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Does John Harbaugh’s style need changing?  It’s a fair question…

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Does John Harbaugh’s style need changing? It’s a fair question…

Posted on 05 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

Football players can’t change much, but a coach sure can.

Can John Harbaugh change?

Should he?

Will he?

Those are all fair questions now as the Ravens are in the midst of only their second 3-game losing streak in Harbaugh’s outstanding 6-year run as Baltimore’s NFL coach.

First, let’s get this straight from the start:  In and of itself, a 3-game losing streak is NOT a reason to panic.  It’s NOT a reason to change the great things you’ve done.  And it’s NOT incumbent upon one person to say, “I’ll fix this whole thing…”

That said, when you’ve been around for five-plus seasons, any significant bump in the road – and a 3-game losing streak, to a high-level franchise like the Ravens, is SIGNIFICANT – has to be looked at by the head coach as an opportunity to evaluate himself and his work.

I hope John is doing that today in Owings Mills.

Anyone who has read my work here or listened to my radio show knows what I think about John Harbaugh.  For the record, again, I’ll simply say this:  John is an outstanding football coach.  He’s an equally outstanding “man”.  He’s a champion.  And, of course, he still has plenty to learn in his profession.

I’ve been around athletes for the last thirty years of my life and one thing I can say for sure is that players rarely change their own style.  They can’t, really.  They are what they are.  If you’re a striker in professional soccer and you’re a right footed player with little or no ability to play left-footed, you’re always going to be a player that goes to his right and uses his right foot to pass or shoot the ball.  The same goes for a basketball player who’s a “right sided” player.  You’re going to your right, virtually every time, and that’s just the way it goes.  You do what got you there, for lack of a better term.  Football players are the same.  Their style is their style.  Some of that is predicated on things outside of their control — size and speed are two factors — but for the most part, a pro football player is going to use the tools that got him there in the first place.

Coaches are different.

They can change.

That doesn’t mean they have to undergo a wholesale change that comes across as “obviously phony”.

But, a coach who’s soft can develop a new, stronger edge and a coach that’s known to be a drill sergeant can soften his edges and  learn to be more accomodating with his players.  The most obvious NFL example of the latter is Tom Coughlin in New York, who has worked hard over the last five years to listen more and yell less.  It’s worked, of course.  He’s a 2-time Super Bowl champion and likely headed for the Hall of Fame someday.

I’d ask John Harbaugh to go through the same self-evaluation as Coughlin did five years ago.

I’m not TELLING John to change.  That’s not the point of this.

I’m simply suggesting to the coach that now, season six of his tenure, might be the time to carefully evaluate his style to see if it still works with this group of players he has in Baltimore.

One thing I know for sure.  If John Harbaugh thinks his style can be tweaked, improved or altered and doing so would help the team win, he’d surely consider doing it.  Another thing I know without hesitation:  No one on the football team or football staff wants to win more than Harbaugh.  No one.  He’d sell his mother to win a football game.  And then he’d pay double to get her back afterwards.  He wants to win, badly.

Then again, the players want to win, too.  How you get them to win, though, is the challenge.  As someone in the Ravens organization said to me last week, “We have an interesting collection of players.  Some of the veterans need an ass-kicking and some don’t.  Some of our young players get it and some of them don’t.  Usually, the vets don’t need to be reminded to take every snap seriously and the kids do, but our locker room is a unique blend of guys, for some reason.”

One of those veteran players who needed an ass kicking got it last week.  Michael Huff was sent packing after three months of showing little desire to do anything except pick up a paycheck.  Marcus Spears was also let go, but that was much more about his degenerative knee condition limiting him, physically.  Cornerback Asa Jackson returns this week after his 2nd run-in with the league’s Substance Abuse Policy.  He’s on life number eight of his nine lives in Baltimore.  Will he take advantage of it or will he fall from grace the way most people in Owings Mills assume he will?

And, how does John Harbaugh go about his own business now, dealing with a locker room that’s reeling with three straight losses and has both sides of the ball stinking it up at crucial times during the games?  A fractured locker room is a bad locker room.  Once the offense and defense start taking up sides, you’re in big trouble.  I can only guess there’s an element of that existing right now at 1 Winning Drive, but that atmosphere likely exists in most locker rooms of 3-5 teams.

This, again, is on Harbaugh’s shoulders right now.

Is he working with a depleted roster, minus eleven critically important players from a season ago?

Absolutely.

If you suddenly re-inserted these jerseys in the Ravens locker room, would the team be a lot better?  Dennis Pitta, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams, Brendon Ayanbedejo, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Bryant McKinnie, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe.

Answer, of course:  Yes.

But, that was then, this is now.  Those guys are gone.  And this new edition of Ravens football might not react to the head coach the way the championship team did a season ago.

Is John just going with his style because it’s his style or is willing to look at himself and say, “For this team, now, I might need to change the way I do things?”

More bible verses?  Or less bible verses?

Harder practices?  Lighter practices?

More hugs to the special team players…the fringe guys?  Or less hugs and more questions like “Are you ever going to be good enough to start in this league?”

More critical analysis of his coaching staff?  Longer days?  Shorter days?  More “come to Jesus” meetings with position coaches who see their own struggling game in and game out?

More thorough review of John’s own in-game style and strategy?  More of a gambler?  Less of a gambler?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions and I’m not suggesting any, honestly.

I’m merely asking the coach if his style, the one that has made him a champion, is etched in stone and non-negotiable?

Or, like the truly GREAT coaches in all sports, can he re-invent himself and use his strengths to mold a new character that changes with the seasons and the players he leads?

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Loss of a dozen starters has really hurt the Ravens

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Loss of a dozen starters has really hurt the Ravens

Posted on 22 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

Everywhere I went on Monday, the question was basically the same:  ”What’s wrong with the Ravens?”

A few folks who asked that of me quickly followed up with, “You shouldn’t be this bad a year after winning the Super Bowl.”

Well, what’s wrong with the Ravens is, in fact, a by-product of winning the Super Bowl in New Orleans last February.

The 2013 edition of John Harbaugh’s team isn’t the same one that won the title in 2012.  Simple, right?  Well, yes, it sort of IS that simple, actually, even though people are always trying to find the “hidden secret” or “untold story” of the team.

Try this simple exercise for a second.  You’re going to have to put your pre-conceived negative opinions of John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice on the side for a moment, because this little game won’t work if you can’t do that.

OK…ready?

I want you to rewind your brain all the way back to last January.  The Ravens have just finished 10-6, won the AFC North, and get to take on the Colts in the first round of the playoffs.  If they win there, their “prize” is a trip to Denver to take on a Peyton Manning team that rocked you in Baltimore a month earlier.  And, if you’re somehow fortunate enough to get past the Broncos, the last remaining hurdle between you and the Super Bowl is a visit to Tom Brady’s house in Foxboro.

Still with me?

OK — the week before the Colts game, a crippling virus races through the Ravens locker room and these ten players are deemed OUT for the remainder of the playoffs:  Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Dannell Ellerbe, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbedejo, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams and Dennis Pitta.  Add Bryant McKinnie to the mix after Monday’s trade and that makes eleven key players gone. (Keep in mind, as much as people like to beat up McKinnie, the Ravens are 0-2 since they jettisoned him to the bench in favor of Eugene Monroe.)

Could the Ravens have won four straight games in January and February without those eleven players a year ago?

Honestly?

Of course not.  They wouldn’t have moved past Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs given those ten starters missing the game due to the mythical “virus” I described above.

Well — of those eleven players I listed, nine of them were STARTERS from a year ago who haven’t played a single down for the Ravens this season.  McKinnie played 5 of 7 games before they sent him packing on Monday afternoon.

Of the players listed above, only Dennis Pitta remains on the roster, and he’s injured and was unavailable through seven games of 2013.

If you’re looking for the biggest reason why the Ravens are 3-4 at the bye, you just saw ten of them above.  There are, generally speaking, 22 “starters” in any game.  Ayanbedejo wasn’t technically a starter, but he WAS a special teams ace, so I deem him to be an important cog in the machine.  So, ten starters – out of 22 – are gone.  That’s not quite 50%, but it’s a huge chunk of quality missing that needed to be replaced.

(Please see next page)

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Jim Irsay said nothing wrong this week

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Jim Irsay said nothing wrong this week

Posted on 17 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

It’s remarkable how hilariously “obvious” the media can be in this country.

This Jim Irsay-Peyton Manning saga is a perfect example of that statement.

Someone asked Irsay a question about Manning.  He answered it.  He said nothing wrong — and far be it from someone in Baltimore to defend an Irsay.

It’s unreal these days how you’re not allowed to “speak the truth”, even when asked an “obvious” question like the one Irsay was asked about Manning.

And then, when the media does ask an “obvious” question, they ridicule the reply and pimp it as “disrespect” to sell newspapers or magazines or get you to watch or listen to a certain program on the air.

The reality in Indianapolis?  For as great as they were in the Manning era, the Colts underachieved on the field when you go back and look at the totality of their successes.

More reality?  Much like the Ravens did with Ray Lewis in Baltimore, the Colts handed over their franchise to Manning and said, “Do with it what you want…”  And, of course, Manning was sensational in Indianapolis, like Lewis was here in Charm City.

The reality about Ray Lewis, like Manning, is that his time in Baltimore wasn’t “perfect”.  But, it was certainly substantial enough for all of us to admit the obvious — without Ray Lewis in purple from 1996-2013, the Ravens franchise isn’t where they are today.  The same can be said in Indy.  Without Peyton Manning, the Colts aren’t where they are today.

All that said, Jim Irsay was simply telling the truth when he said – paraphrasing – “you like all the numbers and scoring but what you really want are more rings.”

That’s all true.

It was code word for:  ”We sold our soul for Peyton and gave him as many offensive toys we could…and while we piled up a bunch of points and made the games exciting for our home fans, that one-sided philosophy didn’t translate to multiple titles.”

You can almost flip the sides of the ball and say the same thing for the Ravens and Ray Lewis during his time here.  The Ravens did get a second title with Ray in the fold, but he was essentially a part-timer with a bad arm and deer antler spray on his breath by the time the final whistle blew in New Orleans last February.  Ray, though – much like Peyton – pulled more than his fair share of the weight when he was in Baltimore.  And the club responded by giving him the keys to the franchise.  When Ray spoke, everyone listened…and rightfully so.  Lewis earned that sort of respect with his play on the field and his leadership in the locker room, but the one-sided approach in Baltimore – defense over offense – only produced two Super Bowl trips from 1996 until the end of the 2012 season.  From ’99 through ’11, the one sided approach in Indy produced the same number of trips to the Super Bowl as the Ravens had — two.

Reality — In Indianapolis, they brushed up against greatness a lot when Peyton Manning was there but weren’t quite successful enough overall.  One Super Bowl ring proves that.

And there was nothing at all wrong with the way Jim Irsay commented on it.

He told everyone the obvious, anyway.

When you win one, you want two.

If you win two, you want three.

And so on.

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Flacco fires back at Lewis’ criticism of Ravens leadership

Posted on 25 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Starting quarterback Joe Flacco wasn’t the first to defend the Ravens’ current leadership in response to former teammate Ray Lewis’ criticism earlier in the week, but his words rang the loudest on Wednesday.

Responding to Lewis’ comments made on ESPN questioning the team’s current leaders in the aftermath of the party bus altercation that resulted in wide receiver Jacoby Jones being smashed in the head with a champagne bottle early Monday morning, Flacco defended the team’s recent track record when it comes to off-field behavior and downplayed how much leadership can influence what players do away from football.

“It is what it is. Ray knows better than that,” Flacco said. “Things happen. I think we’re usually a pretty good team with stuff like that. If you look around the league, there are probably a lot of leadership problems then. So, like I said, Ray knows better.”

No charges were filed and there is no evidence to suggest any player who attended left tackle Bryant McKinnie’s birthday celebration committed any crimes, making the story inconsequential in Flacco’s eyes.

Coach John Harbaugh addressed the incident with the entire team on Monday, warning the players of the dangers of being out in public late at night.

“When you get the information of what happened, it just is what it is,” Flacco said. “You laugh about it, kind of. It’s funny some of the things that we deal with. I don’t really have too many comments on it, because they’d all be taken the wrong way and out of context. But it’s not really an issue.”

While Flacco stood his ground and took Lewis’ comments to task, linebacker Terrell Suggs took a more apologetic stance for the man he teamed with the defensive side of the ball for a decade. Suggs suggested Lewis’ words were taken out of context even though he was on camera speaking freely in response to the news of the incident.

It’s possible that Suggs only read the transcript of Lewis’ words or wasn’t familiar with what Lewis actually said, but the Ravens had to know questions would be asked of Suggs on Wednesday.

“I guess it’s something that I’ll have to hear him say,” Suggs said. “We all know the media can ‘word-play’ [and] misconstrue things. We texted Ray this morning. It’s one guy’s opinion. Like I said, we don’t know what was actually said. You can never take anything for face value. If he says it in front of a camera, it’s a different thing.”

Understandably, Suggs shares a closer relationship with Lewis than Flacco does, but his response to his longtime teammate’s criticism didn’t have near the impact of the stance taken by the quarterback.

A transcript of Lewis’ comments from Monday night are below:

“We talk about the transition of losing so many guys, a guy like myself and Ed Reed and other guys that are based off leadership. I’ve said it earlier: ‘Where would the leadership come from?’ Because the leadership is being strong in the locker room and winning games. Listen, talent sometimes can win you games. But when you talk about what’s going on off the field, that’s the most important place where leadership steps up.

“When you think about the Baltimore Ravens and the transition that they went through, they’re missing leadership right now. When you have an incident like that, the first thing a leader is going to do is find some way to dissolve everything that’s going on and actually dissolve it before it comes to that type of head or even gets to that point.

“When you talk about the Baltimore Ravens, they’re going to have to refocus and find some quick leaders in that locker room very quickly.”

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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

The Ravens improved to 2-1 on the season yesterday with a one-sided, 30-9 win over the Houston Texans. After the way that the Texans handled the Ravens last season, there were a number of reasons to be concerned beforehand. Truth be told, I had a much worse feeling about what might happen against Houston than I did before the beat down the Ravens suffered in Denver in Week1. Hindsight however is 20/20, so here’s a quick rundown of what we know now after the Ravens latest victory:

5. Justin Tucker is Back on Track

…for now at least. Maybe it was the reception that Billy Cundiff received from the Ravens faithful last week that had Tucker out of sorts. Maybe it was just the presence of Cundiff in the building that infected Tucker’s right foot last Sunday. Regardless, Tucker made enough big kicks in his rookie year to have some equity built up with fans. That equity though wouldn’t have lasted through too many 0-for-2 performances like he had last week vs. Cleveland, especially if those misses began to cost the Ravens games.

While concern over the kicking game was mild at most, it was nice to see Tucker get back on track with a 3-for-3 game against the Texans, hitting from 28, 45 and 43 yards. Even though the two from 40+ came in late, low leverage situations, any concerns fans had about the Ravens kicking game can be shelved…for now.

4. Dirty Birds

After struggling with penalties last year, the Ravens still appear to have some work to do in that regard. The 2013 Ravens have 20 penalties for 181 yards through 3 games, including 10 for 87 yards in yesterday’s affair. Despite their most penalized performance of the season vs. Houston, the Ravens still managed to win the “penalty battle” as the Texans racked up 14 for 113 yards.

3. Cheering for Laundry

On the day that Ed Reed returned to Baltimore as a member of a new team, and Ray Lewis returned to be honored by the Ravens, it was the guys who suited up in their places that stole the show. James Ihedigbo picked up 9 tackles, 2 for a loss along with 2 defended passes and simply seemed to be everywhere while covering Ed Reed’s old spot. Daryl Smith, playing in Ray Lewis’ former domain plucked a Matt Schaub pass away from a waiting Owen Daniels, and at a time where the Ravens offense was struggling to make hay, made some on his own, hustling it 37 yards to pay dirt.

For all of the Ravens off-season pick-ups, Daryl Smith might have been the least heralded. He was grabbed on the same day the Ravens visited the White House and his signing went basically under the radar. If he continues to play like he did on Sunday, he could be the team’s most impactful addition. It’s also pretty encouraging that his big play came defending a tight end, which has been an issue for the Ravens of late.  

2. Doss is a Boss

What more can you say about a guy who was shown the door by the team when they pared down to their final 53 men, only to come back with an emphatic impact? Life out of football, brief as it may have been, seems to have brought out the best in Tandon Doss who is making the most out of his second chance with the Ravens. Maybe in the coming weeks Doss can become more a part of the Ravens passing game, and finally show fans those hands we heard so much about from the team about throughout his first 2 seasons. It’s not like the Ravens offense couldn’t use a pair of hands that they can trust between the hash marks.

1. Who Says Joe Flacco Can’t Act?

While Joe Flacco’s increased, post-Super Bowl public profile has led to some pretty clunky performances as a pitchman in various commercials, Flacco’s acting skills were on full display yesterday. After last season’s debacle at the hands of the Texans, JJ Watt and the rest of the Houston pass rush broke the huddle with their ears pinned back more often than not on Sunday. Flacco used that aggression against the Texans inducing 5 encroachment or defensive offsides penalties on the anxious Texans defense.

Elsewhere in the AFC North

The Bengals picked up a big win and remain tied with the Ravens at 2-1 atop the division. For now at least, it’s shaping up to be an interesting battle between these 2 for the division. They’ll meet again in Week 17 this year, maybe with something actually on the line this time.

The Steelers looked really bad to start against the Bears on Sunday night, but showed some real resilience closing the gap from 24-3 to 27-23. It looked like Pittsburgh had really found their resolve in the face of an 0-3 start. In the end though, their comeback attempt was little more than a chance for Ben Roethlisberger to cough up the ball in a late critical situation…it’s kind of their thing.

Leave it to the Browns to all but announce that they’re going into full tank mode by trading RB Trent Richardson and skipping right over Jason Campbell on the depth chart to 3rd stringer Brian Hoyer to replace injured starter Brandon Weeden, and then pick up a win on Sunday. There are even reports that the Browns are shopping receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Of course the Browns can’t even tank right. If they had only known that the best way to win was to actually try to lose, they could have saved themselves and their fans years of heartache.

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Ed Reed: “I always will be a Raven”

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Ed Reed: “I always will be a Raven”

Posted on 19 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In typical fashion, former Ravens safety Ed Reed initially labeled his return to Baltimore as “another away game” as a member of the Houston Texans, but we all knew better.

Spending more time reminiscing about his 11 years with the organization that drafted him with the 24th overall pick of the 2002 draft, the 35-year-old’s true feelings shined through to no one’s surprise. It’s impossible not to be a little sentimental as Reed prepares to potentially play in his first game with another NFL franchise after missing the start of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery.

“Baltimore is family. I miss walking into ‘The Bank’ on Sunday,” Reed said in a conference call with the local media. “I have a lot of memories; I cherish that and always will be a Raven. That’s where I was raised in the NFL. I did a lot of growing; we did a lot of special things. That’s something that could never be taken away.”

The reactions from former teammates have been awkward but respectful this week as the thought of Reed wearing enemy colors at M&T Bank Stadium seems foreign. Some teammates have even joked that they hope Reed won’t be ready to return to action as he acknowledges being less than 100 percent after missing the entire preseason and the Texans’ first two regular-season games.

Even Reed doesn’t know exactly what to expect from the hometown fans, joking that it will depend on how the morning tailgating goes prior to Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff.

“It’s going to be weird with him being here such a long time,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “It’s going to be weird seeing him in a different uniform. He moved on, and we moved on, and hopefully he cannot play so we don’t have to play against him.”

While Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has spoken positively about Reed’s status, the veteran defensive back was noncommittal about playing Sunday after practicing on a limited basis each of the last two days. It’s expected that Reed would only play on a part-time basis against the Ravens in his first game action since Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

It’s anyone’s guess what Reed will have to offer this season as he enters his 12th season and is coming off his second major hip surgery in the last four years.

“I’m not confident about [anything] but going day to day the way I’ve been,” Reed said. “There’s no confidence about it if I haven’t played. You can’t be confident if you haven’t been on the field.”

Even with Reed’s physical skills in decline, the Ravens are fully aware of his mental prowess in the secondary and know he is still able to take advantage of mistakes like he did when picking off an overthrown pass by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl. A ferocious Texans pass rush makes Reed’s stalking in the secondary even more dangerous for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Facing the man who challenged him on a daily basis in practices for years, Flacco understands how significant Reed’s return is for both Baltimore fans and his organization, regardless of what kind of player Reed will be in 2013.

“If he was in his fifth year, it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because he wouldn’t have been here for that long,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who teamed with Reed for five seasons. “But the fact that all the fans know him as a Baltimore Raven, and the fact that I was a fan of his at one point [before being his teammate], yeah, it probably makes it a little bit different.”

Reed’s decision to depart for Houston on a three-year, $15 milllion wasn’t the storybook ending many had hoped for after he finally raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February, but his return to Baltimore will still be memorable as fans will inevitably recognize one of the greatest players in franchise history.

The Ravens just hope Reed doesn’t make them pay with his play on the field.

“It’s like playing against your brothers again while I’m out there coaching,” said Reed, who insisted he holds no hard feelings over the way his exit from the Ravens played out. “I’ve been having this feeling for a long time. It’s different being here and coming to see my guys, who I’ve been fighting with for a long time.”

Lewis to speak or not to speak

Only adding to the emotion of Reed’s return to Baltimore will be the Ring of Honor induction of future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who ended his remarkable 17-year career in February.

His presence on Sunday has sparked questions over whether Lewis will address the team prior to kickoff. Truthfully, it’s an awkward proposition for an organization that spent the offseason trying to move on from the era in which Lewis and Reed were the biggest faces of the franchise.

“I think we’ll leave that up to Ray, but I think he should just enjoy his moment,” Suggs said. “It’s his day. He’s going in [to the Ring of Honor], and if he feels he needs to say something to the team, he can say something. If anybody has the right of way, it’s him. If he just wants to enjoy it, take it in and be a fan of football, that’s fine, too.”

It would be nearly impossible for the Ravens to deny Lewis the opportunity to speak to his former teammates if he asks, but one wonders if it would be counterproductive to the leadership-by-committee approach that continues to be a work in progress in the early stages of the season.

Numerous members of the organization have made it clear throughout the offseason and summer that it’s a new era of Ravens football, so Lewis’ presence beyond the details of the halftime celebration could be considered a potential distraction.

“I don’t have a philosophical position on that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Either way would be fine. If it happened and it felt right, it would be great. And if it didn’t happen because it didn’t make sense, that’d be fine, too.”

Watch out for Watt

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Ravens defense aiming to make expectations reality in post-Lewis era

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Ravens defense aiming to make expectations reality in post-Lewis era

Posted on 03 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens heard the questions, the concerns, and the doubts about their once-proud defense in the weeks and months that followed their win in Super Bowl XLVII.

How would they survive without the retiring Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history and unquestionably the leader and face of the franchise for their entire 17-year existence? What would they do to replace future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed’s presence in the defensive backfield as well as in the locker room? And how could they afford to lose younger talents such as Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, and Cary Williams in a quest to rebuild an aging and frequently-ineffective defense?

Those who downplayed Lewis’ departure because of his declining play over the final seasons of his career couldn’t overlook the colossal void in leadership and identity that needed to be addressed for an organization that both empowered and depended upon his presence. And after years of watching former Baltimore defensive players escape Lewis’ shadow before finding that the grass wasn’t greener elsewhere, the Ravens themselves will now see how they fare without him.

“In the spring, everybody was hitting the panic button on us because of the guys we lost,” Pro Bowl linebacker and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs said. “Even though we were very sad to see those guys go, the show must go on.”

The time for change was right as general manager Ozzie Newsome remembered what some had seemingly forgotten while basking in the image of confetti dropping in New Orleans in a storybook ending for the 2012 Ravens. Though praised for a “bend but don’t break” style that was good enough to complement quarterback Joe Flacco’s incredible postseason performance, the Baltimore defense finished 17th in total defense, tied for 12th in points allowed, 20th against the run, 17th against the pass, and tied for 15th in sacks.

Frankly, the defensive numbers and overall performance were un-Raven-like as Baltimore was weak along the defensive line as well as at safety, prompting Newsome to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin and his $6 million base salary in 2013 to clear just enough salary cap space to rebuild the defense in terms of both talent and leadership. Defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears would provide improved depth upfront while free safety Michael Huff seemed like a good bet to, at worst, match the declining play of Reed for a fraction of the cost that the Houston Texans paid for the longtime Raven’s services in free agency.

The prize of the group, however, was Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who was released due to a contract-restructuring snafu made by his former agent and joined the Ravens after signing a five-year deal worth a maximum value of $35 million. It appeared to be a bargain for a three-time Pro Bowl selection whose work ethic and leadership have been praised by everyone in the organization from the moment he stepped foot in Owings Mills in the spring.

“I think [it comes with] the way you play on the field and how you lead by example,” Dumervil said. “Leadership doesn’t come with talking or speech — it’s just how you carry yourself. I’ve always been a leader. That’s just natural for me, and I think I’ve learned how to follow before I can lead.”

After drafting four defensive players in the first four rounds of April’s draft, Newsome had one more trick up his sleeve in signing longtime Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith to a one-year deal on the same day the Super Bowl champs visited President Barack Obama at the White House. The 31-year-old has stepped in to play Lewis’ Mike linebacker position while looking like the team’s best player in the preseason, recording 14 tackles and a sack while showing steady ability in pass coverage.

Initially perceived as little more than an insurance policy for injured inside linebacker Jameel McClain, Smith has been praised by everyone in the organization, ranging from his new defensive teammates to quarterback Joe Flacco. Smith’s personality couldn’t be more different from Lewis, which might be a positive while handling such an unenviable task of replacing a legend.

“He doesn’t say a lot, because he’s just about business, and then you sit down and talk to him and realize the depth of his character and personality,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a great family man, he’s a mature guy, he’s a man. And he’s also – I really believe – one of the most underrated defensive players in football over the last eight [or] nine years. We feel pretty fortunate that he’s here right now.”

The common threads among the five veteran newcomers were the leadership qualities they displayed with their former teams. It was clear the Ravens weren’t simply placing the defensive leadership crown on the heads of Suggs and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata alone.

There was no replacing Lewis or Reed, but the Ravens appear to be pleased with their by-committee approach as they enter Thursday night’s opener against the Denver Broncos. On paper and in the controlled environment of spring and summer practices, the transition has appeared organic and seamless.

Suggs will be viewed as the new figurehead, but the 30-year-old has acknowledged repeatedly that he’s not looking to be the next Lewis and has appeared more subdued than in past seasons. Overall, it’s a Baltimore defense that lacks the bravado of past units without the camera-friendly Lewis out in front, but the quiet confidence veteran newcomers and young players alike have expressed seems appropriate in a new era.

“It’s different like in any organization when you lose guys that have been there for so long that they kind of assume those roles,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think everybody else kind of sat back and just said, ‘Well, that’s really kind of not my role. That’s kind of Ed [Reed] and Ray’s [Lewis] role.’ Now those guys are stepping up, and I don’t think it’s any one particular guy who’s saying, ‘OK, I’m going to be the new Ray Lewis.’ It’s just a bunch of guys collectively stepping up and showing some leadership.”

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Flacco excited to see what rookie receivers bring to table

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Flacco excited to see what rookie receivers bring to table

Posted on 01 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It wasn’t long ago that Joe Flacco joked about not knowing the names of most new teammates on the Ravens roster after an offseason filled with changes.

However, the Ravens quarterback isn’t saying that any longer about a pair of rookie receivers who could factor heavily into the Baltimore passing attack as early as Thursday’s opener against the Denver Broncos. Undrafted free agent Marlon Brown and seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette began the summer in relative anonymity in Flacco’s eyes but grabbed his attention after the pair combined to make 19 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns in four preseason games.

“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they’re physical,” Flacco said. “They obviously have some talent. I think they are going to be guys that help us out a lot — in the short term [and] long term. We still have to go out there and play and feed them the ball and see what they can do.”

Mellette entered training camp as the bigger household name among Ravens fans after being taken with a seventh-round pick back in April. Playing for FCS school Elon, the 6-foot-2 receiver made an astonishing 304 catches for 4,254 yards and 44 touchdowns in his college career and grabbed 97 passes for 1,398 yards and 18 touchdowns in his senior year alone.

The 6-foot-5 Brown didn’t live up to expectations as a prized recruit at the University of Georgia but could be an attractive option in the red zone with his statuesque frame. The Ravens have lacked a wide receiver of his height during Flacco’s career after 2012 sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter failed to pan out.

Brown finally appeared to be realizing his potential in his senior season with the Bulldogs when he caught 27 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns before tearing the ACL in his left knee in a game against Ole Miss on Nov. 3, 2012. The 22-year-old is still working his way back to full strength — missing spring organized team activities and even a handful this summer — but his ability began to shine as he became more comfortable physically and mentally in the Ravens offense.

“I have a mindset where I wanted to make the team and ultimately make a difference on the team, whether it’s on special teams or offense,” said Brown, who was in the weight room when coach John Harbaugh personally informed him that he’d made the team. “That’s what I’m trying to do. They haven’t really told me my primary role or anything. I’m going to go out there and work hard and if they tell me to go in, I’m going to go in.”

The biggest compliment paid to both Brown and Mellette is the amount of polish they showed in practices and preseason games despite their lack of experience. Unlike an array of other young receivers that failed to show marked improvement over the course of the summer, Brown and Mellette climbed from the third-string offense and working with third quarterback Caleb Hanie to eventually receive opportunities with Flacco and the starters over the final two weeks of the summer.

It was this climb that contributed to the likes of Tandon Doss, David Reed, and LaQuan Williams being let go.

“They don’t feel like rookies out there,” Harbaugh said. “Marlon has had the advantage of playing at a big program in the Southeastern Conference, and I think that shows. Aaron has had the advantage of having caught hundreds of balls in his college career.”

With Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Brandon Stokley ahead of the rookies on the depth chart, it remains to be seen how big of a role each will play in the early stages of the season. During Sunday’s practice, Brown and Mellette were wearing No. 87 and 88 jerseys, which appeared to be a product of the pair playing the scout-team roles of Denver wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in preparation for Thursday’s opener.

The Ravens only hope that Mellette and Brown will one day make their mark in a way similar to that talented pair with the Broncos, forcing opponents’ scout-team receivers to wear their No. 13 and 14 jerseys in preparation.

But a simple continuation of the improvement they showed over the course of the preseason would be an encouraging start for the Ravens.

“I would anticipate that those two guys will be a factor here going forward,” Harbaugh said. “How much they’ll play early, or how much they’ll be a part of the game plan and those kinds of things are really, really hard to say.”

Webb ready to go

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“America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens” debuts Monday on NFL Network

Posted on 27 August 2013 by WNST Staff

AMERICA’S GAME: 2012 BALTIMORE RAVENS DEBUTS EXCLUSIVELY ON NFL NETWORK

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2 AT 9:00 PM ET

Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, Linebacker Ray Lewis & Head Coach John Harbaugh Recount the Baltimore Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl Winning Season

 

“We weren’t pretty. We weren’t perfect… But at least we were us.”

– John Harbaugh

 

Oscar-Nominated Actor Edward Norton Narrates

 

The Baltimore Ravens were 5-2 headed into their bye week. While most NFL teams would gratefully sign up for those circumstances, the Ravens were at a crossroads. Inside a tumultuous meeting room in Owings Mills, MD, a strong-minded head coach was facing his strong-minded team and the season hung in the balance.

 

While the meeting was described in the media as a mutiny, in actuality, a championship team was molded. The Ravens won their next four games, and despite struggling down the stretch, recovered to win the AFC North. Then, with three wins in the AFC playoffs and a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, the Baltimore Ravens were crowned Super Bowl Champions.

 

On September 2 at 9:00 PM ET exclusively on NFL Network, re-live the Ravens’ entire Championship journey through the NFL Films-produced America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens. The one-hour edition of the Emmy-Award winning series features exclusive interviews with Super Bowl MVP & quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Ray Lewis, and head coach John Harbaugh.

 

Oscar-nominated actor, Edward Norton narrates.

 

NFL Films captures the entirety of a Championship voyage which commenced in 2008 when the Ravens hired Harbaugh and drafted Flacco in the first round of the NFL Draft. The special takes viewers through the season with behind-the-scenes video and sound from Ravens team meetings, locker rooms, fields, and coaching booths.  It is an all-encompassing, inside look at the Super Bowl champions.

 

In addition to the infamous team meeting, events featured in America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens include:

 

  • ·         Ray Lewis’ last ride: The Ravens’ journey through the playoffs was anything but standard. From Lewis’ final home game, to the miracle comeback vs. the Denver Broncos, a rematch vs. the New England Patriots – all while John Harbaugh knew his brother, San Francisco head coach Jim Harabugh, had already clinched a trip to the Super Bowl – the Ravens journey to New Orleans was unique. Then, while the Ravens had a 28-6 lead, the Super Bowl suffered a 34-minute power outage delay in an unprecedented event. The three-week whirlwind is remembered in detail by Harbaugh, Flacco, and Lewis.

 

  • ·         Evolution of Ravens Offense: The relationship between Harbaugh and Flacco has grown in stages since 2008. America’s Game: 2012 Ravens documents Flacco’s frustration with the Ravens conservative approach and his desire to open up the offense more. Additionally, Flacco admits the burden he felt when offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired so late in the season. With a new philosophy and new understanding of how the offense needed to operate, Harbaugh explains how the transformation from a Joe Frazier-style into Muhammad Ali-style offense is what propelled the team to first an AFC Championship and then a Super Bowl.

 

  • ·         The Non-Tackle: The Ravens were one special-team tackle away from the Super Bowl Championship when Flacco had one last order for his teammates – make an illegal play. Was the quarterback joking? America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens provides the uncut audio and Flacco’s explanation.

 

  • ·         Ray Lewis’ final home game: From the polarizing entrance to his first ever appearance on offensive side of the ball, Lewis had an emotional and successful final home game of his career.

 

  • ·         The Ray Lewis entrance: A ritual in Baltimore for 17 years almost ended in 2008, Harbaugh’s first as a head coach. Why did Harbaugh and Lewis almost scrap the dance and for what reasons? Harbaugh explains.

 

  • ·         Brother vs. Brother Super Bowl: In a Super Bowl that was truly a family affair, hear the embraces that John Harbaugh had with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh on the field before and after the Super Bowl. Additionally, hear what John said to his parents immediately after defeating his brother.

 

  • ·         Muhammad Ali’s inspiration: Any good coach digs deep for motivational tactics. After showing the team countless films of Muhammad Ali, the message of the prize-fighter hit home when Ali visited the Ravens.

 

 

Quotes from America’s Game2012 Baltimore Ravens:

 

-       “People get crazy every now and again. Guys get in arguments and that is what happened.”

– Joe Flacco on the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

-       “It was challenging, it was tough. A bunch of strong-minded men, but the good news was they had a strong-minded head coach standing in front of them. So if there was going to be a fight, let’s have a fight.”

– John Harbaugh on the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

-       “We probably got more accomplished in that half hour towards becoming the Champions that we were going to become than any half hour we had done all year. I couldn’t have been happier when we walked out of the meeting. I wasn’t too happy while it was going on. It was tough.”

– Harbaugh on the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

-       “Sizzle was like ‘You need to get back, everything is out of order. As soon as the General leaves, it is all messed up. I have never had a meeting like that in my life.’”

– Ray Lewis on what he had heard from teammate Terrell Suggs regarding the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

-       “I was in awe of the moment; for that to play out the way it did, that game was the marker to say that this team had what it takes. It was the key to the whole season.”

Harbaugh on the victory over the New England Patriots in which wide receiver Torrey Smith had a career game in the wake of the death of his brother

 

-       “Ali inspired us with that attitude – it is never pretty, but we can find a way to win.”

– Lewis on the inspiration the team drew from prize fighter Muhammad Ali

 

-       “We weren’t pretty. We weren’t perfect… But at least we were us.”

– Harbaugh on the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens

 

-       “It is an awkward question, but it is what you have to believe. I really believe if you are going to be any good in this league that is what you have to think about yourself.” –

Flacco on saying he believes he is the best quarterback in the NFL on a Baltimore radio station

 

-       “You feel somewhat responsible for that. You are the leader of the offense and what makes it go.”

– Flacco on the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron

 

-       “I thought about the point that we’re going to have to beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get to where we wanted to be. I think that makes it a little bit cooler.”

– Flacco on Ravens’ journey through the playoffs

 

About America’s Game

 

America’s Game, an Emmy Award-winning series, delves deep into the story behind the making of Super Bowl champions. Each episode is a 60-minute documentary, featuring key members of the winning team telling behind-the-scenes accounts from their championship season. With the signature NFL Films footage, combined with news clips and photos, highlights from team radio broadcasts, inside looks from team meeting rooms, sideline audio and other exclusive features, America’s Gameprovides an epic and intimate portrait of championship teams.

 

About NFL Network

 

Launched on November 4, 2003, NFL Network is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this season

 

Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, fans turn to NFL Network to receive information and insight straight from the field, team headquarters, league offices and everywhere the NFL is making news. Launched in 2003, NFL Network gives fans unprecedented year-round inside access to all NFL events, including the Super Bowl, Playoffs, regular season, preseason, Pro Bowl, Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend, NFL Draft, NFL Scouting Combine, Senior Bowl, league meetings, minicamps and training camps.

 

Currently in more than 72 million homes, NFL Network has carriage agreements with each of the country’s largest television providers including Comcast, DirecTV, DISH Network, Cablevision, Cox, Charter, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse.

 

For fans on the go, all NFL Network programming is streamed live on NFL Mobile from Verizon. For more information, log on to http://www.nfl.com/nflnetwork. NFL.com is the exclusive internet home of NFL Network.

 

– NFL MEDIA –

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A 15-7-0 preview is just as good when enjoyed sideways

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A 15-7-0 preview is just as good when enjoyed sideways

Posted on 26 August 2013 by Glenn Clark

If you’re not familiar with the 15-7-0, go back and take a look at one from last season and quickly familiarize yourself. Every Monday during football season, I use GIF’s, memes, videos and a minimal amount of wit to recap the non-Ravens football weekend. There are 15 positive observations, seven not so positive observations and one zero identified from outside the world of football.

To my knowledge, it is the most popular, most read and most worthwhile column on the entire internet.

This won’t be a full 15-7-0. Instead, it will be teaser-so we’ll go halfsies. Eight positive observations, four not so positive observations and we’ll keep that zero from outside the world of football. We’re doing the preview this week because next Monday is Labor Day and I’ll be far too deep into U.S. Open tennis to bother with sports that aren’t as important.

Eight positive observations…

1. I assume Chris Johnson and Julio Jones raised their game a bit after finding out they were two of my first three fantasy picks for 2013.

I mean, I can’t imagine a greater honor than finding out you’re joining this squad right here.

They just look like champions. They probably smell like champions. Or Ben Gay. But I bet a lot of champions smell like Ben Gay. What do you think Ben Gay smelled like? I bet he smelled beautiful. Like daffodils or some sh*t just to be ironic.

2. Tavon Austin is really good at football and at pointing.

Being that we’re in Charm City, we already knew the first part-as did the folks hanging out in the woods out in Morgantown. The second part we didn’t learn until his punt return TD against the Broncos…

If he had pointed against Maryland last year he probably would have won the Heisman. Known fact-Heisman voters love pointers.

3. I don’t know who Edmund Nelson is, but I’m enjoying him enjoy his ribs.

Apparently he’s related to the Pittsburgh Steelers, so once he finishes his plate of ribs I’m totally going to start hating him.

4. Tony Romo was also really excited about learning he was joining my fantasy football team.

Romo threw 2TD’s in the Cowboys’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Also, this image of Domata Peko from pre-game introductions.

Also, Cowboys P Chris Jones hit the massive scoreboard on a punt and had to punt again. Brandon Tate returned it for a TD. Thanks, Obama.

5. College football coaches have been pretty damn awesome recently.

When not refusing to pick a quarterback, Lane Kiffin is delivering ice cream…

Rich Rodriguez is dancing off…

And Bo Pellini is pulling a pretty righteous prank…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3CnoA8wCEo

Meanwhile Ralph Friedgen is…I dunno…swimming in a pool filled with barbecue pork funded by Kevin Anderson’s money? Just spitballing here.

6. The Raiders are awful, but perhaps Terrelle Pryor would be worth watching?

I mean…maybe. I’m not saying anything for certain.

I’m just saying maybe.

7. The folks at NFL Films will put just about any idiot in a documentary, won’t they?

This year’s version of “America’s Game” celebrating the Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens will air September 2nd at 9pm on NFL Network. For some reason, the league was freaking out trying to get a copy to me last week. When I popped it in Friday night, it wasn’t five minutes before I realized why.

I’m sorry. It wasn’t my call.

8. Credit Gilman with football’s first big upset for 2013.

Friday night’s opener aired live on ESPNNews and was a lot of fun to watch late. Of equal importance, Good Counsel DE Jesse Aniebonam committed to Maryland during the broadcast. #HeATerp

And elsewhere in High School Football, they’re running Statue of Liberty plays for TD’s at something called Apopka.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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