Tag Archive | "derrick mason"

Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 (and Worst 7) Ravens free-agent signings

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

Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 (and Worst 7) Ravens free-agent signings

Posted on 20 March 2012 by Luke Jones

In honor of the Ravens re-signing veteran center Matt Birk to a three-year contract on Friday, The Morning Reaction offers its Tuesday Top 7 (and Worst 7) free-agent signings in the history of the Baltimore Ravens.

Luke Jones ranked the best signings while Drew Forrester identified the worst signings made by general manager Ozzie Newsome and the organization.

To hear the full explanation of their lists, click HERE for Part 1 and HERE for Part 2.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 free-agent signings …

7) Tony Siragusa
Siragusa

6) Trent Dilfer
Dilfer

5) Sam Adams
Adams

4) Michael McCrary
McCrary

3) Derrick Mason
Mason

2) Rod Woodson
Woodson

1) Shannon Sharpe
Sharpe

Drew Forrester’s Worst 7 free-agent signings …

7) Corey Fuller
Fuller

6) Mike Anderson
Anderson

5) Keydrick Vincent
Vincent

4) Deion Sanders
Sanders

3) Elvis Grbac
Grbac

2) Frank Sanders
Sanders

1) Frank Walker
Walker

Comments (0)

With free agency upon us, Ravens will lean on continued growth from within in 2012

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

With free agency upon us, Ravens will lean on continued growth from within in 2012

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With the start of the new league year and free agency less than 24 hours away, you can already hear the cries if you listen carefully.

And you know exactly what I’m talking about if you pay attention to talk radio, internet message boards, and Twitter over the opening days of free agency every year.

When are the Ravens going to do something?

Why does Ozzie insist on sitting on his hands?

They’re definitely taking a step back this season.

Never were those exclamations louder than last season, an unprecedented period of free agency that coincided with the start of training camp after the 134-day lockout. General manager Ozzie Newsome waved goodbye to veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee in a series of cap-saving cuts, and a number of veterans including Chris Chester, Dawan Landry, and Josh Wilson found richer contracts elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Ravens’ free-agent additions for 2011 were relatively modest over the course of the preseason, adding fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, center Andre Gurode, and running back Ricky Williams in addition to re-signing right guard Marshal Yanda to a long-term contract. The “offseason” timetable was stunted by the lockout, but Newsome operated in the way he typically does — calculated and conservative. In fact, the most dynamic move he made — trading a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for veteran receiver Lee Evans — turned out to be the biggest failure.

The history lesson is worth repeating as the Ravens embark on free agency for the 17th time in franchise history. Projected to have approximately $14.45 million in salary cap space (before tendering restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents), Newsome will devote much of that to retaining as many of his own free agents as he can.

Of Baltimore’s 12 unrestricted free agents, five were starters last season, meaning the Ravens could be looking at more significant roster turnover than you’d like from an AFC North championship team that was one touchdown catch from advancing to the Super Bowl.

Expecting a dramatic splash of throwing money at elite free agents such as wide receiver Vincent Jackson or outside linebacker Mario Williams is only setting yourself up for disappointment. Even in the years in which he’s had the most cap room, Newsome rarely targets the players grabbing the headlines in the opening days of free agency, instead focusing on keeping his own and laying plans for value free agents that fulfill a need without eating up precious cap room.

As was the case last season, the Ravens will look for continued growth from within to aid in their quest for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Entering the 2011 season, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, and Dennis Pitta were well-known draft picks from the previous season but had yet to emerge as starting-caliber players in the NFL. Even bigger question marks surrounded Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams before they became legitimate starting cornerbacks for one of the league’s top defenses. And fighting serious doubts after a poor preseason, wide receiver Torrey Smith set franchise rookie records for receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches.

Their contributions were as critical as any free-agent acquisition the Ravens made en route to a 12-4 record and their first division title in five years.

This season, the Ravens will potentially look to younger players such as defensive ends Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee, offensive lineman Jah Reid, and linebackers Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and Albert McClellan to help fill potential voids left behind by free agents Cory Redding, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Jarret Johnson, and Jameel McClain. Of course, the Ravens will add new pieces via free agency and next month’s draft to fill some of those needs, but it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll need to lean on some combination of the aforementioned players for expanded roles in 2012.

After tendering their restricted free agents and exclusive rights players, the Ravens will be left with somewhere between $6 million and $7 million to address their own unrestricted free agents and shop the open market. It doesn’t take an economics major to realize that money will only go so far.

But, as he usually does, Newsome will make the most of it.

As the frenzy of free agency begins on Tuesday and the big names start coming off the board — possibly even a few from the Ravens’ own backyard leaving for greener pastures — remember many of the biggest factors determining how the Ravens fare in 2012 already reside in Owings Mills.

It may get ugly, with many of their unrestricted free agents not expected to return, but Newsome and the Ravens never strive to “win” the first week of free agency. They’ll look closely for that under-the-radar talent that nobody is talking about right now. And, as always, the Ravens will plan to shine during April’s draft.

By the time July arrives, they’ll address the offensive line and the linebacker position in some form as well as add a few pieces in other areas to optimize a team that was only a few tenths of a second away from going to the Super Bowl back in January.

Just remember that when you or someone else feels the urge to panic and ask if Newsome is asleep at the wheel over the next week or so.

To borrow an expression from another era and another sport here in Baltimore, it’s “The Raven Way” of doing business.

And if history is any indication, it’s worked pretty well.

Comments (3)

Ravens wide receiver Boldin out with slight meniscus tear

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ravens wide receiver Boldin out with slight meniscus tear

Posted on 22 December 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 3:05 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With only two games remaining in the regular season and a playoff spot already secured, the Ravens received concerning news on Thursday that they’ll be without top wideout Anquan Boldin until the postseason due to a knee injury.

Boldin has a slight tear in his meniscus and will have surgery Thursday afternoon, a procedure that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, according to head coach John Harbaugh. The 31-year-old receiver had missed the last two days of practice and was listed as having a knee injury on the team’s official injury report released on Wednesday afternoon.

“It flapped up on him, I think it was Tuesday night after the walk-through,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have to get that repaired. It’s a two-week deal. He’s seeing Dr. [James] Andrews this afternoon. He’ll be back in two weeks, so he’ll be back for the playoffs, whichever round we happen to play in. It’ll be a little tighter if we have to play in the first round.”

In his ninth NFL season, Boldin has 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns. The former Florida State star has not missed a game since the 2009 season, his final year with the Arizona Cardinals. With Boldin sidelined for the next two games, the Ravens will lean heavily on rookie Torrey Smith and veteran Lee Evans to produce more in the passing game.

Smith has been one of the most productive rookie wide receivers in the league, catching 43 passes for 770 yards and a team-leading seven touchdown catches to break the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie.

“For us, we have to step up,” Smith said. “It’s too important for us to play well right now to have any letdowns. The whole team is depending on us to play well, and we’ve got to go out there and do it.”

Evans has made little impact this season after missing seven games with a left ankle injury. The 30-year-old receiver has only four catches for 74 yards in seven games. Through the first 14 games of the regular season, it’s safe to say the Ravens’ decision to send a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for Evans during the preseason has not worked out.

The six-foot receiver has looked more comfortable over the last couple weeks in creating separation, but it hasn’t translated on the stat sheet as Evans and Flacco continue to work on their timing. With Boldin sidelined, Evans hopes he can build a rapport with the quarterback over the final two weeks of the regular season that will carry over into January.

“It’s an opportunity,” Evans said. “Whatever is called on me to do, I’ll be ready to do. I’ve been working to get back to this point, and I’m getting an opportunity. That’s what it is, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Needing wins in their final two games to secure the AFC North division title as well as a first-round bye, the Ravens now find even more incentive to secure an extra week of rest for Boldin to return to action in time for the playoffs.

While it’s possible that general manager Ozzie Newsome looks to the free-agent market for help at wide receiver, the Ravens will likely use more two-tight end sets with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta splitting out as wide receivers if necessary. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron used two tight ends a great deal while Evans was sidelined earlier in the season.

Former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason will inevitably be discussed as a potential target to sign in Boldin’s absence, especially with him being in Baltimore on Thursday. However, a source close to Mason told WNST.net’s Glenn Clark that the veteran being in town is “purely coincidental” due to the holiday, and he had not been contacted by the team as of early Thursday afternoon.

After being waived by the Houston Texans on Dec. 12, Mason would be interested in a potential return to the Ravens if they reached out to the 37-year-old receiver, the source confirmed.

Behind Evans on the depth chart are rookies LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss. Previously the No. 3 receiver in Evans’ absence, Williams has been inactive for the Ravens’ last three games. Doss, the team’s fourth-round selection in April, has been inactive for all but five games this season and has not registered a catch in his rookie season.

“You want to get your young guys out there on the field as much as you can,” Harbaugh said. “You never want to do it before they’re ready to have some success. I think those guys are very much ready to have success. Between LaQuan and Tandon — also the the tight ends probably play a role in that as well — it will be very interesting to see how they do, but we anticipate them doing really well.”

Comments (2)

Thanksgiving leftovers from the Ravens’ win over San Francisco

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

Thanksgiving leftovers from the Ravens’ win over San Francisco

Posted on 25 November 2011 by Luke Jones

As you pick through the remains of the turkey and scrape the bottom of the mashed potatoes bowl — or try to finally enjoy a turkey-induced nap as I was unable to do on Thursday — we take a final look back at the Ravens’ first ever Thanksgiving game.

- Of course, the story of the night was one of the finest defensive performances by the Ravens in recent memory — without Ray Lewis, ironically — as they tied a franchise record with nine sacks. It ranks as the second most in an NFL game this season, topped only by Buffalo’s 10 sacks against the Washington Redskins in Toronto on Oct. 30. It topped the previous season high of six against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.

The relentless effort matched the Ravens’ nine sacks against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 26, 2006 in a 27-0 blowout at M&T Bank Stadium famously known for the violent hit Bart Scott delivered to Ben Roethlisberger. Baltimore also record nine sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 16, 1997, a game that ended in a 10-10 tie at old Memorial Stadium.

Baltimore also continued the impressive streak of 19 consecutive games without allowing an opponent to score on its opening drive of the game.

Follow BaltimoreLuke on Twitter

- Three defensive players tied or set a career high in sacks on Thursday night as Terrell Suggs matched his personal best with three sacks, Haloti Ngata tied his best total with two, and Cory Redding set a career best with 2 1/2 sacks.

It was the second time this season Suggs had reached the three-sack mark after doing it in the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11. The Ravens are an impressive 47-17 all time when Suggs records a sack and 12-1 when the Pro Bowl linebacker tallies at least two sacks.

Redding’s previous career high was two when he played for the Detroit Lions on Nov. 12, 2006 against the 49ers.

- While 16 points and 253 yards won’t raise many eyebrows, the Ravens offense was efficient in completing only its second turnover-free game of the season, the other coming against the Steelers in Week 1. Baltimore did not allow a sack for the first time this season as the offensive line did an exceptional job in protecting quarterback Joe Flacco.

The effort allowed Flacco to continue his impressive play at M&T Bank Stadium where he has now won 16 of his last 17 home starts. The fourth-year quarterback has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 4,038 yards, 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions over that stretch, good for a 98.4 quarterback rating.

- With his 83 total yards against a formidable San Francisco defense, Ray Rice moved into second place on the Ravens’ all-time yards from scrimmage list. The running back passed wide receiver Derrick Mason and now has 1,259 yards from scrimmage this season.

Rice only trails former running back Jamal Lewis, who accumulated 9,166 scrimmage yards from 2000 to 2006.

- Much has been made about Billy Cundiff’s struggles from 50 yards and out, but the kicker has been flawless on field goal tries in the fourth quarter since 2010. Cundifff is a perfect 14-for-14 after connecting on a 39-yard field goal with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter on Thursday night.

- The Ravens are now 9-2 all time when wearing their black jerseys, including a 6-0 mark under coach John Harbaugh. It was the fourth time Baltimore has donned the alternate jersey with white pants, a look in which the Ravens are undefeated

The win over San Francisco improved the Ravens’ mark in prime-time games to 9-5 under Harbaugh and earned them their first Thursday win in four tries. The Ravens had previously lost Thursday night games against Kansas City in 1999, Cincinnati in 2006, and Atlanta in 2010.

The Ravens are now 29-5 when scoring first in a game during the Harbaugh era. Cundiff’s 39-yard field goal in the first quarter gave them a 3-0 lead, and Baltimore improved to 6-0 when striking first this season.

Baltimore is now 8-3 for just the second time in team history, matching its mark through 11 games last season. However, the impressive record trails the 9-2 start the Ravens posted when it finished a franchise-best 13-3 in 2006.

 

 

Comments (0)

7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

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

7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Having had just over 24 hours to digest (and regurgitate) the Ravens loss to the Jaguars, here are my 7 points to ponder from the Ravens disappointing performance on Monday night in Jacksonville, a veritable touchdown of takeaways in honor of the Ravens lone TD in the game.

 

 

Point #1 – This might be the best defensive performance we’ve seen from these Ravens in a long time.

 

Unlike their turnover driven performances against Pittsburgh and the Jets, this was smash mouth, “punch you in the face” defense. The 12 points that the Jags scored in the game were tough to come by. Ray Rice’s 1st quarter fumble set the Jags up for a 51-yard field goal if they had simply kicked it immediately on 1st down, in hindsight not a bad idea. Instead the Jags, pulling out all the stops, drove to the 1-yard line and converted on a 4th and 2 in the process before Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled the ball back to the Ravens. The ensuing possession had Sam Koch punting from his own end zone. Again, if the Jags had kicked immediately on first down, the field goal attempt would have been 51-yards from the spot where the drive started. Three negative yards, a timeout and a tough decision later, Jack Del Rio and the Jags were kicking from 54-yards and taking a 3-0 lead.

 

The second field goal for Josh Scobee and company, another ambitious 54-yarder, came only after a Paul Kruger running into the kicker call negated a Jags punt and improved their field position as a result.

 

The Jags 3rd field goal was the result of their most impressive drive in the game, a drive 16 plays in duration and one that arguably should have ended at 5 plays with a punt if not for a terrible unnecessary roughness penalty on Bernard Pollard. Another stop for the Ravens at the 7-yard line was nullified by a Brendon Ayanbadejo penalty and ejection. The 3 points they yielded on that series was ultimately a relief despite it putting the margin at 2 scores, the 8 minutes and 30 seconds they spent getting there might have been an even bigger win for the Jags.

 

And of course the 4th filed goal came after the decision to try and onsides kick at 2:02 of the 4th quarter and was the result of a 4-yard drive.

 

At the end of the day it was a shutout caliber performance by the defense, spoiled by circumstance and bad luck.

 

 

Point #2 – The Ravens were in the shotgun way too much.

 

The Ravens officially ran 38 passing plays and just 12 running plays against the Jags. In the aftermath of the defeat, those numbers have been heavily criticized and deservedly so. In a game as close as that one was, that type of imbalance is all but inexcusable for a team of the Ravens offensive identity. That said, that’s life in the modern NFL, and had the Ravens won, no one would have batted an eye.

 

That Ray Rice only had 8 “touches” has been a bit overstated though as he also had 5 catches on 8 targets in the passing game. Furthermore down and distance have a lot to do with making running opportunities available and the fact that the Ravens offense only ran 25 plays in total in Monday’s first half, 8 of which were 3rd downs explains the imbalance somewhat.

 

What’s tough to explain from where I sit is why the Ravens felt compelled to tip their hands out of the running game as readily as they did on Monday.

 

By my unofficial count, the Ravens lined up 46 times on Monday either in the shotgun formation or with Flacco under center and intending to pass (this includes sacks and penalties). Of those 46 plays, 14 snaps under center were passes leaving 32 snaps from the shotgun.

 

On each of those shotgun snaps the Ravens seemed to go to silent counts with no cadence from Flacco at all. Instead, Marshal Yanda would watch for Flacco’s foot pump and then tap Matt Birk on the leg. Once Birk felt the tap, he’d rock back and snap in a predictable rhythm. I say predictable, but in fairness it appears the Jags got caught jumping offsides at least twice while trying to anticipate the snap. That said, that means there were 30 other plays where they conceivably timed it correctly. Surely this had something to do with the effectiveness the Jags were having with simple 4 and 5-man rushes.

 

That Jacksonville generates enough crowd noise to dictate the Ravens using a silent count in the shotgun is strange (especially after watching Matt Ryan direct the no huddle in Detroit last week). That Flacco is looking less and less like a quarterback during these scenarios is debatable in its impact perhaps, that the Ravens are essentially declaring that Ray Rice running the ball (a staple of the Ravens attack) is not an option and giving the defense a timing mechanism with which to start their jump at the line is absolutely baffling.

 

That Flacco looked so out of sorts when trying to direct a hurried offense when the Ravens needed him to may speak to the limited control he’s given of his offense pre-snap throughout the game.

 

 

Point #3 – Home field advantage may be more important than ever this year.

 

The Ravens have played 3 road games against 3 very bad teams and have looked good for exactly one quarter of one game. They’ve lost 2 road games to teams that had no business playing with them on paper, and while we all know that’s why they play the games, it’s un-Raven-like to say the least.

 

Your glass could easily be half empty or half full regarding the Ravens road successes and failures in the playoffs in the last 3 years and concerning the path that led them there and the missed opportunities to have games at home. If the Ravens are going to have a real shot this season in the playoffs, getting there will only be half the battle. These Ravens thrive on home cooking it seems.

 

 

Point #4 – This is not the same old offense.

 

It may be the same old result, but it’s not the same old offense. Don’t let your lingering frustration from the previous regime cloud your point of view. This isn’t even the same offense they had last year. Much less the Billick offense or the unbalanced run heavy (literally) attack of 2008. Call them crutches, call them security blankets, call them whatever you want, but Flacco knew where Mason and Heap were going to be all of the time it seemed. This new group…not so much.

 

The offensive line was an ambitious experiment to begin with putting 3 of 5 opening week starters in positions that they hadn’t even played in the pre-season together spoke to the possibility of tough sledding. The number of plug-ins necessitated by injuries on the line already only serves to perpetuate that problem. That the offensive line is struggling shouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe the bigger surprise should be how good they have looked at times. Either way they project to get better as time allows them to continue to evolve.

 

Anquan Boldin and two second year tight ends are the long tenured members of the receiving corps already, rookie LaQuan Williams seems to be playing more wide receiver as a rookie for the Ravens than he ever did as a collegiate for the Terps and Lee Evans has been a non-factor.

 

It stands to reason that this offense would struggle and will again, check back on them around week 13 or so, once the weather has changed, to see how well primed they are for the playoffs.

 

 

Point #5 – There’s lots of finger pointing going around.

 

Harbaugh pointing at Cundiff, Suggs pointing at Cam, the fans and the media joining Suggs in pointing at Cam and at Flacco too, everybody it seems blames somebody, and everybody just might be right. For a 4-2 team though this has to be at least a little bit unnerving.

 

This was a lot funnier when it was coming from the Jets locker room a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

Point #6 – You can’t blame apathy again.

 

When the Ravens lost to Tennessee apathy could have been to blame. Whether it was actually the case or not, it was easy for everyone to simply dismiss the loss as the Ravens were riding too high after a win against Pittsburgh or that the Ravens simply didn’t come to play. On the surface you might be tempted to say the same about Jacksonville, but it simply can’t be true.

 

As pointed out in Point #1, the Ravens defense did come to play. It was the defense that should have and could have been riding high and resting on their laurels, but they didn’t. It was the offense that failed to perform on Monday. The offense has been feeling the proverbial heat of criticism for weeks, and while folks were surely taking the Jags as a whole lightly, no one was discounting their defense. The Jags needed a big performance to have any chance against the Ravens on Monday; everyone knew that, including the Ravens.

 

Apathy may never be a legitimate excuse, here it absolutely wasn’t.

 

 

Point #7 – There are deep waters in the AFC North.

 

The sting of Monday’s loss was surely agitated by the fact that it represented a loss of first place in the division (at least mathematically) to the 5-2 Steelers. It also puts the Ravens in a tie with the surprisingly 4-2 Bengals and just a game ahead of the 3-3 Browns. This isn’t your dad’s AFC North it seems, and the 5 games the Ravens have left in the division are looking scarier by the minute.

Comments Off

With Ravens fans snickering at Mason, has Boldin received a free pass in Baltimore?

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

With Ravens fans snickering at Mason, has Boldin received a free pass in Baltimore?

Posted on 12 October 2011 by Luke Jones

After Derrick Mason’s abrupt departure from the New York Jets on Tuesday night, many fans have offered their zingers and potshots at the former Ravens receiver, whose poor production and crumbling relationship with the Jets coaching staff led to him being traded to the Houston Texans for a seventh-round pick.

While I couldn’t resist making a snide comment or two about the whole situation, I’m mystified at the amount of disdain hurled toward the Ravens’ all-time leading receiver who caught 29 touchdowns in his six seasons in Baltimore. Yes, he could be a cranky diva — not unlike most productive wide receivers, mind you — but far too many are discrediting his work. The reliability he provided for a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco, who was thrown into the starting lineup out of necessity in 2008, turned a potentially disastrous situation into one of the most enjoyable seasons the Ravens have ever had and sparked a promising career of a franchise quarterback.

Yes, it was time for Mason and the team to part ways, especially with the 37-year-old’s high salary-cap number in 2011, as many expected his production to be absorbed by veteran Anquan Boldin in his second season with the Ravens.

Follow BaltimoreLuke on Twitter

And that brings us to a different topic entirely.

Through four games in 2011, Boldin has just 15 catches for 222 yards and a lone touchdown catch on the Ravens’ first drive of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11. It follows his 2010 season in which the former Arizona Cardinals wideout caught 64 balls for 837 yards and seven touchdowns. The only season in which Boldin had fewer receptions and receiving yards was his second season in 2004 when he played in only 10 games.

In comparison, Mason has 13 receptions for 115 yards in five games as the No. 3 receiver in New York before the trade to Houston on Tuesday. I mention this not to suggest that the Ravens should have kept Mason, but it poses an interesting, and largely unspoken, question with Boldin’s numbers not exactly blowing Mason’s out of the water by leaps and bounds.

Has Boldin received too much of a pass in his first 20 regular-season games in Baltimore?

We’ve seen all the explanations.

He, Mason, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were too similar in what they did best as receivers.

Boldin matches up against the opposition’s No. 1 cornerback and deals with bracketed coverage on a regular basis.

Flacco hasn’t developed the same rapport with Boldin as he enjoyed with Mason and doesn’t target him enough while going through his progressions.

And — of course — it’s offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s fault for not finding better ways to get the ball to Boldin in the offense.

While all of these explanations undoubtedly factor into the equation to varying degrees, at what point do we begin to wonder whether the Ravens really got their money’s worth when trading third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona a year ago and signing Boldin to a three-year, $25 million extension through 2013 with $10 million guaranteed?

When do we begin looking at Boldin himself?

That’s not to say Boldin has been a bad player in Baltimore. Far from it, in fact. The 31-year-old has shown mostly-reliable hands other than a critical drop in the end zone in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ heartbreaking 31-24 loss to the Steelers in the AFC divisional round last January. He had three 100-yard games a year ago, including a three-touchdown explosion against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.

But, he’s yet to show himself as even a proper replacement for Mason during his best seasons in Baltimore, much less the impact receiver Ravens fans thought they were getting a season ago.

For those pointing to the injury of Lee Evans and the lack of talented receivers to deflect attention from Boldin, Mason wasn’t exactly reaping the benefits of playing opposite Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams over the years, but he still found ways to be very productive.

The great ones are able to find space to get open in order to produce, even when the circumstances are far from ideal as they are right now in Baltimore, with the Ravens relying heavily on unproven rookie receivers in Evans’ absence.

With the offense still searching for its identity in an otherwise successful 3-1 start, the Ravens would sure benefit from a Mason-like — or even better — boost from Boldin, in whom they invested a lot after seven superb seasons in Arizona where he became the fastest player to reach 400, 500, and 600 catches in NFL history.

We’ve seen flashes of the Boldin who teamed with Larry Fitzgerald to form one of the most feared receiving tandems of the last decade, but the consistency just hasn’t been there to the degree that anyone expected.

Perhaps the surge is finally coming after the bye when you consider the lack of an offseason and how that might have stunted his development with Flacco. Or, maybe this is all we’re going to get from Boldin.

So, before we continue finding amusement in what’s amounted to a humbling conclusion to Mason’s playing career — yes, much of it his own doing — ask yourself a question.

Are we sure the Ravens are really that much better off without him?

Boldin’s numbers don’t support it.

At least, not yet.

Comments Off

Ravens to see Derrick Mason for second straight game

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ravens to see Derrick Mason for second straight game

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Luke Jones

Several Ravens defensive players reveled in the opportunity to hit former teammate Derrick Mason when the New York Jets came to M&T Bank Stadium two Sundays ago.

They’ll apparently get another opportunity this week as the Houston Texans have traded a conditional draft pick to the New York Jets for the 37-year-old wide receiver, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. The compensation will reportedly be a seventh-round pick, per Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com.

Needing help at the receiver position after losing dynamic playmaker Andre Johnson against the Steelers two weeks ago, the Texans will hope Mason has something left in the tank after he played five unproductive games with the Jets. It was apparent Mason’s relationship with the New York coaching staff was crumbling after he was benched in the first half of the Jets’ loss to the Patriots on Sunday amid reports of Mason complaining about his role in the offense.

Mason had just 13 catches for 115 yards in five games for the Jets and was supplanted by Jeremy Kerley as the Jets’ No. 3 receiver on Sunday.

Comments Off

Injured Ravens S Nakamura biggest regret in missing Jets-Ravens? Hitting Derrick Mason

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Injured Ravens S Nakamura biggest regret in missing Jets-Ravens? Hitting Derrick Mason

Posted on 01 October 2011 by Ryan Chell

Helpless.

Haruki Nakamura

That’s how Ravens safety Haruki Nakamura felt last Sunday in the Ravens 37-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams after suffering a knee injury on a punt return with 0:27 seconds left in the first quarter.

“Usually if I can, I’m going to walk off the field on my own power,” he told Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Thursday. “That’s just how I’ve always been. I hate getting carried off the field.”

“It was one of those things, and when I was out there on my hands and knees and I couldn’t catch my breath-it was something I had never felt before.”

And what’s worse was he felt it was a low blow for a team getting blown out by the end of the first quarter.

“We were rushing the punter and we were 30 or 40 yards off the ball,” Nakamura told Clark. “Some guy came up from behind me and pushed me dead in the back.”

“He slammed me on the turf, so basically it was a cheap shot that’s going to put me out for a couple weeks,” Nakamura said.

Nakamura injured his PCL ligament in his right knee on the play, and the Ravens coaching staff initially feared that the safety would miss a considerable amount of time-maybe even the whole season-with a torn knee.

Luckily for John Harbaugh and the Ravens, an MRI only showed a sprain to the ligament and Nakamura told Clark that he could return after the bye week three Sundays from now against the Houston Texans.

“I think I’m the only lucky guy whose ever sprained it,” Nakamura laughed. “You never really hear about that injury, but it’s kind of weird that it happened to me.

Nakamura was just glad to hear that he could return to the football field in a matter of weeks as opposed to a year.

“Initially the doctors told me it was torn,” he said. “You can imagine what went through my head when I heard that…but [this] is easy to come back from.”

What makes it even worse for Nakamura is that he’s going to miss one of the biggest games of the year against his former coach in Rex Ryan and the Jets.

He’s already experienced that frustration this week at Owings Mills being in the training room all day while his teammates are out at practice.

“I’ve just been rehabbing very hard…actually I’ve been kind of bored…”, Nakamura admitted.

Still, he knows what Rex is going to bring to the table defensively Sunday night, and he knows that his other teammates share those similar expectations.

“You can almost call their plays,” Nakamura said. “The thing with Rex is it’s all about timing. Him and Mike Pettine have great timing when to call pressures and when to hold back.”

Nakamura put on his coaching hat and said that in order to beat the Jets and shut Rex Ryan up, you have to hit them in the mouth on both sides of the ball.

“We don’t back down from anything. We’re going to go right at them. That’s always been our approach and we’re not going to let them dictate our gameplan.”

His last regret?

Not being able to hit former Raven WR Derrick Mason going over the middle.

“It’s like hitting your brother. It’s all part of the game, ” Nakamura replied. “Obviously we’re not going to take it easy on Mase just cause he was here. It’s going to be a fun game.”

WNST thanks Haruki Nakamura for joining Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” If you missed the interview, check it out at the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault and be sure to tune in Sunday at 6PM for your “Nasty Purple Pre-Game Show” leading up to kickoff!

Comments Off

Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday night

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

Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday night

Posted on 01 October 2011 by Luke Jones

Three weeks into the season, I’m still trying to figure out just how good the Ravens really are — or will be — in 2011.

A seven-turnover blowout win over their bitter rival, an embarrassing loss in Tennessee, and a 30-point victory over the hapless Rams don’t exactly allow you to draw a definitive conclusion, but that’s why they play the games.

On the other hand, the Jets’ two wins over Dallas and Jacksonville before being shredded by the Oakland Raiders leave you scratching your head even more.

The storylines don’t need to be rehashed again. These coaches and players know each other very well, making for a highly-competitive matchup at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night. It’s a conference game with possible playoff implications down the road, so don’t let the early Week 4 billing fool you in its significance.

Here’s what to expect when Rex Ryan’s Jets visit John Harbaugh’s Ravens on Sunday night …

1. The Jets will spread out the Baltimore defense with three- and four-receiver sets to exploit a thin secondary. A tenuous situation at cornerback grew even worse on Friday with the news that veteran Chris Carr is questionable for Sunday after re-aggravating the hamstring injury he’s fought since the preseason. Couple that with the decision to place Domonique Foxworth on injured reserve, and the Ravens may be looking at former practice-squad player Danny Gorrer and rookie Chykie Brown as their only reserve cornerbacks behind Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams. If the Ravens are unable to pressure Mark Sanchez, they will be eaten alive by the receiving trio of Raven killer Santonio Holmes, the 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress, and the old veteran Derrick Mason, who will have extra motivation to show up his former team.

2. Tight end Dustin Keller and running back LaDainian Tomlinson will exploit the Ravens linebackers in coverage. As mentioned in the previous point, the Ravens will need to send heat to make Sanchez uncomfortable and help an undermanned secondary. That will leave the defense vulnerable underneath as Sanchez loves to throw the ball to his favorite target Keller (16 catches for 249 yards). It’s no secret the Baltimore linebackers are often exposed in coverage by talented tight ends and running backs releasing out of the backfield. Baltimore may be able to bring enough heat on Sanchez to curtail Holmes from burning the Ravens again, but Keller and Tomlinson (12 catches, 196 yards) are going to have productive days as receivers.

3. Torrey Smith will not follow up his record day in St. Louis with a productive night — statistically speaking. The rookie will likely never have another first quarter like he did against the Rams last week, but the performance serves a bigger purpose for the rest of the season, especially not knowing the status of Lee Evans’ injured ankle moving forward. Smith is likely to struggle with the physicality and overall talent of Antonio Cromartie, who will likely match up with the former Maryland standout. However, the Ravens will still send Smith on vertical patterns to keep the Jets defense honest and, more importantly, create space for Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice, and the Ravens tight ends to work underneath. Predicting a productive day for Boldin is tough with Darrelle Revis locked on him, but the veteran will find some room to help move the chains. Smith may not log more than a reception or two, but his work in St. Louis could pay dividends in keeping opposing defenses cognizant of where he is on the field at all times.

4. Ray Rice will have 130 total yards and a touchdown against a Jets defense desperate to stop the run. Much has been said about New York’s 31st-ranked run defense after Raiders running back Darren McFadden ran for 171 yards against the Jets a week ago, but the Ravens aren’t buying the Jets’ early struggles. Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will be desperate to shut down the Baltimore running game, so Rice may not see as much running room. However, Joe Flacco’s ability to get Rice the ball in space will pay off in the passing game with Revis and Cromartie looming in the secondary. He won’t go for 100 on the ground, but Rice will more than make up for it catching passes out of the backfield and will score a touchdown against the New York defense.

5. The Ravens will win a 24-20 nail-biter with more points than you’d expect because of turnovers from both sides. Considering last year’s 10-9 final between these teams in their regular-season opener, it’s almost unthinkable to expect 44 points to be scored on Sunday night. However, both quarterbacks will see a variety of different looks in potential blitz packages and coverages, which will lead to confusion for Flacco and Sanchez. A few turnovers will lead to short fields and, potentially, a defensive score or two. The Ravens, however, are the more complete football team at the beginning of October and will improve to 3-1 before using a much-needed bye to rest several injured players.

Comments Off

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

For Whatever Bad, Evans & Dickson Supplied Plenty Good in Ravens Win

Posted on 25 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — It’s not as if Baltimore Ravens fans were likely to forget former WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap.

The duo totaled 938 catches for 11,269 yards and 70 touchdowns during 16 combined seasons in Charm City.

Both were released before the start of Training Camp for salary cap reasons and found new homes. Mason with the New York Jets, Heap with the Arizona Cardinals.

They were great Baltimore Ravens and will never be forgotten.

With all of that said, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and company have to be pleased with the early returns they’ve seen from WR Lee Evans and TE Dickson; which could go a long way in helping the organization move past the Mason/Heap era.

Evans and Dickson each made contributions to the Ravens’ 34-31 preseason win over the Washington Redskins Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Dickson made three catches for 57 yards in the win, Evans added three catches for 60 yards-including an impressive field-stretching 35 yard touchdown strike from QB Joe Flacco.

Neither was the team’s leading receiver (WR Anquan Boldin grabbed five balls for 73 yards and a touchdown); but the contributions of each were significant in helping Flacco bounce back from an early interception which was returned by Skins CB DeAngelo Hall for a TD.

“I think we started off a little slow, obviously” said Flacco. “It took us a drive to kind of pick it up from there, and you don’t want to see that. But I think we responded pretty well. We responded well with two drives. We went down there and put the ball in the end zone three times tonight. We came out strong in the second half and finished off a drive, so I think we’ve got to be pretty happy with where we are.”

(Flacco finished the game 17/27 for 219 yards and two TD’s to go with that pick.)

The contributions of both are particularly noteworthy considering how quickly they had to adapt to new roles.

Dickson fell into the starting TE role just 31 days before the Redskins game; but did not begin practicing until August 13 due to a hamstring injury. Evans also began working with his new quarterback on August 13, just a day after being traded to Baltimore from the Buffalo Bills.

In less than two weeks, there is already a clear comfort level between Flacco and the two new starters.

“I think we’re still getting better” said Evans. “We’re still in Training Camp mode, but each day, we come out here and get better. We realize this is one of the last opportunities we’re going to have to tune-up, so we just want(ed) to come out here and try to put a good game together. I think we showed a lot of character early on after we were down, so that part of it was good.”

Seeing chemistry between the quarterback and Evans/Dickson in the third preseason game was especially critical considering Head Coach John Harbaugh is unlikely to want to play his starters in the team’s fourth preseason game next Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.

This will likely be the last time Flacco, Dickson and Evans work together in a game situation until the Ravens face a critical early test September 11th against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers back at M&T Bank Stadium.

It’s been a strange preseason for the trio (along with the rest of the National Football League), but they will not be granted any extra time to prepare. In roughly two weeks, they have to play one of the most important games they’ll play all season.

“We have a long ways to go before we get to that September 11 game” said Dickson. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to be ‘popping out of our skin’ so-to-say. That’s a quote of coach Harbaugh, which basically means we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got another two weeks to go before that game, but we’re going to try to get better every day.”

The good news is that they look to be clicking as the game approaches.

Not all offensive questions were answered in the victory. The Ravens struggled badly again along the offensive line, but they hope the impending returns of C Matt Birk (knee) and RG Marshal Yanda (back) will help; combined with a potential shift to RT for Michael Oher and the impending addition of free agent LT Bryant McKinnie.

Additionally, rookie receiver Torrey Smith (Maryland) did little to make fans breathe easier with two early drops. Smith was expected to be the team’s third receiver, but has struggled while on the field.

They’re far from perfect at this point, but they’ve taken big steps in the right direction in a short amount of time. Evans’ long TD haul was a sight for Ravens fans who have longed for a receiver who could truly extend the field. Dickson’s first half 30 yard grab was reminiscent of plays a younger Heap would make regularly on the same field.

Ravens fans won’t necessarily be without concern, but any lingering concerns about the team’s decision to let their veteran playmakers move on seem to be disappearing more and more each day.

Of course, it’s still the preseason.

-G

Comments Off