Tag Archive | "Kelley Washington"

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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Blog & Tackle: How TJH was used in 2009

Posted on 07 September 2010 by Chris Pika

The Ravens acquisition of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh yesterday gave the club a tough receiver who will help Baltimore in the short term by giving QB Joe Flacco another target in the expanding passing game.

What kind of numbers will the about-to-be 33-year-old TJH put up in 2010? It’s obviously hard to say as the Ravens will have to get him up to speed on offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s playbook and Flacco’s passing style. But, we can look back on how he was used in Seattle last season, thanks to STATS, Inc.

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seahawks targeted him 61 times (31 receptions) on first down, 39 times (28 catches) on second, 31 times (18 receptions) on third and four times (two catches) on fourth down. Of all game situations of down and distance, he was thrown to the most on first down and between 8-10 yards to go — 58 targeted passes.

He averaged over 10 yards per catch, regardless of the down, and had six plays of 25 yards or more. Of his 79 catches, 52 resulted in first downs, a 65.8 percent rate.

After a two-touchdown day at Arizona in mid-November, he did not catch a touchdown the remainder of the season. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. He was targeted almost the same in each half of the season — 68 targets/41 receptions/417 yards in the first eight games; 67 targets/38 receptions/494 yards in the final eight games.

Seattle threw to him the most between the 40s (43 targets/29 receptions/311 yards) and also from their own 20 to their 39-yard line (40 targets/23 receptions/249 yards).

In the red zone, the Seahawks targeted him 19 times, and he caught just four passes for 19 yards and two scores. The four red zone catches were his lowest total since 2002.

Inside the opponent 10, he was targeted 10 times, and he made three receptions for six yards and one TD.

Where did Seattle throw him the ball, direction-wise? Mainly to the right side of the field with 36 targets to the right (23 catches), and 40 (21 catches) to the right sideline. He also caught as many balls behind the line of scrimmage (eight) as he did over the middle in 2009. But, interestingly, 13 of his 16 receptions caught on the left side of the field went for first downs, an 81.3 percent rate, while eight of his 11 catches to the left sideline moved the chains (72.7 percent).

The Seahawks looked for him the most in three-receiver sets (67 targets/34 catches/3 plays of 25+ yards/23 first downs) and in four-receiver sets (45 targets/31 receptions/2 25+ yard plays/17 first downs).

One oddity was that despite playing just four games on grass in 2009, TJH averaged more yards per catch (15.7 to 10.0), had more catches go for first downs by percentage (76.2 to 62.1) and had more 25+ yard pass plays (4 of 6) on the real stuff.

Finally in yards after catch, he averaged 3.6 per reception, which was 102nd in the NFL. Bookending him at 101 was Ravens TE Todd Heap (3.7) and former Baltimore WR Kelley Washington (3.6). TJH’s average was better than Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco (3.3), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (3.2) and now-former Ravens (and current Rams) WR Mark Clayton (2.6).

TJH was tied for 56th in the league in total yards after catch (284) with New England’s Kevin Faulk and Denver’s Jabar Gaffney. His YAC total was better than four players with at least 1,000 yards receiving — Derrick Mason (273), Carolina’s Steve Smith (246), Ochocinco (239) and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson (228).

While not one of his best overall statistical seasons, Houshmandzadeh led the struggling 5-11 Seahawks in both receptions and receiving yards in 2009. While he won’t be counted on to lead the 2010 Ravens in those two categories, he can still be an important part of Baltimore’s passing game as someone opposing pass defenses shouldn’t forget about when checking on Anquan Boldin deep and Ray Rice coming out of the backfield.

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Clarifying the Physically Unable to Perform List

Posted on 27 July 2010 by Luke Jones

With so much discussion over the PUP (physically unable to perform) list over the last couple weeks regarding Ed Reed and today’s announcement that 10 players—including second-round pick Terrence Cody—have been placed on PUP, it’s easy to get confused with the meaning of the designatioin.

In Reed’s case, the discussion in recent weeks is in regards to the reserve PUP list, which states:

This list designates players with serious injuries that will keep them from being able to start a season on the 53-man roster but may be able to return to the roster during the regular season. The players must be placed on this roster at or before the league-wide 65-man summer roster cutdown to be eligible for this designation, and they must stay on this list for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. After this time, teams have three weeks to evaluate such players, after which each such player must be placed on the 53-man roster, injured reserve, or waivers.

This morning’s designation (Reed, Cody, Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Oniel Cousins, Walt Harris, Matt Lawrence, Prince Miller, and Rodelin Anthony) was for the active PUP list, which is the first step taken to place a player on the aforementioned reserve list. It states:

Once they are designated as physically unable to perform, they are prohibited from practicing with the team. They can, however, rehabilitate individually and participate in team meetings. If a player begins training camp on the PUP list, they can be moved to the active roster at any time, even after one practice. A player is not allowed to be placed on the PUP list if they start training camp on the active roster.

The active PUP list still counts against the 80-man training camp roster, so there is no added roster flexibility but players are allowed to come off the list at any time. However, if Reed or any of the other nine players participates in a practice and would suffer a new injury or re-injure a preexisting condition, they would no longer be eligible for the PUP list in either capacity.

To put it simply, the active PUP is the necessary procedure for potentially placing any player on the reserve PUP in which he’d miss the start of the regular season. With most players, this doesn’t happen and they’re able to return to the practice field at some point during training camp.

For some perspective, the players who started on the active PUP list at the start of training camp last season were Willis McGahee, Lamar Divens, Davon Drew, Yamon Figurs, Ben Grubbs, Adam Terry, Jason Phillips, Samari Rolle, Lou Saucedo, Marshal Yanda, Kelley Washington, and Joe Reitz.

McGahee, Grubbs, Yanda, and Washington all went on to make key contributions for the 2009 Ravens.

While it certainly won’t make anyone happy seeing these 10 names on the list, it’s not always the major concern some perceive it to be.

Unless you’re talking about an All-Pro safety.

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Blog & Tackle: 2010 NFL Free Agency primer

Posted on 05 March 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL free agency period began March 5 with 531 players who can negotiate with all 32 clubs, and the landscape in an uncapped year is much different. Here are the Ravens players directly impacted by free agency, and some of the rules going forward in the 2010 season.

Restricted free agents in the 2010 Final (uncapped) League Year are players who have completed three, four or five accrued seasons and whose contracts have expired. They have received qualifying offers from their old clubs and are free to negotiate with any club until April 15, at which time their rights revert to their original club. If a player accepts an offer from a new club, the old club will have the right to match the offer and retain the player. If the old club elects not to match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, and the player receives the June 1 tender from his old club, the player’s rights revert exclusively to his old club on June 1.

Restricted free agents who received qualifying offers from their old clubs and are subject to the first refusal/compensation system of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. The old club has a right of first refusal to all players listed below.  Compensation is as listed in the column on the right. If the old club has only a right of first refusal but is not entitled to any compensation, the designation “ROFR” appears in the column. In order to submit an offer sheet, a new club must have available the required choice or choices, defined as its own or better choices in the applicable rounds, in the 2010 NFL Draft. Offer sheets may be submitted to an old club by no later than 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on Friday, April 15.

(Ravens Player, Pos., School, Compensation)
Barnes, Antwan  LB  Florida International 4th
Beck, John  QB  Brigham Young  3rd
Burgess, Prescott  LB  Michigan  6th
Chester, Chris  G  Oklahoma  3rd
Clayton, Mark  WR  Oklahoma  2nd
Cundiff, Billy  K  Drake  ROFR
Gaither, Jared  T  Maryland  1st
Koch, Sam  P  Nebraska  2nd
Landry, Dawan  DB  Georgia Tech  2nd
McClain, Le’Ron  RB  Alabama  1st
Moll, Tony  T  Nevada  5th
Smith, Troy  QB  Ohio State  5th
Washington, Fabian  DB  Nebraska  2nd
Williams, Demetrius  WR  Oregon  4th
Yanda, Marshal  G  Iowa  2nd
 
Unrestricted veteran free agents in the 2010 Final (uncapped) League Year are players who have completed six or more accrued seasons whose contracts have expired. They are free to sign with any club, with no compensation owed to their old club, through July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). At that point, their rights revert to their old club if it made a “tender” offer (110 percent of last year’s salary) to the player by June 1. Their old club then has until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the season (November 16) to sign the player. If the player does not sign by November 16, he must sit out the season. If no tender is offered by June 1, the player can be signed by any club at any time throughout the season.

Unrestricted free agents with six or more accrued seasons. Subject to the CBA’s “Final Eight Plan” rules, the players in this category may be signed by any club in the league until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first training camp, whichever is later), with no rights of any character held by the old club.

(Ravens Player, Pos., School)
Bannan, Justin  DT  Colorado
Edwards, Dwan  DE  Oregon State
Ivy, Corey  DB  Oklahoma
Mason, Derrick  WR  Michigan State
Smith, L.J.  TE  Rutgers
Tyree, David  WR  Syracuse
Walker, Frank  DB  Tuskegee
Washington, Kelley  WR  Tennessee
 
Players with fewer than six accrued seasons who received no qualifying offer or no minimum tender from their old club.  The players in this category may be signed immediately with no rights of any character held by the old club. There is no signing deadline applicable to these players.

(Ravens Player, Pos., School)
Jones, Edgar  TE Southeast Missouri
Ryan, Greg  C  Western Kentucky
Saucedo, Lou  T  Montana State
Terry, Adam  T  Syracuse
 
Here are some of the rules pertaining to the above players, especially in light of the “Final Eight Plan” currently in place that impacts the Ravens for the 2010 NFL season.

Q. What is the time period for free agency signings this year?
A. For restricted free agents, from March 5 to April 15.  For unrestricted free agents who have received the June 1 tender from their prior Club, from March 5 to July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later). For franchise players, from March 5 until the Tuesday after the 10th week of the regular-season (November 16).  If he does not sign by November 16, he must sit out the season. There are no transition player designations this year.
 
Q. What is the difference between a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent?
A. In the 2010 League Year, players become restricted free agents when they complete three, four or five accrued seasons and their contract expires. Unrestricted free agents have completed six or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any club with no compensation owed to his old club.
 
Q. What constitutes an “accrued season?”
A. Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved-injured or “physically unable to perform” lists.
 
Q. What is the Final Eight Plan?
A. During the Final League Year, the eight clubs that make the Divisional Playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign unrestricted free agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the championship games are limited in the number of unrestricted free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own unrestricted free agents signing with other clubs. They cannot sign any UFAs unless one of theirs is signed by another team.
 
For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs (including the Ravens), in addition to having the ability to sign unrestricted free agents based on the number of their own unrestricted free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5,807,475 million or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for no more than $3,861,823 million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases.
           
In the case of all final eight teams, the first year salary of UFAs they sign to replace those lost cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost with limitations on the per year increases.

Q. Is there an Entering Player Pool in the Final League Year?
A. Yes. The CBA provides that the league has the right to keep the rookie pool in the Final League Year.
 
Q. Is there a Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year?
A. There is no Minimum Team Salary in the Final League Year.
 
Q. Are there individual player minimum salaries in the Final League Year?
A. Yes, but they rise at a rate somewhat slower than player minimum salaries rise in capped years.
 
Q. Do any player contract rules from capped years remain in place for the Final League Year?
A. Yes. Some rules like the “30% increase rule” are still in effect in the Final League Year for player contracts signed in capped years. That rule restricts salary increases from 2009 to 2010 and beyond. For example: a player with a $500,000 salary in 2009 would be limited to annual salary increases of $150,000 ($500,000 x 30%) beginning in 2010.

To follow Chris Pika on Twitter, click here (@BlogAndTackle)

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Blog & Tackle: Second chance for Stallworth

Posted on 17 February 2010 by Chris Pika

All eyes will certainly be on wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth and the Baltimore Ravens after the club signed him Wednesday – a second chance for a man whose horrible personal decision cost another man his life less than a year ago.

The football move to add depth to the wide receiver corps is a good thing for a Ravens team in need of playmakers. He was 21st among wide receivers from 2005-09 in yards per reception (14.8) and 11th among WRs in average yards after the catch (5.3) over the same five-year period. Stallworth is not a No. 1 receiver any more, but he will be someone opposing defenses will have to account for.

Stallworth has had a lot of personal accounting to do over the last year.

He was convicted of second-degree DUI manslaughter in the death of Mario Reyes in March 2009. He admitted to drinking the night of the accident, and received a sentence of 30 days in jail, 1,000 hours of community service, two years of house arrest and 10 years probation. He also lost his Florida driving privileges for the rest of his life.

He served just 24 days in jail – a sentence that angered many of those who fight for tougher drunk-driving laws – and he avoided a civil lawsuit by reaching a financial settlement with the Reyes family. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the 2009 season, and he was reinstated the day after Super Bowl XLIV.

So, Stallworth was eligible to return to work, and the Ravens have given him an opportunity to re-prove himself.

I worked around Stallworth during his first four seasons in the NFL with New Orleans (2002-05). I won’t say I knew him well outside of the locker room, but I had plenty of conversations with him about football and his career after practices and games. You also get a real sense about a player by watching him interact with his teammates and coaches when the media isn’t around.

Stallworth was well-liked in the locker room, and he worked hard on the practice field. He’s had a lot of injury issues (hamstring, heel) during his career, and his prep work before practices and games was painful to watch as his hamstrings were stretched to the limit like a track athlete’s would be before a meet (Stallworth ran track and jumped in high school).

The early-entry to the NFL (he was drafted No. 13 overall out of Tennessee after his junior year) battled those injuries in his first two seasons to start just 10 games among the 24 he played, although he had eight TD catches as a rookie in 2002.

The next two seasons he caught fire, with 767 yards and five TDs in 2004 and 945 yards and seven TDs in 2005 during the club’s disastrous 3-13 Katrina season. In August 2006, he was traded to Philadelphia, and later was fourth on the team in receptions for the Patriots during their undefeated regular season in 2007. He battled injuries again in 2008 with Cleveland, and his numbers tumbled.

Stallworth’s one-year signing does not present a significant risk to the Ravens. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter points out, both Derrick Mason and Kelley Washington are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, and Stallworth is the only veteran WR under contract in Baltimore right now. He still has the burst of speed and good hands to be effective as a possession receiver for Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense. He has been working out, and obviously the Ravens looked at both the football player and the person before offering him a contract.

I wouldn’t dare to tell anyone what to think of the Ravens signing Stallworth, especially in light of his conviction. But I can say this from my perspective: He is a very thoughtful person who seems to “get it” about the game and life. I read the quotes from Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh, and all spoke about his horrible decision, and the consequences for both the Reyes family and for the man who chose to drink and drive.

Stallworth has to live with that result each day, and while he paid a financial sum, he can never repay the emotional debt to Reyes’ family.

“I will never get that morning back,” he said in the Ravens’ press release. “It weighs on me every day and will for the rest of my life. What I can do is move forward, try to be a better person, try to convince others not to do what I did and warn others about the dangers of drinking and driving. I have to show otherwise that what happened doesn’t reflect who I am. I have to prove that, and, hopefully, I’m on my way to doing that.”

Maybe the prevalent “it will never happen to me” mentality in locker rooms or the local bars might come to a momentary pause when hearing Stallworth’s message.

“I will make the best of it, and some people may listen to me because I will be playing,” he said. “I hope I can do some good in delivering a message that could help someone or prevent someone from doing what I did.”

If anyone thinks twice and doesn’t climb behind the wheel after a couple of drinks because of Stallworth’s fatal mistake, that will be the most important unseen catch of his career.

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Ravens vs. Jerks

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Ravens (8-6) @ Steelers (7-7)

Posted on 26 December 2009 by Derek Arnold

Ravens vs. Jerks

Squealer Stats09 2

The Ravens once again clash heads with the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. For the fifth consecutive meeting between these two teams, 1 game or less separates them in the standings. Fortunately, though, the Ravens have a slightly higher margin for error right now than Pittsburgh does. A Ravens loss would not preclude them from backing into the playoffs with a win in Oakland next week, though they would likely need at least some help. A Steeler loss, and the “Stairway to Seven” BS stops until 2010.

Realistically, the Steelers are living on borrowed time as it is. Any hopes they had for the postseason SHOULD have ended last week at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Of course, some boneheaded “prevent” defense from Green Bay in the final minute, along with a ridiculous illegal contact flag that negated what should have been a game ending interception, sprinkled in with some patented Pittsburgh dumb luck all made for a last-second win for Baby Ben and his minions of infighting teammates.

If the Ravens can manage a season sweep, they can be the ones to deal the knock-out punch to the Steelers’ season. Like most Ravens fans though, I hardly get the “warm and fuzzies” any time the Ravens play in the Steel City, even in a season where the enemy has lost to such powerhouses as Oakland, Kansas City, and Cleveland. They’re still a respectable 5-2 at ketchup-mush field, and the Ravens have only won there once this decade (a glorious 34-7 shellacking in 2006).

The Ravens have had two weeks to basically warm-up for this game, with Detroit and Chicago putting up very little resistance. On the bright side, the offense appears to be firing on all cylinders, and the defense forcing turnovers like it was 2008 all over again. However, let’s hope they haven’t forgotten that not all teams are so eager to roll over and die, and that they aren’t shocked and confused when the guys that can only afford logos for one side of their helmets hit back a little bit.

Joe Flacco has followed up the worst game of his career, the Monday Nighter at Lambeau, with two of his best. Since throwing 3 interceptions that night, he has 5 touchdowns and no picks in his last 55 attempts. The Pittsburgh secondary is playing their worst football in years, and will again be without Troy Polamalu to make everything better. The way to attack them is to spread them out, but with the Ravens a bit nicked up at WR, that may be a tenuous prospect. Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington are both expected to play, but it remains to be seen how effective they will be after missing some time. The emergence of Demetrius Williams lately has Ravens fans cautiously optimistic – if “Completrius” can show some consistency by having a big game in the land of 1000 bridges, it will go a long way towards a Ravens victory.

Also promising was Todd Heap reappearing in the offense to score twice against the Bears. Joe Cool will need as many weapons as possible running wild in the Pittsburgh defensive backfield Sunday, as that is where the Steelers are most vulnerable. Up front, the line will have to play like they did in the first half of the first Pittsburgh game, and give those guys time to find the holes. If Lamarr Woodley and James Harrison can get cranked up like they were able to in the 2nd half in B’More, it could be a long day for Joe and Ravens fans alike.

Defensively, the Ravens could be in more than a little trouble. The loss of Lardarius Webb has the potential to be HUGE, not just this week, but for the Ravens’ season in general. Dominique Foxworth may have been the AFC Defensive Player of the Week last week, but now he goes up against Baby Ben, who was his counterpart on the Offensive side of the ball in Week 15. Ben threw for over 500 yards against Green Bay, and he is no doubt salivating at the idea of seeing Foxworth, Chris Carr, and Frank Walker out there chasing his guys around. If there is one glimmer of hope, it is that Ed Reed practiced on Friday, and could finally get back into a game this week. Keep your fingers crossed.

The loss of Webb hurts doubly, as the Ravens are now less equipped to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s other glaring weakness, their return coverage. The Ravens have yet to announce who will handle kickoffs, but rest assured, whoever it is, does not worry the Steelers like Webb would have.

The offenses look poised to dominate a Pittsburgh-Baltimore matchup – what kind of crazy, backwards world is this that we are living in?

Just keep reminding yourselves, Ravens fans, a loss does NOT doom the Ravens this week.

We may have to make it our mantra.

Steelers 31 Ravens 24

(sprinkles some of Santa’s magic dust on the score prediction)

Ravens 27 Steelers 26

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ravens bears

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Da Bears (5-8) @ Ravens (7-6)

Posted on 19 December 2009 by Derek Arnold

ravens bears

da bears stats

The Ravens have a chance to end their season series against the NFC North at .500 by beating the Chicago Bears this week at M&T Bank Stadium. More importantly, they will hold onto their tenuous as-of-this-writing hold on the final wild card spot in the AFC (by virtue of Jacksonville’s loss to Indy last night).

The Bears came into 2009 with big hopes. After barely missing the Playoffs at 9-7 last year, they made a huge splash in the offseason by bringing in the big arm of quarterback Jay Cutler, who was supposed to put them over the top. However, the first season under Jay has been quite a disappointment, as instead of lighting up the Windy City sky with touchdown passes, he leads the league with his 22 interceptions.

Cutler’s penchant for turning the ball over is good news for a Ravens secondary that is likely to be without Ed Reed for the third consecutive game. Second year safety Tom Zbikowski has stepped up in Reed’s absence, picking up an interception in each of his two starts and Ravens cornerbacks Lardarius Webb, Chris Carr, and Dominique Foxworth played well last week against Detroit…but that isn’t really saying much. On the bright side, the Bears don’t have a weapon that resembles anything close to that of the Lions’ Calvin Johnson. Their leading receivers are former kick-returner extraordinaire turned wideout Devin Hester, and sophomore Earl Bennett. Tight end Greg Olsen leads da Bears with 6 receiving touchdowns, and could provide match-up problems for the Ravens’ linebackers, who have struggled in coverage all season.

On the ground, da Bears don’t do much, as many a Matt Forte fantasy football owner will attest. People want to slap the “sophomore slump” label on B’More’s Joe Flacco, but a guy that is exemplifying the term is the Bears’ running back. Forte averaged 3.9 yards per carry in his rookie year, on his way to a 1,200 yard, 8 touchdown campaign (he also scored 4 receiving touchdowns). This year has been a different story, as he has been held to just 3.4 yards per carry and 4 total scores. It will be weakness against strength, as the Ravens lead the league in yards-per-carry allowed on defense.

Speaking of defense, da Bears, much like the Ravens, are not quite what they used to be. Team leader and linebacker Brian Urlacher managed just three tackles in the 2009 opener, before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. Chicago is 16th against the pass and just 25th against the run. Cam Cameron would be wise to once again unleash the 3-headed monster running back, as he did last week against Detroit, when Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le’Ron McClain all had at least six carries.

One area in which da Bears have excelled in is causing fumbles. They have forced 19, 2nd in the league just behind San Francisco. Their secondary gang-tackles, holding up ballcarriers, while other defenders, entering the play late, go for the strip. With Ray Rice suddenly catching a case of fumble-itis over the last two games, it is cause for concern for us purple faithful this week. Let’s hope ball security was a point of emphasis this week at practice in Owings Mills.

Those practices, by the way, have been disconcertingly ill-attended. Reed, Jared Gaither, S K.J. Gerard, Jarret Johnson, Brandon McKinney, Terrell Suggs, Kelley Washington, and Mark Clayton all missed Thursday’s session, according to Glenn Clark. Also limited were Matt Birk, Derrick Mason, Haloti Ngata, and (shock!) L.J. Smith.

All teams are beat up this time of year, but…yikes. Will we even recognize the guys running around out there in black jerseys (and, ugh, white pants…John Harbaugh, your taste is nearly as bad as your clock management skills are) on Sunday?

Questioncoach
Harbaugh, by the by, will have the chance to match mis-wits with another guy who never met a challenge flag or poorly used timeout he didn’t like, Bears’ head coach Lovie Smith. Sunday is likely to be a textbook example of “How not to manage the clock” with those two going at it.

All kidding aside, this game sets up very well for the Ravens. Many of those listed on the injury report are likely to play, and da Bears’ inability to stop the run plays right into the Ravens’ hands. The game plan should be to run, run, and run some more. They should have success, which will help take the pressure off Joe Flacco. Last week was nearly a bye for Natty Joe. With the game was never in question, he was an efficient 13/20 for 230 yards, and his line kept him on his feet for just the second time all season. Hopefully the easy day against the awful Lions helped restore some confidence in Flacco, after his terrible night in Green Bay.

The Ravens need this win to finish the year a respectable 6-2 at home. I don’t have the numbers, but it doesn’t seem likely that teams who go 5-3 on their home turf make the post-season very often. They should be able to make Forte a non-factor, force Cutler into some mistakes, and impose their will with the running game.

For crying out loud, two weeks ago Chicago struggled to get past St. Louis, squeaking by the Rams 17-9.

The Ravens close M&T Bank Stadium for 2009 in style.

Ravens 27 da Bears 17

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Mason Blankey

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Mannings 17 Ravens 15 (The FIELD GOALS WON’T BEAT PEYTON Game)

Posted on 23 November 2009 by Derek Arnold

The Ravens added yet another to the 2009 list of crushing last-minute defeats yesterday, as they fell to Indianapolis by two points despite being in field goal range with under three minutes to play. Joe Flacco’s ill-advised toss right into the palms of Gary Brackett on what turned out to be the team’s final offensive play sealed the deal, and let the horseshoes escape B’More with their perfect record intact, and their seventh straight over the purple and black.

The blowout that many of us expected (and most of us probably would have preferred) never materialized, as the Ravens never trailed by more than a touchdown for the entire afternoon. However, because of their failure to get into the end zone even ONCE, their 32-27 time of possession and 3-2 turnover (3-0 for the game’s first 57 minutes) advantages were rendered moot. The Ravens’ much maligned defense refused to be lit up by Manning like they had by Rivers, Favre, and Palmer, as they picked him off twice in the first half. They set up the offense at the Indy 29 and their own 48 on the strength of interceptions by Dawan Landry and Ed Reed, only to see Joe Flacco & Co. settle for Billy Cundiff field goals on both possessions. After Landry’s, they managed a pathetic three yards before trotting out Cundiff to cut the score to 7-6.

Holding Peyton Manning to just 17 points is a commendable feat – it was the second-least points they have put up all year, and the fewest since Week 1.

This loss is squarely on the shoulders of Cam Cameron and the Ravens’ offense. The O, which came out gangbusters to start the season, has been stuck in neutral since the furious rally in the second half of the Minnesota game. They have now scored just one offensive touchdown in their last TWELVE quarters of play. The chunks of yardage, big plays, and 30-point outputs that gave us visions of Testaverde-to-Jackson to start 2009 have suddenly turned into painful reminders of Tony Banks-to Travis Taylor(-to ground).

The offensive FAIL was never more pronounced than when, with 12 minutes left in the game, trailing 14-12, the Ravens were stopped on three consecutive plays from inside the Colts’ 1-yard line.

Where was Le’Ron McClain?!

Your quarterback is 6’6″ and you need five inches…he almost got it on the first try, so why not sneak it two more times?!

Settling for a field goal there, as the CBS announcers were quick to point out, sealed the Ravens’ fate.

When you can’t punch it in from INCHES out, at home, in a pivotal game…you don’t deserve to win, let alone call yourselves a playoff contender.

Pathetic. Just…pathetic.

Sure, the final drive was heart-wrenching, and the Ravens were in place to go ahead at or near the two-minute warning – but that game was lost with 10:53 on the clock, when Willis McGahee was stopped short for the second straight time.

It was a fitting sequence for an offense that has regressed greatly over the last several games. Joe Flacco, who started the season spreading the ball out admirably between all of his receivers, seems to have again fallen in love with Derrick Mason, only this time there is a lover’s triangle that also includes Ray Rice. The stat sheet will tell you that eight different Ravens caught passes; however, a closer look reveals that 16 of Flacco’s 23 completions went to Mason or Rice. There were three Colts’ defenders around #27 on the game-ending interception…somebody else was open, Joe.

You can’t fault Flacco for wanting to get the ball into the hands of Rice, who has quickly developed into a premiere playmaker, or of Mason, his security blanket. But a line has to be drawn at some point. Kelley Washington has proven himself to be a very capable target, and Mark Clayton seems to be catching everything thrown his way since his drop in Foxboro. Flacco seems to have become extremely risk-averse lately, and the throws into tight windows in the middle of the field that we saw early in the season, and which are crucial to his continued development, have all but disappeared. Whether it is a coach in his ear telling him to be more careful with the ball, or a doubting of his own abilities that has taken hold as a result of his earlier red zone interceptions, is up for debate.

Mason Blankey

What are not up for debate though, are these facts:

  • Flacco threw the ball into the end zone just once all day against Indy, a ball that was nearly picked off.
  • After throwing 11 touchdowns in 6 games, Flacco has now thrown just 1 in his last 4.
  • Washington had 24 receptions in the season’s first 8 games, and has 2 over the 3 games since.

At this point, Ray Rice basically IS the Ravens offense. A situation that is likely to present itself sooner rather than later is that a good defensive coordinator (ahem..Dick Lebeau, anybody?) will find a way to shut down Mighty Mouse and make Flacco use his other options. From what we’ve seen lately, it is tough to believe that Joe Cool still trusts his ability to go to those other guys consistently.

It’s a problem. And Cam Cameron, after all the genius he displayed last season in making something out of not-much in B’More, is going to start finding himself under increasing scrutiny should this year’s team fail to start putting up points again.

Other nit-picky items from the game:

  • John Harbaugh showing us that he did, indeed, learn by watching Andy Reid in Philadelphia, as his atrocious clock management cost the team valuable seconds down the stretch in both halves. Everyone will point to the challenge-time out debacle in the second half, but there was more of the same in the first. Flacco completed a 19-yard pass to Mason to the IND 34 with 0:35 to play, and with plenty of time to run up and spike the ball, the Ravens instead burned their final timeout. Standard wisdom says to keep a timeout in your back pocket as long as possible in that situation.
  • The defense played well overall, but Terrell Suggs’ absence was glaring, as there was no pass rush to speak of. The Ravens never once sacked Manning, and hit him only a small handful of times.
  • Ed Reed. Ed…Reed. Quite possibly my favorite Raven of all-time, but…man. You just CAN NOT do that. Lateraling the ball, while being dragged to the ground, to an unsuspecting teammate, with a last-gasp field goal attempt still in the cards…just…wow. Speechless. Also, whichever coach – Rosburg, Harbaugh, whoever – that decided to put him back there in that situation, knowing his history of ball “insecurity,” should be b-slapped. Reed is best served trying to block the punt in that situation, not given the chance to pitch away any chance of victory.

I know I said that this time doesn’t deserve to utter the “p” word. However, thanks to last minute choke-jobs by both the Steelers in Kansas City and the Bengals in Oakland, the AFC North looks exactly the way it did on Saturday. The Ravens blew a golden opportunity to gain some ground, but they did’t lose anything in the standings either. Jacksonville currently holds the final playoff spot in the AFC but come on…does anybody really think they’ll be able to hold onto it? They’re awful.

Stover Return

(Thanks to the Sun for this pic)

Sunday Night’s clash with Pittsburgh is just as meaningful as it would have been if both teams won yesterday. And the Steelers may be without Troy Polamalu AND Ben Roethlisberger – at the very least they will not be at full strength. Even though the sky seems to be falling, the truth is, it’s still up there, albeit as gray and cloudly as one would expect in mid-November.

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Peyton Manning

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A Call to Harbs: Your Chance to Fix the Ravens

Posted on 10 November 2009 by Luke Jones

The sheer volume of opining, panicking, and lamenting jamming the airwaves, flooding inboxes, and littering message boards since 4:30 p.m. on Sunday has been impossible to escape if you’re a Ravens fan.

And it’s understandable with Sunday’s game clearly being one of the Ravens’ worst performances in recent memory.

Of course, the venting is part of the cathartic process of being a fan after a loss, but it ultimately does nothing to address the problem—or problems—and leaves you feeling helpless in the Ravens’ plight with a 4-4 record and two games behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

Ultimately, “it is what it is” for us observers.

In reality, the frustration and second-guessing displayed by us all is falling on deaf ears, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Who hasn’t made a bold proclamation—or several hundred—to their buddies but later felt relief that no one was really listening?

After all, I was convinced Peyton Manning would be the next Heath Shuler while Ryan Leaf would be the next John Elway, and we all know how that turned out.

Peyton Manning

So now that we’ve acknowledged our limitations and past gaffes in evaluating the NFL and its players, this is your chance to prove yourself once and for all.

The phone rings, and John Harbaugh is on the line asking for your astute opinion on the state of the Ravens. He doesn’t have time for personal attacks or whining; Harbaugh is looking for answers.

He’s willing to take three REALISTIC suggestions and implement them beginning in Cleveland on Monday night.

And the key word is REALISTIC.

Larry Bird and Kevin McHale are not—wait a second, wrong rant—Chris McAlister and Michael McCrary are not walking through that door. And if they did, their knees would be completely shot.

Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard say hello to the Charm City, but they’re perfectly content with Rex Ryan in the Big Apple. And the former defensive coordinator sends his regards, but his hands are too full with a rookie quarterback and the New York media to worry about the Ravens’ defensive woes.

Those Jets have long since taken off and aren’t coming back.

And like most of your kids’ Halloween candy, the deadline is long gone, so please spare us the trade proposals.

No matter how great they sound.

I don’t want to hear about officiating conspiracies either. It’s a defeatist attitude, and you’ll hear the same complaints in 31 other NFL cities. Well, maybe not Pittsburgh.

Steelers referees

Lastly, the Colts are more likely to return to Baltimore than Matt Stover is to play for the Ravens—at least until Adam Vinatieri returns from injury in a few weeks (How’d you like that middle-of-the-road remark? And no, I don’t think it will happen anyway).

So now that I’ve squashed 75 percent of the irrational suggestions running through our frustrated minds over the past 48 hours, you have THREE suggestions to offer to Harbaugh for the rest of the season.

And remember, Baltimore is counting on you.

No pressure, right?

I’ll go first.

1. A Nightmare on Russell Street

Yes, I know Paul Kruger does not play special teams.

I fully understand.

Harbaugh wants his reserves to be versatile, and it’s the perfect rationale when a team does not have any glaring deficiencies. However, the defense has struggled to pressure the quarterback from its base front, and Greg Mattison is reluctant to blitz due to a weak secondary—another issue entirely.

It’s clear Kruger is too small to take every snap as a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment and does not have the skill set to play as a stand-up linebacker at this point.

But this is the same player Jon Gruden described as playing like “Freddy Kruger” on draft day last spring.

Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ esteemed scouting department used a second-round selection on the defensive end from Utah, so it’s difficult to believe he cannot contribute to the pass rush in some form.

And don’t tell me it would be catastrophic to the team’s flexibility on special teams and other areas. This is the same team that carried two kickers on its roster for years. It’s not as though Danny Kight, J.R. Jenkins, or Wade Richey were contributing in more than one area during their days in Baltimore.

If we look at this from a different perspective, how many special teams players are consistently on the active 45-man roster on Sundays and fail to make any impact on offense or defense?  David Tyree, Prescott Burgess, and Demetrius Williams immediately come to mind.

In other words, there HAS to be a place for Kruger on a defense needing more pressure on the quarterback.

If even the threat of Kruger diverts a little attention away from a Terrell Suggs or a Trevor Pryce, it’s well worth it.

Let’s find out if the rookie can play.

2. Lost in Westminster

Speaking of Demetrius Williams, yes, he is still on the 53-man roster despite rumors of his abduction in Westminster back in August.

After a promising rookie season and two injury-riddled seasons in 2007 and 2008, Williams entered training camp as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Following the emergence of Kelley Washington and a nagging hamstring and knee that slowed him during the summer, the 6-foot-2 receiver has completely disappeared in Cam Cameron’s offense with the lone exception of a 17-yard catch in Minnesota.

But it became apparent during Sunday’s loss that Williams needs to have a presence in this offense.  With Joe Flacco trying to throw deep jump-balls to Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, wouldn’t it make more sense to send Williams (the only receiver with both size and speed on the roster) on one or two of those patterns?

Yes, a stiff breeze is as likely to injure the wideout as a strong safety, but keeping him healthy on the sideline serves no purpose to this football team either.

Williams is and should be the No. 4 receiver on the roster, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an option in the passing game, at the very least providing a bigger target in the vertical passing game.

If the coaching staff has no confidence in Williams, he should either be inactive every week (opening the door for Kruger) or off the roster entirely.

3. Waiting on Willis

Remember when Willis McGahee led the NFL in touchdowns after the first three weeks of the season with six?

It seems like an eternity ago.

It was clear Ray Rice had supplanted McGahee as the starting tailback heading into the season, but the veteran was entering the season healthy and revitalized after a rocky relationship with Harbaugh in 2008. McGahee was still figuring to be a major part of the running game.

Since carrying the ball 25 times in the first two weeks, McGahee has received 22 carries in the six games since. Unacceptable.

Rice is clearly having a tremendous season, but is it really what’s best for the team?

In the same way that Flacco could lead the league in passing yards if he threw on every down, is Rice producing such a large portion of the yards and being the only force in the backfield what’s best for the Ravens’ offense presently and moving forward?

With Rice putting up 732 total yards in the last five games, I’ll remind you that the Ravens are 1-4 during that stretch.

McGahee’s return to the game plan would serve two purpose for the Baltimore offense.

First, it would provide the Ravens with a legitimate threat to run between the tackles, something Rice does not provide. The 5-foot-8 back is more effective running from spread-out formations and getting into open space.

Two, it would improve the likelihood of Rice’s smaller frame holding up for the entire 16-game schedule. Though Rice carried the ball 380 times for Rutgers in 2007, that same durability cannot be guaranteed at the pro level. When you have another legitimate option at tailback, why take the risk in finding out?

McGahee needs to be more involved. No excuses.

***

If you’re sitting there thinking I didn’t address the secondary, kicker, or coaching questions, you’re absolutely right.

To be perfectly honestly, I’m not sure how to address the secondary at this point.

Do you blitz more, leaving your defense more susceptible to the big play, or play with more help in pass coverage, hoping for your front four to reach the quarterback eventually? Is rookie Lardarius Webb a better option than Fabian Washington?

As for the kicking job, would Mike Nugent or Billy Cundiff really be any better than Steve Hauschka?

Is Mattison in over his head, or is the talent holding this defense back?

All are questions for which I don’t have a definitive answer.

Remember, you only get THREE realistic suggestions.

Maybe that isn’t enough to fix the Ravens, but that’s all you’re getting.

Make them count.

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Ravens vs. Bengals

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Ravens (4-3) @ Bengals (5-2)

Posted on 06 November 2009 by Derek Arnold

Ravens vs. Bengals

Ravens vs. Bunghole Stats

If the Ravens can go into Paul Brown Stadium and exact some revenge on the Bengals this week, they will force their hat back into the ring of serious AFC North contenders. Otherwise, they will have fallen effectively three games behind Cincinnati in the division, quite a mountain to climb with eight games remaining.

So, do the Ravens have what it takes to “man up” and emerge victorious in a venue that has been none too kind to them over the years? B’More’s 34-3 win over the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bungles in 2008 was their first win at PBS since 2004, and they are just 2-4 in their last six in The Queen City. Quarterback Carson Palmer has owned the Ravens in his career, compiling a 7-3 record in 10 career starts.

As several have already pointed out, Cincy is starting to look like a “real” AFC North team – one that can run the ball and stop the run. The Bengals’ Cedric Benson was the one to break the Ravens’ streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher the last time these teams met, when he went for 120 and a TD on 27 carries (4.4 ypc). They also held the Ravens to 82 yards on the ground. Still, the Ravens averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which hints that maybe they should have stuck with their ground attack a bit more. Especially considering it was Joe Flacco’s worst game this season, as he threw for just 186 yards and added two interceptions for his 2009-low rating of 70.1.

85 care package

(Chad sent the Ravens’ D a care package this week. The Nest sends one of our own to #85. In it he will find a new helmet (to replace the one Ray knocked off him), a ball gag, a straight jacket, and a nice pretty new “grill.”)

Joe Cool has bounced back nicely since getting shut down by Cincy, putting up back-to-back games of a 109.2 rating, and tossing three scores to go along with nary an interception against the capable (23rd) and strong (8th), respectively, defenses of Minnesota and Denver. Derrick Mason, who was held without a catch by Mike Zimmer’s crew last month, has 11 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the two games since.

Ray Rice has been the catalyst for the Ravens’ offense of late, as the little RB that could (wow, that’s terrible…come on, people…THIS MAN NEEDS A NICKNAME!) has averaged over 149 yards from scrimmage per game over the last four contests. Le’Ron “PAIN TRAIN” McClain had a season-high 31 yards on the ground against Denver, as Cam Cameron’s offense showed that, as the weather is cooling, maybe they are starting to get back to the formula that produced so much success in 2008. The Ravens called more running plays than passing plays (35-27) for the first time since the San Diego game, and just the second time all season. This after three consecutive losses where the playcalling was extremely lopsided towards the pass, to the tune of 46-18 (@ Min), 33-18 (vs. Cin), and 49-17 (@ NE). Now, a factor that can’t be overlooked was that the Ravens were playing with the lead for the entire game against Denver, but we would expect that the balance will continue this week. That is, as long as the rejuvenated defense can keep the score close, as Chicago was unable to do in Cincy two weeks ago, getting blown out 45-10.

Speaking of that rejuvenated defense, the Ravens’ D needs to prove that last week was no fluke. Plenty of the pundits were quick to proclaim the Ravens’ defense “back” after they dismantled and nearly shut out the previously high-flying Denver attack last week. However, to those of us who watch every game (twice), the Broncos’ short-passing game was simply the perfect antidote for the problems we have seen with the purple defense all season. Namely, the fact that Kyle Orton threw the ball deep all of ONE time (while the game was in reach, anyway)…and on that ONE throw, there was of course, some laundry also thrown, as Dominique Foxworth was called for pass interference. Apparently Josh McDaniels didn’t get the “just chuck it up” memo that Ravens’ corners have been sending to every team this year, via game film. Carson Palmer is no Kyle Orton, and he will show no such mercy to Foxworth and Fabian Washington, especially with the ever dangerous Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry in his arsenal.

This isn’t to suggest that Foxworth and Washington have no prayer of having good games Sunday. The two played very well against Denver, lack of deep challenges notwithstanding, and Washington especially was extremely active in run support. It’s just that we Ravens fans need to see more of what we witnessed from the pair against Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal before we are comfortable putting the Pepto Bismol bottle down when we see opposing quarterbacks take 7-step drops.

The front seven will also need to continue their solid play from a week ago. Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, Justin Bannan, and Trevor Pryce collapsed the pocket on Orton the likes of which we haven’t seen all season, and Greg Mattison’s blitzes, when called, found gaping holes in the Broncos’ protection schemes. It was a welcome departure from what we had seen to that point, but like the secondary, consistency is the word. Haloti Ngata is still very questionable with the ankle sprain he suffered near the goalline against Denver, and his absence would be noticeable, especially as the Ravens attempt to keep Benson from going over the century mark again. If Haloti is unable to go, the Ravens’ ample depth at DL will have to step up, including Brandon McKinney, Dwan Edwards, and potentially Kelly Talavou, who has been active just once in 2009.

The Bengals have been doing a very impressive job of keeping Palmer upright, as he has been sacked only 11 times, good for 6th in the NFL. By comparison, Flacco has been sacked just 12 times. Rookie offensive tackle Andre “Yip Yip Belly” Smith may see his first game action, though he is said to be expected to mostly play on running downs. If nothing else, this could give the Ravens an advantage in reading the plays pre-snap.

A loss in Cincy on Sunday would, in all likelihood, relegate the Ravens to chasing a Wild-Card berth. Week 9 just seems too soon for that for such a talented football team, one that is legitimately a Top-8 NFL squad. The difference will be the explosiveness of Ray Rice, Joe Flacco continuing to find Kelley Washington for key 3rd-down conversions, and a Ravens defense that is ready to build on what they started last week.

Ravens 24 Bengals 20

Yours in the comments (no, I don’t have a prize like Bob, this is just for fun).

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figgins

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (10/21/09)

Posted on 21 October 2009 by Jack McManus

9:33-

Dean Evason, assistant coach of the Washington Capitals is on to talk some hockey. He begins by talking about the use of Alexander Ovechkin in shootouts. He explains that when a team has the best player in the world, it must use him as much as possible. He next talks about the tough schedule that Caps have faced in the early going.

9:08-

Joe Sheehan from Baseball Prospectus is the next guest. He states that the Angels missed out on an opportunity last night when they faced CC Sabathia on 3 days rest. Sheehan next talks about the defensive performance of Mark Teixeira. He explains that Teixeira had previously played thirdbase before coming to the majors which contributes to his range. He states that Teixeira should be a leading contender for the Gold Glove Award. Moving on to the Angels, Sheehan talks about how the team will try and keep some of its impending free agents. In regards to Chone Figgins, Sheehan does not see the Orioles as a good fit. Sheehan finishes up by talking about the high turnover in managers during the season and how this means that we will not see many moves on that front coming up.

figgins   

9:02-

Glenn is on with a Ravens Report. He explains why the team takes days off during the bye week despite the current losing streak. He states that if the coaches scheduled practice each day, they would lose the players. The team instead is able to relax and treat the next ten games as a whole new season. On the injury front, Jared Gaither stated he would definitely play against the Broncos and Kelley Washington would not have any problems due to the concussion he suffered.  Also, Michael Oher will not continue the feud between himself and Jared Allen.

8:31-

Clark Judge from CBS Sports is up with Drew. He attended the Ravens-Vikings game and had this reaction. He starts off by talking about the disappointments that are the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans. He also talks about how the Broncos have shocked everyone with their undefeated start. He next explains how the Redskins’ Jim Zorn has had his leadership taken away along with his play-calling duties. Judge also describes the risk of starting a rookie quarterback. He thinks that the Jets may have made a mistake by handing Mark Sanchez the starting job.

sanchez 

8:21-

Another caller starts to talk about the Raven’s weakness against the pass. He states that since the team seems to have major problems in coverage, the team should instead focus on playing more physically. Yet another caller brings up the play of Ed Reed. He states that while Reed is an excellent player, his risk-taking has hurt the Ravens coverage this season.

reed

8:00-

A caller talks about the struggles of the Ravens defense. He gives each defensive starter, except for Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson, a failing grade for the season so far. He states that Greg Mattison is too passive to be an effective defensive coordinator in this league.   

mattison

7:52-

Glenn and Drew start discussing Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow. Chris Turner’s father recently made a message board post titled “Get rid of Yow” on insidemdsports.com. The athletic director must be able to effectively balance making money with putting good teams on the field/court.

7:41-

Next up is the head coach of the Northeastern Huskies, Rocky Hager. He starts off by talking about the challenging schedule his team has faced so far. He next talks about maintaining balance on offense. Injuries to the team’s quarterbacks have caused the team to allow more turnovers than Hager would like. Hager also explains that his team is not as bad as its 0-6 record. He states that his team just needs to be more consistent and put everything together for an entire game. Hager moves on to the competitiveness of the CAA. He believes that the CAA has clearly risen to the top of the conferences in the FCS and can be called the SEC of the lower division.

rocky

7:37-

I’m making my return from swine flu this morning. Rob Ambrose comes on to talk with Drew. He talks about dealing with the tragedy involving the UConn football team. He also talks about facing the winless Northeastern Huskies this weekend.

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