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Rex Ryan spends his off day with Jets and Rams

Posted on 11 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As we predicted earlier in the day, it was indeed today that Rex Ryan spent his “down time” with the N.Y. Jets and St. Louis brass in the hopes of being their next head coach. Obviously, this can be a tricky situation, coaching who are still in the hunt for this year’s Super Bowl to interview for their next job. It’s weird. Everyone who has ever gone through it has told me that. But this morning reps from both franchises flew into Baltimore and spent a few hours with Ryan.

By this evening, when the game between San Diego and Pittsburgh is over, Ryan will be back on track to lead the defense to an AFC Championship Game and a chance for another Super Bowl.

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The Miami Mission: Quieting the crowd won’t be a factor

Posted on 03 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It could’ve been a whole lot worse this weekend, being in New Jersey or Foxboro. Landing in Fort Lauderdale and having it be 75 degrees on Jan. 2nd, well, you can’t ask for much more.

I spent the middle of the day yesterday in Owings Mills and the team is definitely “loose,” which is a good sign. The Ravens are the better team. They seem to know it. They seem prepared and all of the talk is about winning and taking care of business.

Art Modell was hanging out for lunch with John Harbaugh and I dropped off some “INDUCT ART” signs. Harbaugh told me he’s going to put one up in his office. I told him the city needed a win. He seems confident that the Ravens can win this Sunday.

The flight down wasn’t nearly as chock full of Ravens fans as a “normal” NFL road weekend. Just a handful of fans, and it appeared that many of the seats were filled with families and kids going back to school from the holidays. I’m honestly not expecting the usual “purple takeover” of South Florida. And from my many contacts with folks this week who love to travel to support the Ravens, it seems many are more concerned with getting to Nashville at this point, almost assuming a victory.

Call me the bleeding heart purple optimist, but I don’t see how they’re going to lose to Chad Pennington. I think the defense will force trouble for the Dolphins offense (running and passing), the weather is not a factor, the Ravens players CLEARLY love to play on the road and Joe Flacco is pretty unflappable even when the crowd is a factor and the Miami fans are easily the worst in the NFL when it comes to creating an intimidating environment. The last two trips the place was half full and raucous with Ravens fans.

If you’re already down in South Florida, we’d love to see you at our party at Alabama Joe’s on Lantana just west of I-95. The party starts at 4:30. We’ll stay as long as purple fans are coming in and hanging out. Two games. A perfect way to start the weekend, watching some NFL action all night in 75-degree Florida.

It will be interesting to see Rex Ryan’s defense vs. the wildcat. There’s been plenty of talk about the Dolphins’ signature package and it’ll be something to watch for sure, the matchups the Ravens’ defense will give the Fish when Ronnie Brown goes under center.

Miami has a lot of Ravens memories:

* The bad loss in the hurricane back during the Super Bowl year. I stood on the field that night and the mud seemed to be three inches thick.

•    That great playoff win when Terry Allen ran wild to move the Ravens into the second round back in 2001. (By the way, that was the Ravens’ most recent January victory, so maybe Miami is still the place to be.)
•    The devastating loss last December, when Brian Billick opted to kick the field goal at the wire and Matt Stover missed the game winner against Cam Cameron’s winless squad.
•    And, of course, the most recent foray a few weeks ago when the Ravens just pounded the Dolphins into submission and capitalized on their mistakes.

Other than the hideous Sunday Night game back in 2000, the trips are always full of sunshine and empty seats.

It’ll be a little different this Sunday, but it’s just a shame more of our fans couldn’t find a way down south. But we can all dream for a repeat visit to Florida – a few miles to the west in Tampa – later in the month.

Festivus is on. I’m in Florida. Life is good.

It’s hard to think that the season could end so abruptly down here in the sunshine. Of course, we’re stuck here until Monday. So worse case scenario: at least if they lose it’s still 75 degrees.

But they’re not going to lose.

Stay warm up there!

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Could Baltimore’s Jim Schwartz wind up as head coach in Cleveland?

Posted on 01 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As the coaching “hiring” season heats up over the coming weeks, the candidates are lining up in Cleveland, Detroit, Denver and with the N.Y. Jets and that’s only “so far.” Who knows what’s going to happen in St. Louis, Dallas, Tampa Bay and a few other places? And then there’s Oakland — the Siberia of NFL coaching.

Our very own WNST.net Friday companion Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans and Arbutus native, is next up in two places — Cleveland and Detroit — while Rex Ryan is slated to speak with the N.Y. Jets, St. Louis Rams and Detroit at some point over the next few weeks.

Schwartz was in Cleveland for a few years in the mid-90’s and was part of the Berea Brigade, when the fans boycotted the facility after Art Modell made the announcement that the Ravens were coming to Baltimore. He spent three years as Marvin Lewis’ assistant here and left for Tennessee when Brian Billick was hired in 1999. He’s been the defensive coordinator for the Titans for eight seasons now and has interviewed in four organizations (San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami and Washington) for head coaching jobs. He is expected to leave Tennessee in the next few weeks and is restricted after Friday from interviewing or accepting a head coaching positions until the Titans are eliminated or win the Super Bowl. The same is true for Ryan, who like Schwartz and the Giants Steve Spagnuolo is being inundated with interview requests while trying to win a championship.

Spagnuolo will also be a favored candidate as is Leslie Frazier in a few places. And Eric Mangini and Mike Shanahan are still out of work with various contract money still coming to them in 2009 and beyond.

I’ll write more about the coaching hiring process over the weekend. Lots to tell and it’s a fascinating, incredible “mating call” getting these coaches and executives into jobs and how it affects so many lives and families across the NFL as all of these guys are truly modern-day vagabonds in search of one of 32 jobs in the world as an NFL head coach. Like I said, lots to tell.

Trying to get the Nashville trips on sale by noon on Monday…

Stay tuned…

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Rex Ryan receives permission to interview with N.Y. Jets

Posted on 31 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

‘Tis the season to gain head coaching employment in the NFL and with the 11-5 regular season finish and the Ravens headed back to the playoffs in Miami this weekend, it’s not a shocker that defensive coordinator has received permission to interview for the head coaching position with the New York Jets.

As first reported by the AP, Ryan is expected to interview for the job in New York at some point in the near future. Earlier this week, NFL.com’s Adam Schefter reported that Ryan would be a lead candidate in St. Louis, once the Rams fire interim head coach Jim Haslett who replaced Scott Linehan in midseason.

Ryan, along with tight ends coach Wade Harmon, were original hires of Brian Billick when he took over the head coaching job in January 1999. It’s very unusual to allow an existing assistant to interview during the week of a game but perhaps Ryan will have time to interview after the Ravens victory in Miami on Sunday.

Many times “deals” are cut to wait for specific coordinators, as was the case when the Ravens waited three weeks to interview Brian Billick after his Vikings lost in the NFC Championship Game. Last year Ryan interviewed in Atlanta and Miami before eventually returning under contract to continue as the Ravens defensive coordinator under John Harbaugh.

Several coordinators including Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz both have the week off during their team’s respective byes and are expected to see a few interviews this week.

We’ll continue to monitor the coaching carousel as the month plays out.

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Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

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Bisciotti and Harbaugh walk ‘arm in arm’ into 2009 Festivus

Posted on 29 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

What a difference 52 weeks makes. It will be a year ago this Wednesday — on New Year’s Eve — when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti walked into Brian Billick’s office and abruptly fired the head coach who led his franchise to its only Super Bowl win. It was the biggest story in the city for weeks, and many folks were surprised and many questions were asked. For me, it wasn’t so much the actual firing of Billick as much as the “I changed my mind” reasoning so closely removed from a 13-3 season and the fact that Ozzie Newsome was clearly kept out of the decision. At the time I was a loud critic of the move, especially considering that Bisciotti didn’t have a clear vision of where the franchise was headed or who he wanted to hire as a head coach.

The thinking was this: Who is Bisciotti going to hire who is better than Billick?

Three weeks later, after getting turned down by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason
Garrett and eliminating defensive coordinator Rex Ryan from contention, Bisciotti turned to a “low mileage” young special teams coordinator whose QB brother was far better known not only in Baltimore but throughout the league and in college circles as the head coach at Stanford.

Bisciotti, who is a self-made billionaire and who did it by hiring great people, was pretty offended last winter at the mere notion that his decisions and pick to lead the organization on the field would be questioned. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him publicly “chippy.”

Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

Harbaugh came to this job as a universally revered “coach’s coach,” the son of a football coach and the brother of a very successful NFL quarterback. I had at least 20 NFL “insiders” who immediately called me and told me that Harbaugh would be a “great” NFL coach. Harbaugh had ZERO detractors. Even Brian Billick privately applauded Bisciotti’s choice to replace him as being “a great move.” Yesterday, as the clock struck zero and Harbaugh had led Bisciotti’s franchise full-circle and back into the NFL postseason, the two men embraced in as genuine a lock as you’d ever want to see on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. You can see the moment on video here… and it was celebrated with the fans.

We can revisit all of the details of last January’s semi-bizarre job search and all of the possibilities and permutations and fallout of a bloody, unexpected firing of a Super Bowl champion coach amidst a locker room full of revolt, dissent and mouthy and aging players. All of my January Bisciotti/Garrett/Harbaugh blogs are still here in the archives if you care to read them.

Here’s the point: Bisciotti has made three MAJOR calls in 2009. First he fired Billick, while owing him $18 million, a ballsy and risky move if there ever was one. Then, he hand-picked unproven John Harbaugh to lead his football team in January. And finally — you might never get anyone to admit this on the record within the franchise — Bisciotti absolutely JUMPED on the table in the draft room in April and insisted that Ozzie Newsome trade up into the 18th pick to take a New Jersey kid from “small school” University of Delaware named Joe Flacco to be his franchise quarterback.

Considering our history with sports franchise poobahs in Baltimore (think Irsay, Jacobs, EBW & Abe Pollin), we’re far from believing that owners should get overly involved in the day-to-day operations of a sports franchise in most circumstances – and this is your chance to fill in the holiday Peter Angelos joke of your choice right here – but obviously an NFL owner’s choice of a head coach and a franchise quarterback has never looked better than it does this morning, exactly 52 weeks to the day that Bisciotti was clearly shaken by the removal of Billick, whom he had deep affection and respect for as a person and a leader of men.

If you’re excited about the Ravens this week and you’ve got purple fever, sure it’s fashionable to give all of the credit to Flacco and Harbaugh (as well as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Le’Ron McClain, Cam Cameron, etc.) but today is a day we should consider giving the credit to the “mastermind” of several of the most significant 2009 calls that have landed the Ravens in the postseason and headed to Miami this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Steve Bisciotti has played a MAJOR role in the Ravens’ turnaround by making moves that have been greeted with at least extreme “curiosity” inside his own building and amongst his experts. Who would’ve thought that Rex Ryan could get passed over for the head coaching job here for a special teams coordinator and respond in a fashion that has made him the front-runner for the St. Louis Rams job 52 weeks later? Human nature might’ve said, “You can’t bring Ryan back as defensive coordinator” given the strange circumstances.

But over the course of his life, Bisciotti has shown an uncanny ability to find and retain quality people as employees. It’s his “gift” as a business owner, bringing in people who he’ll brag are “better” than him. He’s always told me that it’s the secret of his success.

Sure, he subtracted Brian Billick who I clearly think is one of the better people I’ve met on the planet and a person that I’m supremely thrilled to have on my WNST.net team, but he also added another quality guy in John Harbaugh — as well as a new staff — and the change has obviously worked out fabulously in Year 1. (For the record, Billick had Cam Cameron flying into Baltimore to be his offensive coordinator a year ago today as well, had he not been fired…just a fact!)

The firing of Billick was a change, as I stated last Janaury, that I wouldn’t have made. Many concurred with my assessment. But that’s why he’s Steve Bisciotti and that’s why he’s worth a billion dollars. As the old Indiana Jones movie said, “He chose wisely.”

Many NFL jobs will begin popping open today. Brian Billick might even get another shot to lead an NFL franchise at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, he might be enjoying his quality of life watching football on Fox and doing radio shows and writing a blog here at WNST.net while building his life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

But 363 days later, you would be hard-pressed to make the argument that Billick might’ve gotten this team to 11-5, with or without a quarterback like Flacco. Or maybe not. But at this point, that’s not an argument anyone in Baltimore wants or needs to make. In reality, we’re all in a better place 52 weeks later.

The NFL job carousel will get crazy this week. I’m glad we’re on the other side of this one this season covering a playoff team instead of a job search and all of the messiness involved. Phil Savage is the first of many fired friends of mine this week.

For now here in Baltimore, it’s Festivus for the rest of us.

Bring on the Fish…

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Beating the Giants would make Ravens a legit force in AFC

Posted on 16 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

As I wake this morning the Baltimore Ravens – and, yes, they used the word “Baltimore” before it was “comprehensive branding effort” – are 6-3 and could be in sole possession of first place in the AFC North if a series of positive events transpire later today at the Meadowlands and in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers host a desperate San Diego Chargers club coming east to play with their season in the balance.

No matter what, we’re gonna learn a lot about January today.

In my 13 years of fandom I’ve never seen a purple team this hard to read. Are they this good? Or were THEY that BAD?

I’m not really sure.

Here are the irrefutable facts:

• The Ravens have played nine games and have played eight of them well enough to win. That includes solid, representative efforts in Pittsburgh and here against the undefeated and “unstoppable” Tennessee Titans.
• The Ravens played one of the biggest turds in the history of the franchise in Indianapolis and any horse player might “throw this one out” if they can legitimately run with the New York Football Giants.
• Their only wins have come at the expense of the likes of the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders – the literal dregs of the league and darlings of next April’s NFL Draft.
• The road has been far from a nuisance for rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who after appearing to have been playing the rope-a-dope in that game against the Colts, has rebounded nicely with huge efforts in Miami, Cleveland and Houston.
• The injuries have mounted – Kelly Gregg, Chris McAlister, Marshal Yanda and Dawan Landry are all done for the season – and the “next man up” has gotten the job done. Winning teams do that!
• The team has a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback, a rookie left tackle and aging players at a variety of positions from wide receiver to defensive line to middle linebacker and week after week they’ve brought impressive moxie to the field no matter the circumstance. The secondary has been ravaged but is still percolating and when the front seven brings the heat this is a 3-and-out waiting to happen.
• They know how to come back from behind on the road as was witnessed in Cleveland, where they effectively ended their bitter division rival’s playoff aspirations on Halloween weekend.
• And finally, the Giants are 8-1. So let’s just assume they’re pretty good.

These are the facts. But how this game sets up is anyone’s guess.

The Giants are a prohibitive favorite. The weather is slated to be kinda chilly at 49 degrees. And we’re taking 57 purple WNST fans up to the game via the “Miller Lite Roadtrips.”

The rest is why we take the video camera…

Will the Ravens defense shut down the Big Blue running game – Earth, Wind and Fire – which leads the league in rushing?

Will Rex Ryan’s blitz packages get after Eli Manning or will the Giants solid offensive line give him their signal caller a chance to exploit a depleted secondary?

And how will No. 5 fare up the Turnpike from his home in New Jersey as the Giants disguise packages and send the blitz of Justin Tuck and company?

This is why I love football.

Can the Ravens go into the Meadowlands and defeat the reigning World Champions today?

That’s what we’re all wondering…

The bus leaves at 7 a.m.

Casey Willett, Drew Forrester and I will all be at the Meadowlands.

Blogs, stories, videos and hopefully, a victory, will be coming back with us.

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Ravens news and notes and injury report

Posted on 22 October 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some notes from 1 Winning Drive today:

-The Chris McAlister saga will continue to roll on, as McAlister spoke with the media and commented on the situation which you can see in my previous blog. Coach Harbaughreemphasized today that playing time has nothing to do with discipline. It is simply they are putting the best 11 guys on the field against the Raiders. McAlister does in fact appear on the injury report this week, which you can scroll down to see.

– Buddy Ryan the father of Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be at the game on Sunday.

-JaMarcus Russell was a big topic of discussion with several of the defensive players today. Trevor Pryce, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata all talked about how big and strong Russell is and how you have to wrap him up to get him down. Pryce mentioned that the thing you have to do when you get to Russell is ask him to lie down so you can get the sack. Suggs is concerned that he might get shrugged off if he gets to him and goes for a sack. Ngata pointed out that a big thing with Russell is that he will dump off passes to the running backs when you get to him and that is a dangerous thing. All of the guys compared sacking Russell to trying to sack Ben Roethlisberger, very difficult. Suggs compared sacking Russell to trying to sack Trevor Pryce.

– Jonathan Ogden who will be going into the Ravens Ring of Honor on Sunday, will be introduced with the team on Sunday.

– Terrell Suggs said early that he thought Troy Smith should be starting for the Ravens. Now Suggs has said ” I thought the question was about multiple packages. I said both quarterbacks should get a chance to play, like running back Ronnie Brown depending on the package. Joe is 3-3 as the starter and has done a good job. It’s not like we haven’t won any games.”

Suggs also has had controversy come up with his comments about a bounty on Hines Ward. Here is his response to that, ” there wasn’t any bounty. The reporter asked me if there was a bounty and I just said I’m going to keep a watch on the guy. He broke some guy’s jaw last week, and he tried to cheap shot Jarrett Johnson. He also cheap-shotted Ed Reed. We’re just going to be on alert the next time we play him. It’s like the guy in your neighborhood who always pulls your shorts down and your drawers show, well, you always have to be on the lookout. You have to be alert.”

Suggs has always been a media friendly guy, but I can not imagine these type comments set well with the new coaching regime

– Here is the injury report for the Ravens for Wednesday:

OUT: Samari Rolle(neck/shoulder) Dawan Landry(neck) Adam Terry (knee)

Did Not Participate: Yamon Figurs(knee) Ed Reed(thigh) Demetrius Williams(ankle)

Limited Participation: Jared Gaither(neck) Chris McAlister(knee) Willis McGahee(knee)

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Will benching be a wake up call for CMac?

Posted on 22 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

The Ravens report back to practice again today in preparation for the Oakland Raiders this Sunday.

The team is 3-3, far ahead of where many thought they’d be before the season began and are even about to go through the “soft spot” on their schedule with Oakland, Cleveland and Houston in the headlights. With a little luck, they could be 6-3 or 5-4 going up to the Meadowlands on Nov. 16th to play the defending World Champs. (BTW: Yes, seats are still available on our Miller Lite bus trip that day!)

So, what the Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh need least in the world right now is a player controversy. But, it appears, as long as Chris McAlister is on the team that won’t happen.

The team has now stated its “official” position on McAlister: he’s not one of the three best cornerbacks on the roster. He’s been demoted based on his “on field” play alone.

Personally, I find that hard to accept. But as one member of the organization said yesterday, “Did you see the Colts game? Did you see Marvin Harrison torch him?”

There are more rumors and opinions on McAlister’s personality, habits, activities and his decisions than I could list here. Most of you know about the marijuana allegations, the drinking allegations, the San Diego sendoff by Brian Billick, etc. And by now the story of three interesting young ladies who pranced out the front door of the team’s Miami hotel last weekend near the team bus is public record. (BTW: McAlister told the team they were just there for breakfast to pick up game tickets and the Ravens actually bring Baltimore police officers to guard each floor and unlike Billick, Harbaugh’s pre-game bed check is military quality.)

But the team’s position is this: “He’s not playing well. This has nothing to do with punishment. He got exposed. Fabian Washington and Frank Walker are playing better so they’ll play. Chris McAlister is No. 3 on the depth chart.”

But there’s obviously more here than meets the eye and the Ravens must believe they’re eliminating a distraction more than causing one. They maintain that they told McAlister last Wednesday that he’d be seeing less of the turf in Miami.

McAlister has had a hard time with authority from the very beginning. And Harbaugh, or “Hard Ass” as many of the players are finding out, knows that the ultimate way to punish a player is to not play him.

The message is clear: “Get better, work harder or you won’t play for me!” So much for bruised pride and strong egos.

When Samari Rolle is on the field, most teams will attack him first. Ditto Frank Walker.

So when Peyton Manning went after McAlister 10 days ago in Indianapolis and torched him, it apparently caused Rex Ryan to rethink the back end of the Ravens defense. Some thought the second TD was “a play a high school player should make.”

Apparently, some of his own teammates have lost their faith in him and don’t trust him on edge. (Players and teammates have had derogatory things to say about McAlister’s attitude and work ethic for years so this isn’t some shocking revelation.)

The Ravens have been very clear and quick to say this is an “on the field” demotion, having nothing to do with his off-the-field antics or decisions.

For the record, I don’t buy that, either.

If McAlister misses meetings or shows up late or chooses not to hit the gym (another rumor is that CMac doesn’t like going into the gym), Harbaugh and the organization can fine him under NFLPA guidelines. The fines could then lead to a suspension that would cost him real money.

But ultimately, Harbaugh’s strongest card is to say: “You’re not playing!”

But the scuttlebutt is that this was more defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s decision. And, honestly, most coaches care more about winning than they do about the feelings of a mercurial 31-year old cornerback whose teammates question his dedication to football, the team and winning.

Harbaugh’s battle cry from the first press conference has been, “Team, team, team.”

Clearly, he and Ryan think the team is better with CMac on the pine. Right now,
Fabian Washington and Frank Walker are first-teamers.

One more quote from another member of the Ravens organization:

“If he were acting and playing like the Pro Bowler we think he is and we’re paying him to be, he’d be on the field.”

It’s only Week 7 for the Ravens. This will be interesting, seeing if the team can consistently win with Washington and Walker, or whether McAlister is willing to work hard enough and swallow his pride to get back on the field.

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Today we continue out education about the 2008 Ravens

Posted on 05 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

The undefeated Tennessee Titans roll into town believing (as they should) that they are a Super Bowl contender. Sure, the Ravens are 2-1 and are one play, one red flag, one fumble, one whistle away from being 3-0.

But today the Ravens will have the chance to show us whether they’ll be a very good team this year, or simply one of the many who will be playing “win one, lose one” style in the NFL.

They’ll either sport a pedestrian 2-2 by the end of the day or they’ll be 3-1 at the quarter pole. And either one of them is perfectly acceptable to me.

A month ago many us of believed they’d stink. A win today here against the Titans would make them 3-1 and they would be getting the kind of attention playoff teams will get from the national media.

But let’s be honest: beating the Clevelands and Cincinnatis at home doesn’t earn you honors in the AFC in 2008. We’re pretty sure they both stink.

But beat a 4-0 team and you’ve showed the entire NFL something.

Concerns for the Ravens today:

How will the offensive line and a max protect serve quarterback Joe Flacco against a defense as tenacious and talented as Jim Schwartz’s bunch in blue?

Where’s Willis McGahee? We all like Le’Ron McClain but I’m not sure the Ravens can win if he’s the feature back for the entire season. Unless the offensive line becomes more seasoned and dominant at the point of attack more consistently.

Will Todd Heap become more involved in the offense? Most of us thought Cam Cameron’s offense would use Heap in the same role as Antonio Gates in the San Diego scheme. That hasn’t happened yet.

When the Titans have the ball it will be interesting to see if the Ravens’ defense can goad Kerry Collins into some of the problems he had back on Jan. 28, 2001 when he was leading the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Collins is now playing the “Trent Dilfer role” for the Titans. He protects the ball. He manages the game. And he’s been undefeated doing it for a team that wants to smack you in the mouth and get turnovers on defense.

Theoretically, this is a good match up for the Ravens because the Titans don’t have the long-ball arsenal and quick attack style that teams like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati like to employ. This is one day when you’d think the gambling style Rex Ryan’s defense likes to utilize won’t be as susceptible to big plays or big breakdowns, especially in the secondary.

But the Ravens are going to have to keep Flacco and the offense on the field and they’ll need to run more effectively than they have so far this season. (Or at least in the way that they controlled the ball in the fourth quarter of the Cincinnati and Cleveland wins.)

Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vandenbosch, Keith Bullock and company are stingy. They stuff the run. They sack the quarterback. They ball hawk. And they take the ball away.

The Titans have manhandled all four of their opponents. Pound for pound, they have been the best team in the NFL so far this season.

Today’s task is a tall one for the men in purple.

But it’s a day to figure out whether that 2-0 start was an aberration or whether the Ravens have arrived in 2008 as a legitimate playoff contender. Today is a reality check for the whole city.

Win today and we can start discussing the possibility of the “p” word and being a legitimate contender.

A loss today and staring the down the barrel of a trip to visit Peyton Manning and the Colts in Indianapolis next week, and all of a sudden the Ravens’ prospects aren’t looking so rosy.

Get’s your “Let’s Go Flacco!” signs and enjoy the game!

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Six-pack for Ravens – Steelers

Posted on 29 September 2008 by caseywillett

Here is my six pack for tonight’s Ravens – Steelers game:
  1. Big night for secondary:The Ravens secondary will have a tall task in front of them tonight. With no Dawan Landry and Samari Rolle, Jim Leonhard, Corey Ivy, and Frank Walker will have to be in sync with Chris McAlister and Ed Reed. The secondary have to make sure they are all on the same page and that their might be zero room for freelancing tonight. In the past it has not been so much Hines Ward that has hurt the Ravens, but the second and third receivers on the team. Another big key for the secondary tonight will be to cover their man the entire play. Ben Roethlisberger is known for scrambling out of the pocket to make almost playground type plays with his receivers. The secondary can not afford to get drawn in to Ben scrambling and let their guy run wide open. Heath Miller is also a guy to keep an eye on tonight.
  1. Be aggressive: With a rookie running back and a hurt quarterback, the Ravens defense has to send a message and set a tone early on. I am not saying do anything outside of the rule book, but take your shots when you can.
  1. Contain Ben: I mentioned it earlier, but it is huge to keep Roethlisberger from scrambling out of the pocket and making throws down the field. Ben is not getting out of the pocket most of the time looking to tuck the ball and run, he is looking to make a pass. The Steelers have made big plays when Ben rolls out and his receivers improvise their routes to convert on big plays. The Ravens have to put pressure on him and when he does roll out of the pocket, stay with him and not give him much time to improvise.
  1. Attack the middle: With Casey Hampton out, the Ravens should continue what they have done so far this season and run the ball up the middle. Cam Cameron has said before that this is not an east and west offense, it is a north and south offense. The Ravens offense should try to do to the Steelers what the Steelers have done to teams for years, just pound the ball down your throat with a running game. This sets a tempo and frustrates a defense quick.
  1. Stay Joe Cool: All of the talk has been about Joe Flacco starting his first road game and it being on Monday Night Football. I do not think Flacco will get caught up in that at all. Flacco has not been rattled, bothered, or over whelmed by anything since he was drafted by the Ravens, granted this is one of the first big challenges of his NFL career, but he and the Ravens have done everything that they can to prepare him for this.
  1. Win the early rounds: A couple of Ravens players said playing the Steelers is like being in a heavyweight boxing match. There is to going to be a lot of flashy punches, or dancing around the ring, it is going to be a straight forward brawl. Both of these teams know what they are about and what the other one brings to the table. One of the keys tonight for the Ravens is to go out and win the early rounds, maintaining nice drives, setting a tempo on offense, and not being overwhelmed, sort of like throwing some jabs and body shots early on. If the Ravens are able to do that, then the Steelers defense will start to get tired, and that is when in the fourth quarter you can go for the knock out punch. Whether that be a touchdown to go ahead, put the game a way, or taking time off of the clock.
Ravens 20 –Steelers 17

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