Posted on 20 October 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 13 June 2013 by Tim Horsey
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You seem like you are the least-stressed coach in the NFL.
That was one of the many things noticed about Steve Spagnuolo during his first chance to address the media after the final day of mini-camp for the Ravens. After three dreadful seasons at the helm of the St. Louis Rams and another year coordinating a Saints defense that gave up the most yards in a single season in NFL history, Spagnuolo seems at ease in his new role with the Super Bowl champs.
“It’s been a tough two years, but I’m focusing forward, and I’m excited. To me, the way I look at this is this is a privilege to be a part of a great organization.”
Spagnuolo said that he is not happy with the way things worked out at his last two stops, but that he has learned from them.
“I’ll tell you what, people say this all the time, and it’s true: You learn more from the setbacks than you do really from the successes.”
Spagnuolo’s official role with the Ravens is senior defensive assistant, a role that he says will essentially be “an extra set of eyes.”
“You can never have enough eyes with some kind of experience to kind of give some feedback or an idea or something that we might have done, or I saw somebody else do that I worked for. I worked for some great people: [New York Giants head coach] Tom Coughlin, [Kansas City Chiefs head coach] Andy Reid.“
Harbaugh and Juan Castillo, the Ravens run game coordinator, were also part of Reid’s staff in Philadelphia. Spagnuolo mentioned how excited he was to rejoin some old friends on a new coaching staff.
“You leave each other, and you hope someday that you are back together. God-willing in this business, you can do that. It’s great. It’s great every day…I remember we used to test each other. I’d watch him coach, and he’d want the feedback. And, I’d ask him to watch me coach and give feedback. We’ve been doing that for years. It’s great to be with him.”
Before becoming the head coach of the Rams in 2009, Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. In New York, Spagnuolo rolled through a bevy of talented defensive lineman, including future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and Pro Bowlers Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He would often put his four best pass rushers, usually four defensive ends, all on the line at the same time to create mismatches in what came to be known as the NASCAR formation.
Behind these high-pressure schemes and talented pass rushers, the Giants defeated the then unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, launching Spagnuolo into the limelight as one of the premier defensive coaches in the NFL.
And although that group Spagnuolo had in Big Blue was extremely talented, he says that this current group in Baltimore has all of the pieces to be even better.
“I had little visions of the Giants’ front that I happened to be privileged to be working with. They are good all the way around… This is as good as looking football team that I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about physically and stout.“
He specifically pointed to Chris Canty and Terrell Suggs as two pieces who are going to be key to the pass rush.
“You can’t coach that height. He puts his hands up, man. There’s not a coach in the world that can take a six-foot guy and do that. He’s been very impressive to me,” when referring to the 6’7” Canty.
And when he talked about Suggs, he mentioned his fun-loving, joker style that Ravens fans have come to know and love (for the most part), but he also praised the former Defensive Player of the Year.
“He put his uniform [on] and came out there. I looked at [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] and I’m laughing, saying ‘Wow. That’s what they’re supposed to look like.’ He is one of those blue-chips prospects in this league. He’s an elite player.”
Along with Canty, a slimmed down Suggs, and talented players like Elvis Dumervil and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens pass rush should be one of the most feared units in the entire league, which would be a significant improvement from last year’s squad, who finished tied for 15th in the NFL with 37 sacks.
With success in Baltimore, Spagnuolo could see his name be brought back up in conversation as a future head coach in the league, something that he is still striving for. When asked if he was looking to get back into head coaching, he had a very direct answer, one different from the lengthy answers he gave when asked other questions.
“Oh yes, yes, deeply. “
You could sense right away that this is a man who, even if he seems relaxed, is dying for another chance to get back at the helm of a football team and redeem his reputation. But he realizes that to get to that point, he needs to do his best in his current job in Baltimore.
“I listened to [Dick Vermeil] speak one time, and his advice to young coaches, any coach was, ‘Be the best at whatever job you have right now.’ So, I’m trying to be the best that this particular position and let the rest take care of itself.”
And if he can do that, it will not only be a positive for his personal future, but also for the future of a transitioning defense in Baltimore.
Posted on 25 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson
As I look ahead to the Super Bowl with far less excitement than I had at this time last week, I’ll begrudgingly admit that while not as interesting as the Ravens projected to be the Patriots and Giants match up in the big game is an interesting one and worth looking forward to. It is after all a chance to revisit the defining match up of the most important season in recent NFL history (in my opinion) with plenty of other storylines to be gathered along the way.
With some of those storylines in mind I present my ideal octet for Super Bowl companionship, or the 8 people I’d most like to have in a room for this year’s Super Bowl.
I’d like to see Manning’s emotions up close as his brother goes for a second ring (or one more than Peyton has) against the rival against whom Peyton will most often be measured in Tom Brady. I wonder if there’s just a little hater in him.
Call this pick the hater in me, as I’d love to sit next to Rex (with my shoes on of course) as he watches the two proverbial bears that he poked this season compete for the trophy he once again guaranteed to deliver himself. Rex may have been right in promising New York a Super Bowl this season, but he can’t be happy about it.
Speaking of haters, why not bring Eli Manning’s biggest basher to the celebration? We’ll be serving plenty of humble pie at my fictional gathering it seems.
Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson
Lingering legends aside, Ray Rice might be the most popular and productive Raven today. One thing’s for sure…at $550K or so in the final season of his contract, Ray Rice is easily the Ravens best pound-for-pound bargain, and arguably the league’s best. One other thing that seems assured is that Rice is going to get paid. When, how much and where that happens however may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as it would seem.
This has been “the year of…” lots of things in the NFL, the year of the 5K quarterbacks, the year of the rookies, the year of the power forwards at tight end and the year of the disgruntled running back.
As running backs league wide from Chris Johnson to Frank Gore, from Matt Forte to Peyton Hillis have barked and in some cases dogged it (allegedly…and no pun intended) over their “contract to performance ratios”, Rice with arguably the strongest case of all has remained silent. Silent about the contract that is, on the field he has been anything but silent or dogged.
It’s been a running topic of conversation all season on the MobTown Sports Beat and everyone seems assured that Rice will be taken care of by the Ravens and some have speculated that there’s no reason Rice shouldn’t feel confident that the team will take care of him.
It’s all but 100% (in my mind at least) that Rice will be back next season, but under what circumstances and for how long are still debatable.
If you subscribe to the school of WWBBD (What would Bill Bellichick do?) the answer is to franchise Rice. Given Adrian Peterson’s new contract, the franchise tag will be a big number, but only for one season. Whether Rice would maintain his decorum for another season under similar (albeit more lucrative) circumstances to this one would remain to be seen as well.
In addition to Peterson’s contract, his injury will also likely factor heavily into the Ravens impending decision of whether to franchise Rice or to pay him long term money. Peterson’s injury is a not so subtle reminder of just how quickly a running back in particular can see his season (or even his career) ended. Having all of your eggs in that proverbial basket is a high-risk high reward proposition (as we learned in 2001 with Jamal Lewis’ injury).
The value of NFL running backs is on the decline, but the pay scale on the top end of the position is still rising. There are lots of Pro Bowl caliber and highly compensated running backs in the NFL watching the playoffs from home this season, and most of the league’s most productive offenses have plug and play backfields and use the running game as an afterthought for little more than window dressing it would seem at times.
Only one running back went in the first round of the last NFL draft and while still promising, Mark Ingram has done little to make teams sorry for passing on him. DeMarco Murray, taken on the second day of the draft was the league’s best rookie at the position.
One year prior, Ryan Matthews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best all went in the first round and all were summarily outperformed by undrafted rookies LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. An undrafted practice squad player from one season earlier led the league in rushing last season and the Packers marched through the Super Bowl after losing their bell-cow in Ryan Grant and replacing him with little known and lightly regarded James Starks.
Posted on 05 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson
Here’s a look at my positional power rankings for the players and teams that are left in the playoffs. This year’s stats accounted for a lot but at the end of the day it’s my opinion on who I’d suit up today for the best chance at winning.
1 – Aaron Rodgers (GB)
2 – Drew Brees (NO)
3 – Tom Brady (NE)
4 – Eli Manning (NYG)
5 – Matthew Stafford (DET)
6 – Matt Ryan (ATL)
* I gave 6 here since the first 3 were fairly obvious (if not their respective places in that top 3)
1 – Ray Rice (BAL)
2 – Arian Foster (HOU)
3 – Michael Turner (ATL)
4 – Frank Gore (SF)
5 – Darren Sproles (NO)
1 – Calvin Johnson (DET)
2 – Andre Johnson (HOU)
3 – AJ Green (CIN)
4 – Victor Cruz (NYG)
5 – Wes Welker (NE)
6 – Roddy White (ATL)
7 – Greg Jennings (GB)
8 – Jordy Nelson (GB)
9 – Mike Wallace (PIT)
10 – Hakeem Nicks (NYG)
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Posted on 02 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson
The end of another NFL season and the beginning of a new calendar year is sure to bring change as unfilled goals and promises demand accountability. Continue Reading
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Posted on 31 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson
When great expectations collide with poor performances fans tend to find themselves at the ledge. It’s that fan purgatory where blood pressure always seems to be rising and the sky always seems to be falling. Let’s take a look outside to see who’s on the ledge this week:
Boise State: It was supposed to somehow be their year. What’s more, this should have been a good weekend for the Boise Sate Broncos, instead it was just another in a series of tough late season blows for the “Little Engine That Could” of college football as the Stanford Cardinal not only survived a triple OT scare against USC, but catapulted the Broncos for the fourth spot in the BCS this week as a result.
The losses by Kansas State and Clemson had to be encouraging for the Broncos, and if the probability of USC upending Stanford as it was happening appeared too good to be true, it ultimately was. After starting the season with little #’s 5 & 7 in the two major polls next to their name, the Broncos appeared to be in line for their first legitimate shot at getting into the BCS title game if a few things broke their way. Lately it became apparent that they were the contingency plan for Oklahoma State at best. Now looking up at Stanford too, it seems that QB Kellen Moore and company will need lots of help in earning their “lifetime achievement award”.
Last but not least, it seems that in the era of conference landscape shake-up the Broncos, apparently Big East bound will still be looking at a future where the strength of schedule still serves to indict their record no matter how impressive.
Outlook: Stay positive, the weekend wasn’t a total loss. Clemson lost, K-State lost, and Stanford at least proved that they could be beaten. The Cardinal still have a showdown with Oregon and the PAC-12 title game to get through and Oklahoma State’s road may be even tougher than that. Boise’s BCS outlook may still be more realistic and closer than ever.
Washington Redskins: You started 3-1 and Rex Grossman’s misplaced confidence in declaring the Redskins contenders seemed to be both founded and contagious. Three straight losses and two quarterbacks later the Skins are fresh off of a 23-0 oak-sticking at the hands of the Bills and the once vulnerable looking NFC East is beginning to round more into the form that most expected to begin the season. The Eagles look to be clicking right now, the Giants and Cowboys both look talented but inconsistent and the Redskins look to be pulling up the rear.
Outlook: You knew it would eventually come to this, didn’t you? Even at 3-1 the Redskins were tough to buy into, now we’re being reminded of why.
City of Dallas: The year began so well. The Cowboys played host to the Super Bowl and even though they expected to be in it and weren’t and even though the weather was an ongoing storyline throughout Super Bowl week, it’s tough to count that experience as a negative. In fact on the heels of the Super Bowl and tons of giant events at the new “Jerry-World” the Mavericks won the NBA Finals and the Rangers dominated most of the summer.
Now however, the Rangers arguably choked away their first world title twice in game 6 of the World Series then lost it in game 7, the reeling Cowboys are 3-4 and fresh off of an embarrassing Sunday Night performance on national television, and the Mavericks chance to defend their NBA title is on hold indefinitely as the NBA lockout drags on.
Outlook: Everything is bigger in Big D, I suppose panic is no different.
Denver Broncos: Okay, Tim Tebow stinks. It’s easy to tolerate when he’s winning and inspiring people along the way, but a win over a bad Dolphins team was just that no matter how exciting, and the reeling Detroit Lions exacted 2 weeks of frustrations on the Broncos on Sunday with ease. Tebow was a winner in college, but so were lots of NFL players, and even more who never made it or simply stunk in the NFL. Winning at this level is different, and Tebow has a long way to go before he can think about doing it consistently, and the current coaching staff may have no legitimate designs on waiting for him to be ready.
The Broncos are paying 3 quarterbacks good money, yet still have no real answer at quarterback. Additionally their win against the Dolphins while inspirational has them looking “up” at 4 teams in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and on even ground (in the loss column) with 4 more.
Outlook: A team with 2 quarterbacks really has none; a team with 3 might have no idea what they’re looking for. Be afraid Bronco’s fans yours is a tough road ahead.
Roger Goodell: Mr. Ndamukong Suh would like to see you sir.
Outlook: Be afraid be very afraid.
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Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson
This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.
I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.
All lines taken from sportsbook.com.
Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)
week 7: 2-3 (-130 pts) season: 13-12 (-20 pts)
Saints -14 @ Rams
Lions -3 @ Broncos
Steelers +3 vs. Patriots
Browns +9 @ 49ers
Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers
Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)
week 7: 2-2-1 (-10 pts) season: 10-12-1 (-160 pts)
Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings
Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants
Bills -6 vs. Redskins
Bengals -3 @ Seahawks
Cowboys +3.5 @ Eagles
Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)
Week 7: 1-2(-24 pts) season 9-10-2 (-40 pts)
Titans -9 vs. Colts
Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans
Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals
Last week Total: 5-7-1 (-164 pts) Season Total: 32-34-3 (-220 pts)
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Posted on 10 August 2011 by Ryan Chell
It was a spirited discussion on “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider today about our “Top 10 Sports Illustrated Covers”, and while I could have easily thrown in 10 Swimsuit Issue covers or iconic moments from sports throughout the years, I decided to stick close to home with my SI Covers.
Like my choices? Think I missed something? Tweet me @RyanChell87 on Twitter, comment below, or give us a call Friday 410-481-1570! Would love to hear from you…
10. David Tyree catch (Feb 11, 2008)-Not only one of the best-if not the best catch in NFL history, but a heck of a shot by SI’s photographer. And a future Raven-albeit for a short while-on a national cover ain’t bad.
9. “Rare Birds”-Mike Mussina/Ben McDonald (July 18, 1994)-Mike Mussina was my favorite Oriole growing up. I copied his wind-up out in the backyard playing baseball when he would check the runner at first-base by leaning over and looking through his legs. And to have the two polar opposites-the stern Mussina and the happy-go-lucky Ben McDonald on the same cover, it was a great pairing of the two on SI.
8. Cal Ripken Jr-“Chillin’ with Cal” (Aug 7th 1995)-Another great shot, and Cal showed up on Sports Illustrated several times in his career. On top of getting a good look at a down-to-earth player like Cal, but to see him with hair ( a lot on his chest too), it was great to see Cal in a light-hearted environment of a swimming pool.
7. Ray Lewis-“God’s Linebacker” (November 13, 2006)-Ravens fans know about Ray’s transgressions and his involvement in the murder trial in Atlanta at the early part of the decade. It was one of the stains on a great career of a Hall of Fame linebacker, and that blemish steered a lot of people and endorsements away from Ray. One example was Disney -who chose quarterback Trent Dilfer to do their iconic “I’m Going to Disneyworld” commercial post-game after Super Bowl XXV as opposed to the Super Bowl MVP in Ray Lewis. But this issue of Sports Illustrated was a big kick towards putting the past where it belongs…in the past. A very forgiving gesture on the part of SI…
6. Johnny Unitas-“Play Now, Pay Later (May 7, 2001)-This article, and its cover photo-touched me deeply. On top of the fact that we lost Johnny U a year later-on on the one-year anniversary of September 11th, we learned from this article about the pains that Johnny Unitas was going through because of the hits he took during his career fighting to get Baltimore a win. He could barely hold a pen to give an autograph, but that wouldn’t stop Unitas from giving you one if you asked.
5. -Johnny Unitas-“The Best Game Ever” (April 28, 2008)-Johnny Unitas’ crowning achievement in his career-the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Enough said-and no better shot of Johnny Unitas. I saved this particular issue of Sports Illustrated and have it in a safe spot in my desk drawer.
4. Matt Wieters-“The Catch”-(March 15, 2010)-Another Sports Illustrated cover that I have saved. Not a lot of players from perennial losing teams make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Matt Wieters did. I don’t care what people say-Matt Wieters will be a star. He made the All-Star team this year because he deserved it, not because he was the only Oriole worthy of doing so. Great picture of Wieters, and I can’t wait till his game matures enough that this issue of Sports Illustrated is thought of more seriously not just in Baltimore, but across the nation. Maybe he’ll make another cover issue.
3. Len Bias-“Death of a Dream” (June 30, 1986)-Numerous people said it. If Len Bias would have made it to the Boston Celtics and played in the NBA, he would have been just as good-if not better-than Michael Jordan. That of course would have meant that Bias would have beaten out Jordan for most SI cover appearances, which Jordan has the achievement of doing a record 49 times.
Sadly, that never came to fruition due to Bias’ tragic passing after experimental cocaine use. He certainly left his mark on the University of Maryland and on the sports world, and it was a shame we didn’t get to see Len Bias on more SI covers.
2. Juan Dixon-“Mighty Maryland”-(April 8, 2002)-WNST’s own Glenn Clark might say this is worthy of #1, but it doesn’t trump my winner. But, Maryland’s run to its only national title in men’s basketball and to be thrust on the front stage and the front pages of Sports Illustrated is quite the honor. Hopefully Mark Turgeon gets Maryland back to this level yet again.
1. Ray Lewis, “Special Commemorative Issue-SB XXXV”-There were a lot of issues that had the Ravens on the front pages of SI during their Super Bowl run in 2000-2001, but I chose this one because it wrapped up and completed the run. And to have the Super Bowl MVP, Ray Lewis, on its cover-the leader of that defense-you can’t go wrong here. And to keep the trend of my future hopes for SI Covers, hopefully the Ravens do it all again and send Ray Lewis out on top with another championship issue.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter at RyanChell87 and listen to me on “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider! Check out Rex’s list here and keep tabs on us as we prepare for Ravens season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!
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Posted on 03 August 2011 by Thyrl Nelson
Vonta Leach will undoubtedly help Ray Rice to run in 2011, might he also help him to walk after 2011?
Ravens fans may not be happy with the team’s moves thus far (or lack thereof) in free agency, but Ray Rice probably is. As teams across the league boast big splash signing after big splash signing, Ravens fans seem to anxiously await their team’s own foray into the headlines. Truth be told, they may have already it (or them).
It’s probably a safe bet that Ray Rice is madly excited about the Ravens free agency moves thus far. Not only did the Ravens retain Marshall Yanda (and will hopefully be able to deploy him at right guard), but they also added an Earthmover of a fullback behind whom Rice could run for days, toward glory, fame and ultimately riches too. The question then becomes, will those riches come as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, or does the Leach signing indicate (or even necessitate) that the Ravens are more prepared to “Show him the door” than to “Show him the money”?
The NFL has changed, it’s always changing, but the most recent and significant changes to the landscape may be attributable to the 2007 Giants. As the NFL ushered in its era of wide open passing offenses and as the Patriots rode that change to the precipice of an undefeated season, that Giants team not only derailed their effort, but quite possibly changed the face of football going forward.
Ever since that season, or specifically that game, NFL teams have overreached and overpaid in efforts to find defensive line talent, while at the same time minimizing their efforts to find and pay feature backs. In a salary cap era, it only makes sense that any opportunity one can find to minimize cost, and for that matter risks has to be investigated.
The Giants took the “thunder and lightning” approach to another level, getting outstanding production from 3 workmanlike backs. While not superstars, each did a variety of different things well. Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward not only complimented each other skills-wise; they also kept each other fresh and surely challenged and brought the best out in each other too. They also insured that an injury to any one of them wouldn’t derail the Giants’ hopes. Before long, tandems, trios and running backs by committee were everywhere in the copycat NFL.
Fast forward to 2010.
The Packers won the Super Bowl despite losing Ryan Grant for the entire season early on, and without ever really establishing anyone as a consistent threat in the backfield. Quintessential bell cows Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson had good seasons but their teams failed to make the playoffs. First round running backs Jahvid Best, CJ Spiller and Ryan Matthews all put in disappointing efforts for non-playoff teams, while the league’s 2 most productive rookie running backs were both undrafted in LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. And to top it all off Arian Foster, an undrafted free agent from 2009, stepped out of the carnage of the Ben Tate injury to emerge not only as a viable alternative but also as the league’s best back in 2010.
And he did it behind Vonta Leach.
Foster isn’t Leach’s only success story either, in 2008 lightly regarded 3rd round pick Steve Slaton put together a 9 TD 1200+ yard campaign behind Leach too. At times he’s made legitimate runners of the likes of aging Ron Dayne and Ahman Green, Samkon Gado, Chris Brown and Ryan Moats. Say what you want about Foster’s talent after last season, but it seems all but clear that Leach has never likely fronted in the backfield for a talent as prolific as Ray Rice. And Rice should be happy to be running behind a blocker more interested in doing his own job than in taking Rice’s.
The only conceivable problem with the formula is that if we’ve identified running back as a position where talents can (or must) be found on the cheap, then why pay $11 million over 3 years to a fullback?
Regardless of how well Rice ultimately performs behind Leach, the Ravens will certainly have some opportunities at least to see how others look behind him too. How well those guys do in those opportunities may go a long way toward the decision facing the Ravens after this season with Rice and whether to pay him as the elite runner many are hoping he’ll be in and after the 2011 campaign, or to let him go, spend that money elsewhere and rest assured that whomever gets deployed behind Leach and the budding offensive line will be alright.
If so, enjoy Rice’s running this season, because his walking afterward could prove difficult to take, but inevitable nonetheless.
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