Tag Archive | "haruki nakamura"

There Is No Bye Week For The 15-7-0

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There Is No Bye Week For The 15-7-0

Posted on 10 October 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 guess it’s safe to say Rob Ambrose made the right decision to not redshirt Terrance West

Especially seeing as how his 4TD’s helped Towson improve to 4-1 on the season with their win over Richmond Saturday night at Unitas Stadium….

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT4vlLi_vWo[/youtube]

The Tigers are now 2-0 in the CAA for the first time EVER. Remember when they were picked to finish last in the conference? Nice call there.

(Editor’s note: Spiders QB-and USC transfer-Aaron Corp completed 31 of 34 attempts Saturday night. I still can’t figure out how Towson was ever able to stop them. How does someone go 31 or 34 and win???)

2. When they weren’t fighting, there was a pretty fun football game being played between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers

For some reason, Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins decided to fight about a pretty impressive Steve Smith touchdown from Cam Newton…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq7gVv7I4MA[/youtube]

…Yeah I really have no explanation for that. I will reiterate what I’ve been saying about the Saints all season however. You can tell me all you want about their defense not being great. Based on how good Drew Brees and company are, they’re fine.

3. We want to write the Pittsburgh Steelers off, but Ben Roethlisberger just won’t let us

Sitting on my fantasy football bench, Big Ben managed to toss FIVE touchdowns for the Steelers in the win, pissing off everyone in the world who has no connection to the Steel City. Oh, and Daniel Sepulveda executed a perfect fake punt just to rub it in…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rChOUXR7JyQ[/youtube]

Jonathan Dwyer also ran for over 100 yards as the bad guys beat the Tennessee Titans. That answers the age old question, “who is Jonathan Dwyer?”

4. BCS apologists might get their chance to say LSU-Alabama and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State ARE a playoff system for college football

We’ll start with LSU’s big win over Florida, a blowout that included a would-be touchdown on a fake punt-had it not been for a taunting call that we can all agree was questionable at best…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT_TGuoLdmk[/youtube]

Seriously?

Next, The Crimson Tide started the season with a quarterback controversy. In their big win over Vanderbilt Saturday night, AJ McCarron reminded everyone why that didn’t last very long…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQrJYCbUFK0[/youtube]

Oh yeah. Trent Richardson is still pretty good too.

Elsewhere, Texas came into the Red River Rivalry this year with higher hopes based on the (Case) McCoy-(Jaxson) Shipley Combo Part 2. Landry Jones quickly ruined those hopes…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7BEMeOhYwQ[/youtube]

The path to the BCS Championship Game is also easier for the Sooners this year based on the fact that there is no more Big 12 Big 12 Championship Game.

Which leads us finally to Oklahoma State, who finished on the good end of a 70-28 beatdown of Kansas Saturday…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fgH624Jn-Y[/youtube]

Before you pencil Oklahoma into the national title game, a reminder that the Cowboys host this year’s “Bedlam” game in Stillwater. It’s significant.

5. Kellen Moore remains atop my “Heisman Trophy watch” personally, but I understand why everyone is so hot and bothered by Andrew Luck

Here’s my problem. Everyone always beats up the Boise State QB because the Broncos don’t play top-notch competition. For example, they shredded Fresno State most recently…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Moapfuyqut4[/youtube]

…but thus far, the best team Stanford has beaten all season is Duke-and Duke was NOT playing with Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee, Marshall Plumlee or any other Plumlee anywhere on the planet…that I know of.

The Cardinal’s victim Saturday night was a less than impressive Pac 12 newcomer-Colorado. You only know anything about the game because Tiger Woods took a break from being crappy at golf to show up and watch the thing with John Elway…

tiger

Woods finished tied for 30th this weekend at an event won by some dude named Bryce Molder. Tied for 30th. Bryce Molder. Oh…and some dude threw a hot dog at him while he was playing. REALLY…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMLvYzwNuuA[/youtube]

6. Cincinnati Bengals defense plus AJ Green equals late season games could be more interesting for Ravens than we want them to be

AJ Green was immediately more popular just for NOT being Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens. Now it looks like he’s really good to boot…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-FUlm0MGeI[/youtube]

I don’t think Cincy can stay in the AFC playoff race all season by any stretch of the imagination, but it looks like they’re not going to fall apart either. Marvin Lewis’ team will have two chances to make life miserable in Charm City later this season.

7. Sooo….maybe Jim Harbaugh WAS worth all that money?

Until this point, I have refused to believe in the San Francisco 49ers despite their early season success. After their blowout win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, I might have to start buying stock…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59UTGUCaWo0[/youtube]

I’d say the Josh Morgan injury would hurt them, but they play in the NFC West. I get the feeling they could lose half their roster and still be in the mix.

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

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

Posted on 01 October 2011 by Ryan Chell

Helpless.

Haruki Nakamura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His last regret?

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

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

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

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Friedgen’s Comments Were Hurtful, But Let’s Agree to Do Deeper Thinking Here

Posted on 01 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

I’ve allowed myself over 30 hours to drink up the comments made by former University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen on my radio show Thursday afternoon.

In that time, I’ve heard from Terrapins fans around the globe. I’ve seen the interview written about by national outlets like ESPN, CBS Sports, USA Today, New York Daily News, Yahoo! Sports, NBC Sports, Washington Times, Washington Post and more. I’ve been told the interview has been discussed on national and local radio shows, TV shows, message boards and more. I thank everyone who passed along the conversation via Facebook, Twitter and more traditional conversation.

The interview, which happened live Thursday on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net, can be heard here in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault. I wholly encourage you to listen to the entire interview, as the context can be lost in transcription.

Of course, here’s the part where I share with you the transcription again, courtesy of the Washington Times’ Patrick Stevens…

Clark: I think the one thing everyone wants to know is what are you up to right now?

Friedgen: Well, right now, I’m sitting on my deck looking over the marsh into the — reading a USA Today.

Clark: Not a bad life.

Friedgen: No, I’m enjoying it very much. I do miss our players. I don’t miss all the other stuff, but I do miss the players. I miss the interaction with them. I miss dealing with them. I’m a little bit surprised I don’t miss all the stuff that goes around.

Clark: Well, you did it —

Friedgen: Forty-three years. I may get back into it. I may have a couple other things that pop up. I may be back, so we’ll see.

Clark: Is it tough for you to watch? Have you sat down and watched any Maryland games or is it tough for you to do that. I know you love the kids, but I also know you’re a Maryland alum, and it’s got to be a little painful.

Friedgen: Well, it’s not painful because I watch it for the kids. I could care less about Maryland. I’ve burned my diploma. I’m flying a Georgia Tech flag right now.

Clark: [laughing] That’s hurtful coach. I don’t want to hear that. I’m a Maryland alum.

Friedgen: Well, they talk about Maryland pride. They didn’t show me a whole lot of Maryland pride, either getting the job or getting fired.

Clark: OK.

Friedgen: I had a unique experience. I couldn’t get the game last week so I had to go to a sports bar to watch it. I never knew all that stuff went on, people cheering for all this stuff. It was a whole new experience. My daughter came down this week. I went fishing with her. I’ve never done these things with my kids. She caught a 28-inch redfish. She was ecstatic. I never experienced some of this stuff. It’s like my whole life has changed. I’m kind of catching up on some things I probably should have done a lot earlier in my life but haven’t been able to do it.

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Live from Owings Mills: Grubbs absent on Friday, putting status against Jets in doubt

Posted on 30 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The optimism stirred by Ben Grubbs’ return to the Ravens’ practice field on Thursday appears to have dissipated a day later as the left guard was absent from the portion of practice open to the media.

After practicing on a limited basis, Grubbs was not on the field with the rest of the offensive line as veteran Andre Gurode once again assumed his duties at left guard. Grubbs has not played since the Ravens’ Week 1 win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 11 as he recovers from a right toe injury.

Wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), return specialist David Reed (shoulder), cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle), and safety Haruki Nakamura (knee) were not seen during the portion of practice open to media.

It’s appearing more unlikely that the Ravens will have Grubbs and Evans available against the New York Jets on Sunday night, once again pushing Gurode and rookie Torrey Smith into starting roles.

Referee Mike Carey and his officiating crew will call Sunday night’s game being televised on NBC. Carey served as the referee in the Ravens’ infamous 21-penalty fiasco against the Detroit Lions in 2005, a game in which linebacker Terrell Suggs was ejected for showing “malice in his heart” toward the referee in what exchange.

The Ravens also had special visitors to Friday’s practice as UFC fighters Urijah Faber and Danny Castillo attended the workout. Light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones will be attending Sunday’s game. Jones is the younger brother of defensive tackle Arthur Jones.

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Live from Owings Mills: Grubbs returns to practice for first time since Steelers game

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Live from Owings Mills: Grubbs returns to practice for first time since Steelers game

Posted on 29 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite revealing he’s only begun jogging over the last couple days, left guard Ben Grubbs returned to the practice field on Thursday for the first time since the Ravens’ 35-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener on Sept. 11.

Grubbs missed the last two games with a right toe injury but was doing individual work and firing out of his three-point stance with the rest of the starting offensive line during the portion of practice open to the media. The fifth-year veteran said earlier in the day he would be a game-time decision and is still experiencing discomfort in the toe.

Center Matt Birk (knee) and defensive end Cory Redding also returned to practice after not participating on Wednesday. Both players were on the injury report last week before playing against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3.

Five players were not working for the second straight day during the open portion of practice on Thursday, including wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), return specialist David Reed (shoulder), safety Haruki Nakamura (knee), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle).

Smith’s left foot is finally out of the walking boot he’s worn since sustaining a high ankle sprain while covering a kickoff early in the first quarter against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11. The rookie says the ankle is “getting better” and is beginning to do some light jogging. Smith also revealed it’s the first real injury he’s suffered playing sports in his life. He hopes to return after the bye in the game against the Houston Texans on Oct. 16, but it’s unclear whether the first-round pick will be ready to play by then.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Matt Birk, Chris Carr, Billy Cundiff, Jarret Johnson, Chuck Pagano, Cam Cameron, and Jerry Rosburg right here.

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Evans, Grubbs, six other Ravens on Wednesday’s injury report

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Evans, Grubbs, six other Ravens on Wednesday’s injury report

Posted on 28 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After deciding to place cornerback Domonique Foxworth on injured reserve earlier in the day, the Ravens saw eight more players missing from Wednesday’s practice as they begin preparations for the New York Jets on Sunday night.

Wide receiver Lee Evans and left guard Ben Grubbs headline the list after both missed Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. Evans continues to rest the sore left ankle that’s given him problems since the aftermath of the third preseason game against Washington in August. He told reporters he will likely be a game-time decision, but also admitted the coaching staff will make the decision whether he plays.

“We’re just trying to do what’s best all the way around,” Evans said. “So, we’ll have to see. Right now, it does feel better having a little rest on it, so it’s progress.”

Grubbs appears to be unlikely to play and would miss his third straight game with an injured right toe. The swelling has decreased, but the fifth-year lineman has barely begun jogging and still feels pain in the toe.

With the Ravens having their bye in Week 5, could they elect to be more conservative than usual with Grubbs and Evans, potentially earning two extra weeks of recovery time?

“It’s probably a factor,” coach John Harbaugh said. “If you feel like you can’t be 100 percent in this game and if you have another answer in there, that’s a consideration. It will just depend, as the week goes on, again, how close they are to being 100 percent. But, I think the extra week of rest after this week is a factor.”

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe also missed practice and is considered day-to-day through the week and could be a game-time decision. He left Sunday’s game against St. Louis with a hamstring injury and did not return.

Center Matt Birk and defensive end Cory Redding appeared to be receiving a day off with both players dealing with nagging injuries. Neither player practiced last Wednesday in preparation for the Rams.

Safety Haruki Nakamura joins cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver David Reed as players who will not play on Sunday night. Nakamura has a partially torn PCL, but the safety expressed hope on Wednesday that he’ll return immediately after the bye week when the Ravens host the Houston Texans on Oct. 16.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE – G Ben Grubbs (toe), WR Lee Evans (ankle), DE Cory Redding (toe), C Matt Birk (knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (thigh), S Haruki Nakamura (knee), WR David Reed, CB Jimmy Smith (ankle)
LIMITED – NONE

NEW YORK
OUT – WR Logan Payne (wrist)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE – CB Antonio Cromartie (ribs), C Nick Mangold (ankle)
LIMITED – LB David Harris (toe), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPANT – DL Mike DeVito (shoulder), WR Santonio Holmes (shoulder)

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Ravens safety Nakamura to miss “month or so” with PCL injury

Posted on 26 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nearly everything went right for the Baltimore Ravens in their 37-7 demolition of the St. Louis Rams on Sunday except for another blow to an already-depleted secondary.

Backup safety Haruki Nakamura injured the PCL in his right knee during the first quarter of action in St. Louis and did not return. Results of an MRI were not available when head coach John Harbaugh addressed the media on Monday afternoon, but the team is optimistic about the versatile defensive back’s prognosis.

“It looks promising in terms of him being able to come back [in] maybe a month or so,” Harbaugh said.

The Ravens will discuss the possibility of adding another safety, but Harbaugh mentioned the versatility of cornerback Chris Carr as well as starting corner Lardarius Webb, who are both capable of playing safety. Nakamura has been an invaluable member of the secondary with Carr, Jimmy Smith, and Domonique Foxworth battling injuries at the start of the season. The fourth-year safety has played as the nickel on a number of occasions when a fifth defensive back comes on the field in passing situations.

Harbaugh was unsure of the status of Foxworth and wide receiver Lee Evans for this week’s game against the Jets. Foxworth was inactive despite practicing all week as he continues to work his knee back to full health while Evans was ruled out for Sunday’s game with a lingering ankle injury.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes this week and see where they’re at,” Harbaugh said. “[We'll] probably watch and see if they can practice or not. If they go out and practice, how does it respond the next day? We’ll just have to see.”

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and is considered day to day, and the team will see how he fares this week before making a decision on his status for the Jets.

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Mocking The 53: A Look At Roster Ahead of Preseason Finale

Posted on 30 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens travel to the Georgia Dome to meet the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, the final opportunity for players on the roster “bubble” to impress Head Coach John Harbaugh and coordinators Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano and Jerry Rosburg.

As I am no longer the Ravens beat reporter here at WNST I have deferred to Luke Jones for most of our coverage during Training Camp. I have had the chance to get out to 1 Winning Drive this week, so I decided I would bring back “Mocking The 53″ to get a look at how the team may trim the roster from 80 players to 53.

As I’ve explained before, the team does not have a certain number of players they keep at each position, so I have never done this breakdown by position. Instead, I offer what is more like a “power ranking” of players from 1-80.

Keep in mind, GM Ozzie Newsome is likely to make an addition or two (a veteran backup quarterback-perhaps still Marc Bulger namely) before either Saturday’s cut day or the team’s opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

1. DT Haloti Ngata
2. QB Joe Flacco
3. LB Terrell Suggs
4. RB Ray Rice
5. WR Anquan Boldin
6. S Ed Reed
7. LB Ray Lewis
8. G Ben Grubbs
9. G Marshal Yanda
10. CB Jimmy Smith

Whether or not Smith is a starter on September 11 is the only issue in this group. All of these guys are clearly on the team and significant contributors.

11. OT Michael Oher
12. WR Lee Evans
13. FB Vonta Leach
14. DE Cory Redding
15. P Sam Koch
16. TE Ed Dickson
17. S Bernard Pollard
18. K Billy Cundiff
19. DT Terrence Cody
20. LB Jarret Johnson

Like the first group, the players in the group above are all safely on the roster and are expected to be significant contributors.

21. CB Cary Williams
22. S Tom Zbikowski
23. C Matt Birk
24. OT Bryant McKinnie
25. CB Chris Carr
26. S Haruki Nakamura
27. TE Dennis Pitta
28. RB Ricky Williams
29. LB Jameel McClain
30. WR Torrey Smith

There’s no drama in this group either. McClain still appears to be the frontrunner for the other starting ILB job, while the team has remained steadfast in their support of Torrey Smith despite struggles. There’s a chance he’s not the third receiver on September 11, but he’s absolutely safe on the roster.

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Cameron, Pagano mum on Ravens’ key position battles

Posted on 22 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens’ ever-important third preseason game coming up on Thursday, a number of key position battles still appear wide open, accompanied with varying degrees of concern as the regular season inches closer.

No competition has garnered more attention during camp than the right tackle position with rookie Jah Reid clearly gaining the early advantage over fourth-year lineman Oniel Cousins before the Ravens shifted the latter to guard last week. Though Reid held up well against Kansas City on Friday night, the Ravens signed veteran tackle Mark LeVoir on Saturday to give the 6-foot-7 rookie some competition and to boost depth on the offensive line.

Surprisingly, LeVoir took most of the reps with the first team on Monday while Reid worked with the second offense. LeVoir made two starts in 2008 and played in 32 games in his three seasons with the New England Patriots.

Whether LeVoir supplants Reid as the leader for the starting position or Reid uses the veteran’s arrival as extra motivation, right tackle will undoubtedly remain an area of concern regardless of who’s lining up against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

“I don’t know if it’s narrowed down to any point,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “We’re still evaluating everybody. This is a big game. Ultimately, we’ll go with our best five. We’ll see how that factors in. I wouldn’t say it’s this guy or that guy at this point. We all know Marshal’s played out there. We all know there’s other possibilities. What I will say though is I like what I see.”

On the defensive side of the ball, far healthier competition exists at multiple positions as opposed to the slim-pickings feel of the right tackle position.

Cornerback might be the most interesting battle of all with as many as five players fitting into the starting discussion. Many would have guessed rookie Jimmy Smith would be in the competition after a decorated career at Colorado made him the 27th overall pick, but the emergence of third-year cornerback Cary Williams has surprised even his biggest supporters.

With Domonique Foxworth still working his surgically-repaired knee back to full strength and Chris Carr hampered by a hamstring injury, Williams started against the Chiefs and responded with three pass breakups but did surrender a 4-yard touchdown catch to Terrance Copper right before halftime.

“We’ve got great competition going on,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “We feel like they’re all doing what they’re supposed to do. We got guys in position to make some plays out there. We’ve got some guys making some, we’ve got some guys not finishing some plays — they’re right there.”

Smith drew the task of matching up against Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe and struggled to find the football despite respectable coverage in most cases. Interestingly enough, Foxworth took Smith’s spot with the first defense over the last two practices while the rookie worked primarily with the second team. The 6-foot-1 Williams remained with the first defense.

Is it a wake-up call for Smith or simply an opportunity to work Foxworth back into the starting lineup?

“Jimmy was in great position early in that ballgame,” Pagano said. “It was good for him to get some live action like that. The speed of the game is one thing that a guy like that comes from college and he’s not used to that and all of a sudden the ball’s on him, where they wouldn’t even dare throw it in college. That’s good to see.”

Regardless of who ends up lining up against Hines Ward and Mike Wallace at M&T Bank Stadium in a few weeks, the Ravens may have their deepest group of corners in quite some time with Smith, Foxworth, Williams, Carr, and Lardarius Webb all seeing time with the first team during training camp.

“The great thing is we have five guys that we trust, and there’s some other young guys that are doing a great job,” Pagano said. “[I] feel good about it.”

The annual competition at the inside linebacker spot next to Ray Lewis has provided little clarity as Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe continue to battle for the starting job. McClain holds the edge in experience after starting 15 games last season, but Ellerbe’s immense potential leaves the Ravens encouraged, if not frustrated.

Ellerbe’s work ethic and maturity have come into question at different points during his brief two-year career despite having the edge in overall talent compared to McClain and Tavares Gooden in years past. However, Pagano sees maturity in the former Georgia linebacker, who started in place of Lewis on Friday as the veteran was excused from the team to deal with a serious family illness. Ellerbe responded with three tackles and a combined sack with Webb.

“Him and [McClain] are both starters in my mind, and they’re pushing each other,” Pagano said. “Whoever ends up starting opposite of Ray is going to do a great job. Dannell has — like a lot of the other young guys like Paul and some of these guys — really matured. You can see him just starting to shine [in] his confidence. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s fast, he can run, he can cover, he can do a lot of things. I feel really good about him.”

And perhaps the safest competition is taking place at the strong safety position with Bernard Pollard, Tom Zbikowski, and Haruki Nakamura all viable candidates. Zbikowski held the early lead during camp, but the addition of the hard-hitting Pollard has opened things up, with most thinking the former Houston Texan has the upper hand.

For now, Pagano is simply observing like the rest of us, wondering how the starting lineup will evolve in less than three weeks. One thing is certain: he likes what he sees on all accounts.

“It’s all going to shake itself out.”

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Ravens hope Thursday night vs. Eagles answers questions

Posted on 10 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is the moment Ravens fans have all been in anticipation of as for the first time-even if it’s in exhibition mode-we will get a look at what the 2011 Ravens have in store when it comes to the product on the field.

With the labor turmoil behind us and now the focus solely on the game of football, coach John Harbaugh will now look to his expanded roster to see if there are going to be any concerns going forward in preseason as the team prepares for its Week 1 opener against the Steelers September 11th.

Here is a position-by-position look at some of the question marks going into Thursday against the Eagles, and hopefully some things we hope to see out of those players in the way of answers.

Quarterback-Obviously, Joe Flacco will start Thursday and will likely see two series of work or about a quarter of action. Flacco-who has improved his statistics in each of his first three seasons-doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone; however, he may need to get some game-action with some new faces. It will be interesting to see if Flacco continues to rely on Anquan Boldin as a security blanket early on, or if we see the eventual building of a rapport between Flacco and one of the newer faces in the receiving corps.

Once Flacco leaves, it will be on sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor-who took a significant step forward his senior year at Virginia Tech-to try and prove he deserves the backup role to Joe Flacco. In camp so far, he has been back-and-forth with his accuracy, and it will be on Taylor to show the coaching staff they can have faith in a rookie as Joe Flacco’s backup-maybe the only backup at the position. If not, it gives 2010 practice squad quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who at least has more experience with the playbook than Taylor, to show what he can do under center.

Running Back-Running back Ray Rice will get his first taste of NFL action this year, but in this case, it will be a nibble. The Ravens definitely don’t want to risk injury to a player who is going to get a considerable amount of touches offensively-not just in the running game but also screen passes from Joe Flacco.

Also not playing Thursday will be the newly added Ricky Williams, who still may not be ready to suit up for the Ravens after signing this week. He is familiar with OC Cam Cameron’s playbook from their time in Miami, but all this means is that rookie Anthony Allen, Jalen Parmele, and Damien Berry will battle for carries and a roster spot or two behind Rice and Williams. Vonta Leach and the only other remaining FB on the roster, rookie free agent Ryan Mahaffey out of Northern Iowa, will clear the running lanes.

Wide Receivers-Behind the given in  Boldin, this is a position where the Ravens are going to need immediate impact from some younger players, most notably two of their draft picks in Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss. Quarterback Joe Flacco has sworn by the route-running ability of Doss, the Ravens’ fourth-round pick and Smith has made several big plays during drills in camp.

However, Smith needs to prove that he can be a reliable option across from Boldin. Smith needs to focus on making catches outside of his body, which has caused the former Terp to drop several passes in camp.

Outside of Smith and Doss, it will be interesting to see if veterans Brandon Jones (Titans) and James Hardy (Bills) can make plays against some lesser competition across from them. It they do, it could help their causes in making the roster. Hardy-at 6’5, 220, could be a valuable asset in the red zone and along the sideline if shows the ability to go up and get a jump ball over a defender. Other players like Marcus Smith, Justin Harper, LaQuan Williams, etc need to make plays otherwise they’ll be finding their way off the roster.

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