Tag Archive | "Rex Ryan"

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Where are you getting your Baltimore sports news & information? Sharing is caring…

Posted on 29 January 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

This blog was originally published two years ago. We’ll be revisiting this with a three-part series and updating these thoughts with a new 2012 WNST “State of Baltimore Sports Media” survey next week while we broadcast live from Indianapolis all week. This is Part 3 of 5: The State of Baltimore Sports Media (circa 2010).

The saddest day of 2009 for any Ravens fan was also the day that I saw the state of the world had changed for WNST.net via the instant power of our text service. On the 4th of July at 4:17 p.m. I was sitting at home watching midday holiday baseball when I got a tip from a friend that Steve McNair had been murdered.

After receiving that quick text, I jumped onto the computer and saw that every Tennessee TV station was reporting his murder within the previous five minutes. At 4:21 p.m. more than 3,900 people received a WNST Text reporting the only facts we knew: “Tennessee media is reporting that Steve McNair has been murdered. More to come…”

At 4:50 p.m., ESPN finally reported it. And at 5:37 p.m. – a full 76 minutes later, The Sun finally had it on their website.

While I was blogging feverishly, looking for any information I could get from Nashville in the first 30 minutes on a sweltering holiday summer day – monitoring all of their TV stations and newspapers and fielding a wide variety of emails, Tweets and texts – apparently the 3,900 people on our WNST Text Service had taken matters into their own hands in forwarding our message to tens of thousands of other people like a game of virtual phone booth. More than 23,000 people had visited my blog by 8 p.m. on a premier national holiday on a day when virtually no one was in front of a computer. They were all coming from the palms of theirs hands via their mobile devices.

THAT – in the previous 25 years of my media existence — would have been impossible in the old, dinosaur world of local news. And it certainly would’ve been exclusively the area of the three local TV stations and, probably, WBAL Radio. But in the new world, they were all coming to the local source of the breaking sports news: WNST.net.

But the one thing about our WNST Text Service that often goes without saying is this: when we report it, you KNOW it’s true. Through our own goodwill, hard work and credibility, we have established a reputation for never, ever being wrong on a news story. And there are now more than 5,200 of you on the WNST Text Service.

Join the WNST Text Service…

And it goes without say that “timeliness” and the element of surprise is, in fact, the essence of what makes it “news.” News is immediate. News is shareable. News is eternal.

And, clearly, not all news is good.

But the depth of our content was also apparent on that sad, summer day. Ironically, we had video of Steve McNair joining about 1,200 Ravens fans in Nashville to greet them from January of last year before the big playoff game in our You Tube video vault. It’s a really weird clip — especially given it was the last time he’d do anything with his Baltimore roots. We raised $5,000 that night last January for the Air McNair Foundation and the Baltimore Ronald McDonald House. I had given very little thought that night at Limelight in Nashville that I would never see Steve McNair alive again.

Like most breaking news stories – and all tragedies – it was completely unpredictable that Steve McNair could die

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Chuck Pagano, Terrell Suggs

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Ravens’ Pagano to become next head coach of Colts

Posted on 25 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In what’s easily been the most frustrating week in the history of the franchise, the Ravens will now need to look for a new defensive coordinator as Chuck Pagano has been hired as the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Leading the Ravens to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking in his first season as coordinator, Pagano interviewed with Indianapolis on Tuesday before being offered the job on Wednesday. The 51-year-old spent three seasons as the Baltimore secondary coach before being promoted to replace former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison last offseason.

“It’s difficult to leave the Ravens but I couldn’t pass up on this great opportunity,” Pagano said to the Ravens’ official website. “I’m just thrilled and so excited.”

Pagano was extremely popular with his defensive players and brought a more aggressive play-calling style than Mattison, helping the Ravens improve from a franchise-low 27 sacks in 2010 to an AFC-best 48 this season.

“He just had an inkling for [making the right calls],” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo told AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday afternoon. “More than anything, he wasn’t going to rely on just going vanilla and saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to beat everybody just going vanilla.’ That’s what coach Mattison liked to do.”

The Ravens sent four defensive starters to the Pro Bowl this year, including linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and free safety Ed Reed.

Pagano will be introduced to the Indianapolis media in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. The Colts fired general manager Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell following a disastrous 2-14 season without quarterback Peyton Manning.

“We are so happy for Chuck, [his wife] Tina and their daughters,” coach John Harbaugh said in an official statement. “We are proud of him. Like me, Chuck grew up in the game and loves it. We will miss him and thank him for all he did for the Ravens.”

The 51-year-old will likely usher in a new era with Indianapolis primed to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in April’s draft. Ayanbadejo said the Colts will immediately take to Pagano’s infectious personality.

“He was one of those guys [where] it was like he was out on the field of battle with you and you’d never want to let him down, because he’s such a good guy,” Ayanbadejo said. “He’s also a family guy and a great person. You really felt like you knew him, and more than anything, you just didn’t want to let him down.”

Pagano had previous stints as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders and also coached at several colleges, including most recently at the University of North Carolina before being hired by Harbaugh in 2008.

The Ravens will also wonder what impact Pagano’s departure might have on their list of defensive players with expiring contracts. Linebackers Jarret Johnson, Jameel McClain, and Ayanbadejo, defensive end Cory Redding, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney are all set to become unrestricted free agents and could now view Indianapolis as a viable alternative to the Ravens, who will not have a great deal of salary cap space.

After former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard joined him in the Big Apple as free-agent signings.

Baltimore will now have its fourth defensive coordinator in five years after Rex Ryan, Mattison, and Pagano all held the job under Harbaugh. The most logical in-house candidate to fill the role would be linebackers coach Dean Pees, who was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2009 before moving on to Baltimore.

“I don’t think you’ll see any letdown if Dean Pees takes over,” said Ayanbadejo, who described Pees’ relationship with players as one based more on respect than the emotional Pagano. “You might even see a better defense if Dean Pees takes over because he likes things done a certain way, and he’s really particular about the way he does things.”

Pagano becomes the fourth defensive coordinator in the history of the franchise to depart for a head coaching position elsewhere, joining Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Ryan.

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Comparisons to 2000 Ravens premature, but this year’s defense could be exceptional

Posted on 06 October 2011 by Luke Jones

We just can’t help ourselves, can we?

After more than a decade of defensive excellence in Baltimore, we always compare the latest eye-popping Ravens defense to the platinum standard of that 2000 unit. It was that group, of course, that lifted a caretaker offense — rookie running back Jamal Lewis being the lone exception — to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship.

It was a once-in-a-generation defense, yet we refuse to acknowledge that type of group won’t come along again — even if we say otherwise.

We did it in 2003 when Ray Lewis led a young group of budding defensive stars to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking and an AFC North title.

It happened again in 2006 as the Ravens finished 13-3 and first overall in both points and yardage allowed, something the 2000 group wasn’t able to do.

And the similarities were examined between that championship group and the 2008 defense – ranked second overall behind only the Steelers — coached by Rex Ryan in his final year in Baltimore before taking his antics to the Big Apple.

It sure feels a lot like 2000, doesn’t it?

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It’s not surprising the whispers have already started about the 2011 edition of Ray Lewis and company after a 3-1 start in which the Ravens rank third overall in total defense, third against the run, tied for seventh against the pass, and first in the NFL with 14 takeaways. The pass rush is improved with 11 sacks already after posting a franchise-low 27 in 2010. The Baltimore defense has already set single-game franchise records when it forced seven turnovers against Pittsburgh in Week 1 and scored three defensive touchdowns against the Jets last Sunday night.

But, are we really going to start talking about comparisons to 2000 after only four games?

For the sake of the argument, comparing the two units through the first four games of the season — one small sample deserves another if we’re going to be fair — shows the championship group with the upper hand. The 2000 Ravens allowed fewer yards (996 to 1,138), gave up fewer points (55 to 57), and recorded two shutouts while this year’s defense has yet to post a goose egg for 60 minutes. However, this year’s 14 takeaways trumps the 10 forced by the 2000 group.

Those first four games in 2000 included two of the four largest point totals surrendered by that defense in the regular season, including the 36 scored by Jacksonville in a thrilling 39-36 shootout win in Week 2. This year’s Ravens have faced only one offense currently ranking in the top half of the league (Pittsburgh is ranked 13th), but the 2000 group faced only one top-10 offense (Jacksonville was seventh overall in 2000) through four games.

As fun as it is to draw comparisons between the known and the unknown, the reality is it’s too early to determine where the 2011 defense will even rank among the many good defenses in the 16-year history of the franchise, let alone talk about any potential similarity with one of the greatest units in NFL history. The only link between the two defenses is Ray Lewis, who depends far more on his intellect as a 36-year-old than he had to as a 25-year-old wrecking machine.

Moving beyond the statistics, Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 hybrid defense is far more similar to a Ryan-coached unit than Marvin Lewis’ record-setting defense from 11 years ago. The current unit relies on deception and blitzing to create pressure, disguising its intentions until the last possible minute. Lewis, on the other hand, largely played his 4-3 defense straight up, using a dominating front four that created pressure on the quarterback and a brick wall impenetrable for running backs.

And here is where we get to the largest discrepancy that should end any real discussion between the championship group and this year’s edition.

The secondaries.

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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday night

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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday night

Posted on 01 October 2011 by Luke Jones

Three weeks into the season, I’m still trying to figure out just how good the Ravens really are — or will be — in 2011.

A seven-turnover blowout win over their bitter rival, an embarrassing loss in Tennessee, and a 30-point victory over the hapless Rams don’t exactly allow you to draw a definitive conclusion, but that’s why they play the games.

On the other hand, the Jets’ two wins over Dallas and Jacksonville before being shredded by the Oakland Raiders leave you scratching your head even more.

The storylines don’t need to be rehashed again. These coaches and players know each other very well, making for a highly-competitive matchup at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night. It’s a conference game with possible playoff implications down the road, so don’t let the early Week 4 billing fool you in its significance.

Here’s what to expect when Rex Ryan’s Jets visit John Harbaugh’s Ravens on Sunday night …

1. The Jets will spread out the Baltimore defense with three- and four-receiver sets to exploit a thin secondary. A tenuous situation at cornerback grew even worse on Friday with the news that veteran Chris Carr is questionable for Sunday after re-aggravating the hamstring injury he’s fought since the preseason. Couple that with the decision to place Domonique Foxworth on injured reserve, and the Ravens may be looking at former practice-squad player Danny Gorrer and rookie Chykie Brown as their only reserve cornerbacks behind Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams. If the Ravens are unable to pressure Mark Sanchez, they will be eaten alive by the receiving trio of Raven killer Santonio Holmes, the 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress, and the old veteran Derrick Mason, who will have extra motivation to show up his former team.

2. Tight end Dustin Keller and running back LaDainian Tomlinson will exploit the Ravens linebackers in coverage. As mentioned in the previous point, the Ravens will need to send heat to make Sanchez uncomfortable and help an undermanned secondary. That will leave the defense vulnerable underneath as Sanchez loves to throw the ball to his favorite target Keller (16 catches for 249 yards). It’s no secret the Baltimore linebackers are often exposed in coverage by talented tight ends and running backs releasing out of the backfield. Baltimore may be able to bring enough heat on Sanchez to curtail Holmes from burning the Ravens again, but Keller and Tomlinson (12 catches, 196 yards) are going to have productive days as receivers.

3. Torrey Smith will not follow up his record day in St. Louis with a productive night — statistically speaking. The rookie will likely never have another first quarter like he did against the Rams last week, but the performance serves a bigger purpose for the rest of the season, especially not knowing the status of Lee Evans’ injured ankle moving forward. Smith is likely to struggle with the physicality and overall talent of Antonio Cromartie, who will likely match up with the former Maryland standout. However, the Ravens will still send Smith on vertical patterns to keep the Jets defense honest and, more importantly, create space for Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice, and the Ravens tight ends to work underneath. Predicting a productive day for Boldin is tough with Darrelle Revis locked on him, but the veteran will find some room to help move the chains. Smith may not log more than a reception or two, but his work in St. Louis could pay dividends in keeping opposing defenses cognizant of where he is on the field at all times.

4. Ray Rice will have 130 total yards and a touchdown against a Jets defense desperate to stop the run. Much has been said about New York’s 31st-ranked run defense after Raiders running back Darren McFadden ran for 171 yards against the Jets a week ago, but the Ravens aren’t buying the Jets’ early struggles. Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will be desperate to shut down the Baltimore running game, so Rice may not see as much running room. However, Joe Flacco’s ability to get Rice the ball in space will pay off in the passing game with Revis and Cromartie looming in the secondary. He won’t go for 100 on the ground, but Rice will more than make up for it catching passes out of the backfield and will score a touchdown against the New York defense.

5. The Ravens will win a 24-20 nail-biter with more points than you’d expect because of turnovers from both sides. Considering last year’s 10-9 final between these teams in their regular-season opener, it’s almost unthinkable to expect 44 points to be scored on Sunday night. However, both quarterbacks will see a variety of different looks in potential blitz packages and coverages, which will lead to confusion for Flacco and Sanchez. A few turnovers will lead to short fields and, potentially, a defensive score or two. The Ravens, however, are the more complete football team at the beginning of October and will improve to 3-1 before using a much-needed bye to rest several injured players.

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Old meets new: Ravens veterans see similarities between Pagano and Ryan

Posted on 29 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Rex Ryan and John Harbaugh will inevitably be linked through the rest of their coaching careers after the Ravens bypassed their then-defensive coordinator to hire Harbaugh in January 2008.

However, a more interesting comparison might be Ryan to the Ravens’ current defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. After all, Ryan never served in a head coaching capacity in Baltimore, but the brash son of Buddy Ryan led several outstanding defenses as coordinator from 2005 to 2008. He’s spent all but seven of his 25 years in coach at the NFL level.

Pagano spent 17 years coaching at the collegiate ranks before getting his first opportunity to coach the secondary of the Cleveland Browns in 2001. The 50-year-old joined the Baltimore staff in 2008, working first under Ryan and then Greg Mattison before finally getting the defensive coordinator job this offseason.

So, what did Pagano take away from his year working for Ryan?

“Coming from a football family, there is a wealth of knowledge there from a football and schematic standpoint, and those types of things,” said Pagano, who coached with Ryan’s twin brother Rob in Oakland for two years. “It was a great year for me, and also, a great year for Mattison and everybody else who had an opportunity to spend a year with him. It was really good for me and my maturation process.”

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Ravens defensive veterans such as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Terrell Suggs are not bashful about their affection for Ryan — even three seasons after his departure — but many players get the same twinkle in their eyes when talking about their new defensive leader and the impact he’s had on the Baltimore defense.

“Both of them are very fiery, and I think [there are] a lot of similarities because both of them are ‘player’ coaches,” Lewis said. “They really relate to their players and things like that. Both of them are very outgoing. I think Chuck is more settled when it comes to [addressing] the outside world, but to us, Chuck is Chuck. That’s what we appreciate the most, and that’s why we’re doing the things we are doing because of the flexibility he gives us.”

After playing with a more conservative approach under Mattison the last two seasons, Pagano has preached a desire to be aggressive, and the strategy certainly worked when the Ravens accumulated nine sacks in their wins over Pittsburgh and St. Louis. However, Pagano had no answers for Tennessee when the Ravens gave up 358 passing yards to Matt Hasselbeck in a 26-13 loss.

The Jets have found uneven results defensively through their first three weeks, surprisingly ranking 31st against the run after Darren McFadden and the Oakland Raiders gouged New York for 234 rushing yards in a 34-24.

Despite the inconsistent results three weeks into the regular season, both teams have sterling defensive reputations, a point made in the Ravens’ brutally physical 10-9 win over the Jets a year ago. Three weeks into the Pagano era, perhaps the best way to label the coordinator is “Rex Ryan light”

“Rex gets a little more emotional with his calls,” linebacker Jarret Johnson. “If you torch Rex, [he’s] going to bring it at you just because you torched him. Chuck is a little more heady about it, but they’re both very aggressive.”

As for the comparisons his own players have made between him and Ryan, the Ravens coordinator believes his aggressiveness stems from the system put in place in Baltimore years ago rather than the heavy influence of Ryan.

“You always want to play to your strengths, and I think our strength is coming after people,” Pagano said. “We’ve got the guys to match up on the outside to cover. We’ve got guys that, when we send them, they get home. So, I think it’s just the personality and who we are.”

That pressure will need to be there against the Jets, who have averaged 278.7 passing yards per game through the first three weeks despite struggling to run the football (25th in run offense). Quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown six touchdown passes and four interceptions through the first three games.

For Pagano, the memory of Tennessee’s Kenny Britt torching the Ravens secondary will likely be fresh in his mind as Baltimore tries to match up with talented receiver Santonio Holmes and the 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress on Sunday night.

The memories of Holmes’ work as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Ravens has not been forgotten by Pagano.

“He’s a threat down the field,” he said. “He poses a threat, run after the catch. He’s been a Raven killer. I just go back to my nightmares, when I wake up in the middle of the night sweating. It’s because I think of 2008, the three losses in 2008. He had a hand in all of them.”

Neutralizing Holmes’ big-play ability will depend heavily on how much pressure the Ravens can create on Sanchez, something Pagano is well aware of. But he won’t be looking across the field trying to one-up his former mentor in Baltimore.

That’s not Pagano’s style.

“I’m just trying to be the same guy that I’ve always been,” Pagano said. “I’ve got to be true to who I am, and that’s really all I’m trying to do.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Matt Birk, Chris Carr, Billy Cundiff, Jarret Johnson, Chuck Pagano, Cam Cameron, and Jerry Rosburg right here.

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Ravens-Jets week: The calm before the media storm?

Posted on 27 September 2011 by Luke Jones

Perhaps the only matchup that can even approach the same stratosphere as the Ravens’ biannual meetings — and a third, if we’re lucky — with the Pittsburgh Steelers is the occasional confrontation with Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.

If the bright lights of Sunday Night Football weren’t enough, the Ravens will be donning their all-black uniforms while the 2-1 Jets try to snap a six-game losing streak against Baltimore that dates all the way back to 1998. Since winning the first meeting between the teams in 1997 (played at Giants Stadium), the Jets have been beaten three times each in Baltimore and in their home stadium.

To the surprise of no one, a heated dynamic — if not a full-fledged rivalry — was born when Ryan left the Ravens to become the head coach of the Jets in 2009. Their meeting in Week 1 of last season spawned comments from Ray Lewis usually reserved solely for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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“I’m going to be very careful with this, we’re talking about the Jets like we’re talking about the Saints,” Lewis said prior to the Week 1 meeting last season. “That’s the Super Bowl champs. Until they play tonight, that’s the only people that can be dethroned. Drew Brees and the Saints, not Mark Sanchez and the Jets. All of this ‘We’re the Miami Heat of football.’ If you’re the Miami Heat, we got to be the Lakers and multiple rings.

And if that didn’t satisfy your appetite for what’s potentially on tap when the Ravens return to practice on Wednesday afternoon, Lewis offered the famous “buckle up your chinstrap” comment that epitomized the physical game we saw in the Ravens’ 10-9 win a year ago.

“The game ain’t played through tongues,” Lewis said. “The game is played when you buckle up your chin strap. So, all this pressure [Ryan] wants to put on his team, I hope they can cash the check that he writes.”

It will be nearly impossible to top the back-and-forth from a year ago that nearly made the actual game an afterthought with the needles being thrown in the week leading up to the Monday night affair.

But can they match it?

So far, no warning shots have been fired — particularly by the Jets after the Raiders ran for an astounding 234 yards against them in a humbling 34-24 defeat in Oakland. However, it’s difficult to envision the likes of Ryan, Lewis, Bart Scott, and Terrell Suggs making it through the entire week without a few interesting comments being offered to the virtual bulletin board for the opposition. These are the types of games that are a reporter’s dream: physical football with plenty of quotes and sound bytes to add fuel to the fire leading up to kickoff.

To no one’s surprise given his typical demeanor with the media, coach John Harbaugh’s Monday comments about the Jets were soaking wet firewood rather than kindling.

“They are a very good football team – very aggressive, very tough, very determined,” Harbaugh said. “They have a lot of playmakers – that’s the biggest thing. [They have] playmakers all over the field. I think when you see them win, they can win it in a lot of different ways. They can win by dominating the opponent, they can win by pulling it out at the end. That’s the mark of a good team – a winning team. That will be our challenge.”

Despite the complimentary statements from the Ravens coach, Harbaugh’s comments regarding potential barbs being exchanged left the door wide open for the louder personalities on the Ravens to fire shots up I-95 the remainder of the week.

“We always tell our guys really to be themselves,” said Harbaugh when asked if he would deter players from talking. “We don’t tell them not to say anything. We encourage them to be their best selves. I think our guys are pretty good guys, and our guys are classy guys. I’m sure our guys will have fun with it. I don’t think you will hear too much malicious [words] coming out of our guys. Our guys like those guys, so to speak. It will be good laughs listening to what comes out of New York, and we will be looking forward to it because it is always funny. It’s always entertaining. It makes it more fun.”

The roots connecting the Ravens and Jets run even deeper than the average fan realizes when you take a closer look at the two organizations. Players, coaches, and even front office personnel hold strong connections on a number of different levels.

Scott (2002-08), safety Jim Leonhard (2008), and wide receiver Derrick Mason (2005-2010) all found “greener” pastures after departing Baltimore. Mason’s move to the Jets will throw an intriguing wrinkle to this Sunday’s meeting, given the 37-year-old wideout’s tendency to hold court with the media from time to time.

In addition to Ryan (1999-2008), defensive coordinator Mike Pettine (2002-08), defensive line coach Mark Carrier (2006-09), quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh (1999-2004), and defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman (2002-07) spent time on the Baltimore coaching staff. On the flip side, Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler coached the Jets’ quarterbacks and wide receivers in 2003 and 2004.

Even the offensive coordinators share a bond — though not through New York or Baltimore — as Cam Cameron and Jets coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were members of the Chargers’ offensive staff from 2002 to 2005 under former head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Ravens architect Ozzie Newsome were both with the Cleveland Browns in 1995. While Newsome owned the title of director of pro personnel at the time, Tannenbaum was a player personnel assistant.

Despite the many ties throughout the organizations, it ultimately comes down to the players on the field, as much as Ryan might try to throw his name into the fray.

Yes, a mutual respect exists between the Ravens and Jets, but it won’t prevent the sides from being quiet this week.

At least we all hope.

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With mass exodus underway, are Ravens getting frustrated?

Posted on 04 August 2011 by Peter Dilutis

With news that Derrick Mason is set to join Rex Ryan in New York City, I can’t help but wonder how the current Ravens who are lucky enough to still be employed in Owings Mills feel about what has been somewhat of a mass exodus out of Baltimore for several talented players.

Mason, for better or worse, has been the leader on offense the past three seasons. He’s been that veteran guy; the last player out of the tunnel when the offense was introduced at M&T Bank Stadium. As all fans in Baltimore have come to realize, Mason really was Joe Flacco’s “security blanket” throughout Joe’s first three seasons in purple and black.

Mason is gone. Ten year Raven Todd Heap is gone. As is Kelly Gregg, a very popular player in the Ravens locker room during the past decade. Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain, who have both played key roles as part of the running game, have also departed Baltimore.

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Josh Wilson, a cornerback who stood out as perhaps the Ravens’ best corner last season, moved down I-95 to Washington, as did Donte Stallworth. Veteran receiver T.J. Houshamndzadeh is also not expected to return.

While some of the aforementioned players, specifically Stallworth, Houshmandzadeh, and McGahee in recent years, were not utilized to their full potential in Baltimore, that is still a boatload of more than capable talent that will be taking their talents elsewhere in 2011.

The Eagles are assembling a “Dream Team” to the north. A little further up the highway, Rex Ryan is busy putting together what he believes is his best Jets team yet. Bill Belichick is at it again, bringing in castoffs from other cities who you just know are going to produce and fall into place up in New England.

The Steelers, until proven otherwise, are still the team to beat in the AFC. They are consistently good year in and year out, and clearly have had the Ravens’ number of late.

Are the signings of Bernard Pollard, Vonta Leach, and the re-signings of Marshal Yanda and Chris Carr enough for the current Ravens to feel good about what they’ve accomplished thus far?

A Malcom Floyd addition would certainly help, as it could be argued that Floyd is a better fit on this current Ravens team than Burress, Mason, or Chad Ochocinco.

But the Ravens, a team that many felt were primed for a Super Bowl run in 2011, have taken a backseat this offseason when compared to many of the other teams that Baltimore will be competing with for a Super Bowl come December and January.

Part of me can’t help but think the Ravens missed the boat last season. As I’ve watched the Ravens practice this past week, while acknowledging that the team has not yet been fully assembled, I just do not see anywhere close to the talent that was here last season.

Part of that falls on Cam Cameron for not taking advantage of two receivers in Stallworth and Houshmandzadeh who had been very good receivers throughout their respective careers. Guys like McClain and McGahee were also obviously under-utlilized at different points. Those situations covered up some of the talent that was on the team last season.

Talent-wise, this Ravens team is not as good as it was last year, and even if Malcom Floyd does find his way to Owings Mills within the next few days, I still do not see anyway that the 2011 version of the Baltimore Ravens will be better, on paper, than the 2010 Ravens.

The good thing is that championships aren’t won on paper, and the Ravens have what many consider to be a top coaching staff and organization in place to guide this group of players on the right path. The veteran nucleus, even with Heap and Mason gone, is still in place.

But with all of these other teams making good, splashy moves, will the current players start to envy the situations that are unfolding up in New England, New York, and to a lesser extent Philadelphia?

Super Bowl contenders usually get better from the end of the previous season to the beginning of the next season. I don’t believe the Ravens have done that.

That’s not their fault. The reason they had so much talent is because Steve Bisciotti invested above and beyond what was expected in order to fully go for it in 2010. You can’t fault him or anyone in the organization for that.

But again, the realty of the situation is that other teams are getting better while the Ravens have seemingly gotten worse. And that notion hurts even more today as a man who Ravens fans called one of their own is joining up with the enemy in Rex Ryan and the Jets.

We’re all glad football is back, but I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy about the Ravens right now. And I have to believe that feeling, at least to an extent, is also circulating around the locker-room at One Winning Drive.

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Former Ravens receiver Mason close to joining Jets

Posted on 04 August 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:40 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ten days after his abrupt release from the Baltimore Ravens, Derrick Mason appears close to finding a new home in the Big Apple.

The New York Jets have released veteran Jerricho Cotchery and are moving toward signing the former Ravens receiver.

Mason leaves behind six productive seasons in Baltimore in which he became the franchise’s all-time leader in both receptions (471) and receiving yards (5,777) after joining the Ravens in 2005.

Rumors began linking the 37-year-old receiver to Rex Ryan’s squad Wednesday night before Mason visited the Jets and took a physical on Thursday. He would join a talented group of receivers in New York that includes Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.

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While the Ravens continue to pursue the services of 6-foot-5 receiver Malcom Floyd to add more size and diversity in the passing game, quarterback Joe Flacco will adjust to life without his favorite target as Mason acted as the young quarterback’s security blanket over the last three seasons. Mason is the only receiver in franchise history to have a 100-catch season, grabbing 103 passes in 2007.

With former tight end Todd Heap having already signed with the Arizona Cardinals last weekend, the door closing shut on a potential Mason return marks the official end of an era in which the two ranked in the top two spots in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions in the 15-year history of the franchise.

“I hope we can go out there and we can operate no matter what,” said Flacco after his two favorite targets were released last week. “If those guys aren’t there, it is because we are confident with the guys that we have and we’re confident in those guys taking that next step and really being able to take on a 16-game NFL schedule and be on. That’s what I would say. If they are not there, we know we have a great group of guys. If they are there, we are only going to benefit from that.”

With the Jets set to visit Baltimore on Oct. 2 for a Sunday night game, the addition of Mason would add even more fuel to the fire of what’s already a spicy story with the John Harbaugh-Ryan connection and a number of former Ravens finding a home with the Jets such as Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard as well as Trevor Pryce in the middle of last season.

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Rex Ryan joins me on today's show

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Rex Ryan joins me on today’s show

Posted on 16 June 2011 by Rex Snider

As the title of the blog confirms, we will have a ROCKSTAR quality guest during today’s edition of the Afternoon Drive. We will be chatting with former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator and current New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan.

We will emphasize the conversation on his new book, Play Like You Mean It, which provides the reader with an insightful look into Rex’s childhood and his earlier days of coaching, as well as a thorough account of his time in Baltimore and New York.
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Of course, we’ll take a few moments to chat about how much his career and life have changed in the few short years following his move up I-95.

How does Rex Ryan the HEAD COACH differ from the same man who once commanded a Ravens defense that was feared throughout an era in the National Football League?

Have public demands and obligations accompanied his rise to coaching stardom?

Do the Jets and Patriots share that same intense disdain we see between the Ravens and Steelers? And, does he mention Bill Belichick in the new book?

You’ll find out the answers to these questions and much, today at 4:05pm …..

You can order Play Like You Mean It online, RIGHT HERE

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Ravens get “victimized” in NFL’s playoff mess …..

Posted on 03 January 2011 by Rex Snider

As we collect ourselves on this first day of business, in 2011, I’m certain the bigwigs within the National Football League’s power structure realize they have a great deal of BUSINESS to do beyond the final whistle in Super Bowl XLV.

Yeah, yeah, the most pressing issues revolve around the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Players Association and ownership. But, other problems and dilemmas also need some clear and concise attention.

When the NFL’s Competition Committee convenes, this spring, I really hope they take a sobering look at the process of seeding playoff teams. Specifically, they need to address alternatives to the traditional mode of slotting teams with priority to divisional winners, followed by wildcard entries.

Better and more appealing prospects exist …..

Why not toss this current system aside and rank the six teams, per conference, by overall record?

It certainly makes more sense, and it truly rewards WINNING (even in the later stages of the season) to hinge overall records on respective playoff positioning. If you’re a traditionalist or simply someone who resists change, just consider the upcoming slate of matchups.

Of the four games scheduled for next weekend, three contests will be hosted by teams with inferior records to the visitors. Yep, given the Ravens are one of the so-called “victims”, I’ll assume this is the point where my detractors lob a few “kool-aid bombs”.

Think again …..

There is hardly any situation more unfair than seeing the defending Super Bowl Champions traveling 2100 miles to play a postseason matchup with a team that bears a losing record. The Seattle Seahawks won the putrid NFC-West, so they’ll host the wildcard-winning New Orleans Saints.

It doesn’t matter that Seattle finished a dismal 7-9, while New Orleans achieved an 11-5 overall record, right? Oh, and the head-to-head matchup? New Orleans smoked ‘em by 18 points, with a 37-19 thrashing.

The Saints had a better season than the Seahawks and they’re clearly a much more talented team. In fact, they’re favored by 10.5 points, in next week’s game. That’s a freaking touchdown and field goal !!!!

Yet, the Saints will board a plane and head to Seattle, because the LOSING record of the Seahawks was good enough to capture a divisional title.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, they too, had a better record than their hosts, the Kansas City Chiefs. Although, in devout honesty, both teams had stellar seasons. The Ravens had a couple more wins than the Chiefs, amidst a tougher schedule …..

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