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Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

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Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

Posted on 23 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

We’re just hours away from the start of the annual NFL Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. WNST.net will be live in Indy this weekend to provide coverage of the Combine.

Make sure you’re following us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest from the place our friend Merton likes to call “The Friendly Heart of the Midwest.”

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 4 & 5-A preview of players who will participate in this weekend’s Combine

The Baltimore Ravens made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects to keep an eye on as we move towards the Combine.

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

CB Jimmy Smith (Colorado)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vY06HXzEb0[/youtube]

When looking at Smith’s senior season in Boulder, it might seem odd that he didn’t record a single interception. But Smith was only thrown on about 20 times in man coverage during his senior campaign, so his opportunities were limited.

More impressive for Smith was that over his junior and senior seasons with the Buffaloes combined, he allowed just 11 receptions-only one of which was a first down. (He gave up one touchdown in his senior season.)

That lead Smith to gaining very deserved All-Big 12 honors.

The most appealing part of Smith’s candidacy as a first round pick is that he’s 6’2″, 205 pounds. That’s an ideal size for a potential shutdown corner in the National Football League.

The other appealing part about Smith is that he’s not afraid to tackle. He finished his Buffs career with 160 of them. Deion Sanders he’s not-at least through the first 22 years of his life.

Smith is likely going to be available when the Ravens pick at 26th. With Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington all expected to become unrestricted free agents, Smith could be a very intriguing possibility.

QB Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vHJTeM4S3I[/youtube]

Tyrod Taylor is not Michael Vick.

That being said, if I represented Tyrod Taylor I’d do my best to make sure the name Michael Vick was mentioned as much as possible during Draft season.

Taylor was certainly explosive at times during his career in Blacksburg. He was responsible for 67 career touchdowns (44 passing, 23 rushing) and thew for over 5,000 yards between his junior and senior seasons combined.

Hokies fans were frustrated by his decision making at times, and he certainly took advantage of lesser competition (572 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010 came in back to back games against Duke and Wake Forest).

He’s 6’1″, 216 pounds and VERY quick (expected to clock in near 4.5 when he runs the 40). He has plenty of upside. He had a solid week at the Citrus Bowl during Shrine Game week. He plans on staying at quarterback, unlike fellow former Va Tech QB Marcus Vick-who was willing to try Wide Receiver during the Draft process.

He’s not likely to find his way into the fray any earlier than mid-Saturday. The Ravens aren’t likely to address the QB position before that point, as they will simply be looking for depth behind Joe Flacco in case free agent backup Marc Bulger departs.

It could be a fit. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be.

RB Jordan Todman (UConn)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucXw_CW2ov0[/youtube]

Todman might be too similar in size to current Ravens RB Ray Rice (he’s 5’9″, 193 pounds; Rice is 5’8″, 212 pounds) to be a true complement in the Charm City backfield, but that doesn’t mean he might not be an option.

The Ravens will still have the option of retaining FB Le’Ron McClain and using him as more of a compliment to Rice, which could enable them to find depth later on with a player like Todman.

Todman didn’t really play a Ray Rice-type role in the Huskies offense, either. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in both his junior and senior seasons, combining for 2,883 rushing yards and 28 TD’s between the two seasons. He caught just 40 passes in the same span.

Will his size allow for him to be a consistent runner at the next level? We’ll have to see. He’s smaller than Willis McGahee (who the Ravens are expected to let go), but he would bring fresher legs-and pottentially a fresher attitude.

Todman replaced a very good back in Donald Brown and more than lived up to the the standard. But despite winning Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors last season, he’s probably a late Friday night or early Saturday selection.

That might be around the time when General Manager Ozzie Newsome considers a RB.

S Ahmad Black (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MswzKgJ8DBc[/youtube]

What has made Ed Reed a future Hall of Fame safety in Baltimore has been the fact that he’s had a nose for the football.

It’s not the same level, but there’s no question Black had a nose for the football during his four seasons in Gainesville.

Black finished his Gators career with 13 interceptions (3 of which he returned for touchdowns) and two forced fumbles. He also collected 227 tackles and two sacks. I think it’s fair to use the word “playmaker” to describe him.

At 5’9″, 190 pounds; Black isn’t as big as Reed. With that in mind, he’s not really expected to be a free safety at the NFL level and play centerfield the way Reed does.

But with Dawan Landry a possibility to depart when free agency finally begins, the Ravens could use general depth at the position all around.

Black will go early. Perhaps too early for a team that still counts Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski as options at the position.

WR Jon Baldwin (Pitt)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlnEnYxRnFA[/youtube]

His numbers over the last two seasons in Pittsburgh were very good but a bit short of earth shattering.

Between his junior and senior seasons, Baldwin caught 110 passes for 1,933 yards and 13 TD’s.

But there’s another number for Baldwin that is much more significant and makes him a likely first round pick after just three seasons at Heinz Field.

6’5″.

Baldwin’s unreal combination of size and speed (he’s believed to be able to post a sub 4.5 at the home of the Colts this weekend) makes him a potentially VERY dangerous downfield threat at the next level.

Interestingly enough, the Ravens need EXACTLY that type of receiver to complement Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

The question is now whether or not Baldwin sticks around to 26, or would it be worth it for John Harbaugh and company to try to move up to make sure they come away with him?

Not every tall, fast receiver selected early in the Draft has panned out and become a legitimate offensive superstar in the NFL. If the Ravens don’t walk away with Baldwin in the Draft, they’d still have free agency (should free agency ever actually happen) to consider addressing the need with a potential free agent like Minnesota Vikings WR Sidney Rice.

If he’s there at 26, I’d have to imagine it would be hard to pass up on him.

FB Owen Marecic (Stanford)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSyHCjMnDtI[/youtube]

Two things to start. One-Marecic is NOT going to play both sides of the ball in the NFL the way he did with the Cardinal. Two-I know he’s white and he played for Jim Harbaugh in Palo Alto, but Marecic is NOT Toby Gerhart. The comparisons would be unfair.

With all of that said, Marecic is a VERY interesting prospect. He won the Paul Hornung Award in 2010 as the most versatile player in college football. In one game against Notre Dame, he ran for a TD and returned an INT for a TD within the span of 13 seconds.

Even without playing defense at the next level, the Ravens could certainly find ways to use his versatility. He’d be an immediate candidate to help Jerry Rosburg in Special Teams and would be truly valuable should Le’Ron McClain depart or be moved into more of a true halfback role.

Marecic certainly handled short yardage situations for Stanford, scoring 10 combined touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons on just 48 total touches.

John Harbaugh should know a thing or two about Marecic both from his brother and since his father (Jack Harbaugh) coached Marecic for a month in 2009 leading up to the Sun Bowl. He appears to be the exact type of football player would love, and should stay on the board until at least midway through the day Saturday.

LB Nate Irving (NC State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKArcBAlXZY[/youtube]

After the Ravens selected Paul Kruger in the 2nd round of the 2009 NFL Draft, there was more discussion about Kruger overcoming a stabbing than there was about his actual football ability.

Should the Ravens select Irving this year, be prepared for a similar amount of discussion about things not related to football.

Irving missed the entire 2009 after a car accident that caused a number of serious injuries. Irving suffered a collapsed lung, broken rib, separated shoulder and a compound fracture in his leg and told reporters that summer he felt “blessed” to be alive.

Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack felt “blessed” to have him return to the football field in 2010, as he tallied 89 tackles, seven sacks and three forced fumbles. He finished his NCSU career with 211 tackles, nine sacks, six forced fumbles and four interceptions.

There has been some question as to whether or not Irving (6’1″, 235 pounds) can play Inside Linebacker at the NFL level. There are also of course questions as to whether any of the Ravens’ trio of Dannell Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden and Jameel McClain can REALLY play ILB at the NFL level either.

And we all know Ray Lewis isn’t getting younger.

Irving is probably a Saturday selection, and teams will clearly be paying very close attention to the medical portion of his Combine participation this weekend. The Ravens have taken chances on players with red flags before, but after selecting Sergio Kindle last year, they might be a bit more guarded in their decision making.

DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QT2-mRCgX0[/youtube]

There’s no secret that new Defensive Coordinator DESPERATELY needs a true rush end, as the Ravens failed to find a complement for Terrell Suggs along the Defensive Line last year.

It’s also no secret that Watt is one of the top D-End prospects in the country, having collected 11 sacks and 36.5 TFL’s during his two seasons in Madison after transferring from Central Michigan.

Watt is a 6’6″, 292 pound monster who wrecked havoc on Big Ten passers during his two seasons with the Badgers. His 21 Tackles for Loss in 2009 resulted in 91 lost yards for opponents.

Does that sound like something the Ravens could use?

The good news for the Ravens is that there are a number of First Round DE prospects in this year’s Draft, including Ryan Kerrigan and Allen Bailey who we have already profiled. Given the number of DE prospects, there’s a chance a player like Watt could stay on the board until 26th, but it is no guarantee.

If Watt’s available, it would be very difficult for Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company to pass up on such a talented player at such a position of need.

C Kris O’Dowd (USC)

odowd

Southern Cal became a bit of an “Offensive Lineman U” during the Pete Carroll era, producing the likes of Ryan Kalil (Carolina Panthers), Sam Baker (Atlanta Falcons), Deuce Lutui (Arizona Cardinals), Winston Justice (Philadelphia Eagles) and more.

O’Dowd is the next in the line of Trojans lineman who is expected to make the transition to the NFL level.

He’s 6’4″, 303 pounds and was part of an O-Line that blocked for the 3rd leading rushing attack in the Pac 10 last season, behind just Oregon and Stanford. He made an immediate impact upon arriving in Malibu, becoming the first true freshman to start on the O-Line for USC since 1996.

Teams will be taking a particularly important look at O’Dowd medically in Indianapolis, as he battled knee and shoulder injuries during his college career. With Matt Birk expected to be playing in his final season in 2011, the Ravens could do well to spend a Saturday selection on a player like O’Dowd.

And if you’re at all concerned about O’Dowd off this field, this ESPN piece about his relationship with a young man named Jake Olson should probably ease those concerns…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhY4RnQLaOc[/youtube]

WR Greg Salas (Hawaii)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH94OG2Fcko[/youtube]

Salas’ numbers in 2010 were almost unreal.

The young man from Chino, California caught 119 balls for a ridiculous 1,889 yards and 14 TD’s for the Warriors as a senior. It wrapped up an amazing career in Honolulu that saw him catch 285 passes for 4,345 yards and 26 TD’s-the overwhelming majority of which came in his final three seasons.

Those numbers are amazing.

The problem with Salas is that there’s nothing about him in particular that would make him stand out in the Ravens’ receiving corps. He’s not terribly big (6’2″, 210 pounds) and isn’t lightning fast either (expected to post a 40 time in the mid 4.5′s in Indy).

With will-be free agents TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth significant question marks to return, there’s no easy place to see Salas fitting in at the top with Boldin and Mason in Cam Cameron’s offense.

But the Ravens do need to find more receivers should Stallworth and Houshmandzadeh (and Marcus Smith who is also a free agent) depart. There is no doubt that Salas can catch the football. Should he stick around late into Saturday, he would have to be a player Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and company would want to consider.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

Posted on 23 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

The annual NFL Scouting Combine is underway at LucasOil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. WNST.net will be live in Indy this weekend to provide coverage of the Combine.

Make sure you’re following us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest from the place our friend Merton likes to call “The Friendly Heart of the Midwest.” There will also be nearly day long coverage of the events in Indy throughout the weekend on NFL Network.

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 4 & 5-A preview of players who will participate in this weekend’s Combine

The Baltimore Ravens made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects to keep an eye on as we move towards the Combine.

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

CB Jimmy Smith (Colorado)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vY06HXzEb0[/youtube]

When looking at Smith’s senior season in Boulder, it might seem odd that he didn’t record a single interception. But Smith was only thrown on about 20 times in man coverage during his senior campaign, so his opportunities were limited.

More impressive for Smith was that over his junior and senior seasons with the Buffaloes combined, he allowed just 11 receptions-only one of which was a first down. (He gave up one touchdown in his senior season.)

That lead Smith to gaining very deserved All-Big 12 honors.

The most appealing part of Smith’s candidacy as a first round pick is that he’s 6’2″, 205 pounds. That’s an ideal size for a potential shutdown corner in the National Football League.

The other appealing part about Smith is that he’s not afraid to tackle. He finished his Buffs career with 160 of them. Deion Sanders he’s not-at least through the first 22 years of his life.

Smith is likely going to be available when the Ravens pick at 26th. With Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington all expected to become unrestricted free agents, Smith could be a very intriguing possibility.

QB Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vHJTeM4S3I[/youtube]

Tyrod Taylor is not Michael Vick.

That being said, if I represented Tyrod Taylor I’d do my best to make sure the name Michael Vick was mentioned as much as possible during Draft season.

Taylor was certainly explosive at times during his career in Blacksburg. He was responsible for 67 career touchdowns (44 passing, 23 rushing) and thew for over 5,000 yards between his junior and senior seasons combined.

Hokies fans were frustrated by his decision making at times, and he certainly took advantage of lesser competition (572 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010 came in back to back games against Duke and Wake Forest).

He’s 6’1″, 216 pounds and VERY quick (expected to clock in near 4.5 when he runs the 40). He has plenty of upside. He had a solid week at the Citrus Bowl during Shrine Game week. He plans on staying at quarterback, unlike fellow former Va Tech QB Marcus Vick-who was willing to try Wide Receiver during the Draft process.

He’s not likely to find his way into the fray any earlier than mid-Saturday. The Ravens aren’t likely to address the QB position before that point, as they will simply be looking for depth behind Joe Flacco in case free agent backup Marc Bulger departs.

It could be a fit. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be.

RB Jordan Todman (UConn)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucXw_CW2ov0[/youtube]

Todman might be too similar in size to current Ravens RB Ray Rice (he’s 5’9″, 193 pounds; Rice is 5’8″, 212 pounds) to be a true complement in the Charm City backfield, but that doesn’t mean he might not be an option.

The Ravens will still have the option of retaining FB Le’Ron McClain and using him as more of a compliment to Rice, which could enable them to find depth later on with a player like Todman.

Todman didn’t really play a Ray Rice-type role in the Huskies offense, either. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in both his junior and senior seasons, combining for 2,883 rushing yards and 28 TD’s between the two seasons. He caught just 40 passes in the same span.

Will his size allow for him to be a consistent runner at the next level? We’ll have to see. He’s smaller than Willis McGahee (who the Ravens are expected to let go), but he would bring fresher legs-and pottentially a fresher attitude.

Todman replaced a very good back in Donald Brown and more than lived up to the the standard. But despite winning Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors last season, he’s probably a late Friday night or early Saturday selection.

That might be around the time when General Manager Ozzie Newsome considers a RB.

S Ahmad Black (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MswzKgJ8DBc[/youtube]

What has made Ed Reed a future Hall of Fame safety in Baltimore has been the fact that he’s had a nose for the football.

It’s not the same level, but there’s no question Black had a nose for the football during his four seasons in Gainesville.

Black finished his Gators career with 13 interceptions (3 of which he returned for touchdowns) and two forced fumbles. He also collected 227 tackles and two sacks. I think it’s fair to use the word “playmaker” to describe him.

At 5’9″, 190 pounds; Black isn’t as big as Reed. With that in mind, he’s not really expected to be a free safety at the NFL level and play centerfield the way Reed does.

But with Dawan Landry a possibility to depart when free agency finally begins, the Ravens could use general depth at the position all around.

Black will go early. Perhaps too early for a team that still counts Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski as options at the position.

WR Jon Baldwin (Pitt)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlnEnYxRnFA[/youtube]

His numbers over the last two seasons in Pittsburgh were very good but a bit short of earth shattering.

Between his junior and senior seasons, Baldwin caught 110 passes for 1,933 yards and 13 TD’s.

But there’s another number for Baldwin that is much more significant and makes him a likely first round pick after just three seasons at Heinz Field.

6’5″.

Baldwin’s unreal combination of size and speed (he’s believed to be able to post a sub 4.5 at the home of the Colts this weekend) makes him a potentially VERY dangerous downfield threat at the next level.

Interestingly enough, the Ravens need EXACTLY that type of receiver to complement Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

The question is now whether or not Baldwin sticks around to 26, or would it be worth it for John Harbaugh and company to try to move up to make sure they come away with him?

Not every tall, fast receiver selected early in the Draft has panned out and become a legitimate offensive superstar in the NFL. If the Ravens don’t walk away with Baldwin in the Draft, they’d still have free agency (should free agency ever actually happen) to consider addressing the need with a potential free agent like Minnesota Vikings WR Sidney Rice.

If he’s there at 26, I’d have to imagine it would be hard to pass up on him.

FB Owen Marecic (Stanford)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSyHCjMnDtI[/youtube]

Two things to start. One-Marecic is NOT going to play both sides of the ball in the NFL the way he did with the Cardinal. Two-I know he’s white and he played for Jim Harbaugh in Palo Alto, but Marecic is NOT Toby Gerhart. The comparisons would be unfair.

With all of that said, Marecic is a VERY interesting prospect. He won the Paul Hornung Award in 2010 as the most versatile player in college football. In one game against Notre Dame, he ran for a TD and returned an INT for a TD within the span of 13 seconds.

Even without playing defense at the next level, the Ravens could certainly find ways to use his versatility. He’d be an immediate candidate to help Jerry Rosburg in Special Teams and would be truly valuable should Le’Ron McClain depart or be moved into more of a true halfback role.

Marecic certainly handled short yardage situations for Stanford, scoring 10 combined touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons on just 48 total touches.

John Harbaugh should know a thing or two about Marecic both from his brother and since his father (Jack Harbaugh) coached Marecic for a month in 2009 leading up to the Sun Bowl. He appears to be the exact type of football player would love, and should stay on the board until at least midway through the day Saturday.

LB Nate Irving (NC State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKArcBAlXZY[/youtube]

After the Ravens selected Paul Kruger in the 2nd round of the 2009 NFL Draft, there was more discussion about Kruger overcoming a stabbing than there was about his actual football ability.

Should the Ravens select Irving this year, be prepared for a similar amount of discussion about things not related to football.

Irving missed the entire 2009 after a car accident that caused a number of serious injuries. Irving suffered a collapsed lung, broken rib, separated shoulder and a compound fracture in his leg and told reporters that summer he felt “blessed” to be alive.

Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack felt “blessed” to have him return to the football field in 2010, as he tallied 89 tackles, seven sacks and three forced fumbles. He finished his NCSU career with 211 tackles, nine sacks, six forced fumbles and four interceptions.

There has been some question as to whether or not Irving (6’1″, 235 pounds) can play Inside Linebacker at the NFL level. There are also of course questions as to whether any of the Ravens’ trio of Dannell Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden and Jameel McClain can REALLY play ILB at the NFL level either.

And we all know Ray Lewis isn’t getting younger.

Irving is probably a Saturday selection, and teams will clearly be paying very close attention to the medical portion of his Combine participation this weekend. The Ravens have taken chances on players with red flags before, but after selecting Sergio Kindle last year, they might be a bit more guarded in their decision making.

DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QT2-mRCgX0[/youtube]

There’s no secret that new Defensive Coordinator DESPERATELY needs a true rush end, as the Ravens failed to find a complement for Terrell Suggs along the Defensive Line last year.

It’s also no secret that Watt is one of the top D-End prospects in the country, having collected 11 sacks and 36.5 TFL’s during his two seasons in Madison after transferring from Central Michigan.

Watt is a 6’6″, 292 pound monster who wrecked havoc on Big Ten passers during his two seasons with the Badgers. His 21 Tackles for Loss in 2009 resulted in 91 lost yards for opponents.

Does that sound like something the Ravens could use?

The good news for the Ravens is that there are a number of First Round DE prospects in this year’s Draft, including Ryan Kerrigan and Allen Bailey who we have already profiled. Given the number of DE prospects, there’s a chance a player like Watt could stay on the board until 26th, but it is no guarantee.

If Watt’s available, it would be very difficult for Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company to pass up on such a talented player at such a position of need.

C Kris O’Dowd (USC)

odowd

Southern Cal became a bit of an “Offensive Lineman U” during the Pete Carroll era, producing the likes of Ryan Kalil (Carolina Panthers), Sam Baker (Atlanta Falcons), Deuce Lutui (Arizona Cardinals), Winston Justice (Philadelphia Eagles) and more.

O’Dowd is the next in the line of Trojans lineman who is expected to make the transition to the NFL level.

He’s 6’4″, 303 pounds and was part of an O-Line that blocked for the 3rd leading rushing attack in the Pac 10 last season, behind just Oregon and Stanford. He made an immediate impact upon arriving in Malibu, becoming the first true freshman to start on the O-Line for USC since 1996.

Teams will be taking a particularly important look at O’Dowd medically in Indianapolis, as he battled knee and shoulder injuries during his college career. With Matt Birk expected to be playing in his final season in 2011, the Ravens could do well to spend a Saturday selection on a player like O’Dowd.

And if you’re at all concerned about O’Dowd off this field, this ESPN piece about his relationship with a young man named Jake Olson should probably ease those concerns…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhY4RnQLaOc[/youtube]

WR Greg Salas (Hawaii)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH94OG2Fcko[/youtube]

Salas’ numbers in 2010 were almost unreal.

The young man from Chino, California caught 119 balls for a ridiculous 1,889 yards and 14 TD’s for the Warriors as a senior. It wrapped up an amazing career in Honolulu that saw him catch 285 passes for 4,345 yards and 26 TD’s-the overwhelming majority of which came in his final three seasons.

Those numbers are amazing.

The problem with Salas is that there’s nothing about him in particular that would make him stand out in the Ravens’ receiving corps. He’s not terribly big (6’2″, 210 pounds) and isn’t lightning fast either (expected to post a 40 time in the mid 4.5′s in Indy).

With will-be free agents TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth significant question marks to return, there’s no easy place to see Salas fitting in at the top with Boldin and Mason in Cam Cameron’s offense.

But the Ravens do need to find more receivers should Stallworth and Houshmandzadeh (and Marcus Smith who is also a free agent) depart. There is no doubt that Salas can catch the football. Should he stick around late into Saturday, he would have to be a player Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and company would want to consider.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Wednesday 3-Pointer: No Props for Dunk Props, A Wall With No Foundation & Ozzie’s Shopping List

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Wednesday 3-Pointer: No Props for Dunk Props, A Wall With No Foundation & Ozzie’s Shopping List

Posted on 23 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Wednesday 3-Pointer

 

#1 – No Props for Dunk Props

 

The dunk contest seems to have more people bashing it these days than people willing to [admit that they] commit a Saturday evening to watching it. While the arguments seem to be persistent and valid, it also seems pretty clear that the NBA won’t be doing away with this event any time soon. That said, DeMar DeRozan’s frustration over the use of props in Saturday’s contest is both valid and misguided. It’s pretty clear that Blake Griffin’s use of the car in his final dunk made an otherwise ordinary dunk look spectacular, you might argue too that Griffin made it to the finals mostly on reputation. Ever since Griffin began unleashing his never-ending series of power boofs on the league, fans have been looking forward to his “dunk-porn” inclusion in the competition. Griffin’s power though plays much better in game situations, at full speed on the break while making posters out of the opposition. Still, DeRozan has been in the contest before, and certainly watched previous editions. The use of props is not only fair game these days, it’s the expectation.

 

JaVale McGee unleashed 3 insane dunks in his first 3 tries, but laid an (intentional perhaps?) egg with his 4th and final dunk of the contest, and as props go, setting up a second, regulation sized NBA rim next to the existing one is pretty forgivable. Serge Ibaka pulled down a stuffed gorilla from the rim with his teeth while dunking (a new and moderately less impressive version of the Gerald Green cupcake dunk). He also gave us the first true dunk from behind the free throw line in the contest’s history, a trick also widely overlooked by the judges (maybe a prop would have made it better).

 

 While it would seem that all of the dunks that are humanly possible have already been done, McGee at least proved otherwise. The dunk is still an evolving art form like so many X-Games types of tricks and stunts. Turn back the clock 10 years on one of those events, and the tricks that were winning contests then are part and parcel to everyone’s repertoire these days. While dunking should be the same, and can be, these are guys who get paid to play basketball, and therefore owe it to themselves and their families to practice honing actual basketball skills that they can use to refine their games and not acrobatic tricks. Outside of the rookie Griffin, none of this year’s other competitors are All-Star caliber players or even close, time spent in the gym working on things like trick dunks is wasted time dedicated toward an already maligned event.

 

As we continue to encourage players to not only compete, but to push the envelope and keep us interested, the compromise that has been the biggest issue overall with the competition, but seemingly a necessary evil nonetheless is the 2-minute clock with unlimited attempts to complete your dunks. As impressive as a number of the dunks on Saturday were, particularly McGee’s, the 5 failed attempts that preceded it clearly tipped the dunker’s hand and took some of the luster off of their masterpieces.

 

If McGee were paid to compete in dunk contests only, and had real time to dedicate to refining those dunks, then we could expect to hold him to a standard that doesn’t allow for misses, but as long as those guys are trying to hang in the NBA, that’s too much to ask.

 

In the end the fan voting component probably would have tipped the scales in Griffin’s favor anyway. Bieber-fever tainted the celebrity game vote on Friday night, and the NBA surely has a mean case of the Blake-plague.

 

 

#2 – A Wall With No Foundation

 

For those who have largely slept through the Wizards season to this point…welcome to the club. As a lifelong Knicks fan with little to cheer about (other than my fantasy team) from an NBA standpoint for quite some time now, I embarked on this season determined to find an interest in the Wizards and John Wall. They have not made it easy.

 

In rookie John Wall, the Wizards clearly have a franchise type of player to build around; and although his genius (no exaggeration here…he has a special understanding of lanes and angles for a player of his experience) has been somewhat lost at times as a member of the Wizards this season, look no further than his rookie game performance (12 pts. 22 asst.) to see what he can do in open space and with playmakers around him.

 

Playmakers after all are what the Wizards seem to be lacking these days. Aside from Wall, there are few players on the Wizards’ roster that look long (or serviceable) for a team looking to build itself into a contender around Wall. In JaVale McGee and Nick Young the team seems to have a front court and back court option that can at least be serviceable in a first off the bench capacity, with possible upside beyond that. Aundray Blatche is slowly rounding into form and could be a strong pick and roll partner for Wall for years to come. Everyone else however (with the possible exception of Yi who is surprisingly just 23 years old) looks to be just along for the ride.

 

Sometimes when you draft highly in the NBA you get a franchise player to build around, but just as often it seems the draft will be devoid of that type of top end talent. In those seasons serviceable, credible role-players can (and have to) be just as valuable. The Clippers and Knicks for example have been quietly accumulating some of that type of talent for the last few years (although the Knicks just sent most of it to Denver), in those cases, when infused with a star player and seemingly only then, they begin to realize the upside of some of the other talent they’ve assembled. In other cases (see Derek Rose’s early Bulls or Kevin Durant’s Sonics/Thunder & Tyreke Evans’ current Kings) the marquee player comes first and the talent has to fill in around him. Kyrie Irving or Josh Selby might sure look good in a backcourt next to Wall, or Jared Sullinger in the frontcourt. To their credit, the Wizards don’t look to play themselves out of a high draft pick anytime soon.

 

 

#3 – Ozzie’s Shopping List

 

Even though everything that we know about the history of the NFL would suggest otherwise, it’s still somehow impossible as NFL fans not to base next season’s expectations off of last season’s performance. Three straight trips into the playoffs as the Ravens have done should inspire confidence, but history says with each trip into the playoffs, the likelihood of returning becomes slimmer and slimmer. Even if that proves true for the Ravens this season, they have never stayed down for long, but as we try and look ahead hopefully, the number of apparent/potential holes on the team moving forward can be somewhat alarming.

 

Running Back – We’ve already discussed the likelihood of the Ravens parting company with Willis McGahee; LeRon McClain too in the minds of many is unlikely to be back next season, which may necessitate finding a fullback as well. Although the need here seems urgent, recent history suggests that you can get away with shoe stringing this position. Whether by design (Tampa, New England) or necessity (Green Bay, New Orleans, Indianapolis) teams have thrived while using second-rate talent at running back lately.

 

Wide Receiver – Anquan Boldin is back, Mason looks like he’ll be too, beyond that question marks abound. Most seem to think the Ravens need at least one speed merchant, field stretching wide receiver at least to round out their corps. Add that to the list.

 

Offensive Tackle – Whether you believe that Michael Oher is better suited for left or right tackle, most seem to be in agreement that the Ravens are better served with Marshall Yanda at guard. Whichever side of the line Oher winds up on (I’m still betting left) the Ravens will need another bookend for the opposite side.

 

Center – Regardless of how you feel about the play of Matt Birk going forward the likelihood of him being around much longer gets less and less. Sooner or later a replacement will have to be decided on. It’s not an urgent need, but likely a need nonetheless.

 

Quarterback – It looks like the Ravens will likely be in the market for a credible backup for Joe Flacco again. I’d guess that this is a need more likely to be filled through free agency with a veteran than through the draft with a rookie. It still seems like a pretty urgent need.

 

Inside Linebacker – Sooner or later Ray Lewis’ tank is simply going to run out. The sooner they start thinking about grooming a successor (preferably under Ray’s influence) the better.

 

SafetySee inside linebacker and insert Ed Reed.

 

Rush End / Outside LinebackerFreeney has Mathis, Harrison has Woodley and Suggs has Kruger and Kindle, sooner or later the Ravens need to hit on a complimentary pass rusher. Jarrett Johnson’s versatility is a strength here, but how much gas is left in his tank too?

 

Corner BackCan you ever have enough quality corners?

 

It seems that the only places that the Ravens can be completely confident are tight end (putting a lot of faith in a couple of second year players), defensive tackle, offensive guard (provided they find a tackle) and in the kicking game. Ozzie’s sure got his work cut out for him this off-season. When he gets to begin that work though is another matter altogether.

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Harvey Updyke Story Strikes at Nature of Rivalry in Sports

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Harvey Updyke Story Strikes at Nature of Rivalry in Sports

Posted on 17 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

There’s nothing in sports I enjoy more than rivalry.

I can honestly say that I became a sports fan growing up more because of the pageantry and tradition that I saw on display when I attended events than because of any of the athletic abilities I had the pleasure of witnessing.

As I’ve continued to follow sports both as a fan and analyst, there’s little I’ve enjoyed more than the nature of rivalry.

My father’s family has roots in Akron, Ohio. I fully understood growing up why Ohio State-Michigan was simply more important than any other game.

When Peyton Manning was at Tennessee, the youth minister at my church (David Robinson-now the minister at Community Christian Church in White Marsh) convinced me that nothing mattered more then when the Volunteers took on Florida. Given the results, maybe he shouldn’t have hyped these games up so much.

During the two years I was at KDUS in Phoenix, I dove fully into the Arizona-Arizona State “Territorial Cup” rivalry. I knew more about Chuck Cecil than any young man from Charm City would ever have a reason to.

But as someone who was born and lived in Baltimore for all but two of 27 years, there have been a few rivalries that have particularly stood out.

From 1995-1999, my life came to a halt whenever the Baltimore Orioles opened a series with the New York Yankees.

From 1999-2004, the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans stole my attention unlike any other National Football League contest could.

But since 1992, I learned the nature of what the word “rivalry” really meant by watching the Maryland Terrapins take on the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils.

I had no idea at the time that most sports fans worldwide really didn’t consider any of those games I was losing sleep over to truly be “rivalries.”

The reality is that the much truer forms of rivalry in the area were embodied by Calvert Hall & Loyola, City & Poly and Maryland & Johns Hopkins lacrosse.

As an adult who has made his living in the sports industry, I have found myself particularly interested in three very true forms of rivalry.

Every year I make the trip to see Army battle Navy in football, whether I have covered any other Midshipmen games that season at all. I’ve argued that the Army-Navy Game is the greatest institution in all of sports, and I’ve yet to be convinced otherwise.

The hoops rivalry between Morgan State and Coppin State is of particular interest to me. My grandmother spent more than a decade as an English professor on Hillen Road, and I waited a long time in my life to see the resurgence of the Bears’ basketball program that Todd Bozeman has provided. That being said, I view Fang Mitchell as a pillar of this city’s sports community and someone who deserves the admiration and respect of anyone who calls this place home.

But clearly the rivalry that I am most involved with is the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens that many NFL pundits now believe is amongst the best the sport has to offer.

As the Ravens prepared to visit Heinz Field this January for their AFC Divisional Round playoff game, Drew Forrester and I tossed around a notion of “making a sacrifice” in hopes of seeing the Ravens get over the hump against their rivals from the Steel City. We agreed one day on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST that we would march with sandwich boards of gratitude at the Royal Farms on Providence Road in Towson should the Ravens be victorious.

We all know the outcome of January’s playoff game. Drew and I never made such a sacrifice.

During our week of Super Bowl XLV coverage from the Sheraton in Dallas, Texas; Drew, Nestor Aparicio and I found ourselves frustrated by the number of former Steelers who were parading around Radio Row and celebrating another AFC Championship, even if their team would go on to fail to claim a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy.

We often remarked, “this is what happens when the Ravens can’t beat the Steelers.”

As we thought about next year’s coverage of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, I asked a question that didn’t necessarily have an obvious answer.

“What could we do as a civic group to help the Ravens get past the Steelers this year.”

I’m well aware of how goofy that question sounds, but I was genuinely wondering if there was something we could do as a fanbase to lift the Ravens up. The public outcry regarding the return of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

My question was dismissed, as we all know that it will be the players and coaches that will decide whether or not the Ravens can finally get past their AFC North rivals.

But in Alabama this week, a story has been made public regarding how one fan decided to take the “Iron Bowl” rivalry into his own hands.

By now, you’ve probably heard the story of Harvey Almorn Updyke, who was arrested for criminal mischief in connection to the poisoning of the famous “Toomer’s Corner” trees at Auburn. Toomer’s Corner is the traditional gathering spot for Tigers fans to celebrate a big win, as fans would cover the trees in toilet paper. You can see an example of such a celebration in this YouTube video following Auburn’s BCS Championship Game win over Oregon in January…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iso55KnPCXc[/youtube]

The Auburn-Alabama rivalry apparently meant so much to Updyke that he (allegedly) decided he needed to take things into his own hands.

Updyke is believed to have phoned into the Paul Finebaum radio show (Finebaum is a media mogul in SEC Country) January 27 under the name “Al from Dadesville” announcing he had taken herbicide to the trees. He ended his call by saying simply “Roll Damn Tide.”

Updyke has since claimed in court that he was not responsible for the poisoning of the trees.

The crime has been met with mixed reactions by Crimson Tide fans. Some have denounced the activity, but others have stood behind the action as a statement in the heated rivalry. In fact, National Football Post pointed out Thursday that “Free Harvey Updyke” t-shirts are now available

updyke

The entire situation is interesting to me. As someone who loves the nature of a rivalry, I can’t help but enjoy rivalry pranks. When the Army Cadets steal “Bill the Goat” from Annapolis, I find humor. When rival high schools paint logos on each others’ campus, I tend to believe the kids involved should be absolved from punishment.

But rivalry can certainly cross a line into a violent, unacceptable area. Just two weeks ago, a City-Edmondson game was stopped in the second half due to violence between rival fans in the Baltimore gymnasium.

That’s clearly unacceptable.

The Updyke case is interesting. The alleged actions are deemed as criminal, so they cannot possibly be passed off as “acceptable” or as part of the nature of a rivalry.

But I wonder how we would feel today if we were Alabama fans.

Listener John from Towson, Ozzie Newsome, Jarret Johnson and Le’Ron McClain are notable Baltimoreans who ARE Alabama fans. WJZ-TV’s Marty Bass has a daughter in Tuscaloosa himself.

I haven’t reached out to anyone in that group yet because that’s not necessarily the nature of the column.

The bigger question is whether or not we would support similar activity should it be based in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.

As the Steel City is by no means aesthetically pleasing, it’s not necessarily a fair comparison.

But if there were a park…or a field…or a garden that Steelers fans revered, would we celebrate should it meet a demise at the hands of a Ravens fan?

I’d like to think I wouldn’t, but I’m not sure.

We’ve all seen the pictures of a Ravens fan urinating on the grave of former Baltimore Colts owner Bob Irsay in Indy. While I have stated that I would never support or participate in such actions, I also would be sympathetic in a response. Should someone have been arrested in connection to the pictures, I would probably be of the opinion that the guilty party deserved some form of leniency, as the nature of sports rivalry can sometimes lead to lewd, maybe even despicable behavior.

I don’t believe it’s necessarily okay for a Ravens fan to urinate on the grave of Robert Irsay, but I don’t believe there should be severe punishment for someone who did.

So if Baltimore had it’s own “Harvey Updyke”, I’m not sure how I would feel.

Would I see him as a renegade who committed a shameful act regardless of my overwhelming support for the Ravens and disdain for the Steelers?

Or would I see him as a folk hero of sorts, who didn’t hurt anyone but made a memorable statement in the history of a sports rivalry.

The rivalry between the Ravens and the Steelers will NEVER be as intense as the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama, so it might not be a fair comparison. But it’s an interesting discussion point nonetheless.

I’d like to think I would denounce the activity…but I can’t say for sure that I would.

-G

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NFL Draft Season Kicks Off In Orlando at East West Shrine Game

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NFL Draft Season Kicks Off In Orlando at East West Shrine Game

Posted on 22 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

For NFL Draft nerds (like myself), this week has marked the true start to NFL Draft season.

Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome lead a group of staffers who traveled to Orlando to watch practice ahead of this year’s annual East West Shrine Game.

With the NFL Draft likely to take place before free agency begins this year, it can be argued that Draft season is more significant than it has been in years past.

Before we start to look at players involved in Draft season, I think we should first identify the Ravens’ biggest areas of need. With free agency still to determine many things, here are the areas where I believe the team most needs to improve.

1. Defensive End-Newsome said this week the team needs a “companion” for LB Terrell Suggs in pass rush. I agree, and I believe it needs to be a true edge rusher.
2. Offensive Tackle-If the team feels comfortable with bringing back Jared Gaither (and Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated they were), re-signing him could address the problem. If not, they’ll need to upgrade.
3. Wide Receiver-The Ravens will have to make decisions on TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth; but need to come away with a big receiver and a speed receiver that can both be counted on offensively.
4. Cornerback-Only Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb are under contract, so the team needs to make decisions on Chris Carr, Josh Wilson, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams. Either way, they would be well served to add a bigger, more physical corner.
5. Fullback-If Le’Ron McClain returns, this wouldn’t be an issue. With the current expectation that he won’t return, the team will be looking for an option here.
6. Inside Linebacker-At the MIKE spot, the team knows Ray Lewis can’t play forever. At the WILL spot, the team has three players (Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe) who are all coming up on some form of free agency and who have not separated themselves from each other at all.
7. Safety-While it doesn’t appear Ed Reed will retire this offseason, the Ravens have to think about the possibility it could happen in the near future. At the same time, Dawan Landry is a free agent and appears to be one of the more likely free agents on the team to get bigger money elsewhere.
8. Center-Whether or not Matt Birk retires (I’ll guess he doesn’t), the team clearly needs to review the position. If Birk returns, it will only be for one more season. I don’t think the team has future plans for Chris Chester in the middle. Daniel Sanders could be an option, but the team might be well to draft a center as well.
9. Running Back-Willis McGahee is a very likely departure this offseason, leaving the team with a need to compliment Ray Rice.
10. Quarterback-If Marc Bulger departs, the Ravens will need someone else to backup Joe Flacco. Hunter Cantwell could be an option, but they might want to at least CONSIDER a doomsday theory scenario with Flacco and draft a mid to late round QB as well.

Some of these positions will be addressed whenever free agency finally does begin, others can be addressed simply by signing the team’s own free agents. Before free agency is even an issue, the Ravens will have to get through Draft season.

Here are a look at 10 players participating in the Shrine Game, which you can watch at 4pm on NFL Network.

RB Evan Royster (Penn State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tWf1NOPkL0[/youtube]

After an explosive sophomore season (1,391 yards of total offense and 12 TD’s), Royster immediately gained attention.

Incredibly, he posted two more very steady seasons, tallying 1,356 yards of total offense and 8 TD’s in 2009; 1,216 yards of total offense and 7 TD’s in 2010. He has the size of a back who could compliment Rice (6’1″, 228 pounds) and many scouts think he’ll have a solid career as a third down back at the NFL level.

So what’s the problem? Well, Royster’s biggest performances as a senior came against Temple and Michigan, neither or which can really be considered premiere defenses. He also doesn’t fit the bill of the dynamic backs in the Naitonal Football League currently like Rice, Jacksonville Jaguars back Maurice Jones-Drew, Houston Texans back Arian Foster, Tennessee Titans back Chris Johnson or Kansas City Chiefs back Jamaal Charles.

As of right now, he’s probably a mid to late round pick. If so, he might be a solid pick-up should McGahee leave Charm City.

WR Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mihM5auuXx0[/youtube]

As the Ravens look for a receiver who can  extend the field, they might want to think about Jean. He’s 6’3″ (and somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds), and has deceptive quickness.

While the Owls don’t exactly play against top caliber opposition in the Sun Belt conference, Jean also managed to post big games against Texas (see above) and Michigan State. He finished the 2010 season with 64 catches for 988 yards and 8 TD’s, wrapping up a career with 146 catches for 1,992 yards and 15 touchdowns.

He’s probably a late round pick at this point, but what he does at the Citrus Bowl Saturday and what he does at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis could lift him to late Friday night or early Saturday morning. If the Ravens don’t go receiver early, he could certainly be an option for the team later in the weekend. Jean wasn’t exactly hotly pursued out of High School in Miami, but he could be a hot name in April.

DE Justin Trattou (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DBWhBn75KM[/youtube]

Maybe an interception isn’t the greatest highlight to offer for a player the Ravens would be looking to see handle an edge rush, but I can only work with what I have.

Trattou is a rising end whose size has never matched his ability to bring down a QB. He tallied just 8 sacks over his four seasons in Gainesville despite his 6’4″, 255 pound frame. In fairness, he was surrounded by top notch rushers like Carlos Dunlap during much of his Gators career.

Trattou may pan out to be more of a Dwan Edwards or Cory Redding contain type of end, but NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks says he’s put together an impressive mix of rush moves this week in the shadow of Disney World. If he continues to show a rush presence, he could be an intriguing name for the Ravens to consider on Saturday.

S Jermale Hines (Ohio State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atBM7zf2IAw[/youtube]

Hines’ career interception total over four years in Columbus (three) looks more like a single game for a future Hall of Famer like Reed, but that doesn’t mean Hines hasn’t had a nose for the football. The safety from Cleveland also finished his Buckeyes career with 159 tackles and two sacks, and was named first team All-Big Ten by conference coaches in 2010.

At 6’1″, 216 pounds; Hines is bigger than your typical free safety-but is also quick. In fact, Hines could be an option as a returner at the next level as well. He’s as much an athlete as a football player, but his football skills certainly developed well at OSU, and could very well still improve as he reaches the NFL.

As the Ravens approach Saturday, Hines could be a valuable depth option at safety. While Tom Zbikowski handled FS well with Reed on the PUP list, he didn’t necessarily convince anyone he was absolutely the team’s replacement for Reed longterm. Hines could be that type of player someday if groomed appropriately at a young age.

WR Terrence Toliver (LSU)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhIrQn1Nd7w[/youtube]

His numbers are by no means overwhelming, but exactly how many times was Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron able to call a play like the TD pass Toliver caught from Jarrett Lee above?

Exactly.

The Ravens finished 22nd in red zone efficiency in 2010. For the numerous complaints about the lack of creative play-calling, there was only so much for Cameron to work with. Namely, he missed a target the size of Toliver.

Toliver caught just 41 balls for 579 yards and five TD’s during his senior campaign in Baton Rouge. All five TD’s happened either in the Florida game above or in the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M, where he caught three.

But there’s another number that’s significantly more important.

6’5″.

The only receiver the Ravens have with such size is James Hardy, and he’s James Hardy. If the Ravens are truly looking to get more dynamic offensively, Toliver could be a solid pickup on Friday night or Saturday.

FB Anthony Sherman (UConn)

anthonysherman

I would love to have been able to share a YouTube clip of the Huskies FB with you, but when you rush just four times for a total of one yard in your senior season I guess there’s not much to post.

Sherman might not have big numbers, but he can help take credit for a rushing attack that finished 2nd in the Big East in 2010, just four yards behind conference leading Louisville. He also showed himself to have reliable hands in the Connecticut offense, grabbing 48 passes for 477 yards and a TD over his four seasons playing football in Hartford.

More importantly, Sherman lead the way for RB Jordan Todman to finish fourth in all of the NCAA FBS in rushing with 1,695 yards. If the Ravens are going to want a traditional blocking back (and the way they used McClain would make you think they are), Sherman could very well fit the bill. At 5’11″, he has a very effective way of throwing around 244 pounds.

OT Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada)

I know what you’re thinking.

“Canada?”

Yeah, I’d usually just ignore a Canuck and let CFL teams fight over who gets him. But there are two unique things O’Donnell has going for him.

1-He’s 6’10.”

2-He did THIS to Boise State DE Ryan Wintersyk at an indoor practice during Shrine Game week.

Does it make him NFL material? Not necessarily. But does it mean more folks will be paying attention? Absolutely.

RB Da’Rel Scott (Maryland)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADjVJ3MKd8k[/youtube]

Scott HAS to hope scouts were paying close attention to the Military Bowl, as his 200 yard, 2 TD performance against East Carolina was by far and away the best of his senior campaign for the Terps. If scouts could only remember his bowl game performances he’d be a lock to get selected, as he also compiled 174 yards and 2 TD’s against Nevada in the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl.

After a breakout season (1,133 yards and eight TD’s) in 2008, Scott totaled just 1,133 yards and nine TD’s in his junior and senior seasons combined.

That being said, Scott’s 5’11″, 200 pound frame is shifty but can still take a hit. He could be a steady performer behind a solid O-Line at the next level and will likely be available late into Saturday.

QB Ricky Dobbs (Navy)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSDGeekCtMg[/youtube]

A number of teams (including the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions) have had no problems selecting service academy players in the NFL Draft and waiting until they were eligible to play. The Ravens have never done that, but with their partnership with the Maryland National Guard, they’ve certainly been more military friendly in recent years.

Dobbs probably doesn’t project to be a quarterback at the next level, but he’s a better passer than those who don’t follow the Midshipmen (see above) probably realize. Dobbs threw for over 2,500 yards over his junior and senior seasons; combining with 2,170 yards rushing.

It will be interesting to see if Dobbs stays at quarterback throughout Draft season or if he works at other positions. Receiver seems to be the best bet for him given his 5’11″, 215 pound size; but he could fit with some of the more undersized running backs in the NFL as well.

The military service will be an issue. He’s much more likely to sign as an undrafted free agent than to be picked, but he’s the type of special athlete a team might very well be willing to wait for. There’s no off-field red flags for NFL teams to worry about with Dobbs, as everything he does he keeps in mind that he ultimately wants to be the President…of the United States.

QB Pat Devlin (Delaware)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkPzmE0__7A[/youtube]

If the Pat Devlin story sounds familiar, it should. Substitute “Pitt” for “Penn State”, and it’s basically the Joe Flacco story again.

Devlin nearly lead the Blue Hens to the NCAA FCS title in 2010, throwing for 3,032 yards and 22 TD’s before the Hens were cut down by Eastern Washington in the Championship Game.

Devlin doesn’t project quite as high in the 2010 Draft as Flacco did in the 2008 Draft, but he’ll have time to try to improve that. As of now, he looks like a Friday night selection, but will get the chance to go up against better talent in Orlando and will get to work out against better players at LucasOil Stadium in Indy.

If he moves up, there’s no chance the Ravens take him. If he’s around late into Saturday, it wouldn’t stun me.

-G

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Ranking The Ravens: A Postseason Breakdown of 53(+) Man Roster

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Ranking The Ravens: A Postseason Breakdown of 53(+) Man Roster

Posted on 21 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

In their new song, “Waiting For The End”, the band Linkin Park offered a lyric that should be considered particularly fitting for Baltimore Ravens fans.

The hardest part of ending is starting again…

With their 31-24 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in the AFC Divisional Round, the 2010-2011 NFL season has ended for the Ravens.

It didn’t take long for the team’s offseason to begin. Even with owners and players apparently headed towards a lockout, GM Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Senior Personnel Assistant George Kokinis and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz lead a front office hard at work in shaping what the 2011 Baltimore Ravens will look like…as long as there is a 2011 NFL season.

Members of the front office are already preparing for the NFL Draft, as they are scouting college seniors this week in Orlando at the East West Shrine Game. Next week they will be doing the same thing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.

As we enter the offseason, I’ll offer a variation of my preseason power rankings (you’ll remember my “Mocking the 53″ blogs) to review the team’s roster. This is a complicated review, as I factor in who had the best season, who has proved to a better player overall, the value of the position and contract status.

Players labeled as “UFA” are unrestricted free agents. Players labeled as “RFA” are restricted free agents. Players labeled as “ERFA” are exclusive rights free agents. Players labeled as “reserve/future” have reserve/future contracts.

Unique labeling on my part. I’m aware.

1. LB Terrell Suggs
2. DT Haloti Ngata (UFA)
3. RB Ray Rice
4. LB Ray Lewis
5. G Ben Grubbs

grubbs

While I said Tuesday Ngata was the team’s best player in 2010 (he also received my vote for/won the team’s Most Valuable Player award), his contract status leaves him second on the list.

Suggs was outstanding in 2010, proving his 2009 season was indeed a fluke after signing a big contract the proceeding offseason.

It is going to cost owner Steve Bisciotti a LOT of money to retain Ngata this offseason, but the Ravens are basically going to have to pay the price. Losing Ngata could absolutely WRECK the franchise’s plans defensively, as Ngata anchors what they do up front. It could only spell the end of Lewis’ career. If Ngata were to depart, Lewis could no longer be viewed as a Top 5 player on the roster for sure.

Rice’s fantasy football numbers were down in 2010, but his offensive impact certainly wasn’t. He remained the Ravens’ most dynamic playmaker and is expected to an offensive force for years to come.

It was interesting (for me) as I graded out players that I felt Grubbs was worthy of being a Top 5 player. Grubbs proved himself to be the team’s best and most reliable Offensive Lineman, and gives the team at least one more position they don’t have to worry about…for now.

6. WR Anquan Boldin
7. QB Joe Flacco
8. OT Michael Oher
9. K Billy Cundiff (UFA)
10. P Sam Koch (UFA)

koch

Everything at the receiver position has to be viewed as wide open right now…except for Boldin. He has to be viewed as the team’s top possession receiver no matter what Derrick Mason decides to do.

While Flacco is still a cornerstone for the franchise (and the suggestion made that the team should have him “compete” with Marc Bulger for the starting job is laughable), his move outside the Top 5 is a statement. He made SOME of the progress the team wanted him to make-but not all of it. There will be increasing pressure for that to happen next year.

Oher represents a tricky situation for the Ravens. While he struggled in 2010, he’s certainly not a BAD player. The team will have to figure out whether or not he has a long term future at LT. If he does (and he plays to that level), he’ll be a Top 5 player on this team for a long time.

Koch and Cundiff represent a unique problem for the team. During the 15 years of the team’s history, they’ve never been the type of organization that would spend a lot of money on a specialist. They’re going to have to pay two guys this offseason as top-tier specialists. These players were a SIGNIFICANT reason the team managed to win 12 regular season games and a playoff game this year.

11. TE Todd Heap
12. WR Derrick Mason
13. S Ed Reed
14. CB Domonique Foxworth
15. FB Le’Ron McClain (UFA)

mcclain

Heap, Mason and Reed are unique. If this list was based on ability and performance alone; there would be an argument they should all be in the Top 10. Their age leaves them on the outside looking in, as even if they return as expected the team will have to make decisions at their positions.

It might seem surprising that Foxworth is the highest ranked of the cornerbacks, but he was the team’s top guy before getting hurt and is the only guy (besides Lardarius Webb) in the group who actually has a contract.

The Ravens are in a VERY unique situation with McClain. He had a tremendous season at fullback; but doesn’t want to return as true fullback. To return, the two time Pro Bowler would have to be assured of more involvement in Cam Cameron’s offense. I’m not sure how likely that is.

16. CB Chris Carr (UFA)
17. LB Jarret Johnson
18. CB Lardarius Webb
19. CB Josh Wilson (UFA)
20. DE Cory Redding

redding

Carr had a great season and offered some legitimate stability to the team’s defensive backfield. That being said, there will be a question as to whether or not bringing him back will work monetarily. If he gets paid as a #1 corner, the Ravens might be in trouble. Wilson is in the same boat. The uncertainty surrounding those two corners helps Webb find himself ranked higher on the list.

My guess is that one of Carr and Wilson will be back, but not both.

Johnson and Redding are both solid contributors to the defense, and the Ravens can pencil them in for next season. They’ll need a healthier (or just somehow more effective) Johnson, and they’ll need to compliment Redding with a legitimate rush end.

21. S Dawan Landry (UFA)
22. WR TJ Houshmandzadeh (UFA)
23. TE Ed Dickson
24. DT Brandon McKinney
25. DT Kelly Gregg

kgregg

Like other players, the Ravens find themselves in a tricky spot when it comes to Landry. As a starter and solid contributor to one of the league’s better defenses over the last few years, Landry could find himself in position to make a lot of money on the free agent market. The Ravens may or may not be in a place to match that. He’s been good; but with restricted free agents Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura likely to return, it seems unlikely they would retain Landry at a high cost.

Houshmandzadeh almost seems to be in a “if Mason doesn’t come back” position. The Ravens can’t just retain all of their top three receivers and make progress offensively. If Mason retires, there would be a much greater likelihood of Houshmandzadeh returning.

Dickson showed signs of being a potential breakout performer in 2010, but never actually broke out. The team will look to expand his role as he continues to get more comfortable in the offense. He also represents the team’s best chance of limiting an aging Heap’s snaps in 2011.

It might look surprising at first to see McKinney listed ahead of a player like Gregg, but I think it represents an area where the Ravens can move forward. McKinney came on strong down the stretch, looking like a reliable cog on the defensive line. While Gregg made a fantastic play on Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium, he showed signs of aging as the season wore on, and it would be difficult to assume he could continue playing the majority of downs in the future.

26. OT Jared Gaither (UFA)
27. OL Marshal Yanda (UFA)
28. DT Terrence Cody
29. C Matt Birk
30. S Haruki Nakamura (RFA)

nakamura

My only gut instinct with Gaither is that the team won’t give him the type of premium price tag a top tier OT would probably expect. There’s an argument as to whether or not ANYONE should pay Gaither that price, but my guess is that someone will. The Ravens don’t want to see Yanda depart, but there’s a chance another NFL team will choose to offer him legitimate tackle money because he played the position in 2010.

The Ravens likely can’t be in position to overpay a player like Yanda, but they certainly to solidify their O-Line. Birk could still decide to retire; but even if he doesn’t the team has to make future plans for the position.

Cody showed SOME signs of being a future contributor during the 2010 season, but probably not enough that the Ravens can feel comfortable with expecting him to play every down in 2011. Nakamura could be very important, as he would be the most likely to step into the role should Landry depart in free agency.

31. RB Willis McGahee
32. DE Paul Kruger
33. LB Jameel McClain (RFA)
34. LB Tavares Gooden (RFA)
35. LB Dannell Ellerbe (ERFA)

ellerbe

I’m going to guess that McGahee won’t be getting the $19.7 million owed to him over the last three years of his contract. The most likely scenario probably involves McGahee not returning to Charm City next season. But if he’s willing to take a pay cut, there’s still a chance he could be a solid compliment to Rice behind an improved O-Line.

Paul Kruger started to show some signs at the end of the season that he might be able to contribute in the future. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the level of progression the team had in mind for the 2009 2nd round pick. 2011 could be a “make or break” type of year for Kruger.

And then there’s McClain/Gooden/Ellerbe. Does anyone else want to try to figure this out? The team clearly hoped one player in this group would separate themselves out at McDaniel College in Westminster during Training Camp in 2010, but that clearly didn’t happen. They also hoped one would separate themselves during the 2010 season. That didn’t happen either.

Of the group, McClain has probably shown himself to be the most steady, but is equally vulnerable against the pass. Gooden is probably the best against the pass, but there’s a joke in there about being the prettiest girl at fat camp. Ellerbe showed some capability of making plays in the backfield, but looks lost against the pass.

It looks like all three will end up returning in 2011. It also looks like the Ravens will be in a very familiar position when (if?) the season begins.

36. WR/KR David Reed
37. CB Fabian Washington (UFA)
38. S Tom Zbikowski (RFA)
39. LS Morgan Cox
40. OL Chris Chester (UFA)

chester

Whether or not David Reed can someday contribute at receiver is still to be determined. But he clearly came on as a kick returner until a concussion and a wrist injury cut his season short. He’ll have to stay out of trouble off the field, but it looks like the Ravens have a solid piece of the puzzle in Reed.

Washington made it clear earlier this week he wouldn’t return to the team unless his role was expanded. There’s a chance his role could be expanded if Carr and Wilson depart. Otherwise, it doesn’t look good. Zbikowski will almost certainly be back, the organization will now have to determine whether or not he is capable of replacing Ed Reed on a full-time basis whenever the future Hall of Famer walks away from the game.

Cox did a nice job of solidifying the long snapper position after beating veteran Matt Katula out during the preseason. The only concern surrounding Cox is how quickly he’ll be able to return from the torn ACL he suffered against the Cleveland Browns, but it appears as though he’ll be ready to go.

Chester will be another tough decision for the Ravens. If another team is willing to pay him to be an every down linemen, the organization will have to think hard before matching. Chester has shown himself as being reliable, but I think he’s only a starter in Baltimore if Yanda were to depart…or the Ravens were forced to keep Yanda at Tackle.

41. CB Cary Williams (ERFA)
42. OL Tony Moll (UFA)
43. LB Jason Phillips
44. QB Marc Bulger (UFA)
45. WR Donte’ Stallworth (UFA)

stallworth

Williams could be in a good spot this offseason. As an exclusive rights free agent, he could be in a good position to come back and get more playing time should some of the corners ahead of him sign elsewhere. He’s 6’1″, and the team liked him at least enough to hold on to him through a suspension to start the 2010 season.

Moll looks like a solid option to return and give the O-Line important depth. He’s capable of playing multiple positions to at least a solid level. He’s not good enough to be an every down player and it’s unlikely that another team will choose to pay him that way.

Phillips showed signs in 2010, probably enough that he will enter the 2011 season on the “good” side of the roster bubble. He certainly can’t be considered a lock at this point however.

Bulger will likely only return to the team if he isn’t offered a starting job elsewhere. With Jim Harbaugh now in charge of the San Francisco 49ers, it wouldn’t be stunning to see him consider Bulger. If the options are for backup jobs-or even jobs where Bulger would have to “compete” for a starting gig, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him return to Baltimore.

Some of the fan frustration surrounding Cam Cameron certainly centers around Stallworth, who seems unlikely to return. The Ravens need a speed receiver option, but it has to be a player they’ll trust to send out and stretch the field.

46. TE Dennis Pitta
47. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
48. DT Arthur Jones
49. WR Marcus Smith (UFA)
50. DT Lamar Divens (RFA)

divens

The lack of involvement from Pitta in 2010 was disappointing, but he was often a victim of only being able to dress 53 players. His role should expand in 2011.

Ayanbadejo and Smith are interesting cases. Both are special teams players only for the most part, and the team will have to determine how much value they have. Smith is unlikely to generate much interest elsewhere, Ayanbadejo isn’t getting any younger. Both could return, but I don’t think they’re guarantees.

Jones and Divens are both solid players who have the “look” of Ravens defensive linemen. The only issue for new Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano is that he’s inheriting a bunch of these type of players. They’re big, they move fairly well and they can control gaps. Jones will clearly be back in 2011, Divens is the question mark.

51. LB Prescott Burgess (UFA)
52. RB Jalen Parmele (RFA)
53. OT Oniel Cousins (RFA)
54. WR James Hardy (reserve/future)

55. TE Davon Drew (ERFA)

ddrew

Burgess was a solid Special Teams contributor who was also able to get a handful of positive snaps defensively. There’s a chance he could generate interest elsewhere, we remember the New England Patriots grabbed him when he was available in 2009.

Parmele could stand to benefit from a McGahee departure, but probably wouldn’t be a great option as the top compliment to Rice.

Cousins gives the team a cheap reserve tackle. I can’t fathom anyone will be hot after him, so he seems like a player that will at least make it to Westminster with a chance to retain his job.

Hardy is interesting. He climbed the list after comments by Newsome in the team’s Season Review press conference. There was a reason Hardy was once a second round pick by the Buffalo Bills. There’s also a reason why he was unemployed a season ago. Either way, he’s 6’5″. The Ravens don’t have any other receivers of that size right now.

Davon Drew is the fourth of four TE’s on the roster. That would be a problem in a lot of places, but when the General Manager is a former Tight End, it bodes well for the chances of sticking around.

56. LB Sergio Kindle (ERFA)
57. DT Kelly Talavou (ERFA)
58. RB Matt Lawrence (RFA)
59. QB Hunter Cantwell (reserve/future)
60. WR Justin Harper (reserve/future)

harper

Kindle is such a question mark (as he continues to recover from a fractured skull) that it really doesn’t matter how much talent he might have. Until there’s reason to believe he’ll be able to return next season, he can’t be an assumed part of the 53 man roster.

If Talavou is able to come back healthy, he’s highly thought of by the organization. He could be the insurance that allows the team to let someone like Divens go elsewhere.

Lawrence is a good Special Teams player if he’s healthy. It will be an uphill battle for him to make the roster in Training Camp, especially after missing the entire 2010 season.

Cantwell is the team’s 3rd quarterback, but has only a cup of coffee worth of experience on an active roster with the Carolina Panthers in 2009. If the Ravens decided to go with three QB’s again, he’d have a decent chance to make the roster.

Harper is tall. Harper has only ever been on the active roster briefly. The team’s website apparently doesn’t know Harper wears number 82. That’s where we’re at with Harper.

61. OL Ramon Harewood
62.
OL Bryan Mattison (contract status unknown)
63. OL Daniel Sanders (contract status unknown)
64. RB Curtis Steele (reserve/future)
65. DE Albert McClellan (reserve/future)
66. CB Danny Gorrer (reserve/future)
67. OT Brady Bond (reserve/future)
68. OT Andre Ramsey (reserve/future)
69. LS Kevin Houser (UFA)

I’d provide a picture of Kevin Houser here, but even the team’s official site doesn’t have one.

If they all return (and are healthy); Harewood, Mattison and Sanders will compete to try to provide depth along the O-Line. Harewood could give the team an insurance policy if they choose to cut ties with Cousins, Sanders could prove to be the team’s center of the future when Birk hangs up the cleats. A local writer joked with me that Mattison had been “on scholarship” in recent seasons-that would probably come to an end now as his father (former Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison) has departed for Michigan.

Steele has the look of a potential weapon at the next level. If he can work his way into the return game, he’d have a much better shot of making the roster.

McClellan is employed by the Ravens, as is Gorrer. I’m going to guess most of you didn’t know that. Neither has a realistic path to the active roster.

Bond and Ramsey are big. My guess is that both of them will find their way onto an active roster in the National Football League someday. It probably won’t be in Baltimore however.

It might not be fair for me to rank Houser last on this list. He’s a NFL player, which is more than anyone else in this final group can really say. But his ONLY chance of returning to the team is if Cox can’t return from his torn ACL. There’s a chance he might not be ready for the start of Training Camp, but it’s unlikely it will be a factor moving towards the 2011 regular season.

(Thanks to BaltimoreRavens.com for the pictures!)

-G

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Ravens FB Le’Ron McClain on upcoming free agent status: “I would love to come back to Baltimore. I made this my home”

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Ravens FB Le’Ron McClain on upcoming free agent status: “I would love to come back to Baltimore. I made this my home”

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

You think Saturday’s 31-24 loss to the Steelers hurt, Ravens fans?

Well just think about how the actual players felt after the Divisional loss to Pittsburgh, one of them being Ravens FB Le’Ron McClain, who joined Rex Snider on “The Afternoon Drive” Monday to offer not only his thoughts about the results, but where the free agent to be sees himself from this point.

Le'Ron McClain

“It’s a tough loss to them,” McClain told Snider. “Not saying they’re a better team than us, but the better team won that day. They made the plays to win the game there at the end, and that won them an AFC Championship.”

You could hear the anguish in  McClain’s voice as not only he but everyone in Ravens nation knew they had the Steelers right where they wanted them in the first half, being up 21-7 at halftime.

“I’m still kind of exaggerated and ticked off about the game cause we had it  being up 21-7 on the road and knowing that if we score one more time, we’d take them out of the game. But we didn’t get it done. I’m still kind of frustrated about that,” the Ravens fullback said.

But McClain-who often times can be a source of unwanted trash talk stemming from the Ravens locker room and sometimes gives the occasional bulletin board material-was quick to give credit and respect to his AFC North foes as a whole for  the effort they put in regaining the lead in the second half.

We came out pretty much focused,” McClain said. “They turned it up a little bit and gave us some new looks and everything, and they made some plays. If we gave them the ball, that was their doing. It wasn’t everything we were doing.”

“We take pride in our job and we just didn’t get the job done. And that was all in one quarter. Even at the end, we still had a chance to win the ballgame. Like I said, Pittsburgh made the plays to win the game at the end.”

McClain especially felt like even he could have made a difference Saturday-as he has all season and in years past.

The overall impression WNST felt from our chat with McClain?

He felt helpless.

He felt like he could have done something, but his skills were not being put to good use.

McClain-since being drafted by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft out of Alabama-felt like he could have been used this season more in short yardage and goal-line situations much like he was used in the 2008 campaign where he was the team’s leading rusher with 902 yards and 10 TDs.

Or, at least blocking for Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, which never seemed to get going not only in the playoffs, but this year as a whole.

“I just want to be more involved,” McClain added. “I think I proved I could do that. I just want to be that short yardage back. I want to be that goal line back, that guy you need to go to. I will continue to block doing what I’ve doing, but I just want to be more involved. I had no control over that. I just want that chance and I felt like I didn’t get that.”

He has appeared in two Pro-Bowls and was named an alternate this year to Houston’s Vonta Leach.

McClain is scheduled to be a free agent and is able to sign with any team he should please when a new collective bargaining agreement is signed between the players and owners.

The Ravens in the past have seen their fullbacks in the past as expendable and not worth spending a long term contract on( Sam Gash, Alan Ricard, Ovie Mughelli, Lorenzo Neal).

Could McClain have played his last game as a Raven Saturday?

McClain said it hangs upon what happens in his life, with the Ravens, and the rest of the NFL as a whole.

“It all depends on the chance I get. I’m going to continue to work hard, day-in and day out and I’m just trying to get to that level…that championship level in my play.”

Hopefully, Ravens fans hope that Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office will pony up the money worth bringing the versatile McClain back in the fold.

McClain has been adamant so far this year that he wants to be in a situation where he is in a more active role in the offense than just a blocking back, but he did want to assure to Baltimore that he loves this town and this franchise and that returning in black and purple is definitely on his agenda.

“Just to clear that up, I would love to come back to Baltimore. I made this my home. I love the fans. I love the city. I love everything about it,” he said.  “I love my teammates man, having guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on your team and Derrick Mason being there.”

Finally, McClain said that he hopes Ravens fans don’t see him as selfish and that his antics in the past don’t reflect on his chances of returning to Baltimore.

But if his time as a Raven is done, he wants to be remembered for the hard work he put into the franchise for four seasons and helped spring backs like Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to Pro Bowl levels.

“I feel like I got put right back in the box,” McClain said of not being able to build on that 2008 season. “But I didn’t let it affect my game. I still came out here every week and played my heart out for the guys on the field, and tried to do the best I could. I would love to be back here playing football for Baltimore.”

WNST will continue to follow Le’Ron McClain even if his tenure in Baltimore comes to an end! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Follow Le’Ron on Twitter at @LeRonMcClain33

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens

Posted on 18 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

Here are our Top 7 Baltimore Ravens from their 31-24 AFC divisional round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday at Heinz Field…

Glenn Clark’s Top 7…

7. Paul Kruger

kruger

6. Cory Redding

redding

5. Haloti Ngata

ngata

4. Todd Heap

heap

3. Ray Lewis

raylewis

2. Sam Koch

koch

1. Terrell Suggs

suggs

Drew Forrester’s Top 7…

7. Chris Carr

ccarr

6. Paul Kruger

kruger

5. Ray Rice

rice

4. Cory Redding

redding

3. Brandon McKinney

mckinney

2. Todd Heap

heap

1. Terrell Suggs

suggs

(Thanks to Getty Images, AP & Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for photos from Saturday’s game)

FINAL SEASON TOTALS:

Glenn:
29. Paul Kruger (1 point)
29. Morgan Cox (1 point)
29. Tavares Gooden (1 point)
26. David Reed (2 points)
26. Willis McGahee (2 points)
26. Le’Ron McClain (2 points)
23. Ed Dickson (3 points)
23. Marshal Yanda (3 points)
23. Kelly Gregg (3 points)
22. Ben Grubbs (4 points)
20. Terrence Cody (5 points)
20. Michael Oher (5 points)
18. TJ Houshmandzadeh (7 points)
18. Jarret Johnson (7 points)
16. Chris Carr (8 points)
16. Lardarius Webb (8 points)
15. Josh Wilson (10 points)
14. Fabian Washington (12 points)
13. Dawan Landry (13 points)
12. Cory Redding (14 points)
11. Billy Cundiff (18 points)
10. Sam Koch (23 points)
9. Ed Reed (25 points)
8. Todd Heap (27 points)
7. Derrick Mason (29 points)
6. Ray Lewis (35 points)
5. Terrell Suggs (37 points)
4. Haloti Ngata (45 points)
3. Ray Rice (46 points)
2. Anquan Boldin (49 points)
1. Joe Flacco (66 points)

Drew:
31. Ed Dickson (1 point)
31. Jason Phillips (1 point)
26. Paul Kruger (2 points)
26. Morgan Cox (2 points)
26. TJ Houshmandzadeh (2 points)
26. Jameel McClain (2 points)
26. Dannell Ellerbe (2 points)

25. Marshal Yanda (4 points)

22. Willis McGahee (5 points)
22. Le’Ron McClain (5 points)
22. Michael Oher (5 points)
20. Lardarius Webb (6 points)
20. Fabian Washington (6 points)
18. Brandon McKinney (7 points)
18. Cory Redding (7 points)
14. Terrence Cody (8 points)
14. Tavares Gooden (8 points)
14. Josh Wilson (8 points)

14. Jarret Johnson (8 points)
12. Dawan Landry (11 points)
12. Sam Koch (11 points)
9. Chris Carr (20 points)
9. Ed Reed (20 points)
9. Billy Cundiff (20 points)
8. Todd Heap (21 points)
7. Derrick Mason (22 points)
6. Haloti Ngata (32 points)
5. Ray Lewis (36 points)
4. Anquan Boldin (37 points)
3. Terrell Suggs (42 points)
2. Ray Rice (53 points)
1. Joe Flacco (77 points)

If you missed the explanation of why these players made the list on “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday on AM1570 WNST, hit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Harbaugh Says Cameron Will Remain Offensive Coordinator

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (13-5) returned to 1 Winning Drive Monday, less than 48 hours after their season ended with a 31-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game.

Head Coach John Harbaugh put to rest any rumors he would consider firing Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron Monday.

“Cam Cameron is our offensive coordinator” said Harbaugh. “That’s how we’re going forward. I know Cam is a tremendous coach.”

Harbaugh indicated no other coaches would be at risk of losing their jobs based on the team’s performance.

“I really like our coaching staff” said Harbaugh. “I think we have a great, great coaching staff. Top to bottom-that includes all three coordinators, that includes every one of our position coaches, there’s not a guy that I’m disappointed in.”

The Ravens finished just 22nd in the NFL in total offense in 2010, despite the additions of WR’s Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth in the offseason, as well as the draft selections of TE’s Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta

Harbaugh said the statistics didn’t affect his decision process with Cameron.

“He’s the same guy that was the offensive coordinator three years ago when everybody said we (outperformed) our expectations, and even last year. We had a tough year statistically, but we did win a lot of football games with that offense. There are things we can do a lot better, and we’re going to go to work on those things.”

FOCUS ON FREE AGENTS: The Ravens enter an offseason which will be based in as much uncertainty as the league itself.

The team has 17 unrestricted free agents, eight additional restricted free agents and five exclusive rights free agents.

The team’s unrestricted free agents are Houshmandzadeh, Stallworth, DT Haloti Ngata, FB Le’Ron McClain, CB Josh Wilson, CB Chris Carr, OT Jared Gaither, OL Marshal Yanda, OL Chris Chester, OL Tony Moll, S Dawan Landry, CB Fabian Washington, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, QB Marc Bulger, LB Prescott Burgess and LS Kevin Houser.

The restricted free agents are S Tom Zbikowski, S Haruki Nakamura, LB Tavares Gooden, LB Jameel McClain, WR Marcus Smith, OT Oniel Cousins, DT Lamar Divens and RB Jalen Parmele. LB Sergio Kindle, DT Kelly Talavou, TE Davon Drew, CB Cary Williams and LB Dannell Ellerbe are exclusive rights free agents.

Harbaugh said Monday the team will focus offseason plans on retaining their own free agents.

“We’re going to try to get back as many of these guys as we possibly can” said the coach. “Because we like our players.”

Harbaugh said he had high hopes that many of the team’s free agents would return.

“Talking to the guys today, the vast majority of guys really want to be here.”

Coming off a second straight Pro Bowl selection and a season in which he was voted the team’s MVP, Ngata is the most important player to get back according to Harbaugh.

“I believe Haloti Ngata will be a Raven for life” said the coach. “That’s the goal. He’s told me he wants to be here. I believe the organization wants him here. It’s priority number one to have Haloti Ngata here.”

Houshmandzadeh said he’d like to return to Charm City, but admitted an expanded role would play a significant part in making his decision.

“I want to come back because I had fun here and I enjoyed myself” said the receiver. “I do want to be a starter. I do because that’s what I’ve been. It’s hard to adjust.”

Free agency cannot begin until owners and the NFLPA agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Houshmandzadeh, L. McClain, Houshmandzadeh, Stallworth, Cundiff, Koch, Washington, Wilson, Kindle, Bulger, QB Joe Flacco, LB Ray Lewis, LB Jarret Johnson, C Matt Birk and WR Derrick Mason now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……L. McClain joined Rex Snider Monday on “The Afternoon Drive” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is also available in the Audio Vault……The Ravens will select 26th in the 2011 NFL Draft……A team source told WNST’s Drew Forrester a contract extension for Harbaugh should be considered “imminent”……The Ravens signed all seven practice squad players to reserve/future contracts. WR Justin Harper, RB Curtis Steele, CB Danny Gorrer, QB Hunter Cantwell, OL Andre Ramsey, OL Brady Bond and LB Albert McClellan joined former Buffalo Bills WR James Hardy in getting such contracts……Harbaugh, GM Ozzie Newsome, Team President Dick Cass and owner Steve Bisciotti will hold their season review press conference Thursday afternoon in Owings Mills

-G

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Part 2 – Aftermath of a meltdown…who stays, who goes, now what?

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Drew Forrester

What do you do when you’ve been to the post-season three straight years and you can’t make it to the Super Bowl?

You could do what the Orioles do every off-season when they’re lamenting how they once again went 65-97 and finished so far back in the A.L. East race they were lapped heading into September: You could complain about being in the AFC…or the AFC North.

But that’s not the Ravens style. The Ravens aren’t complainers. They’re in the AFC and they’re in the AFC North and they need to figure out the combination to this lock the Steelers have applied to them over the last three years.

And then you have the Colts. They’ll always be around with what’s-his-name at quarterback. Same with the Patriots. They’re not going anywhere, either. The Jets look solid. The Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs are all worthy of at least keeping an eye on.

So what do the Ravens do on the heels of another playoff dismissal at the hands of the Steelers? First, please understand I’m making all of these assessments and reactions based on the notion that there WILL be football played in 2011. If the CBA issue alters the NFL’s course of business next season, there’s obviously a chance some of the changes either WILL or WON’T happen based on the league’s new financial structure.

For starters, let’s get the coordinators discussion over and done with so we can move on to other pressing matters that are actually up for discussion.

As I reported via Twitter on Sunday around 8am, Ravens sources tell me John Harbaugh will retain all three of his coordinators in 2011.

That word was passed on to me by two team executives on Saturday night. On both occasions, the reaction was swift and similar in content. “John is very satisfied with his coaching staff and the coordinators aren’t going anywhere, unless, of course, they don’t want to return here.”

It would seem, with that information at our disposal, that Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Jerry Rosburg will all be on staff next season.

I opined a few weeks back that I thought Cameron would NOT be retained in 2011 if the Ravens didn’t make the Super Bowl. Personally, if I ran the club? Truth? I wouldn’t bring Cameron back. I think he showed time and time again that he either doesn’t have the right feel for the game from a down-and-distance standpoint or he’s just too much of a gambler for my liking when the clock and the score dictates a more conservative approach. Both of those examples played out on Saturday in Pittsburgh, where he followed through with an attacking mindset in the 3rd quarter even with Baltimore pinned deep in their own territory and losing momentum by the play.

But I don’t run the team and my opinion doesn’t mean jack-squat. John Harbaugh hires and fires his coaching staff and it appears he’s bringing his three coordinators back in 2011.

The ONLY point of contention with Harbaugh and his staff would be intervention from Steve Bisciotti, but one team source indicated on Saturday that Bisciotti too is pleased with Harbaugh and his various coaches and department heads.

“Now is not the time to overreact,” said a team executive in the hours after Saturday’s loss. “Having the owner step in and upset the apple cart after three successful seasons isn’t our way of doing things.”

OK, I’ll agree on that one. Three years ago John Harbaugh was hired to change the direction of the football team. He has done that, with help from Cameron, Mattison and Rosburg.

Now…here’s Drew’s opinion on what the Ravens need to do in 2011.

It’s simple in theory.

The Ravens need an infusion of speed.

They need a fast, stretch-the-field, reliable wide receiver.

They need a speedy, menacing defensive end who can put his hand in the dirt and chase after the quarterback.

And they’re in need of linebackers who can not only play the pass, but can chase the quarterback too when the blitz call has their number on it. Dannell Ellerbe, Jameel McClain and Tavares Gooden — all are decent-enough pro players. But none are the answer to the team’s linebacking issues.

The Ravens probably need a bigger, faster number one cornerback, but their defensive woes are more connected to pass rush than secondary coverage. With all due respect to the more-than-acceptable job that Chris Carr and Josh Wilson gave in 2010, neither of those guys (continued)

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