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Former Ravens coordinator Kubiak going to Super Bowl 50

Posted on 24 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Gary Kubiak had every intention of staying with the Ravens until his dream job suddenly opened up.

A year later, the former offensive coordinator is now going to the Super Bowl. A strong effort by his defense led the Denver Broncos to a 20-18 win over New England, giving Kubiak a shot at his first NFL championship as a head coach.

In his only season in Baltimore, Kubiak not only fixed an abysmal running game, but the Ravens set franchise records by scoring 25.6 points per game and producing 364.9 yards per game. After the season-ending playoff loss to New England last January, the 54-year-old declined interview requests from other NFL teams and even issued a statement that he would be staying with the Ravens before the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox the next day.

The subsequent call from former teammate and longtime friend John Elway was the “game-changer” for Kubiak, who had previously spent a combined 20 years in Denver as a player and assistant coach. The Ravens hired current offensive coordinator Marc Trestman soon after Kubiak became the head coach in Denver.

Two other ex-Ravens had big days for Denver on Sunday as tight end Owen Daniels caught two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in the first half and safety Darian Stewart intercepted a Tom Brady pass in Broncos territory in the second quarter. Stewart later left the game with a knee injury, but he told reporters after the AFC championship game that he expected to be ready for Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif. on Feb. 7.

Three other former Ravens will meet Denver in the Super Bowl as Michael Oher, Ed Dickson, and Dwan Edwards were part of Carolina’s dominating 49-15 win over Arizona. While Oher started at left tackle for the Panthers, Edwards had a tackle and a quarterback hit as part of the defensive line rotation and Dickson failed to rein in two passes from quarterback Cam Newton.

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Ravens-related thoughts from divisional round

Posted on 18 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Ravens fans undoubtedly took satisfaction from watching Pittsburgh lose to Denver in the divisional round on Sunday, but you couldn’t help but be in awe of the Steelers’ speed at the wide receiver position.

Playing without arguably the best receiver in the NFL in Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger still threw for over 300 yards against the Broncos’ top-ranked pass defense thanks to a 154-yard receiving day from Martavis Bryant as well as contributions from the speedy trio of Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Markus Wheaton. Having caught just one pass in the regular season, the rookie Coates caught two passes for 61 yards to show off the speed that Pittsburgh barely even used in 2015 after taking him in the third round out of Auburn.

That collection of speed nearly overcame a depleted running game that was without DeAngelo Williams as Bryant’s 40-yard run in the first quarter helped set up the Steelers’ lone touchdown of the game. Of course, speed isn’t everything — just ask Pittsburgh’s colossal 2014 third-round bust Dri Archer — but you could easily understand why Joe Flacco cited the AFC North rival’s offense when asked at the end of the season whether he believes the Ravens need to add more speed to the passing game.

“You see what speed does. It does a lot for football teams,” Flacco said. “You see what the Steelers are doing with the speed that they’ve added over the last couple years. It definitely makes a difference out there. I’m not saying that it’s something that we need, but when we’ve had it here, it’s definitely made a little bit of a difference. It helps.”

If the Ravens want to close the gap with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the AFC North, they must find more speed at the receiver position in addition to hoping that 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman is fully recovered from the partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that cost him his entire rookie season. Watching the Steelers on Sunday was just a reminder that Baltimore was playing a different game in 2015 with receivers incapable of consistently gaining separation or running away from anyone.

The combination of Kamar Aiken and a returning Steve Smith — Jeremy Butler also showed some promise late in the season — should leave the Ravens in good shape in terms of possession receivers, but general manager Ozzie Newsome needs to find another high-end speed guy to go with the unproven Perriman, whether that player comes via free agency or the draft.

When asked at the season-ending press conference, Newsome made it very clear that he would like to add another receiver or two this offseason. Fans will just hope one will make a substantial impact unlike the late-round picks over the last several drafts who’ve been nothing more than roster filler.

The Ravens have an abundance of No. 5 and No. 6 options, but they need to aim higher when looking for a wide receiver this offseason.

Up-and-down Sunday for ex-Ravens

While former Ravens such as Michael Oher, Ed Dickson, Dwan Edwards, Darian Stewart, and Owen Daniels helped their respective teams move closer to Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, ex-Raven Fitz Toussaint wore the goat horns for the Steelers.

The running back’s fumble with 10 minutes to play not only ended a potential scoring drive, but it was the catalyst for Denver’s only touchdown drive of the game in a 23-16 final. Even as Ravens fans took delight in watching Pittsburgh lose, you couldn’t help but feel for the 2014 rookie free agent from Michigan who was very emotional after the game.

Toussaint has received more postseason carries (31) than regular-season rushing attempts (24) in his first two NFL seasons and had 118 total yards in Pittsburgh’s win over Cincinnati, but Sunday is a day he’ll surely want to forget despite scoring his first NFL touchdown in the first quarter.

Coverage linebackers

It’s almost unfair to compare most linebackers to Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis in Carolina, but the Ravens need to find a way to improve their pass coverage with that positional group.

Still one of the better coverage linebackers in the league when the Ravens signed him three years ago, Daryl Smith clearly floundered in that department to the point that second-year linebacker Zach Orr was replacing him in the nickel package late in the season. More concerning, however, were the continued struggles of C.J. Mosley in pass coverage in his second season.

After Mosley became the first rookie to make the Pro Bowl in franchise history, many concluded he would be the next great Ravens defensive player, but 2015 didn’t go as smoothly for him. To his credit, the Alabama product overcame a slow start to play better as the season progressed, but he must improve in pass coverage if he’s to take his game from good to great.

Nod to Manning

This item isn’t related to the Ravens, but I find myself becoming an unabashed supporter for Peyton Manning at this late stage of his career.

You don’t have to be an NFL scout to recognize he’s a shell of his former self physically, but he also wasn’t responsible for a number of dropped passes from Broncos receivers that would have made for a very respectable day against Pittsburgh if some had been secured.

We all break down in various ways as we get older — the man underwent multiple neck surgeries in 2011 and still threw an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes and won the MVP two years later at age 37 — but instead of laughing over Manning’s decline, I appreciate seeing one of the greatest players in NFL history trying to use his incomparable football intellect and years of experience to overcome a once-powerful arm that won’t cooperate anymore. After years at the top of the mountain, Manning has strangely become the underdog trying to hold on at the end of his career.

Even if you’re not rooting for him, that fight still deserves respect.

Manning and the Broncos look like the least likely of the four remaining teams to raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Santa Clara next month, but I’ll be happy for him if he’s somehow still standing in the end — even if everyone will obnoxiously remind you over and over that it was more about Denver’s stout defense than him.

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Mocking The 53: A Positional Breakdown of Ravens Roster

Posted on 08 June 2011 by Glenn Clark

Here is my first offseason/preseason ranking of the players who are currently property of the Baltimore Ravens or who were property of the team at the end of the 2010 season.

This list INCLUDES players who are not under contract-whether they are tendered restricted free agents, draft picks, exclusive rights free agents or even players who are expected to reach unrestricted free agency this offseason.

Unlike in the past, I will do this list by position as I attempt to further explain how the team’s roster currently shapes up.

I apologize for my delay in putting this compilation together. Blame Gary Williams…and the Triple Crown…and the team’s practices at Towson University…and my own laziness.

Obviously there is much to be done before any of this matters, but this is simply “as the roster stands now” analysis.

Quarterbacks (4):
Joe Flacco
Marc Bulger (UFA)
Tyrod Taylor
Hunter Cantwell

tyrod

The quarterback position is still in much less than full clarity at this point.

Joe Flacco has been a NFL quarterback for  55 games, including the playoffs. Joe Flacco has played every snap in 55 of those 55 games.

A season ago, the Ravens took a slight risk by parting ways with two backups-trading John Beck to the Washington Redskins during Training Camp and releasing Troy Smith after the preseason finale in St. Louis. They decided to carry only two active quarterbacks, paying a hefty price for veteran backup Marc Bulger.

Bulger appears to be out in Charm City, with most in the league believing he is destined to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens knew they’d need to address quarterback depth during the draft and did so by selecting the explosive former Virginia Tech Hokies star (Taylor-pictured above) in the 6th round.

While Taylor (who hails from the quarterback hotbed of Hampton, Virginia) certainly has a number of supporters who believe him capable of being a legitimate starter in the league-he will not play that role in Baltimore unless there is turmoil this season one way or another (injury or failure).

Flacco is the starter. Taylor will have a great chance of making the roster. The real question facing the team is how else to address the position. It is believed that the Ravens will pursue another veteran QB of sorts when (if?) free agency finally begins. Miami Dolphins QB Chad Pennington has been a much rumored name the team could consider pursuing.

Should the Ravens not acquire a veteran free agent to backup Flacco, Cantwell could remain in the mix. He spent the entire 2010 season on the team’s practice squad-but has in the past been an active part of the Carolina Panthers’ roster.

With Taylor unlikely to be let go (or placed at risk of being taken away by trying to move him to the practice squad) but also unlikely to be the primary backup early in his career, it is fairly safe to assume the team will keep three quarterbacks this season.

Running Backs/Fullbacks (8):
Ray Rice
Le’Ron McClain
Willis McGahee
Jalen Parmele
Matt Lawrence
Jason McKie
Anthony Allen
Curtis Steele

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Rice is obviously the team’s “featured” back. The issue for Cam Cameron’s offense this offseason is figuring out how to complement the fourth year back moving forward.

The worst kept secret in football is that the Ravens intend to part ways with McGahee because he is unwilling to take a cut from the $6 million he is owed. Should McGahee find the market slim there would always be a chance he could look towards Baltimore again, but it certainly appears unlikely.

With McGahee apparently gone, the Ravens will have to build their backfield without him. One option is McClain, who had his best season yet as a true fullback in 2010 (despite the fact that he was actually passed over for Pro Bowl recognition by Houston Texans FB Vonta Leach) but who has made clear his desire to carry the football more often.

McClain was initially thought to be on the cusp of reaching free agency this offseason (and departing), but without a new CBA McClain (and other fourth and fifth year players) would likely remain under contract. McClain’s size and potential goal line/short distance ability make him potentially a solid complement for Rice.

Should the Ravens move McClain into that role, they would likely need to consider keeping McKie or otherwise improving the fullback position. McKie was a non-factor during his brief stay at the end of the 2010 season-but could be a viable option in a thin market.

Parmele (pictured above) is the wild card in the backfield. The coaching staff has remained high on him throughout his time in Baltimore (and he has connections with Cameron dating back to the Dolphins). Parmele has remained a value special teams player (and is a viable return option), but he has run the ball only seven times in his career.

Lawrence, Allen and Steele are all question marks (and possibly longshots) to make the roster. Lawrence is a talented special teams player but missed the 2010 season with a torn ACL. Allen (the team’s 7th round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft) is hoping his 6’1″, 228 pound frame is enough to get him on the roster. Steele spent the 2010 season on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis. The team liked his quick hitting ability, but he will have an uphill climb-especially if there is no Training Camp.

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

Posted on 22 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RB Evan Royster (Penn State)

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

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

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

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

WR Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic)

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

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

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

DE Justin Trattou (Florida)

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

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

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

S Jermale Hines (Ohio State)

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

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

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

WR Terrence Toliver (LSU)

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

Exactly.

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

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

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

6’5″.

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

FB Anthony Sherman (UConn)

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

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

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

OT Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada)

I know what you’re thinking.

“Canada?”

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

1-He’s 6’10.”

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

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

RB Da’Rel Scott (Maryland)

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

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

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

QB Ricky Dobbs (Navy)

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

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

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

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

QB Pat Devlin (Delaware)

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

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

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

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

-G

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Best From Week 1 to Week 17-Ngata My Choice For Ravens MVP

Posted on 05 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

In past years, voting for Baltimore Ravens MVP has been particularly simple.

In 2003, no one would have really needed to consider anyone not named Jamal Lewis for the honor.

In 2006, there was hardly an argument that Steve McNair didn’t deserve the award.

Just a season ago, I fired back the name “Ray Rice” about as quickly as I had received my MVP ballot.

Yet when ballots were sent out last week for the 2010 version of the honor, my deliberation process was a bit lengthier.

Plenty of Baltimore Ravens players had solid seasons in 2010.

LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed, LB Terrell Suggs and K Billy Cundiff were all very deserving of their Pro Bowl nods. Each could very well be considered in this conversation.

Suggs and Reed in particular were exceptional at times; Suggs collecting 11 sacks and forcing two fumbles, Reed tallying a league leading eight interceptions despite missing the first six games while on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

QB Joe Flacco is also deserving of consideration. P Sam Koch is as well. OL Ben Grubbs would at least have to be on the list, as would RB Rice, CB Josh Wilson and WR’s Anquan Boldin Derrick Mason.

In fact, my 2-10 on the list would be (in order): Suggs, Reed, Lewis, Flacco, Koch, Cundiff, Rice, Boldin and Mason. Wilson would be right after that group.
But when it came to determining one individual winner, one player really stood out.

From Week 1 in the Meadowlands against the New York Jets to Week 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium, there was no better Raven than DT Haloti Ngata.

That’s why he was my choice for Ravens MVP.

Statistically, Ngata might stand out in the way other players do. However, he posted a career high in sacks (5.5), and tied career highs in tackles (63) and pass deflections (5).

He did it in a season where he was asked to play multiple positions along the defensive line; including a number of snaps at Rush End after the team waived veteran DE Trevor Pryce.

The Ravens finished the season with the 5th best run defense (93.9 ypg) in the NFL. They allowed more than 150 yards rushing just once all season (173 yards in Week 3 against Peyton Hillis and the Cleveland Browns); they allowed 75 yards rushing or less five times.

This coming after an offseason in which national football writers (and many of us in the local market) speculated the team was going to be stronger offensively than defensively.

But statistics probably don’t do complete justice to Ngata’s value to this football team.

In 2006, there was no hiding from the fact that Lewis (a sure fire future Hall of Famer) wanted a great DT to play behind in order to help extend his career.

In four years, the big man from Oregon has done just that and more. In 2010, a 35 year old Lewis collected 139 tackles (good for 6th in the NFL) and anchored that 5th over rushing defense.

Without Ngata in front of him, it would be fair to question whether or not Lewis would even be playing at this point in his career.

In October, Head Coach John Harbaugh described Ngata as “playing as well as any defensive player in the league (right now).” It wasn’t an exaggeration then and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration now.

There might be some argument that the New England Patriots’ Vince Wilfork is as good an interior D-Lineman as Ngata. There’s definitely an argument that if he hasn’t yet, Detroit Lions DT Ndamukong Suh will soon pass Ngata on the list of the league’s best players at the position.

But for now, Ngata’s the guy.

And that’s really the biggest reason the team’s defense has remained a stellar unit despite the losses of Pryce, DL Justin Bannan and DL Dwan Edwards as well as the season ending torn ACL suffered by CB Domonique Foxworth at the start of Training Camp.

The best statement that can be made about Ngata this season is that there was never a game in which we found ourselves shaking our heads and thinking “what a pedestrian effort from Haloti today” or “are we sure Haloti knew the game kicked off at 1pm?” or “Haloti really hasn’t made an impact today.”

That can’t really be said about the other players in my Top 10.

From Week 1 to Week 17, Haloti Ngata showed up, gave a full effort and made a legitimate impact.

He was REALLY good in 2010. Not only was he the team’s best player, he was also their most valuable.

That’s why he got my vote.

ngata
(Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

-G

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

Posted on 17 November 2010 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

If only it were that simple.

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

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

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

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

Ngata
(Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

And herein lies the problem with the current defense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 21 October 2010 by Glenn Clark

Happy Thursday!

It’s a Happy Thursday for me because I just bought my tickets to the 12:30pm 25th anniversary screening of “Back to the Future” Saturday in White Marsh.

AWE.SOME.

To celebrate the occasion, here’s “Johnny B. Goode” from Marty McFly & The Starlighters. Playing all your 80’s movie hits, right here on WNST.net…

Let’s see what everyone has to say…

1. WNST.net’s Glenn Clark says Ravens split on new NFL head-hunting policy

It’s an interesting dynamic.

Defensive players (like Terrell Suggs) noted that they supported the concept of protecting players, but that they couldn’t afford to alter the way they played the game.

Offensive players (like Willis McGahee) were clearly much more supportive of the idea. Willis joked that he wished Steelers safety Ryan Clark had been given a heavier punishment for his hit in the 2009 AFC Championship Game.

But players on both sides were together in the having only a small level of awkward, uncomfortable support for the strengthening of punishment towards guilty parties.

The real issue is that while players WANT to be protected, they don’t want it to come at a potential monetary cost.

This issue isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s going to be continuously debated until the offseason and the negotiation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Players don’t want to give ANYTHING up. As Ray Lewis pointed out yesterday, they need to “fight it”, even if they might agree with the theory at heart.

And if you think players are divided on the issue now, wait until the first player is suspended for this type of hit. If it’s Dannell Ellerbe, or Haruki Nakamura, or any of those players-it will be an even bigger issue at 1 Winning Drive.

2. The AP’s David Ginsburg says S Ed Reed returned to practice field in Owings Mills Wednesday

And that is CLEARLY a welcome sight to Ravens fans, there’s just no question about that.

That being said, there really is no guarantee that Ed will be on the field this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. My gut says he will-but my gut also says that it could be a more responsible decision for John Harbaugh and company to hold him out and buy themselves two weeks for Ed’s health (and the health of LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-who also returned to practice yesterday) and to make roster decisions.

The one thing that NO ONE can argue with is the fact that the Baltimore Ravens improved yesterday with the return of Ed Reed.

3. BaltimoreRavens.com’s Mike Duffy says Tom Zbikowski, Todd Heap missed practice Wednesday

Harbaugh said Zbikowski “has a chance” to play Sunday-he seemed MUCH more upbeat about the likelihood of Heap getting on the field.

If Zbikowski CAN’T play, I don’t think I’d be alone in suggesting that the Ravens consider going with veteran NFL safety Adam Archuleta…..’s wife Jennifer Walcott. (Thanks The Smoking Jacket!)

walcott

4. National Football Post’s Aaron Wilson says Willis McGahee not upset over benching, ‘happy’ he wasn’t traded

Willis maintained that he wasn’t punished. That’s fine. My guess is that the truth is somewhere close to that, but maybe not EXACTLY that.

In the meantime, Willis also made a point that by not going through as much wear and tear behind Ray Rice as he did earlier in his career, he’s adding years to his career. That’s a great attitude to have-I hope he really believes it.

And like I said, I would have been more than willing to trade Willis McGahee. To Dallas. For Cliff Lee.

Short of that, the Ravens ABSOLUTELY did the right thing in holding on to their veteran back.

5. The Sun’s Jamison Hensley says Buffalo Bills DL Dwan Edwards clarified perceived negative comments about Charm City

A few things before we move on from the Ravens…

-We’ll be back out at 1 Winning Drive today, so make sure you’re following us on Twitter (@WNST), tuned into AM1570 WNST and checking WNST.net for updates. We’re expected to hear from coordinators Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Jerry Rosburg.

-Did you miss Ravens punter Sam Koch with Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Thursday on AM1570 WNST? Make sure you head over to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net today to check it out. Other things you can hear in the Audio Vault include…

  • Harry Swayne (Ravens Director of Player Development)-who shared his Super Bowl XXXV memories with Drew Thursday before Sunday’s reunion
  • Ed Hottle (Mustangs Football Coach)-who joined Drew Thursday for the Stevenson Coaches’ Report
  • Steve Beuerlein (CBS Color Analyst)-who previewed Ravens/Bills with Drew Thursday
  • Our Morning Reaction “Cheap Shots from the Bleachers”-as I took a shot at the UFL and Drew took a shot at Jen Royle
  • Tons of audio from 1 Winning Drive Wednesday-including Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Reed, McGahee, Suggs, Ayanbadejo, Josh Wilson, Haloti Ngata and Derrick Mason
  • Patrick Johnson (Former Ravens WR)-who joined Rex Snider Wednesday on “The Afternoon Drive” to discuss SBXXXV memories
  • Kevin Lempa (Maryland Safeties Coach)-who joined Thyrl Nelson Wednesday for “The Terrapins Coaches Report” to preview Saturday’s game against Boston College
  • Duane Starks (Former Ravens CB)-who joined Thyrl Thursday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” to talk Super Bowl memories
  • Edwin Mulitalo (Former Ravens OL)-who also talked SB memories with Rex Thursday

It’s all in the Audio Vault. I’ve planned your day again. Just say “thank you.”

6. CSNBaltimore.com’s Pete Kerzel says Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones should be Orioles’ ‘untouchables’

Eh…I guess. Matusz for sure, Wieters probably…I could understand a scenario in which Andy MacPhail parted with the others.

You know who else is “untouchable” in my mind? Szorcsik Viktoria. (Thanks Busted Coverage!)

viktoria

7. The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec says Birds won’t get shot at Japanese SS Hiroyuki Nakajima

So instead…GO GET REAL PLAYERS!!!

Jeff of course paints the picture that we’re all afraid of anyway…that this means the Birds will probably bring back Cesar Izturis.

They’ll still have the World Series in October next year, right?

8. The AP says Maryland picked 6th in preseason ACC basketball poll

I feel like this is probably the range where I’d have the Terrapins myself.

I don’t get the feeling they’re going to be a BAD team by any stretch of the imagination. They have plenty of returning talent-starting with Jordan Williams. The question for the guys returning is whether one of Cliff Tucker, Sean Mosley or Adrian Bowie can become a consistent scorer. We’ll have to see.

The other question surrounds trying to get contributions from the newcomers. Mike Parker looks like the guy with the most raw talent, but Ashton Pankey and Terrell Stoglin could be quicker to contribute in their roles.

They’re probably middle of the road-somewhere between 4th and 8th.

6th works.

9. D1scourse’s Patrick Stevens says Gary Williams won’t allow Terrapins to use Twitter during hoops season

This is really interesting. I’m not surprised given some of the “questionable” Tweets that have been sent out by student athletes in College Park and elsewhere-but it is still interesting.

Apparently North Carolina has already done the same thing-so we’ll have to see how quickly other NCAA teams will adopt a similar policy. My guess is that it won’t take long.

Not every student athlete uses his Twitter account for another opportunity to be stupid. Unfortunately…some do. Enough that this type of policy has to be considered.

10. Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell says Ralph Friedgen believes Terps have no margin for error with penalties

Speaking of penalties, did Russian spy Anna Chapman ever receive any? After seeing her on the cover of Russia’s Maxim, I feel as though if she hasn’t yet-she shouldn’t in the future…

chapman


And finally, I leave you with this.

Boomer Sooner and I are going to get the chance to hang with Darius Rucker before his show tomorrow night at Pier Six Pavilion. My first question for him? PLEASE PLAY “HOLD MY HAND!!!!”….

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Ravens Split on New NFL Head-Hunting Policy

Posted on 20 October 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (4-2) returned to work Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for Sunday’s contest with the Buffalo Bills (0-5) at M&T Bank Stadium.

The NFL levied hefty fines Tuesday towards multiple players for dangerous hits in Week 6 games and threatened suspensions for future helmet to helmet contact. One of the hits that lead to a significant fine was a helmet to helmet hit made on Ravens TE Todd Heap by New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather. Meriweather was fined $50,000 for his hit. The new policy was a hot hot topic in the Ravens locker room Tuesday, as Head Coach John Harbaugh and Ravens players had varying opinions about stronger enforcement.

Harbaugh gave full support to strengthening enforcement of the policy, saying “I think whatever it takes to enforce the rule to make sure that guys respect the rules is something that obviously needs to be done.” Harbaugh however went on to add that he didn’t think a more strict policy would have much effect on his team. “If you look at our track record this year-not to say it couldn’t happen to us-but our guys have really tried to get those hits in that area that aren’t helmet to helmet on the defenseless guys.”

Future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis said hits like the ones that lead to fines from Week 6 are simply part of football. “Those are hits that (when) you go into your defensive room-you’re getting praised for” said Lewis. “I have to back those players and tell them-just keep having fun, just keep playing the game.”

RB Willis McGahee was the victim of a crushing hit by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark in the 2009 AFC Championship Game. McGahee said “they should have done that when I got hit and I was laying on the ground.” McGahee added “I guess it’s getting out of hand right now, so they’ve got to protect the players and protect the person that’s providing the hits.”

LB Terrell Suggs added the rule was a “double-edged sword” and that he was split on whether or not he supported strengthening the policy. “I have no problem with them enforcing (the rule); but the amount the guys were fined-that was a bit excessive.” Suggs pointed out that football “is a physical sport” and that football players “are the gladiators of (the) time.”

Lewis pointed out that he expected players to continue to fight the penalties that will come with a strengthening of the policy, which could remain an issue well into what is expected to be a period of labor unrest this offseason.

REED, AYANBADEJO RETURN: S Ed Reed and LB Brendon Ayanbadejo appeared on the practice field Wednesday for the first time this season. Both have missed the first six weeks of the season while on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Reed was coy about his status for Sunday’s game, saying “I feel good” but admitting that he needed to get back into a football feel and see how his body would react to getting back on the practice field. He admitted that he and the organization “definitely talked about” the possibility of him missing Sunday’s game and returning after the team’s Week 8 bye.

Reed said “just being around the guys on the field” was what he missed the most during the time he’s missed this season.

Ayanbadejo didn’t offer a guess as to what his status would be for Sunday’s game, saying it was important to just get through Wednesday’s practice and see how his body reacted.

There was no reason to believe either player would be held out of contact during Wednesday’s practice.

PRACTICE REPORT: Reed and Ayanbadejo weren’t the only Ravens who returned to practice Wednesday. DE Paul Kruger (knee) and CB Josh Wilson (hamstring)-who each missed the Week 6 loss in Foxborough returned to the practice field as well. Kruger’s status for Sunday’s game is still very much up in the air, but Wilson is expected to be available. Both were listed as limited participants in practice.

Also limited in practice were LB Jarret Johnson (back), WR Derrick Mason (ankle/finger), S Haruki Nakamura (back), RB Ray Rice (ankle) and WR Marcus Smith (back). LB Edgar Jones (thigh) was listed as a full participant in practice.

Safety Tom Zbikowski (foot) and TE Todd Heap (neck) did not participate in practice Wednesday. Harbaugh said the team got “good news” on MRI’s for both players Monday, saying Zbikowski has “got a shot” to play Sunday and “I think Todd will be” on the field Sunday.

LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder), OT Jared Gaither (back) and WR Donte’ Stallworth (foot) remained out of practice, they have all been ruled out for Sunday.

For the Bills, OT Cornell Green (knee) and CB Terrence McGee (back) did not participate in practice Wednesday. LB Keith Ellison (knee), LB Arthur Moats (elbow) and NT Kyle Williams (ankle) were all limited participants. TE Shawn Nelson and S Bryan Scott were full participants.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco, McGahee, Lewis, Suggs, Reed, Ayanbadejo, Wilson, DT Haloti Ngata and Mason NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Punter Sam Koch is scheduled to join Drew Forrester Thursday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST at 7:00am……McGahee did not appear concerned with his lack of playing time in the Ravens’ loss at Gillette Stadium, saying “I’m like a lightswitch. I can cut it on and cut it off. It was off that game. I wasn’t tripping about it. We were winning, it really didn’t bother me.” McGahee was not on the field for a single play in the team’s loss……Bills DE Dwan Edwards joined members of the Charm City media contingent for a conference call, saying “I had a great time and played with a bunch of great players. I learned a ton about football and the game and being a professional and stuff like that. So, in terms of that, it was a good experience.” Edwards returns to Baltimore Sunday for the first time since signing with the Bills in the offseason, he was a 2nd round pick of the Ravens in the 2004 NFL Draft……The Ravens will return to work Thursday at 1 Winning Drive, coordinators Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Jerry Rosburg are scheduled to meet with the media before practice

-G

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (81-99)

Posted on 31 August 2010 by Luke Jones

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

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 covered jersey numbers 1 through 80 if you missed them.

Part 5 (81-99) concludes our trip down memory lane by looking at some of the greatest receivers, tight ends, and defensive linemen in franchise history.

81 Michael Jackson (1996-98)
Jackson

Anquan Boldin is a good bet to hold this honor in the near future, but “Action” Jackson was a big-time receiver in the Ravens’ first season in Baltimore, catching 14 touchdowns and eclipsing the 1,200-yard mark. Jackson’s numbers declined in his final two seasons with the Ravens, but he and fellow wideout Derrick Alexander were huge weapons in Ted Marchibroda’s passing game.

82 Shannon Sharpe (2000-01)

The former Denver tight end came to Baltimore and immediately provided the leadership sorely lacking on the offensive side of the football. His game-winning 29-yard touchdown catch with seconds remaining in a 39-36 comeback victory over Jacksonville set the early tone for what would eventually be a championship season in 2000. And he also had a big catch in the AFC Championship that you might remember…

83 Daniel Wilcox (2004-08)

Wilcox rarely had the chance to shine in the Baltimore offense, but the dependable backup tight end caught 76 passes and eight touchdowns in his five years with the Ravens.

84 Jermaine Lewis (1996-2001)

The diminutive Maryland Terp is unquestionably the greatest return specialist in franchise history and returned six punts for touchdowns in his six years with the Ravens. Though he never returned a kickoff for a score in the regular season, the two-time Pro Bowl selection capitalized on the world’s biggest stage with an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to seal the eventual Super Bowl XXXV victory. His courage down the stretch of that magical season was documented (see below) in the NFL Network’s “America’s Game” series.

85 Derrick Mason (2005-present)
Mason

Though overshadowed by bigger, faster receivers throughout the NFL, Mason has been the model of consistency throughout his first five seasons with the Ravens. The veteran has averaged 82 receptions per season and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in four of his five campaigns in Baltimore.

86 Todd Heap (2001-present)
Heap

Injuries have stunted his production in the latter half of his career, but few tight ends have shown the versatility of Heap with his ability to split out wide or outleap  defenders as a dangerous red zone target. Heap has 36 touchdown catches in his nine seasons.

87 Qadry Ismail (1999-2001)

The “Missile” was a rare weapon in a passing game that struggled to produce in the early stages of the Brian Billick era. Ismail caught 18 touchdowns and had two 1,000-yard seasons in his three years with the Ravens.

88 Brian Kinchen (1996-98)
Kinchen

Injuries prevented Quinn Sypniewski from potentially earning this distinction, but Kinchen was a steady if unspectacular tight end for the early Ravens. His 1996 season included 55 catches for 581 yards and a touchdown. Kinchen also had the ability to long snap.

89 Mark Clayton (2005-present)

Clayton and fellow No. 89 Travis Taylor are viewed as two of the biggest draft busts in the history of the franchise. The former Oklahoma Sooner holds a slight edge in receptions (234 to 204) through five seasons with the franchise, but Taylor had more touchdowns (15 to 14). Neither player met expectations, but Clayton still has the opportunity to improve his résumé, enough to give him the nod here.

90 Rob Burnett (1996-2001)
Burnett

One of the most unheralded members of the dominant Baltimore defenses from 1999 to 2001, Burnett had 10.5 sacks and forced three fumbles in 2000 but was a Pro Bowl snub. The defensive end compiled 26.5 sacks in his six seasons with the Ravens.

91 Lional Dalton (1998-2001)

Dalton never had the chance to show his stuff as a starter on the defensive line, but he was a key member of the rotation for a deep unit of tackles. He wins narrowly over defensive end Marques Douglas (who also wore No. 94) and defensive tackles Aubrayo Franklin and Brandon McKinney.

92 Haloti Ngata (2006-present)

Considered one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL today, Ngata has wreaked havoc on opposing running games from the moment he stepped foot in Baltimore. 350-pound defensive tackles are not supposed to be as athletic as Ngata, and the league finally recognized his rare talent by selecting him to his first Pro Bowl in 2009.

93 Keith Washington (1997-2000)

The defensive lineman is remembered most for his block of an Al Del Greco field goal that was returned by Anthony Mitchell for a go-ahead touchdown in the Ravens’ memorable 24-10 victory over the Titans en route to a Super Bowl title, but Washington was a key member of the defensive line rotation in his four seasons.

A strong final season by Dwan Edwards in 2009 was not nearly enough to earn strong consideration here after the defensive lineman was largely a flop in his first three seasons with the Ravens.

94 Justin Bannan (2006-09)

The defensive tackle was a major factor in 2008, starting 15 of 16 games in Kelly Gregg’s absence. His four strong seasons with the Ravens earned him a nice payday with the Denver Broncos following last season.

95 Sam Adams (2000-01)
Adams

Many will argue for Jarret Johnson for this jersey number, and a legitimate argument can be made, but how can you overlook Adams’ massive impact—literally and figuratively—in his two seasons with the Ravens? The defensive tackle made the Pro Bowl twice and teamed with Tony Siragusa to form a 700-pound wall around which the menacing Ray Lewis could freelance.

Johnson is a very good player and received his just due in Part 4 (No. 76), but Adams was the better player in his two-year stint in Baltimore.

96 Adalius Thomas (2000-06)
Thomas

The former sixth-round pick transformed himself from a defensive end to one of the best outside linebackers in the league over his seven seasons with the Ravens. The two-time Pro Bowler was also a menacing 270-pound gunner on the punt team and was the most versatile player on the talented defenses of the post-Super Bowl era.

97 Kelly Gregg (2000-present)

The former wrestler hardly looks the part of an NFL defensive tackle, but Gregg has manned the interior of the Baltimore defensive line for nearly a decade. “Buddy Lee” ranks second on the Ravens’ all-time tackles list, behind only Lewis.

98 Tony Siragusa (1997-2001)
Goose

The brash, rotund Siragusa arrived in 1997 and was part of the defensive transition from a hapless unit to the record-setting company that struck fear in the opponent’s heart. His controversial hit on Rich Gannon knocked the Oakland quarterback out of the AFC Championship game, but the outspoken Siragusa would have been the first to say it did not matter whether Gannon played or not against that Ravens defense.

99 Michael McCrary (1997-2002)
McCrary

His blue-collar style still resonates fondly with Baltimore fans, and the undersized defensive end is recognized in the Ravens Ring of Honor. McCrary’s 51 career sacks ranks third behind Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs on the Ravens’ all-time list. Chronic knee issues cut short what had already been a brilliant career.

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Not JUST a Cheap Shot-But a Low Blow AND a Fact

Posted on 09 July 2010 by Glenn Clark

I will be enjoying my first day off in some time today; as I will be headed up to HersheyPark with some family during the day, then on to see Dave Matthews Band with friends tonight. Some might say I don’t deserve it, but to you I say…yeah…yeah, you’re probably right.

If you missed out “Cheap Shots From the Bleachers” segment yesterday, I responded to the fact that some in town (including 105.7 and the Baltimore Sun) were about 4 days late in getting to the “Ed Reed wants a new contract” story that we found out about during an interview with Ed last Friday with Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST. (Which you can of course hear in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

As I pointed out yesterday, it really doesn’t bother me if others in town give us credit when we have something first-whether it’s an interview, story, or anything else. I understand the way things work in Baltimore. There are partnerships-The Orioles have partnered with the Sun, MASN, WJZ 13 and 105.7. The Ravens have partnered with the Sun, MASN, WBAL Radio/WBAL 11 and 98 Rock. Therefore, those folks need to give each other backrubs. That doesn’t bother me, it really doesn’t.

Instead, it reminded me that maybe some folks TRULY believed that by listening to other folks in town, they would be the first to get info or hear interviews. That’s simply not the case. If you want to hear from a sports newsmaker in Charm City, WNST IS the place to turn. Consider just these things from the Spring and Summer of 2010…

-WNST.net was the first media source to talk to new Ravens WR Anquan Boldin. We posted comments from Anquan via the website and Twitter (follow us @WNST) less than 15 minutes after the Ravens acquired him from the Arizona Cardinals; and before even BaltimoreRavens.com had posted comments from the receiver. Boldin appeared with us on WNST for a live interview after being introduced in Owings Mills.

-WNST was also the first media outlet to talk to DT Cory Redding after he was acquired by the Ravens. Redding, Shayne Graham, Ken Hamlin and now even Walt Harris (who appeared with Drew Forrester Friday morning on AM1570) have all since did their first Baltimore interviews with us on WNST. Dwan Edwards did his first interview after leaving Baltimore for the Buffalo Bills with us as well.

-While WBAL’s partnership with the Ravens allowed them to speak to certain members of the Ravens 2010 Draft class before anyone else; WNST was the first station in town to speak to ALL members of the Ravens draft class-Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, David Reed, Arthur Jones and Ramon Harewood. We also spoke live on-air with the undrafted free agents who have the best shot at making the roster out of Training Camp-CB Prince Miller and FB Mike McLaughlin.

-Did I mention the Ed Reed thing?

-It isn’t just that we’re first with the Ravens though. Following Selection Sunday, WNST was the first to talk live with Morgan State’s Reggie Holmes and Todd Bozeman, as well as Maryland’s Eric Hayes and Gary Williams. In fact, all 4 made live radio appearances on WNST within 13 hours of the Selection Sunday announcement.

-Since then, WNST was the first place to hear from Hayes, Landon Milbourne and Greivis Vasquez as those Terps prepared for the NBA Draft.

-Before that, WNST was the first place to hear from football Terrapins like Nolan Carroll, Chris Turner, Terrell Skinner and Bruce Campbell as they prepared for the NFL Draft.

-Also, WNST has been the first station to talk to Debbie Yow after she departed College Park for NC State, as well as Maryland interim Athletic Director Randy Eaton. We were also the first station to talk to new Maryland lacrosse coach John Tillman, new Loyola AD Jim Paquette and Towson interim Athletic Director Ted Zaleski Jr. After breaking the news that Xavier assistant Bino Ranson would be leaving Cincinnati for Maryland, WNST was also the first media outlet in town to talk to him.

-There’s more than that. After winning the Kentucky Derby and while looking towards the Preakness, both Calvin Borel and Todd Pletcher did their first Baltimore interviews with WNST. After winning the Belmont Stakes, both winning jockey Mike Smith and first time Triple Crown race-winning trainer Bill Mott did their first Baltimore interviews with WNST.

There’s more, but we’ll leave it at that for now. None of these were locker room sessions, press conferences, or a case where one of our hosts stuck a mic in someone’s face and got a comment. These were all LIVE radio interviews, and they were the first interviews done in town by important newsmakers in Baltimore sports.

Clearly, the Baltimore Orioles are missing from the list. That being said, the Baltimore Orioles have been missing from the field for the better part of the season as well. I could point out that WNST was the first to talk to Frederick Keys pitcher Nathan Moreau after he threw a no-hitter, but I’m not sure that would matter much. The relationship between the O’s and WNST is well-documented, and I’m not interested in re-igniting that fire here.

The reason I wrote this isn’t to “trash” other media outlets in town. I think a lot of folks in town do a really good job. I would know, as I have checked out the archives of every outlet on a daily basis to make sure that I wasn’t lying about any interview I claimed WNST had “first.” In fact, I’d encourage you to check out our own Audio Vault at WNST.net, and then check out the archives of other outlets in town (105.7, 1370, 1090) to confirm for yourself. Of course, you’ll learn exactly what I wrote above.

The reason I wrote this is to remind you that the BEST place to go to hear from sports newsmakers in Baltimore is AM1570 WNST and WNST.net.

Some other outlets like to tell you that they’re the “Sports Leader.” I’ll just encourage you to check our work.

A lot of folks in town do a great job of talking to folks ABOUT the news. But there is one CLEAR choice when it comes to hearing from the folks who are MAKING news.

It’s all there.

-G

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