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McKinnie just shy of Super Bowl for second time in three years

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McKinnie just shy of Super Bowl for second time in three years

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Luke Jones

Many members of the Ravens lamented how close they had come to the Super Bowl following Sunday’s heartbreaking loss in the AFC championship, but left tackle Bryant McKinnie was feeling a sense of déjà vu.

It was only two years earlier that McKinnie, playing for the Minnesota Vikings against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship, found himself moments away from a potential trip to the Super Bowl. The Vikings were driving deep inside New Orleans’ territory for the potential game-winning score before quarterback Brett Favre threw an inexplicable interception in the closing seconds of regulation with the game tied, 28-28. The Saints then won the coin toss to begin overtime and won on a field goal, leaving the Vikings wondering what could have been.

With the Ravens wasting an opportunity to win the game with Joe Flacco’s pass to Lee Evans in the end zone and missing a chance to tie the game with Billy Cundiff’s field goal attempt from 32 yards two plays later, McKinnie found himself falling just short of the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons.

“They’re kind of similar,” McKinnie said. “We lost both of them by three points. It’s just very tough because you’re so close to your ultimate goal, and you fall three points short.”

Just as he thought the Vikings were in position to beat the Saints in the closing seconds, McKinnie felt temporary elation as Flacco’s pass dropped into the hands of Evans before Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore poked the ball free. Two plays later, potential excitement transformed into devastation as Cundiff’s kick sailed wide left.

“[There was] the emotion up and down when I thought Lee caught the ball, just different stuff that pulled on you emotionally,” said McKinnie, who has one year remaining on his current deal with the Ravens. “Like I said, we just have to hopefully be able to pick up and get back there next year.”

Signed by the Ravens just over two weeks before the start of the regular season, McKinnie entered the year as the biggest — literally and figuratively — question mark on the offensive line. He finished the season as the only starter on the line not to miss a snap the entire season in what amounted to a solid campaign for the 32-year-old tackle.

Kicked to the curb by Minnesota after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds by the time the 132-day lockout ended, McKinnie worked himself into better shape before general manager Ozzie Newsome signed him to a two-year deal on Aug. 24. Eventually getting his weight down to roughly 360 pounds, McKinnie provided stability at the left tackle position and allowed third-year tackle Michael Oher to return to the right side where the Ravens did not have an answer during the preseason.

With a checkered off-field history and a reputation for being difficult with the media, McKinnie was the polar opposite, being a model citizen and accommodating interview requests on a regular basis.

However, the highlight of his season came in the opener when he dominated Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison and any other Steelers defender crossing his path in the Ravens’ 35-7 demolition of their hated nemesis.

“For me, personally, I feel like it was a great season coming from the situation in Minnesota and then coming in here and being part of a team that made it to the AFC championship,” McKinnie said. “So, I feel like it was a pretty good season.”

The Ravens may elect to address the tackle position this offseason with McKinnie set to turn 33 early in the 2012 season and not knowing whether Oher will be able to handle the left tackle position in the future. Of course, they will also need to make a decision on the future of Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs — who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason — and the center position with veterans Matt Birk and Andre Gurode both being free agents.

McKinnie showed fairly consistent ability as a pass blocker but did not show as much aptitude in run blocking, which was a criticism of the veteran in his final years with the Vikings. However, a motivated McKinnie with a full offseason to train at the Ravens’ Owings Mills facility might maximize his ability and allow the Ravens to delay the decision to acquire another left tackle for another year.

“I actually have an offseason this year where I can actually work on technique and not just kind of [being] out there kind of free-styling a little bit,” McKinnie said. “I feel like I’ll be better next year.”

And if the big tackle has it his way, he’ll earn the opportunity to finally get to the Super Bowl after falling painfully short in two of the last three years.

To hear McKinnie’s full comments from Monday morning, click HERE.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game – Ravens & Patriots

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game – Ravens & Patriots

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough…

(NOTE-Not all pictures are of actual play.)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Danny Woodhead returns Billy Cundiff kickoff 41 yards to Pats’ 37 (3rd quarter)

4. Joe Flacco pass intended for Ed Dickson intercepted by Brandon Spikes (4th quarter)

3. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dennis Pitta on 4th & 6 incomplete (4th quarter)

2. Billy Cundiff misses 32 yard field goal wide left (4th quarter)

1. Sterling Moore breaks up Joe Flacco pass intended for Lee Evans (4th quarter)

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Your Monday Reality Check-Cameron Future Only Part of Postseason Agenda

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Your Monday Reality Check-Cameron Future Only Part of Postseason Agenda

Posted on 23 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

I’ve had the opportunity to make a number of radio appearances throughout the country during the last few weeks while the Baltimore Ravens marched along in the National Football League playoffs.

In virtually every conversation, I was asked a question about how the outcome of the next game could alter the future of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in Charm City.

It always felt a little strange to be asked about Cam Cameron. Usually I only hear Cam Cameron’s name when a listener/caller screams at me about him. It’s never in the form of a question.

After the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, it didn’t take 30 minutes for the screaming to start again. It was a bit odd considering there was really no way Cameron could be blamed for the loss in Foxborough.

The reality is that as the team’s offseason officially got underway, Cameron sits at the forefront. His future can only be labeled as “to be determined”, as his contract expires with the end of the season.

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ coaching staff are headed to Mobile, AL this week for scouting at the annual Senior Bowl. It would seem as though the team wouldn’t want the situation with Cameron to linger far into the offseason, especially if they ultimately decide not to retain Cameron after four playoff trips in four seasons and have to find a new coordinator without a likely replacement on staff.

(That’s not an endorsement for either decision. It’s just a fact. I’m actually indifferent towards the situation, as I believe any coordinator in 2012 would need more offensive talent to work with.)

The next pressing situation remains on offense. The team’s Most Valuable Player in 2012 (RB Ray Rice) becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at a time where NFL teams have been particularly unwilling to invest in long term deals for running backs. Also hitting unrestricted free agency is LG Ben Grubbs, who has never reached a Pro Bowl but has certainly played at a Pro Bowl level. (Monday update: Grubbs will in fact be making his first trip to Hawaii this season as a replacement for Patriots G Logan Mankins.)

There is a likelihood that the Franchise tag will come into play with one of the above players, as it did with DT Haloti Ngata last season before a long-term deal was reached.

DE Cory Redding, LB’s Jarret Johnson & Jameel McClain and S’s Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura highlight other Ravens who become Unrestricted Free Agents. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (who has publicly stated he would like to play another season) is also on the UFA list, as are OL Andre Gurode, TE Kris Wilson, DT Brandon McKinney and LB Edgar Jones.

(CB’s Cary Williams & Lardarius Webb as well as LB Dannell Ellerbe are restricted free agents, all are expected to return.)

Also on the list of Unrestricted Free Agents is C Matt Birk, who denied a CBS report earlier this month that he had already decided to retire at the end of the season. With no “center of the future” clearly on the roster, it may behoove the team to bring the big man from Harvard back for one more season if he’s interested.

While we await Birk’s decision about his future, future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis told reporters in New England he intends to return to Baltimore for a 17th season. S Ed Reed’s future isn’t quite as defined, as he did not speak to reporters after suffering his second AFC title game defeat. Nagging back and neck issues appeared to affect Reed’s play at the end of the season, but he came with big plays in both playoff games.

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Lost opportunties could haunt Ravens after devastating FG miss

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Lost opportunties could haunt Ravens after devastating FG miss

Posted on 22 January 2012 by WNSTV

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Our Ravens-Patriots Slaps to the Head

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Our Ravens-Patriots Slaps to the Head

Posted on 22 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

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

To the surprise of some, there were no Pats to be given following the Ravens’ game Sunday. They fell 23-20 to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game to end their season.

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

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

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

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Terrell Suggs

4. Dannell Ellerbe

3. Michael Oher

2. John Harbaugh

1. Lee Evans (two slaps)

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Ravens feeling fine as challenging task awaits in Foxborough

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Ravens feeling fine as challenging task awaits in Foxborough

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens turn the page to their 20-13 win over Houston and look ahead to Foxborough and the AFC championship game, they once again appear to have health on their side despite a physical fight against the Texans.

Coach John Harbaugh provided a similar prognosis for free safety Ed Reed’s injured ankle to what was offered following Sunday’s game. Reed told reporters Sunday his left ankle was not a concern after turning it on the final defensive play of the game.

“Ed looks like he’s alright with the ankle,” Harbaugh said. “Everything’s coming up OK as far as the x-rays.”

The prognosis is certainly good news as the Ravens prepare to face the NFL’s “most explosive offense” in Harbaugh’s words.

Though Reed being helped to the sideline certainly provided a scare, the Ravens are in good shape elsewhere with linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps) and Jameel McClain having both played on Sunday after being game-time decisions. Ayanbadejo did not see much action defensively while McClain split time with Dannell Ellerbe at linebacker.

“We really got through [the game] it very well,” Harbaugh said. “The two toughest ones were Brendon and Jameel, and they fought through theirs. They were right to the last minute decisions, and they came out of it OK.”

Right tackle Michael Oher had his knee wrapped following the game, and defensive tackle Arthur Jones limped off the field with an apparent leg injury at one point, but neither injury was considered serious enough to report following Sunday’s game.

“Nothing serious [with them],” Harbaugh said. “I haven’t been told anything yet.”

Evans sighting

In an otherwise lackluster afternoon for the Ravens’ passing game, wide receiver Lee Evans provided an acrobatic one-handed catch on a third-down play to give Baltimore a first-and-goal at the Texans’ 9-yard line.

The Ravens failed to score on the possession after they were stymied on fourth down from the Houston 1, but the reception by Evans provided a glimpse of what the organization expected after trading a fourth-round pick to Buffalo for him in the preseason. Harbaugh also hopes it’s a sign of things to come for the remainder of the postseason.

“Lee’s huge for us. We would’ve liked for Lee to have been involved, obviously, all the way through,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something that we will like to see as we go forward here trying to get that done, and we’re not going to stop trying to get that done. Seeing that play get made, you get kind of excited. He’s certainly capable of making those plays; we’ve seen him make them his whole career. I think it brought a smile to everybody’s face. We’ll be looking forward to more of that.”

After missing seven games with an injured left ankle, Evans posted only four receptions for 74 yards despite entering the season as the Ravens’ No. 2 receiver on the depth chart.

Carr still in Ravens’ plans

With Ayanbadejo and McClain the only question marks on the Ravens’ injury report entering Sunday’s game, it was surprising to find veteran cornerback Chris Carr’s name on the list of inactives against the Texans.

Battling hamstring and back injuries that sidelined him for seven games this season, Carr has slid down the depth chart behind starters Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams as well as rookie Jimmy Smith, who enters the game in the nickel package. With Houston limited in the passing game, the Ravens elected to activate cornerback Danny Gorrer for his special teams prowess, leaving Carr as the odd man out in the divisional playoff.

Carr started all 16 games for the Ravens a season ago after Domonique Foxworth suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp and Lardarius Webb was coming off an ACL injury of his own.

“Chris is a big part of what we’re doing, especially when we play teams that throw the ball a lot, so that could be a big factor this week,” Harbaugh said. “We put the extra [defensive] lineman up this week because of the type of offense we were playing, and then special teams were a part of that decision, too.”

With New England owning the second-ranked passing game in the league, the Ravens will need all hands on deck to contain the Patriots as much as possible. Though his 5-foot-10 frame certainly won’t help against the likes of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, it’s a good bet Carr fits into defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s plans for certain passing situations on Sunday.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Harbaugh, Jarret Johnson, and Torrey Smith right here.

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 31 December 2011 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have never dropped a regular-season finale under coach John Harbaugh, a trend they hope to continue on Sunday when they travel to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals.

The objective is simple for both teams as Baltimore needs a win to clinch its third AFC North title and a first-round bye in the postseason while the Bengals would clinch a postseason berth with a victory. A loss by either side puts their respective fates in the hands of others.

Baltimore has won seven consecutive AFC North division games and nine of their last 10. A win would give the Ravens an undefeated mark in division play for the first time in the history of the franchise.

Of course, these teams met in Baltimore on Nov. 20 as the Ravens held on for a 31-24 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. However, the 483 total yards from the Bengals offense were the most allowed by the Baltimore defense all season.

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Here’s what to expect when the Ravens try to win in Cincinnati for the first time since the 2008 season …

1. With Marshal Yanda unlikely to play, Ray Rice will find little running room against a stout Cincinnati run defense. It’s true that Rice ran for 104 yards on 20 carries in the first meeting with the Bengals, but 59 of those came on one run, which reflects why offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should continue feeding Rice the ball as long as the Ravens aren’t facing a multiple-possession deficit. It also spells out how well the Cincinnati run defense — ranked fifth in the entire NFL — did against the Pro Bowl back aside from that long run, holding him to 45 yards on his other 19 attempts. If veteran Andre Gurode or rookie Jah Reid is filling in at right guard for Yanda, it limits what the Ravens are able to do in the running game as Yanda is often used to pull and get out in space to block for the shifty Rice. While many have pointed to the return of Ben Grubbs for the Ravens’ improvement in the running game, Rice has run the ball to the right side 106 times (441 yards) this season as opposed to 102 times (512 yards) to the left when most teams generally prefer left more than right. Given their current lack of depth at wide receiver, the Ravens would love to control the tempo with the ground game, but the Bengals will make that very difficult to do, likely holding Rice to 60 rushing yards or less.

2. The Baltimore defense will once again lack the necessary pass rush on the road to shake rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. The Ravens lead the AFC with 47 sacks this season, but only 14 have come away from home as the defense has struggled to get to the quarterback on the road, a major factor contributing to their 3-4 record in road contests. Linebacker Terrell Suggs has earned Defensive Player of the Year consideration after a 13-sack season, but the 29-year-old has only three away from M&T Bank Stadium. He has struggled to do much against Cincinnati left tackle Andrew Whitworth — just one sack in the last five games against the Bengals — and the Ravens sacked Dalton only twice in their November meeting. Chuck Pagano’s defense thrives on the emotion of its home stadium and just doesn’t have the same impact on the road, generating only seven takeaways in seven road games as opposed to 17 turnovers at home. Dalton threw for 373 yards — and three interceptions — in his first meeting against the Ravens and played with far more confidence in the fourth quarter as the Bengals nearly erased a 17-point deficit.

3. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will require safety help deep, leaving the Ravens secondary vulnerable elsewhere. The Ravens were fortunate to avoid the rookie phenom in their first meeting with the Bengals, but Green has drawn comparisons to the impact Randy Moss made as a rookie in Minnesota in 1998. His 1,031 yards earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl as he’s rewritten the Bengals’ record book for rookie receivers. The Ravens will have little choice but to provide safety help to whomever guards the 6-foot-4 Green, which will open things up for 6-foot-5 tight end Jermaine Gresham and wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who toasted the Baltimore defense for eight catches and 152 yards in November. The Ravens would benefit greatly if Cary Williams is cleared to play in time for Sunday’s game after suffering a concussion in Week 16, but Dalton will have plenty of open targets to throw to if Baltimore is unable to dial up pressure. Green may not be the one to make the big catches on Sunday afternoon, but his presence will have the Ravens scrambling to keep up with open Cincinnati receivers. Assuming Ed Reed is providing the deep help for Green, Gresham could have a field day matching up in single coverage against the likes of strong safety Bernard Pollard and the Ravens linebackers. It won’t be as bad as it was against San Diego two weeks ago, but the Bengals will continue what they started against the Baltimore secondary last month.

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The 2011 Van Clarkenburg Awards

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The 2011 Van Clarkenburg Awards

Posted on 29 December 2011 by Glenn Clark

The Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Van Valkenburg joined me in studio Wednesday on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net. We held a very special year-end awards show that we cleverly titled “The Van Clarkenburgs.” Here is a rundown of our winners…

LOCAL SPORTS:

“Best” Orioles-

Glenn Clark: O’s decision to bring Zach Britton up with team from Spring Training
Kevin Van Valkenburg: Britton’s May 18 start vs. New York Yankees

“Worst” Orioles-

Glenn: Birds’ decision to demote Britton midway through season
Kevin: Mike Flanagan suicide death

“Best” Ravens-

Glenn: Terrell Suggs
Kevin: Drafting Torrey Smith

“Worst” Ravens-

Glenn: Trading for Lee Evans instead of signing free agent Malcom Floyd
Kevin: 12-7 loss to Jacksonville Jaguars October 24

“Best Other Local Sports”-

Glenn: Towson University Football
Kevin: Graham Motion trained Animal Kingdom wins Kentucky Derby

“Worst Other Local Sports”-

Glenn: Randy Edsall’s first season in College Park
Kevin: Kevin Anderson’s handling of Mike Leach, Sean Miller

NATIONAL SPORTS:

What topic deserved more conversation in 2011?

Glenn: Novak Djokovic’s incredible season
Kevin: Ugly nature of NCAA/College Sports

What topic received too much conversation?

Glenn: Tim Tebow
Kevin: LeBron James

Who did the best coaching job in 2011?

Glenn: Joe Maddon
Kevin: Rick Carlisle

Who did the worst coaching job in 2011?

Glenn: Norv Turner
Kevin: Norv Turner

What was the best game you attended in 2011?

Glenn: Maryland’s 4-3 2OT soccer win at UMBC
Kevin: Baltimore Ravens’ 23-20 win over Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field

What was the best game you watched on TV in 2011?

Glenn: World Series Game 6 St. Louis Cardinals/Texas Rangers
Kevin: Women’s World Cup Quarterfinal Team USA/Brazil

What about sports were we “better off” for in 2011?

Glenn: NBA starting on Christmas Day
Kevin: Appreciation of Women’s World Cup

What sports media type do you love but hate to follow on Twitter?

Glenn: Gregg Doyel (CBSSports.com)
Kevin: Darren Rovell (CNBC)

(Continued on Page 2)

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Saturday

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Saturday

Posted on 23 December 2011 by Luke Jones

With just two games remaining the regular season and the Ravens having already locked up a spot on the playoffs for the fourth straight year, it’s difficult not to look at the big picture, especially with the 4-10 Browns coming to town.

Three weeks after the Ravens rushed for 290 yards in a 24-10 victory in rainy Cleveland, they welcome the Browns to M&T Bank Stadium for the final home game of the regular season. The Browns have lost seven of their last eight games and haven’t won on the road since a Week 2 victory over Indianapolis in September.

With a win, the Ravens would complete their first undefeated season at home in the 16-year history of the franchise. However, Baltimore hopes it won’t be the final game of the season at M&T Bank Stadium as it needs to win the final two contests of the regular season to secure the AFC North title and a first-round bye.

With Houston falling to the Colts on Thursday night, the Ravens can not only clinch the division title with a win and a Pittsburgh loss to the St. Louis Rams, but they would own no worse than the No. 2 seed regardless of what happens in the final week of the season.

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Here’s what to expect when the Ravens welcome the Browns to town on Christmas Eve …

1. Seneca Wallace will fare better than Colt McCoy a few weeks ago, but not by much. This season, the Browns found themselves in the unenviable position of trying to evaluate a second-year quarterback instead of playing a backup that arguably provided them a better chance to win in the present. The ninth-year veteran Wallace will receive the start as McCoy continues to deal with the effects of a concussion, and you get the sense that the Baltimore defense has more respect — and concern — for Wallace’s experience and mobility in the pocket. McCoy had 192 passing yards on 35 passing attempts with one touchdown and one interception against the Ravens three weeks ago, but much of that production came when the game was already out of hand. Wallace has a career 84.4 quarterback rating with 30 touchdowns to 16 interceptions in his career, but the Browns lack the weapons to really provide a threat to the Ravens in Baltimore. Cleveland will try to establish the run with bruising back Peyton Hillis, but will have no choice but to eventually put the game in Wallace’s hands. He’ll find some moderate success — he and rookie Greg Little connected five times for 131 yards and a touchdown in Arizona last week — but 200 yards or so will not be enough to make a dramatic difference in the game.

2. Ray Rice won’t eclipse the 200-yard mark again, but he’ll surpass the century mark on the ground. The star running back and the Ravens said all the right things about seeing improvement in the Cleveland run defense, but the comments were more courtesies than truths. The Browns gave up 147 rushing yards to the Steelers one week after their loss to Baltimore, and while they surrendered only 74 rushing yards to the Cardinals last week, that total was skewed by Arizona’s 289 passing yards against Cleveland’s third-ranked pass defense. Rice ran for a career-high 204 yards against the Browns at the beginning of the month and will see plenty of running room against their front seven. However, a sizable lead and an effort to keep Rice fresh for a big challenge in Cincinnati next week will give some of his carries to backup Ricky Williams. Rice will collect 125 rushing yards while Williams will gain upwards of 50 yards against the 31st-ranked run defense in the NFL.

3. With Anquan Boldin on the shelf, the Ravens will make a point to target Lee Evans often. Baltimore wouldn’t figure to struggle too much against the Browns, but quarterback Joe Flacco would benefit by using this game to establish more of a rapport with the 30-year-old Evans, who has been a severe disappointment after the Ravens acquired him for a fourth-round pick in August. Evans will start in Boldin’s place, and the Ravens would feel a lot better about next week’s game against the Bengals if he can look more like the type of receiver they envisioned at the beginning of the season. Baltimore will use tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta as wide receivers like they did when Evans was absent earlier in the season, but the Ravens really need to see more production from the former Buffalo receiver to prevent rookie Torrey Smith from receiving bracketed coverage until Boldin returns. Evans will need to create separation as Browns cornerback Joe Haden will likely be locked on Smith on the other side most of the afternoon.

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Ravens wide receiver Boldin out with slight meniscus tear

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Ravens wide receiver Boldin out with slight meniscus tear

Posted on 22 December 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 3:05 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With only two games remaining in the regular season and a playoff spot already secured, the Ravens received concerning news on Thursday that they’ll be without top wideout Anquan Boldin until the postseason due to a knee injury.

Boldin has a slight tear in his meniscus and will have surgery Thursday afternoon, a procedure that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, according to head coach John Harbaugh. The 31-year-old receiver had missed the last two days of practice and was listed as having a knee injury on the team’s official injury report released on Wednesday afternoon.

“It flapped up on him, I think it was Tuesday night after the walk-through,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have to get that repaired. It’s a two-week deal. He’s seeing Dr. [James] Andrews this afternoon. He’ll be back in two weeks, so he’ll be back for the playoffs, whichever round we happen to play in. It’ll be a little tighter if we have to play in the first round.”

In his ninth NFL season, Boldin has 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns. The former Florida State star has not missed a game since the 2009 season, his final year with the Arizona Cardinals. With Boldin sidelined for the next two games, the Ravens will lean heavily on rookie Torrey Smith and veteran Lee Evans to produce more in the passing game.

Smith has been one of the most productive rookie wide receivers in the league, catching 43 passes for 770 yards and a team-leading seven touchdown catches to break the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie.

“For us, we have to step up,” Smith said. “It’s too important for us to play well right now to have any letdowns. The whole team is depending on us to play well, and we’ve got to go out there and do it.”

Evans has made little impact this season after missing seven games with a left ankle injury. The 30-year-old receiver has only four catches for 74 yards in seven games. Through the first 14 games of the regular season, it’s safe to say the Ravens’ decision to send a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for Evans during the preseason has not worked out.

The six-foot receiver has looked more comfortable over the last couple weeks in creating separation, but it hasn’t translated on the stat sheet as Evans and Flacco continue to work on their timing. With Boldin sidelined, Evans hopes he can build a rapport with the quarterback over the final two weeks of the regular season that will carry over into January.

“It’s an opportunity,” Evans said. “Whatever is called on me to do, I’ll be ready to do. I’ve been working to get back to this point, and I’m getting an opportunity. That’s what it is, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Needing wins in their final two games to secure the AFC North division title as well as a first-round bye, the Ravens now find even more incentive to secure an extra week of rest for Boldin to return to action in time for the playoffs.

While it’s possible that general manager Ozzie Newsome looks to the free-agent market for help at wide receiver, the Ravens will likely use more two-tight end sets with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta splitting out as wide receivers if necessary. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron used two tight ends a great deal while Evans was sidelined earlier in the season.

Former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason will inevitably be discussed as a potential target to sign in Boldin’s absence, especially with him being in Baltimore on Thursday. However, a source close to Mason told WNST.net’s Glenn Clark that the veteran being in town is “purely coincidental” due to the holiday, and he had not been contacted by the team as of early Thursday afternoon.

After being waived by the Houston Texans on Dec. 12, Mason would be interested in a potential return to the Ravens if they reached out to the 37-year-old receiver, the source confirmed.

Behind Evans on the depth chart are rookies LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss. Previously the No. 3 receiver in Evans’ absence, Williams has been inactive for the Ravens’ last three games. Doss, the team’s fourth-round selection in April, has been inactive for all but five games this season and has not registered a catch in his rookie season.

“You want to get your young guys out there on the field as much as you can,” Harbaugh said. “You never want to do it before they’re ready to have some success. I think those guys are very much ready to have success. Between LaQuan and Tandon — also the the tight ends probably play a role in that as well — it will be very interesting to see how they do, but we anticipate them doing really well.”

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