Tag Archive | "Marc Bulger"

The 15-7-0 Is Feeling Rather Presidential This Week

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The 15-7-0 Is Feeling Rather Presidential This Week

Posted on 28 November 2011 by Glenn Clark

You know how it works. 15 positive football observations, 7 “not so” positive football observations and one “oh no” moment from outside the world of football.

(As a reminder, we don’t do Baltimore Ravens analysis here. We do PLENTY of that elsewhere. This is about the rest of the world of football.)

15 Positive Observations…

1. The Towson University football team didn’t play a game this weekend, but somehow it will likely go down as the greatest of their lives.

The scene at the Towson Center Saturday afternoon rivals some of the most incredible I’ve seen in Charm City sports history, but sports had very little to do with it.

The most special moment of the visit from President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama (Michelle’s brother Craig Robinson is the head coach of the Oregon State team that crushed the Tigers Saturday afternoon) came at halftime.

Athletic Director Mike Waddell introduced Head Coach Rob Ambrose & the CAA Champion football team, who were enjoying a week off as they prepared for their FCS playoff showdown with Lehigh next Saturday at Unitas Stadium. The President walked out to greet the team, then posed for a picture to the absolute delight of the young men.

It was the type of moment that induces chills. Wow.

2. I’m really jealous of the Cincinnati Bengals for having AJ Green on their roster.

Oh, and Jermaine Gresham too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFByq1hpVGE

They duo (and Cincy QB Andy Dalton) were vital in the Bengals’ come from behind win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday in a game that judging by the attendance no one in the Queen City knew was happening…

Can’t help but notice a few empty seats in the background there, gang. This is a team fighting for AT LEAST an AFC Wild Card spot, not completely out of the AFC North race. This is the best you can do? Maybe “Los Angeles Bengals” has a nice ring?

Since we’re here, here’s a picture of Colt McCoy Tebowing…

3. Rob Gronkowski is not the only reason the Patriots are good, but something tells me there’s a correlation between 11 TD catches and a 6’6″ frame.

To be fair, the way New England was playing Sunday it’s possible a 4’6″ receiver could have caught a TD from Tom Brady Sunday at The Linc…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwO47-nf1lM

Vince Young threw for 400 yards in the defeat, basically because he had no choice but to throw the football every time the Philadelphia Eagles had the ball.

That SHOULD put the final nail in Philly’s “Dream Team” coffin. Andy Reid’s has been sitting open for awhile now outside the City of Brotherly Love. Will it be nailed down as well? We’ll see.

4. Robert Griffin III’s injury might be just enough to default the Heisman Trophy back to Andrew Luck somehow.

The other candidate in the mix (and perhaps the frontrunner) is Alabama RB Trent Richardson, but we’ll get back to him.

After an incredible performance a week earlier against Oklahoma, the Baylor QB might have been one more spectacular performance away from locking up the chance to hear his name called in New York in two weeks. Unfortunately, RG3 was taken out of the game in the second half (probably for a concussion) and had to watch the second of the Bears’ win over Texas Tech from the Cowboys Stadium sideline…

So…Stanford QB Andrew Luck (the preordained winner of the Heisman before the season) was back in the picture with the chance to lock the thing up. Luck was good but not great in the Cardinal’s win over Notre Dame and left the thing up for grabs again.

As I searched YouTube for a recap video of Luck’s final game at Stanford Stadium I believe a Fighting Irish fan summed it up well by channeling M*A*S*H…

I don’t even know what that means!

The (regular) season is over for Richardson so he won’t have another chance to make a statement. Luck’s Cardinal don’t get another chance either since Oregon won the Pac-12 North. Baylor will play host to Texas next week in Waco, but Griffin’s status is up in the air due to his injury.

If none play again, I think I’d vote Luck. Someone will yell at me for that. Go ahead.

5. Houston is a Conference USA Championship Game win over Southern Miss away from playing in a BCS Bowl.

Fourth on the list (of three) candidates to win the Heisman is Cougars QB Case Keenum, who shredded Tulsa Friday in a manner similar to the way he’s shredded everyone else he’s played this season.

If the Cougars top the Golden Eagles in next week’s C-USA title game, they’ll become the first ever team from the conference to make a BCS bowl. Teams from the WAC and Mountain West have played BCS buster, but never C-USA.

Someone will call the occasion “historic”. Those people won’t really know what the word historic means.

6. Another reason why I like Tim Tebow? Sabermetricians would hate him.

He effing did it again, huh?

You know what’s the ONLY THING IN THE WORLD that could make us not spend the entire week talking about the Denver Broncos’ QB? How about a picture of San Diego Chargers kicker Nick Novak peeing on the sidelines at Qualcomm Stadium?

Thanks CBS!

7. Mark Sanchez also really pissed off a lot of haters Sunday.

The New York Jets’ QB threw for four TD’s, including a game winner to Santonio Holmes in their win over the Buffalo Bills…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJtRuC19Ab8

We’ll of course remember the game as the time Bills WR Stevie Johnson insisted on making a complete ass out of himself…

…again.

Dan Marino was asked about what he thought of Sanchez Sunday, but he was too busy checking out Victoria’s Secret model Lily Aldridge’s boobs to respond…

And here’s my cue to post another VS picture of Aldridge…

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A Bit of Doubt Good for Flacco…Ravens

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A Bit of Doubt Good for Flacco…Ravens

Posted on 01 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

You can’t blame Baltimore for being sensitive about their quarterbacks. While the team itself has worked a minor miracle in establishing such a strong history and identity in such a short period of time, their experiences with the guys under center have left as much of a “legacy” with the fans as their penchant for stifling defense. That said, during his brief tenure at the helm of the Baltimore offense Joe Flacco has probably earned a lot more leeway, respect and benefit of the doubt than he’s seemingly gotten from the Baltimore fans (at least a vocal minority), opponents or the media at large.

At the end of the day, that could serve the Ravens and their team goals well. The greatest of champions seem to emerge from improbable challenges. Flacco’s road has been wrought with them. Maybe it’s finally time for him to respond to those challenges (and critics) in a big way, and put all of the arguments to bed.

 

Whether or not however, Flacco is able to silence his critics and reveal the mythical “it” factor that those offering doubts fail to see is debatable, and maybe not what’s best for the Ravens anyway. As the world quickly buys into Aaron Rodgers, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford, their reluctance to embrace Flacco may lead to at least a modest savings for the Ravens when the time comes to extend Joe’s contract. Something tells me though that enough of the league buys into Flacco that those savings won’t be too substantial.

 

For better or for worse, our inability to truly believe in a quarterback, as Baltimore fans, will be Flacco’s cross to bear until he erases all doubts with his achievements. Until then, the criticisms and doubts will continue, as will the magnification of the shortcomings in his game, as will the calls for the backup.

 

Speaking of the backup quarterback…it seems the Ravens may be realistically entertaining the notion of carrying Tyrod Taylor as the #2 quarterback into the 2011 season. As everyone comes up with their own 53-man roster projections, there are already some tough choices to be made. Adding a third (veteran) QB to the mix in front of Taylor would make for another tough decision over those final few spots. If the Ravens can get away with it I’ll bet they’ll keep Taylor on as the #2 at least until after week 2 and then might think about bringing in a veteran without having to guarantee his contract.

 

While Taylor is an interesting option and exciting piece for the future, positioned as the #2 quarterback it would seem that the Ravens have conceded that they’ll go as far as Flacco can take them this year and in the event Flacco goes down their prospects would be bleak anyway. That said, the same scenario might be true were it Marc Bulger or some other veteran of note behind Flacco if called on for a long stretch.

 

As Taylor’s athleticism continues to enamor fans however, and as the Michael Vick comparisons begin to flow more readily, the question might become how could they use Taylor to their benefit right now.

 

The “Suggs Package” wildcat looks that were Troy Smith’s calling card a few seasons ago would surely be much more dangerous and unsettling with an athlete the caliber of Taylor behind center. But if Taylor were the #2 QB, using him in that capacity (much like pinch hitting your backup catcher in baseball) could leave your without a net at the most important position on the field.

 

The other side of that argument of course is that teams like the Colts and Saints and Packers don’t run wildcat sets because taking their quarterbacks off the field doesn’t make those teams better. When Flacco becomes elite in the eyes of those deploying him, even an all world athlete like Tyrod Taylor won’t make the Ravens better by replacing Flacco behind center. The rank and deployment of Taylor this year should give us a pretty healthy read on how the Ravens coaches feel about Flacco’s development, ability and value as a playmaker.

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Mocking The 53: A Look At Roster Ahead of Preseason Finale

Posted on 30 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens travel to the Georgia Dome to meet the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, the final opportunity for players on the roster “bubble” to impress Head Coach John Harbaugh and coordinators Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano and Jerry Rosburg.

As I am no longer the Ravens beat reporter here at WNST I have deferred to Luke Jones for most of our coverage during Training Camp. I have had the chance to get out to 1 Winning Drive this week, so I decided I would bring back “Mocking The 53″ to get a look at how the team may trim the roster from 80 players to 53.

As I’ve explained before, the team does not have a certain number of players they keep at each position, so I have never done this breakdown by position. Instead, I offer what is more like a “power ranking” of players from 1-80.

Keep in mind, GM Ozzie Newsome is likely to make an addition or two (a veteran backup quarterback-perhaps still Marc Bulger namely) before either Saturday’s cut day or the team’s opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

1. DT Haloti Ngata
2. QB Joe Flacco
3. LB Terrell Suggs
4. RB Ray Rice
5. WR Anquan Boldin
6. S Ed Reed
7. LB Ray Lewis
8. G Ben Grubbs
9. G Marshal Yanda
10. CB Jimmy Smith

Whether or not Smith is a starter on September 11 is the only issue in this group. All of these guys are clearly on the team and significant contributors.

11. OT Michael Oher
12. WR Lee Evans
13. FB Vonta Leach
14. DE Cory Redding
15. P Sam Koch
16. TE Ed Dickson
17. S Bernard Pollard
18. K Billy Cundiff
19. DT Terrence Cody
20. LB Jarret Johnson

Like the first group, the players in the group above are all safely on the roster and are expected to be significant contributors.

21. CB Cary Williams
22. S Tom Zbikowski
23. C Matt Birk
24. OT Bryant McKinnie
25. CB Chris Carr
26. S Haruki Nakamura
27. TE Dennis Pitta
28. RB Ricky Williams
29. LB Jameel McClain
30. WR Torrey Smith

There’s no drama in this group either. McClain still appears to be the frontrunner for the other starting ILB job, while the team has remained steadfast in their support of Torrey Smith despite struggles. There’s a chance he’s not the third receiver on September 11, but he’s absolutely safe on the roster.

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Bisciotti on Ngata extension: “I’m Having A Hard Time Giving Away $60 Million”

Posted on 16 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

For the second time in 2011, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a conference call with fans Tuesday night. Owners of Premium seats and Personal Seat Licenses (PSL’s) at M&T Bank Stadium were invited to participate in the call.

During the call, Bisciotti was asked by fans about the progress the team was making on signing three time All-Pro DT (and defending team MVP) Haloti Ngata to a long term contract extension. Ngata was given the franchise tag by the Ravens early in the offseason, guaranteeing him to make $12.476 million this season.

Signing Ngata to a contract extension would free up salary cap space for the Ravens to address still lingering needs. A ProFootballTalk.com report this week said the Ravens had just $2.8 million of cap space ($120 million) available to sign players even after trading for former Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans.

Bisciotti appeared frustrated but hopeful about the talks.

“I’m having a hard time giving away $60 million” said the owner. “I have a feeling things are going to work out. I have no doubt in my mind Haloti’s going to be with us (long term).”

Ngata was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl in 2010 and is widely viewed to be one of the better interior D-Linemen in the National Football League. He is coming off a season in which he tied a career high with 63 tackles and set a new career high with 5.5 sacks.

The Ravens still have a number of needs throughout the team. OL Oniel Cousins has worked out at RG this week with starter Marshal Yanda sidelined due to back spasms. Rookie Jah Reid has worked as the first team RT, leaving the team very thin at the tackle position. Multiple outlets have suggested the Ravens could consider veteran OT Jon Stinchcomb, who was recently released by the New Orleans Saints.

The team could still use help on the interior of the Offensive Line as well. Starting C Matt Birk (knee) has been sidelined for most of Training Camp and is not expected to return until close to the team’s Week 1 home opener against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The team attempted to sign veteran Casey Rabach (who played most recently with the Washington Redskins) earlier in Camp, but was unable to complete the signing when he failed a physical.

Backup quarterback is also an issue for the team, after rookie Tyrod Taylor provided mixed results in the team’s exhibition opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The team also has Hunter Cantwell on the roster, but the third year player from Louisville spent all of 2010 on the practice squad. The team could still try to convince 2010 backup Marc Bulger to come out of retirement.

Bisciotti had hoped superstar ILB Ray Lewis would accept a “home town discount” upon reaching free agency in 2009, but the future Hall of Famer was quick to point out that he wouldn’t accept less than market value. After failing to convince Lewis to take that such a deal, Bisciotti joked Tuesday he didn’t expect to be able to agree to a similar arrangement with the former Oregon DT to remain in Charm City.

Even without a home town discount, the Ravens would benefit from simply signing Ngata to any sort of extension that includes a significant signing bonus and bigger money on the back end.

If Bisciotti can indeed “give away” that $60 million, the team could begin taking other steps towards completing what they hope will be a roster capable of reaching Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

-G

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It’s Only August, But No Concerns Addressed In Preseason Week 1 Loss

Posted on 11 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Just keep saying it.

It’s only August.

It’s only August.

The Baltimore Ravens are still a ways away from their regular season opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

It’s probably for the best, as they looked to be just about as far away from compete football in their 13-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

It’s only August.

It’s fair to assume the team would be behind where they might in others had they not lost OTA’s and the start of Training Camp due to the NFL lockout.

“Everybody is (behind where they would be in other years). Obviously we’ve got tons of work to do” said head coach John Harbaugh following the loss. “We’ve just gotta get better faster than the people that we’re going to play. That’s our job.”

It’s only August.

While starters played little time in Philly, the Ravens showed little cohesion throughout the exhibition contest.

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After Stadium Practice, Better Idea of What Ravens Will Look Like in Preseason Opener

Posted on 06 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — Following an annual open practice at M&T Bank Stadium in front of 24,078; fans will not have another opportunity to see the Baltimore Ravens again until their preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Sunday’s practice provided some clarity for Ravens fans however, as the team gave a look at would could be expected at various positions.

QUARTERBACK:

There’s of course no question as to who the team’s starting quarterback will be Thursday (Joe Flacco). But with starters not expected to play much in the opener, the retirement of 2010 backup Marc Bulger has left the Ravens with little experience behind him.

Rookie Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech) has worked as the team’s backup in Training Camp, and will be likely to get the most snaps Thursday night after Flacco departs. Following Taylor is Hunter Cantwell, a practice squad QB a year ago who is currently the team’s third stringer. Cantwell did VERY limited work in Saturday’s practice and appears to clearly be behind Taylor on the depth chart.

The team could still make a move to bring in a veteran backup before Thursday night, but it would be unlikely a new quarterback would get significant playing time as early as Thursday after limited practice.

RUNNING BACK:

Once again, the team has no questions as far as starters are concerned. 2009 Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice and 2010 Pro Bowl FB Vonta Leach will patrol the backfield to open the game; but neither are expected to play significant time.

The RB position behind Rice is wide open at the moment. The most likely candidates to enter after Rice are Jalen Parmele and rookie Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech), who have each taken second team reps in practice. Parmele is more probable, but both are expected to see a number of plays.

Undrafted rookie Damien Berry (Miami) appears to be fourth on the RB depth chart at the moment, but should keep getting work. If the Ravens don’t add veteran depth at the position, he’s very much in the battle for a roster spot. The team also has undrafted rookie and Mervo grad Walter Sanders (St. Augustine) on the roster, he’ll likely see a few snaps in the second half of Thursday night’s contest as well.

The wild card in the group is veteran RB/ST Matt Lawrence, who missed all of the 2010 season with a knee injury. Lawrence has had very little participation in camp thus far (he did not practice Saturday), but would be expected to see playing time Thursday night if healthy.

Undrafted FB Ryan Mahaffey (Northern Iowa) could see snaps behind Leach.

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens offense continues hurting over first week of camp

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens offense continues hurting over first week of camp

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 6:35 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With a lack of depth at several key offensive positions, the Ravens thought they had solved one problem with the return of veteran Casey Rabach on Tuesday.

But just like sidelined starting center Matt Birk, Rabach wasn’t healthy himself, failing his physical on Wednesday and wiping out what would have been a two-year contract to return to Baltimore and bring a veteran presence to the Ravens’ center and guard positions. The news now leaves the Ravens with rookie free agents Tim Barnes and Ryan Bartholomew as their only options at the center position.

Coach John Harbaugh confirmed Birk underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to “clean out” the bursa sac in his left knee and is expected to miss three to four weeks after the minor procedure on Tuesday. Birk has dealt with knee issues in the past, including last season when he had his knee drained several different times despite not missing a game.

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With Rabach failing his physical after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this offseason, general manager Ozzie Newsome will continue looking for a veteran interior lineman, but Harbaugh reiterated the Ravens’ confidence in Birk being ready for the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11 and continuing as the starter in 2011.

“Matt will be our starting center,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think he necessarily needs training camp. That’s my feeling. Let him get this cleaned up right now and we’ll get a week or two of training camp with him, and he’ll be ready to play.”

No veteran backup yet

After word broke Wednesday morning of veteran Marc Bulger announcing his retirement, the Ravens lost their best candidate for an experienced quarterback to back up starter Joe Flacco.

Sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor is currently No. 2 on the depth chart with last year’s practice squad quarterback Hunter Cantwell also on the 90-man roster. Harbaugh is open to a veteran being added to the mix, but he will continue to evaluate Taylor’s development in the meantime.

How likely is it that the Ravens bring in a veteran at this point?

“A chance,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see how our young guys do. See how [Taylor] does over there, and we’ll try to figure it out from there.”

A thin free agent market for quarterbacks includes the likes Brodie Croyle, Jake Delhomme, and Patrick Ramsey.

Harbaugh was not surprised to hear about Bulger’s intentions to retire after hearing rumors over the last week. The Ravens coach was appreciative of the work the veteran backup did with Flacco a season ago.

“I thought it was 50-50 in my mind,” Harbaugh said. “Marc has a lot of things going on. He has a lot of charitable things going on. His family’s in St. Louis. Good luck to him.”

Defense dominates

The defense traditionally dominates the early stages of training camp — especially in Baltimore — and it’s been no different this season with summer practices shifted to Owings Mills due to the lockout.

Wednesday’s practice was conducted in helmets, shells, and shorts, and the passing offense could get little done against the Baltimore defense. Pressure came up front, receivers created little separation, and few passes were completed for extended portions of practice.

With Torrey Smith returning to practice in a very limited fashion, first-team receivers included Justin Harper, Brandon Jones, and rookie Tandon Doss opposite incumbent starter Anquan Boldin. The center position was manned mostly by the Missouri rookie Barnes and right guard was occupied by Justin Boren.

The main highlight from the offense came in the latter half of practice when starting tight end Ed Dickson caught a long touchdown pass from Flacco. Taylor, the Virginia Tech product, also threw a beautiful sideline pass to Terrelly Zachary over rookie draft pick Chykie Brown.

Watching Flacco and the offense work, it’s becoming painfully obvious how thin the Ravens are at wide receiver. At one point during individual work, Flacco and Taylor simultaneously threw passes in the direction of Boldin. The receiver caught one while the other pass hit him in the side.

It was a humorous (or sad, depending on how you view it) scene depicting the Ravens’ lack of passing targets.

Infirmary report

Cornerback Jimmy Smith remains sidelined with a “groin tweak” in Harbaugh’s words. It is not believed to be serious, but the Ravens are using extra caution with the first-round pick.

Veteran cornerback Domonique Foxworth (knee) and Torrey Smith (hamstring) returned to practice after sitting out on Tuesday.

Wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring) suited up to practice, but the 6-foot-5 wideout was only a limited participant. Cornerback Danny Gorrer didn’t practice after working with the starting defense on Tuesday.

There were no changes to the active physically-unable-to-perform list, as David Reed, Ramon Harewood, and Brandon McKinney did not practice.

Odds & ends

Former Ravens fullback Le’Ron McClain signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs, joining former Ravens defensive tackle Kelly Gregg in Kansas City. The Chiefs visit M&T Bank Stadium on Aug. 19 in the second preseason game for the Ravens. … Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones shared reps at nose tackle as the Ravens went through team passing drills. … Seventh-round running back Anthony Allen received plenty of reps with the starting offense in what resembled a light workday for starter Ray Rice. … Former Terps receiver LaQuan Williams had an up-and-down afternoon, making a nice catch before being stripped of the football by Brown. Williams bounced back on the next play, catching a slant for what might have been a touchdown in a non-contact drill.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, tight end Dennis Pitta, and tight ends coach Wade Harman.

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Former Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger retires

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Former Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger retires

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Luke Jones

Still without a veteran to back up starting quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens will be unable to call upon Marc Bulger, who intends to retire after 11 seasons in the NFL.

The 34-year-old signal caller was the Ravens’ backup quarterback in 2010 after signing a one-year, $3.8 million contract, which paid him a higher base salary than Flacco. However, Bulger did not take a snap all season as Flacco started all 16 games.

The Ravens currently have sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor and practice squad member Hunter Cantwell as the only quarterbacks on the roster behind Flacco. Despite a strong endorsement from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Tuesday and the fact that Flacco has never missed a game in his three-year career, it’s unlikely the Ravens would feel comfortable with the listed 6-foot-1 Taylor as the backup quarterback.

Bulger’s best years came with the St. Louis Rams, where he began as the No. 2 quarterback behind Kurt Warner and eventually became a two-time Pro Bowler. He finishes his career with 122 touchdown passes, 93 interceptions, and an 84.4 quarterback rating.

With Bulger no longer an option as the backup quarterback, general manager Ozzie Newsome must now deal with an underwhelming quarterback market that includes Jake Delhomme, Brodie Croyle, Patrick Ramsey, J.P. Losman, and Chris Simms. Former backup Troy Smith, who wound up in San Francisco after being cut prior to last season, is also a free agent.

As NFL teams must be under the salary cap for the start of the new league year on Thursday, other veteran backups could be added to the list of potential insurance policies for Flacco.

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Top 10 Ravens Priorities Before Breaking Camp

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Top 10 Ravens Priorities Before Breaking Camp

Posted on 26 July 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

#10 – Suring up at Safety – While not a position of urgent need for the Ravens, safety isn’t without its questions. Dawan Landry’s impending free agency and Ed Reed’s present state of health could have the team relying heavily on Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski for critical stretches of this season. As they seem to have greater needs elsewhere it seems unlikely that the team would spend heavily to retain Landry and will take their chances with whomever the market may bear behind Reed, Nakamura and Zbikowski. Historically the Ravens have done well with finding safeties that others haven’t seen value in.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

#9 – Finding a Tight End – The release of Todd Heap leaves the team with a gaping hole at the tight end position, and like safety could have them relying on a couple of unproven players for big contributions in 2011. In this case that pursuit might be even more ambitious as both Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are entering only their second seasons and neither found a major niche in the offense last year. It seems the team has designs on re-signing Heap if possible but otherwise would likely have to turn to the open market for a more reliable answer at TE than Pitta or Dickson look to provide. Absent that, the team might be forced to their 2008 form with little reliance on the TE position as anything but an extra blocker at the line of scrimmage.

 

 

#8 – Backing Up Ray Rice – While the release of Willis McGahee wasn’t much of a surprise on Monday, it leaves the Ravens with a number of unanswered questions in the backfield. Can they trust rookie Anthony Allen to be ready to back up Rice if needed? Are they prepared to go with some combination of Jalen Parmalee and Matt Lawrence at the backup if Allen isn’t up to the task without prep time? If Le’Ron McClain returns will he do so as the full time fullback? Do the Ravens want him otherwise? Will the bounty of free agents and the unwillingness of teams to pay them leave the Ravens with good options to choose from when the dust settles?

 

 

#7 – Backing Up Flacco – If Marc Bulger’s presence on last year’s squad indicated anything at all, it may have been that the Ravens envisioned themselves so close to competing for a title, that they refused to allow themselves to be in a position where a single injury could derail those hopes (even if that injury comes at the most important position on the field). If Bulger finds greener pastures elsewhere, surely the Ravens will be looking for more credible options than Tyrod Taylor or Hunter Cantwell. Hopefully it’s a need that never comes to fruition as the season plays out, but one that must be accounted for nonetheless.

 

 

#6 – Sorting out the Cornerbacks – After the Ravens’ forcible defection of talent on Monday and given their apparent desire to retain some of those players, but at a better price; is it out of the realm of possibility that Domonique Foxworth, coming off of an ACL tear, may also be carrying a price tag that’s tough to justify? Additionally see these 10 cornerback questions.

 

 

#5 – Sorting Out the Wide Receivers – The release of Derrick Mason certainly shakes up the receiving hierarchy in Baltimore for 2011 if the Ravens are unable to compel him back. If not they’re left with a bunch of unproven commodities behind Anquan Boldin. That might make the retention of a guy like TJ Houshmandzadeh suddenly much more realistic than it seemed just a few days ago. Whatever the outcomes with Mason and/or Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens will still need a proven field stretcher to compliment Boldin and whomever else rounds out the receiving corps, and it appears that through free agency they’ll have no shortage of candidates to choose from.

 

 

#4 – Prepping for Pittsburgh – Getting the Steelers, in Baltimore, right out of the gate might be just what the doctor ordered for a team likely still smarting from playoff disappointment at the hands of their rivals. While a win in week one won’t put the rivalry back into balance or even mean much if the Steelers again rain on the Ravens’ post-season hopes, it may mean a great deal in determining where a potential third meeting between the clubs would be played and will probably mean the difference between a big boost or a big letdown to set the tone for the 2011 campaign.

 

 

#3 – Getting Defensive Line Help – The Ravens appear ready to unleash Terrance Cody on the league to compliment the man-mountain that is Haloti Ngata in the middle of the defensive line, and at present have 2 young and interesting commodities backing them up in Kelly Talavou and Arthur Jones, but they’ll still need help in developing a much needed edge rush. At present the Ravens list only 2 defensive ends on their roster, rookie Pernell McPhee and 2nd year Albert McClellan. Unless they’re expecting huge contributions from Paul Kruger and/or Sergio Kindle to compliment Suggs in 2011 it would seem that upgrades are in order. I’ll bet on the latter.

 

 

#2 – Suring Up the Right Side of the Offensive Line – Matt Birk is aging, and everything to his right is a question mark. Did Jared Gaither miss last season by pouting or with a legitimate back injury? In either case can you put any faith in him moving forward? Will Marshall Yanda get tackle money in free agency? Should the Ravens pay him tackle money? What can you expect from Oneil Cousins, Jah Reid, or Ramon Harewood in 2011? Should the Ravens look to pursue a left tackle and move Michael Oher back to the right side?  Answering these questions will probably be the biggest determining factor in the Ravens’ success or lack thereof this season.

 

 

#1 – Coming Up With a New Slogan – If John Harbaugh wasn’t having such success as an NFL coach in his 3-year tenure with the Ravens, one might suggest he pursue a career in marketing. In addition to his knack for having his teams ready to play from week to week, Harbaugh has also shown a knack for getting them up to play through the week to week grind of NFL football. From “Play Like a Raven” to the Muhammad Ali inspired “What’s Our Name”, from the inspirational story of Nehemiah to the recognition of Baltimore’s “53 Mighty Men” Harbaugh has never seemingly been at a loss for a poignant theme or reference. It’s fair to say that players and fans alike have been waiting with baited breath to hear this year’s Harbaugh-ism. Given his biblical affinity and his Thanksgiving Day opponent, I might suggest an infamous tale from Genesis.

 

 

 

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As Offseason FINALLY Opens, Ravens Face Seven Major Issues

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to start writing a football column.

With the NFL offseason officially slated to open…well…any moment now, the Baltimore Ravens can finally go to work where they left off following the NFL Draft.

The Ravens (as well as all 31 other NFL teams) will have a frantic 10-14 days ahead of them. They’ll need to make decisions on their own free agents, as well as consider players they may want to let go of in order to create salary cap space (this year’s cap will reportedly be $120 million). They’ll have to take a look at Unrestricted Free Agents elsewhere around the league, as well as potential trades. They’ll also have to sign undrafted free agents to fill a 90 man roster and then work on contracts with their own draft picks.

As far as the Ravens are concerned, they’ll have to do all of this while also opening Training Camp (scheduled to begin Wednesday per NFL Network) and preparing for a preseason opener Thursday, August 11th at the Philadelphia Eagles.

As General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company go to work, I’ve identified seven major issues the team faces in this crazy offseason period.

In some particular order…

1-Someway, somehow, the pass rush MUST be upgraded

New Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano inherits a unit that tallied just 27 sacks in 2010. Only three teams had a lower total (the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with 26 sacks each, the Denver Broncos finished with 23) last season. The Ravens posted the disappointing total number despite 11 sacks alone from LB Terrell Suggs.

The easiest way the Ravens can upgrade this area is by adding a Rush End. Amongst defensive linemen a season ago, only DT Haloti Ngata (5.5) and Cory Redding (three) posted multiple sacks.

The Ravens have in-house options to anchor their defensive line, although none are ideal. Redding could again be asked to take on rush responsibilities, but only once in his career (2006 with the Detroit Lions) has he tallied more than three sacks in a season (eight).

Third year DE Paul Kruger finally got into the sack column last year, but through two seasons that one sack remains the only he has posted.

Another option is DE Pernell McPhee, the team’s 5th round pick out of Mississippi State. McPhee’s chances are less likely due to the shortened offseason, as coaches will be less likely to trust a player immediately after getting little to no time with him in the offseason.

The Ravens can look to free agency to get rush end help. Green Bay’s Cullen Jenkins, Carolina’s Charles Johnson, Minnesota’s Ray Edwards and Tennessee’s Jason Babin headline a group of available rushers off the edge. All will be pricey for a team that still needs to get Ngata signed to a long term deal.

Battling injuries throughout the season, LB Jarret Johnson finished with just 1.5 sacks in 2010. The Ravens are hoping 2010 second round pick Sergio Kindle can spell him at the SAM position, presenting some heat opposite Suggs. It’s hard to count on production from Kindle considering he’s still working his way back from a fractured skull that forced him to miss what would have been his rookie season, but Kindle has maintained this offseason that he has been cleared to return to football.

On the inside, the Ravens can potentially produce a more consistent rush from within. Releasing DT Kelly Gregg could provide the team roughly $3 million in cap savings, and could pave the way for one of the team’s younger interior linemen to get time on the field. DT’s Terrence Cody, Brandon McKinney, Arthur Jones, Lamar Divens and Kelly Talavou could all be options and could all provide a little more ability to reach the backfield.

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