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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest offensive needs

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest offensive needs

Posted on 13 February 2012 by Luke Jones

If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, or so the saying goes.

It’s been three weeks since the Ravens fell a few tenths of a second short — how much longer Lee Evans needed to hold the ball in the end zone — of advancing to Super Bowl XLVI. The organization is now faced with difficult decisions while trying to improve but also acknowledging just how excruciatingly close it came to reaching the pinnacle contest of the NFL.

With free agency set to begin in one month (March 13 at 4:00 p.m.) and the draft just over two months away, the Ravens are evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the first of a three-part series, I offer thoughts on the offensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need entering the offseason.

1. Left guard

I’ve tried to think of as many conceivable scenarios as I can for the Ravens to re-sign Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs while not putting their future salary cap space in jeopardy, but I continue to come back to the same theme over and over.

In the modern era, NFL teams simply cannot and do not spent an extraordinary amount of money at the guard position. And after signing Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to a $32 million contract with $10 million guaranteed, it’s difficult envisioning general manager Ozzie Newsome forking over even more money for Grubbs, especially with quarterback Joe Flacco and cornerback Lardarius Webb set to become free agents following the 2012 season.

Neither the Ravens nor Grubbs have spoken with any level of confidence that the 2007 first-round pick will be back in Baltimore, so a hometown discount appears unlikely. Though Baltimore has retained all but one (2005 selection Mark Clayton) of its first-round picks since 2002, it appears Grubbs will find a new home in 2012.

So, how do the Ravens replace him? The only viable in-house candidate might be 2011 third-round tackle Jah Reid, who practiced at both tackle and guard last season, but his 6-foot-7 frame isn’t ideal inside and he’d be making the transition from the right tackle position.

The draft would figure to be the logical outlet, with a young guard such as Stanford’s David DeCastro or Georgia’s Cordy Glenn potentially available at the end of the first round. However, the Ravens could elect to address other positions of need in the early rounds and roll the dice in finding a competent veteran on the free-agent market.

2. Center

On the surface, the center position would appear to be an urgent need with no veteran currently under contract for 2012, but the Ravens have short-term veteran options in Matt Birk and Andre Gurode.

Birk has yet to decide whether he’ll play in 2012 or retire, but the Ravens could elect to re-sign the five-time Pro Bowl center Gurode, who is three years younger. Regardless of which way the Ravens go, they will need to think about the future at the position with both players close to the end of their respective careers.

Former Ohio State product Justin Boren finished the season on the practice squad and could be a center to groom for 2013 and beyond. Should the Ravens elect to draft a center in April, it likely wouldn’t be until the middle or late rounds unless Wisconsin’s Peter Konz would strike their fancy at the end of the first round.

3. Wide receiver

The receiver position has seemingly showed up on the list every year, but this unit appears to be in better shape than it has in quite some time.

Veteran Anquan Boldin is clearly not a No. 1 receiver at this point in his career, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a better season in 2012 after he played with a partially-torn meniscus for most of 2011. When he returned for the postseason after late-season surgery, Boldin appeared more effective, catching 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games.

Torrey Smith figures to only get better with a full offseason to work on his route-running and build a stronger rapport with Flacco. If he can become a bigger threat in the short-to-intermediate passing game, Smith might become the No. 1 receiver the Ravens have lacked since the infancy of the franchise.

The disappointing Evans is under contract for the 2012 season, but it’s hard to envision the Ravens paying the receiver a $1 million roster bonus in March and tolerating his near-$6 million cap number for the upcoming season. He’ll likely be released, with a small chance for a return at a reduced rate.

The Ravens would love a young receiver with height to complement the speedy Smith moving forward, but it’s easier said than done in the pass-happy NFL where every team is looking for big, speedy targets on the outside. A veteran free agent such as Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, or Dwayne Bowe would provide another threat at receiver but would not provide the height the Baltimore receiving group lacks. San Diego wideout Vincent Jackson would be the ideal 6-foot-5 name in free agency, but his price tag will be hefty.

Adding another impact wide receiver might be the only way to truly gauge whether Flacco can take the passing game to the next level, and the Ravens will try their best to do it this offseason.

4. Running back

(see next page)

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With Ravens fans snickering at Mason, has Boldin received a free pass in Baltimore?

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With Ravens fans snickering at Mason, has Boldin received a free pass in Baltimore?

Posted on 12 October 2011 by Luke Jones

After Derrick Mason’s abrupt departure from the New York Jets on Tuesday night, many fans have offered their zingers and potshots at the former Ravens receiver, whose poor production and crumbling relationship with the Jets coaching staff led to him being traded to the Houston Texans for a seventh-round pick.

While I couldn’t resist making a snide comment or two about the whole situation, I’m mystified at the amount of disdain hurled toward the Ravens’ all-time leading receiver who caught 29 touchdowns in his six seasons in Baltimore. Yes, he could be a cranky diva — not unlike most productive wide receivers, mind you — but far too many are discrediting his work. The reliability he provided for a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco, who was thrown into the starting lineup out of necessity in 2008, turned a potentially disastrous situation into one of the most enjoyable seasons the Ravens have ever had and sparked a promising career of a franchise quarterback.

Yes, it was time for Mason and the team to part ways, especially with the 37-year-old’s high salary-cap number in 2011, as many expected his production to be absorbed by veteran Anquan Boldin in his second season with the Ravens.

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And that brings us to a different topic entirely.

Through four games in 2011, Boldin has just 15 catches for 222 yards and a lone touchdown catch on the Ravens’ first drive of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11. It follows his 2010 season in which the former Arizona Cardinals wideout caught 64 balls for 837 yards and seven touchdowns. The only season in which Boldin had fewer receptions and receiving yards was his second season in 2004 when he played in only 10 games.

In comparison, Mason has 13 receptions for 115 yards in five games as the No. 3 receiver in New York before the trade to Houston on Tuesday. I mention this not to suggest that the Ravens should have kept Mason, but it poses an interesting, and largely unspoken, question with Boldin’s numbers not exactly blowing Mason’s out of the water by leaps and bounds.

Has Boldin received too much of a pass in his first 20 regular-season games in Baltimore?

We’ve seen all the explanations.

He, Mason, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were too similar in what they did best as receivers.

Boldin matches up against the opposition’s No. 1 cornerback and deals with bracketed coverage on a regular basis.

Flacco hasn’t developed the same rapport with Boldin as he enjoyed with Mason and doesn’t target him enough while going through his progressions.

And — of course — it’s offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s fault for not finding better ways to get the ball to Boldin in the offense.

While all of these explanations undoubtedly factor into the equation to varying degrees, at what point do we begin to wonder whether the Ravens really got their money’s worth when trading third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona a year ago and signing Boldin to a three-year, $25 million extension through 2013 with $10 million guaranteed?

When do we begin looking at Boldin himself?

That’s not to say Boldin has been a bad player in Baltimore. Far from it, in fact. The 31-year-old has shown mostly-reliable hands other than a critical drop in the end zone in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ heartbreaking 31-24 loss to the Steelers in the AFC divisional round last January. He had three 100-yard games a year ago, including a three-touchdown explosion against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.

But, he’s yet to show himself as even a proper replacement for Mason during his best seasons in Baltimore, much less the impact receiver Ravens fans thought they were getting a season ago.

For those pointing to the injury of Lee Evans and the lack of talented receivers to deflect attention from Boldin, Mason wasn’t exactly reaping the benefits of playing opposite Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams over the years, but he still found ways to be very productive.

The great ones are able to find space to get open in order to produce, even when the circumstances are far from ideal as they are right now in Baltimore, with the Ravens relying heavily on unproven rookie receivers in Evans’ absence.

With the offense still searching for its identity in an otherwise successful 3-1 start, the Ravens would sure benefit from a Mason-like — or even better — boost from Boldin, in whom they invested a lot after seven superb seasons in Arizona where he became the fastest player to reach 400, 500, and 600 catches in NFL history.

We’ve seen flashes of the Boldin who teamed with Larry Fitzgerald to form one of the most feared receiving tandems of the last decade, but the consistency just hasn’t been there to the degree that anyone expected.

Perhaps the surge is finally coming after the bye when you consider the lack of an offseason and how that might have stunted his development with Flacco. Or, maybe this is all we’re going to get from Boldin.

So, before we continue finding amusement in what’s amounted to a humbling conclusion to Mason’s playing career — yes, much of it his own doing — ask yourself a question.

Are we sure the Ravens are really that much better off without him?

Boldin’s numbers don’t support it.

At least, not yet.

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Derrick Mason makes it official; flying off with the Jets

Posted on 06 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

In a move that was expected for several days, fears finally become official for Ravens fans as the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, Derrick Mason, announced on Twitter that he’s signing a one-year contract with the New York Jets.

“Jet fuel is full; time to fly” he announced on his Twitter feed, @deemason85.

This news comes one day after the Ravens lost out on another free agent wide receiver acquistion in Malcom Floyd, who returned to San Diego signing a two-year contract.

Mason will be re-united with Jets head coach Rex Ryan-Baltimore’s longtime ex defensive coordinator-and a host of other former Ravens in New York.

“I’m looking forward to working under Rex and rejoining some familiar faces,” Mason said in a statement to ESPN and FoxSports.

“After a lot of very thoughtful and careful consideration, conversations with my family and prayer, I have decided to sign with the New York Jets,” he continued. ”I’m looking forward to working under Rex and rejoining some familiar faces.”

After playing his first eight seasons in Tennessee, the former Michigan State Spartan transferred his services over to the Baltimore Ravens-catching 471 balls for 5,777 yards and 29 TDs.

The Ravens will meet up again with Mason in Week 4 of the regular season when the Jets come to Baltimore October 2nd to take on in the Ravens in primetime.

With Mason gone, the Ravens will either stick with their receiving corps of Anquan Boldin, draft picks Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss, and free agent acquistion James Hardy, or they will look to add one of the few veterans left in free agency including Steve Smith(NYG), Jerricho Cotchery, or ex-Ravens Mark Clayton and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Cotchery was cut by the Jets last week after failing his physical and Cotchery told New York media last week that he was released to make room for Mason on the roster.

Be sure to follow WNST on Twitter as we get ready for the 2011 Ravens season! Hop on the Bus Trip to Philadelphia this week with us!

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Malcom Floyd spurns Ravens; signs 2-year deal to return to SD

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

Disappointment settled into Baltimore Friday, as FA WR and Ravens target Malcom Floyd signed a two-year deal this afternoon to return to the San Diego Chargers, per a league source.

The move was confirmed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“We have a lot of happy Chargers today with the return of Malcom,” General Manager A.J. Smith said in a team release. “He has been an integral part of our team and it’s great to have him back. He is a very talented receiver and that will just add to the continuity of our offensive unit.”

Floyd caught 37 passes for 717 yards and six touchdowns in 2010 despite missing five games. He enjoyed the best game of his career with eight catches for 213 yards against Oakland on Oct. 10.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound receiver, nicknamed “M-80,” signed with San Diego as a college free agent in 2004 and caught Rivers’ first touchdown pass as a rookie.

The move now forces the Ravens to either go into the first week of preseason with the receiving corps they currently in camp (Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, James Hardy, Tandon Doss) or reach out to one of the available wide receivers available in former Giants WR Steve Smith, or former Ravens Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason-who could sign with the New York Jets or Tennessee Titans.

-A Team Release from the San Diego Chargers contributed to this report.

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Live From Owings Mills: “Smith” Ravens’ 2nd Pick, Terps’ Torrey Adds New Chapter to Amazing Story

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Live From Owings Mills: “Smith” Ravens’ 2nd Pick, Terps’ Torrey Adds New Chapter to Amazing Story

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Let me start with some full disclosure. I’m a University of Maryland alum and an unabashed supporter of the Terrapins football program.

I’ll follow with further full disclosure. There was no prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft that I was more familiar with than former Terps WR Torrey Smith. You probably won’t remember this gem of an “interview” from the team’s 2010 Media Day in College Park…

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

On top of that, I coordinated a weekly appearance between Smith and AM1570 host Thyrl Nelson every Tuesday since January on “The Mobtown Sports Beat.”

Now that it’s all out there, I’ll speak freely.

And after looking past a lengthy rap-sheet to select Colorado CB Jimmy Smith in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens grabbed an amazing human being in the 2nd-round (58th pick overall) by selecting their second Smith of the week.

(They’re of course hoping he pans out to be just as good of a football player at the NFL level as well.)

Smith’s story is well-known amongst Maryland fans, and will quickly become just as known amongst similar Ravens fans who gobbled up everything Michael Oher and “The Blind Side” related two seasons ago.

As detailed in an incredible Washington Post story by Eric Prisbell (Head Coach John Harbaugh said Friday night he was “choked up” and “proud” of Smith after just reading the article), Smith’s childhood was impossibly difficult.

Smith was born three months early, undersized with meningitis and jaundice. He was rushed to an incubator and lived the first 10 weeks of his life in a hospital.

Smith’s childhood would leave him witness to a scene where his mother, Monica, was held at gunpoint by her then-husband and Smith was immediately forced to help raise his younger siblings as early as the age of four.

As recently as 2010, Smith’s mother had faced up to ten years in prison stemming from a fight with her daughter-in-law (a plea agreement would help prevent the lengthy sentence).

As I said, I’d suggest you read the story.

“You saw the celebration (after the pick was announced) when they had Torrey on TV?” asked Harbaugh following the 2nd round. “I want you to know there was a bigger celebration in our Draft room when we got this player.”

The Ravens are clearly excited about adding Smith’s size, speed and resume to a receiving corps that already features multiple Pro Bowl performers in Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. Smith measured in at 6’1″, 204 pounds and clocked a 4.41 time in the forty yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. During three seasons in College Park, he tallied 2,281 yards from scrimmage and 20 offensive touchdowns to go with 2,983 return yards and three additional TD’s.

Some scouts thought he had first-round talent, but some questions about his route-running forced him to drop into the second.

The Ravens were grateful to find him there.

“He can peal the top off a defense,” said General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “He brings that added dimension to our pass game. [Quarterback] Joe [Flacco] is a deep-thrower. Joe has the ability to throw the deep ball…he has the arm strength to do it. Now we’re giving Joe an additional weapon and that opens up our passing game.”

Newsome would go on jokingly to label Smith as a “3-point shooter” in the Ravens offense: “At any point if the ball gets in his hands, Billy [Cundiff] is coming out to kick an extra point.”

The deep-ball was sorely missing from the Ravens offense last year. The team had just seven passing plays of 40-plus yards-Mason led the team with two-during 16 regular season games and then recorded none in the postseason.

After finding out his football future would lead him up the road to Charm City, Smith told reporters he knew his character would help his transition.

“I knew the way I am as a person…the way I play fit the way they do things up there,” he said.

As much as the Ravens will benefit from the addition of Smith on the field, they will absolutely benefit from the addition of a man like Torrey Smith in their locker room as well.

Former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said of Smith in the Post story, “God created a perfect person.”

The Ravens might settle for a good guy. And a really good receiver.

RAVENS DEAL FOR ANOTHER “REID”
: The Ravens dealt their third round pick (90th overall) and one of two sixth round picks (191st overall) to the Philadelphia Eagles to move up five spots and select Central Florida OT Jah Reid in the 3rd round (85th overall).

Jah Reid

Reid (6’7″, 327 pounds) was described by Newsome as a “fast-riser” on the Ravens draft board following his performance at this year’s East-West Shrine Game in Orlando.

The Ravens will start the 2010 first-team All-Conference-USA selection at RT, where he will find a bit of a crowd. Jared Gaither missed all of 2010 with a back injury and could reach free agency depending on the resolution of the CBA-dispute between the league and the NFLPA.

Marshal Yanda is a restricted free agent (expected to return) who performed admirably filling in for Gaither but Harbaugh has said the team would prefer to move him back to his more natural right guard position.

Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll have not shown themselves as viable options to play significantly. 2010 6th-round pick Ramon Harewood also missed the entire season needing surgery on both knees.

When asked what the Ravens liked about Reid, Harbaugh said: “he is long, he is powerful and he can bend.”

NOTES: The Ravens will receive no compensation from the National Football League or the Chicago Bears following a miscue during the attempt of a first-round trade. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “encouraged” the Bears to give the Ravens a 4th round pick, but the Bears chose not to do so……The Ravens are scheduled to introduce Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith to reporters at an 11am press conference Saturday at 1 Winning Drive……The Ravens are slated to make five picks on Saturday. They currently hold one fourth round pick (123rd overall), two compensatory fifth round picks (164th and 165th overall), one sixth round pick (180th overall, acquired from the St. Louis Rams in last year’s Mark Clayton deal) and one seventh round pick (225th overall, acquired from the Eagles in last year’s Antwan Barnes deal)……Hear from Newsome, Harbaugh, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and Torrey Smith now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net

-G

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Houshmandzadeh – Another Fulfilled Example Of “Buyer Beware” ???

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Houshmandzadeh – Another Fulfilled Example Of “Buyer Beware” ???

Posted on 01 October 2010 by Rex Snider

When that WNST.net text flashed across the screen of your phone, the excitement started to overflow, right?

“T.J. Houshmandzadeh signs 1 year deal with Ravens” …..

Many of us ….. umm, scratch that …..

Nearly ALL of us thought Ozzie Newsome and his cronies just pulled the equivalent of a late night stickup at the local 7-11 store. And, we had good reason to think the Ravens cup runneth over on this particular deal.

Think about it …..

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a sure-handed, veteran wide receiver. He is quite familiar with the AFC-North. He is a guy who backs up all his jawing on the field.

Oh yeah, and he came here from Seattle.

Baltimore has a recent run of success when importing players from Seattle …..
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Say what you will, but for all the bubble gum popping and easily-distracted maneuvers of Adam Jones, I would trade away Erik Bedard for his services a MILLION times over.

Thus, I have that buoyed optimism whenever something from Seattle arrives.

But, indeed, there is a malfunction in my madness …..

T.J. Houshmanzadeh does not play baseball. And, more importantly, the Seattle Seahawks didn’t trade him away; they gave him away. They didn’t ask for Mark Clayton. They didn’t ask for Prince Miller. They didn’t even ask for a crate of crabcakes or an autographed Elvis Grbac jersey …..
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The Seahawks were so eager to jettison Houshmandzadeh that they ATE his 2010 salary just to rid themslves of him. If you’re counting the beans, that’s $7 million in big bills.

Yet, all of us looked past that.

We envisioned the same T.J. Houshmandzadeh who tormented us with end zone catches in a Bengals uniform. Uh, speaking of the Bengals …. he’s the same T.J. Houshmandzadeh who dropped four passes, in Cincinnati, just two weeks ago.

Now, this morning, we’re learning that Houshmandzadeh is surprised at his lack of participation in the Ravens offense.

HERE’S THE LINK

Really?

Hmmm ….. he should try standing in the shoes of Pierre Garcon, in Indianapolis. That’s right, if you develop the “dropsies” in Indy, #18 looks elsewhere. And, you’re obligated to re-prove yourself over time.

This is absolutely GREAT. The Ravens are preparing for a road game against their nemesis, in Pittsburgh. T.J. Houshmandzadeh has played in this division; he knows the importance of battling the Steelers.

Yet, he’s chosen one of the most inconvenient times to question his role.

God bless Drew Forrester. He said this day was coming …..

Is there a silver lining to this drama? You bet. I take great comfort in knowing this guy will NEVER, EVER allow a verbal distraction to sabotage his team …..
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Ahh ….. I feel better already.

Happy Friday !!!!!

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Is Mark Sanchez really a fruitcake? We’ll find out tonight as Ravens visit Jets

Posted on 12 September 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

If you don’t watch Hard Knocks on HBO, you won’t get the humor in the headline but I have a hunch you will be watching tonight as eight months of sports silence in Baltimore and a revenge game on national TV for Jets coach Rex Ryan should whet your appetite for the deliciousness of the next 17 weeks and beyond.

Tonight, the Ravens finally play football. For real…

I have been quite silent this summer as the Orioles have continued to tank it en route to a last-place finish but today I recommit to telling you what I think during the football season. I’ve been busy 24 hours a day building the new WNST.net that many of you are enjoying daily via our many means to reach you: the Morning Newspaper, text service, Facebook, Twitter, AM 1570, this very website at WNST.net, etc.

The Orioles are winning and no one is watching while the Ravens have been dormant since that dark night in Indianapolis eight months ago but have once again captured the imagination not only of the local marketplace but they’ve become the national media darlings and are expected to be in Dallas in early February by many pundits.

The locals have been waiting since January for a reason to cheer and tonight we’ll get it in prime time glory with story lines galore for ESPN to pitch America.

The world expects the Ravens to be a playoff team – a 10-to-13 win machine of big-time offense with an emerging Joe Flacco and a hard-hitting (if not hard-covering in the secondary) defense still led by the credentials of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and some fresh faces on the back side.

Tonight we begin to find out not only what our Baltimore Ravens are made of but we’ll also find out whether Rex Ryan’s men in green actually “Play Like Jets” after talking incessantly for the past month in our living rooms via the loudest, brashest most reality-based reality TV ever made – “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets”

The harsh words have all been exchanged: Rex Ryan disrespected Ray Lewis who disrespected Mark Sanchez which led to Kris Jenkins and Bart Scott piling on in what the linebacker formerly known as “Hot Sauce” called “part of the show.”

It was a week of pre-game hype that Vince McMahon and Don King could both appreciate but Ray Lewis summed it all up here:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL5CZcMqqWA[/youtube]

Honestly, I was actually blown away when I finally watched last week’s “Hard Knocks” on Saturday afternoon to hear what Rex Ryan actually said on the show that set off No. 52 in a tirade for the ages. Before he spoke, Ray Lewis admitted that he didn’t watch it and still went nuts with the notion that the Jets could somehow be more relevant or favored in tonight’s game.

I was five feet away from Lewis when he went nuts.

I went over to him in the locker room 15 minutes later and told him that I’d seen ALL of the press conferences over the last 15 years and it was his finest moment. “Really, you think so?” he said with a smile.

Yes, Ray! That one was for the ages and has this city inspired to spit purple lightning at 7 p.m. tonight.

So how will this go tonight?

Here are the five things I’ll be on the lookout for from Sect. 324 of the upper deck of the New Meadowlands Stadium. If you like my analysis here at WNST.net feel free to join our Twitter page tonight or friend us on Facebook or chime in with your thoughts in our Purple Haze LIVE CHAT that will begin at 7 p.m. And if you’re coming to New Jersey this afternoon, make sure you join us in Parking Lot L for a BYOB pre-game party of biblical proportions.

Sanchez accuracy can’t be dirty

If the Jets are going to be a contender this year they need to utilize a strong receiving corps with a passing attack that was woefully lacking in 2010 as Mark Sanchez slogged through his rookie campaign until the last few weeks when their defense caught fire and led them to the AFC Championship Game in Indy. Sanchez was portrayed as a bit of a clown in “Hard Knocks” and was referred to by Mark Brunell as a “fruitcake.” I wasn’t impressed with Sanchez on or off of the field this past month in preparation for tonight’s game. I think he’ll throw the Ravens a few opportunities to change the game. What they do when he does that will dictate the Ravens fortunes because with a few turnovers I believe the Ravens could win this game in a rout. And that’s without Ed Reed!

Jets taking care of the ball

The Jets were quite sloppy in many facets of the game in the preseason and turnovers were a major problem. Their running game seems to be a strength in their attack and you’d have to believe that running up the middle against the Ravens will be a tall task for an aging LaDainian Tomlinson and company. In general, I’m wondering how the Jets will attempt to exploit the Ravens through the air because it’s their best chance to win, lining up mismatches in the secondary and hoping Sanchez will be protected and can deliver the ball accurately.

Revis rusty?

We know that Cam Cameron will be mixing it up with this compliment of offensive weapons that Ozzie Newsome has assembled in the offseason. This team went from having Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton to having Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh become a true No. 1 and 2 with Mason almost certainly to move into a more complimentary role as the season wears on. Not that this is a bad thing: Mason will be a true weapon come December and other teams wear thin in the secondary as the weather chills. But the real secondary story tonight will be the return of Darrelle Revis who will be out on the island tonight chasing Boldin in many cases with just five days of practice under his belt. They say he’s the best in the business. Well, tonight he’ll face live bullets and there’s no doubt the communication of the Jets’ back line will be put to the test early and often by Flacco and company.

Flacco directing the offense and multiplicity

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has had three years in the system now and the list of weapons he has is impressive by any measure. The best offense Baltimore football fans have seen since 1977 will take the field tonight. How will Ray Rice be used? When will Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain get the ball? How will Todd Heap and Ed Dickson be used? What role will Houshmandzadeh grow into in this offense? Tonight we get answers including the protection up front that Flacco will need to deliver in this ramped up offensive attack.

The New Meadowlands as a weapon

The Jets have always been the second citizens of Giants Stadium. The team is a generational under-achiever. This year there’s more heat than there’s ever been due to Rex Ryan’s boasts and the braggadocio of the entire franchise being led by a cool, cussing, confident leader who expects to win tonight and every night. Tickets started at nearly $300 and have fallen to less than $100 to get into the game tonight. I know they’ve expanded the stadium but I thought the expanded expectations would expand their horizons to pack their own stadium in a sea of green for a Monday Night Football debut against a real contender and Ryan’s former franchise for a revenge bowl of biblical proportions. It will be interesting to see if the crowd can affect Flacco, who’s earned a bit of a reputation for being Joe Cool when impacted on the road. Flacco has won playoff games in Miami, Nashville and New England in his first three years in the league. I’m not sure the bright lights of New York will affect him tonight.

Quite frankly if Sanchez is the “fruitcake” Brunell alleged, the Ravens will waltz tonight at The New Meadowlands.

My prediction: Ravens 24, Jets 13

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Blog & Tackle: How TJH was used in 2009

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Blog & Tackle: How TJH was used in 2009

Posted on 07 September 2010 by Chris Pika

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Live From Owings Mills: Ravens Add Houshmandzadeh, Trade Clayton to Rams

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Live From Owings Mills: Ravens Add Houshmandzadeh, Trade Clayton to Rams

Posted on 06 September 2010 by Ryan Chell

T.J. Houshmanzadeh

The Ravens front office went to work this Labor Day morning, reaching out to ex-Seahawks wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzaeh, signing the former Bengals receiver to a one year deal, worth roughly around 855,000 dollars.

“He’s another proven weapon on this offense,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said, a big receiver with good hands and toughness.”

He does have a guaranteed contract in place, roughly worth around 7 million dollars, but that remaining 6.15 million is the Seahawks’ responsibility.

Houshmandzadeh, who was released last week by the Seahawks because new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and the coaching staff felt like Houshmandzadeh not only didn’t fit in their system but could become a locker room cancer, will join the Ravens and immediately fill the void left by the injuries to third wide receiver candidates Mark Clayton and Donte Stallworth.

Houshmandzadeh will be in Baltimore Tuesday to take his physical, meet with the media, and get right into cramming  before the Ravens opener Monday night against the Jets.

“T.J will definitely be ready to go Week 1,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’ll start working on the playbook tomorrow. He’s been in this system, before which is a plus.”

Houshmandzadeh caught 79 passes last year for 911 yards and three scores, his lowest touchdown numbers since his second year in the league.

Both Clayton and Stallworth’s injuries came in the Ravens third preseason game against the New York Giants, as Clayton suffered a concussion after a devastating hit from safety Antrel Rolle, while Stallworth broke his left foot running down the field on a route sometime during the game.

Both receivers survived cuts on Saturday, but with the Houshmandzedah signing today, one or both could be headed to IR or off the Ravens roster as a whole. Neither can be placed on the physically unable to perform list since both have practiced and played in preseason action.

Houshmandzadeh, who was drafted by the Bengals in the 7th round of the 2001 draft out of Oregon State, has caught 586 passes for 6,693 yards and has scored 41 TDs in his career.

He spent his first eight years of his career in Cinncinnati, where he formed a complementary 1-2 punch with former Beaver teammate Chad Johnson, now known as Chad Ocho Cinco. While Johnson was the premier deep-threat, Houshmandzadeh made his living in the slot and on underneath routes, which is a role that may suit him again here in Baltimore.

His best seasons came in 2006 and 2007, when he caught a combined 202 passes for 2,224 yards and 21 scores. Since he has seen significant playing time since 2004, he has caught no less than 73 balls in a year.

He is also familiar with this division very well playing for the Bengals for eight seasons in the AFC North, and was quite the Raven killer catching passes from Carson Palmer.

“We saw him more than we wanted making a lot of plays against us,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said. “We had interest in him a year ago when he first became a free agent before he signed with Seattle.”

Now he is in purple, and should make one of the better receiving corps on paper even better, joining Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

Some would question the move because now, the Ravens have three wide receivers who literally all do the same thing well-run short routes but aren’t great at getting the deep ball.

Harbaugh shot down that mention to the media Monday.

“You know how you stretch the field? You run deep. They’ve got to cover you-especially when you have guys running down the field that can catch the ball. So, you run deep and you throw it to them.”

“If they don’t cover them, they’ll catch the ball and they’ll score…you put good players on the field and they’re threats.”

3:25- With the addition of Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens had to make a move to clear a spot on the roster for the ex Bengal and Seahawk. With Clayton falling down the depth chart with the additions of Houshmandzadeh and the Ravens not wanting to give up on the blazing speed Stallworth shows when healthy, this meant the end for Clayton in Baltimore.

The Ravens traded Mark Clayton to St. Louis Rams for “late-round considerations”. Signing his tender, Clayton was scheduled to make over  2 million dollars and while he showed some progress in the off-season, his injuries continued to mount up, as he suffered a concussion in the preseason victory over the Giants.

Mark Clayton

“Mark is a good person who did everything he could to help the Ravens on and off the field,” Newsome added. “In the end, we have to do what we think is best for the team, but letting Mark go hurts.”

“He was first class all the way, even when we met with him about the trade. This is the tough part of the business.”

The Rams were in the market for a wide receiver with their top wide out, Donnie Avery, out for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee, and their other top receiver, Laurent Robinson, not catching on to the new offense.

And when it comes to Houshmandzadeh and Clayton, Harbaugh said it isn’t fair to Clayton to compare the two’s capabilities.

“It’s not a fair question… it’s a comparison,” Harbaugh noted. ”Both bring a lot to the table to anyone. For us right now, it’s a fresh start with a new guy in T.J. And he’s a big physical guy, and we appreciate that, but they’re both really good players.”

Clayton is re-united with a former Oklahoma Sooner in quarterback Sam Bradford, who was drafted first overall this year by the Rams, and will likely be the #1 option in St. Louis when healthy.

“I had the chance to spend a lot of time talking to the Rams about Mark today…and they’re very excited to have him.  Mark was just one of the most special guys we’ve had here…one of our top leaders.”

Harbaugh made sure to wish Clayton all the luck in the world going to the Rams, the team the Ravens faced last Thursday in their preseason finale.

“I think its good for him to get a opportunity; a little bit of a fresh start there. He’s very talented, and I’m sure he’ll do really well.”

Clayton is the Ravens all-time leader in 100-yard games with nine, and was the Ravens first-round pick in 2005.

Clayton finished his career with the Ravens with 234 catches, 3,116 yards, and 12 TDs.

4:13- Four Ravens were taking snaps from center at the start of practice, including Flacco, Bulger(with a new number, #10 which replaces Troy Smith), Hunter Cantwell who will be on the practice squad, and receiver Anquan Boldin.

Cantwell, who was on the Panthers roster this preseason and saw action against the Ravens in the first preseason game of the year, was picked up by the Ravens over the weekend after being cut from Carolina.

He played his college ball at the University of Louisville.

Boldin, a former prep QB at Pahokee High School, would likely take snaps if something were to happen to both starting QB Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger if both were to fall to injury.

Hunter Cantwell is on the Ravens’ practice squad at this time but not on the active roster.

“I’m obviously disappointed to be cut in Carolina,” Cantwell said, “but my agents and the organization here worked out a deal for me to come on and be the practice squad quarterback and learn the system.”

Cantwell said that he is learning from two of the best in the business in Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger.

“Joe and Marc are great quarterbacks, and have a great reputation,” Cantwell continued. “So to come here and learn from them and be part of this organization, is something I’m excited about.”

4:28- Defensive end Paul Kruger was not on the practice field Monday, still suffering the effects of his injured shoulder suffered during the preseason finale against the Rams.

Willis McGahee, who was absent from practice on Friday, was seen walking out to practice when the media were allowed to view the session.

Both Josh Wilson, acquired over the weekend for a 5th round pick, and Bryan McCann, claimed off waivers after the final roster cuts, practiced.

Wilson was very excited to see a former teammate of his in Houshmandzadeh joining him in Baltimore.

“You get a great player like that, and it’s iciing on the cake,” Wilson said. “I’m happy we went out and got him, and we’ve got something great here. I just want to make sure I can add to that greatness.”

Wilson saw firsthand last year what kind of a player Houshmandzadeh was lining up against him in practice and also got to see what kind of player he was in the locker room.

“With what kind of player he is, he knows how to catch the ball,” Wilson said. “He knows how to get open and make plays. He’s not T.J. Whose-Your-Momma for no reason.”

“He’s a great person,” Wilson continued. “I loved hanging out with T.J. He’s one of your laid back guys who are going to have fun, and I’ve never had a problem with TJ.”

“I love that he’s going to be here. He’s one more person for me to laugh with, hang out with, talk trash with, and just have fun.”

5:53 Also on the field was tackle Oniel Cousins, who has not been cleared to play by the doctors after missing the last two preseason games with a concussion.

Cousins told the media in the locker room that he probably a day or two away from being given the thumbs up to practice.

“I thought I was cleared, but I think I’ve got to go to the doctors tomorrow to make sure everything is finalized and good.”

Cousins said the headaches are behind him.

“Overall, I feel pretty good. The past couple of days, we haven’t really been doing any contact, and practicing more in a conditional and mental thing. I feel pretty good.”

Two other notable injuries came up in conversation at practice, one being linebacker Sergio Kindle and the other being tackle Jared Gaither.

Harbaugh said he has talked to Kindle over the phone about his progression returning from a fractured skull he suffered days before the team reported to training camp.

“I know he’s really excited to get going, and we’ll just have to [wait]… it’s in the hands of the medical people, and we’ll just have to see how that turns out.”

And with Gaither-who is back to lifting weights and is slowly regaining weight-he personally addressed his back spasms, what is described as a thoracic disk ailment.

He has not practiced in full since August 5th.

“It’s really hard with this type of injury, as I’ve been told,” Gaither said.”As soon as it feels better, I want to go out and play. I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens as we get closer and closer to Opening Night against the Jets! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Ravens add WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Mark Clayton appears to be on move

Posted on 05 September 2010 by Glenn Clark

UPDATE: 11:34 a.m. — The Ravens signed WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a one-year, $855,000 contract earlier this Labor Day morning as the players and agents and NFL football personnel folks fight over the final roster moves this holiday weekend.

It is expected that Mark Clayton will be traded or released at some point today as the Ravens need to clear roster space for Houshmandzadeh.

The Baltimore Ravens made additional roster moves Sunday as they now prepare to open the season September 13th against the New York Jets at the new Meadowlands Stadium.

The team claimed CB Bryan McCann off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys and released CB Prince Miller to make room for him on the active roster. McCann is a 5’10″ rookie from SMU who was not selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Miller could still join the Ravens’ practice squad, but must clear waivers first. The Ravens named 6 players to the practice squad Sunday. OL Bryan Mattison, WR Justin Harper, TE Davon Drew, LB Albert McClellan, OT Devin Tyler and RB Curtis Steele were all named to the team. If Miller joins them, the Ravens would have one spot open on their practice squad moving forward. If he does not, they will have two spots available.

The Ravens will practice Monday, have a mandatory day off Tuesday, then practice Wednesday-Saturday in preparation for their Monday Night Football opener. They will not have to release an official injury report until Thursday.

4:50 update: WPSD-TV in Kentucky has reported that the Ravens have added former Carolina Panthers QB Hunter Cantwell to their practice squad as well. Cantwell is a 2nd year QB out of Louisville, he spent the majority of last season on the practice squad with the Panthers-but was signed to the active roster late in the season after Jake Delhomme went on Injured Reserve.

After the Cantwell news is official, the Ravens will have one spot left on their practice squad. The spot may be taken by CB Prince Miller.

-G

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