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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

Posted on 08 August 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

 

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens:

Last season ended up being a disappointment for John Harbaugh and his squad as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time under his lead. There were changes made in the off-season that will assure Baltimore will not be missing the post-season for a second straight season.

The offense got a new look adding new pieces from all angles, starting with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. The long time Houston Texan head coach comes to Baltimore bringing a new style of offense maintaining a zone-blocking scheme.

Baltimore has new faces to dawn the purple and black for the upcoming season, but one particular athlete is difficult to overlook. Owen Daniels is a nice addition to the offense, but Steve Smith is the talk of the town ever since Carolina decided to part ways with the career long Panther.

Smith brings an attitude to the offense and gives the team a physical presence on the outside that they have not had since trading away Anquan Boldin for next to nothing. Once the upcoming season comes to a close, everyone will look back and wonder why more teams were not more aggressive in trying to sign Steve Smith as he will have one of the biggest impacts on his new team around the league.

The Ravens offense struggled running the ball last season due to the offensive line not being up to par and the ball carriers themselves not playing up to their capabilities. That will be sure to change for the better due to some of the moves made to upgrade the line and because the backs are healthy once again.

If there is a concern to have for the Ravens, it is their secondary. Jimmy Smith had a breakout year last season and Webb across the field make for a good pairing. Cornerback depth is where there is plenty of uncertainty; it is up to either Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson to step up and fill the void in the slot.

Matt Elam, last years first round draft pick, moves to the safety position he is best suited to play. Alongside Elam is Darian Stewart, who was an undrafted free agent during the 2010 NFL draft. Not only is cornerback depth an issue, but inexperience on the backend is as well. If the Ravens want to return to the promise land, can this secondary be good enough to defend against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady when it counts?

Breakout Candidate: Kyle Juszczyk

With the new offense Kubiak brings, there will be all kinds of options for Joe Flacco. The fans of Baltimore got a very small sample of that in the first pre-season game against the 49ers. The Smiths, Pitta, Jones, Brown and Daniels will all be targets for Flacco.

The under the radar target that is being overlooked is Kyle Juszczyk. The second year pro is an interesting player in this offense that fits the mold of what James Casey was for Houston years ago. He is capable of coming out of the backfield and picking his spots in the seams of the defense. Look out for the former Harvard standout to be a solid H-back option for Joe Flacco.

Impact Rookie: Timmy Jernigan

The easy answer is the former Alabama linebacker and first round pick CJ Mosley, but the Ravens struck gold in the second round of the draft. Timmy Jernigan is a top 15 talent who fell due to issues before the combine.

Jernigan was a force for the national champion Seminole defense in college football and stood out to the national audience on the big stage. Even though he was winded toward the tail end of the big game, his impact throughout that game was felt. All year long Jernigan created havoc on offensive lines all across college football.

Losing Art Jones to Indianapolis stung for a little bit until the draft concluded. Getting a talent like Jernigan and not having to pay him a $30 million contract is a win-win for the Ravens. Once Jernigan is healthy and can consistently find himself in the rotation up front, he will have a significant impact on the run and pass defense.

Cincinnati Bengals:

All the talk that surrounds the Bengals is the new contract extension that Andy Dalton received. A six-year extension worth over $100+ million seems to be an awful lot for the former TCU quarterback.

It is a lot for Andy Dalton, but that is the market for quarterbacks these days if franchises want to keep them around once their rookie contracts come to a close. The Bengals caught a lot of flack around the national media for this extension, but add some perspective to this deal.

Good quarterbacks are extremely difficult to find these days and are the ultimate factor that separates the contenders from the pretenders. Andy Dalton is a good quarterback that is a fact. Where there is difficulty grasping this extension is Daltons lack of production come playoff time.

If the three-year starter cannot start winning when it counts, the Bengals could find themselves scratching their heads and Marvin Lewis’ job could be in jeopardy.

Its humorous that once upon a time the Ravens front office got criticized for giving Joe Flacco the big $100+ million deal. When he got that deal, he came off of a historic post-season performance as well as winning the Super Bowl. Dalton is yet to win a playoff game and got the big contract; people have some apologies to make to Ozzie Newsome and company.

The Bengals have seen a lot of change in the off-season as both coordinators bolted for head coaching opportunities. Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator and Mike Zimmer left to take command of the Minnesota Vikings.

Zimmer will be the piece most missed by Cincinnati as he has led that good Bengals defense for years. He was regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league for quite sometime.

The defense gets back two primary starters back from injury in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. The only concern for this team is surprisingly on the defensive side of the ball. This unit must stay healthy and avoid the big time injuries they saw last season.

Offensively, there should be no concern as this side of the ball is loaded with talent. There is great depth at tight end and running back with AJ Green still the stud on the outside.

Breakout Candidate: Giovani Bernard

The former Tar-heel running back was a playmaker his rookie season and was used sparingly. Bernard was not the workhorse of the offense as the “Law Firm” took the bulk of the carries.

Bernards playmaking ability will be more visible this season as he will definitely see an increased workload. Bernard is both quick and fast out of the backfield and is an excellent all-purpose back. He is just as good receiving out of the backfield as he is running with the ball.

Hue Jackson will have to get this player involved more to take the pressure off of Dalton and the defense. If there is a play to sum up Bernards ability, look back to his highlight reel run against the Miami Dolphins.

Impact Rookie: Darqueze Dennard

It is simple to look to the first round selection as the impact rookie for any team, but Dennard finds himself in a good situation. With Leon Hall coming off of an Achilles injury and Dre Kirkpatrick only playing 19 of a possible 32 games in his short career, there will be opportunity.

Dennard was regarded as one of the best corners in this past draft and was a leader on the stellar Spartan defense. He is not flashy, but he has shutdown qualities in him that can translate to the big league. Will Clarke, the third round pick out of West Virginia, is another guy to watch out for in the defensive rotation up front.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

It was a big surprise that neither Baltimore or Pittsburgh did not make an appearance in the post-season and both are eager at a chance for redemption. The Steelers were on the cusp of a wild card birth, but fell just short.

Things are looking up for the Steelers as they see their star offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey return to hold down the line. The running game was not consistent last season and the loss of Pouncey was a huge reason why.

The run game will be improved with the addition of LaGarrette Blount and a healthy Le’Veon Bell. The second year pro out of Michigan State looks to be the workhorse for the Steelers and has a lot of potential to be a top tier running back in the league.

The primary question that comes to mind offensively is the passing game. There is no question what Ben Roethlisberger can bring, but he has to have the help around him. Heath Miller has been a good tight end for the duration of his career in Pittsburgh, but his days are numbered. Miller is not the caliber of player he once was when he came out of the university of Virginia.

Antonio Brown filled the void that Mike Wallace left and it is time for another wide receiver to assume the number two role. That void will be up to either second year wide out Markus Wheaton or rookie Martavis Bryant to help out Big Ben.

The Steelers defense will be back to their usual ways as they did a solid job in the off-season adding pieces. With drafting Ryan Shazier, the linebacking corps is filled with superb talent. Timmons, Worilds and second year pro Jarvis Jones make up the rest of the lineup. This will be the best unit on the defensive side of the ball.

Breakout Candidate: Markus Wheaton

Big Ben needs help from another wide out and it will be up to Wheaton to give him the support. Wheaton was a poor mans Mike Wallace coming out of college. The former Oregon State receiver has the speed to open things up all around the field. He has no problem getting down the field, but he must be able to make things happen in the middle. If not Wheaton, the Steelers will need to depend on the rookie Bryant from Clemson.

Impact Rookie: Dri Archer

One of my favorite players in the entire draft was Dri Archer. The speedster star from Kent State is in the exact playmaking mold that Tavon Austin was from West Virginia. The only reason why Archer was not as highly regarded as Austin was due to the college he went to along with the competition faced.

There have been plenty of Kent State playmakers that have made a name for themselves in the pros, most notably Josh Cribbs. Archer comes in to Pittsburgh with a great role on the offense with Blount as the bruiser, Bell the well rounded back and Archer with the speed.

Archer will be a matchup problem for defensive coordinators because of his speed and ability to make plays out of nearly nothing. He can come out of the backfield or play from the slot. If you put a linebacker on Archer, he will burn right by that. If you put a corner or safety on him, Archer will be opening up the field for the rest of the receiving options. Great draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, this kid is electrifying.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns bring in former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to be head coach and he has the potential to fill that role well. The Browns saw some change in the off-season on the defensive side of the ball, his specialty.

They lost safety TJ Ward and replaced him with Donte Whitner. D’Qwell Jackson departed in free agency so Karlos Dansby was brough in to fill that hole. Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall selection, is now paired with the newly wealthy Joe Haden. The secondary is put together nicely and the front seven is not too shabby. The Browns have all kinds of talent on defense; there is no uncertainty about that

The offense looked poise to breakout for the upcoming season until star wide out Josh Gordon ran into more off the field trouble. His suspension appeal is ongoing and it is unknown how long he will be out for. Jordan Cameron is one of the better young tight ends in the league and Andre Hawkins was stolen away from the fellow north rival Bengals.

Cleveland is all excited for their Browns from the draft because of the big first round selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer is the starter for now, but that will not last long. As soon as Hoyer makes a mistake, the noise will be too loud for Pettine to keep sitting Manziel.

Breakout Candidate: Barkevious Mingo

Last drafts sixth overall selection had a solid rookie campaign in the 15 games played. He registered 5.0 sacks and is the kind of playmaker Pettine will be able to work with. Pettine helped Mario Williams take his game to the next level in Buffalo after a lackluster first season after signing a big deal during free agency, so Mingo will be a personal project for the new head coach.

Impact Rookie: Joel Bitonio

Gilbert will have his impact on defense and West will do his part sharing the load with Ben Tate. Bitonio might be an odd choice here, but adding a quality lineman such as Joel to the mix with an Alex Mack and Joe Thomas will pay dividends for the offense. Adding Bitonio will help this offense in pass protection and will open up the holes for the two headed running back monster the Browns have.

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Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish: I hope Ravens do better with this chance

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Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish: I hope Ravens do better with this chance

Posted on 31 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

Drew’s Morning Dish is brought to you by Koons Baltimore Ford. Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish is brought to you by Koons Baltimore Ford and if not I’m just going to keep saying it is because it makes me feel a greater sense of self-worth.

The Baltimore Ravens will have another opportunity Thursday to do things the right way. While undoubtedly there will be some in attendance for or viewing RB Ray Rice’s press conference who will come to crucify no matter what is said. Those people have always existed (in at least part for good reason) and Rice and the Ravens have simply managed to swing more people into that group with their failures.

They don’t need to keep going out of their way to direct folks down that path.

Ray Rice is slated to meet with the media following Thursday morning’s 8:30am practice. A cynic would note the team altered the schedule by hours-perhaps in hopes that fewer national media types would be able to attend the media gathering. Head coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to also be available for a second consecutive day as well. Harbaugh is not often made available to the media on back to back days, but perhaps this changed because of the amount of national media expected for the event.

I have been told that reporters will NOT get a “only questions about football for Ray” type of warning. All questions will be on the table. That does not necessarily mean that Rice will ANSWER every question. In fact, I’d venture a guess that he’ll defer to his legal team a time or two during the course of the presser.

I hope that during the course of the entire event Rice will pursue any sort of “redemption” angle but will instead remain humble and contrite. I also hope that John Harbaugh will do the one thing he and the rest of the organization still haven’t done in the nearly six months since the since the original incident took place…I hope he’ll use the words “domestic violence” and choose to condemn the act.

Harbaugh came as close to that as we had ever seen Wednesday when chatting with reporters about Rice’s upcoming press conference.

I love the way he’s handled it. I hate what happened. What happened was wrong – flat out. The thing I appreciate about it is how Ray has handled it afterwards by acknowledging that it was wrong, and he will do everything he can do to make it right. That’s what you ask for when someone does the wrong thing. I’m proud of him from that standpoint. For anybody out there that’s going to misconstrue that and just write, ‘John Harbaugh is proud of Ray,’ then shame on you. I’m proud of him for the way he’s handled it. I’m disappointed in what happened, but you go forward. You go forward.

He came awfully close. “I hate what happened”, “what happened was wrong” and “I’m disappointed in what happened” are all close.

Of course…the “what happened” is domestic violence-but the Ravens have chosen not to say anything about that. The Ravens have chosen not to address that despite the fact that according to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, 50 people in Maryland lost their lives due to domestic violence from July 2012 to June 2013.

They lost their lives to domestic violence. The same act that happened between Ray Rice and his now wife in Atlantic City. The same topic the Ravens have chosen to avoid at every turn in 2014.

It’s time for John Harbaugh-the “football CEO” of the Baltimore Ravens to be the one to use a platform (and there most certainly will be one Thursday) to step up and address “domestic violence”. Not “what happened”, not “the incident”, not anything like that. It’s time to step up and address “domestic violence”.

It’s time to say “we don’t condone or accept domestic violence and as a leader in this community we want to do everything we can to help those in this community (which lost 50 members in the span of 12 months to this action) who are dealing with this awful issue.”

This might be the last chance to have this type of platform as with Rice having the case adjudicated in New Jersey and the NFL has filed their ruling. The issue will not “go away” for Rice, but this might be the last time it receives significant national attention.

I REALLY hope that when I come in Friday morning to fill in one last time on “The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction”, I’m not shaking my head as violently as I was following the LAST time Ray Rice spoke to the media.

This organization has made me quite proud to be a fan a number of times over the years. It would be awfully nice to feel that again Thursday instead of the same frustration I’ve been feeling for roughly half a year.

-G

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Ravens announce Military Appreciation details

Posted on 17 July 2014 by WNST Staff

RAVENS MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY

The Baltimore Ravens will hold their annual Military Appreciation Day on Monday, July 28, coinciding with the team’s 7 p.m. open training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

Approximately 3,500 special seats will be reserved for active service members and veterans who present valid military identification upon check-in at the stadium. Immediate family members of the servicemen and servicewomen are also welcome to join, with all preferred seating coming on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Additionally, those who show a valid military I.D. will be given a special edition Ravens patriotic T-shirt, while their children will receive a unique, military-themed Ravens wrist sweatband. (Gift quantities are limited.)

Though not required, members of the Armed Forces are encouraged to come in uniform.

This marks the Ravens’ seventh-annual Military Appreciation Day, an event head coach John Harbaugh instituted during his first season with the team in 2008. Harbaugh has been an advocate of the U.S. Military, with the NFL awarding him its 2013 Salute to Service Award, acknowledging exceptional efforts by those in the league who honor and support military members. (Harbaugh was also a finalist for the award in 2011.) In 2012, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno presented him with the Outstanding Civilian Service Award. Harbaugh took part in the annual NFL-USO coaches’ tour of the Middle East in 2009, has visited numerous military bases in the U.S. and abroad (including a 2014 February trip to the Middle East), has purchased school supplies for children whose parents are serving in the military and has sent care packages to troops overseas.

Since the establishment of Military Appreciation Day, an estimated 8,000 service members have enjoyed preferred seating and opportunities to meet with players and coaches each summer. Once the season begins, Harbaugh then invites wounded warriors to be his guests at every Ravens home game. A self-proclaimed history buff, during offseason team activities, Harbaugh has also taken the Ravens to Gettysburg, Pa., to learn about the Civil War.

 

Who: Active Military Members and Veterans and Immediate Family

What: Ravens Military Appreciation Day

Where: M&T Bank Stadium Training Camp Practice

When: Monday, July 28 at 7 p.m. (gates open at 5:30 p.m.)

Details: Service members should enter the stadium at Gate B. Valid military I.D. must be presented to obtain special gifts and preferred seating in reserved sections.

 

Fireworks Night

As a reminder, the July 28 M&T Bank Stadium practice, which is free and open to the public, will also showcase the Ravens’ first-ever Fireworks Night, an event highlighted by post-practice autographs for children and afireworks/laser show.

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Harbaugh says pedigree as player, coaching experience reasons for Engram hire

Posted on 11 February 2014 by WNST Staff

ENGRAM HIRED AS RAVENS WIDE RECEIVERS COACH

The Baltimore Ravens have hired Bobby Engram as their wide receivers coach, head coach John Harbaugh announced Tuesday morning.

Entering his fourth-overall season of coaching, Engram spent the past two years (2012-13) as wide receivers coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He began his coaching career as an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. Prior to becoming a coach, Engram, 41, produced a 14-year playing career as a wideout with the Chicago Bears (1996-2000), Seattle Seahawks (2001-08) and Kansas City Chiefs (2009).

“When you combine Bobby’s NFL pedigree as a player and his coaching experience, you see why we’re excited to add him to our staff,” Harbaugh stated. “He comes highly recommended, he did an outstanding job at San Francisco and Pitt, and he’s an impressive person. He’ll help our receivers and our offense become better.”

In 2013, Engram guided a Pitt receiving corps that was led by true freshman Tyler Boyd, who earned second-team All-ACC honors and set school marks for receptions (85) and receiving yards (1,174) by a freshman. Both records were formerly held by current Arizona Cardinals standout Larry Fitzgerald. Senior Devin Street completed his Panthers career in 2013 after setting school marks in all-time receptions (202) and finishing third in receiving yards (2,901).

In his first season with Pittsburgh (2012), Engram guided wide receivers Mike Shanahan (62 receptions for 983 yards) and Devin Street (73-975), who each garnered All-Big East honors in the same season, marking the first such occurrence in school history.

As an offensive assistant with the 49ers in 2011, Engram was part of a team that earned its first NFC West title in nine seasons and reached the NFC Championship game.

“What an opportunity to join a team that has won, knows how to win and does all it can to make sure they continue to win,” Engram said. “I’m ready to be part of that and ready to work.”

Selected out of Penn State in the second round (52nd overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft by Chicago, Engram appeared in 176 career games (113 starts), recording 650 receptions for 7,751 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also played in nine career playoff games, including an appearance in Super Bowl XL with Seattle. He was the Seahawks’ Ed Block Courage Award recipient in 2005.

Engram is one of the most productive and decorated receivers in Penn State history. A three-time All-American and three-time All-Big Ten selection, he helped the Nittany Lions produce a 31-5 record from 1992-95. In 1994, Engram recorded 52 receptions for 1,029 yards en route to earning the inaugural Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.

A native of Camden, S.C., Engram graduated from Penn State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science. Bobby and his wife, Deanna, have two daughters, Bobbi and Phoebe, and two sons, Dean and Trey.

COACHING BACKGROUND

Years                  College/Pro Team                         Position
2011                    San Francisco 49ers                       Offensive Assistant
2012-13              University of Pittsburgh              Wide Receivers
2014                    Baltimore Ravens                           Wide Receivers

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Harbaugh honored to win Salute to Service Award

Posted on 02 February 2014 by WNST Staff

Head Coach John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

Salute To Service Award, Presented by USAA

 

(on winning the award) “It’s great to see everybody. This is a pretty great deal. Alec Baldwin is pretty funny. What do you think? He’s hilarious. I haven’t been the butt of any jokes yet so far, so that’s good. It’s a great honor to be associated with the award. USAA does a great job along with the NFL of supporting and encouraging military families that do so much and make so many sacrifices for all of us. I just love what the military is doing. I love what the NFL is doing to support the military. I think it’s a great cause, and I’m just proud to be a part of it. So, what do you got?”

 

(on if the Cleveland Browns will ever make it to a Super Bowl) “Hopefully not in my tenure in Baltimore. That will be the plan to keep them out of there as much as we can. But Mike Pettine is a great coach. It’s going to be a big challenge. They’ll be buckling their chinstraps up, and so will we when the time comes.”

 

(on his brother wearing eight-dollar khakis) “Actually, they’re 24 dollars, I heard. He got some kind of sale deal. I don’t know what that was. I never saw him wear khakis. I don’t think we had khakis when we were growing up. What do you say about that? What do you guys think about that? No, no comment on that? I see a couple eight-dollar khakis out there in the audience right now as a matter of fact.”

 

(on what the Ravens take from their involvement with the military) “That’s a great question. What do we take from it as a team? I tell you, we take tremendous encouragement. These guys who come out to our practice, whether they’ve served multiple tours – and women, too – or they’ve been wounded … The wounded warriors, what they’ve been through, the unbelievable positive attitude that they bring out there is just beyond belief. And you know, we can feel sorry for ourselves or think things should be going better for us. Maybe we should have won a game or got a call from an official or something like that. You get a chance to talk to these guys and what they have in mind for their future and what their plans are for themselves and their families, just overcoming incredible adversity – that’s the greatest testament for our guys that you could possibly have. It’s a better motivational speaker than you could ever bring in bringing these guys in. Great, thanks.”

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Harbaugh says Ravens “have a profile in mind” for next Offensive Coordinator

Posted on 15 January 2014 by WNST Staff

COACH HARBAUGH ON NEW OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR; QUOTES ON JIM CALDWELL

John Harbaugh on hiring a new offensive coordinator: “We will be interviewing coaches inside and outside of the building. We’re confident that whether we select someone currently on our staff or from another team, we will have a coach that best fits what we want to be, where we want to go and understands what Ravens football is all about. I have a profile in mind, and we are excited about the coaches who have shown interest in the job. One of the positives with the change is that we’re reminded that this franchise – and team – is attractive to many in the profession. We will have a coaching staff that will get the most out of our players.”

John Harbaugh on Jim Caldwell: “We are all so happy for Jim. He deserves this opportunity, and I congratulate the Lions for selecting him. We’re disappointed that we’ve lost Jim. We were looking forward to making progress on offense with Jim leading the charge as coordinator. Jim is a teacher, he is honorable, he is a respected leader, and every person with the Ravens will miss him. Players and assistants respond to him. You understand why he was named Detroit’s head coach and why all the other teams had him among the finalists.”

Ozzie Newsome on Jim Caldwell: ”I believe it would be difficult to find anyone with the Ravens who is more respected than Jim Caldwell. That includes players, coaches and other staff members. He earned that because of the person he is and his extensive knowledge about football, including the keys to winning and his ability to teach all of that. Personally, it is a privilege to know him, and it was an honor to work with him. We put Jim in a difficult position a year ago when we named him offensive coordinator late in the season. All he did was help us turn our offense around, and we won the Super Bowl. He has many strengths, but one that is sometimes overlooked is his ability to bring a coaching staff together. He has already succeeded as a head coach, and he will again in Detroit.”

Joe Flacco on Jim Caldwell: “I enjoyed my time with Jim greatly. He is a man that I will always respect as a football coach, leader and a friend. Through his calming influence and extensive knowledge of the game, he was an integral part of our success over the past few years. He will be missed by me and the Ravens. I wish him the best of luck in Detroit.”

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We debut our #WNSTSweet16 list with the Greatest Local Sports debuts

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We debut our #WNSTSweet16 list with the Greatest Local Sports debuts

Posted on 07 January 2014 by Glenn Clark

On Sunday night we introduced our first #WNSTSweet16 discussion topic for 2014. As we celebrate 16 years as Baltimore’s local sports media leader, we’re looking at some of the “water cooler” topics you’ve most discussed since we first turned on the microphone.

With the debut of #WNSTSweet16, our first list focuses on just that-debuts. The Greatest Local Sports Debuts is the topic in fact. As we look over the history of Baltimore (and Maryland) sports, what single games, seasons, etc. stand out as the best of the best?

We’ve been discussing the topic here, on-air at AM1570 WNST and on social media for the last couple of days and will continue to do so. Here’s the list.

16. The inaugural season of the Baltimore CFL Colts/Baltimore CFL’s/Baltimore Football Club/Baltimore Stallions (1994)

As I look back on the first of two years of Canadian football in Charm City, what stands out most was the attendance figures for the home games.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, that’s 31,000 or more fans at EVERY home game at Memorial Stadium to watch (let’s be honest) a second rate product. It was a remarkable testament to the rabid nature of football fandom in Baltimore and further proof of the city’s worthiness of a NFL return. The team itself was quite good-including future NFL players like O.J. Brigance, Josh Miller and Shar Pourandesh as well as Canadian Football Hall of Famers like Tracey Ham and Mike Pringle. The season ended with a loss to the BC Lions in the Grey Cup, a year before the franchise would become the only American team to ever win a Grey Cup.

No. 15 next page…

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Fanfare perhaps dimmed, but no doubting Flacco as “Local Sportsperson of the Year”

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Fanfare perhaps dimmed, but no doubting Flacco as “Local Sportsperson of the Year”

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

After leading the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl title in 12 years with a brilliant 11 touchdown, zero interception performance in the playoffs, quarterback Joe Flacco was a near unanimous choice as WNST’s annual “Local Sportsperson of the Year” for 2013.

This probably would have been a more exciting announcement had we made it in April or May. Charm City sports fans are well aware of the up and down 2013 season Flacco had that ended with the team missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season-making the conversation leading up to the award perhaps a bit more interesting than it should have been considering exactly what Flacco accomplished in the first five weeks of calendar 2013.

It actually even lead to a bit of a surprise in WNST voting, as one WNST voter voted for Orioles 1B Chris Davis instead of voting for Joe Flacco. That voter will explain their decision in the coming days, but was the reason why Flacco was only a “near” unanimous choice instead of a completely unanimous choice.

For the rest of the WNST voters, the decision was quite simple. Here is a reminder of the criteria for our yearly honor.

First, the person must be local. They must be an athlete, coach or front office member for a pro, college or high school team in the state of Maryland. Individual sport athletes who represent the state of Maryland also qualify.

Second, the person must stand out from other people over the course of the 12 calendar months. The accomplishments of that individual must be comparable to if not greater than the accomplishments of others in the area.

And finally, that person’s year must stand out from other years during their tenure/career in the area.

It’s fairly simple criteria that has guided the choice made each year. Flacco joins Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps (2008), Morgan State basketball coach Todd Bozeman (2009), Former Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez (2010), Towson football coach Rob Ambrose (2011) and Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (2012) as winners of the award. Flacco is the first Baltimore Raven to receive the honor since inception.

Flacco beat out fellow finalists Davis, Stevenson lacrosse coach Paul Cantabene, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Towson RB Terrance West in claiming the title.

In the first few years of WNST determining a “Local Sportsperson of the Year”, D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction host Drew Forrester said something about a particular vote that has resonated in years that followed in making the decision. Forrester identified who he was voting for and then said “he made more people smile this year than anyone else.”

It was that thought process that made the choice of Flacco fairly easy to most at WNST. For all of the accomplishments of the other finalists-Cantabene guiding a team to the first national championship in ANY sport in school history, Davis crushing a team record 53 home runs, West crushing the record for most records broken in a single season (Editor’s note: that might not be factual. It just certainly feels that way)-none did more for the city of Baltimore than the quarterback did to start the year.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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For Ravens fans, a season to forget but a finish that must be remembered

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For Ravens fans, a season to forget but a finish that must be remembered

Posted on 30 December 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s never easy trying to repeat as a sports champion. Ask anyone who has ever won.

For the 2013 Baltimore Ravens it became clear quite early in training camp that last season was a long, long time ago. This year’s version of the defending champions spent 16 mostly-long weeks, like Barry Manilow, trying to get that feeling again. And as the clock ticked down on the final, gruesome minutes in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t hard to get inside the brain of general manager Ozzie Newsome because his thoughts probably mirrored ours.

This team just wasn’t very good.

For the 18th consecutive year I walked through the Ravens locker room at the end of a season and this time surveyed the carnage of lost hopes and dreams. There were two times — in Tampa and New Orleans — when I still was wondering about the future even as delicious as the present was at that precious moment in time. Every year I look around that room of mostly battered men and wonder how many will be on the field in Owings Mills when they take the field in late July. This time I had more questions and more confusion because of how under-performing so many players were at so many positions across the roster.

At heart, the Ravens lacked “great” players. All over the place.

Owner Steve Bisciotti will take the podium at some point in the next 10 days and discuss his thoughts on trying to repeat and what he gleaned from an 8-8 finish and four months of woeful offensive theater.

When the years pass and any fan looks back on 2013 and sees that somehow the kicker was voted the team’s MVP, well…that just about says it all. No offense to kickers anywhere, but when Justin Tucker is your team’s MVP – and really, there wasn’t much argument regarding his choice — you probably don’t deserve to make the playoffs.

And yet somehow this pesky group from Baltimore made it all the way into the second half of Week 17 with a chance to play into 2014. They weren’t 4-12 and playing out the string. The season wasn’t over in October. And given the heroics and determination we’ve witnessed over the past six seasons since John Harbaugh arrived, when the game was 17-17 in Cincinnati yesterday it wasn’t hard to envision a 9-7 finish and some unlikely hero finding some way to create a play that extended the season into the New Year.

But, alas, the Ravens probably got what they deserved – an early trip to the golf course with the rest of the 19 other teams who stumbled and bumbled through the fall.

“We’re an 8-8 team,” Flacco said from the podium at Paul Brown Stadium. “We didn’t deserve to go to the playoffs.”

True, that.

I see the mindless posts from football fans who drink too much in the first half of games each week. The unseemly criticism of Flacco and his salary and his play – much of which is predicated on blocking, scheme and route-running from others — is almost comical for anyone who really watches football and understands the value of a world-class quarterback and a well-oiled offensive machine. Flacco’s “eliteness” has become a running civic conversation. The parade, the Super Bowl MVP performance, the five straight years of exciting football in January seems to be vanquished into the gutter of people’s minds in Baltimore anytime the Ravens lose.

It’s really unbelievable to me how unappreciated Flacco is by the mental midgets in the Ravens fan base who clearly don’t remember the 15 guys who played quarterback before him from 1996 through 2007.

There’s even a case to be made that the season ended two weeks ago when Flacco limped off the field in Detroit. Without Joe Flacco, there’s very little doubt that the season would’ve ended before it began especially given the lack of talent and results across the roster.

It was clearly Flacco’s worst season in the NFL but it’s also very clear that virtually every component of the team around him underachieved and

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We’re announcing “Local Sportsperson of the Year” Tuesday. Here are the finalists.

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We’re announcing “Local Sportsperson of the Year” Tuesday. Here are the finalists.

Posted on 30 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

We’ll make our annual “Local Sportsperson of the Year” announcement Tuesday here at WNST. The announcement is scheduled for 3pm Tuesday on “The Reality Check” here on AM1570 WNST.net.

We discussed a slew of names for Local Sportsperson of the Year this year. Here is a reminder of our previous winners.

2008-Michael Phelps
2009-Todd Bozeman
2010-Greivis Vasquez
2011-Rob Ambrose
2012-Buck Showalter

We discussed a number of names for “Local Sportsperson of the Year” in 2013. As a reminder, there are only three qualifications when it comes to the award.

First, the person must be local. They must be an athlete, coach or front office member for a pro, college or high school team in the state of Maryland. Individual sport athletes who represent the state of Maryland also qualify.

Second, the person must stand out from other people over the course of the 12 calendar months. The accomplishments of that individual must be comparable to if not greater than the accomplishments of others in the area.

And finally, that person’s year must stand out from other years during their tenure/career in the area.

Here are our five finalists for 2013 in alphabetical order by last name.

Paul Cantabene (Stevenson Lacrosse Coach)

Cantabene guided the Mustangs to the Division III National Championship, the first national championship of any kind in school history. Cantabene has steadily built the program as a major national power since his arrival in Owings Mills and has himself become a very hot commodity in the world of college lacrosse coaching. Cantabene is not a native Baltimorean but is about as close as can be, having coached at Johns Hopkins, Towson and Maryland after finishing his playing career at Loyola.

Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles 1B)

Davis finished third in AL MVP voting in 2013 and was named “Most Valuable Oriole” by local media after a remarkable season that saw him break Brady Anderson’s club single season home run record with 53. Davis was far from a one trick pony, adding 42 doubles to hit .286 with a .370 on base percentage and added 138 RBI. Davis also played a high level of defense in his first full season at first base, helping the Orioles to a winning record for a second straight season.

Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens QB)

While Flacco’s (and the Ravens’) 2013 season sputtered following the signing of a long-term contract extension, it cannot be forgotten how Calendar 2013 began. Flacco’s remarkable 11 touchdown, zero interception postseason run ended with the quarterback claiming Super Bowl XLVII honors and bringing Charm City their first championship in over a decade. Despite Flacco’s underwhelming numbers, he was still a finalist for Most Valuable Raven in the 2013 season and came up with a number of spectacular throws during the season.

John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens Head Coach)

The conversation surrounding Flacco must also include Harbaugh, who deftly guided the Ravens to that Super Bowl title. Harbaugh’s run of reaching the playoffs in every season as head coach ended in 2013, but the calendar year began with the coach finishing his finest season since replacing Brian Billick.

Terrance West (Towson RB)

West is the only native Baltimorean to be named a finalist in 2013, leading the Tigers to the NCAA FCS Championship Game January 4. West seemingly smashed every school record in the process, being named All-American, CAA Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award-FCS’ equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. The junior back is Baltimore through and through, having attended Northwestern High School and growing up watching and rooting for the Baltimore Ravens.

(Other candidates who were considered for this year’s honor included Ravens K Justin Tucker, Orioles 3B Manny Machado, UMBC soccer coach Pete Caringi, University of Maryland midfielder/Tewaaraton Trophy winner Katie Schwarzmann, Former St. Frances basketball player Tevon Saddler and more.)

Who do you think should receive the annual WNST honor? We’ll make the announcement Tuesday afternoon.

-G

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