Tag Archive | "Jamal Lewis"

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Lingering legends aside, Ray Rice might be the most popular and productive Raven today. One thing’s for sure…at $550K or so in the final season of his contract, Ray Rice is easily the Ravens best pound-for-pound bargain, and arguably the league’s best. One other thing that seems assured is that Rice is going to get paid. When, how much and where that happens however may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as it would seem.

This has been “the year of…” lots of things in the NFL, the year of the 5K quarterbacks, the year of the rookies, the year of the power forwards at tight end and the year of the disgruntled running back.

 

As running backs league wide from Chris Johnson to Frank Gore, from Matt Forte to Peyton Hillis have barked and in some cases dogged it (allegedly…and no pun intended) over their “contract to performance ratios”, Rice with arguably the strongest case of all has remained silent. Silent about the contract that is, on the field he has been anything but silent or dogged.

 

It’s been a running topic of conversation all season on the MobTown Sports Beat and everyone seems assured that Rice will be taken care of by the Ravens and some have speculated that there’s no reason Rice shouldn’t feel confident that the team will take care of him.

 

It’s all but 100% (in my mind at least) that Rice will be back next season, but under what circumstances and for how long are still debatable.

 

If you subscribe to the school of WWBBD (What would Bill Bellichick do?) the answer is to franchise Rice. Given Adrian Peterson’s new contract, the franchise tag will be a big number, but only for one season. Whether Rice would maintain his decorum for another season under similar (albeit more lucrative) circumstances to this one would remain to be seen as well.

 

In addition to Peterson’s contract, his injury will also likely factor heavily into the Ravens impending decision of whether to franchise Rice or to pay him long term money. Peterson’s injury is a not so subtle reminder of just how quickly a running back in particular can see his season (or even his career) ended. Having all of your eggs in that proverbial basket is a high-risk high reward proposition (as we learned in 2001 with Jamal Lewis’ injury).

 

The value of NFL running backs is on the decline, but the pay scale on the top end of the position is still rising. There are lots of Pro Bowl caliber and highly compensated running backs in the NFL watching the playoffs from home this season, and most of the league’s most productive offenses have plug and play backfields and use the running game as an afterthought for little more than window dressing it would seem at times.

 

Only one running back went in the first round of the last NFL draft and while still promising, Mark Ingram has done little to make teams sorry for passing on him. DeMarco Murray, taken on the second day of the draft was the league’s best rookie at the position.

 

One year prior, Ryan Matthews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best all went in the first round and all were summarily outperformed by undrafted rookies LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. An undrafted practice squad player from one season earlier led the league in rushing last season and the Packers marched through the Super Bowl after losing their bell-cow in Ryan Grant and replacing him with little known and lightly regarded James Starks.

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San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens

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Thanksgiving leftovers from the Ravens’ win over San Francisco

Posted on 25 November 2011 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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bigben

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My Ravens v. Steelers “Top 10 Most Memorable”

Posted on 06 November 2011 by Glenn Clark

I’m simply calling this my “Top 10 Most Memorable.” Not my “Top Ten Most Memorable Games” or my “Top Ten Most Memorable Moments”, just my “Top 10 Most Memorable” in the history of the Baltimore Ravens/Pittsburgh Steelers Rivalry…

10. Jamal2K (December 28, 2003-Ravens 13, Steelers 10 OT)

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The game didn’t really end up meaning anything for either team, as the Ravens clinched the division earlier in the day with a Cincinnati Bengals loss. That said, the atmosphere remained electric for the Sunday Night Football matchup as Brian Billick stuck with his starters. RB Jamal Lewis fell short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record (live shots of Dickerson from ESPN during the broadcast actually added to the excitement), but he DID surpass the 2,000 yard mark and the Ravens claimed victory of their AFC North foe.

9. Ravens won’t defend (January 20, 2002 Steelers 27, Ravens 10)

2022

Despite an up and down 2001 season, there was still a feeling that once the Baltimore Ravens reached the playoffs, they’d somehow figure out a way to defend their Super Bowl XXXV crown. Kordell Stewart and Amos Zereoue did little against the Ravens defense, but three Elvis Grbac picks ensured the Ravens’ title hopes would be dashed at Heinz Field.

8. Flacco’s coming out party (September 29, 2008 Steelers 23, Ravens 20 OT)

After a surprising quick start to the 2008 season with first year head coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens entered their Monday Night Football showdown in the Steel City undefeated. They took a quick lead in the game, but some mistakes allowed the Steelers back into the game. The game would ultimately be won by the Steelers in overtime, but Ravens fans who made the trip felt good about the hopes for the coach and QB moving forward in the series.

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Comparisons to 2000 Ravens premature, but this year’s defense could be exceptional

Posted on 06 October 2011 by Luke Jones

We just can’t help ourselves, can we?

After more than a decade of defensive excellence in Baltimore, we always compare the latest eye-popping Ravens defense to the platinum standard of that 2000 unit. It was that group, of course, that lifted a caretaker offense — rookie running back Jamal Lewis being the lone exception — to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship.

It was a once-in-a-generation defense, yet we refuse to acknowledge that type of group won’t come along again — even if we say otherwise.

We did it in 2003 when Ray Lewis led a young group of budding defensive stars to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking and an AFC North title.

It happened again in 2006 as the Ravens finished 13-3 and first overall in both points and yardage allowed, something the 2000 group wasn’t able to do.

And the similarities were examined between that championship group and the 2008 defense – ranked second overall behind only the Steelers — coached by Rex Ryan in his final year in Baltimore before taking his antics to the Big Apple.

It sure feels a lot like 2000, doesn’t it?

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It’s not surprising the whispers have already started about the 2011 edition of Ray Lewis and company after a 3-1 start in which the Ravens rank third overall in total defense, third against the run, tied for seventh against the pass, and first in the NFL with 14 takeaways. The pass rush is improved with 11 sacks already after posting a franchise-low 27 in 2010. The Baltimore defense has already set single-game franchise records when it forced seven turnovers against Pittsburgh in Week 1 and scored three defensive touchdowns against the Jets last Sunday night.

But, are we really going to start talking about comparisons to 2000 after only four games?

For the sake of the argument, comparing the two units through the first four games of the season — one small sample deserves another if we’re going to be fair — shows the championship group with the upper hand. The 2000 Ravens allowed fewer yards (996 to 1,138), gave up fewer points (55 to 57), and recorded two shutouts while this year’s defense has yet to post a goose egg for 60 minutes. However, this year’s 14 takeaways trumps the 10 forced by the 2000 group.

Those first four games in 2000 included two of the four largest point totals surrendered by that defense in the regular season, including the 36 scored by Jacksonville in a thrilling 39-36 shootout win in Week 2. This year’s Ravens have faced only one offense currently ranking in the top half of the league (Pittsburgh is ranked 13th), but the 2000 group faced only one top-10 offense (Jacksonville was seventh overall in 2000) through four games.

As fun as it is to draw comparisons between the known and the unknown, the reality is it’s too early to determine where the 2011 defense will even rank among the many good defenses in the 16-year history of the franchise, let alone talk about any potential similarity with one of the greatest units in NFL history. The only link between the two defenses is Ray Lewis, who depends far more on his intellect as a 36-year-old than he had to as a 25-year-old wrecking machine.

Moving beyond the statistics, Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 hybrid defense is far more similar to a Ryan-coached unit than Marvin Lewis’ record-setting defense from 11 years ago. The current unit relies on deception and blitzing to create pressure, disguising its intentions until the last possible minute. Lewis, on the other hand, largely played his 4-3 defense straight up, using a dominating front four that created pressure on the quarterback and a brick wall impenetrable for running backs.

And here is where we get to the largest discrepancy that should end any real discussion between the championship group and this year’s edition.

The secondaries.

Continue >>>

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7-Next 7 Greatest Players in Ravens History

Posted on 26 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

In honor of the “Purple Massacre” moves the Baltimore Ravens made Monday (and the chance the Charm City careers of Derrick Mason and Todd Heap may be over), today’s Morning Reaction “Tuesday Top 7″ topic was “The Next 7 Greatest Players in Ravens History.”

We say the “Next 7″ instead of the “Top 7″ because we’re in agreement that the Top 3 players in franchise history are Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Ed Reed.

This is a battle for spots 4-10.

Understood?

Glenn Clark’s list…

10. Haloti Ngata

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9. Derrick Mason

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8. Terrell Suggs

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7. Todd Heap

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6. Peter Boulware

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5. Chris McAlister

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4. Jamal Lewis

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Stover Ring Of Honor No-Brainer, But Who Will Join Him?

Posted on 27 May 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover formalized his retirement Thursday in a press conference at 1 Winning Drive.

“Playing for the Baltimore Ravens, I think I’ve always said that it’s a privilege” said Stover. “Being in the league has been a privilege-more than you can imagine.”

Stover had not kicked for the Ravens since the end of the 2008 season, he had not kicked in the National Football League at all since spending the end of the 2009 season with the Indianapolis Colts.

Stover, 43, spent 13 seasons in Charm City after coming to the city when the Cleveland Browns moved following the 1995 season. He was the only remaining player who came from Cleveland until he left after ’08.

During his 13 seasons in Baltimore, Stover made 354 of his 418 field goal attempts (84.6%), finishing 471/563 (83.7%) for his career. He was named the AFC’s Pro Bowl kicker twice in his career, including once in Baltimore (2000), the same season he played a significant role in helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV, the only Super Bowl title in the team’s brief history.

It came with no surprise that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti announced that the team would induct Stover into their Ring of Honor on November 20th when the team hosts the Cincinnati Bengals.

“The thing about being in the Ring of Honor is that I meant to much to my team, the community” said Stover. “That to me is an awesome, awesome privilege. I can’t imagine any greater honor that an organization can give to a player, and I appreciate the Ravens doing that. I’ll be proud to do it…to retire as a Raven with some other great players.”

Stover’s on-field role would have been enough to guarantee his inclusion, but his community involvement (most notably with the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes) set him apart from other successful players in franchise history. Stover was a beloved figure during his time in Baltimore, even amongst fans who wouldn’t be considered amongst the most passionate.

Clearly Stover meets all qualifications to join OT Jonathan Ogden, LB Peter Boulware, DE Michael McCrary, Former Owner Art Modell, RB/Contributor Earnest Byner and the Hall of Fame Baltimore Colts as being featured prominently at M&T Bank Stadium to be remembered for the eternity of the franchise’s existence.

The question moving forward for me is now “who will join him?”

The Ravens have been very fortunate to have a number of great players/contributors in recent years, many of whom are worthy of consideration.

Here is the explanation of the criteria used by the Ravens when selecting players to their Ring of Honor…

“Character: The induction into the Ravens Ring of Honor represents the highest honor for a career of individual accomplishment resulting in team success. Teams constructed with character reduce uncertainty and stay on their purpose Ravens of Honor maintain direction with intense focus character is at the beginning of the cycle and takes them all the way to a successful ending.

Gratitude: Ravens of Honor carry forth a special attitude of gratitude, to those around them, they are always a fountain rather then a drain. Each is different but all keep those around them on the path of progression. Their basic ability to enjoy their talents and gifts of others help them to continually contribute as opposed to contaminate.

Vision: Fueled by self-knowledge, great character and an appreciation for everything available to them. Ravens of Honor visualize short and long term successes in Technicolor. They are, through vision, great connectors. Those around them are energized and they use all that surrounds them to create an inspirational bigger picture.

Passion: Passionate Ravens have an unusual ability to face failure, physical setbacks and exhaustion. They have an internal tenacity that helps them get back up when knocked down. Their passion motivates teammates to join in on the pursuit of the team dream. Passion breeds conviction and turns mediocrity into excellence. With passion, we can overcome all obstacles.

Faith & Courage: Ravens of Honor stand tall in the good times as well as the rough times. They are help up by their deep faith in themselves, their teammates and their fans. Inspired by belief in a great destiny, these champions never waver from their victorious path. Faith is belief in what you cannot see. Great vision matched with unbridled passion sets up absolute faith. Faith evokes a special courage and confidence. When matched with action, faith kills worry and procrastination, the two traits which produce regular failure.

Competitive Spirit: True competitors want to be put on the line and measured. They thrive on adversity and use it to achieve a special edge. They know the easy lakes get fished out first, thus they skip the easy. Persistence, determination, tenacity and sportsmanship are the hallmarks of this warrior mentality. Ravens of Honor need character, gratitude, vision, passion and faith to become a championship caliber competitor. There are no shortcuts and they do not look for them, because their competitive fire will not allow them to.

Humility: Humility in oneself inspires the best of others and feeds our character. A vital aspect of the true leadership is the willingness of others to follow.”

Nowhere on that list does it state that a player has to have reached a Pro Bowl as a Raven, which has been believed to be a bit of an unwritten rule within the franchise. In fact, a Ravens executive told me Thursday the qualifications could really be stated as “extraordinary contributions to the NFL, the Ravens and the community.” The same executive was willing to admit however that “it will be more difficult to make our Ring of Honor if the player was never recognized as a Pro Bowler, but it could happen.”

There are a number of current Ravens whose inclusion in the Ring of Honor seems to be as simple a decision as Stover’s. LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed and TE Todd Heap all seem to be easy choices after their careers conclude. WR Derrick Mason certainly has an argument. LB Terrell Suggs and DT Haloti Ngata have laid the groundwork for what could ultimately become Ring of Honor careers.

Perhaps a bit more interesting in the list of former Ravens who have not yet been honored. RB Jamal Lewis, CB Chris McAlister, DT Tony Siragusa, OL Edwin Mulitalo  and former Coach Brian Billick (full disclosure-Billick is now a part owner of WNST.net) have all moved on from their careers but have not been honored. General Manager Ozzie Newsome would seem to be a potential future honoree, and LB/contributor O.J. Brigance was the subject of a recent Facebook campaign seeking his induction.

There is an argument as to why any of the above names should be in. The reality is that in the next ten years, the team’s Ring of Honor could grow exponentially.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with being an organization that has a number of great players/contributors afforded significant recognition. An argument could be made that it simply reflects the greatness of the organization to have such an expansive number of ROH honorees.

At the same time, the Ravens do face a dilemma as they consider the future of the way they recognize players. In thirty years, these names will all represent the finest players/contributors in franchise history. The organization must at least be willing to ask the question “will this player’s inclusion still make sense when we look back in 30 years?”

It is a more significant honor than the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame, where a player is simply noted on a tough to find outfield plaque at Oriole Park at Camden Yards after honored at a pregame ceremony and luncheon. Fans don’t have to stare at the names for decades and debate the merit of their inclusion during games the way fans do at M&T Bank Stadium.

We’ve all experienced the moment where someone sitting near us says “did they REALLY put Earnest Byner in the Ring of Honor?” The answer is yes, and we’re all equally uncomfortable about despite our great respect for Mr. Modell.

As the team considers other candidates, they must keep in mind those questions. “Is ______ really in the Ring of Honor? Didn’t he only play here for like four seasons?” “You guys put ______ in the Ring of Honor? Did he ever even get to the Pro Bowl?”

They’ll be relevant questions that Ravens fans will have to answer.

The team doesn’t want to make the requirements for induction more stringent, as they want to be able to make their own decisions about who to induct instead of limiting themselves by instituting additional requirements.

Make no mistake. Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, Chris McAlister, Brian Billick, Ozzie Newsome and Todd Heap really should all be in no matter how the team defines the requirements. Ravens fans should always be see those names honored for the greatness they contributed to the franchise and city.

But as far as the others are concerned, the team will have to truly make difficult decisions.

Hear Stover’s press conference-including comments from Bisciotti, Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net! Stover joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Friday on AM1570 WNST, that chat is in the Audio Vault as well!

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Counterpoint: Bordick not amongst Orioles’ best, but I’m fine with induction

Posted on 20 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

Upon hearing that former SS Mike Bordick had been elected to the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame Saturday morning, I will admit that at first I thought to myself, “huh?”

But after a few minutes of thinking about it, it struck me that Mike Bordick is a fine choice for what isn’t a particularly significant honor.

Many Baltimore sports fans are particularly disappointed when they look towards the Baltimore Ravens’ Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium and see the name Earnest Byner listed with the young franchise’s best players (Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary); the man who returned football to Charm City (Art Modell) and the players who represented the Baltimore Colts franchise that captivated this city for over 30 years.

Earnest Byner was a marginal contributor for two seasons and an assistant coach for a few years after that. It is well known that Modell wanted to honor Byner and decided the Ring of Honor was the way to do just that.

When Ravens fans in ten years see the names of Ray Lewis, Todd Heap, Jamal Lewis, Chris McAlister, Matt Stover and Brian Billick honored at their “Purple Palace”, Byner’s inclusion will seem out of place at best, but could be somewhat embarrassing when opposing fans visiting town ask “Byner? Why don’t you go ahead and put Kyle Boller up there too?”

The reality of Bordick’s induction to the Orioles Hall of Fame is that the honor itself isn’t significant enough to warrant such opposition. The Orioles honor their greatest players in franchise history by retiring their numbers and featuring them with figures outside Orioles Park at Camden Yards and commemorative signs inside OPACY as well.

As an organization, the O’s do a good job of separating the all-time greats (Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken) from those who simply warrant a “thank you” for their time in orange and black (BJ Surhoff, Harold Baines, Rick Dempsey, Mark Belanger).

Make no mistake. Mike Bordick does not deserved to be remembered in the same way as some other Birds who have received Hall of Fame status. Ken Singleton, Boog Powell, Dave McNally, Mike Flanagan and others had a much more significant impact on the franchise than Bordick.

Instead of being featured prominently at The Yard, Bordick will only receive mention on a small Eutaw Street wall plaque. The Orioles will hold their annual luncheon and pre-game ceremony for fans to thank Bordick, then he will mostly be a name on a list.

They’re not trying to compare Bordick to Ripken-even if Bordick was the player to replace the “Iron Man” at shortstop.

With the only criteria for induction being that the player must have played for the team for at least three seasons, Bordick (parts of six seasons) qualifies. He’ll be remembered for his All-Star Game appearance in 200 and a stellar defensive season in 2002. He’ll be remembered by myself as being the piece that brought Melvin Mora to Baltimore from the New York Mets.

For these reasons, I applaud Bordick’s election. It will be nice for me to clap for one of the few players I have enjoyed watching during these dreadful 13 seasons of Orioles baseball.

-G

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: McGahee's End Lets Ravens Spend, Is LT Last of the H.O.F. RBs? & Melo-Dramatic Ending

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: McGahee’s End Lets Ravens Spend, Is LT Last of the H.O.F. RBs? & Melo-Dramatic Ending

Posted on 22 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Tuesday 3-Pointer

#1 – McGahee’s End Could Help Ravens Spend

This is one crazy NFL off-season already, and with fans forced to face up the reality of the impending labor strife, it seems that any opportunity to turn their collective focus toward anything moderately on-field related will have NFL fans jumping in with both feet. For evidence of that look no further than the apparent stir caused among Ravens fans yesterday based on the speculation by the Sun’s Mike Preston that the Ravens are likely to release Willis McGahee.

The reaction was a much bigger surprise after all than the realization regarding McGahee itself should have been. McGahee’s original deal with the Ravens, was reported to be a 7-year deal structured to be 3 years, meaning that by the end of the third season McGahee’s salary cap number would likely be preclusive to the team’s ability to keep him around beyond that time. The fact that Willis was a Raven at all in 2010 should have been a moderate surprise in the first place, and is likely at least somewhat attributable to the absence of a salary cap last season. Add to that the Ravens apparent wait and see approach, indicating that no players were likely to be released before the expiration of the league’s collective bargaining agreement in March, and it’s apparent that fans are dying for something…anything unrelated to labor negotiations to talk about.

Given the recent trends at the running back position league-wide, and the apparent wear and tear that has been exacted on Ray Rice of late, it’s easy to envision the Ravens looking to get younger at running back for 2011. What’s more, the failure of a number of recent highly drafted running back prospects, and success of almost as many undrafted free agents in recent seasons could lead to a bounty of running back talent in the late rounds of this year’s NFL draft and beyond. Say what you want about Ozzie’s recent draft record, but his success at finding running backs has been consistent throughout his tenure with the Ravens.

The league, in recent seasons, has shown a willingness to use running backs for all they’re worth while they’re young and relatively cheap, seemingly exhausting most of their talent before having to commit to big, long-term paydays. In the modern salary cap environment (presumably coming back in 2011) facilitating a position like running back “on the cheap” might free teams up to spend outlandish money for the types of talent that’s tougher to come by through free agency.

While I can’t envision the Ravens looking to break the bank and salary cap on a player like Nnamdi Asomugha, it’s reasonable to think that they could afford to if they were sure they could cover the running back position credibly with 3 low paid options. They might look elsewhere in the system too, to places like tight end and/or safety, places where they’ve always been able to find inexpensive, late round talent, at positions that are propped up to a degree by the system, and places where they’re reasonably certain that they could maintain strength in that system without committing a ton of money to the effort. If Joe Flacco matures and becomes a reliable top-10 in the league quarterback instead of a top-5 QB, that too could mean a savings of $5-$8 million per season, in this NFL, where corners and rush ends have seemingly been recognized as the most valuable defensive commodities, spending through free agency might be the only way outside of finishing 2-14 of coming by these types of players.

#2 – LT – Last of the Hall of Fame Running Backs?

Speaking of the plight of Willis McGahee, or the plight of the modern running back in general for that matter, it seems that we may be moving quickly toward the end of the Hall of Fame running back era.

There are 28 players in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame listed as modern era halfbacks (more than any other position but offensive and defensive line) with Marshall Faulk on his way in 2011. There are another handful of hopefuls who are retired and waiting hopefully on the call for induction, and there’s LaDanian Tomlinson. After that, it might be quite a while before we see another halfback able to put together the type of career that merits induction into the NFL’s hallowed hall.

In this modern landscape of multi-headed backfields, and where running backs are being employed more and more in short, over the middle passing options that wide receivers used to build their reputations on, the league seems to be chewing up and spitting out running backs at a record pace. While guys like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson might be well on their way, at this point they’ve done little more (or arguably less) than Terrell Davis, who is still waiting on a call from the hall, and unlikely to get it in the minds of most or Jamal Lewis for that matter.

I’d encourage you to enjoy LT while you still have the chance, it may be a long time before you see another hall of fame running back.

#3 – Melo-Dramatic Ending

At long last, and after countless speculation, offers, counter-offers, and innuendo, the Knicks and Nuggets have finally agreed to a deal that will deliver Melo to his stated destination of choice in New York. There he’ll join forces with Amar’e Stoudemire to form their own “little big 2“, with arguably nothing else to speak of.

In getting the deal done, and thanks to the pressure provided by the Nets, the Knicks parted company with Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, along with a bevy of draft picks (only 1 first rounder), and some cash to boot. The Nets, for their trouble are reportedly set to get Mozgov and one of the Nuggets’ other new acquisitions for a pair of first round picks that were central to those two teams’ own Carmelo talks. The Knicks will also reportedly send Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota for Corey Brewer.

That leaves the Knicks with 2/3 of their own big 3 in the making in Anthony and Stoudemire, along with uber-second round pick Landry Fields, Brewer and Chauncey Billups if he reports for duty with the Knicks in the backcourt, but next to nothing in support of Amar’e up front. Rony Turiaf remains from the Knicks original roster and he’ll be supported, lightly, by Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams (also acquired in the Anthony deal).

The Knicks were a nice early story, and will ultimately benefit from the attraction that is Anthony and Stoudemire, but for this season at least, they look to have taken a pretty significant step backward. Felton could be viewed as found money by the Knicks, but was one of the most effective (and seemingly quickest) point guards through the first half of the season in Dantoni’s system. Gallinari was having a disappointing season, but was a legitimate threat from the outside with a developing post game, and Mozgov is a reasonably skilled 7-footer with a pretty legitimate upside; he’ll be a welcome addition in New Jersey. But since New York had no real stake in the Eastern Conference this season anyway, it may be one step backward with the intent of taking two big steps forward with two franchise forwards in tow.

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Top 5 moments of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry

Posted on 12 January 2011 by Luke Jones

Saturday marks the 33rd meeting (including playoffs) between the Ravens and Steelers in the 15 years since the NFL returned to Baltimore.

With Pittsburgh holding a 20-12 all-time edge and always coming out on top when the stakes are at their highest, the highlights are admittedly scarce from the Baltimore perspective despite the matchup blossoming into the most intense rivalry in the NFL. A conflict bred from off-field venom and disdain (circa 2001) has morphed into mutual respect and even tighter competition in recent years as the last six meetings in the regular season have been decided by four or fewer points (the Steelers won 23-14 victory in the 2008 AFC Championship).

The divisional-round encounter will add another memorable chapter to Baltimore-Pittsburgh lore, but before looking ahead to potential triumph or bitter disappointment, we look back at the top 5 moments (with a couple honorable mentions added for good measure) in the history of Ravens vs. Steelers — from the Baltimore perspective.

And for our Pittsburgh brethren lurking and ready to chime in, be sure to check back later in the week for the five worst moments in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.

Honorable mention >>>

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

Posted on 05 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of Baltimore Ravens players had solid seasons in 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for now, Ngata’s the guy.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why he got my vote.

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(Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

-G

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