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Tuesday musings from the Ravens beat

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Tuesday musings from the Ravens beat

Posted on 18 September 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying their customary Tuesday off before turning their full attention to the New England Patriots on Sunday night, I offer some thoughts from the beat through the first two weeks of the regular season …

> One of the few defensive bright spots of the 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday was the play of outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan. Drawing the start in place of the injured Paul Kruger at the strongside linebacker spot, the rookie Upshaw did a solid job setting the edge on run plays and was one of the few players to pressure quarterback Michael Vick with any level of consistency.

Compared to his preseason performances in which he seemed sluggish and hesitant in his defensive responsibilities, Upshaw displayed a good motor in backside pursuit and finished with six tackles with one going for a loss. He wore down a bit in the second half after receiving his most extensive action to date and still looks uncomfortable when asked to drop into pass coverage, but Upshaw looks to be in much better shape and is finally starting to show the potential general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens saw in him with the 35th overall selection in April’s draft.

McClellan was one of the best players on the field for the Baltimore defense against the Eagles, finishing with six tackles with two going for losses and breaking up a pass in coverage. Though undersized at 6-feet-2 and 245 pounds, McClellan did an excellent job setting the edge as the Eagles averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.

With Upshaw showing signs of improvement and Kruger’s struggles at the strongside linebacker position going back to the preseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see defensive coordinator Dean Pees settle on McClellan and Upshaw as his starting outside linebackers and move Kruger to the situational pass-rushing role he held in past seasons. McClellan hasn’t shown an ability to get to the quarterback, so it might be in the Ravens’ best interests to replace him on third down with Kruger and allow Upshaw to line up at the other defensive end spot in obvious passing situations.

> Speaking of passing plays, much has already been said about the Ravens’ decisions in short-yardage situations on Sunday with few supporting the calls of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The Ravens were faced with six situations in which it was third or fourth down and two or less yards to go and the offense elected to pass every single time. Running all six plays from the shotgun formation, the Ravens failed to convert on any as the final two offensive plays with less than a minute remaining drew the most scrutiny.

Whether observers want to admit it or not, third-and-short has become a passing situation more often than not in today’s NFL. The Ravens aren’t the only team in the league to throw the football in those spots as it’s become a more wide-open game than what we watched in the past.

That said, it’s perplexing to not only watch the Ravens throw exclusively on that down and distance but also do it from the shotgun formation, a package in which your choice of running plays is more limited. Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said it best following Sunday’s game when reminding everyone that the Ravens have arguably the best fullback in the league in Vonta Leach. It seems wasteful not to at least present a bigger threat of a run in those situations by having quarterback Joe Flacco line up under center, with Leach and Rice behind him. Even if the Ravens still elect to throw, this simple alteration might keep defenses guessing more in those short-yardage spots.

Coach John Harbaugh said it best Monday when reminding everyone that hindsight is 20-20 and that any play call looks great when it works and foolish when it doesn’t, and it is worth reminding everyone that Flacco missed an open Dennis Pitta on that third-and-1 play on the game’s final drive. However, the Ravens’ 0-for-6 showing in short-yardage situations on third and fourth down screams that it might be time to change up their philosophies a bit.

> Through the first two weeks of the season, it’s no secret that Flacco has picked up right where he left off late last season in targeting Pitta frequently in the passing game as the pair has connected 13 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those catches have gone for first downs as the third-year tight end has been a go-to target when the Ravens need to move the chains.

CONTINUE >>>

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Keys to Sunday’s Game Against the Eagles

Posted on 16 September 2012 by jeffreygilley

The Baltimore Ravens looked very impressive against the Cincinnati Bengals in week one.  While the Ravens were feasting on the Bengals, the Philadelphia Eagles were struggling against the Cleveland Browns.  Michael Vick turned the ball over five times but also led a game winning drive with a touchdown pass to Clay Harbor.  Although the Eagles looked awful, expect them to bounce back and challenge the Ravens.

The offensive line must protect Flacco

With the exception of Matt Birk, the Ravens offensive line was impressive in their victory over the Bengals.  Ramon Harewood, a sixth round pick in 2010, made a surprising start at left guard.  He struggled at times but was a devastating run blocker.  With his size and athleticism, the Ravens can have success running the ball against the wide-nine in Philadelphia.

If the Ravens want to have success on offense, Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele must perform at a high level.  The Ravens new offense seems to be based on the vertical passing game which makes protecting Flacco even more pivotal.  If Flacco doesn’t have time to throw, the Ravens can turn to the run game which is a weakness of playing the wide-nine.

Stop LeSean McCoy

When this game is over, Ravens fans will miss Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson even more.  Both excelled at setting the edge and forcing ball carriers back inside.  The Eagles like to run to the outside and LeSean McCoy has the speed to turn the corner and get upfield extremely fast.  Therefore, the Ravens young linebackers must be able to set the edge and shed blockers.  Luckily for the Ravens, the Eagles are without Jason Peters which should make stopping the run much easier for the Ravens.  Expect the Eagles to challenge the Ravens to the outside throughout the entire game.

Pressure Michael Vick

This seems obvious but if the Ravens can pressure Vick like the Browns did in week one, the Ravens have a very good chance to win the game.  Young linebackers like Courtney UpShaw, Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan, and Sergio Kindle must pressure Vick early and often.  Courtney UpShaw received more playing time than expected last week and is pushing Albert McClellan and Paul Kruger for either of the starting outside linebacker spots.  UpShaw was unimpressive in the preseason but showed a lot of promise in week one.  Expect to see UpShaw a lot more as the season progresses.

Prediction

I see the Ravens winning this game but it will be no easy task.  Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are expected to play for the Eagles and pose a home run threat on every play.

Although Flacco played very well against the Bengals, he cant test the Eagles secondary too much.  Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha are very talented cornerbacks and can blanket receivers.

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Five pressing questions for the 2012 season

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Five pressing questions for the 2012 season

Posted on 09 September 2012 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens begin defense of their AFC North division crown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night and hope to embark on a journey to Super Bowl XLVII in John Harbaugh’s fifth year as head coach, they play the fourth-toughest schedule in the league statistically as their opponents held a .523 winning percentage (134-122) last season.

Expectations remain sky-high in Baltimore, even after a trying offseason than included key injuries and significant departures due to limited salary cap room.

Here are the five biggest questions weighing on my mind for the Ravens’ 2012 season:

1. Is the starting line good enough for the offense to take the next step?

Deemed a priority to upgrade at the beginning of the season, the offensive line remains a major question mark as the Ravens tinkered with various alignments throughout the preseason. Even determining which starting five will line up has been quite a challenge considering the circumstances the organization has dealt with since last January.

The Ravens knew Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs — now with New Orleans — would be difficult to replace as they eventually settled on former Bengals guard Bobbie Williams. Playing with a surgically-repaired right ankle, the 35-year-old has dealt with swelling as scar tissue is still breaking up in the ankle, making you wonder if Williams will hold up over the course of a 16-game regular season.

The bigger surprise has been the uncertainty at the tackle position as the Ravens weren’t satisfied with Bryant McKinnie’s weight and conditioning this offseason and the tackle reported late to training camp, opening the door to the idea of Michael Oher returning to left tackle. All seemed to be straightened out when McKinnie started at left tackle and Oher shifted back to the right side in the third preseason game, but the Ravens surprisingly played hardball with McKinnie by cutting his pay last week, a tactic that nearly led to his departure.

In another twist, rookie Kelechi Osemele revealed Saturday that he expected to start at right tackle against the Bengals, meaning Michael Oher will play on the left side and McKinnie will hold a backup role for now. Osemele played well at the position in the preseason and is the most pleasant surprise of the 2012 draft class to this point, but his insertion in the starting lineup creates the question whether Oher can handle protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side, which led to the Ravens signing McKinnie in the first place last August.

The Ravens’ handling of their line is unsettling considering the offense is expected to take a significant step forward this season. The combination of Oher and Osemele is more athletic and better conditioned, factors worth remembering when you consider how much they expect to run a no-huddle offense, but much doubt remains about their ability as pass blockers. Though McKinnie is considered a below-average run blocker, he is still the best pass blocker among the Baltimore tackles, which should be the most important factor in trying to protect the most important player on the field.

It’s clear the Ravens have grown tired of McKinnie’s act, but they also didn’t have enough confidence in life without him or they would have pulled the trigger in releasing him last week when he balked at their original pay-cut demand. They appear set to try the younger duo against Cincinnati, but you have to wonder if it will work week in and week out, especially when considering Williams’ health and age at left guard and the fact that there’s no viable option behind him other than Osemele on the 53-man roster.

Even when finally appearing to settle on a starting five moving forward, the Ravens will need to show improvement in short-yardage run situations, an area in which they struggled immensely last season.

Regardless of the factors working against them, the Ravens deemed upgrading the offensive line a major priority in the offseason and even the optimistic takes on the current group couldn’t possibly feel more confident about it than last season’s group.

2. How will the defense find a consistent pass rush without Terrell Suggs?

No one knows if and when the Pro Bowl linebacker will return this season and whether he’ll display the same explosiveness he displayed last season on his way to the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year award. His absence has created a gigantic black cloud over a defense ranking among the NFL’s elite annually for over a decade.

The Ravens have used their “next man up” mantra since the news broke about the injury in early May, but they appear no closer to answering their pass-rush question than they were when first learning about Suggs’ partially-torn Achilles tendon. And it’s a sobering thought when you remember the defense will encounter 11 quarterbacks who have made at least one Pro Bowl this season.

Fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger is being asked to play the strongside linebacker position in place of the departed Jarret Johnson and struggled setting the edge against the run in the preseason. However, an even more disappointing outcome of the summer was the slow development of rookie Courtney Upshaw, who dealt with a shoulder injury for much of training camp. Upshaw appeared overweight and lacked explosiveness coming off the edge and was beaten out by former practice squad member Albert McClellan for the rush linebacker spot.

While no one should have expected Upshaw to immediately enter the league as a poor man’s version of Suggs, the fact that he was unable to show any tangible signs of being a threat as a pass rusher in the preseason is disheartening after he was selected with the 35th overall pick in late April. To suggest Upshaw is a draft bust is absurdly premature, but the Ravens hope the light comes on quickly for the rookie from Alabama to be a bigger factor on passing downs.

In terms of maximizing their pass rush, the Ravens might be better served by scrapping the idea of Kruger at the “Sam” position and allowing him to move back to the rush linebacker spot where he can focus more often than not on simply getting after the quarterback. His 5 1/2 sacks in limited time last season showed he can put heat on the quarterback, but those also came with a healthy Suggs on the opposite side of the defensive line.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee will also be critical to the pass rush as his six sacks last year were a major surprise. The Ravens will elect to use him more extensively on first and second down given his pass-rushing ability, but McPhee also bulked up to 290 pounds to aid in playing the run. The second-year defensive lineman made positive plays in run support in the preseason, but you also wonder how the extra weight will affect the combination of strength and quickness he displayed as a pass rusher last year.

There’s simply no replacing the loss of Suggs and the secondary will be challenged in coverage much more without him tormenting quarterbacks for at least the bulk of the regular season. It’s difficult envisioning the defense maintaining the same level of excellence we’ve come to expect over the years, meaning the offense will be asked to be more productive if the Ravens are to remain a legitimate Super Bowl threat.

3. With the no-huddle attack expected to become a prominent part of the offense, how will it affect Ray Rice’s touches?

CONTINUE >>>

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Bovada sets Flacco passing yards at 3500 for 2012

Posted on 05 September 2012 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV). I also have odds for players on the other 31 NFL teams. If you’d like a specific team or the whole list, please let me know. 

Ravens Player Performance Props

Joe Flacco - Total Passing Yards in the 2012 Regular Season

Over/Under                    3500

 

Joe Flacco - Total Passing Touchdowns in the 2012 Regular Season

Over/Under                    22 ½

 

Joe Flacco - Total Interceptions thrown in the 2012 Regular Season 

Over/Under                    12 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing Yards in the 2012 Regular Season  

Over/Under                    1250 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season           

Over/Under                    625 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receptions in the 2012 Regular Season       

Over/Under                    67 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing & Receiving Touchdowns in the 2012 Regular Season       

Over/Under                    12 ½

 

Anquan Boldin - Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season  

Over/Under                    850 ½

 

Anquan Boldin - Total Receiving Touchdowns in the 2012 Regular Season   

Over/Under                    5 ½

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    900 ½

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    7

 

Courtney Upshaw – Total Sacks in the 2012 Regular Season  

Over/Under                    3 ½

 

Haloti Ngata - Total Sacks in the 2011 Regular Season          

Over/Under                    5

 

Ed Reed – Total Interceptions in the 2011 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    4 ½

           

Miscellaneous

Who will be the first head coach fired during the 2012 Regular Season?     

Ken Whisenhunt            3/1

Norv Turner                    7/2

Pat Shurmer                  4/1

Rex Ryan                      5/1

Lovie Smith                   6/1

Andy Reid                     7/1

 

Who will record more passing Yards Week 1 of the 2012 Regular Season?

Andrew Luck (IND) QB                           7/4

Robert Griffin III (WSH) QB                      2/1

Russell Wilson (SEA) QB                       2/1

Ryan Tannehill (MIA) QB                        15/2

Brandon Weeden (CLE) QB                    15/2

 

Will an NFL Coach, Player or owner be fined by the NFL for comments made regarding replacement officials about Week 1′s games?

Yes                  +140     (7/5)

No                     -180     (5/9)

 

Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning – Who will throw for more Passing Yards in the 2012 Regular Season          

Eli Manning (NYG) QB                 -150     

Peyton Maninng (DEN) QB         +120    

 

Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning – Who will throw more TD Passes in the 2012 Regular Season       

Eli Manning (NYG) QB               EVEN  

Peyton Maninng (DEN) QB         -130     

 

Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning – Will they Meet in the Super Bowl this Season?   

Yes                              75/1                             

 

Peyton Manning – Will he start all 16 games of the 2012 Regular Season? 

Yes                     -300

No                     +200

 

Andrew Luck – Will he break the single season record for most Passing Yards by a rookie (Cam Newton 4051)?      

Yes                  +250     (5/2)

No                    -400     (1/4)

 

Will Matt Ryan win a playoff game this Season?  

Yes                  +250

No                    -400

 

Michael Vick – Total games started in the 2012 Regular Season    

Over/Under                    14

 

Darren McFadden – Will he play in all 16 games in the 2012 Regular Season?         

Yes                  +110    

No                     -150     

 

Jake Locker – Total Starts in the 2012 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    14 ½

 

Russell Wilson – Total Starts in the 2012 Regular Season 

Over/Under                    10 ½

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Ravens tight ends expect to be game-time decisions Monday

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Ravens tight ends expect to be game-time decisions Monday

Posted on 05 September 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Since both of their tight ends went down with injuries early in the preseason, the Ravens have maintained all along that Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson would be ready for the start of the regular season.

And while both have been practicing on a limited basis since last week, the pair took a more cautious approach in assessing their chances for taking the field against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. Both Dickson and Pitta said they expect to be game-time decisions following practice on Wednesday.

Pitta has been sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand early in camp while Dickson sprained his right shoulder in the Ravens’ preseason opener in Atlanta. Their absence from the field has provided an extra challenge to quarterback Joe Flacco and an offense with an increased emphasis on the no-huddle attack this season.

“A lot more mental preparation, obviously, but it’s nice to be back on the field now,” Pitta said. “I’ve been able to be out there for the last week or so running around and catching the football. It’s nice to be back running plays and developing that chemistry again with Joe and with the offense. Hopefully, it will feel good come game day.”

Coach John Harbaugh insists that players not discuss information related to injuries, so it’s difficult to determine just how serious the tight ends are about being in danger of not playing. The first official injury report of the week will not be released until Thursday evening, but Dickson and Pitta will have been practicing for a full two weeks, which makes it difficult to believe they might not play.

Both players have not partaken in any contact during practices, so it will be interesting to see what their level of participation is this week in practice. Veteran Billy Bajema is the third tight end on the roster.

“Practice until we get to that game,” Dickson said. “Like I said, if it was a personal decision, I don’t care how I’d feel — I’d be out there. I’m here to help the team win. I want to be out there for my team, but I don’t want to hurt the team.”

As you’d expect, Pitta is trying to gain more confidence in catching the football after being sidelined for a month and having his hand in a cast. The third-year tight end felt thankful that he injured the hand so early in camp to allow plenty of time for recovery.

“We just prepare ourselves each day, and we hope to play,” Pitta said. “Obviously, we don’t know at this point and we’ll see how it feels in the next few days, but we’re doing everything we can to prepare ourselves to play because we want to be out there and help our team.”

While both tight ends expressed the need to regain their timing with Flacco, neither anticipated that process taking very long after the success the pair enjoyed last season. Dickson and Pitta combined for 94 catches, 933 yards, and eight touchdown catches last year.

“Joe and I have a good relationship,” Pitta said. “We trust one other on the field, so it’s just about regaining that timing and confidence and all that. We’re able to do that a little bit this week.”

Yanda, Upshaw ready to go Monday

As we learned late last season when rib and leg injuries landed him in the hospital before he still wound up playing in the regular-season finale, it takes quite a bit to keep Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda off the field.

Therefore, it was no secret that the tweaked knee Yanda had suffered after being accidentally undercut by a teammate in practice two weeks ago was a little more serious than the Ravens were leading on. The sixth-year lineman revealed Wednesday he suffered an MCL sprain but declared himself ready to play in the season opener.

“I feel great, I’m 100 percent — the knee’s good,” Yanda said. “[The ligament] was loose for a while, but it’s definitely tightening back up. I just wear the brace and the tape just for precaution.”

Yanda missed the final two preseason games as veteran Bobbie Williams shifted over to right guard and rookie Kelechi Osemele played left guard against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens rested their starting offensive line in the fourth preseason game.

After an uncertain summer in which the Ravens rotated tackles and left guards in determining what their starting lineup would look like against Cincinnati — a question that still remains unanswered to some degree — Yanda remains the dependable foundation of the unit. The timing of the injury allowed Yanda to rest his body when he otherwise would have pushed through the ailment had it occurred in the regular season.

“It was hurt. It was loose, so I wasn’t going to fight through it during the preseason and make it worse,” said Yanda, who believed he could have played had it been the regular season. “We were just going to let it heal all the way, and that’s what it’s done.”

Questions remain regarding the stability of Williams’ surgically-repaired right ankle and the fact that three  of the five projected starters are on the wrong side of thirty, but the unit appears to be in much better shape with Yanda’s knee no longer being a concern.

“You always want to start the season healthy,” Yanda said. “It’s a long year and I’m going to do that, so that’s great. I’ll be ready to roll [and] flying around.”

Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw also said he will be ready to play after tweaking the same shoulder he sprained earlier in the summer in the Ravens’ preseason finale last Thursday.

Ihedigbo ready to step in wherever needed

CONTINUE >>>

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Four Questions for the Ravens Season

Posted on 04 September 2012 by jeffreygilley

Personally, I have high hopes and expectations for the Ravens this season.  But then again, when are expectations not high in Baltimore?  The success the Ravens have had in their short existence is truly unbelievable.  As I said, this season is no different and the Ravens are hoping to make the Super Bowl after reaching the AFC Championship in two of the last four years.  But, no team enters a season without question marks.

Can the Ravens young linebackers replace the production of Suggs?  

As we all know, Terrell Suggs tore his ACL in the off-season.  Because of his injury, linebackers Paul Kruger, Courtney UpShaw, Sergio Kindle, and Albert McClellan must step up.  Kruger had a nice season in 2011 but that was when he had Terrell Suggs on the field commanding double teams.  Kruger is not alone though.  He has the help of some young players but young is the key word.  Kindle, UpShaw, and McClellan are all young and unexperienced.

If the Ravens can not produce any pressure, the team will struggle.  Pernell McPhee is a defensive lineman to keep an eye on.  He was most effective last season when he lined up against guards.  Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata will be a deadly combination this season and can occupy blockers which will help the Ravens young linebackers.

Can Torrey Smith have a break out season? 

Another way the Ravens can make up for the loss of Terrell Suggs is for the offense to be more productive and the pre-season has looked promising for the offense.  Joe Flacco looks much different.  He seems more composed and is scanning the field more effectively.  His favorite target seems to be Torrey Smith.  Smith also looks better.  His route running is more polished and he is now more than a down field threat.

If Torrey Smith had an 800-yard season in 2011 by being a down field threat only, immagine what he can do now that he is more polished?

How will the Ravens use Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson?

Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson were both stars of the pre-season.  They were brought into Ravens camp with little expectations but once they got to camp, they did nothing but perform at a high level.  Rainey, a running back out of Western Kentucky has shown a vast skill set throughout the preseason.  Rainey can run the ball effectively, catch the ball out of the backfield, he can block, and he can even return punts and kicks.  I think Rainey will play a role very similar to how Darren Sproles is used in New Orleans.  He is a play maker and the Ravens need as many of them as possible.

Deonte Thompson has also been very impressive in the preseason.  Like Raney, Thompson has been effective in multiple areas.  He has been explosive at wide receiver and as a kick returner.  Thompson has an opportunity to climb the depth chart even more.  Players like LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss are ahead of him but Thompson has been more impressive in the preseason.  I expect Thompson to be used in multiple situations this season.

Will the special teams improve? 

The Ravens are stacked with options to return punts and kicks.  Jacoby Jones, Asa Jackson, Deonte Thompson, and Bobby Rainey have all shown flashes of brilliance in the return game but returning punts and kicks is not the problem.  The coverage was dreadful last season.  To improve the kickoff and punt coverage, the Ravens made several moves in the offseason.  Cory Graham, a special teams ace from the Bears is expected to play a big role on special teams this year and possibly on defense.  Sean Considine was also signed and is expected to contribute in a big way on special teams.

The special teams coverage did not look good in the preseason but it’s only the preseason.  I expect the special teams to be greatly improved from last season.

 

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Your Tuesday Reality Check: Let’s bust Upshaw talk

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Your Tuesday Reality Check: Let’s bust Upshaw talk

Posted on 04 September 2012 by Glenn Clark

I love the word “bust.”

Honest to God, it’s one of my favorite words in the English language.  If you check Dicitionary.com, there are 18 different uses of the word “bust” including seven verbs, five nouns, an adjective, a verb phrase and three idioms.

Coincidentally, “Three Idioms” was also a rejected name I suggested for a cover band I briefly joined in college. I thought it would have played better with the journalism school crowd. Shows what I know.

Think of the many ways you use the term “bust.” Perhaps you’ve used it to describe a sculpture. Perhaps you’re like me and only discovered one particular use of the word when you were first introduced to Pamela Anderson. Perhaps (again like me) you’re used the word quite a bit because you’re absolutely terrible at poker. Heck, perhaps you’ve even taken a cue from the worst college sports “pump up” video of all time and suggested you were “busting in” something or other.

I really hope it’s not the last scenario. God I hope it’s not the last scenario.

My interest today is in a different form of the word “bust”, the same form we heard Baltimore Ravens fans (and a few analysts covering the team) using to describe WR Torrey Smith just about 12 months ago.

Did that form of the word “bust” hit home because sheepishly you thought to yourself “oh no…I was one of those people. He’s talking about me!”?

It’s fine. You’re not alone. This is a safe place. You’re among friends here.

You probably described the former University of Maryland star as a “bust” because during the preseason he had only four catches total for just 20 yards. His hands appeared to be such an issue that only a few weeks into the preseason the team decided to trade for then Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans in hopes to push Smith back to being the team’s third receiver instead of a starter.

You probably said something along the lines of “I can see why this guy fell to the bottom of the second round when some people thought he had first round talent.” You might have even called my show (you know who you are) to say “this guy is just the second coming of (fellow former Terps WR) Darrius Heyward-Bey.”

It was weird because after he caught the game winning touchdown at Heinz Field to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, I didn’t get too many of the same calls.

Go ahead. If you considered Torrey Smith a “bust” during the preseason or the beginning of last year’s regular season, please raise your hand. I just hope you have the fortitude to make the admission. I wouldn’t want to think that you were the type that made such proclamations and then later stated “I knew all along.”

I did not make such proclamations, personally. I also didn’t proclaim Smith to be ready to be a Rookie of the Year candidate either. The only things I really said were along the lines of “he hasn’t even played an actual NFL game” and “I have absolutely no idea how Smith is going to perform when the lights come on. We’ll have to wait and see.”

(Continued on Page 2…

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Upshaw reinjures shoulder in preseason loss to St. Louis

Posted on 31 August 2012 by Luke Jones

With a final opportunity to make a statement in the competition with Albert McClellan for the Ravens’ starting rush linebacker spot, rookie Courtney Upshaw instead reinjured the shoulder that’s plagued him throughout the summer.

The 35th overall pick in April’s draft left the game in the second quarter of the Ravens’ 31-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams Thursday, and his status for the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10 is now in question. Upshaw is scheduled to undergo an MRI Friday.

“I’m concerned,” Harbaugh told reporters following the game. “We’ll find out tomorrow with an MRI what it is.”

Upshaw originally injured his shoulder on July 28 in a collision with rookie running back Bernard Pierce, which caused him to miss the preseason opener in Atlanta. He finished the preseason with three tackles and one sack in three games.

Concerns already existed over Upshaw’s slow progression as the Ravens are trying to generate a pass rush without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is on the physically unable to perform list and not expected to return until mid-November at the earliest. The Ravens were counting on the rookie from Alabama to step in as the starting rush linebacker, but McClellan outperformed him in the preseason to claim the job for the start of the season.

In other injury news, offensive lineman Justin Boren injured his right foot and will undergo an MRI on Friday. Tight ends Matt Balasavage (ankle) and Bruce Figgins (shoulder) were also banged up against the Rams.

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EA Sports simulates Ravens as repeat AFC North winners, Upshaw Rookie of the Year

Posted on 27 August 2012 by WNST Staff

New England Patriots and Chicago Bears Capture Regular Season Crown in

Madden NFL 13 Simulation Powered by EA SPORTS Arena

Quarterbacks Reign as Tom Brady Wins MVP and Andrew Luck Named Offensive Rookie of the Year

August 27, 2012 –The Chicago Bears and New England Patriots won their respective divisions and took home the overall number one seeds in the playoffs according to the Madden NFL 13 Season Simulation, powered by EA SPORTS Arena. The Patriots followed up last year’s Super Bowl appearance with a dominant season, securing a 12-4 record on the arm of NFL MVP Tom Brady. Brady delighted fantasy football owners everywhere by tossing a record-tying 50 touchdown passes against only 8 interceptions.

The Bears matched the Patriots’ record, also going 12-4 to win a tightly contested NFC North. Chicago needed every win they could muster, as the Green Bay Packers also ended the season at 12-4, but with the Bears holding an edge in the tiebreakers the Packers were relegated to the 5th seed in the playoffs.

The two surprise playoff teams in the AFC were the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) and Buffalo Bills (10-6), both ending long playoff droughts. The Chiefs were a particular shock, winning the AFC West with a record of 11-5 and earning Romeo Crennel Coach of the Year Honors.

The NFC experienced near total upheaval, with new champions in three of four divisions. The Atlanta Falcons (11-5) and Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) joined the Bears as new divisional winners, while only the San Francisco 49ers (11-5) were able to repeat amidst weak competition in the NFC West. In bombshell news, last year’s Super Bowl champion New York Giants didn’t even reach the postseason, finishing a disappointing 8-8.

Though the rebuilding Indianapolis Colts (4-12) had a tough season, fans were able to take solace in the fact that rookie quarterback and number one overall draft pick Andrew Luck took home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Luck managed to outduel fellow highly-touted rookie Robert Griffin III, finishing the season with 4,170 yards, 32 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. On the defensive side of things, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw was able to step into an already intimidating unit and cause enough havoc to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Other award winners include Detroit Lions wide receiver and Madden NFL 13 cover athlete Calvin Johnson, Jr. as Offensive Player of the Year (97 receptions for 1,572 yards and 16 touchdowns), and DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys as Defensive Player of the Year (18 sacks).

For screenshots and video of the Madden NFL 13 Season Simulation, powered by EA SPORTS Arena, as well as box art and other assets, please visit http://maddennfl13.newslinevine.com/. 

Tune into G4’s X-Play on Monday, August 27th at 6:30/5:30pm CT to check out more video of the Madden NFL 13 Season Simulation.


NFL 2012 Season Awards (as simulated by Madden NFL 13):

• NFL MVP – Tom Brady, New England Patriots

• Offensive Player of the Year – Calvin Johnson, Jr., Detroit Lions

• Defensive Player of the Year – DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

• Offensive Rookie of the Year – Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

• Defensive Rookie of the Year – Courtney Upshaw, Baltimore Ravens

• Coach of the Year – Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chief

Top Ten Offensive Performers

Quarterback
Player Team Yards TDs INTs
Drew Brees NO

5399

48

13

Tom Brady NE

5374

50

8

Mathew Stafford DET

5288

40

14

Aaron Rodgers GB

5245

49

9

Eli Manning NYG

4853

31

11

Peyton Manning DEN

4612

35

7

Matt Ryan ATL

4602

34

7

Philip Rivers SD

4475

35

12

Jay Cutler CHI

4215

36

18

Andrew Luck IND

4170

32

20

Running Back
Player Team Yards TDs
Darren McFadden OAK

1523

16

Arian Foster HOU

1501

18

Ray Rice BAL

1425

17

LeSean McCoy PHI

1386

14

Marshawn Lynch SEA

1317

14

Chris Johnson TEN

1309

12

Matt Forte CHI

1250

9

Adrian Peterson MIN

1118

10

Maurice Jones-Drew JAX

1115

10

Fred Jackson BUF

1109

7

Wide Receiver
Player Team Rec Yards TDs
Calvin Johnson, Jr. DET

97

1572

16

Wes Welker NE

111

1430

7

Julio Jones ATL

89

1326

8

Jimmy Graham NO

100

1301

13

Larry Fitzgerald ARI

87

1222

10

AJ Green CIN

79

1189

10

Rob Gronkowski NE

82

1188

13

Brandon Marshall CHI

80

1185

8

Roddy White ATL

101

1169

7

Eric Decker DEN

90

1150

6

Top Defensive Performers

Sacks
Player Team Sacks
Jared Allen

MIN

19

DeMarcus Ware

DAL

18

Jason Pierre-Paul

NYG

17

Aldon Smith

SF

16

Jason Babin

PHI

14

Chris Long

STL

14

Clay Mathews

GB

13

Von Miller

DEN

13

Tamba Hali

KC

10

Brian Orakpo

WSH

10

Interceptions
Player Team INTs
Charles Woodson

GB

7

Eric Weddle

SD

6

Corey Webster

NYG

5

Kyle Arrington

NE

5

Darrelle Revis

NYJ

5

Brandon Browner

SEA

5

Courtland Finnegan

STL

5

Ed Reed

BAL

5

Brandon Flowers

DAL

5

Nnamdi Asomugha

PHI

5

 

2012 NFL Playoff Seeding

                        AFC                            NFC
  1. New England Patriots (12-4)
1. Chicago Bears (12-4)
  1. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
2. San Francisco 49ers (11-5)

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

Posted on 22 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Moving ever closer to games that actually count, the Ravens will play their third preseason contest of the summer Thursday as they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to M&T Bank Stadium.

Coach John Harbaugh is planning to play his starters well into the third quarter as Baltimore meets Jacksonville in the preseason for the first time ever. Traditionally, the third preseason game is considered the final real test for the regular season as starters see their most extensive action before barely making a cameo — if they even do that — in the final preseason game.

The Ravens will try to find more rhythm on both sides of the football, but the vanilla looks we saw in each of the first two preseason games will remain as the coaching staff does not game-plan for opponents in the preseason. For this reason, some downplay the significance placed on the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason.

“I guess that’s the way we’re trained to kind of look at it, just because that is the game [the starters] play the most in,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We want to go out there and put good work forward and good footage that we can look at and learn from. This week is kind of the same. We want to go out there and we want to play well, but at the same time, we need to clean some things up and see what we’re getting better at and see what we still need to work on maybe even a little bit more.”

As is always the case, the preseason holds the most significance for players competing for starting positions or spots on the 53-man roster, but the coaching staff wants to see rhythm and communication improve as some starters will be playing together in a game for the final time before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Issues facing the Ravens in the offseason such as becoming more efficient in the red-zone offense and establishing a pass rush without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs have carried into the preseason, and Harbaugh would like to see glimpses of optimism in those areas with the season set to kick off in less than three weeks.

“The performances of certain players are a really big part of it, but the performances of groups and units together is probably more important, because that’s how the game is played,” Harbaugh said. “We would expect that to be the case – guys working together better, fewer communication mistakes, being more synchronized.”

Even for longtime veterans such as 17-year linebacker Ray Lewis, the third preseason game provides a nice tuneup to not only be on the field for an extended period but to provide the emotional charge they’ll experience in beginning their quest to return to the AFC Championship game — and try to advance a step further — in 2012.

And while it’s not on the list of priorities for Thursday’s game, the Ravens’ embarrassing 12-7 loss to Jacksonville last season was on the mind of at least one Baltimore defensive player. The Jaguars ran for 132 yards against the Ravens on Oct. 24 of last season, but 105 came from the legs of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently holding out over a contract dispute.

“This is a good test for us,” Lewis said. “These guys run the ball pretty well, and for us to come in and have this type of test right now, being our third preseason game, yeah, I’m a little ready.”

Unofficially (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Though not dealing with an injury, defensive end Pernell McPhee’s status for Thursday remains unknown as he’s been away from the team since the weekend due to the death of a family member.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: OT Jah Reid (calf), LB Josh Bynes (back), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), TE Ed Dickson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee), DL Ryan McBean (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (leg), LB Sergio Kindle (shoulder), S Sean Considine (head), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin)
PROBABLE: WR Torrey Smith (ankle), G Bobbie Williams (ankle)

Five positions to watch Thursday night

1. Left guard – Bobbie Williams and Kelechi Osemele

Should starting right guard Marshal Yanda be held out Thursday after accidentally being undercut by linebacker Chavis Williams during Monday’s practice, it will be more difficult to get a read on where the Ravens stand with their left guard position. It appears the coaching staff has finally settled on veteran Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher on the right side — the two have practiced in those spots exclusively since the second preseason game — but Osemele has begun working at guard more extensively with the 35-year-old Williams still dealing with scar tissue breaking up in his surgically-repaired ankle.

Interestingly enough, Williams was working at right guard in Yanda’s place, which seemed odd for the lineman expected to start on the left side, but it was the position the veteran primarily played in his years with the Cincinnati Bengals. Osemele has been very impressive this summer, making you wonder if he could eventually unseat Williams in the starting lineup. His ankle makes you question whether Williams will hold up over a 16-game schedule, but the Ravens feel confident that Osemele can be a contributor as a rookie if necessary.

My gut choice if the season started today: Williams gets the nod due to experience, but the Ravens won’t hesitate to go with Osemele if the veteran struggles as the season progresses.

2. Defensive end – Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee

Thursday would be a golden opportunity for Jones to make up ground if McPhee remains away from the team due to a death in the family. A hip flexor injury cost Jones valuable practice time, allowing McPhee to receive the bulk of the reps and take the lead in the push for the starting job. A 2011 fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State, McPhee had the reputation of being stronger against the run prior to a surprising rookie season that included six sacks, and he played well against the run in the Ravens’ first two preseason games.

Jones has a strong lower body that translates well in run-stopping situations, but he doesn’t stand out when asked to get after the quarterback, which led many to believe he would see time on first and second downs with McPhee spelling him in passing situations. However, it now appears McPhee can handle the duties of a three-down lineman, and Jones could find himself as more of a situational player like he was last season. Regardless of which player the Ravens anoint as the starter, both will factor heavily into the defensive line rotation.

My gut choice if the season started today: McPhee has stood out on the defensive line as a more complete player and would be the choice as the starter even though Jones will still see plenty of opportunities.

3. Rush linebacker – Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw

CONTINUE >>>

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