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6-pack review and post game

Posted on 08 September 2008 by caseywillett

Here is a look back at my 6-pack game preview and some post game thoughts:
  1. Give Joe time– At times today, it seemed like Flacco had all day to look down the field and make plays. Not being sacked one time today speaks highly of the job that the offensive line did for him. Flacco completed 15 passes to seven different receivers, eight to the wide outs, six to the running backs, and one to a tight end.
  1. Keep drives going – The Ravens today kept the ball for 36:15. A big part of that was due to their ability to convert on third downs. The Ravens were 9-17 53%, on third downs today. LeRon McClain converted on third down four of the nine times. The Ravens got the ball with 7:15 left to go in the game and never gave it back to the Bengals. In that time they ran the ball 10 times, threw one pass, and took two knees to end the game.
  1. Find Ben Utecht – Utecht finished the day with two catches for 10 yards. Ben had to stay in most of the time to help pass protect for Carson Palmer.
  1. Get to Carson – The Ravens were giving Palmer all kind of looks early on in the game. Here is how Palmers first quarter went: sack (Justin Bannan), sack (Jarrett Johnson), two runs, a completed pass, and was intercepted. Several members of the Bengals media, said they do not remember seeing Palmer that rattled in a long, long, time. Matter of fact, today was the first time since week 17 of the 2005 season that Palmer has been held under 100yds passing in a regular season game.
  1. Don’t play their game– Besides Samari Rolle throwing the football after his interception that ended up never happening, the Ravens played smart football as it relates to unsportsmanlike penalties. Several times during the game there were some flare ups between players and pushing and shoving. Every time Ravens players would grab their teammate and pull them away from the situation. In the past penalties for late hits, unsportsmanlike conduct and other things would have cost the Ravens.
  1. Special teams has to be special – Sam Koch did yet another excellent job of pinning the Bengals deep. Koch does not get the credit he deserves for his punting ability, but he came up with some huge punts today. Yamon Figurs also had a huge day with some nice returns. There was a very questionable block in the back call on what would have been Figurs punt return for a touchdown. Figurs also deserves credit for being a gunner on special teams and making a great open field tackle on Chatman of the Bengals for a one yard loss.
-The Ravens locker room was an interesting place to be after the game. Watching the guys walk up the tunnel and into the locker room was a very interesting scene. Ray Lewis embraced quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson who had a huge grin on his face. You could hear the team applauding, cheering, and celebrating, across the hall in the media room even with the locker room doors closed.
-Several Ravens players said that the Bengals defense almost had a look on their face that they could not believe that the Ravens were moving the ball at will on them. There was definitely a swagger with the offense today.
-The Bengals were not pleased with their performance, “we sucked”, said Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, “we got beat on two b.s. plays”, was how John Thornton summed up the day for the Bengals defense. I know it is early, but Marvin Lewis might be the leader in the clubhouse of a coach on the hot seat after week 1.

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Hopes and fears for the 2008 Ravens

Posted on 07 September 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

On every barstool and at every dinner table in Baltimore, the question comes: “How do you think the Ravens are going to do this year?”

People ask me dozens of times a day everywhere I go around town. I’m not Kreskin, but the Las Vegas “over/under” line on wins is six.

As in 6-10.

Honestly, if you give me a dollar and make me bet on the Ravens at this point I’d take the under because I think they will need a myriad of positive developments to see 7-9.

So, in the spirit of debate and with the ability to have your feedback in the comments, I will make this column a simple “point/counterpoint” in hopes and fears format.

Hope: Ray Lewis can play at the same level he did last year for one more year in purple.

Fear: This team might be bad enough early enough that Lewis will go back to being a complainer and a divider instead of one who unites the team. We’ll see how the “walk” year goes.

Hope: Joe Flacco shows that he belongs in the NFL as a quality starting quarterback and shows the early signs you want to see from a rookie signal caller.

Fear: The offensive line and the skill position talent he is surrounded with won’t give him the opportunity or the protection to look like that skilled leader.

Hope: That Steve Bisciotti knew what he was doing when he fired Brian Billick on Dec 31st.

Fear: John Harbaugh’s new policies and strategies have offended some of the players waaaay more than anything Billick did.

Hope: Ed Reed and Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle will all perform up to the cap numbers that their salaries dictate.

Fear: All three of these guys never really make it to the field and make he kind of positive impact this season due to injury, indifference and a debilitating disease.

Hope: The Ravens home crowd will give the team the leeway a new coach, rookie quarterback and a bunch of second-string starters should have to attempt to improve.

Fear: (And almost a certainty), the M&T Bank faithfull will lustily boo Flacco (or any other quarterback) at every mistake, fumble, interception or any failure to convert a third down.

Hope: The Ravens will go back to becoming more honest and transparent with their information to the fans and media, like they were for 12 years under the Modell/Billick regime.

Fear: Under the John Harbaugh/Steve Bisciotti new school of information distribution, we’ll all be guessing and snooping around like we’ve been for six weeks now.

Hope: Kelly Gregg gets healthy soon.

Fear: Kelly Gregg’s knees are a lot worse than we know and he isn’t going to get healthy anytime soon.

Hope: The Ravens will beat the snot out of the Bengals today.

Fear: Carson Palmer will exploit the secondary all afternoon and miscommunication on the backside will cost the team dearly.

Hope: On Halloween (and maybe even Thanksgiving), the team is close enough to .500 and playing well enough to warrant at least a cursory discussion about 9 or 10 wins.

Fear: An injured, aging team with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach stumbles out of the gate and starts the season 1-4 or 2-5 or something really dreary and hopeless.

Hope: The rookie class will step up and show the signs of life we’ve seen when the franchise has been at its low ebb (think 1997-98). Flacco, Gooden, Nakamura, Zbikowski, Rice – all of those guys need to contribute with the hope that they’ll be legitimate starters or Pro Bowl candidates in the coming seasons.

Fear: These rookies will have to play TOO much this season for the Ravens to be in any good in 2008.

Hope: That we all have fun this year.

Fear: I don’t have a lot of hope.

Have fun with the game today and let’s hope that our gut instincts are all wrong and the Ravens of 2008 take us on a surprise ride into the holiday season.

Wouldn’t that be great?

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*UPDATE Cut down day for the Ravens

Posted on 30 August 2008 by caseywillett

4:30 So the Ravens have trimmed their roster down and announced the suspension of Derrick Martin for the first regular season game. You can see all of the cuts listed in Nestor’s blog.

On my 53 man roster, I went 51-53. I missed on Adam Bergen and Casey Bramlet by having them in and leaving Anwar Phillips and Jamell McClain out. As it relates to Peter Czech, we did not even know that he was on the team. We were told he was waived to make room for Casey Bramlet on Thursday, but on the Ravens site he is listed on the 53 man roster.

The Derrick Martin situation is no suprise. When you saw Kevin Faulk get suspended, you knew Derrick’s was coming also. Also not suprised with decision to IR David Pittman.



Today is the day that 22 members of the Ravens team have not been looking forward to. This is the day when you are told that your services are no longer needed for this football team. The Ravens have to get down to 53 man roster by 6 p.m. The rookies on the Ravens will all have to report to the Ravens facility today and await word whether they have made the team or not.

I will keep you updated here and through our text service throughout the day as the cuts become available. As it relates to the practice squad, the Ravens have until noon tomorrow to establish that team. Once a player becomes available, it goes in reverse order of record as to claiming a player.
Here is my attempt at the 53 man roster for the Ravens.
QB – Boller, Flacco, Smith, Bramlet
RB – McGahee, Rice
FB – Neal, McClain
WR – Mason, Clayton, Williams, Figurs, Smith
TE – Heap, Wilcox, Jones, Bergen
OL- Brown, Grubbs, Yanda, Terry, Gaither, Cousins, Hale, Chester
DL- Pryce, Douglas, Gregg, Ngata, Parker, Bannan
LB-Lewis,Scott,Suggs, Johnson, Barnes, Ayanbadejo, Greisen, Gooden
DB – Rolle, McAlister, Washington, Walker, Martin, Ivy
S – Reed, Landry, Leonhard, Zbkowski, Nakamura
ST – Koch, Katula, Stover
I admit this is just my guess, but hey someone had to put Bramlet on the team, it might as well be me.
Here is my thinking on a couple of guys:
Casey Bramlet – I think they are going to need him for a couple of weeks. With the status of Kyle Boller and Troy Smith in the air for week one, they may have no choice but to keep Casey.
J’Vonne Parker – I thought J’Vonne has had a very solid camp and preseason. Also factor in with Ngata, and Gregg nursing injuries, he gives them depth at that position.
Derrick Martin – Derrick is another player who I thought had a solid preseason and regular season. Derrick is nursing a shoulder injury right now and maybe we will find out how severe that is today, but I think Derrick has earned a spot on this team.

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Troy Smith admitted to hospital; Ravens lose to Falcons

Posted on 28 August 2008 by caseywillett

The Ravens came into tonight’s game with out the following players:
20 Ed Reed
21 Chris McAlister
22 Samari Rolle
23 Willis McGahee
29 Derrick Martin
31 Fabian Washington
49 Tavares Gooden
52 Ray Lewis
81 Marcus Smith
97 Kelly Gregg

Troy Smith is not here tonight and apparently became ill again today and there are people in the organization that are concerned about his health. He has been admitted to Union Memorial Hospital with a tonsil infection.

The more time spends away from the team due to his illness, the more it looks like it will be time for Joe Flacco on September 7.

8:15 p.m. (update)

Tonight, I think the quarterback competition came to an end. When Casey Bramlet entered the game with over 11 minutes left in the 2nd quarter that was the sign of who will be playing to me on al that Flacco will be the guy playing next Sunday vs. Cincinnati.

Watching Flacco on the sideline, he is constantly talking and communicating with Kyle Boller, Adam Terry, Marshal Yanda and the rest of the offensive linemen.

Tonight I believe Joe Flacco sealed his fate as the Ravens starting quarterback.
Cory Ross just left the field on a cart with a right ankle sprain.

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Casey’s ‘Six Pack’ preview for Ravens-Falcons

Posted on 28 August 2008 by caseywillett

So as the Ravens get ready for their final preseason game tonight versus the Falcons, here are six things to watch for. I guess we will call them Casey’s Six-Pack:
  1. O-line reunited – For the first time this preseason, the offensive line is expected to be back together with Adam Terry and Jared Gaither both likely to play tonight. It will be interesting to watch how they gel with Jason Brown, Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs after missing so much time. I expect that they will stay out there longer than usually expected for a fourth preseason game.
  1. Tight Ends – Todd Heap and Dan Wilcox will be on the field together tonight for the first time this preseason and the first time in a while. They are both coming back from injuries and will get some time with the first team offense tonight. Wilcox made his comeback last week and looked pretty good. Tonight will be another stepping stone on his road to recovery. I would imagine he will stay out there a little longer than Heap tonight. Also keep an eye on the guys know battling for that third tight end position. Adam Bergen will probably see the field first then you I imagine you will see Edgar Jones and Keith Heinrich.
  1. The Joe Show – Tonight Joe Flacco will see a lot of reps. While I do not think he will play the entire game, here is another chance for him to show what he can do and earn even more respect from his teammates. I think Joe will pass the test tonight with flying colors. Later in the game I expect you will see Casey Bramlet come in and run some of Cam Cameron’s offense.
  1. 3rd down stoppage  – The Ravens have allowed their opponents to convert 50% on 3rd downs this preseason which is why teams have racked up 67 first downs against them. Stopping teams on 3rd down has been an issue for this team during the preseason. They cannot allow teams to sustain long drives on them whether they lead to three or six points.
  1. Limit the air attack – The Ravens secondary, in particular Cory Ivy and Frank Walker, have been picked on a bunch this preseason. Not having Ed Reed, Chris McAlister or Samari Rolle factors into that, but how confident are you that they will be there all together during the regular season? The Ravens have allowed 607 yards through the air this preseason at a 58% completion rate. Of the 112 passes that have been attempted against the Ravens so far, 82 of them have been short passes. The Ravens have to stop the air onslaught and be able to find a way to stop the no-huddle offense.
  1. Prove you belong – After tonight, about 20 members of this football team will no longer be members. Tonight is the final audition for the coaches, scouts, front office and people who will make the roster decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. For guys like Ronnie Prude and David Pittman, they have to take advantage of Derrick Martin not being able to play. Do guys like J’Vonne Parker, Adrein Clarke, Joe Reitz, Jameel McClain, Lorenzo Williams and several other guys do something tonight to make a case one way or another as it relates to making this team? Does an aging veteran like Gary Stills just get caught up in a salary cap and numbers game and become expendable? Can Haruki Nakamura, Tom Zbikowski, Allen Patrick, and other late-round draft picks feel confident in their spot on the team after tonight’s game? One thing is for certain: they have had all of a long camp and preseason to prove what they have. Here’s one last chance to prove tonight that they belong on this team.

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10 things to watch for tonight

Posted on 23 August 2008 by caseywillett

Here are 10 things that I will be looking for tonight:
  1. Terrell Suggs – How does he play? Does he look slow? Is he having a hard time with the offensive lineman in front of him? What kind of “football” shape is he in? I think Suggs will have a solid showing tonight.
  1. QB – Is tonight the night that Troy can seal the deal and make a final case for being the starting quarterback on September 7? I still say that Kyle Boller would have to do way more than what Smith has to do tonight to keep hope alive. If the offense moves the ball with or without scoring a bunch of points, that closes the deal for Troy.
  1. Safeties – With it looking more and more like Ed Reed will not be ready to start the season on time (as I have been saying for a while), who steps up in his place? Jim Leonhard is expected to be the guy who takes the field with Dawan Landry and the most likely guy to win the competition with Harauki Nakamura, and Tom Zbikowski. But, how will the the communication be with those two and do they cover each others weaknesses?
  1. Tackle – With Adam Terry expected to play a little bit tonight (and looking like he will be ready for the opener) and Jared Gaither looking like he may not be ready for the opener, who steps up? Which of Chad Slaughter, Oneil Cousins, David Hale, Mike Kracalik, and Joe Reitz make a push for that left tackle spot? Do they put Adam Terry in at left tackle and maybe see who can help on the right side? The tackle position has been a reason for concern for the last two years and I am not sure that there will not be more questions after tonight.
  1. Interior defensive line – Haloti Ngata is expected to play some tonight which is good news for the Ravens, but not so good news is the amount of time that Kelly Gregg has missed and possibly still will miss with a knee injury. Justin Bannan is one of the more underrated players on the Ravens roster and while he is not Kelly Gregg, he is still a very solid backup and will not miss a beat. J’Vonne Parker is also a guy to watch tonight to see how he plays when he is in the game at that position.
  1. Communication in secondary – It was an issue last week with the secondary but it might be a little bit better this week with Samari Rolle being back there and possibly Chris McAlister. No. 21 & 22 can make up for some miscommunication but this is another reason why the team will miss Ed Reed. Dawan Landry has to step up and take over that role and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
  1. Running Game – With Willis McGahee’s health being a concern, how does Ray Rice respond tonight? Ray had a nice game early on last week versus the Vikings. How will he respond tonight? Who steps up behind him? Will it be Cory Ross? Alex Haynes? Allen Patrick? All three of those guys could earn a roster spot tonight with a solid performance.
  1. 3rd WR – With it looking like Demetrius Williams may not be ready to start the season, will someone step up for that 3rd wide receiver position? Marcus Smith has had a solid camp and nice preseason, but I do not think he has locked up that spot yet. Matt Willis has been around for a while with the team and has a great opportunity to show what he can do. Here is a guy to watch tonight, who I think might have a real shot at the 3rd spot: Yamon Figurs. Cam Cameron used Figurs several times as the 3rd wideout during camp. He can absolutely fly down the football field; he just has to be able to hang on to the football.
  1. Tight End- Dan Wilcox might get a chance tonight to play in a game for the first time in a while. This is huge for Wilcox, because his spot on the roster could very well depend on it. If this were a regular season game, I really think you would see Todd Heap out there on the field. Tonight is a chance for Adam Bergen, Aaron Walker and Edgar Jones to fight it out for one of the tight end positions.
  1. Who Steps Up – Every one of these guys dreamed of one day playing in the NFL. For a lot of them, that dream will come to an end after tonight. With the first cuts coming Tuesday, a couple of these guys will have played their last NFL game ever. Tonight is a chance for those guys on the bubble to show that they deserve to stick around and have a chance to compete for a spot on the final 53 man roster. Tonight’s game will go a long way as to the future of some of the players. All of the players know that too and they have to step up tonight and make that decision tough on Coach Harbaugh. One play good or bad can determine their future with the Ravens.
Here is one more guy to watch tonight when he is on the field: Brendon Ayanbadejo. Brendon is always around the football and making plays whether it is on defense or special teams.

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Notes from Ravens morning practice

Posted on 18 August 2008 by caseywillett

Several of the players who have been missing at different times during camp, returned to the football field this morning:
Welcome Back: Haloti Ngata, Todd Heap, Dan Wilcox, Adam Terry, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, David Pittman, Derrick Mason, and Terrell Suggs all were on the football field this afternoon.
Still missing in action: Kerry Reed, Willis McGahee, Derrick Martin, Dan Cody, Jared Gaither, Lorenzo Williams, Demetrius Williams, Kelly Gregg, and Kelly Talavou
Terrell Suggs walked out onto the field side by side with Ray Lewis, then went over to defensive line and started to stretch with them.
The practice this morning was in soft shells and shorts, so some of these guys will participate a little more than if they were in full pads.
Le’Ron McClain has now switched his jersey number from #37 to number #33.

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End of camp thoughts

Posted on 14 August 2008 by caseywillett

So the first John Harbaugh training camp has officially come to end today, and there are more questions than answers twenty something days later.
Here are some of the questions that I have as camp has ended:
          Who is going to be your starting quarterback, and are they truly the best guy for the job? One thing is crystal clear to me, it will not be Joe Flacco.
          What do you do with the running back position with Willis McGahee now on crutches and possibly 2-4 weeks from returning? Ray Rice has had a nice training camp, but he is not ready to be a feature back in the NFL.
          Who is your offensive tackles? With Adam Terry and Jared Gaither working their way back to field, and Mike Kracalik and Oneil Cousins taking snaps along with Chad Slaughter, are the Ravens comfortable with some form of that combination going into the season? To me Adam Terry and Jared Gaither are still very unproven at the NFL level. Who would have thought that maybe in retrospect that we would be looking back wondering if John Welbourne would have helped this team.
          Who is going to be your number three receiver? With Demetrius Williams yet to take a snap on the field at wide receiver and Marcus Smith turning heads with his play at camp, what does that means for Demetrius?
          What will this team do at the tight end position? With Todd Heap nursing a calf injury and Dan Wilcox trying to get back on the field, what does this team do? They lost two tight ends before they ever moved into the Best Western. Heap and Wilcox both battled injuries last year that cost them time as well as battling injuries during camp.
          What is going on with Kelly Gregg? Kelly has not practiced since early in training camp. Kelly was walking around the team hotel this afternoon with his left knee wrapped up pretty heavily. Kelly is hands down one of the best at his position and a huge part of the Ravens defense.
          Who is going to be playing in the secondary? With Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, and Samari Rolle all nursing injuries, some such as Ed’s which are a huge question mark for the season, what does the team do ? Fabian Washington was a nice pick up in the off season, but he will miss week 1 due to his suspension, is Derrick Martin, Ronnie Prude, and Corey Ivy the answers? Tom Zbikowski, Harauki Nakamura, and Jim Leonhard, have all had good camps, but are they ready to step in for Ed Reed with the starters? My guess is that they will have to be.
Here are a couple of things that I saw from camp that were impressive:
          Marcus Smith had a great camp and really turned some heads and opened some eyes. He seemed to step up to the opportunity of Demetrius Williams not practicing and made the most out of his chance.
          Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura both showed that they were not overwhelmed when they ran with the first team defense at safety.
          Brendon Ayanbadejo is a tremendous football player. Brandon has amazing speed and is a very hard hitting and probably underrated defensive player. He will make some plays for this team this year.
          Jarrett Johnson and Justin Bannan look like they could have big years for this defense. They both have had very good training camps and played well in the first preseason game. Justin has been a very solid backup on the interior defensive line and the defense does not miss a beat with him in there. Jarrett is playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder after a disappointing year by his standards last season.
          Nick Greisen is a tremendous football player and a huge asset to this football team. He has such an understanding of what Rex Ryan is doing with the defense and is complete control of the defense when he is in the game. He has proven to be a very nice pickup by the Ravens last year that went under the radar.
Thanks to all of the people who gave me nice comments during the coverage of Ravens camp this year. It has been a fun and entertaining camp to cover and I am sure will only get more interesting as the preseason and regular season go along.

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Comeback Player of The Year

Posted on 13 August 2008 by roblong

The Comeback Player of The Year award is usually reserved for players who are coming back from an injury. This year’s team has plenty of those candidates.

Samari Rolle was diagnosed with a serious life changing illness that could alter the way he plays the game. If he puts together a solid year, he could be a strong candidate for the award.

Trevor Pryce changed the face of the defense in 2006 with his ability to get to the quarterback without a complexed blitzing scheme. If he can mirror the ’06 season, Pryce could be the Comeback Player of The Year.

Again, the possibilities are endless. The Ravens had several injuries last season, which means they’re counting on those players to return to form in the upcoming season.

With that being said, I believe the Comeback Player of The Year will come from a player who missed no time at all.

This could be the season that Bart Scott proves he is REALLY a premiere linebacker.

In 2006, Scott had over 100 tackles with 9.5 sacks. Numbers aside, he was an impact player who the Ravens counted on to be a game changer on nearly every play.

Last season, Scott’s impact wasn’t nearly has great. He had 94 tackles, but his drop-off of only 1 sack reflected his drop-off of impact plays.

I believe that, in this contract season, Bart Scott will go back to being that “Mad Backer” that we’ve come to expect.

Bart Scott, my 2008, Ravens, Comeback Player of The Year.

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Ravens Camp 8/5/08

Posted on 05 August 2008 by caseywillett

So Kyle Boller will be the starting quarterback for the Ravens on Thursday night versus the Patriots. I think it has zero relevance in the race to be the starting quarterback on September 7. I still think that spot will still belong to Troy Smith.
Here are some notes from practice today:
          The Ravens concluded all of their on the field practices for the media and public this afternoon with a special teams practice. The Ravens will hold a walk thru tomorrow morning and then board planes that afternoon headed to New England.
          Adam Terry was on the field this morning and not wearing the walking boot that he has had on for the last week.
          With Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle both out of practice this morning, Fabian Washington and Frank Walker played the corner positions. Once Fabian stopped practicing this morning, Corey Ivy took over for him.
          Jm Leonhard was out there as the other safety along with Dawan Landry in place of Ed Reed. Coach Harbaugh has said that Leonhard, Haruki Nakamura, and Tom Zbikowski will all rotate through that position.
          Bart Scott came out for practice this morning and then went back inside after a brief time and did not return for the rest of practice. Bart missed yesterday afternoon’s practice with a thigh issue.
          Chris McAlister and Mark Clayton joined the walking wounded today at practice.
          Gary Stills missed the morning practice, but returned for the afternoon special teams practice.

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