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Ten non-Flacco thoughts on Ravens’ offseason

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Ten non-Flacco thoughts on Ravens’ offseason

Posted on 19 February 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens about to enter the most critical contract negotiations in franchise history later this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, it’s difficult not to be inundated with the Joe Flacco discussions as general manager Ozzie Newsome tries to lock up his franchise quarterback for the long haul.

Frankly, the talk has been overwhelming and I’m as guilty as anyone in fueling the Flacco fire — HERE, HERE, and even HERE — and what impact it will have on the rest of the offseason and even the future of the franchise.

With that in mind, I offer 10 offseason thoughts not related to “you know who” as we wait to see how negotiations play out:

1. The Ravens could be faced with the choice of overpaying Bryant McKinnie or enduring another season of Michael Oher at left tackle.
Both sides will explore other options, but it’s difficult to find a left tackle — who’s ready to play immediately, anyway — with no cap room and no draft choice higher than 32nd overall. McKinnie may also find a lukewarm market with his off-field baggage and questions over why the Ravens sat him for the entire regular season. If the Ravens deem McKinnie too expensive or too risky to sign, would they roll the dice in going with Oher at left tackle for another season and hoping they can find their left tackle of 2014 in the draft? It’s a dangerous proposition and the Ravens simply don’t have the resources to expect to find anyone better than McKinnie in free agency.

2. Regardless of how the tackle position shakes out, I’d like to see Kelechi Osemele remain at left guard next season. Lost in the shuffle of the offensive line shakeup to start the postseason was the stellar play of Osemele, who was seeing his first extensive time at left guard since the preseason. The Iowa State product played solidly at the right tackle position, but he showed the potential of being a Pro Bowl player on the interior line in four playoff games. At 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, Osemele clearly has the size to hold up at right tackle, but he could be good enough to make everyone forget about Ben Grubbs at the left guard position. The combination of him and Marshal Yanda could be the best guard duo in the league sooner rather than later, so the Ravens would love to keep Osemele inside in a perfect world.

3. Nothing should be guaranteed to Jimmy Smith next season despite a strong rebound in the postseason.
It looked like a lost season for the 2011 first-round pick after ineffective play and sports hernia surgery dropped him to fourth on the depth chart late in the year, but Smith rebounded to play well in the postseason, including making critical plays on third and fourth down of the Ravens’ goal-line stand in the Super Bowl. His 6-foot-2 frame is the logical replacement for the likely-to-depart Cary Williams, but Smith will need to work his way up the depth chart by first beating out Chykie Brown for the No. 3 corner spot and then Corey Graham for a starting job. His postseason play proves the discussion about Smith being a bust was premature, but the time is now for Smith to prove the Ravens were wise to use a first-round pick on him.

4. This will be a big offseason for Terrence Cody, who is looking more like the second failed second-round pick of the 2010 draft. Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle has already parted ways with the Ravens and Cody might follow him sooner rather than later as the nose tackle enters the final year of his rookie contract. Newsome made it clear at the season-review press conference that the Ravens need to improve at defensive tackle and Cody struggled to get on the field as he competed with veteran Ma’ake Kemoeatu this season. Despite being listed at 341 pounds, Cody was often manhandled and made little impact in taking on blockers to allow linebackers to make plays against the run. The defensive lineman made only two tackles in the postseason and could find himself on the roster bubble should he go through the motions during training camp.

5. With all the discussion over the salary cap purge following the 2001 season, has everyone forgotten how quickly the Ravens returned to prominence after gutting their roster? I understand the line of thinking of both Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti in saying they don’t want to mortgage the future solely to make an ill-advised effort to get back to the Super Bowl next season, but it’s not as though the Ravens fell off a cliff following their last purge. They went 7-9 as the youngest team in the NFL in 2002 and improved to 10-6 and captured their first AFC North title in 2003. It certainly helped that the Ravens had young versions of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as well as offensive pillars in Jonathan Ogden and Jamal Lewis, but that group also had Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright playing quarterback. What’s the moral of the story? Organizations that draft well and stay true to their process for making personnel decisions won’t stay down for long in the NFL.

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No Rest for the Wizard

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No Rest for the Wizard

Posted on 19 February 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

Obviously when setting the tone for the Ravens’ off-season, everything takes a back seat to resolving the Joe Flacco contract situation. The importance thereof is only magnified by the realization that there are so many questions still to be answered, so many decisions still to be made; but until the Ravens know for sure what their quarterback’s financial future may hold, everything else is essentially on hold. That however doesn’t diminish the fact that there are important decisions outside the QB position to be made before the Ravens begin their title defense and prepare for the 2013 campaign.

Conceding that the importance of Flacco’s deal is paramount to everything else, here are the next 5 major points of consideration for the Ravens to deal with this off-season in order to have hopes of a 6th straight post-season trip.

 

#1 – Suring Up the Left Tackle Situation

 

If Flacco was the biggest difference maker for the Ravens in the playoffs, then further investigation is merited in determining what helped him turn his season, and his reputation, around. For my money, it began with the offensive line. After a season in the proverbial “dog house” Bryant McKinnie was finally given a chance to show and prove, and from there the offense never seemed to look back.

 

In the lead up to the Broncos game, no one seemed to have any concerns about the Denver secondary. Hindsight might suggest that to have been a result of the constant quarterback pressure the Broncos were able to count on from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Without that pressure however, the Ravens found and readily exploited cracks in the Broncos secondary that no one seemed to know were there in the first place.

 

McKinnie and the Ravens began this season on unceremonious terms, and pretty much kept things that way until the end. Having proven his value, albeit over a 4-game stretch, there’s still no real assurance that the Ravens will or should trust McKinneie enough to agree to terms on a multi-year deal. On the other side of that coin, there’s no good reason to think McKinnie will feel any special brand of loyalty to the Ravens when others come calling on the open market.

 

What’s undeniable about the whole episode is that by replacing Michael Oher with McKinnie at LT, the Ravens were able to move Oher to his natural RT position where he represented an improvement over Kelechi Osemele. Osemele then moved to the LG position that the Ravens struggled to find an answer for all season too. This three-fold improvement made the Ravens line exponentially better; and no matter how they address LT going forward, any “solution” involving moving Oher and Osemele back to the positions they played for the majority of 2012 has to be considered multiple steps backward.

 

#2 – Replacing Jim Caldwell

 

Continuing with the theme of what was different for the Ravens offense at the end, the departure of Cam Cameron and the elevation of Jim Caldwell to the offensive coordinator position would seem to be the other major factor. The performance of Caldwell’s offense has been celebrated widely within the fan base, and certainly hasn’t been lost on the league at large either.

 

In an off-season where everyone seems dissatisfied with the impact of the Rooney Rule and the lack of minority hires made in filling head coaching vacancies, Caldwell will all but surely be a hot head coaching candidate at the end of next season. Even getting to the Super Bowl again, and therefore delaying the process for teams interested in Caldwell might not be enough to slow his roll.

 

In what looks to be a lame duck season for Caldwell with the Ravens, it’s important to figure out if the next guy in line is someone already on staff, or how the team can look to groom a next guy in line, potentially by hiring him as a quarterback coach / OC in waiting.

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Most Important Individual Matchups in Super Bowl XLVII

Posted on 28 January 2013 by jeffreygilley

Super Bowl 47 is filled with many fantastic individual matchups. In this article, I will list what I consider to be the most important matchups as well as who has the edge in that matchup.

Ed Reed VS Colin Kaepernick

Ed Reed’s legacy is on the line in this game. Even without a Super Bowl ring, you could make an argument that Reed is the best safety to ever play the game. So, with a ring, would that even become an argument? That will be discussed no matter the outcome of the Super Bowl.

Kaepernick is not a one trick pony. He can make any throw and loves to throw the ball deep to Vernon Davis. Therefore, Ed Reed should have plenty of opportunities to make plays against a young quarterback.

Ed Reed has two weeks to prepare for this offense. Therefore, I give the advantage to Reed.

Edge: Ed Reed

Ray Lewis VS Frank Gore

Ray Lewis did not play against the 49ers last season. Because of his absence, the 49ers have not played against a linebacker with Ray’s instincts and intensity. While Ray has lost a step, Gore is not the type of player that can consistently break long runs. Therefore, Ray will be able to keep up with Gore.

These two players are simply too good to give the advantage to one player or another. Frank Gore has played against the Ravens twice, once in 2007 and the other in 2011. In those games, Gore has averaged only 45.5 yards rushing. But in those games, Gore’s offensive line was not as talented as it is this season.

Edge: Even

Justin Smith VS Kelechi Osemele

From watching the 49ers postseason games with an injured Justin Smith, it’s no secret that they have struggled to apply pressure. Aldon Smith has struggled mightily since Justin Smith’s injury but when the two are healthy, the two are a terrifying combination.

Justin Smith will be moved around but for the most part, will be matched up with Kelechi Osemele. Osemele played well at tackle but at this point in his career, is better at guard. Osemele is one of the bigger guards in the league and that should help him against Smith.

Osemele will also have to watch out for Aldon Smith, who runs a lot of stunts to the interior of the offensive line.

Despite Osemele’s talent, Smith is a veteran and giving him the edge is a no-brainer.

Edge: Justin Smith.

Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher VS Aldon Smith

On August 25, the 49ers traveled to New Orleans to play the Saints. In that game, Aldon Smith recorded 1.5 sacks, which gave him 30.5 sacks for his career. This, in turn made him the fastest player to reach 30 sacks. Who did he pass on his way to that record you ask? Reggie White.

Obviously, Smith is doing something right. The supremely athletic linebacker/defensive end seems to play better on big stages and none is bigger than the Super Bowl. Oher should be able to hold his own but the much older McKinnie will have his hands full. On passing downs, expect to see Ray Rice or Vonta Leach in pass protection to help slow down Smith. Running some screens where Rice blocks and then releases on a pass route will also help slow down Smith.

Edge when against McKinnie: Aldon Smith
Edge when against Oher: even

Vonta Leach VS Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman

Of all the matchups in the Super Bowl, this might be the best. In 2011, Leach and Willis exchanged blows and Leach embarrassed Willis on one particular play.

Willis is widely considered the best linebacker in the NFL and Bowman is not far behind him. Expect this to be a back and forth battle for the entire game.

Edge: Even

Conclusion
There are many matchups that are evenly matched. Therefore, this game will come down to lesser-known players making big plays. For the 49ers, the two most likely players to play that role are LaMichael James and Delanie Walker. For the Ravens, Jimmy Smith and Tandon Doss are the most likely candidates.

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Your Monday Reality Check: Hyperbole aside, line play why Ravens still riding

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Your Monday Reality Check: Hyperbole aside, line play why Ravens still riding

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

WNST.net Ravens insider Luke Jones joined us for “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” late Saturday night after the Baltimore Ravens’ unbelievable 38-35 2OT win over the Denver Broncos.

Emotions were high in the Zone Superstore Studios of WNST.net. It was hard to have a legitimate conversation. A group of us had gathered to sit and watch the game and just found ourselves shouting “no way” and “unreal” at the television as the Ravens delivered perhaps the most miraculous victory in franchise history.

It was hard to discuss anything beyond the emotion of the moment, the will of the football team, the observations related to the Ravens truly being a team of “destiny”.

Even Head Coach John Harbaugh was caught up in the moment, once again tying the success of a football team to a level of divine intervention in his postgame press conference.

(I have no idea if the Messiah has any interest in determining the outcomes of football games. Perhaps maybe he (she?) felt as though the Broncos had to pay a price for parting ways with the known prophet Tim Tebow in the offseason. And if the Ruler of the Universe really does have concern related to the pigskin, I would vastly prefer a divine preference for the Ravens myself.)

I wish I could tell you what Luke’s response was. More than 24 hours later, I don’t fully remember. What I believe I remember him saying was something about Joe Flacco and then more about the will of the football team. I’m completely in agreement, but it didn’t necessarily answer my question. I’m sort of glad for that.

There’s a well known joke that says “Joe Buck is to baseball what the Catholic Church is to sex. It’s okay that it’s happening just as long as no one is enjoying it.” I’m glad Luke didn’t ruin the beauty of the moment by going all “Nate Silver” and killing us with football nerd-dom. It’s much better that we had a full 24 hours to enjoy and celebrate perhaps the greatest non-Super Bowl win in franchise history before we returned to a more X’s and O’s based discussion of what happened for the Baltimore Ravens Saturday and what they’ll need to do to win moving forward.

(This is the part where you say, “that’s a nice set-up Glenn. You’re a real pro’s pro.”)

The Baltimore Ravens DID win Saturday because of their will. They DID win Saturday because they believed in each other and never lost hope. They DID win Saturday because they have tested veterans who simply refuse to give up or allow a beloved teammate to step into retirement without leaving every last ounce of effort they’re capable of giving on the field.

It’s not just hyperbole. There’s absolute truth to it. It’s just not the entire story. In fact, it’s not even close to the most important part of the story. We go to that stuff first because it’s more likely to get clicks. We’re not stupid.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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X-Factors For Saturday’s Game

Posted on 11 January 2013 by jeffreygilley

The Ravens have quite a task on their hands. The team has won only two games since week thirteen and have never looked like a dominant team except for three wins against the Raiders, Bengals, and Giants. Now, they must face Peyton Manning with a beat up defense in harsh conditions.

While Manning has been dominant all season long, the Ravens did hold Manning to a season low 204 passing yards in week fifteen. If it were not for Flacco’s pick-six at the end of the half and the Ravens contained Knowshawn Moreno, the game would have been much different.

Here are some players that I consider to be x-factors for the game.

1. Bernard Pierce
Pierce has been a sensational rookie. He has rushed for over 100 yards in two of the last three weeks and runs with tremendous physicality and under rated speed. The Ravens have to keep Manning off the field if they want to win this game. Therefore, Pierce even though he is a backup, should get a lot of touches.

2. Chykie Brown
Brown has received much more playing time of late. He was stellar against the Giants and was praised by Ed Reed after the game. Brown was one of the few players that benefited from being on the field for eighty plus plays against the Colts. That allowed him to gain experience that he will need against the Broncos.

3. Dennis Pitta
Pitta had a career game against the Broncos in week fifteen. The Broncos struggled tackling him and he will present a match-up problem in the red zone on Saturday. Pitta is going to get a lot of attention in this game so he will have to win the one-on-one match-ups when given the opportunity.

4. Kelechi Osemeli
Osemele played well at right tackle the entire year but at this point in his career, is a better guard. He opened up a lot of holes for Rice and was good in pass blocking as well. With his inexperience at guard, I expect the Broncos to blitz up the middle in an attempt to confuse the rookie which in turn, could give Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil one-on-one match-ups.

5. Tandon Doss
Many Ravens fans have been waiting for Doss to have any sort of impact on the Ravens’ offense. He had opportunities against the Colts but dropped every pass that came his way. From everything I have heard about Doss’s hands, those should have been easy catches for him. Colder weather obviously makes it harder to catch the football so Doss must make plays when given opportunities.

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Dont Underestimate the Ravens

Posted on 07 January 2013 by jeffreygilley

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but not many people are giving the Ravens a chance this Saturday. Many have told me they are going to get crushed by the Broncos. But that, to me, is hard to believe.

Yes, I recognize the Broncos beat the Ravens pretty badly in week fifteen but the game was close until halftime. In case you missed it, Joe Flacco threw a ninety-plus yard pick-six that turned the tide of the game. If that did not happen, and the Ravens scored a touchdown, the Ravens might not have won the game, but it would have been much closer.

Through five seasons, I have never seen Flacco play as badly as he did against the Broncos. Despite that performance, Flacco did come back and play one of the best games of his career against the Giants.

If the Ravens want to win this game, Flacco is going to have to have a big game pertaining to short and intermediate throws. You can’t beat Peyton Manning by trying to score more points than him. That strategy rarely works and the Ravens have the personel to beat Manning.

The classic strategy to beat a legendary quarterback is to keep him off the field with long drives. That means Ray Rice (who will be motivated after the two funbles), Bernard Pierce, Dennis Pitta, and Ed Dickson are going to have big time games. Rice is a superstar, we know that and Pierce has developed into a very good backup (Pierce could be starting on several NFL teams). Pitta and Dickson are crucial because they mostly contribute to the short and intermediate throws.

In week fifteen, Pitta had a big game. Catching seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

The offensive line should help Flacco in this game. They did give up three sacks in week fifteen but the Ravens have made changes to the offensive line that many have been calling for. With Bryant McKinnie moving to left tackle, Oher to right tackle, and Osemele to left guard, the offensive line looked good against the Colts.

With the amount of time the Ravens defense was on the field against the Colts, many are saying that is a disadvantage going into this week’s game against Denver’s no huddle offense. Being the optimist that I am, I think this has a positive effect for the Ravens as well. With all the injuries this defense has suffered, younger players have been forced to step in and play larger roles. Players like Chyke Brown, Albert McClellan, Courtney UpShaw, Corey Graham, and others all gained valuable experience against the Colts that will be helpful come kickoff on Saturday.

While I am not picking the Ravens to win this game, it will be much closer than many are predicting. This game could come down to a field goal and if it does, the advantage would have to go to Matt Prater.

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Most Important Players in the Ravens Playoff Run

Posted on 02 January 2013 by jeffreygilley

If the Ravens want to win the Super Bowl, these six players will have to step up big time.

Joe Flacco
Did you expect anyone else to be at the top of this list? Flacco wants a long term deal and thinks he is an elite quarterback. He has all the potential in the world but has not put it together yet. After all the injuries on defense this team has suffered, the passing of Art Model, and the knowledge of Ray Lewis’s retirement, Joe Flacco has a tremendous opportunity infront of him to become a leader on this team and earn a big contract.

Ray Lewis
Call me crazy, but the triceps injury Lewis suffered against the Cowboys might be a blessing in disguise. Lewis has lost a step but he is still playing well. His decline was more evident as the season went on so a break might be a good thing. He will have fresh legs and will be extremely motivated.

Ed Reed
Reed, like Lewis has lost a step but Reed has a way of making big time plays in big time games. He has had a lot of success against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who he might face later in the playoffs. I have a feeling that Reed is going to intercept Luck multiple times this Sunday.

Ray Rice
Ray Rice will be running very hard for Ray Lewis. The two are very close and Rice will be motivated to play well for Ray. Rice is one of the best all purpose backs in the NFL and at times, can be unstoppable.

Michael Oher/Kelechi Osemele
They will face a tough test against Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney but Oher and Osemele have performed at a high level at times throughout the season. Expect to see a game plan much like the game against the Giants; a lot of quick passes to set up longer passes to Torrey Smith.

Jimmy Smith
The Raves have suffered a myriad of injuries in the defensive side of the ball. Smith, a former first round pick has the potential to become a shut down cornerback but injuries have hampered his development. When Smith was healthy at the end of last season, he played very well, especially against Andre Johnson in the playoffs. He has played on special teams for the last few games and has seen limited playing time not because of his performance but because the Ravens might be trying to get him back slowly. Smith’s addition to this list may be surprising but if he plays, he must play at a high level.

Honorable mention: Tandon Doss
What? Tandon Doss? Doss could be a player that breaks out in some way to give this team that extra piece. Over the past few weeks, Doss has seen more playing time and while he has not made much of an impact on offense, the Ravens love his potential. Doss has great hands and his strength has the ability to be a great slot receiver. Watch out for Doss, his addition to this list is pretty bold but Doss can make an impact.

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Our Ravens/Giants “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Giants “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 23 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 33-14 win over New York Giants Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Corey Graham

4. Anquan Boldin

3. Brendon Ayanbadejo

2. Torrey Smith

1. Ray Rice (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Broncos Slaps to the Head

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Our Ravens/Broncos Slaps to the Head

Posted on 16 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Denver Broncos 34-17 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Haloti Ngata

4. Anquan Boldin

3. Cary Williams

2. Jim Caldwell

1. Joe Flacco (Two slaps)

(Ryan’s Slaps on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Redskins “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Redskins “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 09 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Washington Redskins 31-28 in overtime Sunday at FedEx Field, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Matt Birk

4. Cary Williams

3. Ed Reed

2. Joe Flacco

1. John Harbaugh (Two Slaps)

(Ryan’s Slaps on Page 2…)

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