gets him. But there are two unique things O’Donnell has going for him.

1-He’s 6’10.”

2-He did THIS to Boise State DE Ryan Wintersyk at an indoor practice during Shrine Game week.

Does it make him NFL material? Not necessarily. But does it mean more folks will be paying attention? Absolutely.

RB Da’Rel Scott (Maryland)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADjVJ3MKd8k[/youtube]

Scott HAS to hope scouts were paying close attention to the Military Bowl, as his 200 yard, 2 TD performance against East Carolina was by far and away the best of his senior campaign for the Terps. If scouts could only remember his bowl game performances he’d be a lock to get selected, as he also compiled 174 yards and 2 TD’s against Nevada in the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl.

After a breakout season (1,133 yards and eight TD’s) in 2008, Scott totaled just 1,133 yards and nine TD’s in his junior and senior seasons combined.

That being said, Scott’s 5’11″, 200 pound frame is shifty but can still take a hit. He could be a steady performer behind a solid O-Line at the next level and will likely be available late into Saturday.

QB Ricky Dobbs (Navy)

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

A number of teams (including the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions) have had no problems selecting service academy players in the NFL Draft and waiting until they were eligible to play. The Ravens have never done that, but with their partnership with the Maryland National Guard, they’ve certainly been more military friendly in recent years.

Dobbs probably doesn’t project to be a quarterback at the next level, but he’s a better passer than those who don’t follow the Midshipmen (see above) probably realize. Dobbs threw for over 2,500 yards over his junior and senior seasons; combining with 2,170 yards rushing.

It will be interesting to see if Dobbs stays at quarterback throughout Draft season or if he works at other positions. Receiver seems to be the best bet for him given his 5’11″, 215 pound size; but he could fit with some of the more undersized running backs in the NFL as well.

The military service will be an issue. He’s much more likely to sign as an undrafted free agent than to be picked, but he’s the type of special athlete a team might very well be willing to wait for. There’s no off-field red flags for NFL teams to worry about with Dobbs, as everything he does he keeps in mind that he ultimately wants to be the President…of the United States.

QB Pat Devlin (Delaware)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkPzmE0__7A[/youtube]

If the Pat Devlin story sounds familiar, it should. Substitute “Pitt” for “Penn State”, and it’s basically the Joe Flacco story again.

Devlin nearly lead the Blue Hens to the NCAA FCS title in 2010, throwing for 3,032 yards and 22 TD’s before the Hens were cut down by Eastern Washington in the Championship Game.

Devlin doesn’t project quite as high in the 2010 Draft as Flacco did in the 2008 Draft, but he’ll have time to try to improve that. As of now, he looks like a Friday night selection, but will get the chance to go up against better talent in Orlando and will get to work out against better players at LucasOil Stadium in Indy.

If he moves up, there’s no chance the Ravens take him. If he’s around late into Saturday, it wouldn’t stun me.

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Haloti Ngata Named Ravens MVP

Posted on 05 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (12-4) returned to practice Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for Sunday’s AFC Wild Card playoff battle with the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) at Arrowhead Stadium.

DT Haloti Ngata was announced Wednesday as the Ravens 2010 Most Valuable Player award, as voted on by media members who cover the team on a daily basis. (This columnist was amongst those who voted for Ngata.)

Ngata set a career high with 5.5 sacks this season and tied career highs with 63 tackles and 5 pass deflections.

“That’s pretty cool” said Ngata after being informed he had won. “I felt like this year has been a little different just with my pass rush, I felt like I got a little better there. Hopefully I can continue to improve and just get better. Hopefully I can be around (Baltimore) more often, because I love being here, I love the guys, I love the fans.”

Ngata will be an important factor as the Ravens go up against the league’s top rushing offense (164.2 yards per game) Sunday in KC.

“(They’re a) great running team, I think everybody knows that” said Ngata. “Their O-Linemen (are) experienced, they’ve got a lot of guys who have been around and they do well moving guys around. Hopefully we can do what we want to do and stop the run first and make them a one dimensional team.”

Ngata was an important cog for a Ravens defense that was pretty good against the run (ranked 5th in the NFL), allowing just 93.9 yards per game.

“We love when teams like to run” added Ngata. “If we can take away their best thing, that’s an advantage for us.”

The Chiefs finished the year with two backs amongst the Top 20 in rushing in the league. RB Jamaal Charles (who finished 2nd in the league with 1,467 yards to go with give touchdowns) is somewhat similar to Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson according to Ngata.

“(He’s) just real shifty and quick to the hole. He’s just so fast and quick, he does a lot of things really well. He definitely is different from last year.”

Chiefs RB Thomas Jones also ranked in the Top 20 amongst the league’s rushing leaders; finishing with 896 yards and 6 TD’s.

“Jones is a little bigger” said Ngata. “I think he’s able to hit between the tackles a little bit better. He’s a little bit more patient than Charles.”

In their 2009 matchup at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens allowed the Chiefs just 29 yards rushing, including only 8 yards for Charles.

Ngata succeeds RB Ray Rice, who was voted the team’s MVP in 2009.

CARR NAMED “GOOD GUY”: In addition to Team MVP, reporters covering the team on a daily basis also voted a winner of the annual “Media Good Guy” award.

CB Chris Carr was announced as the winner of the award for the 2010 season Wednesday.

“If I won, everybody else must be pretty bad” Carr joked. “I understand that the fans want to hear truth. I try never to lie. Maybe I won’t say how I really feel, but I won’t go up there and give a lie to you guys. I always try to be insightful and truthful to everybody because fans want to hear stuff. They want to be honest and they want accountability as well. I just try to do that every week.

LB Jarret Johnson had received the award in 2009.

INJURY REPORT: Four Ravens did not participate in practice Wednesday.

C Matt Birk (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (knee), S Ed Reed (chest) and Ngata (thigh) were all held out. None are believed to be in serious jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game.

S Tom Zbikowski (back) returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since leaving the team’s Week 14 win over the Houston Texans early. He was one of five Ravens who were limited participants in practice. LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder), LB Jameel McClain (back) and CB Josh Wilson (head) were also limited participants.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said he’s “optimistic” Zbikowski can see the field Sunday.

WR/KR David Reed (wrist/head) was a full participant in practice Wednesday; he hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in the team’s Week 15 win over the New Orleans Saints. WR Derrick Mason (abs/ankle) and OT Michael Oher (knee/ankle) were also full participants.

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (illness) missed practice Wednesday. Head Coach Todd Haley did not seem concerned about Bowe’s Sunday status during his Wednesday conference call with Charm City reporters.

Chiefs G Brian Waters (illness) also missed practice Wednesday.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Ngata, Carr, Rice, QB Joe Flacco and LB Ray Lewis now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Jim Nantz will call Sunday’s game for CBS, he joined Drew Forrester Wednesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST. That chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……CB Cary Williams is scheduled to join Forrester Thursday at 7:15am……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday, Coordinators Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Jerry Rosburg are scheduled to meet with the media

-G

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

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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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Hair Boys Have To Go

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Hair Boys Have To Go

Posted on 22 October 2010 by Tom Federline

Aren’t they pretty? Don’t you just love the dreadlocks, Samoan manes and long hippie hair flowing out from the backs of helmets on the NFL and College players? Nice grooming habits, huh? It must be some Samsonian fad - my hair makes me stronger – especially when I’m on steroids. Maybe it’s the “Old School” coming out in me ……again, but the girly hair has got to go.
 

 What is with the hair, boys? I do not want to hear, “It’s an expression of my culture, religion or national origin.” There is a time and a place for that and it is not on the football field. How about the Lions Mane sported by the Samoans in the NFL?Proudly paraded by the NFL’s #1 Samoan –  Baltimores favorite Hair Boy, Troy “Mr. Head and Shoulders – $1 million dollar insured  mane” Polamalu. Supposedly it is an expression of masculinity grown by the warriors in the region…………….of Samoa! Not Pittsburgh, Pa. or Cincinnati, OH.

Then there are the dreadlocks. Nice expression of culture and religion. Yeah, I heard Chris Johnson Marion Barber, Larry Fitzgerald,etc. are all born-again Caribbeanites. Then there are the boys trying to feel like a woman – Tom Brady, Clay Matthews, Alex Wujciak (Terp linebacker), etc. I don’t get it. I guess they think it looks good? Maybe they think it’s a chick magnet? Let me tell you something boys…..I have never heard a female say…….”Oh yeah, I want that one, he has pretty hair.”  It must be a fascination with Samson.

I’m not that old and I’m not that insensitive to peoples personal grooming habits. But, in my opinion, there should be a presentable dress code of professionalism. Especially when you are representing an organization, university or a city. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the NBA at least has a dress code. Have you ever gone checked out some of these boys/men and how they arrive at the stadium on gameday? Ray-Ray is a class act, three piece suit the whole ten yards. Then you have the thugs rolling in with slippers on, shirt and pants they had on from the night before, all hanging down on the ground…”Pants on the Ground, Pants on the Ground, what kinda fool goes around with their pants on the ground?” I think we may be asking to much. Let’s just stick with the “Hair” – (The Cowsills) – yes, from the musical.

How about if we kill 2 birds (have-to-go’s) with one stone (simple change). No more “Lead with the helmet hits”. Replace those illegal hits with legal, “Pull the Hair” and fling “Pretty Hair Boy” as far as possible. Holding is permitted (By the Hair Only), wide receivers may use defensive backs hair to propel themselves past coverage. And…. if you end up with some of the disgusting locks in your hand – automatically add 1 point to the score.

The NFL and NCAA has many more major issues to deal with, other than players personal hygiene and grooming. Here comes the Old School again………Should they even have to? Don’t these boys/men have parents or at least someone in upper management to say, “make yourself presentable” or “if you’re going to get paid like a professional, then at least during the season – look professional.” I know, I know, all US citizens have “Freewill” – (RUSH). Is it that much to ask for 6 months of respectable grooming habits? And before you even go there, yes, I did have hair down to my shoulders…..in the 70′s.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Ray Rice returns to form against Broncos

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Ray Rice returns to form against Broncos

Posted on 10 October 2010 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens were not only happy to earn a 31-17 win at home against the Denver Broncos Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, they were also content in how they did it.

One bright spot in the Ravens’ performance Sunday was their 233 yards rushing; highlighted by the play of running back Ray Rice, who got the ball from the start, rushing the ball 29 times for 133 yards and two scores.

Ray Rice

The two touchdowns were not only his first two scores of the season-they were his first touchdowns since last December’s 48-3 victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 14 of the 2009 season.

Rice had been nursing a bruised knee that he suffered in the Ravens’ Week 3 victory over the Cleveland Browns and it had severely impacted his running style the last several weeks in game and in practice.

While Rice did suit up in last week’s 17-14 victory over the Steelers, running back Willis McGahee got the start over Rice and neither back really looked perfect, and Rice still seemed hobbled, crippled, and not 100 percent.

Not on Sunday. From the get-go, Rice appeared healthy as can be-making his signature cuts and moves with ease, and Rice said he felt as comfortable as he ever has been.

Rice’s longest run went for 18 yards, and he had two other runs of 12-yards, his second being the run with 11:45 remaining in the fourth that put him over the century mark for the first time this year.

And he got all the help he could ever need from an offensive line that opened lanes and a fullback in Le’Ron McClain who delivered several bone-crushing hits on Broncos MLB D.J. Williams, who did finish the game with 15 tackles, mostly on Rice downfield.

“That was all offensive line,” Rice said. “They got me to the safety.”

“I’ve never seen a group work harder,” Rice added. The stats haven’t shown the last few weeks, but today, if I was to give a game ball, I’d have to give it to them.”

The Broncos defense had actually came off a pretty good game in their Week 4 victory over the Tennessee Titans, in which the Denver defense held Chris Johnson to 53 yards rushing on 19 carries.

“I’m not sure what Tennessee tried to do against them last week, but we wanted to attack them up front,” Rice said. “We wanted to get them moving.”

“The littlest guy they have in their front seven is D.J. Williams, who is a great player. The rest of them were 270, 280 anchoring the front…I know our defense, when they have to play long drives, they get tired.”

The other surprising note about Rice’s scores were that they were both from one yard out-the first being his score with 2:30 left in the second quarter to put the Ravens up 14-0, and the later coming with 14:21 remaining in the final quarter that put Baltimore out of reach of Denver, 24-7.

Most of the time, the goal line duties are relegated to McGahee or fullback Le’Ron McClain, who are bigger backs, but after both showed indecisiveness near the goalline on the Ravens first two drives of the game(especially a turnover on downs on the first Ravens drive highlighted by not being able to score on the 1 yard line), Rice saw action near the end zone and made the most of the opportunities.

Rice said he being put in that situation meant that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had all the faith in the world that Rice was going to show off his skills.

“That’s trust,” Rice said. “You trust that coordinator, whoever is calling the plays, is going to do what’s best for the team. I don’t consider them bad calls down there. It’s about execution…Cam’s just calling the plays. The players, we’ve got to execute them.”

Rice not only was a factor in the running game, but he also got his normal touches in the passing game from quarterback Joe Flacco.

Rice also caught four passes for 26 yards, and liked the balance he saw out of the game-plan Sunday.

“I like to call it a well-balanced attack,” he said. “When you define identity, last year we were a physical running team. The thing about this season so far is that when we needed to pass the ball, we passed it. Today, when we needed to run the ball, we ran it. There was no second-guessing what we were going to do.”

Gaining 233 yards on the ground, the Ravens’ offense looked as if it was from two years ago, when the three-headed monster of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le’Ron McClain got the Ravens to an 11-5 record and an appearance in the AFC Championship game.

“It’s back,” McGahee said of the three-headed attack. “We’ve been away from it for awhile, but we did a great job today.

“That’s our goal every week,” McClain said of the 233 yards rushing. “We set a high standard level. We want 250 a week. We take pride in that. We got Ray going today.”

And if the Ravens play defense the way they did against the Broncos today combined with the churning of the clock and the opposing defenders today, the Ravens feel like they can beat anybody, anytime.

“I think we can go all the way as long as we don’t hurt ourselves,” McGahee said. “That goes for everybody. The sky’s the limit for us.”

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

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

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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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Friday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

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Friday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 27 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

Happy Friday!

It’s a Happy Friday for me because tonight is my annual Fantasy Football Draft; or as I like to call it-”August Christmas.” Thanks to my buddy Chris Appel for arranging the event at Mountain Branch for our “Full House League”, where I’m assuming these things will be on the menu…

wingsandbeer

I have the 6th pick in this year’s draft. I’m mortified. Clearly Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew will be gone; with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson likely behind them. That will likely put me in an uncomfortable spot where the best options are Frank Gore, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Michael Turner.

I have no idea what I’d do in that situation.

I guess Team “Jesse and the Rippers” probably end up having to take this guy…

BOLLER

And as a quick personal note; my condolences go out to Chris Appel (and former WNST.net blogger BJ Appel-the Commish in our league); whose grandfather “Big” Will Appel passed away last night. Big Will was an amazing dude who will be missed. Thoughts and prayers all around, it certainly weighs heavy on an otherwise glorious day.

Let’s see what everyone has to say…

1. WNST.net’s Glenn Clark says Terrence Cody (knee), Demetrius Williams (ankle) missed practice again Thursday ahead of Ravens-Giants game

Neither are major concerns, and neither have ruled themselves out for tomorrow night-although it would surprise me if either were on the field after missing practice for all (Williams) or the majority (Cody) of the week.

The Ravens will almost certainly be without O-Linemen Jared Gaither (back), Oniel Cousins (concussion), David Hale (tailbone) and Daniel Sanders (shoulder) tomorrow night; as well as CB Marcus Paschal (leg).

WR Eron Riley (back) and DT Brandon McKinney (knee) are question marks having missed a few practices this week; and I would be surprised if CB Lardarius Webb played on the turf at “The Bank” after returning from the PUP list just this Monday.

It sorta feels weird to talk about injuries before a game and not mention LJ Smith. I hope he’s doing well…

2. BaltimoreRavens.com’s Ryan Mink says ‘ball security’ very important for Cam Cameron, Ravens against New York

And after 8 fumbles in the first two preseason games against the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, it seems like a pretty logical thing to work on.

You know what else seems pretty logical? Posting this picture of Ninel Conde from Don Chavez….

conde

3. National Football Post’s Aaron Wilson says Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome to be inducted in Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor

I’m not sure if the Browns are planning on inviting guys to town to be honored the weekend of the induction, and it likely wouldn’t matter; as the Ravens visit the Cincinnati Bengals that day and I’m sure Ozzie will be in The Queen City, not The Comeback City.

But hypothetically, imagine the Browns holding an event on a day where Newsome had been able to attend. I am certain there would be at least a level of awkwardness at Cleveland Browns Stadium. I don’t think the majority of fans would be foolish enough to-say-boo the man whose Cleveland career made him a Hall of Fame TE. But I do think there would be a handful of fans (especially younger fans who might not remember Newsome on the field) who would be uncomfortable with honoring the GM of the team that abandoned Cleveland and now regular comes back to kick the Browns in the ass.

And there’s also the whole “he works for Art Modell” thing.

They’re doing the right thing. And it is probably best that it will happen on a day where they can avoid any level of awkwardness.

4. New York Daily News’ Ebenezer Samuel says G-Men center Shaun O’Hara to miss tomorrow night’s game

Before we move on from the Ravens, a couple of things…

-The Ravens are holding a walkthrough today that is CLOSED to the media out at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills. They’ll kickoff against the Giants at 7:30 tomorrow night at M&T Bank Stadium. The game can be seen live on WBAL11.

-Did you miss Ravens LB Jason Phillips with Drew Forrester today on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST? Jason discussed his road to making the 53 man roster after missing last season. You can hear it in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here at WNST.net. Some other things you can hear in the Audio Vault include…

  • Howard Cross (New York Giants sideline reporter/former TE)-who previewed tomorrow night’s preseason showdown with the Ravens
  • Domonique Foxworth (Ravens CB)-who joined Drew to talk about his recovery and preview the Maryland-Navy get together at M&T Bank Stadium on Labor Day
  • TJ Rives (Tampa Bay Buccaneers sideline reporter)-who previewed the Bucs with Drew as we continued to look at all of the Ravens’ 2010 opponents
  • Roger Lodge (Host of “The Sports Lodge” on AM830 in Los Angeles and the former host of “Blind Date”)-who joined Drew to preview the Angels
  • All sorts of audio from Owings Mills Thursday-including Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison, Jerry Rosburg and Ray Rice
  • Steve Hauschka (former Ravens, now Detroit Lions kicker)-who joined Thyrl Nelson Thursday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”
  • Joe Maese (former Ravens Long Snapper)-who joined Rex Snider Thursday on “The Afternoon Drive” to talk about Matt Katula/Morgan Cox as well as his new career as a Howard County firefighter
  • Len Pasquarelli (CBSSports.com)-who checked in live from the NFL Owners Meetings in Atlanta with Rex Thursday

Plus much much more. It’s all in the Audio Vault, so once again I’ve planned your day completely. I’m getting sick of carrying you like this.

5. The AP’s Jay Cohen says Edwin Jackson masterful as Orioles lost to Chicago White Sox at US Cellular Field

Not a whole heck of a lot more that can be said about this.

Jackson was TREMENDOUS last night. The type of tremendous that sorta makes you wonder how he can ever be bad.

I almost said “I’m glad Edwin Jackson doesn’t pitch for my team, because it would be frustrating to watch him.” But I don’t mean that. I’d take Edwin Jackson my team 10 times out of 10. He’s better than anyone we have.

Nights like these happen sometimes. They’re frustrating, but they happen. Hopefully there will be fewer and fewer of them in 2011.

Hopefully.

6. The AP/WNST.net provide numerical evidence of loss

Jackson’s line: 8 shutout innings, 3 hits, 10 strikeouts

Jake Arrieta’s line: 4 IP, 4 ER, 7 hits, 3BB, 2K

You REALLY don’t want to look at these numbers.

Instead, look at Olivia Wilde. She’s much more pleasant to look at. Thanks Guyism!

oliviawilde

7. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli says Armando Gabino optioned to Norfolk after loss, Jim Johnson expected before tonight’s game in Anaheim

And when it comes to Gabino, we’ll always have the memories. Like…

I’m happy for Jim Johnson to finally be getting back. I think there was a real chance of him having his spirits dampened after such a dreadful season thus far.

You know what tends to help me when my spirits are dampened? Robert Randolph…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kABK_CDZal8[/youtube]

8. The Sun’s Dean Jones Jr. says Chris Tillman roughed up, but Norfolk Tides managed to beat Charlotte Knights on farm

And before we move on from the O’s, a couple of things…

-The Birds left the Windy City last night for Anaheim, where they’ll open a weekend series with the Angels tonight. First pitch between Brad Bergesen and Trevor Bell is at 10:05pm, and the game can be seen on MASN2. Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie face Scott Kazmir and Jered Weaver the rest of the weekend.

-Adam Jones missed another game last night, but was available in an emergency situation. Still not considered a longterm issue.

-While Tillman still seems to be a guy who will be headed to Charm City next week, it does not look like Buck Showalter and Andy MacPhail will be giving Zach Britton the call. Might be the right move, but still kinda disappointing.

9. D1scourse’s Patrick Stevens says LaQuan Williams, Justin Lewis, Matt Furstenburg now listed as starters for Terrapins

And yet somehow Shannon James STILL isn’t starting. WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN COLLEGE PARK?!?!?!? (Thanks The Smoking Jacket!)

shannonjames

10. ESPN.com’s Wayne Drehs says Michael Phelps has rededicated himself to Swimming after visiting this year’s Vancouver Olympics

Thank God, as I can’t take seeing Michael Phelps lose anymore.

I mean, if Phelps is losing-I’m pretty sure THIS man defaults back to being the face of Baltimore sports…

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

And finally, I leave you with this.

The Maryland State Fair is underway in Timonium. It means plenty of wonderful things all around. Amongst them? DEEP FRIED POP TARTS! (Thanks Fox 45!)

poptart

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Ravens CB Cary Williams on Pre-Season Success: “I Really Want To Take Advantage Of The Opportunity The Baltimore Ravens Have Given Me”

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Ravens CB Cary Williams on Pre-Season Success: “I Really Want To Take Advantage Of The Opportunity The Baltimore Ravens Have Given Me”

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Cary Williams

One of the reasons why the Baltimore Ravens signed Cary Williams off the Tennessee Titans‘ practice squad last season was because the Ravens had injury concerns with their corner backs.

Flash forward almost a year, and Cary Williams is still on this team because…the Ravens have injury concerns at the corner back position.

But Williams, if he continues to play like he has in first two Ravens preseason games-both Baltimore victories against the Panthers and the Redskins-, he might find himself a roster spot in the Ravens crowded secondary when the 2010 season starts on September 13th against the Jets.

Williams has recorded interceptions in the first two games of the season, intercepting Panthers second-round pick Jimmy Clausen in the Ravens opening round victory, and on Saturday, he did one better, intercepting Redskins starter Donovan McNabb on a pass intended for Santana Moss.

He returned the interception 37 yards.

Williams got both interceptions not seeing starting action.

“The ball was a little under-thrown,” Williams told the media after the game. ‘I guess Donovan was trying to give the guy an advantage on the ball because of my position on top of his outside shoulder, but I just came down and saw it and tried to run as fast as I could.”

Williams played well on special teams down the stretch last season as the Ravens made their way into the playoffs, and now going into the 2010 season, Williams is still trying to prove to the Ravens that he is worth a taking a flier on in a more active-role when it comes to being a part of this defense.

“I just relish any moment that I can go out there and show my abilities,” Williams told Drew Forrester Monday morning, fresh off the weekend victory over the Redskins.  “I really want to take advantage of the opportunity that Ozzie and the Baltimore Ravens have given me.”

Since Williams joined the Ravens last November after being signed off the Titans practice squad, Williams said he has taken each day as a way of improving his play as NFL corner, hopefully as a Raven.

“I just want to take it one day at a time really and just continue to get better each week. I want to show the guys that I’m a dependable corner and that I’m a guy who can really help this team out.”

Williams was originally a seventh-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2008 Draft out of Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas. He became the fifth player in school history to be drafted into the NFL.

Listed at 6’1”, 185 lb, Williams is a bigger, physical corner who can leap and compete with bigger wide receivers.

In his senior season as a Ichabod, he nabbed seven interceptions, good for second in school history, while also recording two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

But that was Division-II football. He now is playing in the NFL, but through the ten career games that he has played in, not including the likes of the preseason game on Saturday, he says the game is slowing down for him a bit.

“To me, it really didn’t feel any different,” Williams told Forrester. “But I guess with the starters, McNabb came out on fire, completing passes left and right. I guess it felt like a regular season game with the tempo and things like that.

“But when I got out there, it didn’t feel like that. It felt like football. And you just try and play football at the best of your ability just like any other game, and try to perform and put your best foot forward.”

Williams is stepping forward as an option to help solidify the secondary when it comes to the corner back position. And he knows what he is capable of in this league.

“I feel like I’m capable to go out there and play against anybody. I just want to become a sponge this off-season and try and learn as much as possible from Coach [Chuck]Pagano and from the rest of the guys like [Lardarius] Webb. I want to try and get their perspective on things and try to soak in as much as possible…and learn the game, and each week get better and better gradually.”

Unfortunately, even if Williams does continue to progress week-by-week in the preseason, there will be a hiccup in that process as he will miss the first two games of the regular season after being suspended by the league for violating the NFL’s conduct policy.

It stems from an incident that occurred when he was with the Tennessee Titans last year, an issue that Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens staff knew all about before bringing him in.

Williams was suspended twice in his college career while at Fordham University before being kicked off the team, forcing Williams to play at Washburn.

And while Williams and the rest of the Ravens defense shut down the Skins offense Saturday to a total of three points, Williams-along with the rest of the Ravens defenders-will tell you that they were far from perfect.

“I think we have some things to work on,” Williams said. “Obviously today we’re going to go out and review the film, and do the corrections through practice. But as a unit, I think we did alright. I don’t think we did too bad at all.”

And Williams said he has been around one of the best game-film studiers of them all in linebacker Ray Lewis.

“You’re playing with one of the greatest in the game. In my opinion, he is the greatest field-general to ever play the game,” Williams told Forrester. “Ray is a great guy off the field, but he’s even better on the field. It’s almost as if he knows every position and every scheme that we have. He knows everyone’s responsbillites.”

“He can help you out in any aspect of the game, and it’s just a wonderful experience, and its the greatest experience of my life.”

But, since Williams has become a member of this organization, he has learned the importance of winning games to the Ravens coaching staff.

“Winning is a big part of this organization,” Williams replied.”It’s already known when you put on a Raven uniform what is expected of us, and we have to go out there with high intensity. And every week, we’re going out there trying to put our best foot forward trying to win games.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net for more information regarding Cary Williams and his chances at making the Ravens 53-man roster. WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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