Tag Archive | "Kelley Washington"

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Ravens, Rants and Rankings – week 5

Posted on 15 October 2009 by kevinpb

Cincinnati 17 – Ravens 14. Yuk! Well Ravens, you played a stinko! There was nothing of any merit in your effort this week. The Bengals dominated you on both sides of the ball, and I am sure you will point to late penalties as a reason for your defeat, but you lost the game long before that final drive. After the disappointment of last week and before they go against a red hot Minnesota team next week, Coach Harbaugh needs to get a hold of this team and set the course straight or we could be looking at being 3-3 going into the bye week.
Offensively, Ray Rice came to play. His touchdown on the swing pass from Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty. Joe Flacco did not have a great day and was 22-31 for 186 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Nothing awful here, but the interceptions are mounting. Did anybody see Derrick Mason on Sunday. Joe Flacco sure didn’t. Michael Oher did a nice job at left tackle, but I think our offense was handicapped by a poor game plan. I am all for striking balance between running and throwing the ball, but on Sunday when we threw the ball we took very few shots down the field. I did not understand the reluctance to throw the ball down the field. Aside from a late throw down the seam to Kelley Washington and an attempt at Mark Clayton down the side line that was just missed, Flacco took no shots down the field. The Bengals played a lot of cover 2 which kept 2 safeties back, and when we dumped the ball off they flew to the ball.
Defensively, Cincinnati did enough at the line of scrimmage to keep us off balance and open up holes for Cedric Benson to run through. The Ravens, owners of one of the most overrated stats in all of football, finally let one back rush for 100 yards in a game. This stat has hung like an albatross around this football team. I understand what it symbolizes, but in the real world it is totally meaningless. I remember last year the Giants ran all over the Ravens with 3 different backs but because 1 of those backs did not accumulate 100 yards personally, the record remained in tact. It is meaningless, it is good to get passed it.
The real problem with the defense is 2 fold. We cannot consistently pressure the quarterback and our cornerbacks are not playing up to expectations. Great cover corners can hide a lack of a pass rush and vice versa, but when both aspects our performing under par, then you are asking for trouble. The next tackle Washington or Foxworth makes will be their first. Now they will try and pull you down, they will throw their bodies at the defenders legs but neither one of them will man up and make a tackle, wrapping up and driving through the ball carrier. They are very disappointing. Our secondary as a whole seems to have a problem locating the ball or finding the ball in the air. After Ed Reed took the interception to the house the next series fully illustrated the problems plaguing this defense. Palmer back to pass and moved around the pocket to extend the play far longer they it should have been throws the ball down the Baltimore sideline. The ball is caught by Chris Henry as Foxworth is running side by side with him. You can’t tell me our bench didn’t let him know the ball was coming, but he never looked for the ball. Henry catches it and takes it to the 4 yard line. This was a chance for us to make a statement and we let them right back in the game by allowing this big play. Not acceptable.
Ray Lewis is a Hall of Famer, no doubt, but the hit he laid on Chad Ocho Cinco was totally unnecessary. Not only that, but it was stupid. The last 2 games I have gotten the impression that this team is teetering on the edge. They remind me more of the team that melted down in Detroit a few years back and the team that went bezerk against New England 2 years ago, then the professional workmanlike team they like to portray. Just what does “play like a Raven” mean anyway?

Rants

The Drive 15 years later – Denver beat New England Sunday by holding the Patriots scoreless in the second half and making 2 long drives in the game to tie the score late. Kyle Orton does his best John Elway imitation taking the Broncos 98 yards late in the 4th quarter to tie the game. Orton was confident and strong in the pocket mixing the throw and run effectively. There haven’t been many drives better then this one in the history of the game. Raise your hands all of you who saw this happening in Denver. A journeyman quarterback and an unproven rookie have the Broncos at 5-0 and climbing. That is what makes this game so great.

Who’s better – Last week the Houston Texans and the Arizona Cardinals faced off. The game’s best two receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson, were on the field. It was a really good game in the second half, the Cardinals held on for the victory with a last second goal line stand. The Cardinals built a large lead and the Texans were battling back most of the second half. On the touchdown drive to make it 28-21 late in the game, Andre Johnson caught a ball down the middle of the field at about the 5 yard line. Three different Cardinals tried to stop him from getting in the end zone. Johnson ran over all three to score. The catch itself was pedestrian, but the 5 yard run to get the ball in the end zone was a thing of beauty. Try and catch it on replays or on line it is truly amazing.

Baseball playoffs – The New York Yankees are a good baseball team, and probably the odds on favorite to win the World Series this year. Major League Baseball maintains a hierarchy of the “haves” and “have-nots” that caters to the large market teams. They are good enough to win on their own but when the umpires conspire to make calls that slopes the playing field even more, it casts the game in a bad light. The umpires are paid to get the calls right. The game should be embarrassed by the lack of professionalism displayed. As bad as the calls were in the Yankee series were, was there a prettier sight then watching Boston loose it’s third game in a row with Jonathan Papelbon loosing the series clincher. Papelbon will tell anyone who listens how good he is. I want to personally thank the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for sticking that smugness up his…

How Pompous can you be? Early last week the story broke that Rush Limbaugh was part of a group looking to buy the St. Louis Rams. I am not a Rush Limbaugh fan and always thought that he was a pompous windbag, but regardless of what your think about Rush the radio host, this country affords him the opportunity to do business in any avenue he decides to pursue. The fact that he is a polarizing figure and a lot of people don’t share his views should not be factored into whether he should be allowed to pursue ownership of a NFL franchise. This is business not a Senate confirmation hearing for a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The fact that this league employs some reformed convicted criminals, and has always prided itself in giving those deserving a second chance, would support the position that this man is not good enough to own a franchise because of his ideas and opinions, is two faced and pompous.

WJFK disaster – Coming out of the Ravens-Bengals game and waiting to exit the parking lot we were listening to several post game shows. On WJFK, the panel consisted of Spencer Falou, Mike Flynn, Gary Stein, Jeremy Conn and Anita Marks. I joined the conversation in mid stream but it was clear they were discussing the problems the Ravens are having in the secondary and Chris McAlister’s name was being bantered about. The discussion was about whether he could help the Ravens or not and whether he would be brought back. They were discussing his physical ability and health and dancing around some of the problems he had that led to his dismissal from the team. The guys on the panel were beating up Anita Marks who was defending Chris McAlister and the idea of taking a look at him as an option. She was getting beat up pretty good and was becoming heated. I don’t think it is news in Baltimore any longer that Chris McAlister is believed to have a drinking problem. I am paraphrasing but Marks stated that it should not be considered a big deal, that there are airline pilots that take bong hits before they get on a plane and fly passengers to destinations. There was silence. The show then went to break and when they came back on Anita Marks was replaced by Scott Garceau. Nothing was said, but that couldn’t have been a coincidence.

Rankings

1. New York Giants – On auto pilot, dismissed Raiders with ease. Most complete team across the board. Big game against the Saints this week.
2. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees is otherworldly, but Greg Williams and Darren Sharper are the real difference.
3. Indianapolis Colts – Haven’t missed a beat without Dungy, defense is lightning quick and still playing without Bob Sanders.
4. Minnesota Vikings – Adrian Peterson has been quiet for 3 weeks, Jared Allen has not.
5. Denver Broncos – I still don’t know how they are doing it, but I am a believer, right now it is their year.
6. Philadelphia Eagles – playing well and have their star quarterback again.
7. Atlanta Falcons – coming off the loss to New England and a bye week, the throttle a good 49ers team. They are improving weekly.
8. Chicago Bears – Since the week 1 debacle, Jay Cutler has been pretty impressive.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – see Denver Bronco comments. It might be there year.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers – Wasn’t pretty but they beat the Lions. They still aren’t quite right, but still a dangerous team.
11. New England Patriots – they aren’t the dominant team they once were, but still always a tough out. Need to get defense straightened out.
12. Baltimore Ravens – I think they have a problem on defense, but they are still a good football team, tough game this week though.
13. Seattle Seahawks – I like this team and with Hasselback returning they will make a run at the NFC west title.
14. San Francisco 49ers – Michael Crabtree signed. Let’s see if he can provide another option on offense. I don’t think Frank Gore and Vernon Davis are enough.
15. San Diego Chargers – playing for their season in week 6. They can’t afford to loose, should make for a compelling contest.
16. Miami Dolphins – Great win against the Jets. Seems like they have righted the ship. Chad Henne has been impressive.
17. New York Jets – Rex Ryan is great for sound bites. Calls out his defense after loss to Dolphins. He is a real chip off the old block.
18. Dallas Cowboys – had to go to overtime to beat the Chiefs. Still can’t get passed the fact that this team should be better then they show.
19. Green Bay Packers – off last week, hope they found some offensive lineman to protect Aaron Rodgers.
20. Arizona Cardinals – good win against Houston Texans. Goal line stand at end was terrific. They are showing signs of life.
21. Houston Texans – played Cardinals tough, but got behind to much to come back all the way. Andre Johnson is a beast.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars – what a stinker against the Seahawks. That had to be a long plane ride home.
23. Tennessee Titans – I know they are not this bad. I think we are one more loss away from the Vince Young era, part II.
24. Detroit Lions – played the Steelers tough. Jim Schwartz has made them a better team.
25. Carolina Panthers – Maybe Beason should call out Julius Peppers every week.
26. Washington Redskins – the players are asking for amnesty for their head coach. This is going to end bad.
27. Cleveland Browns – set football back 50 years in their game with the Bills last week. At least they won.
28. Buffalo Bills – See above and they lost. Fans want to toss out Dick Jauron and Trent Edwards.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Played with passion against the Cowboys, they are still competitive.
30. Oakland Raiders – their quarterback sucks, and their coach may go to jail. Other then that, everything is great in Oakland.
31. St Louis Rams – really bad, only reason they do not come in last is because I like Kyle Boller and still route for him.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – yuk, where’s John Gruden when you need him.

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Blog & Tackle: How I see Ravens-Patriots

Posted on 02 October 2009 by Chris Pika

There are plenty of big games on tap this weekend in the NFL, including the Ravens’ trip to the Patriots. Here’s one correspondent’s view of Baltimore-New England on Sunday.

Remember, we’ll review all of it on Sunday night at 7 pm ET in the Sunday Night Purple Haze here on WNST.net. Want to be a part of the action? Click here to enter the 10-4-09 Purple Haze

This will be the toughest game of the four the Ravens have played so far. Baltimore has beaten two also-rans (Kansas City, Cleveland) and a team that can put points on the board, but give them up as well (San Diego).

On offense, the Ravens have to control the line of scrimmage and the time of possession battle. New England is still very dangerous with the ball, and the less time QB Tom Brady has to work with, the better. First down yardage is one key. The Ravens have thrown (54 times) more than they’ve run (48 times) on first down. All first-down pass plays are averaging 10.02 yards, while they are getting 5.02 yards per rush on first.

My guess is that the Patriots will try to stuff the Ravens run game, and make QB Joe Flacco go to the air to beat them. The Ravens have to resist the temptation and try to wear down the Pats’ offensive line until they have the right situations in which New England gets too run-stopping happy and forgets that Flacco can throw the ball in play-action. Given the potential weather (40 percent chance of showers and breezy), New England’s strategy would be a sound against a team not used to playing in those conditions regularly.

It will be up to the Ravens’ offensive line, led by Matt Birk, to open holes for Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain. When Flacco wants to throw, Derrick Mason and Kelley Washington will have to find the soft spots in a Pats defense that will be concentrating on stopping the run first.

Defensively, Baltimore will have to continue its high level of play against a team with a lot of potent weapons. Pressure on Brady is the key. He will be looking for WR Randy Moss and WR Joey Galloway most often, and rookie Julian Edelman has played the safety valve role usually held by Wes Welker. New England will try to run as much as they can against the Ravens’ front seven in the hopes of keeping the pass rushers from blitzing too much. Philip Rivers took advantage for big yards in San Diego in a game the Chargers were hurt both by the loss of RB LaDainian Tomlinson and the play-calling of coach Norv Turner at the end of each half. Brady can’t have the time Rivers had in the second half in San Diego, or it could be a long afternoon for the Ravens secondary. Brady has been sacked only once in the first three games, and Baltimore will need more than one sack to stop the Pats.

The Ravens will also have to slow down RB Fred Taylor, who had 105 yards rushing against a smaller Falcons defensive line a week ago. Baltimore will take its chances that Taylor won’t beat them single-handedly in order to collapse the pocket on Brady and force him out of his comfort zone looking for Moss downfield. In other words, the same gameplan Rex Ryan used as the Jets beat the Pats 16-9 in Week 2.

Last week, New England had the ball for 39:49 on nine possessions against Atlanta racking up 28 first downs, and held a solid Falcons offense to 257 total yards, 58 on the ground, despite Atlanta having one of the NFL’s best backs in Michael Turner.

PREDICTION: This game might turn out to be a lot like the 2007 Monday Night classic the teams put on in Baltimore. The Ravens have proven that they can win a big game on the road against a quality opponent, and take care of business against lower-level squads. Despite the shootout win at San Diego, Baltimore was stretched to its absolute limit to put the game away on a Ray Lewis fourth-down stuff. New England is as tough at home as the Ravens are, and overall the two teams are very evenly matched. I’d give the edge to the Ravens in Baltimore, but in Foxborough, New England holds on barely. Patriots 23, Ravens 20.

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Ravens vs. Patties

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Ravens (3-0) @ Patriots (2-1)

Posted on 02 October 2009 by Derek Arnold

Ravens vs. Patties

Ravens vs. Patties Stats

:shaking head:

I’m sorry, I still have trouble getting over the fact that the Ravens enter their Week 4 matchup with the Patriots with the BETTER offense of the two teams. It’s going to take more than 3 games for us to collectively thaw our frozen offensive hearts here in B’More, but I promise if we stick together, and take it 1 game at a time, we’ll get through it with Joe Flacco and Cam Cameron at our sides.

Going into the season I thought the Ravens had no better than a 25% chance of winning in Foxboro. Naturally, after the hot start, I am much more optimistic. Let’s look at some reasons why:

Offense!

Through 3 games, the Ravens offense is reaching heights that nobody saw coming. If I’ve seen one national media piece this week on Joe Flacco’s awesomeness, I’ve seen 20. Willis McGahee leads the NFL in touchdowns. He and Ray Rice are averaging, combined, an absurd 5.5 yards per carry – NCAA numbers. Kelley Washington has emerged as a very legitimate #3 WR, and he seems to pick up a first down every time he touches the ball. The young offensive line is playing out of their minds, opening gaping holes and giving Flacco plenty of time to scan the field and fire up his shoulder-cannon.

Injuries

While the Ravens enter the game relatively healthy, the same can’t be said of New England. With MLB Jerod Mayo already out, DT Vince Wilfork’s ankle injury becomes even more problematic for the Pats. Wilfork is very important to Bill Belichick’s run defense, and with him likely out, the holes that Matt Birk, Chris Chester, and Ben Grubbs are able to create between the tackles just got a bit wider.

They have issues on the offensive side as well. Randy Moss, after his 100-yard day last week against the Falcons, revealed that he was enduring excruciating back pain during the game, and could barely walk on Monday. Moss will play, and surely be effective, but anything that can slow him down, even a little, is a plus for the Ravens.

Wes Welker was listed as questionable for the Atlanta game with a knee injury, and did not end up playing. His status for Sunday is similarly up in the air, after he was limited in practice all week. Welker is as important as Moss to the New England offense, as he keeps the chains moving as expertly as any WR in the league, and is always getting open quickly for Brady when the defense brings pressure.

However, the Pats have no shortage of tiny white WRs sure to get on your nerves. Filling in for Welker is rookie Julian Edelman (11 rec, 118 yards). Fret not. Despite what this guy will try to tell you, Edelman is no Welker – at least not at this point. Wes Welker is a VERY GOOD veteran wide receiver. Julian Edelman has played 3 games in his career. Having #11 in there is a huge step down from #83.

Tiny White WRs

Another injury affecting New England is one that happened over a year ago. Of course, I speak of the season-ending blow to Tom Brady in 2008. Tom Terrific hasn’t regained his old form yet, and has shown the typical jitters-in-the-pocket symptoms that tend to follow such horrific injuries (see: Palmer, Carson; McNabb, Donovan). He’s obviously still great, but he isn’t playing like the 2007 Brady (yet), and so the Patriots seem, for the moment, incapable of blowing teams away like they did during their 16-0 regular season. Brady is susceptible to pressure, and can be forced into early, errant throws if the Ravens defense can get in his face.

Legless Tom

None of this is to say I’m predicting a Ravens blowout. Far from it. Let’s shift to the things that make me a bit uneasy going into this one.

Defense

Sure, the Ravens’ D redeemed themselves a bit last week…but there is no getting around the fact that it was against the BROWNS. The Patriots, even with a hobbled Moss, no Welker, and a Timid Tommy Brady, are not the Browns. On paper, the Ravens have nobody to match up with Moss 1-on-1 like the Jets did with Darrell Revis in their victory over New England in Week 2. Fabian Washington has the pure speed to keep up with Moss, but is severely undersized. I feel confident that he can match up well with Welker, but the Pats like to move Welker inside to the slot, where he would face Chris Carr or a linebacker. I’d like to see the Ravens play a lot of Cover 2 Sunday, keeping Ed Reed and Dawan Landry deep over the top. The Pats have struggled in the Red Zone this season, so the weakness of their Red Zone offense versus the strength of the Ravens Red Zone defense is a match-up B’More should try to exploit.

Letting them pile up yards between the 20’s, but keeping them out of the end zone will go a long way towards a purple win. Red Zone offense and defense don’t matter a lick if you are giving up 40+ yard touchdown strikes (because Ed Reed tries to jump an out route and leaves the deep middle of the field completely open like he did several times against San Diego – thank you, NFL Network.)

Holding the Pats into the low-20’s is probably a realistic goal for the Ravens D this week.

Special Teams

The Ravens return games have been crap in 2009. Chris Carr has looked hesitant and unsure, and continues to leave yards on the field. A big game like this may not be the ideal time to give Ledarius Webb his shot, especially considering his preseason fumble issues, so it would be nice to see Carr get on track.

Steve Hauschka is 4/5 on the season, but has yet to face a high-pressure kick, let alone a high-pressure kick in a very hostile environment the likes of which he will see Sunday. In a game that could very well come down to 2 or 3 points, the young kicker leaves us just a little worried.

Bill Belichick

Finally, there is the evil genius himself, New England head coach Bill Belichick. A master of having his teams completely prepared and of exploiting any weakness, however small, in the opponents, the hooded one can never be overlooked. The New England offense was very balanced against Atlanta, as the ageless Fred Taylor ran for over 100 yards. Nobody runs on the Ravens, so was that all part of a master plan to fool them into thinking the Patriots are back to a balanced attack? And with the way his defense held the Falcons’ strong offense to just 10 points…

Belichick is good. Very good.

That said, the Ravens coaches are no slouches themselves. I think Cam Cameron will unveil some new wrinkles this week that will surprise old Bill, and Greg Mattison will show that he does indeed know how to use the Ravens’ plethora of defensive talent effectively against a great offense.

Also, Joe Flacco will step up and show everyone that which we already know, but which nobody outside of B’More wants to admit – he is better than Matt Ryan.

Ravens 28 Patriots 23

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Ravens vs. Clowns

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Browns (0-2) @ Ravens (2-0)

Posted on 25 September 2009 by Derek Arnold

Ravens vs. Clowns

Ravens vs. Clowns Stats

After last week’s huge win in San Diego, and with a date against Tom Brady and the Pats in Foxboro looming on the horizon, the Ravens enter Sunday’s home match-up against Cleveland looking to avoid a “let-down game.” The Browns, meanwhile, are in a neck-and-neck (and neck) dogfight with St. Louis and Detroit for “worst team in the NFL” bragging rights. First year head coach Eric Mangini’s squad has managed just a single offensive touchdown in 2009, and even that came during junk time of a blowout loss to Minnesota.

The Ravens’ defense looks to get healthy against the worst offense statistically in the league. All eyes will be on cornerbacks Dominique Foxworth and Fabian Washington, whose poor days in San Diego have been relived ad nauseum. They draw another big, strong receiver this week, the Browns’ Braylon Edwards, who always seems to play well against the Ravens. Edwards had only one reception in Week 1, but last week caught 6 passes for 92 yards against Denver. Braylon may be looking to make amends for his gaffe in Cleveland against B’More last year, when he dropped what likely would have been a game-sealing TD pass, by duplicating the success he saw Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers have last week.

Edwards’ quarterback, though, is not going to be confused with Philip Rivers any time soon. While he may evolve into a star in the NFL, Brady Quinn has yet to win either the hearts of Browns’ fans or the confidence of his coaches and teammates. For the season, Quinn has completed 59% of his throws, for 366 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INT. What really jumps out though, is that he has been sacked NINE times in only two games. The Ravens’ pass-rush also caught some heat after the Chargers game, when they didn’t get to Rivers at all after the 2nd quarter. Rookie center Alex Mack (no, not her, much to my chagrin) has struggled early, and will have his hands more than full with Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata. On the outside, tackle Joe Thomas “ate up,” Jared Allen of the Vikings, according to Brian Billick, so watch the match-up between him and T-Sizzle closely. If Thomas can handle Suggs on his own, then the Browns’ running backs and tight ends will be able to help out Mack in the middle, and Greg Mattison will have to blitz more than he might like to – leading to more of those dreaded 1-on-1 matchups with the Ravens’ DBs.

On the ground, Jamal Lewis has 95 yards on 25 carries in 2009, but appears to be excusing himself from action this week. Lewis has yet to practice, so backups Jerome Harrison and James Davis (rookie) could see extended action Sunday. It won’t matter who gets the ball, the Browns won’t be able to run on the Ravens, and don’t be surprised if, like the Chargers, they don’t even really try (despite what Quinn said in his conference call with Baltimore media this week).

Cam Cameron spoke highly of the Browns’ defense this week, calling them the most stout front 7 the Ravens have faced yet. Pro Bowl DT Shaun Rogers is a bit hobbled in practice this week, but is expected to play. Ravens’ center Matt Birk is very familiar with Rogers, having matched up with him several times when they both played in the NFC North. Former Maryland LB D’Qwell Jackson led the NFL in tackles last season, and intercepted Joe Flacco during this game in 2008.

DumpyBrowns

Ray Rice had his best game of 2008 against Cleveland, when he ran for 154 yards, so don’t be surprised if he gets the lion’s share of the carries this week. Willis McGahee is making a strong push for more touches though, currently leading the AFC in rushing touchdowns. Maybe this is the week Rice finally gets his first NFL score, but with McGahee likely remaining the goalline option, “Mighty Mouse” will have to break one from 10 yards or more if he wants to find paydirt.

Joe Flacco is off to a sizzling start to his sophomore campaign, trailing only Drew Brees in touchdown passes after two games. He has thrown one interception in each contest though, and last week’s could have been costly (we’ll ignore for now the terrible non-offsides call on that play). Flacco has been spreading the ball around admirably, as 7 Ravens have 5 or more receptions. Kelley Washington leads the bunch with 7 for 101 yards and a touchdown, and has settled into the #3 WR role nicely. This has served to push Demetrius Williams down the depth chart, though the coaches insist he will still be a big part of the offense moving forward.

We’ll believe it when we see it, “Completrius.”

To be sure, the Ravens SHOULD win this one going away. However, there are a few things that worry us:

  • Josh Cribbs. Cleveland’s return man seems to put one in the end zone every time these two teams meet. The Ravens’ coverage units have gotten off to a slow start (again) this season, and last week Darren Sproles ran wild on them. Special teams need to step it up, and contain Cribbs this week. Cribbs may also take some snaps in the Wildcat, or catch some flare passes out of the backfield – please, Ravens, don’t let him go uncovered like you did to Sproles on that 80-yard score last week.
  • Mother nature. Although the forecast calls for sunny skies by gametime Sunday, Friday evening and Saturday are set to see a significant amount of rain in B’More. We need only think back to Week 1 against, Kansas City, when players were sliding all over the place because of rain in the days leading up to the game (water was being said to “seep up through” the turf when the players stepped down). Weather is the great equalizer, and it’s a shame that we might even have to worry about it without a cloud in the sky.

John Harbaugh’s team has made a pretty good living beating up on lesser opponents during his tenure though, and Sunday shouldn’t be much different. Even if Cribbs does break one, this new high powered Ravens’ offense will keep Cleveland at bay, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a defensive performance reminiscent of the Ravens of old.

Ravens 31 Browns 10

BradyDone

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (9/25/09)

Posted on 25 September 2009 by Jack McManus

9:47-

Andy Behrens from Yahoo! Sports comes on the show to offer his weekly fantasy football advice. He advises Drew to stay away from most Titans as they play the Jets who have not allowed an offensive touchdown. He tells me to go with Jay Cutler over Trent Edwards, Ryan Grant over Darren Sproles, and Roy Williams over Donald Driver. Finally, he tells Glenn to start Leon Washington over Knowshon Moreno and Mike Bell, and Eddie Royal or Torry Holt above Steve Breaston.

9:05-

Jeremy Bloom, who will be on the broadcast team for the Maryland-Rutgers game is now up. He calls Da’Rel Scott one of the best backs in the ACC. He goes on to state that he thinks Maryland has a great chance to pick up a much-needed victory tomorrow. He explains that the Terps need to improve their discipline in order to turn the season around. Bloom moves on to talk about how he had success in both skiing and football. Bloom next describes the The Jeremy Bloom Wish of a Lifetime Foundation. The program aims to grant wishes for low-income senior citizens. For more information on this cause click here.

8:31-

Andre Knott is the next guest. He is a sideline reporter for the Cleveland Browns. Knott admits that the Browns may be taking many bad losses this season with their current talent level. Knott states that it appears as though Jamal Lewis will not play this Sunday. Instead Jerome Harrison and James Davis will take the majority of the carries. Neither back is as big and strong as Lewis. Knott explains that not all of the Cleveland players have bought into Eric Mangini’s coach philosophy. He moves on to talk about how many fans in Cleveland still have bitter feelings towards the Ravens, despite the fact that the city has another team.

8:10-

Steve Tasker, CBS Sports Broadcaster, makes an appearance on the show. He will call the Ravens-Browns match-up on Sunday. He states that the Browns do not stack up to the Ravens on either side of the ball. He explains how many NFL teams see the Ravens as a measuring stick for success. Therefore, if the Browns compete with the Ravens, some will be satisfied. He goes on to say that the change of scenery for Kelley Washington has greatly helped him find his way to contributing on the field. He also believes that Ray Lewis could be the best inside linebacker ever. Tasker talks about the Patriot’s early season struggles. He thinks the team will still be strong, but will have to fight to win many of their games. The one 0-2 team that Tasker thinks is not as bad as they look is the Jacksonville Jaguars. He describes how the blame should be placed on the players, and not the head coach.

7:35-

This morning Glenn and Drew participate in the picks and comment segment. Each set of picks is posted below.

Glenn:

Ravens over Browns 28-13

Titans over Jets

Giants over Bucs

Texans over Jags

Vikings over 49ers

Pats over Falcons

Lions over Redskins

Packers over Rams

Bears over Seahawks

Bills over Saints

Chargers over Dolphins

Steelers over Bengals

Raiders over Broncos

Cardinals over Colts

Cowboys over Panthers

Drew:

Ravens over Browns 34-10

Titans over Jets 23-17

Giants over Bucs 31-15

Texans over Jags 37-7

Minnesota over 49ers 24-20

Patriots over Falcons 27-24

Lions over Redskins 20-17

Packers over Rams 24-19

Bears over Seahawks 23-20

Saints over Bills 34-24

Chargers over Dolphins 33-17

Bengals over Steelers 20-17

Raiders over Broncos 17-14

Colts over Cardinals 31-27

Cowboys over Panthers 34-24

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Kelley Washington’s Grooves – You Down?

Posted on 16 September 2009 by Derek Arnold

When the Ravens picked up wide receiver Kelley Washington this offseason, you may remember that we posted the above video as evidence of what to expect with No. 15 in town. Now, the above celebration was done after Washington scored a touchdown; however, in Sunday’s opener against Kansas City, Washington caught a 22-yard pass from Joe Flacco for a first down just about 2.5 minutes into a scoreless game…and began to shake and gyrate “like he had stuck his finger in an electric socket,” to paraphrase one complainer I heard yesterday.

There are two sides to this argument, and honestly I can see the valid points from both.

“It’s just a game, and harmless fun”

This is the school of thought that says that Kelley wasn’t trying to show up the Chiefs, or be overly cocky, he was instead just trying to feed off the energy from the crowd, and inject some of his own. If you think the NFL is really starting to stand for the “No Fun League,” and you cringe whenever Roger Goodell hands out another fine for end zone celebrations, you probably see no problem with Washington’s antics. You loved when Joe Horn busted out the cell phone, Chad Ochocinco using the end zone pylon as a putter, and think T.O. should be an honorary member of the cheerleading squad. It’s not taunting, its just fun.

“Act like you’ve been there before!”

Those that fall into this camp absolutely hate celebratory dances/taunts, especially when they come after anything less than a game-changing touchdown. You fully support bans on “props” during end zone celebrations, which you think there should be far fewer of anyway. You wish these players would just realize that, when they succeed, they are just doing what they are GETTING PAID TO DO! You don’t jump up and down in your boss’s office when you hand him your timesheet or latest TPS report, or when you close a sale, so why do these idiots think they have to show everybody up? Barry Sanders is probably your favorite running back of the last 20 years.

Like I said, its tough for me to pick a side here. When I was at the game Sunday, and Kelley danced, I (very white-ly) mimicked it, and it did indeed pump me up even more. I can also understand the argument that [some other guy on some other station] had, which was that, if it were Hines Ward out there dancing like that against the Ravens, we would all be losing our collective shits over it. Likewise, if Washington does that against Pittsburgh, he can expect to quickly find himself planted 6 inches into the turf, courtesy of James Harrison.

So, what do you think? Should Kelley tone it down, should John Harbaugh make sure he does so, or should everybody just keep it light out there?

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Ravens, Rants and Ratings

Posted on 15 September 2009 by kevinpb

Ravens, Rants and Ratings – week 1

Ravens 38 – Chiefs 24. Good win, weird game!!
First of all, thanks for covering, I have gotten beat more times then I care to count on back door covers. Glad to see it works the other way on occasion. My check book thanks you, Ravens!!
The game was a lot closer then the stats would dictate…or then it should have been. The Chiefs made some big plays and took advantage of the Ravens putting it in cruise control after they scored a quick ten points. Remember boys and girls, everybody gets paid in the NFL; if you let the underdog hang around, that can come back to bite you in the rear end.
On the positive side I really like the pseudo “no huddle” offense they came out in and also employed late in the game. It gave the Ravens a crisp pace and jump started the Raven’s offensive game. The offense carried the day. The defense should thank them.

Joe Flacco, 26 of 43 for 307yds an 3 TD’s. Read that stat line again and remember we are talking about a Baltimore Ravens quarterback. Yes he threw an interception, and he was high on a few throws, but this isn’t your father’s Raven’s quarterback. This kid is special. The first touchdown throw to McGahee was a terrific play, moving in the pocket to extend the play and keeping his eyes down field to find the open receiver. Dare I say it was very “Roethlisberger like”? He is going to be the type of game changer that makes your team a viable contender year after year…FINALLY!!!

The Ravens threw the ball the first 6 plays of the game and a total of 43 times. I LOVE the fact that they have that faith in QB 5; but I think it is important that while Harbaugh and Cameron want to increase the production from the passing game, that they not forget our smash mouth roots. You don’t beat Pittsburgh by being “cute-sy”…I’m just saying.

I thought it was interesting that Chris Chester got the start over Marshall Yanda. It will be curious to see if Chester has beat out Yanda or if the Ravens are just being cautious because of Yanda coming back from the knee injury. Chester played better then I have expected over the last year, but I still like the toughness that Yanda brings. This offensive line is going to be something else. Flacco had a ton of time to throw and in the second half the backs had room to run.

Someone send out a search party for Demetrius Williams. When the Ravens went 4 wide, Todd Heap and Troy Smith were split out more frequently then Demetrius Williams. It appeared that Williams was healthy at the end of training camp. I wonder why he is not playing all of a sudden. Wasn’t it Harbaugh that was saying what a great pre-season Demetrius had? Kelley Washington is going to prove to be a valuable edition to the receiving core. Mark Clayton, after being out all of training camp, was a force at receiver. He looked more in sync with Flacco then did Mason, who uncharacteristically struggled. He bobbled balls all day and had problems with his footwork. By the way, the first long ball that Mason juggled at the back of the end zone early in the game, was a ball that maybe only 5 or 6 quarterbacks in this league can throw.

First an inept defense, then constant clock management issues, now putrid special teams play. Please fix the special teams now!! I just want to see a game where we are not penalized repeatedly in the return game. For a team whose head coach is a formal special team’s ace and with a separate special teams coordinator/assistant head coach our special teams are atrocious. Please stop trying to be cute. Just line up and play football. Max protect, make sure tackles, kick the ball and catch the ball and I will be happy. Steve Hauschka, good luck! When he missed that field goal there was a palpable angst all thru the purple palace. Hauschka seems like a good guy and his kick offs were strong. There is definitely a difference when the other team starts inside the 25 yard line instead of starting at the 35 yard line. Here is hoping that he goes on a long streak of making field goals so the ghost of Matt Stover fades away. I think everyone in the stadium yesterday was praying that the game did not come down to a field goal chance. I still think this team ought to burn a roster spot for automatic Matt.

Defensively, we played fine but there were some definite bumps in the road. I am not convinced that our corners can hold up over the course of the entire season. Also I don’t think they have the ability to play physical bump and run, nor do I like their abilities in run support. The Chiefs did not challenger Foxworth much all day, but Fabian Washington had some serious lapses in coverage. The other thing about Washington is even when he has the opportunity to make a play, he fails to do so. The defense also had trouble getting to the QB unless they blitzed. Jarrett Johnson is a great football player that no one talks about. Great game JJ. It is really nice to see Kelly Gregg back on the football field. No turnovers by the Ravens defense that is definitely not Raven football.

RANTS

1. I really am over the Colts to Indianapolis thing, really I am. But the broadcasting that Peyton Manning just tied Johnny Unitas in wins for the Colts franchise still pissed me off. Just make a delineation between the two teams. Nothing against Peyton Manning, he is a great football player, but I don’t want to see continuous comparisons between the Baltimore Colts and the Indianapolis Colts. Leave my memories alone dammit!

2. Serena Williams, lose some weight girl, you are a professional athlete. In all seriousness that tirade she threw at the US Open looked very calculated to me. The Williams sisters long had a heated rivalry with the Belgian players, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. I think she was looking for a way out without actually losing. Williams is known to only play the major tournaments, because she detests the tour life, and to her credit she usually does very well. But I think the fact that she could not just will herself to a win over one of her most hated opponents in a tournament she sees as her own, got to her. The fact the Kim Clijsters is coming out of retirement after giving birth and was assumed not to be in tip top shape had to wear on Serena. Turn about is fair play Serena. How do you think all the other players, who take their profession seriously and play week in and week out, feel after they lose to you after you show up in questionable shape and only when you feel like it?
3. How about a Maryland football player who actually has some success. Shaun Hill was 18 for 31 for 209 yards for the SF 49ers. On the game winning drive he was 9 for 13 for 57 yards. Shaun Hill harkens back to the glory days of the Friedgen era at Maryland. Way to go Shaun Hill.

4. Fat men can’t coach. How can anybody associated with the Maryland football team be happy about beating James Madison University in overtime? The university of Maryland supposedly a major Division I college program has 2 walk-ons starting on the offensive line. Charlie Weis is cost his team the game on Saturday against Michigan. The University Of Notre Dame does not have the ability to make adjustments in the game plan. They were flat out coached at Michigan and shoddy coaching decisions late put the last nails in the coffin. The winds of change cannot come fast enough.

5. The Seattle Seahawks are a solid yet stunning unspectacular football team. They have a strong running game, they upgraded their receivers and the defense is fast and aggressive. If Matt Hasselback stays healthy they will win the NFC West in a walk. Mark that one down.

6. How bad must it stink to be a Cincinnati Bengal’s fan? Neither Cincinnati nor the Denver Broncos will factor in the playoffs this year, but Cincinnati seems to invent new ways to lose. Losing a game like they did, on that tipped miracle catch and run, may destroy that team for the rest of the year. I would not want to be Marvin Lewis right now.

7. What the hell was Kanye West thinking? He absolutely ruined a magical moment for the girl, Taylor Swift. If I was Ms. Swift I would have wound up and kicked him right in the 5 hole. At least Beyonce tried to save the night with a class move at the end of the Music Awards, raising Taylor Swift’s arm in triumph. Kanye West is a punk, the clock is ticking, and your 15 minutes is almost up Kanye.

8. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player I have ever seen. For years, everyone always chided Michael Jordan for not speaking out, for not expressing his opinion. Now that he opens up at his Hall of Fame induction, maybe he was right for keeping quiet all those years. On a night of celebration, Mr. Jordan could not resist taking one more stab at all those people he battled and feuded with throughout his career. He couched his venom by saying that is what drove his competitive passion. He could have made his point without throwing a bunch of well respected people under the bus. David Robinson and John Stockton were the epitome of class.

9. Did anyone catch Brian Matusz against the Yankees this past Saturday afternoon? I actually turned off college football to watch him pitch. The kid was terrific and has been off the charts for his last 4 starts. He is going to be a real, real good one. Just stay healthy Brian. Now Andy McPhail, go get me John Lackey and Chone Figgins and maybe we are onto something.

RANKINGS

1. Pittsburgh Steelers – …”to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man…Woooo!!” Truer words were never spoken.
2. Philadelphia Eagles – very tenuous ranking here with McNabb’s rib injury, but they were still very impressive Sunday.
3. New Orleans Saints – Still not sure about the running game or the defense, but Drew Brees, WOW!! MVP!!
4. New York Giants – Workman like win over a decent team. No flash here just a lot of substance.
5. New York Jets – A shout out to Rex Ryan. Man he looks good in a wet t-shirt. Way to go coach. Nice line for the rookie QB, 18-32 for 272 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. Sanchez has got star written all over him.
6. Seattle Seahawks – I like the way this team played on Sunday. Good offensive line, workman like backs, speedy defense, capable QB and receivers and a lousy division.
7. Baltimore Ravens – Probably a bit high here; I am just giddy we have an offense.
8. Green Bay Packers – Showed great offense in the preseason, but defense may be the story here.
9. New England Patriots – Is there a crack in the foundation? They looked lost and slow against the Bills, until the last 5 minutes of course.
10. Minnesota Vikings – This great defense gave up 20 points to a bad offense. Adrian Petersen is a beast, 25 carries for 180 yards and 3 TD’s.
11. Atlanta Falcons – “Matty-Ice” good QB, lousy nickname.
12. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning, yada, yada, yada…
13. San Francisco 49ers – I am rooting for the 49ers, lots of young talent here, Singletary is a psycho. Go Shaun Hill Go.
14. Dallas Cowboys – They haven’t had any heart in Dallas for over 3 years. When the going gets tough, the Cowboys lose.
15. San Diego Chargers – LT was very quiet, the Oakland Raiders took them to the brink, and Norv Turner is still the coach. Always lots of talent, but I am not feeling it.
16. Tennessee Titans – Funny this team is more like the Baltimore Ravens, then the Baltimore Ravens are. Defend, run the ball and make sure you don’t turn the ball over.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars – Still a rough tough defense with a superior back. Is David Garrard enough to win in the NFL?
18. Arizona Cardinals – I am on the fence about this team. Immensely talented, but I think they just caught lightning in a bottle last year.
19. Washington Redskins – Defense is really tough, Haynesworth will make them better. It is put up or shut up time for Jason Campbell.
20. Chicago Bears – That might have been the most disappointing opening night I have seen in a long time. Add that to losing Brian Urlacher for the entire year, it might be a long season in the Windy City.
21. Miami Dolphins – Last season the stars were aligned for this team. I think they played a good team on Sunday so let’s keep an eye on the Fish.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Defense is not close to what it once was, but running attack was very good and Byron Leftwich had some good numbers.
23. Oakland Raiders – There is a pulse. Defense has been sturdy for a couple years and the offensive line was greatly improved. The passing game showed some life.
24. Denver Broncos – This team is in trouble and needed a miracle to beat the Bengals. This might get ugly in Denver.
25. Kansas City Chiefs – I like Todd Haley, he has a fire and passion. The Chiefs should some spunk when the Ravens gave them a gift to get back in the game. Let’s see what happens when Matt Cassel gets playing.
26. Buffalo Bills – First wide right, then the Music City Miracle, now the Foxboro faux pas.
27. Detroit Lions – Matt Stafford showed some flashes. Kevin Smith is going to be a star and Calvin Johnson already is. Keep an eye on this team they will get better.
28. Cincinnati Bengals – Who dat, Who dat going to beat dem Bengals? Everybody, YUK!!! Can you say C-U-R-S-E?
29. Carolina Panthers – Easily the most disappointing team of opening weekend. They definitely spit the bit. Last 2 games for Jake Delhomme, 10 turnovers, 9 interceptions.
30. Cleveland Browns – This team is bad, but I love watch Josh Cribbs play football.
31. St. Louis Rams – they offered no challenge whatsoever to the Seahawks. It was pathetic to watch.
32. Houston Texans – Has there ever been a more over rated team. Year after year they are touted and fall flat on their face.

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RavensChiefs

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Chiefs @ Ravens Game Preview

Posted on 11 September 2009 by Derek Arnold

RavensChiefs

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, finally. We survived another offseason, and we finally get the chance to spit out that nasty aftertaste that has lingered in our collective mouths since that fateful night in Pittsburgh last January (damn you, Daren Stone!) A new season is upon us, one that sees our expectations for our team astronomically higher than they were just one year ago. In this space in Week 1 last season, I picked the Bungles to trounce the Ravens 27-13. Like most of you, I all too vividly remembered the nightmare 5-11 previous season, and had little confidence that a rookie QB and rookie head coach could come in and make such an immediate impact.

Shame on me. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh made me eat my words, leading the Ravens to an 11-5 record and two playoff wins. The question now becomes, can they duplicate their success, and avoid a second-year letdown (or “sophomore slump,” if you want to get all cliche’ about it)?

The Ravens lost a couple pieces from that squad, most notably inside linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard, center Jason Brown, and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Every preview you read about the Ravens drones on and on about the loss of Ryan and Scott being potentially catastrophic. To which I say, GET OFF MY CLOUD!

The Ravens have proven, time and time again, that no matter the coordinator (Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan), or the pieces plugged into the positions, that it is the scheme, aggression, and defensive tradition here in Baltimore that makes them a perennial Top-5 defense. As much as we hate to admit it, there is another team to the northwest of us who have done the same thing for far longer than we have. Being stuck in the same division as those who shall not be named, the Ravens have followed the same model, and success has come along with it.

Bart Scott was the third best LB on last year’s team. Tavares Gooden is more than ready to pick up any slack that the departure of Bart may have left. Jim Leonhard was only playing because of injury to the usual starter, Dawan Landry, who is a better all-around safety. New coordinator Greg Mattison has been coaching for 38 years. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs are all back. The Ravens will once again be an elite defense, make no mistake about it.

The unknown, as always with the Ravens, is whether or not the offense can continue its evolution, and build upon the modicum of success it showed a year ago. Nine of 11 starters return, with center Jason Brown and tackle Willie Anderson being the only losses. Brown is replaced by Pro Bowler Matt Birk, a definite short-term upgrade, while rookie Michael Oher takes over for the retired Anderson. Oher has been a beast in the preseason, and looks like another first round gem from Ozzie Newsome. Still, expect some growing pains as he gets used to matching up against the top pass rushers in the NFL.

Flacco comes off a season in which he became the first rookie QB to ever win two playoff games. He passed for 2,971 yards in his rookie campaign, throwing 14 TD and 12 INT. Over the final 11 games of the season though, he had 13 of those TD, and only five of the picks, showing steady improvement. After a brief retirement due to the loss of his good friend Steve McNair, Flacco’s favorite target, Derrick Mason, returns for another shot at his first Super Bowl ring. Joining Mason in catching balls will again be Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, and the Ravens added former Bengal and Patriot Kelley Washington to the WR corps (no Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin, much to the chagrin of some). Todd Heap appears healthy and involved in the offense in the fake games, and L.J. Smith, if he can ever get on the field, will provide another strong target for Flacco.

Also expected to contribute heavily in the passing game, as well as on the ground, is second year RB Ray Rice. Rice appears by all accounts to be the Ravens “starter” at RB, with Willis McGahee relegated to the change-of-pace role, and Le’Ron McClain returning to his natural blocking-back FB position with the departure of Lorenzo Neal. We still expect “Pain Train” to get some touches here and there, but Rice should see the lion’s share of carries in 2009. Rice averaged 3.6 yards on 23 carries (ehhhhh) and 9.0 yards on 12 receptions (ooooh) in three preseason contests. The Ravens seemed very pass-heavy in the fake games though, and I have a feeling that was more for “practice” for Joe than an indication of their actual game plans for this season.

CasselWuss

Kansas City won just two games in 2008, and as a result installed a whole new regime. New head coach Todd Haley replaces Herm Edwards, and a big trade brought Matt Cassel from New England to displace Tyler Thigpen at QB. Cassel tweaked his MCL against Seattle in the third preseason game, and is still questionable for the game. If he is unable to go, Brodie Croyle will start at QB for the Chiefs, in which case, you might want to look away, Mama Croyle. The Chiefs still have WR Dwayne Bowe, an emerging star in the NFL, but they lost their longtime stalwart in the passing game, TE Tony Gonzalez, to the Atlanta Falcons.

Chiefs RB Larry Johnson was the last back to gain 100 yards on the ground against the Ravens, a streak of 35 games; this is an impressive number, despite what perennial nay-sayer Mike Preston would have you believe. He isn’t what he used to be, but Johnson could still give the Ravens trouble, especially if the ease with which the Jets and Panthers were able to run the ball on the Ravens in the preseason is any indication. Look for the Ravens to stack the box, and dare Cassel/Croyle to beat them through the air.

On defense, the Chiefs were #31 in the NFL in 2008 (#28 passing, #30 rushing). Linebacker Mike Vrabel came over in the Cassel trade (a fact he is none too pleased about), but one man can’t fix that kind of ineptitude. After losing DE Jared Allen, the Chiefs plummeted to the bottom of the league in sacks, taking down opposing QBs only 10 (!!!) times all year. This all paints a rosy picture for Joe Cool & Co.

The one thing that gives us pause is this – Todd Haley was the offensive coordinator for Arizona prior to coming to Kansas City. During Week 3 of the 2007 season, the Cardinals were stymied by Rex Ryan’s D for three quarters, before storming back with 17 points in the fourth to force a last-second FG by Matt Stover to win it for Baltimore. Did Todd Haley figure something out that he can carry over to Sunday’s game? Add in that the Chiefs acquired WR Terrance Copper, who spent part of 2009 with the Ravens, and the potential for some Willie Anderson-like shenanigans (the Bengals accused Anderson of tipping off the Ravens to their plays during Week 1 last year)…does this game get a little closer than we might originally think?

In short, no. As discussed, Greg Mattisons’s defense is not Rex Ryan’s defense. Nobody is confusing Cassel, Copper, and Bowe with Warner, Boldin, and Fitzgerald. And Copper wasn’t around long enough to learn much, if anything, of the Ravens’ system.

Ravens 24 Chiefs 10

Yours in the comments.

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Ravens Preview

Posted on 02 September 2009 by kevinpb

I decided to do my preview of the 2009 season after the Carolina pre-season game because I hope that the first line offense and defense does not even get on the field in Atlanta, in fact, don’t even let them board the plane to go to Atlanta. I have seen all I need to see to know that the 2009 Baltimore Ravens are going to be a formidable team.
If they were an NFC team they would be the odds on favorite to get to the Super Bowl. Since they play in the AFC they are one of 3 or 4 teams that can make it to the mid February classic.

There is a lot to like about the 2009 Ravens. But I think the most interesting thing regarding this year’s version of the Ravens is the continued shift in vision of the team. The change in vision and/or direction was set in motion with the firing of Brian Billick 2 years ago. The firing of Coach Billick was as much an indictment of make up of the team as it was a reflection of the poor record in the year in which he was fired. In fact, when it became clear that the players which led the team in the direction it was heading did not support the coach, Brian Billick’s fate was sealed.

The second indication that a change was coming was the passing over of Rex Ryan as head coaching candidate for the Ravens. This would have continued this team on a course of defensive dominance for years to come. Let’s face it, the Ravens are not a sexy team. Even if you are the most devout fan they can be painful to watch at times. They were the NFL’s version of old pick up truck, strong, steady, tough and dependable. Unfortunately, this old truck occasionally had trouble with the sleek sports cars of the NFL. No where was this more evident then in the 2006 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. I still can’t even watch a replay of that game to this day. All I remember thinking about that loss was that, “it was our type of game and we still lost.”

The third indication that things were about to change at the castle, was John Harbaugh’s hiring of Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator. Cameron has a distinguished and successful career as an offensive coordinator. His offenses have over the years have had good rushing attacks some years and good passing attacks in others. His system is adaptable to the player’s talents, instead of trying to make the players fit into a rigid system.

What Ozzie Newsome set in motion was to take the intensity and passion that the defense played with and transfer it to the offense. To his credit, he started rebuilding the offensive line with an attitude. Once the great Jonathan Ogden retired, the die was cast and the rebuilding of the offensive line became of paramount importance. There was a two pronged shift in philosophy too. The first part of this change was subtle. Originally, it was the Raven’s plan to draft lineman in the later rounds and develop them and then sign older veterans to bolster the weaknesses on the line. After the loss to the Colts that year you saw the Raven’s start to draft offensive lineman with their higher draft picks. Ozzie selected Ben Grubbs in the 1st round, then stole Jared Gaither in the supplemental draft. Marshall Yanda came in the 3rd round as did Adam Terry a few years earlier. Finally, this past year, Ozzie selects Michael Oher again in the first round. Once it was evident that the Raven’s could not keep Jason Brown, Ozzie went back to his old standby and signed a veteran free agent to complete this unit.

The second part of the shift in philosophy of the offensive line was to get away from just sheer bulk and get more athletic. I have watched enough football to know that this offensive line is going to be something special. They are big, strong, fast, athletic and nasty. Gaither is the thoroughbred, and has Ogden’s stamp of approval. Grubbs is the athletic one. Yanda and Oher are just good ole nasty boys. Matt Birk is the point guard that keeps it all together. As the year goes on, this unit will become one of the best in football. Gaither and Oher are big and athletic enough to overpower most and contend with the speed rushers off the edge. Grubbs might be the best pulling guard in the league and Yanda is just a road grader. Chris Chester played well last year filling in for Yanda and is our main back up in the middle of the line. Losing Adam Terry for the year hurts because he was an adequate back up on either side of the line at tackle. Do not be surprised if you see Ozzie bring in a veteran tackle after cut down day to help with depth.

The running back by committee was terrific last year. In fact, it was a brilliant idea that camouflaged the fact that our number one running back failed to report to camp in shape and was not ready to carry the load even though he was paid to do so. I shudder to think what would have happened to Joe Flacco if it were not for Ray Rice and LeRon McClain. After watching the preseason Willis McGahee is relegated to 2nd team, LeRon McClain is the short yardage back and lead fullback; Ray Rice will carry the load. This is the type of back the Cam Cameron likes. He is a quick shifty runner that catches the ball well out of the backfield. Ray Rice is going to have a spectacular year. He is short in stature but is powerfully built. He runs low to the ground, explodes in the hole and changes direction on dime. As my cousin said to me, on that swing pass he caught in the Carolina preseason game where he did the step back, “he looked like Barry Sanders on that play”.

The wide receivers have caused the most consternation amongst the fans, and rightfully so. Thank God, Derrick Mason did not retire!!! Derrick Mason is the consummate professional and really is the heart of our offense. I thought it was interesting last week when Bart Scott made the comment that the real coach of the Ravens in 2008 was Rex Ryan, the only player that felt compelled to say something was Derrick Mason. That being said, both Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams have NFL talent, but their inability to stay healthy does not lend itself to having confidence in these two. Enter Kelley Washington. He has been a pleasant surprise in camp and has had success in the preseason games. He is currently lining up as the number 2 receiver. He is big, strong and fast and he looks to be able to contribute on offense. It is clear that the Raven’s are going to need some production out of either Clayton or Williams to go along with Mason and Washington. If the Ravens keep a fifth receiver it looks that it might be Justin Harper only by default. Todd Heap seems to have resurfaced in the offense and if he can stay healthy he gives us another credible threat down the field. LJ Smith is hurt again; enough said. Do not be surprised to see Ozzie scour the waiver wire after cut down day for help at either wide receiver and/or tight end.

The main reason why the Ravens will continue to be a relevant team and why, barring mounting injuries, they will break the cycle of one good year followed by one bad year is the quarterback. Yes fans, Joe Flacco is that good. I am not trying to anoint him the next Johnny Unitas, nor will I even go so far as to call him Bert Jones…yet. He is only in his second year and there are mistakes to be made, but the kid has IT! He is smart and has a much better handle on the offense. He has a laser arm. He also has a tremendously quick release and is deadly accurate. Did you see the touchdown pass he threw to Todd Heap in the Carolina preseason game? He put the ball the only place it could be. In that same game, he laid out a long ball perfectly down the sideline to Kelley Washington, over the outside shoulder where only our receiver could catch it. It is amazing how much more open our receivers look when Joe Flacco is throwing them the ball. Joe Flacco is now the shining jewel of this franchise and will be a terrific quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens for several years.

There isn’t much that hasn’t been said about our defense and all of the accolades they have received over the years have been deserved. There have been many variations of our vaunted defense over the years with only one remaining constant. I mentioned earlier in this piece that the Ravens are changing direction, and that is true; but as long as Number 52 is in the middle of the defense, we will never totally lose our identity as a defensive minded football team. Whether you like him or not, he has been the heart, body, mind and soul of this football team for a long time. He is on the very short list of greatest linebackers of all time. The defensive line is stout, but some key players are getting a little long in the tooth. Kelly Gregg and Trevor Pryce have to continue to perform at a high level. Justin Bannan filled in well for Gregg last year. Haloti Ngata is a superstar waiting to happen. The key retainee was Terrell Suggs, who is counted on to pressure the quarterback. Second round draft pick, Paul Kruger is touted as a high energy guy in the mold of Michael McCrary. I guess that is why they gave him that number. The Ravens have significant depth at the defensive line positions with the likes of Dwan Edwards, Kelly Talivou and Brandon McKinney.

At linebacker the team is also loaded. The starters will be, Ray Lewis, Jarrett Johnson, Tavares Gooden and Terrell Suggs. Ray Lewis is a Hall of Famer. Terrell Suggs is a Pro Bowl player. Jarrett Johnson plays at that same level but is somewhat overlooked and Jameel McClain will push Gooden for the other starting inside spot. Paul Kruger will back up Terrell Suggs and learn the hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker position that Suggs has evolved into. Antwan Barnes will be brought in on special situations to pressure the quarterback. That leaves a chore of other good football players fighting for one or two back up spots at linebacker. Brendon Ayanbadejo will most likely retain one of those spots due to his special teams status and there is probably one more spot for a trio of players, Prescott Burgess, Jason Phillips and Dannell Ellerbe. I like the mix of veteran leadership with young athletic talent in this group. This position will remain a strength of the team.

The secondary has gone through a transformation. Gone is Chris McAlister; and, at least for a little while, so is Samari Rolle. Fabian Washington covered well last year as a starter, but my mother hits harder and tackles better. Dominque Foxworth was acquired in the off season to replace McAlister and is exactly the type of free agent pick up that makes Ozzie Newsome so dangerous. He is still a young and improving corner and could develop into an elite player, but there are questions concerning his tackling ability as well. It may take him a while to learn how to play defense for the Ravens but he has a chance to become a really good cornerback. As big as Jim Leonard played last year, I am extremely happy to see Dawan Landry back at strong safety. I think he is a big time player and is great in run support. His ability to play close to the line will let Ed Reed continue to do what he does best; roam the field and take the ball away. Reed is a gambler and he will get burned occasionally, but when he gets the ball in his hands he is pure magic. I just wish he would stop trying to lateral the ball all over the field. Ed’s lingering neck and shoulder problem is a growing concern and should be monitored closely. Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura provide excellent depth and special teams play. Nakamura especially has shown flashes of being able to step in and play safety at a high level. In years past, I have always cringed when our first team cornerbacks have gone down, but the last 2 years Ozzie Newsome has done a good job of building depth at this position. Samari Rolle was brought back to play the nickel back and Chris Carr was signed to add depth and return kicks. I have been impressed with 3rd round draft pick, Lardarius Webb. I first saw him at training camp and I am impressed with his attitude and skills. He does not look afraid and he looks to be a pretty good cornerback once he gets some experience. With Samari Rolle starting the season on the IR list, it seems that Frank Walker has received a reprieve and will start the season with the team. While Frank played effectively toward the end of last year, his propensity for committing stupid penalties and his less then effective play this preseason has landed him squarely on the bubble. There is not a lot of experience here, especially with Rolle on the shelf. This is another area that the Ravens may look to improve themselves after cut down day.

Over the years, I have been very critical of Sam Koch as a punter. I did not think he was bad, I was just frustrated by his inability to hit the big kick at times to get the team out of a hole. Whenever he needed to boom one it seemed as though he couldn’t do it. Most point to his ability to place the ball inside the 20 yard line as an indication that he was a high caliber punter. Let’s be clear, there is not a more overrated stat in football, then how many times a punter places the ball inside the 20 yard line on a punt. I have never thought that such a stat was a productive measurement of any punter. That being said, I have to admit that Sam Koch is growing on me, his distance on punts has improved, his hang time has improved and he has become adept at directional punting, pinning the return man against one sideline or the other. Chris Carr was impressive as a returner at Tennessee. He fields the ball well and gets upfield quickly. He gives us the same thing Jim Leonard did last year returning punts with more speed and possibly more ability to take one to the house.

One of the biggest stories in training camp has been the competition for kicker. To be perfectly frank, I don’t understand what Coach Harbaugh is trying to accomplish. I understand that Matt Stover cannot get the distance on kick offs and that adversely effects our ability to defend since it shortens the field for the other team. There is a noticeable trend of opponents starting field position increasing yearly. So I applaud the idea of finding a kicker that is able to kick the ball in the endzone or forcing the opponent’s returner to field the kick closer to the endzone. I have noticed this preseason that we have done a much better limiting the opponents starting field position. However, the 2 kickers in camp have not shown the ability to routinely kick the ball in the endzone and have relied mainly again on directional kicking to pin the return to one side of the field or other. They have also failed to show that they have the ability to hit field goals with any consistency. What it comes down to is this; for a team that is expecting to be in the thick of a playoff run, does it make sense for anyone else other then Matt Stover to kick field goals for this team. I don’t think so.

Those in charge at the castle have proven over the years that they know how to build and run a football team, that cannot be argued; but their strategy regarding the kicking game does not make any sense to me. All I know is that on Sunday, December 27, 2009 at Heinz Field, when it is 17-17 with 1:22 to go in the fourth quarter, the wind is blowing and the flurries are falling and the field is mud pit when the Ravens kick team trots out on the field to try the winning field goal, the only person I want kicking that ball is Automatic Matt.

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Preseason Game 3 – Ravens @ Panthers

Posted on 29 August 2009 by Derek Arnold

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The “most important” of the fake football games is upon us, as the Ravens travel to Charlotte to take on the Panthers in preseason week 3. Week 3 of preseason is traditionally the game in which the starters play the most out of any of the four exhibitions. As such, we want to see our boys in purple and black looking sharper then we saw against either the Redskins or Jets.

What specifically will I be watching for from my couch?

Run Defense

Seeing an opponent rack up rushing yards is about as foreign to us here in B’More as a menu that considers “crab” snow crabs or some such nonsense. The Jets, though, were able to find some room on the ground, even when the Ravens starters were on the field. Baltimore fans have been a bit uneasy after seeing that, so we are all a little anxious about whether first-year defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s squad can plug the holes we saw in Week 2. Carolina was the #3 rushing team in the NFL in 2008, averaging over 152 yards per game. They will be without half of their lethal 1-2 rushing attack though, as Jonathan Stewart is sidelined with an injury. DeAngelo Williams (5.5 ypc in 08) will see the bulk of the carries, and will present a significant challenge for the Ravens.

Hindering the Ravens’ efforts will be the lack of DT Kelly Gregg, who injured his shoulder against New York. Word is that Kelly would play if this were a regulat season game, but will sit out just to be safe.

Linebacker Battle

Depth at linebacker is nothing new in B’More, but this preseason the Ravens are even more stacked at the position than normal. As a result, some guys that seemed to be a lock when they checked into the Best Western in Westminster now find themselves teetering on the bubble. Antwan Barnes, for instance, who saw action in 13 games and made 14 solo tackles as a pass-rush specialist in 08, finds himself neck-and-neck with such newcomers as Jason Phillips and Dannell Ellerbe. Ellerbe missed the Jets game though, and will need to suck it up and get some reps in Charlotte. Prescott Burgess is in a similar situation.

Speaking of linebackers, is it time to start worrying a little about T-Sizzle? He hasn’t seen the field since the first week of August, and now that the team is back at their complex in Owings Mills, it seems unlikely that Suggs is still just trying to avoid practice.

Kickers

This one isn’t so much a battle any more as it is a “hang on” situation for Steve Hauschka. He has a definite lead over rookie Graham Gano at this point, and as long as he hits his kicks from here on out, the 2nd-year player from NC State should find himself on the roster opening day. Hauschka might have some extra friends and family in the stands down in the Tar Heel State, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Pancake Man

Beast OT Michael Oher will see his first true test in the NFL, as he takes on Panthers DE Julius Peppers, who had 14.5 sacks last year. Oher, who has been calling out the likes of Dwight Freeney since he was in high school, certainly won’t back down from the challenge, but he will have his massive hands full keeping Joe Flacco upright.

Wide Receiver

Of course we couldn’t go an entire preview without touching on (beating) the ravens WR situation (dead horse). Mark Clayton, despite returning to practice this week and declaring himself available for the game, will be held out by Coach John Harbaugh. This will give the slew of guys competing behind Clayton some more precious reps to show that they can be the consistent option on the outside that B’More desperately needs. Kelley Washington has played well, but Demetrius Williams, Justin Harper, Jayson Foster, et al. need to step up, lest the Ravens be forced to hit the waiver wire over the next several weeks. Some sources have them coveting whatever WR the Philadelphia Eagles decide to cast off.

As always, the main point of focus in a preseason game is for everyone to come out healthy. These items (and more) though, will give us plenty of other sports-talk fodder for run up to the regular season opener.

How about you, see anything I missed?

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