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Ravens’ Pagano to become next head coach of Colts

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Ravens’ Pagano to become next head coach of Colts

Posted on 25 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In what’s easily been the most frustrating week in the history of the franchise, the Ravens will now need to look for a new defensive coordinator as Chuck Pagano has been hired as the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Leading the Ravens to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking in his first season as coordinator, Pagano interviewed with Indianapolis on Tuesday before being offered the job on Wednesday. The 51-year-old spent three seasons as the Baltimore secondary coach before being promoted to replace former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison last offseason.

“It’s difficult to leave the Ravens but I couldn’t pass up on this great opportunity,” Pagano said to the Ravens’ official website. “I’m just thrilled and so excited.”

Pagano was extremely popular with his defensive players and brought a more aggressive play-calling style than Mattison, helping the Ravens improve from a franchise-low 27 sacks in 2010 to an AFC-best 48 this season.

“He just had an inkling for [making the right calls],” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo told AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday afternoon. “More than anything, he wasn’t going to rely on just going vanilla and saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to beat everybody just going vanilla.’ That’s what coach Mattison liked to do.”

The Ravens sent four defensive starters to the Pro Bowl this year, including linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and free safety Ed Reed.

Pagano will be introduced to the Indianapolis media in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. The Colts fired general manager Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell following a disastrous 2-14 season without quarterback Peyton Manning.

“We are so happy for Chuck, [his wife] Tina and their daughters,” coach John Harbaugh said in an official statement. “We are proud of him. Like me, Chuck grew up in the game and loves it. We will miss him and thank him for all he did for the Ravens.”

The 51-year-old will likely usher in a new era with Indianapolis primed to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in April’s draft. Ayanbadejo said the Colts will immediately take to Pagano’s infectious personality.

“He was one of those guys [where] it was like he was out on the field of battle with you and you’d never want to let him down, because he’s such a good guy,” Ayanbadejo said. “He’s also a family guy and a great person. You really felt like you knew him, and more than anything, you just didn’t want to let him down.”

Pagano had previous stints as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders and also coached at several colleges, including most recently at the University of North Carolina before being hired by Harbaugh in 2008.

The Ravens will also wonder what impact Pagano’s departure might have on their list of defensive players with expiring contracts. Linebackers Jarret Johnson, Jameel McClain, and Ayanbadejo, defensive end Cory Redding, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney are all set to become unrestricted free agents and could now view Indianapolis as a viable alternative to the Ravens, who will not have a great deal of salary cap space.

After former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard joined him in the Big Apple as free-agent signings.

Baltimore will now have its fourth defensive coordinator in five years after Rex Ryan, Mattison, and Pagano all held the job under Harbaugh. The most logical in-house candidate to fill the role would be linebackers coach Dean Pees, who was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2009 before moving on to Baltimore.

“I don’t think you’ll see any letdown if Dean Pees takes over,” said Ayanbadejo, who described Pees’ relationship with players as one based more on respect than the emotional Pagano. “You might even see a better defense if Dean Pees takes over because he likes things done a certain way, and he’s really particular about the way he does things.”

Pagano becomes the fourth defensive coordinator in the history of the franchise to depart for a head coaching position elsewhere, joining Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Ryan.

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Ravens defensive coordinator Pagano set to interview for Colts’ coaching job

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Luke Jones

After a successful first season as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano will interview for the head coaching vacancy for the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday.

The Baltimore defense finished third in the league in fewest points and yards allowed while sending linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Pagano was praised for his close relationship with players and his aggressive play-calling approach was a major reason why the Ravens increased their sack total from a franchise-low 27 in 2010 to 48 in 2011.

Pagano replaced Greg Mattison, who spent two years as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator before taking the same position with the University of Michigan last offseason.

Indianapolis has reportedly interviewed former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and would like to have a new head coach in place this week, according to Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Should Pagano become the Colts’ head coach, in-house candidates to replace him could include defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, linebackers coach Deen Pees, and outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino. Before joining the Ravens’ coaching staff in 2010, Pees served as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots for four seasons (2006-09).

Former Baltimore defensive coordinators to received head coaching positions elsewhere include Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Rex Ryan.

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Ravens looking to prove defense still king against high-scoring Patriots

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Ravens looking to prove defense still king against high-scoring Patriots

Posted on 20 January 2012 by Luke Jones

For more than a decade, one mantra has been held with the highest regard by the Baltimore Ravens in spite of changing trends in the NFL over the last several seasons.

Defense wins championships.

In this current era of 5,000-yard passers, high scoring, and rules that cater to offense, the Ravens’ defensive dominance is considered a dying breed by many. Of course, don’t bother telling that to veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, who is preparing to play in the third AFC championship of his 16-year career and has gone to the playoffs eight times despite never enjoying the luxury of an explosive offense supporting his defense.

“I’ve been doing it for so long, when you do watch how the games are played, nine times out of 10, I just truly believe defense is going to find a way to win the championship,” Lewis said. “You can go back however many years you want to go back, and defenses have a way to come out to make a play that changes the outcome of games.”

In reality, the cliche isn’t true in the purest sense of defense alone winning championships, as even the 2000 Ravens needed a run-first offense that took care of the football and positioned their defense to impose its will on weaker opponents. The 2011 Ravens clearly enjoy a more productive offensive attack than the Super Bowl XXXV winners but still generally rely on that old-fashioned formula of winning ugly.

For that reason, the media have focused on the high-octane offense of the New England Patriots and have wondered how the Ravens can possibly stop quarterback Tom Brady and a unit that averaged 32.1 points per game this season. In contrast, few of considered the possibility of the New England offense running into a buzz saw of a defense that finished third overall in points and yards allowed in the regular season.

Has the lack of attention — or even a perceived lack of respect — rubbed the Ravens the wrong way as they prepare to travel to Foxborough?

“We always have a chip on our shoulder,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “We’ve always felt this way about ourselves.”

That’s not to say the Ravens don’t respect Brady and the New England offense. The weapons are everywhere, from wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch on the outside to young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez wreaking havoc all over the field.

But much like Lewis’ command of the Ravens defense for the last 16 years, Brady is the mastermind that makes New England the dynamic offense that’s scored 30 or more points in eight of its last nine games, including 45 against Denver in the Patriots’ divisional-round win last Saturday.

“You’ve got your hands full from Day One, before you even step on the field with him, because it’s a film study game with him,” Lewis said. “He wants to [identify] everything that’s coming out and know what you’re in. Your job is to disguise and not show him all of that. It’s a chess match, almost.”

The Baltimore defense and the New England offense provide an interesting juxtaposition. While the former has a reputation of physical play and intimidation and the latter is built on finesse, both units are extremely cerebral, built to deceive and confuse the opposition as much as possible. Adjustments at the line of scrimmage are a regular part of each unit’s plan.

That deception will be critical for the Ravens as Brady tries to dissect coverage and to identify potential blitzes, allowing him to make adjustments on the fly with so many options in the passing game.

“You try to do everything you can to try to disguise and hide what you’re doing,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “At the end of the day, if we just sit and play one or two things and let the tempo of the [Patriots] dictate what we do, then he’ll shred us, he’ll pick us apart. They’re just too good.”

While much time has been spent discussing exactly how the Ravens plan to defend Welker (Webb will draw the assignment in most instances) and the monstrous Gronkowski (a likely combination of a linebacker and safety Bernard Pollard), the true key will be making Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, something Baltimore has been able to do in recent years against the Patriots.

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Ravens musings for Week 13

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Ravens musings for Week 13

Posted on 29 November 2011 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens prepare to return to the practice field after a much-needed layoff following two games in a five-day period and ahead of a AFC North matchup in Cleveland on Sunday, here are five thoughts to ponder …

1. The Ravens will face another sub-.500 team on the road this Sunday, but this one has a different feel than their previous failures in Jacksonville and Seattle. The question has already been asked and will continue to be tossed at coaches and players as the Ravens prepare to face the Browns: Can Baltimore beat a team it’s supposed to beat on the road? The Ravens will say all the right things in Owings Mills this week, but actions speak louder than words after a 1-3 road record against teams with losing marks this season. The Ravens are more familiar with the Browns than they were the Jaguars and Seahawks since they play them twice a year in the AFC North. Baltimore has annual first-hand experience with the difficulty of playing — and winning — games in Cleveland. New head coach Pat Shurmur will have some new wrinkles for the Ravens, but the personnel remains similar as the Browns will try to run the ball with Peyton Hillis and force Joe Flacco into making mistakes against the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Perhaps the most significant difference between this game and the Ravens’ past troubles on the road is the run defense they’ll be facing. Cleveland is 29th against the run while Jacksonville and Seattle were far more formidable in stopping a ground attack. With no room for error in the strongly-contested AFC, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens laying another egg on the road against an inferior team. Then again, I said the same thing about their game in Jacksonville. And in Seattle.

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2. With five games remaining in the regular season, Ray Lewis would be wise to heed any medical advice he receives regarding his injured toe. The 36-year-old linebacker desperately wants to return to the field, and no one can question his tolerance for pain over the course of his 16 seasons in the NFL. But if the Ravens learned anything from their two victories over playoff-caliber teams in five days last week, it should be that they’re capable of winning football games without their defensive leader. As soon as Lewis is as close to 100 percent as he can possibly get with the toe, he’ll make his return to the field, even if it’s against Cleveland on Sunday or winless Indianapolis next week. There’s no such thing as simply holding him out for “better” opponents as some like to suggest. However, with the Ravens receiving such strong play from Jameel McClain and having competent backups in Dannell Ellerbe, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Albert McClellan, there’s no need for Lewis to return to the field before his injured toe is ready. At some point, Lewis may need to force the issue and play at much less than 100 percent, but it might as well come in January and not against the likes of four straight opponents with sub-.500 records. By no means will I diminish Lewis’ impact on the defense and the team in general, but if the Ravens fall to the likes of the Browns or the Colts, Lewis’ potential absence won’t be the primary reason why.

3. The return of Lee Evans’ opens up more possibilities in the vertical passing game, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron shouldn’t shy away from using two tight ends in the process. The veteran receiver saw his workload increase against the 49ers as Evans even replaced rookie Torrey Smith on a couple occasions in two-receiver sets, and the Ravens intend to use him more and more as he proves to be fully healthy. Cameron and quarterback Joe Flacco are licking their chops at the thought of Evans and Smith lining up on opposite sides as two deep threats on the outside, but the Ravens shouldn’t forget the success they’ve had in using tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta on the field at the same time. Linebackers can’t cover them while cornerbacks and many safeties can’t handle their size. The increased role for Evans would logically cut into Pitta’s opportunities, which is a slippery slope given the rapport he’s developed with Flacco, especially on third down as we saw once again against the 49ers.

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With All of the Losses, Even the 15-7-0 Is Now in the BCS Title Picture

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With All of the Losses, Even the 15-7-0 Is Now in the BCS Title Picture

Posted on 21 November 2011 by Glenn Clark

You know how it works. 15 positive football observations, 7 “not so” positive football observations and one “oh no” moment from outside the world of football.

(As a reminder, we don’t do Baltimore Ravens analysis here. We do PLENTY of that elsewhere. This is about the rest of the world of football.)

15 Positive Observations…

1. I have no concrete proof that Towson University is building a statue for Rob Ambrose, but I don’t know why they wouldn’t.

A lot of people are surprised by the Tigers’ success, but not me. I’m so effing stunned I’m still not a hundred percent certain it actually happened…

There’s no way anyone…in the world…could have ever seen a CAA Championship coming this season. This team still has more work to do though. They won’t feel incapable of beating anyone they play in the NCAA playoffs, starting with Lehigh December 3rd at Unitas Stadium.

Seriously…this is Towson we’re talking about. This can’t be real.

2. I thought I was happier to see the Washington Redskins lose when they play miserably, but I think I was even happier to see their fans suffer heartbreak Sunday.

I will admit that I thought those a-holes in DC were done after Tony Romo hit Jason Witten from 59 yards away…

…but somehow Mike Shanahan’s team stayed in the thing long enough to have a kick to win in overtime. Graham Gano of course missed the kick and DeAngelo Hall channeled DeAngelo Hall to help the Cowboys survive.

I celebrate your misery, clowns. May you never win another game…unless for some reason you play the Steelers. Even then, I dunno.

3. Tony Sparano is giving Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross something very similar to what Lou Brown gave Rachel Phelps.

Does anyone remember earlier this year when the Buffalo Bills were good? No? I swear I thought they were…

Stephen Ross started interviewing coaches before bothering to fire Sparano. Sparano used that to fire up his team, convincing them to win in order to piss off the ownership there that wanted to get new players and coaches. Suddenly Matt Moore and Reggie Bush are playing like real National Football League players and there’s a problem on South Beach…at least for now.

It’s very similar to what Lou Brown did back when he was managing the Cleveland Indians…

Did we ever find out if Brown won American League Manager of the Year that year? He was a hell of a skip.

(Side note. Every time the Orioles tried to hire a General Manager this offseason I assume the calls went awfully similar to that time when Charlie Donovan called Brown at Tire World to offer him the gig with the Tribe.

“How would you like to be the Birds’ GM?”
“Gee. I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? This is your chance to be a Major League Baseball General Manager!”
“Let me get back to you, will you Peter? I got a guy on the other line asking about some white walls.”)

4. Andrew Luck has an impressive lateral motion towards the Heisman Trophy.

Do you get the feeling the Stanford quarterback is saying to himself, “Well, if no one else wants it…”?

I’d show you something from the Cardinal’s win Saturday night over rival California, but there wouldn’t be anything that would convince you Luck has locked up the award.

Instead, here’s Lee Corso dropping the “f-bomb” on ESPN’s College Gameday Saturday morning from the University of Houston. There’s no real reason to share the video, other than the fact that it includes the f-bomb.

5. If ANYONE has put their name back in the Heisman mix, that person is Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.

The Bears’ QB almost singlehandedly made sure next weekend’s “Bedlam” game was uninteresting to the rest of the country by throwing (and running) all over Oklahoma Saturday night…

It’s probably too little, too late as far as the Heisman is concerned-but it is certainly a reminder that RG3 has been one of the most entertaining players in the country all season. This TD pass to Kendall Wright however is probably not one he should take credit for…

Also humorous? Erin Andrews took the worst of a Gatorade shower intended for Griffin…

AND…in the hysteria on field after the win in Waco, America fell in love with a gal rushing the field on crutches…

6. At times, Matthew Stafford is one of the best quarterbacks in the world.

But if he did this more often the Detroit Lions wouldn’t have to make dramatic second half comebacks week in and week out like they did Sunday against the Carolina Panthers…

This game also involved Lions TE Tony Scheffler invoking an AT&T Flash Mob commercial in a TD dance…

And a note to Fantasy Football owners: Lions RB Kevin Smith ran for over 100 yards in this game. The physics of that alone are stunning, really.

I’m well aware it’s a different guy, but can we talk about this picture for a second? I say this as a HUGE Silent Bob fan. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? Are those shorts? Is it some sort of jean skirt? Is it a denim quilt? Holy hell.

7. No one knows how to pronounce his name, but Chris Ogbonnaya had himself a fine day Sunday.

Well, I feel like a bit of a silly goose for taking fantasy advice and playing the Jacksonville Jaguars defense against the Cleveland Browns Sunday.

The only meaningful highlight in this one came from Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who invoked Cleveland “hero” LeBron James by tossing powder in the air after scoring a TD…

And in an unrelated story, here’s a 6 year old kid crying about the New York Jets after their loss to the Denver Broncos the other night. He has an awful mother…

El oh el.

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Rookie quarterback Gabbert in Ravens’ defensive crosshairs

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Rookie quarterback Gabbert in Ravens’ defensive crosshairs

Posted on 19 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Not only will Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert find himself in the national spotlight of Monday night for the first time, but the vaunted Ravens defense will be staring at him across the line of scrimmage.

It’s the scariest of propositions for a rookie quarterback, comparable to being thrown into the lion’s den in ancient times.

And while Ravens defensive players weren’t exactly giving away bulletin board material on Wednesday, they have to be licking their chops going against Gabbert and the 32nd-ranked passing offense in the NFL. The Jaguars have scored just 72 points in six games this season, losing five straight after a season-opening win over Tennessee in which current backup Luke McCown received the start.

Gabbert has started the Jaguars’ last four games, throwing four touchdowns and two interceptions while completing only 48.8 percent of his passes after Jacksonville selected the former Missouri quarterback with the 10th overall pick in April’s draft. However, the Ravens say they won’t deviate from their usual game plan just because a rookie is under center.

“It’s not going to be any different for us [in terms of] preparation week-to-week,” safety Ed Reed said. “Yes, there can be some things that you cause some difficulties for any quarterback. You have to see how mature he is and how the guys around him are working also. It all plays a part.”

With the Jaguars struggling to move the ball through the air, they’ve relied even more on star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who ranks third in the NFL in rushing (572 yards) and second in rushing attempts (118) this season.

The Ravens’ third-ranked rush defense knows the priority will be to stop the 5-foot-7 running back, who has rushed for 84 or more yards in each of the Jaguars’ six games this season. In fact, he is the only player in the league to accomplish that feat and ran for a season-high 122 yards at Carolina in Week 3.

“[He's] as good a back as there is in the league,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “As good a back as I’ve ever played against, so he can make you look bad in a hurry. They’ve got a lot of weapons. They’ve got some young talent, so you can’t let them get started.”

However, the Ravens defense has faced the likes of Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, and, most recently, Arian Foster, who was held to just 49 yards on 15 carries in the 29-14 win over the Texans last Sunday. Baltimore’s third-ranked rush defense has turned away each one, with tackles Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody forming a brick wall up front and Ray Lewis and the linebackers finishing plays for minimal gains.

If the Ravens continue the trend against the Jacksonville running game, Gabbert may find himself in even more trouble than he was last weekend in Pittsburgh when the Steelers sacked him five times. The Baltimore defense has held opposing quarterbacks to the league’s second-worst rating at 65.9 while Gabbert’s 71.1 is 31st among the NFL’s 33 qualified quarterbacks.

Stopping the run is the clear objective before the Ravens can start having fun at the rookie’s expense.

“Once you do that, then you can kind of pin your ears back and kind of mess with him a little bit,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “Disguise, give a little bit, take a little bit there, have him think we’re coming one way and go the other. Just do what we do — play football.”

It’s something the Ravens have been doing plenty of this season after collecting 15 sacks through their first five games, a sizable jump from the franchise-low 27 they amassed in 2010. A season after the defense came under fire for blowing nine fourth-quarter leads, including their heartbreaking divisional round loss in Pittsburgh, the Baltimore defense is stepping on the accelerator instead of pumping the brakes.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has received plenty of credit for the improved pass rush, calling for a more aggressive game plan than his predecessor Greg Mattison, but Johnson has an additional theory to help explain the vastly-improved pass rush.

“We’ve had leads,” Johnson said. “They’re throwing the ball, so you get more opportunity to rush the passer. When you’ve got big leads and start putting teams away and not letting them back in, you’re getting more opportunities to get more sacks.”

Given the Jaguars’ struggles offensively and their 19th-ranked run defense, it’s difficult to envision any scenario in which the Ravens aren’t playing with a lead in the second half.

And that will likely spell doom for the talented rookie Gabbert as he tries to crack the third-ranked defense and No. 1 scoring unit in the NFL.

He wouldn’t be the first rookie to wilt under the pressure of the Ravens defense — and he certainly wouldn’t be the last, either.

“He’s going to be a great player down the road,” Redding said, “but, right now, he’s got to deal with us.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Cory Redding, Jarret Johnson, and Pernell McPhee right HERE.

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LB Brendon Ayanbajedo on new DC Chuck Pagano: “Chuck’s the kind of guy who wants to punch you in the mouth”

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LB Brendon Ayanbajedo on new DC Chuck Pagano: “Chuck’s the kind of guy who wants to punch you in the mouth”

Posted on 09 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

Over the weekend, the Ravens saw veteran WR Derrick Mason take his talents up 1-95 to New York to join longtime Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.

Several ex-Ravens have made the trip up to the Big Apple to follow in the footsteps of Coach Ryan, but several of the current defensive players here in Baltimore are putting a lot of faith in their newest defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, who is succeeding Greg Mattison after Mattison left to become DC at the University of Michigan.

Chuck Pagano

And Pagano-in his first several interactions with the media as defensive coordinator-is emphasizing the fact that he has just as much faith in his players to make plays as they have in him to draw them up.

“We’ve got some great guys,” Pagano said. “They’re passionate about football. They were really eager to get back in here and go to work after the long layoff, and the energy level’s great. They’re flying around having fun, and that’s all we can ask for.”

It will be on Pagano to try and re-direct a defense that finished 10th last year in the league in YPG (318.9) while keeping the respectable 4th-overall in PPG (16.9).

Baltimore finished 21th best in the league last year in passing yards allowed while focusing on the stopping the run will hopefully still be a tendency (5th best in the NFL).

Already, Pagano is getting comparisons to Rex Ryan when he was running the Ravens defense because Pagano comes with that same tenacity as Ryan did-while at the same time being loved and respected by the players.

“He’s a little more toward Rex’s style being emotional while Coach Mattison already kept a level head,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said at the podium last weekend. “Rex would get pissed off and bring the house, and I think [Coach Pagano] might be somewhere in between with his coaching knowledge…but the ability to relate to him, it’s awesome.”

“Everyone loves Chuck,” CB Lardarius Webb told Glenn Clark on “The Afternoon Drive” last week. “Chuck’s so smart, and he knows how to interact with the players. Everybody likes him. I can’t find a player who doesn’t like Chuck.”

Greg Mattison took a lot of heat last year for conservative play calls in key situations, and to some-including several Raven players-it didn’t seem like the Baltimore defense other teams were used to seeing on a weekly basis.

Webb thinks Coach Pagano is going to make people forget about the team’s struggles from a year ago and get back in key with what Rex Ryan had in store with this defense when he last left in 2008.

“I’ve seen a lot of defensive coordinators,” Webb said, “but all the ones for the Ravens always try to attack. That’s what we do, and if we’re not doing that, we’re not playing like the Ravens.”

Pagano agreed.

“When people put on our tape, it needs to look like we’ve got thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen guys out there. We need a smart football team…one that doesn’t beat itself, and plays with great fundamentals,” Pagano noted. “We expect to go out there and shut people out and play great defense.”

Johnson has noticed the changes already and is favor of them 100 percent.

“Overall with scheme, you can see his influence but he’s very aggressive. I really like his mentality and it’s been really great so far.”

Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said that in his opportunities with the first-team defense in training camp, he already sees Coach Pagano’s new aggressive style and tendencies.

“Chuck’s never scared,” Ayanbadejo said. “Chuck’s the kind of guy who wants to punch you in the mouth.”

Safety Haruki Nakamura-who probably knows Pagano the best out of anybody-agreed with his fellow defender about his boss.

“Chuck’s personality speaks for itself,” Nakamura said. “He acts like the good guy, but he has that dark side when coaching the defense.”

Ayanbadejo said that despite the fact that Pagano served as the secondary coach the last several years, Pagano made sure to forge relationships with everyone on the defense even outside his position guys.

Ayanbadejo said that can only help Pagano get the best out of them.

“We’ve been dealing with Chuck for four years now on all different levels.”

“He’s got a special relationship with every single guy,” he said. “You can go up to Chuck and talk to him because he started out as a position guy, and he wasn’t in this bubble.”

Pagano said the players have made the promotion that much easier on him and shown him that level of respect right back.

“I’ve known the guys, and they know me,” Pagano said. “They know my personality, and I know their personality. It was an easy transition.”

And we’ll get to see Pagano at work for the first time Thursday up in Philadelphia in Week 1 of the preseason.

“What we’re looking for is good communication, lining up and making the checks,” Pagano said Monday. “It’s all about being on the same page…so coming out of this first one, we’ll know more.”

Be sure to follow @WNST all week as we gear you up for Week 1 of preseason action! Follow me on Twitter @WNST and @RyanChell87 for everything Ravens! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Mocking The 53: A Positional Breakdown of Ravens Roster

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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

parmele

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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Live From Indianpolis: Ravens Salute Shorts at Combine

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Live From Indianpolis: Ravens Salute Shorts at Combine

Posted on 26 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

INDIANAPOLIS, In. — Greetings from LucasOil Stadium, where we are in attendance for the NFL Scouting Combine. Here are a few notes from a busy Saturday in the media center…

-Believe the hype surrounding Mount Union WR Cecil Shorts. At least believe the hype that the Baltimore Ravens are interested in the Division III prospect; which was confirmed by Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta.

Shorts told me Saturday he met with the team’s entire coaching staff in a formal interview setting Friday night. General Manager Ozzie Newsome was also involved in the interview according to the 6 foot receiver.

Shorts also played cornerback and even some quarterback during his time at the small Ohio college, but made the strong statement to reporters Saturday that “wide receiver is the position I’ll be playing.” Shorts was part of the Raiders’ 2008 National Championship team.

I’d expect to hear more about Shorts in my next Draft preview column.

-The BIGGEST star of the day was Auburn QB Cam Newton. Most of this year’s quarterback class in the NFL Draft met with reporters Friday, but Newton came in Saturday and received the type of attention usually saved for someone like Paul McCartney. My colleague Nestor Aparicio offered this picture via Twitter (@WNST)…

camnewton

Honestly, it was crazier than that. Of course, Newton sparked that fire in commenting that he “wanted to be an icon” after recently announcing a partnership with Under Armour. Newton read a prepared statement to clarify those comments when he reached the podium in Indy.

As exciting as the arrival of the Heisman Trophy winner and BCS Champion was, Newton is almost certainly not on the Ravens’ radar.

Other players generating a buzz upon making an appearance in the media center included Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, Georgia WR AJ Green and Oregon LB Clay Matthews.

-Matthews was one of a number of players who confirmed to me Saturday they had met either formally or informally with the Ravens this weekend.

Texas DE Sam Acho, Virginia Tech DL John Graves, Georgia FB Shaun Chapas, Oklahoma DE/LB Jeremy Beal, Southern Arkansas DE Cedric Thornton and Oklahoma State LB Orie Lemon were amongst a group of players who confirmed they had met with scouts or position coaches.

Tennessee WR Denarius Moore and North Carolina State WR Owen Spencer both confirmed meetings with Ravens WR Coach Jim Hostler.

A number of players told me they hadn’t yet met with the Ravens but believed they would Saturday evening or later in the weekend; including Texas A&M DE Von Miller.

Other players were more coy about who they had met with, including Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn and California DE Cameron Jordan.

-A common theme amongst the Linebackers in the room Saturday? They all look up to future Hall of Fame Ravens LB Ray Lewis. Lemon and Illinois LB Martez Wilson in particular pointed out they admired the perennial Pro Bowler and hoped to shape their careers in similar ways.

West Virginia RB Noel Devine told reporters his role model was former Ravens CB Deion Sanders. Devine and Sanders are both represented by agent Eugene Parker. Devine said Sanders once brought him for a visit of the Ravens’ 1 Winning Drive facility in Owings Mills.

Appalachian State LB D.J. Smith noted that former Ravens (and Mountaineers) TE Daniel Wilcox had been a good influence for him during his final season in Boone. Wilcox returned to his alma mater in 2010 to finish his degree and helped out the ASU staff during football season.

Acho told me he was very close with Ravens LB Sergio Kindle, but hadn’t spoken with Kindle much since the latter suffered a fractured skull in an accident at a friend’s house in Austin.

-There were no Maryland Terrapins in the media center Saturday, but two players talked to me about their connections to the Terps.

Spencer spoke glowingly about his relationship with former Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow during his final season at NC State. He described Yow as a “strong lady” who was “always positive” and who appeared to be very comfortable at “home” in Raleigh. Spencer commented that Yow was particularly interested in seeing the Wolfpack beat the Terps in College Park, but NCSU fell 38-31.

UConn RB Jordan Todman said Head Coach Randy Edsall’s decision to leave Connecticut for Maryland played no role in his decision to skip his senior season and enter the Draft. Todman told me he held no grudge towards the new head coach in College Park, but told me to expect Edsall to bring a more authoritative personality to the job.

-There is plenty of audio available from players in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net. Hear from the following potential future Ravens…

  • Oregon LB Casey Matthews
  • Louisville RB Bilal Powell
  • UConn RB Jordan Todman
  • Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • Arizona LB Brooks Reed
  • Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward
  • Cal DE Cameron Jordan
  • Texas A&M DE Von Miller
  • Boise State WR Titus Young
  • Texas DE Sam Acho
  • Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett
  • LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard
  • Wisconsin DE JJ Watt
  • Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers

-I passed a long a few comments Saturday morning that I heard from various National Football League sources regarding the Ravens’ offseason Defensive Coordinator change. One NFL coach told me, “The Ravens have a chance now with (New DC Chuck) Pagano. The other guy (Greg Mattison) didn’t know what he was doing.”

Other statements I heard from NFL sources said similar things.

Make sure you continue to follow us @WNST on Twitter for all of the latest from Indianapolis.

-G

(Headline photo courtesy of Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

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Ravens Fire Zorn, Cameron & Ver Steeg to Split QB Duties

Posted on 27 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

As first reported by ESPN, the Baltimore Ravens parted ways with Quarterbacks Coach Jim Zorn Thursday.

Zorn was dismissed after just one season with the team. He had previously served as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins for two seasons.

Under Zorn, QB Joe Flacco improved (marginally) in almost all statistical categories.

In 2009 (with Hue Jackson still serving as QB Coach), Flacco threw for 3,613 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He averaged 7.2 yards per attempt and posted an 88.9 passer rating.

Under Zorn in 2010, Flacco threw for 3,622 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He averaged 7.4 yards per attempt and posted a 93.6 passer rating.

Flacco’s completion percentage actually went down to 62.6% in 2010, from 63.1% in 2009.

Flacco was the only quarterback to play under Zorn in Charm City, as veteran backup Marc Bulger never saw the field. Hunter Cantwell was never activated from the practice squad, John Beck was traded to the Redskins in Training Camp and Troy Smith was released before the start of the season.

Zorn’s dismissal came just ten days after Head Coach John Harbaugh proclaimed intentions to keep his coaching staff in tact.

“I really like our coaching staff” said Harbaugh following the end of the regular season. “I think we have a great, great coaching staff. Top to bottom-that includes all three coordinators, that includes every one of our position coaches, there’s not a guy that I’m disappointed in.”

Since that time, Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison departed for the University of Michigan and was replaced by Secondary Coach Chuck Pagano. Pagano is set to be replaced by University of Florida Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin. Offensive Line Coach John Matsko was fired, he was replaced by O-Line Assistant Andy Moeller. Senior Offensive Assistant Al Suanders accepted the Offensive Coordinator position under new Head Coach Jackson with the Oakland Raiders.

Zorn reportedly had a lengthy meeting with Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron earlier this week regarding the offensive direction of the team and the development of Flacco. He did not travel with the team’s other assistants to Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl.

Zorn had been previously linked to Offensive Coordinator openings with the Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns. Saunders was hired in Oakland, the Seahawks hired Darrell Bevell, but there remains an opening in Cleveland.

The Ravens have decided that Cameron and Offensive Assistant Craig Ver Steeg will split QB coaching duties moving forward.

“We’ve talked about this since the end of the season, and we believe this will help improve our offense,” said Harbaugh in a statement. “Cam is noted for his development of quarterbacks, and that includes Flacco and Pro Bowl players like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. Cam is excited about this change and is looking forward to it.”

Ver Steeg came to the Ravens in Harbaugh’s first season (2008) and has five seasons of coaching experience in the National Football League. He has QB Coaching and Offensive Coordinator experience in his career-which has included stops with the Chicago Bears as well as college stops at USC, Utah, Illinois, Harvard, Cincinnati and Rutgers.

Remaining on the Ravens’ offensive staff are Running Backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, Tight Ends Coach Wade Harman, Wide Receivers Coach Jim Hostler and Offensive Assistant Jason Brooks.

-G

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