Tag Archive | "Mark Clayton"

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Live From Owings Mills: Fabian Washington Battling Bruised Ribs, Team Makes Roster Moves

Posted on 30 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens returned to the practice field Monday morning at 1 Winning Drive following their 24-10 win over the New York Giants Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Unfortunately, not all Ravens were on the practice field during the portion of the session open to media.

CB Fabian Washington was a new addition to the list of players not present, with no known new injury. Washington returned from a torn ACL early in Training Camp, but hadn’t missed a practice in recent weeks. Via his Twitter account, Washington said “Good morning world. Another day to get better” shortly before practice began. Coach John Harbaugh told the media Washington missed practice with bruised ribs, and that the team just wanted to get him some rest.

Other Ravens not participating during the portion of practice open to the media included WR Donte’ Stallworth (broken foot-likely to miss at least 8 weeks), CB Marcus Paschal (quad), FB Mike McLaughlin (hip flexor), OL David Hale (concussion), DT Terrence Cody (knee), OT Oniel Cousins (concussion), OL Daniel Sanders (shoulder), OT Jared Gaither (back), WR Mark Clayton (concussion). Cousins was on the field in a helmet-but was wearing shorts. CB Doug Dutch was also not present with no known injury, and it was later confirmed that he had been cut.

The Ravens (and all other NFL teams) had to get down to 75 players before Tuesday’s deadline. Harbaugh said the team would get down to 75 with a “couple other injury settlement things.” Late Monday afternoon they did just that, placing Sanders and Paschal on IR.

WR Eron Riley (back), S/CB KJ Gerard (hamstring) and WR Demetrius Williams (ankle) all returned to practice Monday. S Ed Reed (hip/groin), RB Matt Lawrence (knee) and LB Brendon Ayanbadejo remain on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. LB Sergio Kindle (head) remains unsigned.

With Reed, Lawrence and Ayanbadejo not currently counting against the roster, the team is now below the 75 man limit.

HARBAUGH HONORED: Harbaugh was honored Monday by members of the U.S. Navy; as he was presented with a Cannon Shell from the U.S.S. Constitution and a flag from the U.S.S. Maryland. The Navy decided to honor Harbaugh for the commitments made to the military by the entire organization, including their annual Training Camp “Military Appreciation Day” and an upcoming military partnership they have with Under Armour.

Harbaugh was touched by the gesture and spoke on behalf of the organization, saying “we just feel so strongly about the U.S. Military.”

KICKERS STILL DEADLOCKED: When asked about the status of the kicking competition between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff, Harbaugh responded “we don’t know yet.” He went on to add that the team likely wouldn’t make a decision until the “very last minute.”

Even Graham admitted he didn’t think there “was any unbalancing of the scales” in the competition when he met with reporters. He added that “a decision either way would be justifiable.”

Thus far in the preseason, Graham has made two of his three field goal attempts while Cundiff has connected all three of his attempts.

NOTES: When asked about CB Lardarius Webb’s status (knee) for Thursday night’s preseason finale at the Edward Jones Dome, Harbaugh said “I don’t anticipate him playing in this game.”……Reed made an appearance in the locker room Monday, but declined the opportunity to talk to reporters when approached……Hear from Harbaugh, Graham, Clayton, Webb and DL Lamar Divens NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here at WNST.net……WR Marcus Smith will join Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST Tuesday at 6:45am……The Ravens will have just one more practice open to the media this week before their Thursday night game in St. Louis against the Rams. They will practice tomorrow morning, Wednesday’s walkthrough will be closed to the media.

-G

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Ravens pick up a costly preseason win

Posted on 29 August 2010 by Domenic Vadala

So what can we decipher from the Ravens’ victory over the Giants last night in preseason week three? First off, if there’s ever a preseason game that you want to win (or at least look good, it’s week three. As we know, the third game is the one where the starters generally play the most in the preseason. In next week’s preseason finale against the Falcons, the veterans will play sparingly in the first quarter before surrendering the remainder of the game to the reserves trying to make the team. So if we see Joe Flacco and company at all next week, it won’t be for long. Therefore this game was a nice finishing touch on a preseason where the Ravens’ offense did in fact look pretty good.

So the Ravens win, the starters look good, it’s a win-win, right? Not totally. Wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Mark Clayton both sustained injuries during the game. Win or lose, injuries are big time buzz kills in preseason games. Clayton has a concussion, but is expected to be ready for September 13th against the Jets. Stallworth’s injury is a bit more serious in that he has a broken foot. Preliminary indications say that Stallworth will miss the first half of the season, and will return towards the end of October.

One thing that I found interesting and a bit refreshing was the use of the no-huddle offense, known to many of my generation as the “run-and-shoot.” While twenty years ago many teams such as the Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers utilized this offensive strategy on almost every play. In my opinion the run-and-shoot is something that should be strategically employed when the defense least expects it, which is how the Ravens used it. If a team’s playing against a “run-and-shoot team,” they can game plan for it just like anything else. If a team throws the ball every down without running, they won’t get anywhere because teams will adjust their defense to protect against the pass. The way the Ravens used the no-huddle offense seemed to catch the Giants off guard, which is what it’s designed to do.

So while the Ravens won the game, in a sense they lost because they sustained a major injury to a player that was expected to contribute to the team in a major way. One thing that’ll be interesting to see is whether or not the Ravens pick up another receiver, or stick with what they have for the first part of the season. The Jets released Laverneus Coles this weekend, so he’s available. And go figure, the Ravens open the season against the Jets; Coles wouldn’t only be a valuable fill-in for Stallworth, but he would also potentially know a few things about the Jets that would help the Ravens. Hmm…

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Ravens-Giants Notebook: Stallworth breaks foot, gone two months

Posted on 28 August 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Despite 243 total yards of offense in the first half and an impressive 24-10 thrashing of the New York Giants, the Ravens suffered a significant loss on Saturday night, losing wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth for the next two months due to a broken left foot.

Stallworth will have surgery immediately and a screw will be inserted in the foot with hope that the receiver can return after the bye in Week 8, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

“That’s really disappointing for him and for our football team, obviously,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll do what we do. We’ll step up and the next guy will play well.”

The injury was sustained when the receiver “just planted wrong,” according to teammate Derrick Mason.

With Stallworth working as the punt returner and fourth receiver, the Ravens will now lean more heavily on Tom Zbikowski and Mark Clayton for return duties and will look down the depth chart at Demetrius Williams, David Reed, and Marcus Smith for additional help in the receiving unit.

Passing offense thrives

Joe Flacco may have only played 34 minutes in Saturday night’s win over the New York Giants, but his right arm received a full night’s work as the quarterback threw 34 passes, completing 21 and accumulating 229 yards through the air.

“I like to play and come out and just throw the ball, throw the ball, and throw the ball some more,” Flacco said. “It was fun man. I had a great time, and I think everybody out on the field did.”

It was apparent offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wanted to see his passing offense find a rhythm after an uneven performance against Washington last Saturday. The Ravens decimated the Giants defense for 243 yards of total offense and 17 points in the first half. The offense turned the ball over once in the first half on a late interception thrown by Flacco.

“Our tempo with the no-huddle was good, and our ball protection was better,” Cameron said. “We stressed both this week.”

Flacco’s favorite target on Saturday night was Heap, who continues to have an impressive preseason with two rookie tight ends pushing him for playing time and the veteran avoiding the injury bug. Heap caught six passes for 69 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown catch to put the Ravens ahead, 17-0 in the second quarter.

“It was just a play where [Flacco] had faith in me to go get the ball,” Heap said. “I’m definitely glad to see it work. It’s a play where you have to body the guy up and make a play.”

Boldin-more

Though Anquan Boldin made his Baltimore debut two weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers, Saturday night marked the first time the impact receiver was announced to the crowd in pre-game introductions, earning loud cheers from the 70,742 on hand at M&T Bank Stadium as the starting offense was announced.

The raucous crowd grew even louder when Boldin reined in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Flacco early in the second quarter. The Ravens hope it was the first of many this season as the new impact wideout will be leaned upon to help the passing offense reach new heights. The score put Baltimore up by 10, and the Ravens never looked back.

“We’re just starting to get comfortable with one another,” Boldin said about his relationship with his new quarterback. “For us, we considered the half a real game, and we tried to pick it up a little bit and get in sync because this is truly the first dress rehearsal that we’ll get before the regular season.”

Boldin finished his evening with four catches for 52 yards with the aforementioned touchdown grab. The former Arizona Cardinals receiver has also earned a reputation as a strong blocker during his career, displaying it Saturday night when he wrestled a defensive back to the ground during a run play.

“That’s always been a part of my game,” Boldin said. “I hate to see a running back break a run. He could have gone for 30 or 40 yards, but my guy makes the tackle. So that’s something I take pride in. I was in one of those situations where a guy put his hand on my face mask, that pissed me off a little bit, so I had to get him back.”

Field goal opportunities passed up

The kicking competition remains undecided with Saturday’s victory providing little clarity in the process.

The Ravens converted three fourth-down tries in the second quarter, passing on potential field goal attempts from 26, 53, and 48 yards. Billy Cundiff made the only attempt by either kicker on the night, a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter.

“We have confidence with this [offense] on fourth-and-short, and we’ll continue to be aggressive with those,” Cameron said after the first half.

Shayne Graham lined up for a 41-yard field goal late in the first half, but Mason was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the Ravens out of field-goal range and forcing the punting unit onto the field.

McGahee M.I.A.

Though completely healthy and dressed in uniform, running back Willis McGahee did not play in the third preseason game. The Ravens’ running game did not get much of a workout as a whole in the first half, with only 11 rushing attempts and four of them coming from Flacco.

“We just don’t need to play those [veterans] every single week,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think we need to see what [McGahee] can do.”

Health update

In addition to Stallworth, the Ravens lost another receiver against the Giants when Clayton sustained a concussion on an illegal hit from safety Antrel Rolle in the second quarter.

“That’s obviously something to be careful with, but we’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “It shouldn’t be a long-term thing.”

Linebacker Ray Lewis left the game early in the second quarter and was icing his right knee on the bench in the first half. The 15-year veteran, however, told WNST.net’s Glenn Clark that it was “nothing” to be concerned over after the game.

Odds & ends

The Ravens now hold a 7-5 all-time record against the Giants in the preseason. The victory was the team’s seventh straight preseason win. … Giants receiver Victor Cruz’s 1-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter was the first defensive touchdown allowed by the Baltimore defense in the preseason. … Lardarius Webb was listed as inactive for Saturday’s game, but dressed in uniform and went through pre-game activity before the game. The Ravens’ other inactives were Jared Gaither, Terrence Cody, Oniel Cousins, Demetrius Williams, Eron Riley, Marcus Paschal, K.J. Gerard, David Hale, Daniel Sanders, Ed Reed, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Matt Lawrence.

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Mocking The 53: Roster Taking Shape Through 2 Preseason Games

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Mocking The 53: Roster Taking Shape Through 2 Preseason Games

Posted on 24 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

The Baltimore Ravens have wrapped up Training Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster and have now settled in at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills.

They’ve won their first two preseason games against the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, and have just two more preseason contests left (they host the New York Giants Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium and visit the St. Louis Rams a week from Thursday) before they open the regular season September 13th at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets on the national stage of Monday Night Football.

Before they get there, they’ll have to make some major roster decisions. After the game against the Giants, they’ll have to trim the roster slightly before the Tuesday (August 31) deadline to be down to 75 players. Following that, they’ll have just 4 days to make final decisions before the roster is cut to 53 on Saturday, September 4.

There are no changes to the physical roster (except where we expect Lardarius Webb to be when the season begins) since my 4th “Mocking the 53″ update, but there are some changes to the 53 itself. Before we get to that, a reminder of the explanation of the list I wrote before the initial version…

“Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and company will at least MOSTLY keep the 53 best players on the roster, I am going to try to identify the Top 53 players on the roster myself. It ISN’T a perfect science, and some of the players will have outside circumstances that will influence where they find themselves on the list. Similarly, the Ravens will make some decisions based on health, position needs, etc.

I’m putting “best overall players”, “most significant players”, and “position relevance” into my “Top 53″ rankings. This isn’t just a list of the 53 best players on the team. This is however a list-at this moment-of the 53 players I believe are most likely to make the roster.”

With that in mind, let’s look again at how the Top 53 shapes up…

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. RB Ray Rice
3. OT Michael Oher
oher
4. WR Anquan Boldin
5. DT Haloti Ngata
6. LB Ray Lewis
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
9. LB Jarret Johnson
10. G Ben Grubbs

Only one real change in the Top 10, and it comes from someone who hasn’t performed much at all. Ray Rice has played little at all through two preseason games, and it has shown you everything you need to know about the importance of the 3rd year back from Rutgers. His place in this Ravens offense is INCREDIBLY significant, and without him heavily involved, they are just not the same-no matter who is playing receiver.

Otherwise, everything about the Top 10 remains the same. I know Michael Oher has struggled a bit in the first two preseason games-but Oher is a very good player. He was a bit of a 2nd half guy a season ago (remember his struggles in the first half against Jared Allen when the Ravens visited the Minnesota Vikings but his stellar 2nd half in the same game), and might be a player who just needs some more rhythm to shine. I’m not concerned yet myself.

11. DE Trevor Pryce
12. DL Cory Redding
13. TE Todd Heap
14. DT Terrence Cody
15. CB Fabian Washington
16. FB Le’Ron McClain
17. OL Marshal Yanda
yanda
18. C Matt Birk
19. S Dawan Landry
20. S Tom Zbikowski

Almost all of this group remains the same as well. Tom Zbikowski enters the Top 20, as he has played very well knowing he will be in the starting lineup with the Ravens visit East Rutherford Week 1 barring some sort of Ed Reed miracle. I also think it is worth pointing out that while John Harbaugh may have claimed that he ISN’T voting “McClain 4 RB”, Le’Ron McClain has been very good during the preseason-and it would be surprising if he didn’t make more of an impact in the offense this season.

21. CB Chris Carr
22. OT Jared Gaither
23. QB Marc Bulger
24. TE Ed Dickson
25. S Haruki Nakamura
nakamura
26. CB Lardarius Webb
27. K Shayne Graham
28. WR Mark Clayton
29. OL Chris Chester
30. LB Dannell Ellerbe

There are some subtle changes in this group-starting with Jared Gaither. Gaither falls out of the Top 20 because we just don’t know what to make of his health. The initial prognosis surrounding his back tear made us believe that he should be available before the Ravens head to New Jersey on Sept. 13. Of course, at this point we’re starting to reach a place where “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Dannell Ellerbe moves back into the Top 30 this week. After watching the other interior LB’s competing for the starting JACK spot against the Skins, I get the feeling that Ellerbe’s ability to play the pass will ultimately get him back into the starting lineup.

Lardarius Webb re-enters “The 53″ at #26. As we see more of what he’s capable of doing early on, we will see how quickly he can rise on the list. Shayne Graham drops a few spots as well despite the fact that I truly believe he’ll be the kicker of record come MNF on Sept. 13. I just somehow needed to reflect the fact that Billy Cundiff has kicked well recently, including 2 makes Saturday night at FedEx Field.

31. P Sam Koch
32. RB Willis McGahee
mcgahee
33. WR Donte’ Stallworth
34. DT Kelly Gregg
35. TE Dennis Pitta
36. LB Jameel McClain
37. LB Tavares Gooden
38. CB Cary Williams
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. OT Oniel Cousins

There are a few significant risers in this group. One is Sam Koch, who was tremendous again Saturday night in DC. His contract situation is an uncomfortable spot for the team, as he is going to get paid SOMEWHERE-but the team has set a precedent in the past that they won’t give big money to a punter (see Kyle Richardson and Dave Zastudil).

Willis McGahee also rises on this list, despite the fact that a number of armchair GM’s in Charm City would have already dealt him for just about anyone with the letters “CB” next to their name. McGahee continues to prove himself as being very valuable, both as a reserve who can take a number of carries and as an impressive short yardage back.

The third riser in this group is Cary Williams-who was exceptional again Saturday night. It may have been preseason football, but the QB Williams picked off (Donovan McNabb) is still a future Hall of Famer. Williams’ size (he’s 6’1″) really DOES make a difference when it comes to how we look at his role moving forward. Should he continue to play similar to his size, Williams could develop into a legitimate NFL corner.

41. LB Antwan Barnes
42. S Ken Hamlin
43. QB Troy Smith
44. DT Kelly Talavou
45. DT Brandon McKinney
46. RB Jalen Parmele
parmele
47. OL Tony Moll
48. LS Morgan Cox
49. CB Travis Fisher
50. OL David Hale
51. LB Jason Phillips
52. WR David Reed
53. S/CB KJ Gerard

Travis Fisher is hanging by a thread-and I would suggest that at this point he’s BARELY ahead of either KJ Gerard or Prince Miller. No matter how quick Anthony Armstrong is, there’s no way that Fisher should have been embarrassed by him the way he was Saturday night. I’ll leave him on the roster for now, if only because the Ravens have to have SOME healthy corners lining up against Santonio Holmes Braylon Edwards and company September 13. I’m also keeping Gerard ahead of Prince Miller, only because Gerard has more to offer on Special Teams right now than Miller does.

(Editor’s note: Thanks to all who pointed out Holmes will miss the first 4 games. Absolutely right. My mistake. I need a better editor. Or an editor.)

Two players who I moved back onto the roster thanks to their performance Saturday night are Jason Phillips and David Reed. Reed not only played well offensively, but also made a very key Special Teams tackle. Proving his value on Special Teams changes everything-which goes for Phillips as well. That being said, Edgar Jones is a very valuable AND versatile player who I currently have OFF the 53, so these standings remain tentative.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)
(LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-potential PUP or injury settlement until known otherwise)
(RB Matt Lawrence-potential PUP or injury settlement until known otherwise)

I’m taking both Ayanbadejo and Lawrence out of the equation for now. There are other players on this team battling injuries, but neither of them have even done significant work in practice. Until I see that, I’m going to work under the assumption that they won’t be part of the team Week 1. That can change rapidly. A week ago, we were working under the assumption that Lardarius Webb would start the season on PUP.

54. K Billy Cundiff
55. CB Prince Miller
56. LB Edgar Jones
57. WR Demetrius Williams
58. DT Arthur Jones
59. OT Ramon Harewood
60. DT Lamar Divens
divens
61. TE Davon Drew
62. LB Prescott Burgess
63. WR Marcus Smith
64. WR Justin Harper
65. FB Mike McLaughlin
66. WR Eron Riley
67. DE Albert McClellan
68. RB Curtis Steele
69. OT Joe Reitz
70. CB Marcus Paschal

The reality is that Miller, Edgar Jones and Williams are in direct competition at positions where there is probably room to keep another player. Arthur Jones and Divens are probably in positions where keeping another player just might not be a legitimate option. Of course, we didn’t all think the Ravens would keep both McKinney and Talavou a season ago, and what did we learn there?

Mike McLaughlin’s name will keep coming up, but keeping him on the 53 really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There isn’t MUCH risk in exposing an undrafted rookie FB who has just converted to LB. Giving him more time on the practice squad could really benefit him as a player.

71. CB Doug Dutch
dougdutch
72. OL Bryan Mattison
73. OT Stefan Rodgers
74. CB Brad Jones
75. CB Chris Hawkins
76. OT Daniel Sanders
77. OT Devin Tyler

A good sign that you’re a longshot to make the roster? A simple Google image search doesn’t come up with a legitimate picture of you. Thank God for Facebook. Hopefully there’s some practice squad help in this group.

There you have it. Questions? Concerns? Comments? Thoughts in general? Song requests? Let me know.

-G

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Friday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

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Friday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

Happy Friday!

It’s a Happy Friday for me because my boy Mike Polk (who did the EXCELLENT Cleveland tourism videos) is back with another song that I’m sure will be a SMASH hit in The Comeback City. It has something to do with a guy who used to play for the Cavaliers. The language is probably NSFW-unless of course you work for me. In which case, the language is basically how I say hello. (Thanks Deadspin!)…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIe23C1NvU4[/youtube]

Let’s see what everyone has to say…

1. The AP’s David Ginsburg says Matusz sharp as Orioles dropped Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Brian Matusz was MASTERFUL last night.

Masterful to the point that after the Orioles had scored one run, I almost pulled a Drew Forrester and declared the game ‘over’ on Twitter (follow us @WNST).

Here’s the question: can Brian Matusz pitch like that (or at least consistently good) over a consistent stretch of the season? If he can, he’ll be the pitcher that Orioles fans hoped for. In fact, he’ll be a pitcher that could have made even Dave Trembley look like a real manager.

It’s nice to see it every now and then, as it makes you think it’s possible. But until I see it with regularity, it’s actually just frustrating.

You know what ISN’T frustrating? Winning. That’s awesome. Let’s keep doing that.

2. The AP/WNST.net provide numerical evidence of loss

There’s plenty good to look at here…which is strange. Matt Wieters, Corey Patterson, Brian Roberts and Felix Pie were all solid at the plate-and Koji Uehara finished things off in the 9th.

All of these are good things.

So go ahead and look at the numbers today. After you do that-take a look at Alessandra Torresani; who apparently posed for FHM…and my heart. (Thanks Guyism!)

fhm

3. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli says Ty Wigginton, Andres Blanco engaged in spat after play at third in Birds’ win

This is why I can never be a “baseball guy.”

The stupid “unwritten rules”, the “baseball stuff”, etc.

Ty Wigginton blocked third base-which seemed smart enough to me. He didn’t want the guy who had just crushed a double to be able to reach third base. I didn’t either. So I was happy that Ty Wigginton blocked third base.

The guy that crushed the double thought it was a bad move baseball-wise. There are probably a least a handful of folks who feel the same way.

The discussion is so ridiculous to me that we might as well be discussing someone’s VORP while we’re at it.

Ugh.

4. Washington Post’s Dave Sheinin says O’s believe there’s ‘no coincidence’ they started playing better when Buck Showalter showed up

I’m well aware that Buck Showalter didn’t come to Charm City, flip over tables, yell at everyone in earshot and threaten immediate firings if the team didn’t start winning games.

But there is no doubt in my mind that Buck Showalter’s arrival reflected a mentality in players that their roster spot wasn’t going to be guaranteed moving forward just because they were part of Andy MacPhail’s “plan.”

Unlike under Trembley (or Juan Samuel), it appears clear that Showalter isn’t going to keep someone on the roster come Opening Day 2011 just because Andy MacPhail wants to see what they have in the player. The best 25 guys are going to make the roster.

The pitchers who have shown signs of being good but haven’t been consistent (Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen of course top the list) are going to have to prove that they’re amongst the Top 25.

That’s as good an explanation as any as to why this team has played better since Showalter arrived. The laziness of another losing summer has made way for an understanding that every man on the roster is going to have to earn anything they might get moving forward.

5. The Sun’s Dean Jones Jr. says Robert Andino homered for Norfolk Tides in loss to Durham Bulls on farm

And before we move on from the Orioles, a couple of things…

-The Birds and Rangers continue their 4 game set tonight at OPACY; with Jake Arrieta facing C.J. Wilson. First pitch is at 7:05pm and the game can be seen on MASN2. Brad Bergesen and Kevin Millwood wrap the series for the Birds, they’ll face Cliff Lee and Tommy Hunter respectively.

-A reminder that tomorrow’s game is not on MASN or MASN2-but instead on FOX. That’s two straight Saturday FOX games for the Birds. Earlier in the year I would have preferred watching “That 70′s Show” reruns, but the Orioles have been downright watchable recently. I’d still prefer “That 70′s Show” reruns, but who wouldn’t???

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

6. WNST.net’s Luke Jones says Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes Lardarius Webb ‘very close’ to returning from PUP list

I’m really interested in exactly how this plays out next week in Owings Mills. Having Webb part of the 53 man roster is good for multiple reasons. First of all, it gives the Ravens DESPERATELY needed depth amongst their top corners. Secondly, it may help them avoid having to keep someone on the 53 man roster that they might not necessarily want to keep-like a Cary Williams or Prince Miller.

Now, Webb has to get on the practice field at 1 Winning Drive first-and then has to prove that he’s ready to play in a game. Even if the Ravens choose to hold him out against the New York Giants next week and the St. Louis Rams in 2 weeks; he has to prove that he’s game ready for September 13 against the New York Jets.

If he does that, everything about this roster improves.

7. BaltimoreRavens.com’s Mike Duffy says Ed Dickson, Mark Clayton expected to play vs. Washington Redskins Saturday night; Oniel Cousins unlikely, Chris Carr ‘unknown’

I expect to see at least a bit of Carr on the field at FedEx Field tomorrow night, probably about as much as we’ll see from Fabian Washington. It will likely be the Travis Fisher/Cary Williams/Prince Miller show in the secondary again-and almost no doubt there will be more of Chris Hawkins and Doug Dutch as well.

At tackle, expect to see plenty of Tony Moll tomorrow night. I’m a bit surprised the Ravens didn’t make a move to bring in an extra body this week at tackle. Even more surprised knowing Louisa Lytton is not currently on another NFL roster. (Thanks Don Chavez!)…

lytton

8. Carroll County Times’ Aaron Wilson says record 112,000 fans attended Training Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster

And before we move on from the Ravens, a couple of things…

-The Ravens are walking through today, but you cannot see it live and in person as it is closed to both the media and public. They’ll face the Skins tomorrow night at FedEx Field in Landover (the city formerly known as Raljon), kickoff is at 7pm and the game can be seen live on WBAL11 and Comcast SportsNet (the CSN version is the DC broadcast). Luke Jones and I will be live at FedEx Field, hosting a “Purple Haze” chat here at WNST.net.

-Did you miss Le’Ron McClain live with Thyrl Nelson Thursday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST? Make sure you head over to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault today to check it out. Other things available in the Audio Vault include…

  • Graham Gano (Redskins kicker and former Raven)-who joined Rex Snider Thursday afternoon to preview tomorrow night’s game
  • Audio from all around Westminster-including John Harbaugh, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb and Dannell Ellerbe
  • Greg Aiello (NFL PR Director)-who joined Rex Thursday to discuss all things Roger Goodell
  • Tom Grieve (Rangers color Analyst)-who discussed Josh Hamilton and all things Rangers with Rex as well
  • All of the Baltimore sports media auditions with Nestor Aparicio on “The Morning Reaction” Friday

It’s all there in the Audio Vault, so you have your day planned. I’m really much too good to you.

9. D1scourse’s Patrick Stevens says Maryland reserve LB Ben Pooler likely to miss season after tearing ACL in camp

While not necessarily devastating news for Ralph Friedgen’s Terps, it certainly isn’t good news either.

The Terrapins will need some LB depth, and I think Jacqueline Kirby might be the perfect choice. (Thanks Uncoached via Busted Coverage!)

kirby

10. LA Times’ Lisa Dillman says Michael Phelps failed to make final in 400 meter individual medley at Pan Pacifics

I’m not too terribly worked up by this, as this is not particularly easy.

In fact, it’s almost as tough as trying to remember the names of all of Antonio Cromartie’s kids. (Thanks HBO via Fanhouse and YouTube!)…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5qzQ2HBh0s[/youtube]

And finally, I leave you with this.

So apparently I was duped on “The Skinwich” yesterday. It ISN’T something KFC is planning on rolling out now or anytime in the future.

BUT…that doesn’t mean that all food in the world is healthy and NOT delicious. Thanks to The Smoking Jacket, I offer you some other ideas. One if IHOP’s Pancake Cheesecake Sandwich…

IHOP

Another is Friendly’s Mac ‘n Cheese Quesadilla…

friendlys

You know what, I’m going to need a minute here…

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Ravens Training Camp: The impressive and disappointing

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Another Westminster training camp has concluded with the Ravens now focusing their attention to the final three games of the preseason before the 2010 regular season gets underway against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.

Saturday night’s meeting with the Washington Redskins will be a key audition for  bubble players as coach John Harbaugh has already stated how important the second preseason game is for evaluating rookies and reserve veterans fighting for a roster spot.

Much will change before the initial cutdown to 75 players takes place on Aug. 31 and the final cut to 53 on Sept. 4, but here’s a breakdown of players—by position—who impressed and disappointed in Westminster.

QUARTERBACKS
Impressed: Joe Flacco is an easy choice after a strong camp with his new offensive weapons. The third-year quarterback still must prove he can read and throw to the middle of the field, but Anquan Boldin and a strong group of tight ends will certainly help.

Disappointed: Troy Smith knew his standing in the organization changed dramatically after the acquisition of Marc Bulger, and the former Heisman Trophy winner did nothing to push the veteran for the backup job. Smith lacks size and was too erratic in Westminster. He will stick as the No. 3 quarterback, but his performance made the Ravens look very wise for signing Bulger.

RUNNING BACKS
Impressed: Hard to go with anyone but Ray Rice at this spot despite Willis McGahee looking solid and healthy as well. Rice looked to be in mid-season form the first day veterans reported to Westminster. It will be another Pro Bowl season for the third-year back if he remains healthy.

Disappointed: Not his fault, but Matt Lawrence’s chance of making the 53-man roster continues to diminish as he remains on the physically unable to perform list. He is a capable special teams player when healthy, but this summer’s roster is too deep.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Impressed: Everyone assumed Mark Clayton would be cast aside in the offense when the Ravens acquired Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, but the former starter had a strong training camp, catching everything thrown his way. Stallworth was the logical choice as the No. 3 receiver, but Clayton received more reps in three-wide sets over the final two weeks of camp.

Disappointed: The Ravens loved what they saw out of David Reed during the OTA schedule, but the rookie failed to adjust to the quicker speed of training camp. Considered a sure-handed receiver coming out of Utah, Reed dropped countless passes and was not been given much of a look as a kick returner. Demetrius Williams is clearly ahead of Reed in the battle for the fifth receiver spot.

TIGHT ENDS
Impressed: Ed Dickson looked more like an established—not to mention explosive—veteran than a rookie on the upper fields at McDaniel College. The 6-foot-4 Dickson has tremendous size and great speed for a tight end. His versatility will be a welcome addition when the Ravens use him in two-tight end sets and at H-back on occasion. On a side note, Todd Heap had an excellent camp, showing he’s still capable of producing when healthy.

Disappointed: Already facing an uphill battle to make the roster after the drafting of Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Davon Drew was not able to stay on the field this summer. Drew showed more consistency than he did last season as a rookie, but it’s difficult to make the team when you’re never on the field. He’ll need to get healthy and make an impact in the remaining preseason games.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Impressed: Fellow guard Ben Grubbs earns more notoriety, but Marshal Yanda was ferocious in Westminster, proving he’s all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered two seasons ago. Yanda anchored and stood up Terrence Cody during a 1-on-1 drill in one of the highlights of the summer, just a couple plays after the 350-pounder had blown up the highly-regarded Grubbs.

Disappointed: Showing up 30 pounds lighter without the coaching staff’s approval and injuring his back on the first day of full-team workouts made Jared Gaither a slam-dunk choice. Not only are there concerns whether he’ll be ready by Week 1, but he’s missed valuable time to adjust to the right tackle position.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Impressed: He got off to a slow start while adjusting to playing with the 15 extra pounds he gained in the offseason, but Paul Kruger became a force on the defensive line, off the edge and even sliding to the inside in the nickel package. If Kruger can replicate what he showed in Westminster over the last two weeks, the Ravens will have another factor in the pass rush.

Disappointed: None. This is the deepest unit on the team. The only disappointment on the defensive line is the reality that the organization will have to cut a couple of talented players due to numbers.

LINEBACKERS
Impressed: His performance in the Carolina game aside, Jameel McClain was the biggest surprise of camp over the first three weeks, working at inside linebacker with the first defense. McClain played the run well and showed competence in pass coverage, but it did not carry over against the Panthers in the preseason opener. The competition for the starting job next to Ray Lewis is still wide open. Antwan Barnes earns an honorable mention.

Disappointed: The likely favorite to win the second inside linebacker spot prior to camp, Dannell Ellerbe came to Westminster out of shape and trailed McClain and Tavares Gooden for much of the way. Ellerbe improved his standing as the weeks progressed, but it was apparent how unhappy the coaching staff was as Ellerbe worked with the second defense in Westminster.

CORNERBACKS
Impressed: Expected to be brought back slowly, Fabian Washington provided a much-needed lift to the secondary when he returned to the field during the first week of camp. Washington appeared quick and made more plays as the weeks progressed. He will see his first game action against the Redskins on Saturday night and will be relied upon to be the team’s top corner, even if he’s nowhere near a true No. 1.

Disappointed: The injury to Domonique Foxworth is most appropriate here, but the brief eight-day stint of Walt Harris takes the cake in this department. He was unable to show he had anything left in the tank despite a solid career. And it’s tough labeling the likes of Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins as disappointments if you never had any expectations to begin with.

SAFETY
Impressed: While no one compares to Ed Reed, Tom Zbikowski eased concerns at the position with a very strong showing in Westminster. Zbikowski is faster and showed a strong nose for the football this summer after doing an adequate job in Reed’s place for four games last season. Despite not knowing the status of its future Hall of Famer, this unit of safeties looks very sound with Zbikowski and Dawan Landry anchoring the secondary.

Disappointed: Though labeling him a disappointment is bit strong, Ken Hamlin has done little to challenge Zbikowski for the free safety position, partly because the latter was excellent in practice. Hamlin was solid, but unspectacular, running with the second defense. The former Cowboy has great size (6-foot-2) but needs to show a stronger special teams presence to stick around when Reed returns to the field.

SPECIALISTS
Impressed: Yes, he’s younger, cheaper, and healthier, but the Ravens clearly loved what they saw from Morgan Cox to have jettisoned veteran Matt Katula two days after the preseason opener. Fans can only hope we won’t hear his name again all season.

Disappointed: Though he’s kicked reasonably well, the Ravens certainly wished Shayne Graham had seized early control of the competition with Billy Cundiff. Until the final two days of camp, Cundiff had outperformed the former Bengal by a slight margin. Graham struggled with field goals outside 45 yards in Westminster but kicked better during the practice at M&T Bank Stadium. The smart money is still on Graham to be the kicker, but the battle has been closer than most people thought.

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Live from Westminster: Webb still on PUP, “very close” to returning

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Ravens concluded their final morning practice at McDaniel College without a single player leaving the field with an injury.

They also appear to be regaining a key member of their secondary in the near future.

Despite speculation that Lardarius Webb would come off the Physically Unable to Perform list on Thursday, the second-year cornerback did not practice, but the Ravens hope Webb can return to practice before the team’s third preseason game against the New York Giants.

“He’s very close,” John Harbaugh said. “He’s right there. That’s up to the doctors to make the decision about when he practices, but he’s right there and I know he wants to practice.”

Webb said earlier in the week he did not want to play in the preseason, citing a desire not to rush his surgically-repaired right knee, but both Harbaugh and Webb have backed off those comments slightly. The cornerback has been working on his conditioning and lateral movement on a regular basis, with his most intense work coming Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m just working on my confidence [in my knee] right now,” Webb said.

The cornerback did not want to discuss specifics about his progress or a time frame for his return, only saying the knee is “coming along” several times and deferring to Harbaugh for any other questions about his return.

“I was taught not to talk as much,” said Webb, clarifying his brief answers to the media. “I got in trouble for talking to you all one time. They said I said something, so I have to keep everything short right now. So that’s why you’re getting the short answers.”

As Webb continues to move closer to a return, cornerback Chris Carr practiced fully for the first time since playing briefly in the preseason opener last Thursday. Carr says his injured left hamstring is feeling much better but will see how he feels on Saturday before determining how much he’ll play in the second preseason game.

“I felt pretty good out here,” Carr said following the Thursday morning practice. “The last couple days I came out here and practiced a little bit and did some conditioning. During my exercises and stuff, my hamstring felt just as strong as my right one does. That was a good sign, so I felt pretty confident coming out here today being able to do everything.”

Center Matt Birk (neck), linebacker Prescott Burgess (undisclosed), and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee) returned to the practice field as well as linebacker Tavares Gooden (neck) and fullback Le’Ron McClain (back/upper leg), though both were limited.

Receiver Mark Clayton and tight end Ed Dickson were new absences from practice. Clayton is dealing with “soreness” in his legs, according to Harbaugh, though he had his right ankle taped on Wednesday morning.

Dickson is dealing with an issue in the hip flexor and groin region and was held out by Harbaugh despite the rookie’s wishes to return to the practice field after sitting out a special teams workout on Wednesday afternoon. The injury is not considered to be serious.

“That was my call [on holding Dickson out],” Harbaugh said. “I just don’t want him to do anything to that that’s more serious.”

Others absent from practice included tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg), and offensive linemen David Hale (tailbone), Oniel Cousins (headache), Daniel Sanders (arm), and Stefan Rodgers (arm).

In addition to Webb, safety Ed Reed (hip), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps) remain on the active PUP list.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh, Webb, Carr, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe as well as Le’Ron McClain’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson.

__________________________________________________________

1:50 p.m. — Players practiced in shells and shorts with only two days remaining until the second preseason game against the Redskins.

Cornerback Travis Fisher was picked on quite a bit during practice, being beaten by Anquan Boldin, Demetrius Williams, and Donte’ Stallworth in a 10-minute span at one point during the morning session. Perhaps it’s the curse of No. 41 (see Frank Walker).

With Tavares Gooden being limited as he continues to rest his neck, Dannell Ellerbe took the reps at inside linebacker with the first team.

Chris Carr played the nickel spot when the Ravens ran their three-cornerback packages with Cary Williams and Fisher rotating on the outside.

Offensively, Boldin, Stallworth, and Williams were in on three-wide sets with Derrick Mason resting and Mark Clayton out with a sore ankle. This was just the latest indication that Williams has solidified his role as the No. 5 receiver with rookie David Reed struggling during training camp.

1:45 p.m. — Billy Cundiff has held a slight edge over Shayne Graham in the kicking competition thus far, but the former struggled considerably on the final day of workouts in Westminster.

Cundiff missed from 38 and 53 yards and hit the left upright on another late attempt at the end of practice while Shayne Graham connected from 48 and 53 yards despite missing a long attempt of his own before the conclusion of practice.

With our daily kicking updates coming to an end, we’ll have to rely on the kickers’ performance in the final three preseason games, which will carry far more weight in determining who will be the guy on Sept. 13 against the New York Jets.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens limping through final days of camp

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — With injuries continuing to hinder the training camp roster, John Harbaugh and the Ravens are probably thinking they cannot get away from McDaniel College fast enough and back to the cozy confines of 1 Winning Drive as the injury list continues to grow daily, particularly on the offensive line.

Right tackle Oniel Cousins was carted off the field after suffering from a headache on Wednesday morning. Cousins, already filling in for the injured Jared Gaither (back tear), appeared to be laboring earlier in practice and stood on the sidelines for a considerable time before leaving the field. The training staff will test Cousins for a possible concussion.

Tony Moll filled in on the right side in Cousins’ absence while Chris Chester continues to handle the center position in place of Matt Birk (neck). Other linemen missing practice included Stefan Rodgers (arm) and Daniel Sanders (arm).

It was an “over-30 club” day in Westminster, meaning the likes of Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason were given the day off. With veterans receiving a respite and so many others not practicing, fans could be forgiven if they didn’t recognize all players running with the starting units at times.

New absences from practice included fullback Le’Ron McClain (back/thigh) and linebackers Tavares Gooden (neck) and Prescott Burgess (undisclosed). McClain appeared to be dealing with an upper thigh issue over the last few days, even having the hip and thigh region wrapped during Saturday afternoon’s practice. The starting fullback was in street clothes, walking with a limp during the morning session, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

Gooden continues to deal with neck spasms after sustaining an awkward hit to the neck in the preseason opener. Despite practicing the last two days, the team will use caution the rest of the week in hopes that Gooden will be able to play against the Redskins on Saturday.

“[The neck] just keeps tightening back up on him,” Harbaugh said. “We need to just sit him down and settle him down.”

Gooden’s health clouds what has been an intriguing competition at inside linebacker after Jameel McClain lost his stronghold at the position with a poor performance in the preseason opener. McClain has received more work at the “Sam” outside linebacker with the second unit this week. Harbaugh hopes to get extended looks at all three with the starting defense over the final three preseason games.

“We’ll kind of move those guys around the next two weeks, and we’ll know where we’re at.”

In addition to the “over-30″ club—which includes Lewis, Mason, Birk, Todd Heap, Travis Fisher, Trevor Pryce, and Kelly Gregg (Ed Reed and Brendon Ayanbadejo are still on the PUP list)—defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), and defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg) joined the aforementioned players as non-participants in the morning practice.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh, rookie receiver David Reed, and safety Tom Zbikowski’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson following practice.

______________________________________________________________________

1:40 p.m. — Both Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham missed from 45 yards on Wednesday morning. Cundiff pulled his attempt wide left while Graham was wide right on his try.

Each kicker connected from 19, 40, and 51 yards as both continue to produce similar results day in and day out in Westminster.

12:45 p.m. — With Thursday being the last two-a-day of the summer, coaches and players are laboring through the final workouts in Westminster and toward the remainder of the preseason schedule. John Harbaugh has been pleased with the team’s work during camp, evidenced by his cancellation of three practices (one on Saturday and two on Sunday) over the last week.

“You get to this point and it’s time to [go],” Harbaugh said. “You’re looking into the next phase of camp. Going into this practice [on Tuesday morning], we wanted to make sure that we have five good practices before we leave here, to make the most of it, and we did a good job today.”

The Ravens will conduct a walk-through on Friday before breaking camp and continuing their preseason preparation at their practice complex in Owings Mills.

12:35 p.m. — As mentioned yesterday, rookie David Reed has struggled to catch the ball consistently after a strong beginning in Westminster. Reed, a fifth-round pick in April, was expected to battle for the fifth receiver job but has fallen out of contention with Demetrius Williams having such a strong—and injury-free—training camp.

With three preseason games remaining, Reed will need a strong showing at receiver and on special teams to avoid being cut or stashed away on the practice squad—or Injured Reserve with a mysterious injury.

“You want consistency,” Harbaugh said about the young receivers following Tuesday’s practice. “For whatever reason, we dropped a lot of balls out here today. I thought the quarterbacks were just a little more in rhythm with their throws [and] a little quicker versus the pressure, which is what we want, and maybe it caught the receivers a little bit off guard.”

Hale acknowledges he has struggled to catch the football in camp, something he has not experienced previously in his career.

“I don’t drop too many passes [typically],” Reed said. “That’s one thing I carry myself [with], I don’t drop passes. I’m getting it back.”

12:20 p.m. — Cornerback Chris Carr and receiver Mark Clayton suited up to practice but were limited participants throughout the morning session. Carr has taken part in individual drills the last two days but continues to sit out team portions of practice as he continues to recover from a left hamstring injury sustained on Aug. 7.

With Carr sitting out 11-on-11 drills and the 30-year-old Travis Fisher not practicing, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams were the cornerbacks with the first defense.

Clayton had his right ankle taped before walking out to practice, but the receiver stood on the sideline without a helmet and gloves for much of practice. Demetrius Williams and Donte’ Stallworth split reps at receiver opposite of Anquan Boldin with Clayton out and Mason receiving the day off.

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Mocking The 53: Checking Ravens Roster After Preseason Opener

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Mocking The 53: Checking Ravens Roster After Preseason Opener

Posted on 16 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

My 3rd Edition of “Mocking The 53″ hit WNST.net just 9 days ago, and much has changed since that time. The most notable difference is the departure of veteran LS Matt Katula, whose roster spot was taken by rookie CB Brad Jones (Cincinnati).

However, there is also some tinkering to the 53 based on how Baltimore Ravens players performed against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium; and how they continue to perform during Training Camp practices at McDaniel College in Westminster.

For the record, I’ve never been more convinced that any of 60 guys could end up making the final roster. There might not be 70 NFL players on the roster like there were before Camp, but there are still PLENTY of players who have every opportunity to end up amongst the 53.

Here’s a reminder of how I explained these rankings the first time I put them together…

“Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and company will at least MOSTLY keep the 53 best players on the roster, I am going to try to identify the Top 53 players on the roster myself. It ISN’T a perfect science, and some of the players will have outside circumstances that will influence where they find themselves on the list. Similarly, the Ravens will make some decisions based on health, position needs, etc.

I’m putting “best overall players”, “most significant players”, and “position relevance” into my “Top 53″ rankings. This isn’t just a list of the 53 best players on the team. This is however a list-at this moment-of the 53 players I believe are most likely to make the roster.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the 53 shapes up…

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. OT Michael Oher
3. WR Anquan Boldin
4. DT Haloti Ngata
5. RB Ray Rice
rice

6. LB Ray Lewis
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
9. LB Jarret Johnson
10. G Ben Grubbs

I think we were reminded of just how much the Ravens value Ray Rice when he was all but held out of the preseason opener. It’s very clear who the Top 6 players are on the team-just not quite as clear what order the Top 6 are in. Ben Grubbs cracks the Top 10 for the first time, and with the way O-Linemen have been getting banged up for this team during Camp, he might still be rising.

11. DE Trevor Pryce
12. DL Cory Redding
13. TE Todd Heap
14. DT Terrence Cody
15. CB Fabian Washington
fabian
16. OT Jared Gaither
17. FB Le’Ron McClain
18. OL Marshal Yanda
19. C Matt Birk
20. S Dawan Landry

While Fabian Washington and Terrence Cody continue to climb, Jared Gaither is absolutely falling. John Harbaugh said he expected Gaither to miss 2-3 weeks; but didn’t appear to rule out the possibility that his back tear could keep him out longer. With that in mind, his value falls a bit.

On the flip side, after a rough start to Camp-Cody came on big time against the Panthers. He showed quite a bit of the promise the Ravens had hoped he would when they selected him in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft out of Alabama. Kelly Gregg may still be the starter in the middle of the D-Line, but Cody has significantly greater upside.

Washington is going to have to be ready to be a Top 15 guy on this team whether he’s…well…ready or not. It’s hard to move him so high without him having played against the Panthers, but his importance to the overall makeup of the roster cannot be understated.

21. S Tom Zbikowski
tomz
22. CB Chris Carr
23. LB Jameel McClain
24. K Shayne Graham
25. TE Ed Dickson
26. QB Marc Bulger
27. S Haruki Nakamura
28. WR Mark Clayton
29. DT Kelly Gregg
30. WR Donte’ Stallworth

A couple of movers in this group-including Jameel McClain, who appeared to have the starting ILB job nailed down next to Ray Lewis but has since been splitting time. He’s still very much in the mix and likely ahead of Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden, but we’ll need to see what the team does Saturday night against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

Chris Carr and Tom Zbikowski are risers, as their spots as starters have been solidified in recent weeks. Zbikowski may also end up winning the punt return job (I have him slightly ahead of Clayton and Stallworth right now), which could be enough to get him in the Top 20.

As far as Clayton and Stallworth are concerned-Clayton moves ahead of Stallworth for the first time as it appears he’ll be the team’s 3rd receiver. Expect both to get plenty of snaps throughout the season however.

Don’t be surprised if Ed Dickson is this team’s top Tight End sometime between now and the start of the 2011 season. He’ll be in the Top 20 on this list soon.

31. OL Chris Chester
32. LB Dannell Ellerbe
33. TE Dennis Pitta
34. P Sam Koch
35. LB Tavares Gooden
36. RB Willis McGahee
37. LB Antwan Barnes
abarnes
38. QB Troy Smith
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. CB Travis Fisher

Nothing drastically different about this group as of right now. Should Ellerbe or Gooden end up beating Jameel McClain out for the other ILB job, they would clearly move ahead of him on the roster. A good showing against the Panthers lifts Paul Kruger a bit, and the team continues to tell me they’re pleased with what they’ve seen from the 2nd year DE out of Utah since he reported to Westminster.

There have been rumblings that the team could keep just Flacco and Bulger and allow Troy Smith to walk-but I doubt that. Flacco and Bulger are similar QB’s, while Troy Smith is particularly different. After seeing what happened two years ago when Smith got sick and Kyle Boller got hurt, I don’t think the organization is ready to trim the number of QB’s on the Week 1 roster.

41. OT Oniel Cousins
42. S Ken Hamlin
43. DT Kelly Talavou
talavou
44. DT Brandon McKinney
45. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
46. RB Jalen Parmele
47. CB Cary Williams
48. OL David Hale
49. OL Tony Moll
50. LS Morgan Cox
51. LB Edgar Jones
52. S KJ Gerard
53. WR Demetrius Williams

A few things worth mentioning in this final group:

-David Hale was injured during practice Monday. Until we know more about the nature of the injury we have to assume he’s safely on the roster when the Ravens visit the New York Jets September 13th.

-I have Talavou and McKinney ahead of Arthur Jones and Lamar Divens right now, but Divens has had a solid camp and Jones is a player the Ravens might not want to risk exposing. All 4 remain very much in the mix to be on the team when they get to East Rutherford.

-Despite his suspension, Cary Williams basically has to be a safe bet to be on the team as he’s the 4th corner right now. That being said, the team could still make roster moves between now and their Week 1 appearance on Monday Night Football. Should they do that, Williams could be in trouble. If Williams DOES make the roster, the team will almost be forced to keep an additional corner. I’m keeping KJ Gerard ahead of Prince Miller for now, but if Gerard doesn’t get healthy soon he’ll forfeit that spot right back to Miller.

-Brendon Ayanbadejo is sliding. While he still appears upbeat about his spot on this team, I’m not sure how much longer it can be assumed. He hasn’t really been noticed doing much work on the side, and team sources have told me they’re disappointed in how long Ayanbadejo has remained out. Should he return, he has every chance to make an impact in the nickel package and on special teams; but he has to return to do that.

-I moved Demetrius Williams back to the safe side of the roster and David Reed off. Reed was expected to make a more significant impact in the return game-but that hasn’t necessarily been seen just yet. He could still win the kick return job-which would get him back on the good side of the roster bubble. In the meantime, Williams’ size continues to somehow separate him from the rest of the receivers on this team-which is enough to get him back on the good side of the bubble.

-Morgan Cox takes a spot in the 53. As the team’s only long snapper, that’s a bit of a no-brainer.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(CB Lardarius Webb-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)

54. K Billy Cundiff
55. CB Prince Miller
56. DT Arthur Jones
57. OT Ramon Harewood
58. WR David Reed
59. RB Matt Lawrence
60. TE Davon Drew
ddrew
61. LB Prescott Burgess
62. LB Jason Phillips
63. DT Lamar Divens
64. WR Marcus Smith
65. WR Justin Harper
66. FB Mike McLaughlin
67. WR Eron Riley
68. DE Albert McClellan
69. RB Curtis Steele
70. OT Joe Reitz

Plenty of things worth discussing about this group:

-Mike McLaughlin COULD make the roster at FB with the team apparently more willing to give Le’Ron McClain carries; but I don’t expect it just yet. McLaughlin isn’t the type of guy the team would HAVE to keep to avoid exposing him, so I imagine he’ll end up on the practice squad.

-Billy Cundiff is MUCH closer in the kicking competition than he might appear; but the team has made it clear that Shayne Graham will be their guy. If he’s not going to make the roster, I can’t have Cundiff ahead of 54th.

-Jason Phillips is a guy the team likes a great deal, but may be a victim of a numbers game. He doesn’t have a natural role right now that makes him a guarantee to earn a spot. Prescott Burgess is in a similar position.

-Don’t be stunned if the team ends up keeping Davon Drew and has 4 tight ends on the roster. I just don’t see the room to do it right now myself.

71. CB Marcus Paschal
paschal
72. CB Doug Dutch
73. OL Bryan Mattison
74. OT Stefan Rodgers
75. CB Brad Jones
76. CB Chris Hawkins
77. OT Daniel Sanders
78. OT Devin Tyler

Of this group, Rodgers may have the only realistic path to being part of the team when they hit the field at the Meadowlands. Should Jared Gaither remain out and the team choose to protect Ramon Harewood by placing him on IR; he would have a realistic chance of getting active behind Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll. But that’s a major (and frightening) IF.

-G

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Live from Westminster: Gaither to miss 2-3 more weeks with back ‘tear’

Posted on 14 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — What originally started as an innocent case of back cramps has transformed into a long-term concern for offensive tackle Jared Gaither and the Ravens.

Gaither will miss another two to three weeks with what’s being described as a “small tear” in his back, according to coach John Harbaugh. The tear continues to cause the spasms Gaither has experienced since July 30 when he was carted off the field during the first afternoon practice for veteran players.

“He’s got something in his back,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a very small tear. I don’t know the medical term for it. It’s not a serious thing, but it’s going to keep him out a couple weeks until it settles down.”

After briefly returning to practice for four days after missing the first weekend of workouts in Westminster, Gaither has not practiced since August 5 and missed the team’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.

Gaither has now seen at least two back specialists, including one in California who made the diagnosis earlier this week.

“[Gaither's] going to have to work as hard as he can,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to try to work it out. I wouldn’t hold my breath for two weeks, three weeks through camp here and we’ll see where we’re at at that point.”

Third-year tackle Oniel Cousins has played in Gaither’s place on the right side with the first offense and started against the Panthers on Thursday.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Mark Clayton, and Haruki Nakamura.

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8:25 p.m. — In addition to Gaither, others missing from practice included cornerbacks Chris Carr and Marcus Paschal, center Matt Birk, and offensive lineman Daniel Sanders, who had his left arm in a sling during practice.

Offensive tackle Tony Moll (concussion) and defensive back K.J. Gerard (hamstring) returned to practice. Cornerback Fabian Washington (knee) was a full participant in Saturday’s practice after sitting out Thursday’s game as a precautionary measure.

There was no change to the active physically unable to perform list, which includes safety Ed Reed (hip), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps).

7:40 p.m. — With John Harbaugh canceling both practices on Sunday, it’s no shock the players were taken aback, given the head coach’s workmanlike, no-nonsense reputation. The team will be back on the practice field on Monday at 8:45 a.m. and will have a special teams workout at 2:00 p.m.

“They were a little bit surprised,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from reporters. “They didn’t say much, they didn’t really respond. I think they were looking for the catch, they were waiting for the ‘but.’

“The truth is I don’t think it’s a reward, it’s where we’re at right now. It’s a reward, I guess, in the sense that they’ve earned it. We’ve worked really hard throughout training camp—coaches and players—and I think the best thing for us is a little recovery time. We pack a lot of work in every single practice. I like where we’re at right now as a football team, and, really, the best thing for us is to give them a chance to get a jump-start on their legs.”

Sunday’s cancellation leaves only four days of training camp practices before the Ravens break camp on Friday, a day before their second preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Saturday night.

“Just grateful for [the time off],” said receiver Mark Clayton, who admitted many players thought the coach was joking when he gave the news. “I know we’ll take advantage of it, rest up, and come out Monday and give it everything we’ve got.”

7:35 p.m. — Despite missing a 50-yard field goal against the Panthers on Thursday night, veteran Shayne Graham rebounded on Saturday afternoon by connecting on all five attempts, including one from the same distance he missed in the preseason opener.

Billy Cundiff missed wide left from 50 yards but connected on his other five tries during the afternoon practice.

John Harbaugh still sees the competition as being wide open despite some recent struggles from Graham, including his miss against the Panthers.

“It’s too early to say. They’ve both done well. I think [Graham's] kick in the game was a tough one. He wants to make that kick, but it was a tough kick.”

7:25 p.m. — As for the afternoon practice itself, it was a sloppy day for the passing offense as numerous receivers dropped passes, something we haven’t seen very often in an otherwise crisp training camp for the revamped passing game.

Fullback Le’Ron McClain and receivers Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason dropped passes on three of four plays at one point during 11-on-11 drills. One defender shouted, “More carries, not more catches!” after McClain dropped a short pass out of the backfield, a jab at the fullback’s comedic campaign to receive more carries in the Baltimore offense this season.

It was, however, an impressive afternoon for rookie tight end Dennis Pitta who made two impressive catches during 11-on-11 work. Pitta caught a Marc Bulger pass over safety Dawan Landry in the back of the end zone and later made a diving, juggling catch to earn cheers from the Westminster crowd.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe lined up on the inside with the starting defense, perhaps signifying a change in the depth chart after the preseason opener.

Jameel McClain received the start next to Ray Lewis on Thursday and had been the starter through the first couple weeks of camp but was out of position and missed tackles on several occasions against the Panthers.

McClain worked at outside linebacker with the second defense for most of the afternoon practice. The other contender for the starting inside linebacker position, Tavares Gooden, was not very active during the team portion of practice.

7:05 p.m. — The other big news of the day was the Ravens parting ways with veteran long snapper Matt Katula. The Ravens re-signed cornerback Brad Jones, who was with the team during the OTA schedule, and waived Katula, leaving rookie Morgan Cox as the only long snapper on the 80-man camp roster. Cox handled all long-snapping against Carolina in the preseason opener on Thursday.

“We wanted to see [Cox] in a game situation,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been doing a real good job throughout the offseason and throughout training camp, but you never want to make a move until you know [he can do it] in a game. He did a nice job, and we feel comfortable he can be our snapper, so we’ll go with the younger guy.”

Harbaugh said Katula’s issue with elbow tendinitis last season did not factor in the decision and the veteran was healthy. Katula had been the Ravens’ long snapper since 2005 when he unseated veteran incumbent Joe Maese during training camp.

That’s life in the NFL as a long snapper.

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