Tag Archive | "Chris McAlister"

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Rice reportedly to skip Ravens’ offseason workouts without new contract

Posted on 03 April 2012 by Luke Jones

With the start of the offseason workout program less than two weeks away, the Ravens apparently shouldn’t be expecting their Pro Bowl running back to surface in Owings Mills.

Ray Rice is not expected to report for offseason workouts without a new contract, according to a Scout.com report on Tuesday afternoon. The running back is not required to attend any organized team activities since he is not under contract.

He remained upbeat about his future with the team last season and during preliminary negotiations earlier this offseason before the Ravens placed the franchise tag on him in early March. The former Rutgers standout is scheduled to make $7.7 million under the franchise tender if the two sides are unable to reach a long-term agreement by July 15.

The 25-year-old was in New York City representing the Ravens as Nike revealed the NFL’s new uniforms for the 2012 season and told the Ravens’ official site he looked forward to attending offseason workouts before Tuesday’s report surfaced.

“If they want to get a deal done, we’ll get a deal done,” Rice said to the team’s official Twitter account.

Recent attempts to reach Rice’s agent Todd France have been unsuccessful.

The news is hardly surprising as countless players around the league who have been issued the franchise tag in the past have skipped OTAs. Should the mid-July deadline pass without a deal being struck, the real question will be whether Rice chooses to report for training camp in late July.

With veteran Ricky Williams having retired in February, the only running backs currently on the roster are 2011 seventh-round pick Anthony Allen and 2011 practice squad member Damien Berry.

Rice led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,068 on his way to being selected to his second Pro Bowl.

“I played out my contract, I outplayed my contract,” Rice told the team’s official site. “Staying patient is key, but I do think I’m due. I’m up for one.”

General manager Ozzie Newsome has stated his desire to sign Rice to a long-term contract on a few occasions despite many pundits suggesting the Ravens should simply allow Rice to play with the franchise tag in 2012. The Ravens have a proven track record of taking care of players who were given the designation after working out long-term contracts with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (2011), linebacker Terrell Suggs (2008 and 2009), and cornerback Chris McAlister (2003 and 2004) over the last decade.

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Ravens place franchise tag on Rice; make cuts of Evans, Carr official

Posted on 02 March 2012 by Luke Jones

After weeks of speculation, the Ravens have officially placed their franchise tag on running back Ray Rice less than two weeks before he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

After leading the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage and being named to his second Pro Bowl team, Rice will now be issued the franchise tender for running backs, reported to be $7.7 million in 2012. Playing out the final year of a four-year contract he signed as a second-round pick in 2008, Rice made only $550,000 in base salary as one of the best bargains in the league in 2011.

“Obviously, I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere,” Ray Rice said following the season. “But, it’s just one of those processes where you want to wait and see what happens, and hopefully me and the Ravens come to a great long-term deal. That’s the goal. I see myself here — I’m a Raven.”

Rice becomes only the fifth player in franchise history to receive the franchise tag, joining offensive lineman Wally Williams, cornerback Chris McAlister, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Of the previous four, only Williams failed to receive a long-term contract after receiving the designation. Given the short shelf life of running backs historically, some have suggested the Ravens should simply wait on a long-term extension for Rice and allow him to play with the tag in 2012, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has made his intentions clear when it comes to his star running back.

“We have used the franchise tag only so we can get a long-term deal,” Newsome said at the NFL rookie combine in Indianapolis last week. “We would like for Ray Rice to have a long career in Baltimore. If we have to franchise him, that would be the reason why.”

Newsome re-iterated that statement Friday.

“As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract. 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.”

The Ravens will have until July 15 to reach an agreement with Rice’s agent Todd France on a contract or Rice must play the 2012 season under the $7.7 million tender. Baltimore would have the option of using the tag again in 2013, but Rice’s 2012 salary would increase by 120 percent.

Throughout last season, Rice downplayed the significance of his expiring contract, acknowledging the business side of football and never questioning the Ravens’ commitment to him. The running back could elect to hold out during training camp if the sides fail to reach a long-term agreement in July, but history suggests the Ravens will take care of the 5-foot-8 back.

Rice has rushed for a minimum of 1,220 yards in each of the last three seasons and scored a career-high 15 touchdowns in 2011.

France and the Ravens held contract discussions in Indianapolis last weekend, but negotiations for both Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco — who has one year remaining on his deal — are expected to stretch into the late spring or summer before any potential deal is reached.

“The reality of it is those [deals] are going to take a little longer,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have a lot of contract conversations and different guys we’ll be talking to and even trying to get signed. Maybe even the draft will happen. Those guys will kind of overarch that whole process.

“Ultimately, I think we all believe that those two guys will be on the team for a long time.”

Ravens make cuts official

The Ravens also announced the cuts of wide receiver Lee Evans and cornerback Chris Carr, who was told Thursday about his release from the team.

The team is also prepared to release cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who missed most of last season while still recovering from a torn ACL suffered at the beginning of training camp in 2010, but the move has not been announced as of Friday afternoon.

Evans had a $5.61 million cap number for 2012, and was set to make $3.3 million in base salary and was scheduled to receive a $ 1 million roster bonus on March 18th if he remained with the club.

Evans, 30, battled an ankle injury all season after coming over in a preseason trade with the Buffalo Bills. He appeared in nine games and started two.

He caught four passes for 74 yards and, of course, faced criticism for his key drop in the Ravens 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

Carr was released one season into a four-year contract he signed last summer.

He was scheduled to receive $2.5 million in 2012.

Newsome said those two moves were difficult for him and team personnel to make.

“Each year, we have to make tough, difficult decisions to manage our roster,” Newsome said. “Chris Carr and Lee Evans were valuable Ravens, and both helped us get to the AFC Championship game and the brink of the Super Bowl last season with the way they played and the maturity they added to the locker room.”

However, Newsome said the door is not shut on either one to return to the club.

“As we talked about when we informed Chris and Lee of these moves, this does not close the door on them coming back to the Ravens.”

WNST.net’s Ryan Chell contributed to this report.

 

 

 

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Comparisons to 2000 Ravens premature, but this year’s defense could be exceptional

Posted on 06 October 2011 by Luke Jones

We just can’t help ourselves, can we?

After more than a decade of defensive excellence in Baltimore, we always compare the latest eye-popping Ravens defense to the platinum standard of that 2000 unit. It was that group, of course, that lifted a caretaker offense — rookie running back Jamal Lewis being the lone exception — to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship.

It was a once-in-a-generation defense, yet we refuse to acknowledge that type of group won’t come along again — even if we say otherwise.

We did it in 2003 when Ray Lewis led a young group of budding defensive stars to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking and an AFC North title.

It happened again in 2006 as the Ravens finished 13-3 and first overall in both points and yardage allowed, something the 2000 group wasn’t able to do.

And the similarities were examined between that championship group and the 2008 defense – ranked second overall behind only the Steelers — coached by Rex Ryan in his final year in Baltimore before taking his antics to the Big Apple.

It sure feels a lot like 2000, doesn’t it?

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It’s not surprising the whispers have already started about the 2011 edition of Ray Lewis and company after a 3-1 start in which the Ravens rank third overall in total defense, third against the run, tied for seventh against the pass, and first in the NFL with 14 takeaways. The pass rush is improved with 11 sacks already after posting a franchise-low 27 in 2010. The Baltimore defense has already set single-game franchise records when it forced seven turnovers against Pittsburgh in Week 1 and scored three defensive touchdowns against the Jets last Sunday night.

But, are we really going to start talking about comparisons to 2000 after only four games?

For the sake of the argument, comparing the two units through the first four games of the season — one small sample deserves another if we’re going to be fair — shows the championship group with the upper hand. The 2000 Ravens allowed fewer yards (996 to 1,138), gave up fewer points (55 to 57), and recorded two shutouts while this year’s defense has yet to post a goose egg for 60 minutes. However, this year’s 14 takeaways trumps the 10 forced by the 2000 group.

Those first four games in 2000 included two of the four largest point totals surrendered by that defense in the regular season, including the 36 scored by Jacksonville in a thrilling 39-36 shootout win in Week 2. This year’s Ravens have faced only one offense currently ranking in the top half of the league (Pittsburgh is ranked 13th), but the 2000 group faced only one top-10 offense (Jacksonville was seventh overall in 2000) through four games.

As fun as it is to draw comparisons between the known and the unknown, the reality is it’s too early to determine where the 2011 defense will even rank among the many good defenses in the 16-year history of the franchise, let alone talk about any potential similarity with one of the greatest units in NFL history. The only link between the two defenses is Ray Lewis, who depends far more on his intellect as a 36-year-old than he had to as a 25-year-old wrecking machine.

Moving beyond the statistics, Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 hybrid defense is far more similar to a Ryan-coached unit than Marvin Lewis’ record-setting defense from 11 years ago. The current unit relies on deception and blitzing to create pressure, disguising its intentions until the last possible minute. Lewis, on the other hand, largely played his 4-3 defense straight up, using a dominating front four that created pressure on the quarterback and a brick wall impenetrable for running backs.

And here is where we get to the largest discrepancy that should end any real discussion between the championship group and this year’s edition.

The secondaries.

Continue >>>

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The ‘fall’ of the Ravens defense started many Aprils ago

Posted on 17 November 2010 by Luke Jones

If you’ve been wearing out your Greg Mattison dartboard over the last several weeks, you’re probably not alone.

After all, the current Ravens defensive coordinator is solely responsible for the fall of a once-dominant unit all the way to 10th in the NFL, right?

(As an aside, how spoiled are we to be frustrated with a unit still better — statistically — than 22 other defenses in the league?)

From eliminating the submissive three-man rush to playing tighter, press coverage in the secondary, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, or Rex Ryan would be coaching this defense to the elite level it enjoyed over the last decade instead of the mortal status it currently holds.

If only it were that simple.

Placing blame on a few individuals is common practice (Mattison, maligned cornerback Fabian Washington, and, until recently, “overrated” linebacker Terrell Suggs are popular targets these days), but the defensive problems run far deeper.

Personnel issues, aging stars, a key injury (anyone remember Domonique Foxworth?), and — perhaps — coaching shortcomings have left the Ravens with an above-average defense pursuing ghosts of dominance on the M&T Bank Stadium turf.

Truth be told, the current deterioration of the Baltimore defense began years ago, even while the unit was enjoying perennial elite status.

Anyone who’s followed Ozzie Newsome’s 15 years in Baltimore knows organizational success begins and ends in April. Shrewd trades and a sprinkling of free-agent signings have contributed over the years, but the Ravens have traditionally made their money with the NFL Draft, especially on the defensive side of the football.

Ngata
(Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

And herein lies the problem with the current defense.

Since the Ravens drafted Suggs with the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Newsome has used only one first-round pick on a defensive player, tackle Haloti Ngata in 2006.

By no means is that an indictment of Newsome, director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, and the scouting department in Owings Mills. The Ravens had no choice but to address the offensive side of the football in hopes of reaching the pinnacle of the NFL.

If defense alone truly wins championships, the Ravens would have a showcase full of Vince Lombardi Trophies in the lobby at 1 Winning Drive, but Baltimore has fallen short with a number of elite defenses, all because of offensive units that couldn’t get out of their own way.

As a result, the team has used five of its last six first-round picks on offensive players, including quarterback Joe Flacco (2008) and current starting linemen Ben Grubbs (2007) and Michael Oher (2009). Meanwhile, the defense largely maintained the status quo, carrying the mantra of dominance for years.

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Perhaps seeing leaks last season, the front office emphasized defense in April, drafting Sergio Kindle from Texas and the mammoth Terrence Cody from Newsome’s alma mater of Alabama. Ultimately, a draft’s success cannot be gauged for a few years, but the short-term return has been negligible halfway through the 2010 season.

In fairness, if you could have predicted Kindle’s fall down two flights of stairs in late July, forget about running an NFL front office; I’m asking you for this weekend’s winning lottery numbers.

Cody, on the other hand, still has time to contribute in the short-term and has played better in the Ravens’ last two games after a slow start to his professional career.

But one draft was not going to fix a philosophical shift in recent years that focused on offense with defensive upgrades taking a backseat. A simple look at the defensive picks in the Ravens’ first three rounds since 2004 shows the underwhelming results (the round in which the player was selected is noted in parentheses):

2004: DE Dwan Edwards (2nd)
2005: LB Dan Cody (2nd)
2006: DT Haloti Ngata (1st), CB David Pittman (3rd)
2007: None
2008: LB Tavares Gooden (3rd), S Tom Zbikowski (3rd)
2009: DE Paul Kruger (2nd), CB Lardarius Webb (3rd)
2010: LB Sergio Kindle (2nd), DT Terrence Cody (2nd)

Far more alarming than the lack of first-round selections is the volume of players who failed to make an impact as higher selections. Dan Cody (injuries) and Pittman (ineffectiveness) barely made it on the field in their brief time in Baltimore, and it remains unknown whether Kindle will ever play again, let alone contribute at a high level.

Other players, such as Edwards before signing with Buffalo last offseason, Gooden, and Kruger, have been little more than role players, contributing at times but failing to make a significant impact, though recent draft picks deserve more time to develop.

In contrast, a look at the Ravens’ defensive selections in the first three rounds from 1996 to 2003 shows a much different picture:

1996: LB Ray Lewis (1st), CB DeRon Jenkins (2nd)
1997: LB Peter Boulware (1st), LB Jamie Sharper (2nd), S Kim Herring (2nd)
1998: CB Duane Starks (1st)
1999: CB Chris McAlister (1st)
2000: None
2001: CB Gary Baxter (2nd)
2002: S Ed Reed (1st), DE Anthony Weaver (2nd)
2003: LB Terrell Suggs (1st)

The number of players chosen is similar (11 defensive players chosen in eight years compared to the 10 defenders selected in the seven drafts since 2004), but every player on the latter list started multiple seasons — many of them at elite levels — except Jenkins, who was largely considered a bust in his four years with the Ravens. Of course, the six first-rounds selections paid the largest dividends, but their other picks made significant contributions as well.

Looking at their draft record since 2004 and comparing it to the franchise’s first eight years in Baltimore reveals that in addition to the front office using fewer first-round picks on defensive players, it hasn’t been nearly as successful finding defensive talent in the second and third rounds, especially at cornerback where the unit currently struggles.

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (21-40)

Posted on 26 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number this week, I decided to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Numbers 1 through 20 included greats such as Matt Stover and Ed Reed as well as lackluster selections such as David Tyree and Wally Richardson.

Part two (21-40) provides a few interesting debates with a few more selections of attrition.

21 Chris McAlister (1999-2008)

The paradoxical cornerback’s exit under the new regime of John Harbaugh was unfortunate, but there was no questioning McAlister’s talent when his mind was focused on football. The three-time Pro Bowl selection (2003-04, 2006) is the best cornerback in franchise history.

McAlister will eventually be a part of the Ring of Honor, where he will become the second honoree to wear No. 21, but the only deserving one. Earnest Byner had a good NFL career in Cleveland (with the exception of “The Fumble”) and Washington, but he being the first member of the Ravens Ring of Honor is solely a product of Art Modell’s affection for the running back.

22 Duane Starks (1998-2001)

McAlister’s counterpart receives the nod in a close race with cornerback Samari Rolle. Starks lacked consistency in his four-year career with the Ravens, but his play reached new heights during the team’s postseason run that ended with the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa. Starks intercepted two passes in the AFC Championship and returned a Kerry Collins attempt the other way 49 yards for a touchdown in the Super Bowl (check out the 0:46 mark below).

23 Willis McGahee (2007-present)

McGahee’s career in Baltimore has declined after a 1,200-yard season in 2007, but the veteran runner easily tops the list of players to wear the number, which includes Moe Williams, Jamaine Winborne, Earnest Hunter, and Dameon Hunter.

Though no longer a premier back, McGahee can take consolation in a certain moment in Oakland last season.

24 Domonique Foxworth (2009-present)

Despite playing only one season with the Ravens so far (and missing his second with a torn ACL), Foxworth’s performance in 2009 trumps the likes of Corey Fuller, Donny Brady, Alvin Porter, and 2006 third-round bust David Pittman.

25 Chris Carr (2009-present)

Despite a number of players wearing the number, Chris Carr wins out over inadequate cornerbacks such as DeRon Jenkins, Evan Oglesby, and Clarence Love.

26 Rod Woodson (1998-2001)
Woodson

The veteran transitioned from cornerback to safety and earned three trips to the Pro Bowl during his four-year stay in Baltimore. Dawan Landry deserves a mention and Priest Holmes wore the number his rookie season, but Woodson is the unanimous choice here.

27 Ray Rice (2008-present)

Safety Stevon Moore was one of the few competent members of the Baltimore defense in the early years, but Rice’s breakout 2009 campaign makes him a slam-dunk choice for No. 27. Entering his third season, Rice hopes he can make the number as synonymous with Ravens football as No. 52 and 75.

28 Gary Baxter (2001-04)

McAlister wore the number his rookie season and Tom Zbikowski is making a name for himself, but Baxter was a solid member of the Baltimore secondary before ditching the Ravens for Cleveland, where his career was essentially ruined by patella tendon tears in both knees in 2006.

29 Chester Taylor (2002-05)

Taylor was a dependable backup in 2004 and 2005 when Jamal Lewis’ body began breaking down. His performance eventually earned him a nice payday in Minnesota before the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson. Two players deserving posthumous recognition are safety Eric Turner and fullback Chuck Evans. Terry Allen also wore the number in the running back-starved season of 2001.

30 Obafemi Ayanbadejo (1999-2001)

With Eugene Daniel and Jamel White his only real competition, the man with probably the coolest name in the history of the franchise earns the honor despite spending the latter half of the Super Bowl season on Injured Reserve.

31 Jamal Lewis (2000-2006)

With a bruising style unlike any other, Lewis was an unstoppable force in 2003, rushing for 2,066 yards and a then-record 295 against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2. In his prime, Lewis was the type of runner defensive players were afraid to tackle. He is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

32 Sam Gash (2000-02)

The veteran fullback led the way for Lewis in his rookie season and is the most deserving of a group of backs that includes Musa Smith and Errict Rhett. Gash was the epitome of an “old-school” fullback.

33 Le’Ron McClain (2007-present)

Some will argue Priest Holmes as a deserving choice for this number—the first back to have a 1,000-yard season in team history in 1998—but McClain’s two Pro Bowl selections and improbable 2008 season in which he rushed for 902 yards earn him the honor.

McClain

McClain’s running style reminds you a little bit of Bam Morris, another back to wear the number in 1996 and 1997. Unlike the troubled Morris, however, McClain has managed to keep his nose clean, literally and figuratively.

34 Ovie Mughelli (2003-06)

Though he was a late bloomer in Baltimore, Mughelli grabs the brass ring with his only real competition being Jay Graham and current return man Jalen Parmele. The latter still has an opportunity to stake a claim in the future, but Graham’s injury-riddled career fell off a cliff after rushing for an amazing 154 yards in his first career start in 1997.

35 Corey Ivy (2006-08, 2009)

Despite his small stature at 5-foot-9, Ivy was a steady nickelback with the ability to blitz effectively. His standout moment with the Ravens came during a dominant 27-0 win over the Steelers in 2006 in which the defensive back grabbed an interception, sacked Ben Roethlisberger, and forced a fumble. Ivy edges Robert Bailey, the nickel during the 2000 season, and fullback Carwell Gardner (1996).

36 Jim Leonhard (2008)

B.J. Sams was a good return specialist for four seasons with the Ravens, but Leonhard personified the Ravens’ underdog season in 2008 in which they advanced to the AFC Championship game with a rookie head coach and quarterback.

The undersized safety’s play was a major asset in place of the injured Dawan Landry and earned him a nice contract with Rex Ryan and the New York Jets the following season.

37 Bennie Thompson (1996-1999)

Deion Sanders earned the most attention with his two-year stint in Baltimore, but Thompson was a special teams standout during the infancy of the franchise. Thompson played the game with the crazed demeanor needed to launch oneself into the wedge of the opposition’s return team. Thompson earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1998 for his special teams prowess.

38 James Trapp (1999-2002)

Despite being an ordained minister, Trapp is remembered most for being ejected from a game in 2002 after stomping on the head of Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress, a move many in Baltimore didn’t mind a bit. Trapp was a quality backup in the Ravens secondary for four seasons and edged out the likes of Antonio Langham, Mike Anderson, and Raymond Walls.

39 Alan Ricard (2000-05)

After much painful debate, I decided against Daren Stone, the culprit of one of the dumbest penalties in franchise history, as the all-time No. 39.
stone

Ricard was the lead blocker and a Pro Bowl alternate in Jamal Lewis’ record-breaking 2003 season and was a great fullback for several seasons.

40 Cory Ross (2006-07)

Though he wore the number for just one season (switching to No. 34 in 2007), Ross filled in for injured return specialist B.J. Sams during the latter portion of the 2006 season, which was enough to earn the distinction for a very insignificant number in team history.

Cory Ross

The deceased Kenyon Cotton and current bubble defensive back K.J. Gerard are the only other competitors in an underwhelming group of No. 40s.

Next up: For numbers 41 though 60, we’ll find who grabbed the honors for No. 46 and 48 (Impressive if you have names off the top of your head), and I’ll end the suspense surrounding the pick for No. 52. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with Lay Rewis.

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4th Day Of Christmas ....

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4th Day Of Christmas ….

Posted on 21 December 2009 by Rex Snider

Damn the snow !!!!

Damn the Chicago Bears Travel Secretary !!!!

Damn these lists of holiday gifts !!!!

I’m going broke, and my blogs are suffering. At this rate, my “12 Days Of Christmas” are gonna take about 3 weeks. I’m running behind schedule – but I’m dedicated to catch up. So, stay tuned – OFTEN.

Today, I’m handing out the special gift of HUMILITY.

That’s right, some folks need a sweet dose (or sour ….) of it, and I’m ensuring they receive a fair portion, as a Christmas gift.
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JOHN HARBAUGH
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I’ll admit it, I’ve been pretty hard on the Ravens Head Coach, throughout this 2009 season. I’m not being personally disparaging, I just think we’ve finally observed some consistencies (and inconsistencies) that suggest he has some work to do – on his coaching game …..

If he’s being honest with himself – and his players, I would think Coach Harbaugh has some serious soul searching on the front burner of his Monday evening. While he won’t publicly admit it, Harbaugh has a problem with Chris McAlister. Everyone suspects it.

I get the whole concept of exiling players, and sticking them on the equivalent of the “Island Of Misfit Toys.” Respect and honor are key with many coaches. And, Chris McAlister probably did a few things we’ll never know.

But, John Harbaugh might very well find himself at a humbling intersection, as we sit just 4 days from Christmas, and 6 days from a trip to Heinz Field. Who’s covering Santonio Holmes? How about Hines Ward? Umm, Mike Wallace? Did you consider Heath Miller?

Maybe, we should try this guy …..

I can’t fathom the thought of going forward with the in-house corps of cornerbacks. I know John Harbaugh is dedicated to the TEAM concept and “Playing Like A Raven.” Well, Coach, that goes for YOU, too.

There is a locker room full of guys who’ve busted their asses, since late July. What do they deserve? Lets start with giving them the best chance to win – even if it means sitting down with Chris McAlister and seeing if a short-term marriage is in the best interest of both halves.

Call Sean Payton …..

Ask him why he signed McAlister. Ask him why he cut him? Ask him if McAlister’s short tenure affected the team negatively.

Better yet, just look at the current RAVENS and ask yourself, “what do they deserve?”

Coach Harbaugh is being wished some humility – and a sobering vision, for Christmas.
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CHRIS McALISTER
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Yeah, dude, you’re not blameless in this standoff. In fact, I’m imagining you’re probably 95% at fault.

It’s quite easy for me to toss criticism at John Harbaugh – he’s expected to be the “bigger man” and lead by a professional decorum and example. And, he’s pretty much done that.

He hasn’t thrown you under the bus, publicly, one time. While it’s pretty obvious you guys haven’t exchanged Christmas cards, he’s been respectful of your image and public character, as far as the media and fans are concerned.

I would be interested in knowing if Chris McAlister has done anything to resurrect a sliver of his broken relationship with the Ravens Head Coach. He has the ties – he can get to him.

Where is Chris McAlister?

You should be appearing at any and every public service event. It’s CHRISTMAS ….. go find a cameraman, and hand out a turkey !!!!

Or a toy !!!!

Or some money !!!!

It’s all about perception, and it’s also about being humble. You did this. You caused the divorce. I’ve beat up John Harbaugh, because he hasn’t reconvened with your conflicted butt. You wanna play football?

What steps have you taken to mend the fence?

Chris McAlister needs the gift of humility, especially as he confronts a life that probably needs some straightening – beyond the football field.
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REX SNIDER

Well, I don’t think this has ever happened. Have I ever included myself, as a “sub-topic” of a blog?

I don’t think so.

But, I’m not immune to discerning treatment – especially as it regards a legitimate shortcoming. How do they say it ….. “if the shoe fits?”

I’ll be quite honest, and say I’m really disappointed in myself. While I appreciate this forum and virtual freedom to write (and say) about things desired, I also expect a responsibility from myself.

Yes, I expect more from ME.

For the past few weeks, I’ve seized numerous opportunities to pry on the personal life of Tiger and Elin Woods. While, I absolutely believe I haven’t been disparaging, I have walked into a couple’s “no go” zones.

I do think Tiger’s life is an open book. He’s a celebrity – and pitchman for commercial products. Thus, he’s accountable for a very public image. If he fails to uphold that image, he’ll be held to task.

But, his personal situation is not funny. It’s embarrassing and it’s sad. There are numerous victims in this situation – who can be further hurt by those with media credentials.

While I don’t think my past remarks infringe on Tiger’s family – a man’s family is none of my business. I’ll concentrate on being the best dad and husband, possible. And, leave Tiger and others to managing their own.

This is my humble wish for ME.
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The People Around Chris Henry

Chris Henry’s funeral is set for tomorrow. Many members of the NFL’s collective family are expected to travel to Gretna, Louisiana, to pay their final respects to the veteran wide receiver.

I’m certain we’ll see and hear and collection of poignant and touching remembrances. As with most funerals, I’m sure dry eyes will be hard to find. This is the way people grieve and it’s purely natural.

However, in the coming weeks and months, someone – ANYONE with a connection to the National Football League and Chris Henry must step forward and speak in sobering fashion about the often troubled young man. It’s the only way to truly learn from his brief, but interrupted life.

Will it be Chad Ochocinco? If he wants earn some credibilty beyond being pro football’s traveling circus, he should speak out. Tell the truth, Chad. Chris Henry made an awful lot of poor decisions – his latest discretion was life costing.

How about you, Roger Goodell? God knows you deal with poor behavior, front and center. If you speak honestly, it wouldn’t cheapen Chris Henry’s image or memory. If your goal is being productive, why not do it?

I think Roger Goodell has an obligation to talk about the game’s realities and risks. By all indications, Chris Henry was a very dysfunctional young man. The Bengals were managing his finances – like a parent oversees a kid’s allowance. Does this bother you, Mister Commissioner?

Perhaps, Marvin Lewis could address the conflicted and combustable topic known as “The Life & Times Of Chris Henry.” I realize Coach Lewis has a locker room to consider and his message would rely upon respecting the teacher/student principle.

Regardless, someone needs to be honest about Chris Henry and how he really lived his life. As with most deaths, surviving collegaues and friends are slathering Henry’s memory with compliments and testimonials …..

“He really turned his life around”

“He was on the right path”

“He hadn’t been in trouble in over a year”

Wow !!!! Is that the modern-day median line for good character? If people don’t get arrested, are they considered successful? I got a 14 year old daughter and I’m gonna expect much, much more from her.

Chris Henry hasn’t been in handcuffs for a substantial amount of time. I’m glad about that. But, he undoubtedly still had issues. He died after falling from a speeding pickup truck – during a domestic incident with his fiance’.

It’s December – it was 46 degrees, in Charlotte, on the afternoon Chris Henry died. And, he was shirtless in the back of a pickup truck. Yet, so many people want to convince us he was a changed man.

Consider this …..

If I handed you piece of paper, at the start of the 2009 NFL season – and asked you to write the names of the 5 players most likely to DIE within the next year, would Chris Henry be on that list? You’re damned right.

In a spur of the moment situation, Chris Henry made another poor decision. It was his worst decision, EVER. He is gone – and 3 children no longer have a dad.

It’s time for someone who really wants to change the image of the NFL to swallow some pride, humble up, and be honest about Chris Henry and the culture of many of the game’s players. That’s my wish for them.
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Rex Ryan

Admit it, seeing Rex Ryan’s swagger melt with each frustrating Jets loss is kinda comforting, right?

Where are the game balls for all those SUPER-JET fans, now?

Is Rex still leaving confidence-driven phone messages for season ticket holders? Or, is he making Mark Sanchez call the same people and apologize for wasting their hard earned money?

Back in September, Rex Ryan was being pimped around the Big Apple. He was the common fan’s hero. Yet, a short 3 months later, he’s being questioned and criticized by the same group of Gang-Green supporters.

From “toasted to roasted” …..

I think Rex Ryan is going to be very successful, in New York. But, he really needs a few spoonfuls of humility. The story should never, ever be about him. He’s the Head Coach, not the Head Star.

Rex needs to lighten up – he’s giving me a bad name …..

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Tony Banks and Scott Mitchell

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Ravens’ fight for playoff lives is nothing new

Posted on 17 December 2009 by Luke Jones

As the Baltimore Ravens continue to grapple for a postseason spot entering Week 15 (and here’s another great source for predicting your own playoff scenarios) against the Chicago Bears, the franchise finds itself in a familiar position.

While last season’s improbable run in John Harbaugh’s first season landed Baltimore in the AFC Championship, the franchise has found itself on the playoff bubble five other times in the last 11 years. Not counting the Super Bowl season of 2000 and a franchise-best regular season record of 13-3 in 2006 (the Ravens clinched a berth in Week 15 of both seasons), the Ravens’ playoff chances have always boiled down to the final week of the season.

Here’s a look back at the other “bubble” teams in the 14-year history of the Ravens, with some teams having more success than others down the stretch.

Tony Banks and Scott Mitchell
1999: 8-8 (2-1 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: Brian Billick’s first season as head coach saw the Ravens secure their first non-losing record. Despite starting the season third on the depth chart behind Scott Mitchell and Stoney Case, Tony Banks emerged as the starting quarterback by season’s end, leading the team to impressive wins over the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers (the Ravens’ first victory in Pittsburgh). A four-game winning streak kept the Ravens in the playoff hunt entering Week 17, but Baltimore fell to the Patriots in snowy Foxboro, 20-3. The strong second half was a precursor to a Super Bowl championship a season later, though Banks would find himself replaced by Trent Dilfer by mid-season. The soon-to-be record-breaking Baltimore defense finished second in the NFL in yards allowed.

What went wrong: Billick asked fans to take a “leap of faith” with the newly-signed—and much-maligned—Mitchell, and the experiment lasted all of 56 passing attempts and four interceptions in two losses to begin the season. The Ravens got off to a 4-7 start, too much to overcome despite the strong play of the defense and the emergence of Banks and new receiver Qadry Ismail down the stretch.

Terry Allen
2001: 10-6 (2-1 in final three weeks), Wild Card

Synopsis: Looking to defend their Super Bowl title by improving the offense, the Ravens replaced Dilfer with former Pro Bowl quarterback Elvis Grbac who struggled to win over his teammates and win games. Running back Jamal Lewis suffered a torn ACL in the first week of training camp, and the Ravens employed a committee of Terry Allen, Jason Brookins, and Moe Williams for the ground attack. Needing a win in Week 17 against the Vikings on a Monday night, the Ravens clinched a Wild Card spot with a 16-3 victory behind Allen’s 133 rushing yards and a bruising defensive performance.

What went right: While Ravens fans hold Grbac responsible for failing to repeat, the team literally had its legs cut out from under it with the loss of Lewis before the season started. While the defense could not match its record-setting numbers of a season earlier, it still finished second in yards allowed and fourth in points surrendered. Signed off the street during training camp, Allen provided an admirable effort with Brookins and Williams providing assistance. With Grbac struggling and fans clamoring for Randall Cunningham to replace him, Billick used the running game and the still-stellar defense to get into the playoffs and earn a road victory over the Dolphins in the first round before falling in Pittsburgh the next week, 27-10.

Jeff Blake
2002: 7-9 (1-2 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: In what was perhaps Billick’s best coaching job in his nine years as Ravens coach, the 2002 team managed to stay in the playoff hunt entering the final two weeks of the season despite saying goodbye to key veterans Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Tony Siragusa, and numerous others in the salary cap purge of the Super Bowl roster. The Ravens looked to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and got off to an 0-2 start before rebounding in a huge Monday night victory over the Broncos. Jamal Lewis returned from his lost 2001 season to rush for 1,327 yards, Todd Heap earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and linebacker Ed Hartwell and rookie safety Ed Reed led the defense after Ray Lewis went down with a shoulder injury early in the season. Back-to-back losses to the Browns and Steelers to close the season ended the Ravens’ improbable playoff hopes but could not devalue a very surprising season.

What went wrong: The team could not find consistency at the quarterback position with Chris Redman suffering a back injury and veteran Jeff Blake struggling with consistency. The loss of Lewis coupled with an inexperienced unit caused the defense to fall to 22nd in the NFL despite the encouraging development of several young players. Three out of four losses to end the season sealed the young team’s fate.

Jamal Lewis
2003: 10-6 (2-1 in final three weeks), AFC North champion

Synopsis: The Lewises reigned in 2003. While Ray Lewis earned his second Defensive Player of the Year award, the real story of the season was Jamal Lewis, who became just the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Lewis’ 295 rushing yards against the Browns in Week 2 set a new NFL record and created the identity for the Ravens’ offense. Rookie Kyle Boller struggled before going down with a quadriceps injury, and journeyman Anthony Wright took the reins of the offense. The team clinched the AFC North title in Week 17 when the Browns knocked off the Bengals earlier in the day, but the Ravens knocked off the Steelers in overtime for good measure. Baltimore would fall at home in the Wild Card round the following week when the Titans stifled Lewis and the running game.

What went right: Jamal Lewis’ historic season made up for an otherwise ineffective offense. The defense finished third overall and was led by Ray Lewis and emerging star Ed Reed. Eight players made the Pro Bowl including both Lewises, Reed, Heap, Jonathan Ogden, Adalius Thomas, Peter Boulware, and Chris McAlister. With the Ravens struggling at 5-5, Wright threw four touchdown passes to Marcus Robinson in an improbable 44-41 comeback win against the Seahawks to initiate a three-game winning streak. However, an ugly loss to Oakland in Week 15 forced the Ravens to win their final two games to clinch the North. Lewis was up to the challenge as he shredded the Browns again for 205 yards and eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark against the Steelers with 114 yards in the overtime win to conclude the regular season.

Kyle Boller
2004: 9-7 (1-2 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: Following the script from the previous season, the 2004 squad struggled with consistency, as Boller completed his first full season as the starting quarterback. Once again, the defense led the way with Reed earning the Defensive Player of the Year honor, keeping the award in the Charm City for the second year in a row. A three-game winning streak in the middle of the season put the Ravens at 7-3 and on the short track to the playoffs, but losing four of five down the stretch placed their playoffs hopes on life support at 8-7. Needing a victory over the Dolphins and three other teams to lose in Week 17, the Ravens held up their end of the bargain in a 30-23 victory but didn’t receive enough help to steal a postseason spot.

What went wrong: With Jamal Lewis facing the repercussions of federal drug-related charges and serving a two-game suspension during the season, the offense plummeted to 31st in the league. Boller showed flashes of promise but lacked any consistent receiving threat with Heap missing most of the season with an ankle injury. Even with the struggles on offense, the Ravens controlled their own destiny down the stretch but lost road games to the Patriots, Steelers, and Colts and suffered a heartbreaking loss at home to the Bengals over a five-game stretch. The Ravens’ inability to win any one of these games ultimately sealed their fate.

Le'Ron McClain
2008: 11-5 (2-1 in final three weeks), Wild Card

Synopsis: With a rookie coach and quarterback, the 2008 Ravens were viewed as a rebuilding team with little chance of making noise in the AFC. However, Harbaugh reunited a divided locker room, and Flacco played more like a grizzled veteran than a quarterback playing at Delaware a season earlier. The three-headed attack of Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice combined for over 2,000 rushing yards, and a veteran defense finished second overall. After struggling to a 2-3 start, the Ravens won nine of their last 11 games to clinch a Wild Card spot with a 27-7 victory over the Jaguars in Week 17.

What went right: Nearly every move the Ravens made turned to gold as they marched deep into the playoffs. After receiving only eight carries in his rookie season, McClain came out of nowhere to rush for 902 yards to lead the ground attack, taking the pressure off the rookie Flacco. After getting off to a slow start due to a lingering neck and shoulder condition, Reed completed one of the greatest defensive stretches in NFL history by intercepting eight passes and scoring two touchdowns over the season’s final six weeks. After losing to the Steelers at home due to a controversial Santonio Holmes touchdown, the Ravens needed to steal one on the road against the Cowboys. Instead, motivated by rumors that they were handpicked as an easy opponent in the Texas Stadium finale, the Ravens dominated the Cowboys in a 33-24 victory. With a Week 17 win that was more of a formality than a challenge, the Ravens entered the playoffs and won two road games before falling to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.

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Peyton Manning

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A Call to Harbs: Your Chance to Fix the Ravens

Posted on 10 November 2009 by Luke Jones

The sheer volume of opining, panicking, and lamenting jamming the airwaves, flooding inboxes, and littering message boards since 4:30 p.m. on Sunday has been impossible to escape if you’re a Ravens fan.

And it’s understandable with Sunday’s game clearly being one of the Ravens’ worst performances in recent memory.

Of course, the venting is part of the cathartic process of being a fan after a loss, but it ultimately does nothing to address the problem—or problems—and leaves you feeling helpless in the Ravens’ plight with a 4-4 record and two games behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

Ultimately, “it is what it is” for us observers.

In reality, the frustration and second-guessing displayed by us all is falling on deaf ears, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Who hasn’t made a bold proclamation—or several hundred—to their buddies but later felt relief that no one was really listening?

After all, I was convinced Peyton Manning would be the next Heath Shuler while Ryan Leaf would be the next John Elway, and we all know how that turned out.

Peyton Manning

So now that we’ve acknowledged our limitations and past gaffes in evaluating the NFL and its players, this is your chance to prove yourself once and for all.

The phone rings, and John Harbaugh is on the line asking for your astute opinion on the state of the Ravens. He doesn’t have time for personal attacks or whining; Harbaugh is looking for answers.

He’s willing to take three REALISTIC suggestions and implement them beginning in Cleveland on Monday night.

And the key word is REALISTIC.

Larry Bird and Kevin McHale are not—wait a second, wrong rant—Chris McAlister and Michael McCrary are not walking through that door. And if they did, their knees would be completely shot.

Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard say hello to the Charm City, but they’re perfectly content with Rex Ryan in the Big Apple. And the former defensive coordinator sends his regards, but his hands are too full with a rookie quarterback and the New York media to worry about the Ravens’ defensive woes.

Those Jets have long since taken off and aren’t coming back.

And like most of your kids’ Halloween candy, the deadline is long gone, so please spare us the trade proposals.

No matter how great they sound.

I don’t want to hear about officiating conspiracies either. It’s a defeatist attitude, and you’ll hear the same complaints in 31 other NFL cities. Well, maybe not Pittsburgh.

Steelers referees

Lastly, the Colts are more likely to return to Baltimore than Matt Stover is to play for the Ravens—at least until Adam Vinatieri returns from injury in a few weeks (How’d you like that middle-of-the-road remark? And no, I don’t think it will happen anyway).

So now that I’ve squashed 75 percent of the irrational suggestions running through our frustrated minds over the past 48 hours, you have THREE suggestions to offer to Harbaugh for the rest of the season.

And remember, Baltimore is counting on you.

No pressure, right?

I’ll go first.

1. A Nightmare on Russell Street

Yes, I know Paul Kruger does not play special teams.

I fully understand.

Harbaugh wants his reserves to be versatile, and it’s the perfect rationale when a team does not have any glaring deficiencies. However, the defense has struggled to pressure the quarterback from its base front, and Greg Mattison is reluctant to blitz due to a weak secondary—another issue entirely.

It’s clear Kruger is too small to take every snap as a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment and does not have the skill set to play as a stand-up linebacker at this point.

But this is the same player Jon Gruden described as playing like “Freddy Kruger” on draft day last spring.

Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ esteemed scouting department used a second-round selection on the defensive end from Utah, so it’s difficult to believe he cannot contribute to the pass rush in some form.

And don’t tell me it would be catastrophic to the team’s flexibility on special teams and other areas. This is the same team that carried two kickers on its roster for years. It’s not as though Danny Kight, J.R. Jenkins, or Wade Richey were contributing in more than one area during their days in Baltimore.

If we look at this from a different perspective, how many special teams players are consistently on the active 45-man roster on Sundays and fail to make any impact on offense or defense?  David Tyree, Prescott Burgess, and Demetrius Williams immediately come to mind.

In other words, there HAS to be a place for Kruger on a defense needing more pressure on the quarterback.

If even the threat of Kruger diverts a little attention away from a Terrell Suggs or a Trevor Pryce, it’s well worth it.

Let’s find out if the rookie can play.

2. Lost in Westminster

Speaking of Demetrius Williams, yes, he is still on the 53-man roster despite rumors of his abduction in Westminster back in August.

After a promising rookie season and two injury-riddled seasons in 2007 and 2008, Williams entered training camp as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Following the emergence of Kelley Washington and a nagging hamstring and knee that slowed him during the summer, the 6-foot-2 receiver has completely disappeared in Cam Cameron’s offense with the lone exception of a 17-yard catch in Minnesota.

But it became apparent during Sunday’s loss that Williams needs to have a presence in this offense.  With Joe Flacco trying to throw deep jump-balls to Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, wouldn’t it make more sense to send Williams (the only receiver with both size and speed on the roster) on one or two of those patterns?

Yes, a stiff breeze is as likely to injure the wideout as a strong safety, but keeping him healthy on the sideline serves no purpose to this football team either.

Williams is and should be the No. 4 receiver on the roster, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an option in the passing game, at the very least providing a bigger target in the vertical passing game.

If the coaching staff has no confidence in Williams, he should either be inactive every week (opening the door for Kruger) or off the roster entirely.

3. Waiting on Willis

Remember when Willis McGahee led the NFL in touchdowns after the first three weeks of the season with six?

It seems like an eternity ago.

It was clear Ray Rice had supplanted McGahee as the starting tailback heading into the season, but the veteran was entering the season healthy and revitalized after a rocky relationship with Harbaugh in 2008. McGahee was still figuring to be a major part of the running game.

Since carrying the ball 25 times in the first two weeks, McGahee has received 22 carries in the six games since. Unacceptable.

Rice is clearly having a tremendous season, but is it really what’s best for the team?

In the same way that Flacco could lead the league in passing yards if he threw on every down, is Rice producing such a large portion of the yards and being the only force in the backfield what’s best for the Ravens’ offense presently and moving forward?

With Rice putting up 732 total yards in the last five games, I’ll remind you that the Ravens are 1-4 during that stretch.

McGahee’s return to the game plan would serve two purpose for the Baltimore offense.

First, it would provide the Ravens with a legitimate threat to run between the tackles, something Rice does not provide. The 5-foot-8 back is more effective running from spread-out formations and getting into open space.

Two, it would improve the likelihood of Rice’s smaller frame holding up for the entire 16-game schedule. Though Rice carried the ball 380 times for Rutgers in 2007, that same durability cannot be guaranteed at the pro level. When you have another legitimate option at tailback, why take the risk in finding out?

McGahee needs to be more involved. No excuses.

***

If you’re sitting there thinking I didn’t address the secondary, kicker, or coaching questions, you’re absolutely right.

To be perfectly honestly, I’m not sure how to address the secondary at this point.

Do you blitz more, leaving your defense more susceptible to the big play, or play with more help in pass coverage, hoping for your front four to reach the quarterback eventually? Is rookie Lardarius Webb a better option than Fabian Washington?

As for the kicking job, would Mike Nugent or Billy Cundiff really be any better than Steve Hauschka?

Is Mattison in over his head, or is the talent holding this defense back?

All are questions for which I don’t have a definitive answer.

Remember, you only get THREE realistic suggestions.

Maybe that isn’t enough to fix the Ravens, but that’s all you’re getting.

Make them count.

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sean

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (10/22/09)

Posted on 22 October 2009 by Jack McManus

9:36-

Sean Salisbury is next up to talk about the NFL. He talks about how the Radiers’ win over the Eagles shows that no NFL is an automatic win. He also talks about the big win the Texans had over the Bengals. The Texans are a team that could make a strong playoff run. Next, Sean explains how the Titans subconsciously gave up during the game on Sunday. Sean states that Josh McDaniels made some great moves this offseason that has allowed the Broncos to be where they are this season. To finish up, Sean picks the Steelers to defeat the Vikings this weekend.

sean 

Be sure to follow follow Sean on twitter.

9:14-

Heather Dinich, who covers the ACC for ESPN is the next guest. She starts off by stating the this may be Bobby Bowden’s last season in Tallahassee because many boosters are not pleased with the team’s results. In regards to Maryland, Dinich believes that the team needs to get more young players ready for the future. She also weighs in on the John Turner-Debbie Yow controversy. She states that Debbie Yow has done a great job considering the situation she inherited. She next talks about the rise of the football programs at UNC and Duke. She has picked the Blue Devils to beat the Terps. In regards to James Franklin, Dinich thinks that the “coach-in-waiting” idea does not work for most teams that use it.

8:49-

Amy Fadool from Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia is on to chat with Drew. She talks about how the Phillies were able to play very well in the playoffs, despite some struggles late in the regular season. She next explains how the Phillies are built similar to American League teams. This is partly due to manager Charlie Manuel’s experience in the American League. She also previews the team’s likely upcoming series with the Yankees. She says the New York fans may have an impact on some of the games.

fadool 

8:26-

Lou calls in with a cheap shot. He calls out baseball players for constantly spitting. This problem is magnified by HDTVs. He says that this has become a part of baseball culture and should be fixed. Another caller takes a cheap shot at John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome. He believes that Harbaugh was unfair to Chris McAlister. If McAlisterwas able to get healthy, he could have possibly helped the struggling secondary. Another caller defends Harbaugh’s actions regarding McAlister. He explains that McAlister did not show any respect to the new coaching staff last season. He also points out that no other team has expressed much interest in signing the cornerback.  

8:08-

Brian Billick comes on with Drew, as he does each Thursday. Brian states that too much blame is being placed on Defensive Coordinator Gregg Mattison. He explains that Mattison is in a dilemma because of the talent level in the secondary. Brian next talks about how the league is trending toward using big, physical receivers. He also talks about how impressed he was with Joe Flacco’s performance under pressure in the final quarter of the game this past weekend. He next talks about the importance of the bye week. He explains that it is very difficult to make any major changes during only one week. Only minor adjustments are common. In the Ravens’ case, Brian thinks the team should protect more against the big play, even if it means giving up longer sustained drives. The team is currently ranked 26th in the league in giving up big plays.

billick 

7:30-

Glenn takes a “Cheap Shot From the Bleachers” by taking a shot at John Turner. After Turner made this message board post, he made local headlines. When Glenn tried to reach out to Turner and have him on the show this morning to explain his comments he declined. Glenn explains that Turner needs to take responsibility for his comments and not place extra pressure on his son or the Maryland football team.

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Ravens, Rants and Rankings – week 5

Posted on 15 October 2009 by kevinpb

Cincinnati 17 – Ravens 14. Yuk! Well Ravens, you played a stinko! There was nothing of any merit in your effort this week. The Bengals dominated you on both sides of the ball, and I am sure you will point to late penalties as a reason for your defeat, but you lost the game long before that final drive. After the disappointment of last week and before they go against a red hot Minnesota team next week, Coach Harbaugh needs to get a hold of this team and set the course straight or we could be looking at being 3-3 going into the bye week.
Offensively, Ray Rice came to play. His touchdown on the swing pass from Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty. Joe Flacco did not have a great day and was 22-31 for 186 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Nothing awful here, but the interceptions are mounting. Did anybody see Derrick Mason on Sunday. Joe Flacco sure didn’t. Michael Oher did a nice job at left tackle, but I think our offense was handicapped by a poor game plan. I am all for striking balance between running and throwing the ball, but on Sunday when we threw the ball we took very few shots down the field. I did not understand the reluctance to throw the ball down the field. Aside from a late throw down the seam to Kelley Washington and an attempt at Mark Clayton down the side line that was just missed, Flacco took no shots down the field. The Bengals played a lot of cover 2 which kept 2 safeties back, and when we dumped the ball off they flew to the ball.
Defensively, Cincinnati did enough at the line of scrimmage to keep us off balance and open up holes for Cedric Benson to run through. The Ravens, owners of one of the most overrated stats in all of football, finally let one back rush for 100 yards in a game. This stat has hung like an albatross around this football team. I understand what it symbolizes, but in the real world it is totally meaningless. I remember last year the Giants ran all over the Ravens with 3 different backs but because 1 of those backs did not accumulate 100 yards personally, the record remained in tact. It is meaningless, it is good to get passed it.
The real problem with the defense is 2 fold. We cannot consistently pressure the quarterback and our cornerbacks are not playing up to expectations. Great cover corners can hide a lack of a pass rush and vice versa, but when both aspects our performing under par, then you are asking for trouble. The next tackle Washington or Foxworth makes will be their first. Now they will try and pull you down, they will throw their bodies at the defenders legs but neither one of them will man up and make a tackle, wrapping up and driving through the ball carrier. They are very disappointing. Our secondary as a whole seems to have a problem locating the ball or finding the ball in the air. After Ed Reed took the interception to the house the next series fully illustrated the problems plaguing this defense. Palmer back to pass and moved around the pocket to extend the play far longer they it should have been throws the ball down the Baltimore sideline. The ball is caught by Chris Henry as Foxworth is running side by side with him. You can’t tell me our bench didn’t let him know the ball was coming, but he never looked for the ball. Henry catches it and takes it to the 4 yard line. This was a chance for us to make a statement and we let them right back in the game by allowing this big play. Not acceptable.
Ray Lewis is a Hall of Famer, no doubt, but the hit he laid on Chad Ocho Cinco was totally unnecessary. Not only that, but it was stupid. The last 2 games I have gotten the impression that this team is teetering on the edge. They remind me more of the team that melted down in Detroit a few years back and the team that went bezerk against New England 2 years ago, then the professional workmanlike team they like to portray. Just what does “play like a Raven” mean anyway?

Rants

The Drive 15 years later – Denver beat New England Sunday by holding the Patriots scoreless in the second half and making 2 long drives in the game to tie the score late. Kyle Orton does his best John Elway imitation taking the Broncos 98 yards late in the 4th quarter to tie the game. Orton was confident and strong in the pocket mixing the throw and run effectively. There haven’t been many drives better then this one in the history of the game. Raise your hands all of you who saw this happening in Denver. A journeyman quarterback and an unproven rookie have the Broncos at 5-0 and climbing. That is what makes this game so great.

Who’s better – Last week the Houston Texans and the Arizona Cardinals faced off. The game’s best two receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson, were on the field. It was a really good game in the second half, the Cardinals held on for the victory with a last second goal line stand. The Cardinals built a large lead and the Texans were battling back most of the second half. On the touchdown drive to make it 28-21 late in the game, Andre Johnson caught a ball down the middle of the field at about the 5 yard line. Three different Cardinals tried to stop him from getting in the end zone. Johnson ran over all three to score. The catch itself was pedestrian, but the 5 yard run to get the ball in the end zone was a thing of beauty. Try and catch it on replays or on line it is truly amazing.

Baseball playoffs – The New York Yankees are a good baseball team, and probably the odds on favorite to win the World Series this year. Major League Baseball maintains a hierarchy of the “haves” and “have-nots” that caters to the large market teams. They are good enough to win on their own but when the umpires conspire to make calls that slopes the playing field even more, it casts the game in a bad light. The umpires are paid to get the calls right. The game should be embarrassed by the lack of professionalism displayed. As bad as the calls were in the Yankee series were, was there a prettier sight then watching Boston loose it’s third game in a row with Jonathan Papelbon loosing the series clincher. Papelbon will tell anyone who listens how good he is. I want to personally thank the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for sticking that smugness up his…

How Pompous can you be? Early last week the story broke that Rush Limbaugh was part of a group looking to buy the St. Louis Rams. I am not a Rush Limbaugh fan and always thought that he was a pompous windbag, but regardless of what your think about Rush the radio host, this country affords him the opportunity to do business in any avenue he decides to pursue. The fact that he is a polarizing figure and a lot of people don’t share his views should not be factored into whether he should be allowed to pursue ownership of a NFL franchise. This is business not a Senate confirmation hearing for a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The fact that this league employs some reformed convicted criminals, and has always prided itself in giving those deserving a second chance, would support the position that this man is not good enough to own a franchise because of his ideas and opinions, is two faced and pompous.

WJFK disaster – Coming out of the Ravens-Bengals game and waiting to exit the parking lot we were listening to several post game shows. On WJFK, the panel consisted of Spencer Falou, Mike Flynn, Gary Stein, Jeremy Conn and Anita Marks. I joined the conversation in mid stream but it was clear they were discussing the problems the Ravens are having in the secondary and Chris McAlister’s name was being bantered about. The discussion was about whether he could help the Ravens or not and whether he would be brought back. They were discussing his physical ability and health and dancing around some of the problems he had that led to his dismissal from the team. The guys on the panel were beating up Anita Marks who was defending Chris McAlister and the idea of taking a look at him as an option. She was getting beat up pretty good and was becoming heated. I don’t think it is news in Baltimore any longer that Chris McAlister is believed to have a drinking problem. I am paraphrasing but Marks stated that it should not be considered a big deal, that there are airline pilots that take bong hits before they get on a plane and fly passengers to destinations. There was silence. The show then went to break and when they came back on Anita Marks was replaced by Scott Garceau. Nothing was said, but that couldn’t have been a coincidence.

Rankings

1. New York Giants – On auto pilot, dismissed Raiders with ease. Most complete team across the board. Big game against the Saints this week.
2. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees is otherworldly, but Greg Williams and Darren Sharper are the real difference.
3. Indianapolis Colts – Haven’t missed a beat without Dungy, defense is lightning quick and still playing without Bob Sanders.
4. Minnesota Vikings – Adrian Peterson has been quiet for 3 weeks, Jared Allen has not.
5. Denver Broncos – I still don’t know how they are doing it, but I am a believer, right now it is their year.
6. Philadelphia Eagles – playing well and have their star quarterback again.
7. Atlanta Falcons – coming off the loss to New England and a bye week, the throttle a good 49ers team. They are improving weekly.
8. Chicago Bears – Since the week 1 debacle, Jay Cutler has been pretty impressive.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – see Denver Bronco comments. It might be there year.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers – Wasn’t pretty but they beat the Lions. They still aren’t quite right, but still a dangerous team.
11. New England Patriots – they aren’t the dominant team they once were, but still always a tough out. Need to get defense straightened out.
12. Baltimore Ravens – I think they have a problem on defense, but they are still a good football team, tough game this week though.
13. Seattle Seahawks – I like this team and with Hasselback returning they will make a run at the NFC west title.
14. San Francisco 49ers – Michael Crabtree signed. Let’s see if he can provide another option on offense. I don’t think Frank Gore and Vernon Davis are enough.
15. San Diego Chargers – playing for their season in week 6. They can’t afford to loose, should make for a compelling contest.
16. Miami Dolphins – Great win against the Jets. Seems like they have righted the ship. Chad Henne has been impressive.
17. New York Jets – Rex Ryan is great for sound bites. Calls out his defense after loss to Dolphins. He is a real chip off the old block.
18. Dallas Cowboys – had to go to overtime to beat the Chiefs. Still can’t get passed the fact that this team should be better then they show.
19. Green Bay Packers – off last week, hope they found some offensive lineman to protect Aaron Rodgers.
20. Arizona Cardinals – good win against Houston Texans. Goal line stand at end was terrific. They are showing signs of life.
21. Houston Texans – played Cardinals tough, but got behind to much to come back all the way. Andre Johnson is a beast.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars – what a stinker against the Seahawks. That had to be a long plane ride home.
23. Tennessee Titans – I know they are not this bad. I think we are one more loss away from the Vince Young era, part II.
24. Detroit Lions – played the Steelers tough. Jim Schwartz has made them a better team.
25. Carolina Panthers – Maybe Beason should call out Julius Peppers every week.
26. Washington Redskins – the players are asking for amnesty for their head coach. This is going to end bad.
27. Cleveland Browns – set football back 50 years in their game with the Bills last week. At least they won.
28. Buffalo Bills – See above and they lost. Fans want to toss out Dick Jauron and Trent Edwards.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Played with passion against the Cowboys, they are still competitive.
30. Oakland Raiders – their quarterback sucks, and their coach may go to jail. Other then that, everything is great in Oakland.
31. St Louis Rams – really bad, only reason they do not come in last is because I like Kyle Boller and still route for him.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – yuk, where’s John Gruden when you need him.

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