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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

Posted on 08 August 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

 

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens:

Last season ended up being a disappointment for John Harbaugh and his squad as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time under his lead. There were changes made in the off-season that will assure Baltimore will not be missing the post-season for a second straight season.

The offense got a new look adding new pieces from all angles, starting with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. The long time Houston Texan head coach comes to Baltimore bringing a new style of offense maintaining a zone-blocking scheme.

Baltimore has new faces to dawn the purple and black for the upcoming season, but one particular athlete is difficult to overlook. Owen Daniels is a nice addition to the offense, but Steve Smith is the talk of the town ever since Carolina decided to part ways with the career long Panther.

Smith brings an attitude to the offense and gives the team a physical presence on the outside that they have not had since trading away Anquan Boldin for next to nothing. Once the upcoming season comes to a close, everyone will look back and wonder why more teams were not more aggressive in trying to sign Steve Smith as he will have one of the biggest impacts on his new team around the league.

The Ravens offense struggled running the ball last season due to the offensive line not being up to par and the ball carriers themselves not playing up to their capabilities. That will be sure to change for the better due to some of the moves made to upgrade the line and because the backs are healthy once again.

If there is a concern to have for the Ravens, it is their secondary. Jimmy Smith had a breakout year last season and Webb across the field make for a good pairing. Cornerback depth is where there is plenty of uncertainty; it is up to either Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson to step up and fill the void in the slot.

Matt Elam, last years first round draft pick, moves to the safety position he is best suited to play. Alongside Elam is Darian Stewart, who was an undrafted free agent during the 2010 NFL draft. Not only is cornerback depth an issue, but inexperience on the backend is as well. If the Ravens want to return to the promise land, can this secondary be good enough to defend against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady when it counts?

Breakout Candidate: Kyle Juszczyk

With the new offense Kubiak brings, there will be all kinds of options for Joe Flacco. The fans of Baltimore got a very small sample of that in the first pre-season game against the 49ers. The Smiths, Pitta, Jones, Brown and Daniels will all be targets for Flacco.

The under the radar target that is being overlooked is Kyle Juszczyk. The second year pro is an interesting player in this offense that fits the mold of what James Casey was for Houston years ago. He is capable of coming out of the backfield and picking his spots in the seams of the defense. Look out for the former Harvard standout to be a solid H-back option for Joe Flacco.

Impact Rookie: Timmy Jernigan

The easy answer is the former Alabama linebacker and first round pick CJ Mosley, but the Ravens struck gold in the second round of the draft. Timmy Jernigan is a top 15 talent who fell due to issues before the combine.

Jernigan was a force for the national champion Seminole defense in college football and stood out to the national audience on the big stage. Even though he was winded toward the tail end of the big game, his impact throughout that game was felt. All year long Jernigan created havoc on offensive lines all across college football.

Losing Art Jones to Indianapolis stung for a little bit until the draft concluded. Getting a talent like Jernigan and not having to pay him a $30 million contract is a win-win for the Ravens. Once Jernigan is healthy and can consistently find himself in the rotation up front, he will have a significant impact on the run and pass defense.

Cincinnati Bengals:

All the talk that surrounds the Bengals is the new contract extension that Andy Dalton received. A six-year extension worth over $100+ million seems to be an awful lot for the former TCU quarterback.

It is a lot for Andy Dalton, but that is the market for quarterbacks these days if franchises want to keep them around once their rookie contracts come to a close. The Bengals caught a lot of flack around the national media for this extension, but add some perspective to this deal.

Good quarterbacks are extremely difficult to find these days and are the ultimate factor that separates the contenders from the pretenders. Andy Dalton is a good quarterback that is a fact. Where there is difficulty grasping this extension is Daltons lack of production come playoff time.

If the three-year starter cannot start winning when it counts, the Bengals could find themselves scratching their heads and Marvin Lewis’ job could be in jeopardy.

Its humorous that once upon a time the Ravens front office got criticized for giving Joe Flacco the big $100+ million deal. When he got that deal, he came off of a historic post-season performance as well as winning the Super Bowl. Dalton is yet to win a playoff game and got the big contract; people have some apologies to make to Ozzie Newsome and company.

The Bengals have seen a lot of change in the off-season as both coordinators bolted for head coaching opportunities. Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator and Mike Zimmer left to take command of the Minnesota Vikings.

Zimmer will be the piece most missed by Cincinnati as he has led that good Bengals defense for years. He was regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league for quite sometime.

The defense gets back two primary starters back from injury in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. The only concern for this team is surprisingly on the defensive side of the ball. This unit must stay healthy and avoid the big time injuries they saw last season.

Offensively, there should be no concern as this side of the ball is loaded with talent. There is great depth at tight end and running back with AJ Green still the stud on the outside.

Breakout Candidate: Giovani Bernard

The former Tar-heel running back was a playmaker his rookie season and was used sparingly. Bernard was not the workhorse of the offense as the “Law Firm” took the bulk of the carries.

Bernards playmaking ability will be more visible this season as he will definitely see an increased workload. Bernard is both quick and fast out of the backfield and is an excellent all-purpose back. He is just as good receiving out of the backfield as he is running with the ball.

Hue Jackson will have to get this player involved more to take the pressure off of Dalton and the defense. If there is a play to sum up Bernards ability, look back to his highlight reel run against the Miami Dolphins.

Impact Rookie: Darqueze Dennard

It is simple to look to the first round selection as the impact rookie for any team, but Dennard finds himself in a good situation. With Leon Hall coming off of an Achilles injury and Dre Kirkpatrick only playing 19 of a possible 32 games in his short career, there will be opportunity.

Dennard was regarded as one of the best corners in this past draft and was a leader on the stellar Spartan defense. He is not flashy, but he has shutdown qualities in him that can translate to the big league. Will Clarke, the third round pick out of West Virginia, is another guy to watch out for in the defensive rotation up front.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

It was a big surprise that neither Baltimore or Pittsburgh did not make an appearance in the post-season and both are eager at a chance for redemption. The Steelers were on the cusp of a wild card birth, but fell just short.

Things are looking up for the Steelers as they see their star offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey return to hold down the line. The running game was not consistent last season and the loss of Pouncey was a huge reason why.

The run game will be improved with the addition of LaGarrette Blount and a healthy Le’Veon Bell. The second year pro out of Michigan State looks to be the workhorse for the Steelers and has a lot of potential to be a top tier running back in the league.

The primary question that comes to mind offensively is the passing game. There is no question what Ben Roethlisberger can bring, but he has to have the help around him. Heath Miller has been a good tight end for the duration of his career in Pittsburgh, but his days are numbered. Miller is not the caliber of player he once was when he came out of the university of Virginia.

Antonio Brown filled the void that Mike Wallace left and it is time for another wide receiver to assume the number two role. That void will be up to either second year wide out Markus Wheaton or rookie Martavis Bryant to help out Big Ben.

The Steelers defense will be back to their usual ways as they did a solid job in the off-season adding pieces. With drafting Ryan Shazier, the linebacking corps is filled with superb talent. Timmons, Worilds and second year pro Jarvis Jones make up the rest of the lineup. This will be the best unit on the defensive side of the ball.

Breakout Candidate: Markus Wheaton

Big Ben needs help from another wide out and it will be up to Wheaton to give him the support. Wheaton was a poor mans Mike Wallace coming out of college. The former Oregon State receiver has the speed to open things up all around the field. He has no problem getting down the field, but he must be able to make things happen in the middle. If not Wheaton, the Steelers will need to depend on the rookie Bryant from Clemson.

Impact Rookie: Dri Archer

One of my favorite players in the entire draft was Dri Archer. The speedster star from Kent State is in the exact playmaking mold that Tavon Austin was from West Virginia. The only reason why Archer was not as highly regarded as Austin was due to the college he went to along with the competition faced.

There have been plenty of Kent State playmakers that have made a name for themselves in the pros, most notably Josh Cribbs. Archer comes in to Pittsburgh with a great role on the offense with Blount as the bruiser, Bell the well rounded back and Archer with the speed.

Archer will be a matchup problem for defensive coordinators because of his speed and ability to make plays out of nearly nothing. He can come out of the backfield or play from the slot. If you put a linebacker on Archer, he will burn right by that. If you put a corner or safety on him, Archer will be opening up the field for the rest of the receiving options. Great draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, this kid is electrifying.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns bring in former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to be head coach and he has the potential to fill that role well. The Browns saw some change in the off-season on the defensive side of the ball, his specialty.

They lost safety TJ Ward and replaced him with Donte Whitner. D’Qwell Jackson departed in free agency so Karlos Dansby was brough in to fill that hole. Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall selection, is now paired with the newly wealthy Joe Haden. The secondary is put together nicely and the front seven is not too shabby. The Browns have all kinds of talent on defense; there is no uncertainty about that

The offense looked poise to breakout for the upcoming season until star wide out Josh Gordon ran into more off the field trouble. His suspension appeal is ongoing and it is unknown how long he will be out for. Jordan Cameron is one of the better young tight ends in the league and Andre Hawkins was stolen away from the fellow north rival Bengals.

Cleveland is all excited for their Browns from the draft because of the big first round selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer is the starter for now, but that will not last long. As soon as Hoyer makes a mistake, the noise will be too loud for Pettine to keep sitting Manziel.

Breakout Candidate: Barkevious Mingo

Last drafts sixth overall selection had a solid rookie campaign in the 15 games played. He registered 5.0 sacks and is the kind of playmaker Pettine will be able to work with. Pettine helped Mario Williams take his game to the next level in Buffalo after a lackluster first season after signing a big deal during free agency, so Mingo will be a personal project for the new head coach.

Impact Rookie: Joel Bitonio

Gilbert will have his impact on defense and West will do his part sharing the load with Ben Tate. Bitonio might be an odd choice here, but adding a quality lineman such as Joel to the mix with an Alex Mack and Joe Thomas will pay dividends for the offense. Adding Bitonio will help this offense in pass protection and will open up the holes for the two headed running back monster the Browns have.

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Next GM Most Important Decision in Caps Franchise History

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Next GM Most Important Decision in Caps Franchise History

Posted on 28 April 2014 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals have been in existence for 39 years and they still have not won a Stanley Cup.

With their team spiraling further away from winning Lord Stanley, Caps Owner Ted Leonsis and Team President Dick Patrick fired both General Manager George McPhee and Head Coach Adam Oates on Saturday.

Those moves were no surprise, especially if you read my blog from two weeks ago. The Capitals have a flawed and unbalanced roster that became even more exposed under some questionable coaching decisions this past season.

Simply put, these moves had to be made and Leonsis stated that the team needed new leadership and “a new set of eyes.”

The hiring of the next GM is critical to this franchise given that star players Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who are both signed to long term contracts, are in the prime seasons of their career. McPhee and company were unable to put a quality team around those two players and as a result much criticism has fallen on them, especially the Gr8.

Some who cover the NHL have already tweeted or blogged that this is Ovechkin’s fault. When you make the money he makes, have won the MVP three times, aren’t of North American descent, and haven’t won a Stanley Cup yet, those things will happen. It’s an easy narrative for those who choose to be lazy and biased.

But those who’ve studied and watched this Washington team since 2008 know the real story. Fancy stats clearly show that this team’s puck possession statistics have steadily declined since 2009, after Sergei Fedorov left for Russia. The decline is a function of an eroding roster, particularly on defense, and poor coaching/system changes. None of those roster or system decisions were made by Ovechkin.

Hall of Famer Rod Langway used to always tell me that hockey starts from the goalie to the defense and then to the forwards. If your defense routinely can’t get the puck out of your own end, how are the forwards going to produce with any consistency at even strength? Washington’s overall blue line crew has gotten worse over the past several seasons.

Bottom line, as I wrote two weeks ago, the Caps have failed Ovechkin, not the other way around.

For those who still want to put a vast amount of blame on him I pose the following question:

If I gave you the choice of any other forward in the NHL in place of Ovechkin for the last three seasons, would the Capitals have won a Stanley Cup or even made the Finals?

That’s right, you could have Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Sidney Crosby, etc. but you lose Ovechkin in that move. Do you think the Capitals win a Stanley Cup doing that?

No way, not with the rest of that roster.

Hockey is a team sport. So blaming Ovechkin for the team’s decline is absolutely incorrect.

Now that’s not saying that the Gr8 can’t improve his game. Every player can always get better. NBA great Larry Bird used to spend every summer working on new moves, so if Bird thought he needed to improve, every player certainly should be trying to do so, as well.

Fortunately for Caps fans, the ownership, despite making it clear that these moves weren’t done solely for Ovechkin, get that the Gr8 is a special player. When I asked both Leonsis and Patrick about the pressure and abuse that Ovechkin takes, Patrick was quick to defend him and point out the nature of the NHL.

“Alex Ovechkin is a great, great hockey player,” Patrick said. “I wish we had two of him, then we wouldn’t even be here today, probably. All he wants to do is win. People are saying, ‘Well, you’ve got Alex Ovechkin. How come you haven’t won a Cup?’ It does take a team. It takes 20 guys. How can you be unhappy with what Alex Ovechkin has accomplished and continues to accomplish in the National Hockey League?”

Patrick is bang on and that is why it is so crucial to get a GM that really understands how to build a team. The “new set of eyes” needs to help alleviate the pressure on its two stars by bringing in better players, particularly on the blue line, and by adding leaders with winning experience.

As the great Jim Ignatowski once said on Taxi, “There is no substitute for experience!”

That brings me to my next point. The trend in sports is to seek out the next “hot” assistant and give him the keys to the camper. We see it with GM positions and head coaching openings many times in pro sports.

Jim Benning of Boston is a name that is on the top of the “next GM” list for many NHL clubs, according to people I’ve spoken with around the league. There are other hot assistants out there too like Ron Hextall, Jason Botterill, and Tim Burke.

But would hiring another hockey person with no GM experience be the right move here?

Hmmm…..

Sometimes bringing in a person that has performed in that role previously is the better choice, even if they’ve been fired. After all, Joe Torre and Bill Belichick were both fired but went on to win multiple championships with their new teams. Simply put, there is something to be said for learning from past mistakes.

So shouldn’t names like Mike Gillis, Neil Smith, and Craig Button garner attention? All have been a GM before and both Smith and Button have Stanley Cup winning experience, Smith as GM of the Rangers in 1994 and Button as the Director of Player Personnel with Dallas in 1999.

To me, Button is an intriguing option. He has ties to the organization from his late father Jack, who played a prominent role in the drafting and development of personnel in Washington from 1979 to 1996. Craig worked closely for years with Bob Gainey and Doug Armstrong in Dallas taking a team that was built around young players Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher, and Richard Matvichuck and transformed it into a Stanley Cup Champion. He understands the microscope Ovechkin and Backstrom are under and he has a successful track record in dealing with that scenario.

In addition, he took a flailing Calgary Flames team and re-built the defense on a club that eventually went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. Then GM and Coach Darryl Sutter credited Craig for laying the groundwork for a squad that came ultra close to winning it all.

He currently covers the NHL for the NHL Network and TSN but he also pays close attention to the junior ranks and publishes his own draft board each spring on TSN’s website. His knowledge of current pros and amateurs is extensive. With the Stars, he drafted both Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. As someone in the business recently told me, “He’s hard working, dedicated, and has an incredible passion for the game.”

Given his excellent people skills, I’d have to imagine he is on Leonsis and Patrick’s current list to interivew.

As for that process, Leonsis made it clear that they were not going to conduct a search where information is going to be made publicly available. Certainly details will get exposed as the media scouts out Kettler IcePlex, but the Caps are pretty good at keeping things secretive.

Leonsis stated this was going to be a thorough search while putting no timetable on its conclusion.

Given the importance of this decision, which I believe is the most critical one in franchise history, the owner and Team President must do what they need to do to make sure they get this GM selection correct.

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Thirty years after Mayflower crime, I’ve pardoned Irsay and moved on from the hate

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Thirty years after Mayflower crime, I’ve pardoned Irsay and moved on from the hate

Posted on 28 March 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published on March 28, 2011, I think this is appropriate for where my life stands with #JennStrong & #BmorePositive mojo. nja)

Twenty-seven years ago today I awoke to see my father crying in my kitchen in Dundalk. It was one of two times that I ever saw him cry. The Baltimore Colts’ infamous ride of the Mayflowers out west on I-70 just two months after I started interning at The News American defined the end of my childhood at 15 and the beginning of my lifelong education about money and the real world of sports for the remainder of my sports fan and business life as a journalist.

It’s been a tumultuous quarter of a century plus a year for my feelings of anger, anguish, desperation, loss and bad vibes about the Colts leaving Baltimore on March 28, 1984. My Pop died in 1992 and never got to see the Ravens come back to town to avenge the loss of the horseshoe. I never got to go to one more football game with my father. And over the years, it’s really been a civic badge of honor to hate on all things Irsay and Indianapolis.

Nestor and Mini Bob

I’ve been to Indianapolis more times than I can count since 1996 – always for a football game or the annual March combine. There’s never been a time that it hasn’t taken me 15 minutes on the ground there to get ill seeing the horseshoes and “Go Colts” kind of marketing that is ubiquitous in Indy from the minute you land at the airport. It drives my wife batty — my almost irrational instant anger, ranting and self-inflicted torture when I’m in Indianapolis. I’ve always figured that I’d proudly be like the old dudes in Brooklyn, still pining away about the Dodgers 50 years later.

Here’s an example:

It’s taken me years of internal therapy and self soothing to calm myself when I see the game day experience there in Indy as those Midwestern hillbillies parade around in my father’s stolen laundry. In many ways, our “friend” Merton From Indianapolis (and no, none of us has any idea who he is or where the whole gimmick started – honest to God!) sort of exemplifies the entire experience of dealing with their fans when you travel to the “friendly heartland.”

My loathing of all things Irsay and Indianapolis is a bit legendary – there are plenty of pictures of me carrying Bob Irsay’s head on a stick through the streets of Indy — and my rants and raves throughout the 1990s are all very “on the record” and still accurate. What happened to this community at the hands of Bob Irsay and how I saw it affect my father and the psyche of the citizenry here will never been forgotten. The degrading and demoralizing “begging” to get back into the league that fell on Herb Belgrad. Paul Tagliabue’s “build a museum” expansion declaration in Chicago. All of it…I’ll remember those feelings and emotions for the rest of my life. Most Baltimoreans older than me — and I was born in 1968 – still can’t begin to imagine a world without the Colts of that generation. If you’re from Baltimore, sports is etched into your DNA.

(And if you doubt those feelings, imagine how you’d feel if the Ravens packed up and left tomorrow morning and never played another game here? For you young’ins that’s essentially what happened here in 1984…)

But after long and careful consideration – and as today’s 26th anniversary of the dastardly

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Season Saving Win For Caps?

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Season Saving Win For Caps?

Posted on 08 March 2014 by Ed Frankovic

For over 40 minutes on Saturday night, it sure looked like the Washington Capitals were headed for a fourth straight loss and about to sustain a serious blow to their playoff chances.

The Caps looked listless for the third straight contest and couldn’t find a way to get a goal, extending their scoreless streak to over 100 minutes. Making things worse was they were playing a strong defensive team in Phoenix with one of the top goalies in the NHL in Mike Smith.

But suddenly, a team that wasn’t working very hard to overcome some lineup holes, started doing the little things right, like getting pucks and bodies to the net.

Karl Alzner scored a seeing eye goal from the blueline that only finds the back of the cage because Troy Brouwer and Jay Beagle went to the front of the net and took their defenders with them. Keith Yandle managed to screen his own keeper with 10:15 to go and suddenly the Caps and the Verizon Center had life for the first time since before Dmitry Orlov’s awful hit last Sunday.

Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, and Brooks Laich then outworked the Coyotes down low and #25 found Brooksie all alone in front of the cage and he put it by Smith to tie things up just 32 seconds later.

The Caps instantly became a new team. Orlov then drew a penalty to put Washington on the power play and when Troy Brouwer potted the rebound of a great Nicklas Backstrom shot, the Capitals grabbed a 3-2 lead.

Then, instead of sitting back, Washington became an even more energized squad and dominated the last five minutes of regulation to salt away a huge victory.

Jaroslav Halak notched 31 saves to earn his first victory in his Caps debut and he can thank referee Tim Peel for a quick whistle that disallowed a Phoenix goal in period one. But that’s the breaks of the game, a Backstrom shot that appeared to be a goal last Sunday against Philly didn’t count and hurt Washington in that one, so it looks like things eventually evened up.

Halak was shaky early on and probably wanted at least one of the two goals back, but his save on Antoine Vermette in the third period on a one on one was absolutely a must and a key reason why the Capitals were able to overcome the two goal deficit. I’ve been saying all season long that goaltending is not the major issue for the Caps and I stand by it. Halak was good, but defensive mistakes and lapses in focus continue to plague this Washington club and is the primary reason they are on the outside looking in at the postseason, right now.

But that’s a story for another day, the Capitals are alive and still in the hunt after a huge rally over a good Phoenix team.

They started skating and doing the simple things and were rewarded.

The question now is can they keep this energy level up on Monday when they start a critical home and home with the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Washington gained some much needed positive vibes and confidence tonight that they need to carry into Monday’s tilt.

They will also likely get newly signed Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010 Caps 1st round draft choice) in the lineup for the game against the Pens. “Kuzy” will wear #92 and likely skate on the second line. He arrived in DC today and signed his entry level contract (two years) with the Capitals this afternoon. He will burn up that first year in less than 20 games and then will have another season left, but General Manager George McPhee called that aspect of the deal, “worth it.”

It’s hard to argue that because the Caps need skilled offensive players and Kuznetsov (just 21 years old), who carried the Russian squad to World Juniors Gold in 2011, has the potential to really improve the offense. But coming to North America and playing on the smaller rinks will be an adjustment. He is not “a savior” for the Caps season, but make no mistake about it, this club needs forward help with Laich playing through serious pain and Mikhail Grabovski still on the shelf due to a wonky ankle.

The road is not easy for the Caps as they have the hardest schedule in the NHL in their remaining 17 games, but rallying tonight and inking Kuzentsov at least gives them a fighting chance to pull off a seventh straight playoffs appearance.

Notes: Washington once again lost the face off battle for the fifth straight contest, 33-26. Losing draws makes it very difficult to win the puck possession battle. The Capitals will need to improve in this area if they are going to get on a run and make the playoffs…John Carlson led the Caps in ice time at 23:50 and he had an assist on the game winning tally.

 

 

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Torrey Smith: “We weren’t on same page”

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Torrey Smith: “We weren’t on same page”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by WNSTV

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Postcard from Denver: The Greatest Game I’ve Ever Seen

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Postcard from Denver: The Greatest Game I’ve Ever Seen

Posted on 12 January 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

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Torrey Smith describes his view of Jacoby Jones catch

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Torrey Smith describes his view of Jacoby Jones catch

Posted on 12 January 2013 by WNSTV

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Will Ravens continue to be haunted by the four deadly sins of defense in 2012?

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Will Ravens continue to be haunted by the four deadly sins of defense in 2012?

Posted on 04 November 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Let’s get this out of the way right away – the Baltimore Ravens are 6-2 and any complaining about Sunday’s 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns won’t change their slim lead in the AFC North or color the obvious breakdowns and weaknesses that are apparent to anyone who has watched their choppy work.

But as a Ray Rice told me at the podium on the shores of Lake Erie after another win: “There are no bad wins in the NFL.”

We can deal with the offensive inconsistencies later but my concerns center around a defense that will continue to take the field with a squad of patchwork underachievers and glaring fundamental issues.

The four deadly sins of defense continue to haunt the Ravens, if only for the first 80 yards of the field in Cleveland on Sunday. Rushing the passer. Stopping the run. Covering in the secondary. And tackling in general.

Let us count and assess the issues one by one…

The Ravens have no pass rush. Despite having the return of a seemingly spry Terrell Suggs in Houston two weeks ago, he was no factor in Cleveland. Joe Thomas ate him up and most teams will simply get some help on No. 55 if he becomes a pest and the Ravens lack a backup quarterback chaser with any push. Paul Kruger hasn’t been effective. Pernell McPhee, who flashed some visions of a pass rush specialist last season, has been mostly invisible this year and was an injury scratch on Sunday. Haloti Ngata continues to struggle physically and the leaks continue all around him on the defense.

Of course, no pass rush leads to trouble in the secondary with any quarterback and wide receiver tandem that has is given ample time to make a play. This will be an especially daunting issue when the Ravens see the Steelers in two weeks as Ben Roethlisberger has made a Hall of Fame career by making positive plays happen after the play breaks down.

With the injuries to Lardarius Webb, the Ravens secondary has been stressed tremendously because Cary Williams is now carrying the weight of marking every team’s No. 1 receiver. Aside from the obvious with Sergio Kindle being unable to play after his brutal fall and head injury, Jimmy Smith has been the Ravens’ most disappointing first-round draft pick since Travis Taylor. He’s the most penalized defensive player on the team and is consistently getting beat by top-notch receivers on a weekly basis. To my eyes, they’re simply targeting him and the likes of Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and the Manning brothers will literally be frothing at the mouth awaiting a chance to throw the ball into this secondary.

After more than a decade of dominance against the run – and a source of massive pride of a local fan base that would routinely chant “you can’t run” from my seats up in Sect. 513 – the Ravens’ run defense has been porous as it’s been four straight weeks of allowing running backs to gash the front seven and get deeper down the field where the secondary becomes a de facto part of the tackling corps.

And all over the field tackling has been a consistent source of frustration. You can blame not-so-new-anymore defensive coordinator Dean Pees. You can talk about the loss of personnel like Ray Lewis via injury or Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, etc. to free agency, but there have been leaks all over the field when it comes to second chances and fellows in purple flailing and missing.

Eight games into the season, the Ravens are 6-2 and there’s ample reason to be energized by their gaudy record and seat atop the AFC North.

The offense has certainly been capable as witnessed by their early-season success and it even managed 25 points yesterday on the road in Cleveland by managing to play about 20 minutes of decent football and still spending more than an hour without a first down. But there have been many times recently when Joe Flacco and the offensive crew have been stumbling their

SEE PAGE 2

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Torrey Smith tells Nestor about emotions of his day

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Torrey Smith tells Nestor about emotions of his day

Posted on 24 September 2012 by WNSTV

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Torrey Smith tells Nestor staying upbeat through Pittsburgh drops was key to success

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Torrey Smith tells Nestor staying upbeat through Pittsburgh drops was key to success

Posted on 07 November 2011 by WNST Staff

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