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manziel

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Houston, there’s no problem: Johnny Manziel is the No. 1 pick

Posted on 06 May 2014 by johngallo

I really wanted to dismiss Johnny Manziel as the top pick.

I wanted to justify knocking him down a few rungs on the board because he’s a “running quarterback,” and you know what running quarterbacks don’t do? Win Super Bowls. I heard Manziel’s name, and I thought of Michael Vick – a guy who will get your team on ESPN’s top plays but not a Lombardi Trophy.

I thought it was just too risky to take Manziel No. 1 because that’s what history told me. Since 1990, 14 quarterbacks have been taken first overall, yet just two – Peyton and Eli Manning – have won the Super Bowl. But what’s even more glaring is that eight – Tim Couch, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford and Cam Newton – haven’t won a playoff game. That leaves Drew Bledsoe, Vick and Jeff George and Andrew Luck as top picks who have won at least one playoff game, though in fairness, Luck likely won’t be on this list long.

Super Bowl winners Joe Flacco (18th), Ben Roethlisberger (11th) and Trent Dilfer (sixth) weren’t even the first quarterbacks taken in the first round in 2008, 2004 and 1994, respectively. Aaron Rodgers was picked 24th overall in 2005. Drew Brees was picked in the second round in 2001. Tom Brady went in the sixth round, after 198 players had been selected. Hell, Kurt Warner wasn’t even drafted and would have taken $6 an hour if a team offered, which would have been 50 cents more than he was making an hour stocking shelves at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

I read about Manziel’s celebrity lifestyle and thought he’s too busy being the man off the field to be the man off it, much like I did when Mark Sanchez thought he was the biggest thing to hit New York since King Kong.

But then I did some research, looking past Manziel’s highlight-reel plays and ability to hang with so many hot chicks that he’d make Hugh Hefner envious.

Manziel’s running fuels his passing. Without his legs, Johnny Football would be just plain ol’ Johnny.

There’s a difference between being a “running quarterback” and one who uses his speed to extend plays.

Consider: Manziel had 521 more rushing yards and 27 more first downs on scrambles more yardage than any quarterback from a BCS automatic qualifying conference – ACC, American Athletic, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 – in the past two years. He had 29 rushes for at least 20 yards, which led the SEC, the nation’s best league, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“I don’t know really who you would compare Jonny Manziel too,” George Whitfield, Manziel’s personal quarterback coach, told ESPN during an interview on May 6.

Try Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. As a senior at Wisconsin in 2011, he led all BCS automatic qualifying conference quarterbacks with 416 rushing yards on scrambles, including 18 that went for at least 10 yards.

All Wilson has done since entering the NFL as a third-round pick is win a Super Bowl and more games than any other quarterback the past two seasons combined.

Maybe Manziel is really Wilson’s long lost twin who just lives a vastly more public lifestyle? It’s scary because the statistical comparison is there.

“I don’t see them as an exact match, but I definitely do get it,” Whitfield told ESPN. “Russell Wilson came into the league seasoned, mature and played an awful lot of football and played a lot of baseball and Johnny looks up to him. I just don’t know if those two are carbon copies.”

Maybe not carbon copies, but very, very close, according to measurements.

Height: Manziel: 5-11¾; Wilson: 5-11

Weight: Manziel: 207; Wilson: 204

Hand size: Manziel: 9 7/8; Wilson: 10¼

Arm length: Manziel: 31 3/8; Wilson: 31

40-yard dash: Manziel: 4.68; Wilson: 4.55

Broad jump: Manziel: 113 inches; Wilson: 118

Vertical jump: Manziel: 31.5; Wilson: 34

Three cone drill: Manziel: 6.75; Wilson: 6.97

I wasn’t too high on Russell entering the 2012 draft. Maybe it was because I thought – and still do – the Big Ten is inferior to the SEC. Or maybe, it was because I never saw him win a big game since the Badgers lost to Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon. And maybe, it was because Wilson didn’t carry the Badgers.

Regardless, I was wrong.

But I’m right about Manziel.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Lions

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Lions

Posted on 17 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 18-16 win over the Detroit Lions Monday night at Ford Field…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Louis Delmas called for unnecessary roughness after Joe Flacco pass intended for Marlon Brown incomplete on 3rd down (2nd quarter)

Ended up giving the Ravens three points in a spot where they would have gotten nothing.

4. Daryl Smith sacks Matthew Stafford for five yard loss at Baltimore 47 (1st quarter)

Lions had moved the ball at will on first two drives until this play, game appeared to be headed to a shootout or even a blowout.

3. Matt Elam intercepts Matthew Stafford pass intended for Nate Burleson (4th quarter)

The “ender”.

2. Jacoby Jones 27 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 15 (4th quarter)

The significance of this play has somehow been lost.

1. Justin Tucker 61 yard field goal GOOD (4th quarter)

I still don’t believe it.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens-Lions: Five predictions for Monday night

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Ravens-Lions: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 15 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Playing on the road for the first time in nearly a month, the Ravens know exactly what’s at stake when they travel to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions on Monday night.

A three-game winning streak has pushed Baltimore above the .500 mark for the first time since October, but a 1-5 road record can’t be overlooked as the Ravens play two of their final three away from M&T Bank Stadium against first-place teams. And with Miami and San Diego also hanging around in the AFC wild-card picture, the margin for error is small.

The Ravens have the clear advantage with health as linebacker Elvis Dumervil was the only player of real consequence listed as questionable and the rush specialist is expected to make his return after missing last week’s game against Minnesota with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, the Lions have three starters listed as questionable or worse on the final injury report of the week.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens aim to improve to two games above .500 for the first time all season. Monday night marks the fourth time these teams have ever met with the Ravens holding a 2-1 all-time advantage. Detroit won the only meeting between the teams at Ford Field, a 35-17 final back in 2005.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to maintain their grip on the No. 6 seed in the conference playoff race …

1. Facing a banged-up and below-average secondary, Torrey Smith finds room down the field for a long touchdown. The Lions will be without starting cornerback Chris Houston and rookie backup Darius Slay while starting free safety Louis Delmas missed two practices this week with a knee injury, leaving Detroit’s 25th-ranked pass defense even more vulnerable than normal. Smith has been held to just nine receptions over the last three games, but the return of tight end Dennis Pitta and the recent emergence of Jacoby Jones alleviates the heavy attention he was facing earlier in the season. This will free him up to slip past the secondary for a deep touchdown on Monday night, which will put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his three-year career.

2. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson will go over 100 yards receiving and catch a touchdown over safety Matt Elam in deep coverage. The rookie’s comments questioning Johnson’s age and physicality earlier in the week were foolish, but the league’s best wideout was already motivated with the Lions fighting Chicago and Green Bay for the NFC North title. Elam has been a disappointment in pass coverage — recording just two pass breakups — as he’s played out of position all season and his small frame doesn’t play well against Johnson if he’s asked to provide help over the top. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has received most of the attention in terms of who will cover Johnson, but the Ravens rarely ever flip their corners and will likely try to offer as many different looks as they can in coverage. It won’t matter as Johnson will still get his yards and a score on Monday.

3. Linebacker Terrell Suggs will collect his first sack since Nov. 3, but the Ravens won’t generate much pressure on Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions have only allowed 15 sacks this season, which is a major reason why Stafford has remained healthy and is 24 yards shy of his third consecutive 4,000-yard season. Baltimore hasn’t collected a sack since Week 12, but blitzing will leave the defense vulnerable underneath against running back Reggie Bush coming out of the backfield, leaving defensive coordinator Dean Pees in a difficult position. Suggs will beat left tackle Riley Reiff for a sack in the first half and Dumervil’s return will help, but Stafford’s quick release and the Ravens’ concern with Bush and fellow back Joique Bell catching passes out of the backfield will lead to another week of underwhelming pressure.

4. Joe Flacco will roll out and move from the pocket by design to neutralize the Lions’ interior pressure to throw for 250 yards and two touchdowns. The presence of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is a major concern for the Ravens as Flacco will need time in the pocket to step up and go vertical to test a poor secondary. Even if right guard Marshal Yanda and center Gino Gradkowski can hold their own against Suh, Fairley is likely to give A.Q. Shipley fits, which will prompt offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to use designed roll-outs and waggles for Flacco to move outside the pocket. Flacco has shown that he can throw effectively on the run and Pitta’s presence will help in that regard with intermediate passes to move the chains. Detroit’s defensive line is too strong to try to play straight up in the passing game, so the Ravens will try to get Flacco in space behind the line of scrimmage.

5. Struggling at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Ravens can’t quite keep up in a 27-20 final to Detroit. Most attention has fallen on the likes of Johnson, Stafford, and Bush this week, but the Ravens’ running game and pass rush do not match up well against the Lions, which will be the difference in a game in which points could come liberally for both sides. Baltimore will not be able to find space against the league’s sixth-ranked run defense, putting everything on Flacco’s throwing arm, but the passing game just hasn’t had a consistent 60 minutes of play all season long and that will catch up with them late in a back-and-forth game. With the Ravens unable to pressure Stafford, the Lions will just be too tough to stop as a late score against a defense that’s been unable to finish will be the difference in an entertaining contest.

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Extra motivation not required for Lions’ Johnson

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Extra motivation not required for Lions’ Johnson

Posted on 12 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens safety Matt Elam certainly provided the flavor needed for an extra day of buildup for Monday’s meeting with the Detroit Lions.

While also offering words of praise for All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Elam naively called the 28-year-old receiver “pretty old” while questioning the 6-foot-5, 236-pound wideout’s physicality on Wednesday. Johnson took the bait in Thursday’s conference call with the Baltimore media, vowing to show Elam and the Baltimore secondary his “old-man strength,” but anyone extending the rookie’s comments any further in thinking it will impact Monday’s outcome is reaching.

Though the 22-year-old Elam put a target on his back and left himself open for criticism should Johnson get behind him for a long touchdown or two, you don’t need outside motivation when you’re the best wide receiver on the planet and on track to become one of the greatest in NFL history. Those pointing to Johnson’s 329-yard receiving day against Dallas that followed Dez Bryant’s inflammatory comments earlier this year overlook the role the Cowboys’ 32nd-ranked pass defense played in the career day.

Simply put, there’s no such thing as waking a sleeping giant when he’s already been stomping on opponents every week.

“Would you think that Calvin Johnson is going to come to a Monday night game on national television and not play his best game anyway [until] a rookie said something? I doubt it,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith, who would suffer as much as anyone if Elam’s comments actually impacted the receiver’s Monday performance. “If they’re going to take it as, ‘That’s poster-board [material]; we’re going to take it even harder now,’ then they don’t have the right mentality coming to play a Monday night game anyway.”

Elam’s silly comments aside, the Ravens face arguably the biggest nightmare in the NFL today in trying to slow the seventh-year receiver, who last year set an NFL single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards. Johnson ranks second in the league with 1,351 receiving yards and second with 12 touchdown catches as he’s reined in 75 passes this season.

Fortunate to only have to face Johnson once every four years, the Ravens will need to contain the monstrous playmaker to earn only their second road win of the season and maintain their enviable position as the current No. 6 seed in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Lions find themselves in a dogfight with Chicago and Green Bay for the NFC North division title.

“‘Megatron.’ Anytime somebody has a nickname like that, the kid is real,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He is probably arguably the best receiver in the game. It’s going to take all 11 guys, especially tending to him. The pass rush is going to be key; running the ball is going to be key. They do a lot of things with him, [and] he ends up in a lot of places. But it’s also fun [when] you get to play against a guy like that.”

Looking beyond his obvious physical gifts, scheming how to cover Johnson is problematic because he’ll line up in a variety of different ways in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s system. Double teams and bracketed coverage sound great — and necessary — in principle, but the Lions effectively move him around various formations to create favorable matchups for him against the defense.

With that in mind, many have suggested that defensive coordinator Dean Pees assign the 6-foot-2 Smith — who’s been the team’s best cornerback this season — to follow Johnson wherever he lines up. Such a strategy goes against the Ravens’ normal way of keeping Smith at right cornerback and Lardarius Webb on the left side in the base defense.

The third-year defensive back Smith has embraced being physical against top receivers such as Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, often getting the best of those matchups this season. Finally living up to the hype of being a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Smith said he’d embrace the opportunity to shadow Johnson wherever he lines up if that’s what the Ravens ask him to do.

“Absolutely,” Smith said. “Prime-time television in front of the nation? We don’t move around a lot because we’ve got a lot of confidence in our corners. Whatever the game plan we bring on Monday night, that’s how we’re going to bring it. If they ask us to move and do things, we’re always going to be willing to do that.”

The Ravens secondary has spoken this week of embracing the challenge of slowing down Johnson, but they’ll need to avoid giving up the big play that’s plagued them all season. Baltimore has surrendered 16 pass plays of 40 or more yards this season — most in the NFL — while lacking a true free safety in the secondary.

Johnson alone has 20 receptions of 20 or more yards this season as his speed coupled with his ability to break tackles often leads to explosive plays on even shorter passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford. Missed assignments and shaky tackling have plagued the back end of the defense at various points this season, including the final two minutes of their win over Minnesota in which the Ravens gave up a 41-yard touchdown run and a 79-yard touchdown pass.

“Sometimes a team makes a great play,” Smith said. “Sometimes, it’s us with a mental error, doing something that we don’t usually do throughout the first four quarters of our game. Something like that [happens], and some big plays pops.”

Even if Smith, Webb, and No. 3 cornerback Corey Graham are at the top of their game in trying to cover Johnson, the Ravens must try to revitalize a pass rush that’s largely been in hibernation over the last two games. Baltimore didn’t record a quarterback sack against Pittsburgh or Minnesota as the defense battled Ben Roethlisberger and snow-covered field conditions in successive weeks.

Getting pressure won’t be easy as the Detroit offensive line has allowed only 15 sacks all season and Stafford likes to get rid of the ball quickly, meaning the Ravens must get hands up in passing lanes and at least provide enough discomfort to force quicker-than-normal throws if they can’t get to the Lions signal-caller in the pocket. Turnovers have been a problem for an otherwise-explosive offense as Stafford will rush through his progressions and force throws that sometimes aren’t there — even to Johnson.

The Ravens know their task is a tall one as they face the league’s second-ranked offense with Johnson the biggest reason why. The defense’s goal will be to keep him in front of the secondary, settling for completions with the goal of preventing game-changing plays.

But that’s the intention of opposing defenses week after week, with few units finding success.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “These are the games that we have to put that work in and definitely put that work in for earlier in the year. It will be a great challenge.”

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I’m rooting for the Red Sox (yes, I know, I’m a bad guy…)

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I’m rooting for the Red Sox (yes, I know, I’m a bad guy…)

Posted on 28 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

The baseball gods are obviously watching this World Series with great interest.

They’ve evened the series at 2-games-apiece after Saturday night’s bizarre ending in St. Louis.

Just the way it should be.

First off, the call on Saturday night was the right one to make.  Was it a dreadful way to lose a World Series game — or any game for that matter?  Sure.  Should Saltalamacchia have his head examined for throwing the ball down there in the first place?  Absolutely. But, that was interference, and the right call, and St. Louis won within the rules.

That said, Boston didn’t “deserve” to lose Game 3.  Thus, the baseball gods stepped in last night to even the series with Boston’s 4-2 win at Busch Stadium.

For reasons I can’t explain – at all – I’m hoping Boston wins this World Series.

I know, I know…that’s almost as bad as hoping the Yankees win.

Like I said, I can’t explain it.

Call it “professional jealousy”, I guess.

I only dream about our Orioles being as successful as these Boston teams have been over the last decade or so.  I realize it’s an impossibility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least wish your franchise resembled a winning one like the Red Sox.

I picked Boston in seven before the series started.

I hope I’m right.

But I’m not sure why I’m hoping that…

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The Matthew Stafford “fake spike” at the end of the game was legendary.

That said, if he doesn’t pull it off and the clock hits zero after that play, he’s the biggest goat in in the NFL this morning.

I assume, as he ran down to the one-yard line, he figured, “What the hell…it’s the Cowboys…they’ll fall for anything.”

The Dez Bryant explosion was also “legendary”.  Sure, he had a great game, but that’s no reason to act like a buffoon at the end of the afternoon when the Lions cruised down the field to score the winning points.  The next time the Dallas offense gets shut-down and loses a game 20-7, I hope one of the linebackers explodes on Bryant just to even the score.

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On last Friday’s show, I gave out my rarely-distributed “5-star lock”, calling an Oakland win outright over Pittsburgh yesterday.

The Steelers are really bad, which we all love to see here in Baltimore.

Yes, I know, they beat the Ravens last Sunday.  I’m well aware.

But, Pittsburgh is just no freakin’ good.

As they showed on Sunday in Oakland.

You gotta love when those 5-star locks hit…

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I don’t care who you are, but when Bobby Bowden asks a guy on live TV if his deceased father is “still coaching”, it’s just about the funniest thing you’ve even seen, particularly because poor old Bobby just innocently asks the question as if he’s really, really interested.  Here it is for you to watch.

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