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Mocking The 53: A Positional Breakdown of Ravens Roster

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Mocking The 53: A Positional Breakdown of Ravens Roster

Posted on 08 June 2011 by Glenn Clark

Here is my first offseason/preseason ranking of the players who are currently property of the Baltimore Ravens or who were property of the team at the end of the 2010 season.

This list INCLUDES players who are not under contract-whether they are tendered restricted free agents, draft picks, exclusive rights free agents or even players who are expected to reach unrestricted free agency this offseason.

Unlike in the past, I will do this list by position as I attempt to further explain how the team’s roster currently shapes up.

I apologize for my delay in putting this compilation together. Blame Gary Williams…and the Triple Crown…and the team’s practices at Towson University…and my own laziness.

Obviously there is much to be done before any of this matters, but this is simply “as the roster stands now” analysis.

Quarterbacks (4):
Joe Flacco
Marc Bulger (UFA)
Tyrod Taylor
Hunter Cantwell

tyrod

The quarterback position is still in much less than full clarity at this point.

Joe Flacco has been a NFL quarterback for  55 games, including the playoffs. Joe Flacco has played every snap in 55 of those 55 games.

A season ago, the Ravens took a slight risk by parting ways with two backups-trading John Beck to the Washington Redskins during Training Camp and releasing Troy Smith after the preseason finale in St. Louis. They decided to carry only two active quarterbacks, paying a hefty price for veteran backup Marc Bulger.

Bulger appears to be out in Charm City, with most in the league believing he is destined to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens knew they’d need to address quarterback depth during the draft and did so by selecting the explosive former Virginia Tech Hokies star (Taylor-pictured above) in the 6th round.

While Taylor (who hails from the quarterback hotbed of Hampton, Virginia) certainly has a number of supporters who believe him capable of being a legitimate starter in the league-he will not play that role in Baltimore unless there is turmoil this season one way or another (injury or failure).

Flacco is the starter. Taylor will have a great chance of making the roster. The real question facing the team is how else to address the position. It is believed that the Ravens will pursue another veteran QB of sorts when (if?) free agency finally begins. Miami Dolphins QB Chad Pennington has been a much rumored name the team could consider pursuing.

Should the Ravens not acquire a veteran free agent to backup Flacco, Cantwell could remain in the mix. He spent the entire 2010 season on the team’s practice squad-but has in the past been an active part of the Carolina Panthers’ roster.

With Taylor unlikely to be let go (or placed at risk of being taken away by trying to move him to the practice squad) but also unlikely to be the primary backup early in his career, it is fairly safe to assume the team will keep three quarterbacks this season.

Running Backs/Fullbacks (8):
Ray Rice
Le’Ron McClain
Willis McGahee
Jalen Parmele
Matt Lawrence
Jason McKie
Anthony Allen
Curtis Steele

parmele

Rice is obviously the team’s “featured” back. The issue for Cam Cameron’s offense this offseason is figuring out how to complement the fourth year back moving forward.

The worst kept secret in football is that the Ravens intend to part ways with McGahee because he is unwilling to take a cut from the $6 million he is owed. Should McGahee find the market slim there would always be a chance he could look towards Baltimore again, but it certainly appears unlikely.

With McGahee apparently gone, the Ravens will have to build their backfield without him. One option is McClain, who had his best season yet as a true fullback in 2010 (despite the fact that he was actually passed over for Pro Bowl recognition by Houston Texans FB Vonta Leach) but who has made clear his desire to carry the football more often.

McClain was initially thought to be on the cusp of reaching free agency this offseason (and departing), but without a new CBA McClain (and other fourth and fifth year players) would likely remain under contract. McClain’s size and potential goal line/short distance ability make him potentially a solid complement for Rice.

Should the Ravens move McClain into that role, they would likely need to consider keeping McKie or otherwise improving the fullback position. McKie was a non-factor during his brief stay at the end of the 2010 season-but could be a viable option in a thin market.

Parmele (pictured above) is the wild card in the backfield. The coaching staff has remained high on him throughout his time in Baltimore (and he has connections with Cameron dating back to the Dolphins). Parmele has remained a value special teams player (and is a viable return option), but he has run the ball only seven times in his career.

Lawrence, Allen and Steele are all question marks (and possibly longshots) to make the roster. Lawrence is a talented special teams player but missed the 2010 season with a torn ACL. Allen (the team’s 7th round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft) is hoping his 6’1″, 228 pound frame is enough to get him on the roster. Steele spent the 2010 season on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis. The team liked his quick hitting ability, but he will have an uphill climb-especially if there is no Training Camp.

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Live From Towson: (Some) Ravens Gather to “Practice” During Lockout

Posted on 24 May 2011 by Glenn Clark

TOWSON, Md. — Members of the Baltimore Ravens gathered Tuesday at Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University for an unofficial practice. It was the first large gathering of Ravens players since the National Football League and the NFL Players Association failed to come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and a lockout was implemented by league owners.

The practices were organized by WR Derrick Mason (the team’s NFLPA representative) and are scheduled to run through Thursday. None of the week’s practices were open for public viewing, but Tuesday’s was open to reporters.

26 players participated in Tuesday’s practice. Offensive players in attendance were Mason, QB Joe Flacco, QB Tyrod Taylor, QB Hunter Cantwell, RB Ray Rice, RB Anthony Allen, TE Davon Drew, TE Dennis Pitta, WR Anquan Boldin, WR Torrey Smith, WR Tandon Doss, WR Justin Harper and WR James Hardy. Defensive players in attendance were DL Cory Redding, DT Arthur Jones, DT Brandon McKinney, DT Lamar Divens, LB Jameel McClain, LB Jarret Johnson, CB Domonique Foxworth, CB Josh Wilson and S Haruki Nakamura. Special teamers in attendance were K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch and LS Morgan Cox.

Mason told reporters following practice he wasn’t sure if any other players would be arriving to participate later in the week.

The practice was very light, with some running and conditioning drills; as well as some route running and passing drills with coverage. The conditioning drills were lead by Mack James, a trainer Rice works out with. The passing drills were lead by Flacco.

PR STUNT?: While many fans and analysts have been quick to suggest this week’s practices were merely a public relations stunt, but the players believed the sessions had real football value as well.

“I think guys wanna be out here” said Rice. “It felt good to set your alarm clock for practice. Regardless of what you say (is) voluntary, it felt good to say ‘you know what? I’m going to practice’ and we take it seriously.”

“Obviously we want (reporters) to come out” said Mason. “To show (the fans) that we are working. We’re not just sitting around on the couch not doing anything waiting on the CBA. We are working because we understand (that) this thing could happen at a minute’s notice. We’ve got to be ready to get back on the field because the fans want to see a good product once we do start playing.”

“We just want to let the fans know that we’re working and we’re working hard” added Mason. “It’s not our choice to be somewhere else working out, we would rather be at (1 Winning Drive) but obviously we can’t.”

“It’s just good to be together” said Flacco. The biggest thing about getting out here is the young guys. The guys that are missing out the most right now are the young guys. To get these guys out here and kinda show them the way a little bit so that they can have some stuff to work on is a big deal so that if we need to-and we’re going to want to-we’ll be able to use these guys.”

Rice said he and the offensive veterans would be meeting with the first year players to go over the playbook following practice.

INJURY REPORT: Foxworth (knee) would likely have been listed as a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice had their been an injury report. He participated in some running and coverage drills, but did not appear to be using a full motion-even for a “fake” practice.

Foxworth missed the entire 2010 season after suffering a torn ACL and torn MCL during the first day of Training Camp.

Cox (knee) would have likely been listed as a full participant, he did not appear bothered during Special Teams drills despite having a brace on his left knee. Cox’s season was cut short after suffering a torn ACL in the team’s Week 16 win over the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

NOTES: Hear from Mason, Flacco, Rice, J. McClain, Doss, Hardy and Taylor now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……OT Jared Gaither (who was not part of Tuesday’s practice) is scheduled to join Rex Snider at 2:30pm Tuesday on “The Afternoon Drive” on AM1570 WNST……Hardy is scheduled to join Drew Forrester Wednesday morning at 7:30am on “The Morning Reaction” on WNST……Towson football coach Rob Ambrose and 15 Tigers players took in today’s practice from the Unitas Stadium field……The school added extra security all week with the anticipation that fans would attempt to access practice

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Private Workouts Now in Focus with Draft Season Speeding Towards Conclusion

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Private Workouts Now in Focus with Draft Season Speeding Towards Conclusion

Posted on 14 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

Like Florence & The Machine said, “The Pro Days are over.”

Well maybe those weren’t the exact lyrics from Florence Welch and company, but the statement remains true.

Draft season has officially shifted from Pro Days to private visits and workouts.

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

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), Jake Locker (Washington), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Andy Dalton (TCU), Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (Connecticut), Owen Marecic (Stanford), Shaun Chapas (Georgia)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal), Jordan Todman (UConn), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Darren Evans (Virginia Tech)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Jon Baldwin (Pittsburgh), Greg Salas (Hawaii), Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Niles Paul (Nebraska), Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), DeMarcus Love (Arkansas)
G-Danny Watkins (Baylor)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah), Kris O’Dowd (Southern Cal), Rodney Hudson (Florida State), Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), JJ Watt (Wisconsin), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Dontay Moch (Nevada), D’Aundre Reed (Arizona), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Sam Acho (Texas), Ryan Winterswyk (Boise State)
DT-Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Nate Irving (NC State), Colin McCarthy (Miami), Martez Wilson (Illinois), Kelvin Sheppard (Louisiana State), Alex Wujciak (Maryland), Akeem Dent (Georgia)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Ahmad Black (Florida)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), Brandon Harris (Miami), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia), Richard Sherman (Stanford), Brandon Burton (Utah)

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

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 456-Previews of players ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
Part 7-A look back at players who made in impact at the National Football League Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indy
Parts 8, 9 & 10-A look at players who participated in early Pro Timing Days

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

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

Here are ten more prospects-all of whom have been shown special attention by the Ravens during Draft season. (Reported by WNST.net, National Football Post, Carroll County Times, Baltimore Sun, Pro Football Weekly or others.)

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

DE Christian Ballard (Iowa)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhgvSsE5tLI[/youtube]

Ballard is one of a number of Defensive Ends that has wandered over to Owings Mills during Draft season.

The Ravens are clearly in need of a rush end, and have looked at a number of players who could fit the role. Ballard (6’4″, 283 pounds) managed to tally eight combined sacks over his junior and senior campaigns with the Hawkeyes despite playing part of that time on the interior of the line.

Ballard has shown good speed during Draft season, trimming his 40 time from 4.75 at the Combine to 4.70 at his Pro Day in Iowa City. He’s not a first round pick, but he is a player the Ravens could consider as early as the second round.

They may have addressed rush end before that. Ballard’s teammate Adrian Clayborn, Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward and a number of other players are all higher on the board. The Ravens have a GLARING need at the position. If they don’t address it in the first, don’t be surprised if they address it with Ballard.

OT James Brewer (Indiana)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X01sxTrZZY[/youtube]

We don’t know for sure whether or not the Ravens have hosted Brewer at 1 Winning Drive, but we do know that the team paid special interest to Brewer’s Pro Day in Bloomington.

The Ravens have an issue along their O-Line. OT Jared Gaither is an unrestricted free agent and there are just a few question marks surrounding him. OT Michael Oher may or may not have a future at LT. G/T Marshal Yanda probably needs to return to being a Guard only.

The team will have to make some decisions.

Brewer (6’6″, 323 pounds) could help in that decision making process. He’s not a first round talent, but he looks like someone who is going to be able to play fairly early on if selected late Friday or early Saturday.

There is a SMALL issue with Brewer…he’s from Indianapolis. If he roots for the Colts, that could be trouble.

But otherwise, he has to be a legitimate option to help new O-Line coach Andy Moeller.

RB Stevan Ridley (LSU)

stevan

Unlike Ravens RB Ray Rice, Ridley’s game is much about power than speed (his 4.65 40 time at the Combine was better than either of his runs at his Pro Day in Baton Rouge). That could be a recipe to get him to Charm City, as the team may well lose both RB Willis McGahee (expected to be released) and FB Le’Ron McClain (Unrestricted Free Agent) this offseason.

Ridley might not be massive, but he packs 225 pounds in a 5’11″ frame. He has the look of a third down/red zone weapon at the next level, which is part of what the Ravens will be looking for in their backfield this offseason.

Ridley had just one big season with the Tigers before declaring for the Draft a year early. After rushing for just 272 yards and four TD’s combined between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he exploded for 1,147 yards and 15 TD’s as a junior. Clearly part of the reason for leaving early was to save some “tread” on his tires.

The Ravens paid special attention to Ridley at the Combine, where they learned more about why he was voted a team captain as a junior. He’s not a Thursday night pick and probably not a Friday night pick either. As the Draft wares into Saturday, he’ll look more and more appealing to the Ravens-who need to give Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron a change of pace option in the backfield.

CB Curtis Marsh (Utah State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-DwCYgqHWk[/youtube]

Just to recap the Ravens’ CB situation this offseason-Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington are all unrestricted free agents; Cary Williams is an exclusive rights free agent and Domonique Foxworth is coming off an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2010 season. Lardarius Webb is the only corner that saw the field last season that remains fully under contract.

Clearly new Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano will need SOMETHING in his defensive backfield, be it returning players or newcomers.

Marsh is an intriguing option who has already visited General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company in Owings Mills. He was very much under the radar screen playing for the Aggies, but his 6’1″, 197 pound size and 4.42 speed have been undeniable during Draft season.

Marsh initially garnered attention for his matchup abilities against Boise State receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young. He received a Senior Bowl invite but missed the week due to a hamstring injury.

Marsh could come off the board as early as Friday night. If the Ravens don’t select a cornerback in Round 1, he could be a legitimate option after that point.

DE Ricky Elmore (Arizona)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtE9qFonW7s[/youtube]

The Ravens have shown equal interest in Elmore and fellow former ‘Zona DE Brooks Reed, as both have shown an ability to get after Pac 10 quarterbacks.

Elmore tallied 21 combined sacks between his junior and senior seasons, finishing his Wildcats career with 25 sacks overall. During Draft season he’s been training with Clay Matthews Sr. (whose son is a pretty good pass rusher himself) in an attempt to even further improve his ability to get after QB’s.

Elmore is a physical beast, measuring in at 6’5″, 255 pounds. He’s not blazing fast (4.88 40 at the Combine), but he’s deceptively quick for his size.

As I mentioned with Ballard, the Ravens have to be desperate for rush help on the edge. If they select an end Thursday (or early Friday), they’ll likely want him to be someone who also has the ability to stand up in a 3-4 defense.

If they don’t go DE early, Elmore could be a better option later into the Draft (likely Saturday). Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and company will have to determine how quickly Elmore could make an impact.

S Will Hill (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQK0xhpkE4Y&feature=fvst[/youtube]

Hill’s size (6’1″, 202 pounds) and decent speed (4.64 40) as well as his overall football ability (four interceptions over three seasons in Gainesville) should make him a solid Free Safety prospect.

Yet despite the Ravens showing interest in Hill at the Combine, he’s viewed as a borderline possibility to get picked anywhere in the Draft.

Hill’s issues are more off the field than they are on the field. He had some problems with his Twitter account-as well documented by the website “Every Day Should Be Saturday.”

Hill later claimed his Twitter account was hacked, but the damage was certainly done-and Hill didn’t exactly win everyone over with his comments about the incident at the Combine.

There are clear question marks off the field, which are clouding the ability he could have on the field. The Ravens appear to be in the safety market this offseason, as SS Dawan Landry is an unrestricted free agent and FS Ed Reed is…well…not getting any younger or healthier. Reserves Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura give them options to plug in, but they’ll certainly look for depth.

Should the Ravens not select a safety at all early in the Draft, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could take a chance on a player like Hill late in the Draft. After taking risks on DT Terrence Cody and LB Sergio Kindle early in the Draft last season, they might not be as quick to take a chance on a player with a red flag in this year’s Draft.

CB Chris Culliver (South Carolina)

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

As I mentioned with Marsh, the Ravens have secondary issues this offseason. They’ll need to address them SOMEHOW, and Culliver could be part of that.

Culliver is a 6’0″, 199 pound corner who tallied four sacks and three interceptions during his Gamecocks career. (All three picks came in 2008.) He’s coming off a torn pec that caused him to miss the final six games of his 2010 campaign.

Of all of the corners on the Ravens’ active roster in 2010, only Williams (6’1″) is as big as Culliver. None have the blazing speed (4.36 40 at the Combine…which he stood on instead of running at his Pro Day in Columbia) that Culliver has.

Culliver paid a visit to Owings Mills during Draft season to meet with Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company. They likely wanted to see how fluid he was in coverage, as he played just one season at corner in the SEC after converting from safety.

The other nice option with Culliver is his potential involvement in the return game. Culliver finished his SC career with a school record 2,476 return yards. The Ravens got solid production from Webb and WR David Reed/RB Jalen Parmele in the PR and KR roles respectively last season, but they certainly didn’t do so much that they have to be considered locks to return in the roles. Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg wouldn’t be disappointed to add another return man if the Ravens were to use a late Friday or early Saturday selection on Culliver.

G Will Rackley (Lehigh)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaXM8yMXOHM[/youtube]

The Ravens have certainly had no trouble using a pick in the top half of the Draft on interior linemen before.

G Ben Grubbs (1st round), C/G Chris Chester (2nd round), G/T Marshal Yanda (3rd round) and St. Louis Rams C Jason Brown (4th round) have all been players the Ravens have selected early, and they’ve received mostly good results from the selections.

The Ravens don’t appear to have a glaring need amongst their interior linemen, but there are certainly issues to be addressed.

While Head Coach John Harbaugh would like to return Yanda to Guard, he’s an restricted free agent that could depart in the offseason. Even if he stays, the Ravens could be faced with a need to have him stay at RT should the team not re-sign Gaither or not Draft/Sign a better option at the position. After getting a second round tender, Chester (also a restricted free agent) is expected to return, but the team would prefer to have him play a utility role along the line instead of being penciled in at RG.

Rackley could be the type of player who could step in and play RG immediately. The 6’3″, 309 pound lineman turned a number of heads during East West Shrine Game week, showing he was quite capable of playing against big time opposition despite his FCS background.

Rackley was a four year starter for the Mountain Hawks, dominating Patriot League opposition. Clearly the AFC North (and the likes of DT’s like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Casey Hampton) will offer more significant opposition. Rackley is expected to be a Friday night pick, which could certainly be a legitimate place for the Ravens to jump up and grab him.

CB Buster Skrine (Chattanooga)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2jksB_vrsM[/youtube]

Similar to Curtis Marsh, Skrine is going to be looking to overcome a lower level of competition to make a name for himself as a National Football League corner. But Skrine (who played in the Southern Conference) has many more questions about competition to overcome than Marsh-who played his ball in the WAC.

Skrine (5’10″, 186 pounds) has great speed (4.37 40 at the Combine-but rumored to have actually been as fast as 4.29) and finished his Mocs career with five interceptions.

The Ravens both attended Skrine’s Pro Day and hosted him in Owings Mills in March.

The biggest question surrounding Skrine is whether or not he can play press coverage against NFL receivers, many of whom will have a slight to significant height advantage.

If the Ravens feel like he could be, it would make him a solid option late Friday or early Saturday.

LB Justin Houston (Georgia)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR0L2RVId90[/youtube]

Houston appears to be a true standup OLB instead of a down DE, which could help as the Ravens try to find pass rush help.

At 6’3″, 270 pounds; Houston was considered “undersized” to play along the D-Line for the Bulldogs, so he was moved to the outside. He responded to the move by producing 10 sacks in 2010; finishing his career in Athens with 19 sacks total.

Houston’s size and solid speed (he trimmed his 40 time down to 4.57 at his Pro Day) make him a borderline first round pick. The Ravens are obviously in the market for pass rush help (more specifically someone to team with LB Terrell Suggs), and they have hosted Houston in Owings Mills during Draft season.

The only obvious red flag with Houston is a 2009 suspension by UGA coach Mark Richt for an unspecified violation of team rules.

While the team seems unlikely to trade out of the 26th spot this year, Houston could be the type of available player that would make them feel like they could. Should Houston be available in the 30-40 range, the Ravens would likely feel as though they got #26 value after trading back.

-G

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Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

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Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

Posted on 23 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CB Jimmy Smith (Colorado)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QB Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech)

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

Tyrod Taylor is not Michael Vick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

RB Jordan Todman (UConn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S Ahmad Black (Florida)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WR Jon Baldwin (Pitt)

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

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

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

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

6’5″.

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

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

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

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

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

FB Owen Marecic (Stanford)

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

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

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

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

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

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

LB Nate Irving (NC State)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin)

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

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

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

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

Does that sound like something the Ravens could use?

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

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

C Kris O’Dowd (USC)

odowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

WR Greg Salas (Hawaii)

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

Salas’ numbers in 2010 were almost unreal.

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

Those numbers are amazing.

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

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

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

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

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Draft Season in Focus in Indianapolis for NFL Scouting Combine

Posted on 23 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CB Jimmy Smith (Colorado)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QB Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech)

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

Tyrod Taylor is not Michael Vick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

RB Jordan Todman (UConn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S Ahmad Black (Florida)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WR Jon Baldwin (Pitt)

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

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

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

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

6’5″.

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

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

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

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

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

FB Owen Marecic (Stanford)

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

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

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

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

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

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

LB Nate Irving (NC State)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin)

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

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

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

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

Does that sound like something the Ravens could use?

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

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

C Kris O’Dowd (USC)

odowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

WR Greg Salas (Hawaii)

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

Salas’ numbers in 2010 were almost unreal.

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

Those numbers are amazing.

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

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

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

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

Comments Off

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

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

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

Posted on 21 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

The hardest part of ending is starting again…

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

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

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

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

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

Unique labeling on my part. I’m aware.

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

grubbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

koch

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

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

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

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

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

mcclain

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

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

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

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

redding

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

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

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

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

kgregg

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

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

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

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

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

nakamura

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

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

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

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

ellerbe

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

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

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

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

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

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

chester

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

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

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

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

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

stallworth

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

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

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

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

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

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

divens

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

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

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

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

55. TE Davon Drew (ERFA)

ddrew

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

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

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

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

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

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

harper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks to BaltimoreRavens.com for the pictures!)

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Pagano Says Defense Will “Be Aggressive”

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens introduced Chuck Pagano to reporters Wednesday, less than 24 hours after promoting the former secondary coach to Defensive Coordinator. Pagano replaced Greg Mattison, who left for the same position at the University of Michigan.

Head Coach John Harbaugh described the selection of Pagano as an “easy choice” in a Wednesday press conference. “I think we’ve build just a tremendous defensive staff. Chuck has done a phenomenal job of coaching football here for the last three years.”

Pagano described the promotion as “bittersweet” due to the departure of his friend and mentor Mattison, but also said “I’ve spent 27 years preparing for this opportunity. I feel like I’m at the best organization in the National Football League (NFL), I work for the best owner in the NFL in Steve Bisciotti.”

Pagano and Harbaugh each made it a point to indicate that the team had no plans to drastically change their defensive philosophy during the transition to Pagano’s leadership.

“This hasn’t changed, and it ain’t going to change” said Pagano. “They’ve been playing great defense here long before any of us got here, and they’ll be playing great defense long after I’m gone. They’ve always been an attacking, swarming, tough, physical hard-nosed group of men.”

“It’s not a (former Defensive Coordinator/current New York Jets Head Coach) Rex (Ryan) defense, it’s not a Greg (Mattison) defense, it’s not a John (Harbaugh) defense, it’s not a Chuck (Pagano) defense, it’s not an anybody, it’s a Ravens defense. We believe in team around here.”

The Ravens tallied just 27 sacks this season, which tied them for the 5th fewest in the league. Pagano told reporters Wednesday he intends to lead an aggressive defense.

“I’ve always been around defenses that have been attacking defenses” said Pagano. “There’s a time and a place. I know (Harbaugh) is an aggressive guy and comes from an aggressive philosophy. I know (the defensive players) like to play that way. When it’s time to be aggressive, we’ll be aggressive.”

Pagano said he would orchestrate the defense from the sideline instead of the coaches’ box on gamedays.

“I’m pretty much a hands-on guy” said Pagano. “I understand that being in the box and getting away from the action, there’s a certain calmness to that. But I’m not really a calm type of guy.”

Ravens defensive players made their excitement about Pagano’s promotion apparent. DT Haloti Ngata, LB Jarret Johnson and S Haruki Nakamura were all in attendance Wednesday to show support. Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks, Linebackers Coach Dean Pees, Outside Linebackers Coach Ted Monachino and Defensive Assistant Roy Anderson were amongst a group of Ravens coaches in attendance as well.

LB Ray Lewis said in a statement Pagano “has an extreme knowledge of the game, and the way he communicates that with his players and fellow coaches is amazing.”

Lewis added “you have to respect how he studies opponents and how he prepares for the task at hand each week. He is truly a pure players’ coach. He is a man’s man, and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for him. I am excited to see what we can do as a defense and as a team leading into next season.”

Harbaugh did not indicate any candidates to replace Pagano as Secondary coach, saying only “we’re going to find a great one.” He pointed out that Anderson would continue to work with the secondary no matter who was hired to replace Pagano.

NOTES: Hear from Pagano and Harbaugh now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Pagano also joined Rex Snider Tuesday on “The Afternoon Drive” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……Harbaugh said the team gave their approval for Offensive Assistant Al Saunders to meet with the Oakland Raiders about their vacant Offensive Coordinator job. NFL Network reported Saunders was in Oakland Wednesday as was accepted to get the job……Harbaugh said he had no further information regarding rumors other NFL teams were interested in talking to Quarterbacks Coach Jim Zorn. Zorn had been rumored in conjunction to openings with the Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks…..Multiple outlets reported Wednesday the team had fired Offensive Line Coach John Matsko and was expected to promote Assistant Offensive Line Coach Andy Moeller to the post……Harbaugh, Bisciotti, Team President Dick Cass and General Manager Ozzie Newsome are scheduled to meet with reporters Thursday afternoon for the team’s annual season review press conference

-G

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

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Stallworth Voted Ravens Ed Block Courage Award Winner

Posted on 23 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (10-4) returned to practice Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for Sunday’s showdown with the Cleveland Browns (5-9) at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

WR Donte’ Stallworth was announced Thursday as the team’s recipient of the annual Ed Block Courage Award.

Stallworth missed the entire 2009 season after being pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter. The Ravens signed him as a free agent in February.

Stallworth also missed the first seven games of the 2010 season after breaking his foot in the preseason. Since returning, he has caught two passes for 82 yards and has run the ball four times for 30 yards.

The announcement was made following media availability Thursday, making Stallworth and teammates unavailable to comment.

Players from all 32 NFL organizations vote winners annually from their own team. Players vote for a teammate who has “exemplified a commitment to sportsmanship and courage.”

S Dawan Landry received the award from the Ravens in 2009.

The Ed Block Courage Awards will be held March 8, 2011 in Baltimore. A press conference recognizing Stallworth as the Ravens winner will take place Tuesday at the Sports Legends Museum in Charm City.

No other 2010 winners were announced Thursday.

DT Haloti Ngata and K Sam Koch were also honored Thursday, as both were named to the USA Football/NFLPA All-Fundamentals team. Selection to the team was based on fundamentally sound play and consistent display of good character.

Ngata was selected to the team for a second consecutive season.

PRACTICE REPORT: S Tom Zbikowski (back) was again missing from the open portion of practice Wednesday. Zbikowski has not practiced since being forced to leave the team’s Week 14 win over the Houston Texans early.

WR David Reed (concussion) was also missing from the practice field for a second straight day. Reed was forced to leave the team’s Week 15 win over the New Orleans Saints in the first half.

OL Tony Moll (illness) and LB Jason Phillips (illness) each returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday. The flu bug continues to have an impact on the Ravens locker room; S Haruki Nakamura was also listed on Thursday’s injury report but he missed the session entirely.

Linebacker and special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo was also at first believed to be another victim of the flu bug, but the Ravens revealed that he missed practice because of a knee injury.

Center Matt Birk(knee) was also a full participant in practice the last several days despite his injury.

Derrick Mason’s injury(ankle) kept him limited in the session open to the media but his game status should not be an issue.

TE Todd Heap (hamstring) practiced for a second straight day, improving his chances of playing for the first time since being forced to leave the team’s Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said Heap has looked “great” in practice throughout the week.

“I look forward to getting him back, probably sooner than later. He hasn’t missed a beat in his preparation (or) his rehab. (He’s a) consummate pro. I look forward to getting him back.”

NOTES: Hear from Cameron, Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison and Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net now……RB/KR Jalen Parmele joined Drew Forrester Thursday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, hear that chat in the Audio Vault as well……The Ravens will hold their final open practice of the week Friday before Sunday’s game, Head Coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with the media following practice……Weather.com/The Weather Channel is predicting 25 degrees and snow showers for Cleveland Sunday

-G

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Ranking The 53: A Bye Week Look at Ravens Roster

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Ranking The 53: A Bye Week Look at Ravens Roster

Posted on 27 October 2010 by Glenn Clark

As you’ll remember, I spent most of Training Camp ranking the players on the Baltimore Ravens roster as we tried to determine the Top 53 that would make the final roster.

As we’ve reached the team’s Bye Week, I thought I’d use a similar format (as opposed to a Report Card format) to grade the way the 53 men currently on the team’s roster have played thus far this season. Here’s my list…

53. OL Scott Kooistra-He hasn’t seen the field and he hasn’t been around very long. I’m not sure where else he could be ranked.

52. DT Arthur Jones-The team isn’t dissatisfied with the rookie DT from Syracuse. The issue for Jones is that the Ravens are so deep on the interior of their D-Line that they haven’t been able to get Jones on the field yet. Until then, he won’t find himself any higher on the list.

51. WR Donte’ Stallworth-Stallworth’s broken foot has kept him entirely out of game action thus far, and he only returned to practice last week. The team expects him to be on the field Week 9 against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. Once he gets out there, we can see where he’d rank on this list.

50. QB Marc Bulger-If Marc Bulger never sees the field and stays somewhere near #50, GM Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh will be thrilled-as it means nothing will have gone wrong with the team’s quarterback. This is exactly where they want him.

49. DT Lamar Divens-It seems like Lamar Divens will always be the first name listed when the “who could you cut to make room for…” conversations happen. That being said, he hasn’t been cut yet this season, and has even seen the field at times. He’s a really good player-even if it hasn’t quite been evident yet this season.

48. TE Dennis Pitta-His offensive contributions (1 catch, 1 yard) have been next to nothing, but Pitta has been a solid special teams contributor and has only been inactive for one game. No one in Owings Mills is unhappy with their rookie TE from BYU thus far.

47. CB Cary Williams-He’s been more of a Special Teams contributor than he’s been a corner thus far this season-and he hasn’t been perfect. His block in the back penalty against the New England Patriots was certainly frustrating; and Harbaugh made it known. Williams’ size (6’1″) could make him helpful at CB at some point, but the team has to trust him there.

46. OT Oniel Cousins-The team didn’t really hide from the fact that they were disappointed by how long it took Oniel to get back on the field after a preseason concussion. At this point, I don’t think they can hide from the disappointment in his on-field performance; as he’s struggled to get playing time at all.

45. LB Prescott Burgess-He’s remained a steady player on Special Teams, and that’s what the team has wanted from him. It’s easy to be down a player who doesn’t contribute at his natural position, but Burgess has been solid.

44. LS Morgan Cox-Matt Katula’s struggles a season ago were at least somewhat to blame for early season misses from then kicker Steve Hauschka. I think that’s why it wasn’t terribly surprising when ST Coordinator Jerry Rosburg and company decided to go with Cox this season. That being said, Cox has been low on a few FG snaps, and has gotten some help from holder Sam Koch. He needs to be a bit steadier.

43. WR Marcus Smith-Smith is another player whose contributions have been limited to Special Teams thus far, which means his mistakes are often much more memorable than anything he does well. He had a tough day in Foxborough, but he wasn’t the only one.

42. DT Terrence Cody-What a frustrating player Terrence Cody has been this season. There’s moments where it looks like things are clicking for him, but there have been many more moments (in the 4 games where he’s played) where he looked absolutely lost. He didn’t record his first NFL tackle until the Week 7 win over the Buffalo Bills.

41. LB Jason Phillips-Phillips may have earned a couple of extra spots on the list simply thanks to the hit he and Edgar Jones delivered to Denver Broncos WR/KR Demaryius Thomas (see below) in Week 5. Phillips is in a tough spot, as the Ravens are deep at ILB. That being said, he’s made an impact in the opportunities he’s had-which is exactly what the team wanted.

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40. DE Paul Kruger-I’m placing Paul Kruger in the top 40, but I’ll note that he’s played in only two games thus far this season-two he may have never played in had the team not released Trevor Pryce earlier in the year. His ability to play in the wedge has helped get him on the field, but the kick return hasn’t exactly been great with or without him.

39. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-Ayanbadejo is another player who I’m squeezing into the Top 40 despite limited work. It looks like Ayanbadejo is going to be able to continue to be an effective player on Special Teams; but his ability to help is pass coverage will determine where he eventually ends up on this list.

38. RB/KR Jalen Parmele-It’s easy to look at the struggles Parmele has had over the last two weeks and be down on his season; but it cannot be dismissed that he’s averaged over 20 yards per return this season. The Ravens have to figure out what’s going wrong with their kick return. My guess is that they’ll find out that the returner isn’t the biggest problem. My second guess is that it won’t mean Parmele will be the returner moving forward anyway.

37. S Ken Hamlin-When the Ravens released Hamlin to make room for Cary Williams earlier in the season, it looked like a confirmation that Hamlin was simply holding Ed Reed’s roster spot. About a week later we found out that wasn’t exactly the case. Hamlin has been effective on Special Teams and has offered something to Greg Mattison’s defense as well-at least until he was left inactive for the first time Week 7. That could be bad news moving forward for Hamlin.

36. WR David Reed-After looking like he might not be able to play Special Teams at all, Reed developed into a very trustworthy gunner for the Ravens over the first few weeks of the season and has taken more snaps as a returner during practice as the season has gone on. That being said, it is interesting to note that Reed was held out of Sunday’s game against the Bills. It had at least SOMETHING to do with a thigh injury, but it will be interesting to see if it was the injury ONLY, or if the injury was just part of it.

35. TE Ed Dickson-Dickson is an interesting case. In the game against the Broncos, his 58 yard 1st quarter catch was eye-opening. His 6’4″ frame clearly makes him an attractive downfield and jump-ball target. But his holding penalty later in the game was an example of exactly why OC Cam Cameron may not fully trust him enough to keep him on the field. My guess is that Dickson is headed towards some level of a breakout performance.

34. LB Tavares Gooden-I get the feeling that I could be showing a little bit too much fairness to Gooden, who was adequate in the two games he played before injuring his shoulder. He probably hasn’t done enough to justify the position, but I’ll keep him here for now. How he bounces back from another setback (and whether or not he can return in Week 9) could have a lot to do with his future in Charm City.

33. CB Josh Wilson-This is really tricky as well. Wilson has by no means been a liability on the field; but he’s done little to prove himself thus far. He’s missed two games (a healthy inactive when the Ravens played the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field; an ankle injury kept him out of the loss to the Pats at Gillette Stadium), and he hasn’t been perfect as a returner. But when Secondary coach Chuck Pagano need an answer late against the Bills, Wilson stepped up.

32. WR TJ Houshmandzadeh-Truth be told, I’m completely befuddled by TJ Houshmandzadeh’s short tenure in Baltimore. I don’t think he’s been misused, I don’t think Joe Flacco has failed to look for him or get him the ball, I don’t think he’s necessarily been awful in doing his own job (although I absolutely think he’s given half efforts to catch the ball-which was abundantly evident when the Ravens played the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium). I’m not sure what Houshmandzadeh’s role is moving forward as Stallworth returns. No matter what it is, his catch to beat the Steelers will never be forgotten.

31. OL Tony Moll-Moll has shown himself to be a particularly reliable reserve on the O-Line; he’s been the team’s top reserve this season. In fact, he was on the field at RT when the Ravens put together their final TD drive to get the first win of the Harbaugh era in the Steel City.

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30. DT Brandon McKinney-McKinney has quickly become the team’s top reserve along the D-Line, and has played VERY well he’s seen the field this season. He’s probably better as a NT or as an interior tackle in a 4-3 defense, but he’s been outstanding filling multiple roles for DL coach Clarence Brooks.

29. S Haruki Nakamura-Nakamura’s playing time has decreased since the start of the season, but it’s not because he’s performed poorly. Nakamura was both the 3rd safety and the nickel corner in the Ravens’ season opening Monday Night Football win over the New York Jets, but the improved health of the team has limited his role. His play has been effective throughout the season no matter his role.

28. CB Lardarius Webb-After missing the season opener at New Meadowlands Stadium, Webb has been up and down in the six games he’s played. At times he’s been spectacular, including two big pass breakups in the win over the Steelers. At other times he’s been less than spectacular, including the loss to the Bills. Webb stepped in for Zbikowski at PR against the Bills as well, but is unlikely to remain a long term option there.

27. DL Cory Redding-This is somewhat of a tricky judgment as well. Redding has played well, but was supposed to be able to get off the field in obvious passing situations this season to allow for a better rush end option. Sadly, the Ravens don’t have a better rush end option. Redding has just one sack on the season, and that number is unlikely to get much bigger.

26. LB Dannell Ellerbe-If Dannell Ellerbe didn’t have to play in pass coverage, he probably would find himself in the Top 15. Of course, there are a number of LB’s in the NFL who could say the same thing. Ellerbe has been solid but not spectacular, and has not exactly shown himself to be an “answer” for the Ravens at JACK LB.

25. OL Chris Chester-The Ravens would certainly prefer to have Chester coming off the bench and taking snaps at multiple positions; but the back injury to Jared Gaither has forced him into a starting role at RG. Chester hasn’t been perfect, but at no point has he been any sort of liability.

24. LB Jameel McClain-McClain has thus far been the most consistent answer at JACK LB, but he probably hasn’t solidified the position the way the team may have hoped he would. McClain has been solid, but has not been able to make too many plays in the backfield. Opponents have also been surprisingly able to run the ball with effectiveness (none more than Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis), which has to fall on the entire group-including McClain.

23. OL Marshal Yanda-No one has forgotten about Jared Gaither in Baltimore, but Marshal Yanda has solidified the RT position after a few early season struggles. Yanda is still better served playing at the Guard position, but he’s shown his athleticism and ability to both pass block and run block at the RT position.

22. S Ed Reed-There’s little argument for me ranking a player who has seen the field for just one game this high; but the argument exists. Of course, it is a very short argument-based solely on the fact that despite playing in just one game, Reed leads the team in interceptions. He looked like the Ed Reed of old against the Bills, giving the organization every reason to believe he’ll continue to play at a high level.

21. RB Willis McGahee-We might never TRULY know why McGahee didn’t see the field against the Pats, but he’s been very good every other time he’s seen the field. McGahee has been a solid back in both short yardage and goal line situations, is an effective blocker, and can take consecutive handoffs. If for some reason Ray Rice were to get hurt, the Ravens would be fine at RB.

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20. C Matt Birk-Birk might not play at a Pro Bowl level necessarily anymore, but he’s still very good. He had some struggles early on this season, but he’s played very well in recent weeks. The Ravens may not have a center of the future on the roster necessarily, but they’re still just fine right now.

19. DT Kelly Gregg-Gregg has been just as steady as always this season; tallying 30 tackles and taking on double teams the same way he’s done since his breakout year in 2002. The only potential knock on Gregg has been a lack of plays made in the backfield.

18. S/PR Tom Zbikowski-The Ravens have been very happy with the play they’ve received from Zbikowski this season-especially while Reed missed the first six weeks of the season. Fans haven’t been thrilled with Zbikowski as punt returner-but since inexplicably running the ball backwards in East Rutherford, he’s been solid in that role as well. Zbikowski missed Game 7 with a bruised heel, but isn’t expected to be out for an extended period of time.

17. S Dawan Landry-I feel like we keep getting back to the Buffalo game with Ravens defenders-but that tends to be what happens when a team gives up 34 points at home. Landry had been very solid until that game however, and has 52 tackles through seven games this season.

16. CB Chris Carr-The best thing to happen to the Ravens in the wake of the Domonique Foxworth injury has been the play of Carr. Carr has been particularly steady starting opposite Fabian Washington. The team would probably like to see him improve a bit on the one interception and five pass deflections he’s posted thus far this season.

15. LB Jarret Johnson-The only disappointment with Johnson this season has been his lack of involvement in the pass rush. He’s tallied just half a sack thus far to go with 28 tackles. He’s been good, he’s just not quite played to the level he played at a season ago when he compiled six sacks.

14. K Billy Cundiff-The name Shayne Graham has LONG been forgotten at 1 Winning Drive. Cundiff has been incredible on kickoffs, tallying 18 touchbacks this season. He had entered the season with just 11 touchbacks for his CAREER. Cundiff is also 10/12 on field goal attempts; with one of the two misses coming in the goofy open end of the stadium at Heinz Field. There really isn’t much more that can be said about Cundiff, he’s been tremendous this season.

13. P Sam Koch-While I’m at it, Koch has been outstanding this season as well. He’s pinned punts inside the 20 yard line 19 times already this season. Some of his yardage numbers are a bit off this season, as the Ravens have had better field position in general this season. Oakland Raiders P Shane Lechler is still probably having a better season; but Koch has to at least be in consideration for a trip to Hawaii.

12. OT Michael Oher-Oher won’t want to hear the name Jermaine Cunningham any time soon, but otherwise he’s avoided a sophomore slump. Oher has answered almost all questions about his ability to play the LT position, even if he isn’t quite Jonathan Ogden just yet. He LOOKS like he’s offsides more than he actually IS offsides, with the only exception being the Patriots game.

11. LB Terrell Suggs-There’s a misconception that T-Sizzle is having a bad season. That’s simply not true. Suggs has played very well at times, and has clearly developed into a very complete all-around LB. The problem is-the Ravens don’t necessarily need an improved all-around LB on the outside. They REALLY need a pass rushing monster, and Suggs (3.5 sacks) just isn’t that guy right now, nor may he ever be again.

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10. G Ben Grubbs-Grubbs has been the team’s most consistent Offensive Lineman thus far this season, and is setting himself up nicely for a potential Pro Bowl trip. As the team’s longest tenured O-Lineman, Grubbs has been significantly important for the team in maintaining continuity in a season where they have been forced to move pieces around.

9. TE Todd Heap-The Ravens thought that drafting two tight ends would help keep Heap fresh by getting him off the field for a handful of snaps every game. They also thought that signing multiple receivers in the offseason would help free up space on the field for Joe Flacco to find Heap. They’ve been right about both things. Heap has still taken a beating this season (thanks in part to Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather), but he’s on pace to have at least his best offensive season since 2006.

8. CB Fabian Washington-Don’t start cursing at your computer screen just yet. I am well aware that Lee Evans treated Washington like Sidney Rice would Frank Walker in the Ravens’ loss to the Bills. However, in the six games before that-Washington was a significant part of why the Ravens had one of the top pass defenses in the NFL (now ranked 8th for the record). Washington’s future standing on this list will of course have everything to do with how he bounces back from what was a dreadful Week 7 performance.

7. WR Derrick Mason-Remember him? Mason might not be on pace for a 1,000 yard season; but when they’ve needed him-he’s been ready to make plays. He was the team’s leading receiver in two very tough road games (at Pittsburgh and at New England), and he caught the only touchdown of the game in the Ravens’ Week 2 loss in the Queen City. Mason is just as reliable as always, and still catches the football…with the exception of the handful of times the team has decided for some goofy reason to try to throw jump balls in the direction of his 5’10″ frame.

6. RB Ray Rice-Fantasy football owners may not be quite as happy with Ray Rice’s performance as I am; but he’s been very good this season. He’s on pace to finish the season with over 1,400 yards of total offense; and should be able to remain fresh the more the Ravens work McGahee into the offense. Rice was expected to be a Top 3 caliber player on this list, but the lack of a breakaway burst appears to be hurting him right now. If that re-appears, he might show himself to be the type of MVP candidate he was a season ago.

5. LB Ray Lewis-Let me get this out of the way. Ray Lewis has not played like the future Hall of Fame LB he is in every game this season. He looked downright human against the Browns. That being said, the season opener on MNF was a vintage performance from one of the greatest defenders in league history, and Lewis locked up the Steelers game with a late interception of Charlie Batch. He tallied 15 tackles in the win over the Bills as well. San Francisco 49ers LB Patrick Willis may be the unquestionable greatest LB in the game today, but Ray Lewis has not fallen terribly far behind.

4. FB Le’Ron McClain-This one may catch a few folks off guard, as the personal foul penalty in Foxborough and the lack of carries probably stick out in the minds of most fans more than anything else, but Le’Ron McClain is playing as well at his position as almost anyone else on the Ravens roster this season. RB Coach Wilbert Montgomery graded McClain’s performance against the Browns as the best by a Ravens player this season, and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron told me that in terms of the total package-blocking, rushing and pass catching-McClain was absolutely the best fullback in not only the AFC-but the entire NFL.

3. QB Joe Flacco-If it weren’t for the dud in Cincy, Flacco may be #1 on the list. Unfortunately, the game in Cincy still counts. Flacco has been outstanding for the better part of the season-despite strange criticism from fans and a handful of analysts alike. He’s on pace for another season with 3,000+ yards and 20+ touchdowns and has limited his turnovers in games BESIDES Cincinnati. Flacco still needs to figure out that Ray Rice is just 5’7″; which has to be the most frustrating part of his game at this point.

2. WR Anquan Boldin-Anquan Boldin has been everything the Ravens had hoped he would be and more. He’s been a reliable target, he’s shown the type of toughness that originally made him a star with the Arizona Cardinals, and at times (the Browns game sticks out) he’s even added an explosive level to his game. He unfortunately doesn’t get to matchup against Eric Wright every week; but he’s on pace for 1,000+ yards and double digit TD’s no matter who he’s up against. Some fans in Baltimore who weren’t familiar with his game thought the Ravens were getting Larry Fitzgerald; but for those who knew what type of player Boldin was-he’s been ABSOLUTELY as good as advertised if not better.

1. DT Haloti Ngata-There is simply no better player on this football team right now than Haloti Ngata. There’s almost no argument any longer about who the best interior D-Lineman is in the NFL either. The only unfortunate part about the season for Ngata has been the fact that the lack of a rush end has forced the Ravens to send Ngata outside and hope he could get to the quarterback. He’s capable, but it’s by no means where he is best used. When he does get in the backfield, there’s no quarterback (or other player at any position) that’s happy to see him.

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

-G

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