Tag Archive | "Todd heap"

#WNSTSweet16 – The 16 local athletes who never won a title, but deserved to win one

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#WNSTSweet16 – The 16 local athletes who never won a title, but deserved to win one

Posted on 28 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

Finally, it’s my turn.

Well, sort of.

I’ve been assigned the duty of compiling our latest edition of WNST’s Sweet 16 list.  This one — “the top 16 local athletes who never won a championship but deserved to…” — was so uniquely different that I created my own formula for compiling the relative level of “deserving” and went with it throughout the process.

I awarded points to each candidate based on their longevity/career length, their quality of play and their contribution to the community in terms of charitable/foundation work and their dedication to improving the quality of life for people in their city.

Admittedly, if the formula produced a tie or a close margin, I gave the benefit to the player who contributed the most to the Baltimore community via their civic/charity work.

So…let’s get to it, shall we?

rosie

 

#16 is jockey Rosie Napravnik, who cut her teeth in Maryland as one of the state’s most successful jockeys in the mid 2000′s, leading the local horse racing circuit in victories in 2008 with 101.  A winner of 1,689 career races heading into 2014, the only missing ingredient on her outstanding professional career is a victory in a Triple Crown Race.  She finished 3rd in the 2013 Preakness aboard Mylute, the highest finish for a female jockey in either the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont since Julie Krone won the Belmont in 1993.  Although not as successful locally as someone like Mario Pino, Napravnik spending a great deal of her childhood in the Baltimore area and later becoming one of the state’s most successful jockeys got her the nod here.

(Please see next page for #15)

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Your Monday Reality Check: Newsome has few flaws, but Pitta injury exposes one

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Your Monday Reality Check: Newsome has few flaws, but Pitta injury exposes one

Posted on 29 July 2013 by Glenn Clark

Before you even bother, I’m very aware of how silly it is to criticize one of the best General Managers in NFL history.

I’m even more aware of how silly it is to criticize a General Manager less than six months removed from seeing his assembled talent claim the second Super Bowl title of his tenure.

So I have an idea for you as you rad ahead. Every time you see the terms “Ozzie Newsome”, “Newsome”, “Ravens General Manager”, “Ravens GM”, “Hall of Fame former TE” or anything that would make you think I was referring to “The Wizard of Oz”, insert (in your mind) the phrase “who just won the Super Bowl and is one of the greatest executives in league history” immediately behind his name.

For example…

Ozzie Newsome (in your head: “who just won the Super Bowl and is one of the greatest executives in league history”) will be meeting with the media Monday to discuss his induction speech for Jonathan Ogden at the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend.

Got it? This will go a long way to making sure you understand that despite some criticism I will offer the rest of the way, I’m very aware of the greatness of Ozzie Newsome. Is everyone together on this?

The road to defending the Vince Lombardi Trophy hit a serious bump for the Baltimore Ravens Saturday. As you know, TE Dennis Pitta was lost for the entire 2013 season when he suffered a hip injury in a collision with S James Ihedigbo during the first padded practice of Training Camp.

Since the column (and the radio show) are titled “Reality Check”, I’ll remind you that the season did not end for the Ravens Saturday, despite how many of your friends that root for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers or Washington Redskins will want you to believe it did. The Ravens are very much still in the mix to win the AFC North with the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, and in a down conference they will have as much a chance as any.

For that to happen, the Ravens will need to replace the production of two of their top three pass catchers last year (RB Ray Rice tied Pitta for second with 61). The group they look to in order to make up for it doesn’t inspire a particularly strong amount of confidence.

WR’s Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are both capable if not complete options. Smith made major strides in his all-around game in his second season and could well be primed for a breakout year as QB Joe Flacco’s top target. Jones has long been a decent third receiver option in the NFL, but has never been able to consistently match his superb level of kick returning.

This is the part where we get to the “flaw” I referred to in the headline.

TE Ed Dickson immediately moves to the top of the depth chart with Pitta’s injury. He, recently signed Visanthe Shiancoe, little used Billy Bajema and undrafted rookie free agent Matt Furstenburg fall in line behind that. Shiancoe is well known (thanks in large part to a nationally televised “wardrobe malfunction”), but played in just four games with the New England Patriots in 2012 and didn’t have a single catch. Shiancoe appeared to be on the verge of retirement at the age of 33. Dickson was though of highly enough coming out of Oregon in 2010 that he was drafted a round ahead of Pitta, but he is coming off a season where he had just 21 catches for 225 yards and no TD’s.

Then there are the rest of the receivers. Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter and Aaron Mellette are the guys fighting for a legitimate chance to make the 53 man roster coming out of Camp.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Todd Heap tells Nestor he flew back to Baltimore honor Art Modell

Posted on 11 September 2012 by WNSTV

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Your Monday Reality Check-Size Matters And I Won’t Stop Saying It

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Your Monday Reality Check-Size Matters And I Won’t Stop Saying It

Posted on 23 April 2012 by Glenn Clark

Remember the guy who scribbled what (at least looking back on it) was nearly a love letter to San Diego Chargers WR Malcom Floyd last summer?

Remember the guy who pounded on the desk for days during his first full week as host of “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net about how much he wanted to see the Baltimore Ravens add Floyd to their receiving corps for 2011?

Remember the guy who received ridicule for not being excited (and frankly showing a level of discontent) after the Ravens failed to acquire Floyd and instead dealt for Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans?

The name’s Glenn Clark. It’s good to talk to you again. In case you were wondering, I haven’t stopped bitching about the need for the Ravens to add size to their receiving corps.

After a relatively quiet start to the 2012 NFL Offseason, the Ravens will absolutely add players this week. The Ravens have eight picks in this weekend’s NFL Draft, and will have the opportunity to address both depth and need over the course of the weekend. Fans and analysts have debated the order of the team’s needs, largely agreeing that Offensive Line, Interior Linebacker, Pass Rusher, Running Back, Safety, Wide Receiver and Kick/Punt Returner tend to make up the list.

I don’t particularly care what order the Ravens use to rank their own needs. As we all know, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company won’t suddenly move away from the “best player available” philosophy that has worked so well for them in recent years.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that at some point during the course of the weekend the team will draft at least one receiver.

My rallying cry will remain the same. When they do, they need to find a receiver who can get up and get the football.

In 2011, six of the top seven total offenses in the National Football League included a significant contributor (either at WR or TE) who stood at least 6’5″ or taller. The other team (the Philadelphia Eagles) had a 6’4″ TE target in Brent Celek.

The Baltimore Ravens have two tight ends (Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson) who are both listed at 6’4″ but who have been unable to establish themselves as legitimate red zone threats at the pro level. This has at least something to do with why the Ravens managed to score TD’s on just 50% of their trips to the red zone in 2011, a mark good enough for only 18th in the NFL.

(The lack of a singular red zone receiving target isn’t necessarily the ONLY reason why the Ravens have struggled to score TD’s in the red zone, but it’s hard to fathom mutual exclusivity here.)

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Ravens receive two compensatory picks in April’s draft

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With NFL owners congregating in Florida for their annual meetings this week, the league awarded 32 compensatory picks for April’s draft on Monday afternoon.

Based on last offseason’s free-agent movement, the Ravens were awarded fourth- and fifth-round compensatory picks, which will be the 130th and 169th overall selections respectively.

While the notable releases of wide receiver Derrick Mason, tight end Todd Heap, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, and running back Willis McGahee were not taken into account, the free-agent losses of safety Dawan Landry (Jacksonville), guard Chris Chester (Washington), and cornerback Josh Wilson (Washington) factored into the Ravens receiving compensation in April’s draft after each received high-priced, long-term contracts and started 16 games with new teams.

After general manager Ozzie Newsome traded the Ravens’ fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft to Buffalo for veteran Lee Evans last August, receiving a fourth-round compensatory pick helps to ease the sting of that ill-fated move.

Under the rules of compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive picks. The number of picks a team receives is equal to the net loss of free agents up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time, and postseason distinctions. Not every free agent lost or acquired by a club factors into the formula.

This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

The Ravens have been awarded 33 compensatory picks over their 17-year history, most in the NFL during that time period. With their two fifth-round compensatory picks in 2011, they selected defensive end Pernell McPhee and cornerback Chykie Brown.

Here are the Ravens’ selections for next month’s draft:

Round 1: No. 29
Round 2: No. 60
Round 3: No. 91
Round 4: No. 130 (compensatory)
Round 5: No. 155
Round 5: No. 169 (compensatory)
Round 6: No. 186
Round 7: No. 218

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With free agency upon us, Ravens will lean on continued growth from within in 2012

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With free agency upon us, Ravens will lean on continued growth from within in 2012

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With the start of the new league year and free agency less than 24 hours away, you can already hear the cries if you listen carefully.

And you know exactly what I’m talking about if you pay attention to talk radio, internet message boards, and Twitter over the opening days of free agency every year.

When are the Ravens going to do something?

Why does Ozzie insist on sitting on his hands?

They’re definitely taking a step back this season.

Never were those exclamations louder than last season, an unprecedented period of free agency that coincided with the start of training camp after the 134-day lockout. General manager Ozzie Newsome waved goodbye to veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee in a series of cap-saving cuts, and a number of veterans including Chris Chester, Dawan Landry, and Josh Wilson found richer contracts elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Ravens’ free-agent additions for 2011 were relatively modest over the course of the preseason, adding fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, center Andre Gurode, and running back Ricky Williams in addition to re-signing right guard Marshal Yanda to a long-term contract. The “offseason” timetable was stunted by the lockout, but Newsome operated in the way he typically does — calculated and conservative. In fact, the most dynamic move he made — trading a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for veteran receiver Lee Evans — turned out to be the biggest failure.

The history lesson is worth repeating as the Ravens embark on free agency for the 17th time in franchise history. Projected to have approximately $14.45 million in salary cap space (before tendering restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents), Newsome will devote much of that to retaining as many of his own free agents as he can.

Of Baltimore’s 12 unrestricted free agents, five were starters last season, meaning the Ravens could be looking at more significant roster turnover than you’d like from an AFC North championship team that was one touchdown catch from advancing to the Super Bowl.

Expecting a dramatic splash of throwing money at elite free agents such as wide receiver Vincent Jackson or outside linebacker Mario Williams is only setting yourself up for disappointment. Even in the years in which he’s had the most cap room, Newsome rarely targets the players grabbing the headlines in the opening days of free agency, instead focusing on keeping his own and laying plans for value free agents that fulfill a need without eating up precious cap room.

As was the case last season, the Ravens will look for continued growth from within to aid in their quest for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Entering the 2011 season, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, and Dennis Pitta were well-known draft picks from the previous season but had yet to emerge as starting-caliber players in the NFL. Even bigger question marks surrounded Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams before they became legitimate starting cornerbacks for one of the league’s top defenses. And fighting serious doubts after a poor preseason, wide receiver Torrey Smith set franchise rookie records for receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches.

Their contributions were as critical as any free-agent acquisition the Ravens made en route to a 12-4 record and their first division title in five years.

This season, the Ravens will potentially look to younger players such as defensive ends Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee, offensive lineman Jah Reid, and linebackers Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and Albert McClellan to help fill potential voids left behind by free agents Cory Redding, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Jarret Johnson, and Jameel McClain. Of course, the Ravens will add new pieces via free agency and next month’s draft to fill some of those needs, but it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll need to lean on some combination of the aforementioned players for expanded roles in 2012.

After tendering their restricted free agents and exclusive rights players, the Ravens will be left with somewhere between $6 million and $7 million to address their own unrestricted free agents and shop the open market. It doesn’t take an economics major to realize that money will only go so far.

But, as he usually does, Newsome will make the most of it.

As the frenzy of free agency begins on Tuesday and the big names start coming off the board — possibly even a few from the Ravens’ own backyard leaving for greener pastures — remember many of the biggest factors determining how the Ravens fare in 2012 already reside in Owings Mills.

It may get ugly, with many of their unrestricted free agents not expected to return, but Newsome and the Ravens never strive to “win” the first week of free agency. They’ll look closely for that under-the-radar talent that nobody is talking about right now. And, as always, the Ravens will plan to shine during April’s draft.

By the time July arrives, they’ll address the offensive line and the linebacker position in some form as well as add a few pieces in other areas to optimize a team that was only a few tenths of a second away from going to the Super Bowl back in January.

Just remember that when you or someone else feels the urge to panic and ask if Newsome is asleep at the wheel over the next week or so.

To borrow an expression from another era and another sport here in Baltimore, it’s “The Raven Way” of doing business.

And if history is any indication, it’s worked pretty well.

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Tuesday Ravens musings for Week 11

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Tuesday Ravens musings for Week 11

Posted on 15 November 2011 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying a day off before returning to work to prepare for a big AFC North showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, here are five thoughts to ponder …

1. Has anyone seen Ed Reed lately? The future Hall of Fame safety started the season with a bang by collecting two interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger in the Ravens’ Week 1 dismantling of the Steelers. A few weeks later, Reed followed it up with a sack and strip of Mark Sanchez on the first defensive play from scrimmage that led to a Baltimore touchdown. The 33-year-old Reed has been quiet ever since, getting burned by Jacoby Jones for a long touchdown in the win over Houston and recording just one pass breakup in the Ravens’ last five games. Reed’s current eight-game span without an interception matches the second-longest of his career (2008) and ranks behind a nine-game stretch in 2005 in which Reed missed six games due to an ankle injury in the middle of that drought. Given Reed’s health issues over the last few seasons — he suffered a shoulder stinger in the loss at Jacksonville last month — some will question whether Father Time is beginning to catch up with the 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year. However, the aforementioned eight-game interception drought in 2008 was followed by a six-week stretch in which Reed intercepted eight passes and scored two defensive touchdowns in arguable the greatest stretch by a defensive player in NFL history. In other words, just because the ball-hawking safety may be lying in the weeds doesn’t mean he won’t be ready to pounce in the final two months of the season.

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2. Joe Flacco has the third-most passing attempts in the entire NFL. The fourth-year quarterback only trails Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford in that category and has thrown more passes than Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and MVP frontrunner Aaron Rodgers. It’s clear the Ravens have handed the keys to the offense to Flacco, even if it means Ray Rice has become less of a factor as a result. The problem is Flacco’s 6.39 yards per attempt ranks 27th in the league in a clear sign the Ravens are not getting the return on the commitment they’re making to the passing game. An inexperienced group of wide receivers and an inconsistent offensive line haven’t helped matters, and the Ravens would much prefer to get back to a more balanced attack if they can get an early lead in games, something they’ve been unable to do in road losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Seattle. If the Ravens are to play deep into January, they need to find more offensive balance and more consistency from Flacco, whose 75.6 quarterback rating would be a career low.

3. Not only have the Ravens struggled to take care of the football, but the defense hasn’t been taking it away from the opponent of late, either. Baltimore played a near-flawless game against the Steelers to open the season, forcing seven turnovers without giving the ball away in return. However, the Ravens have managed to turn the ball over at least once in their eight games since, with six of those games having two or more turnovers. Not surprisingly, the Ravens lost the turnover battle in all three of their losses this season. While the Ravens offense has failed to take care of the football, the defense has not been as opportunistic since their bye on Oct. 9. After forcing 14 turnovers in the first four games of the season, the Baltimore defense has just four takeaways in their last five games. As a result, the Ravens turnover differential that was plus-7 after Week 1 has been minus-6 over the last eight games (plus-1 for the season). If the offense continues to be careless with the football, the Ravens need more takeaways to make up for the miscues.

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My Ravens v. Steelers “Top 10 Most Memorable”

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My Ravens v. Steelers “Top 10 Most Memorable”

Posted on 06 November 2011 by Glenn Clark

I’m simply calling this my “Top 10 Most Memorable.” Not my “Top Ten Most Memorable Games” or my “Top Ten Most Memorable Moments”, just my “Top 10 Most Memorable” in the history of the Baltimore Ravens/Pittsburgh Steelers Rivalry…

10. Jamal2K (December 28, 2003-Ravens 13, Steelers 10 OT)

jamal

The game didn’t really end up meaning anything for either team, as the Ravens clinched the division earlier in the day with a Cincinnati Bengals loss. That said, the atmosphere remained electric for the Sunday Night Football matchup as Brian Billick stuck with his starters. RB Jamal Lewis fell short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record (live shots of Dickerson from ESPN during the broadcast actually added to the excitement), but he DID surpass the 2,000 yard mark and the Ravens claimed victory of their AFC North foe.

9. Ravens won’t defend (January 20, 2002 Steelers 27, Ravens 10)

2022

Despite an up and down 2001 season, there was still a feeling that once the Baltimore Ravens reached the playoffs, they’d somehow figure out a way to defend their Super Bowl XXXV crown. Kordell Stewart and Amos Zereoue did little against the Ravens defense, but three Elvis Grbac picks ensured the Ravens’ title hopes would be dashed at Heinz Field.

8. Flacco’s coming out party (September 29, 2008 Steelers 23, Ravens 20 OT)

After a surprising quick start to the 2008 season with first year head coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens entered their Monday Night Football showdown in the Steel City undefeated. They took a quick lead in the game, but some mistakes allowed the Steelers back into the game. The game would ultimately be won by the Steelers in overtime, but Ravens fans who made the trip felt good about the hopes for the coach and QB moving forward in the series.

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Rice, Suggs moving past Monday night controversy

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Rice, Suggs moving past Monday night controversy

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens returning to the practice field to begin preparations for the Arizona Cardinals on Wednesday, many were interested to learn if there would be any fallout from an unthinkable 12-7 loss in Jacksonville on Monday night.

Running back Ray Rice received only eight carries and 13 touches as the Ravens were held to just 146 total yards and an embarrassing 16 in the first half. Linebacker Terrell Suggs sparked controversy following the game for questioning offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for not getting the ball in the star running back’s hands more often.

Two days later, Rice made it clear he always wants the ball in order to help the offense, but expressed his desire to move past the disappointing loss.

“I definitely expect to be more involved,” Rice said. “My involvement with this offense hasn’t changed since the beginning of the season. I don’t want Cam and them to feel like they’ve got to force me the ball. I’m not that kind of guy. My carries come when the whole offense has success. I look forward to having that success.”

Suggs has drawn criticism for publicly questioning the coaching staff, but coach John Harbaugh agreed with the Pro Bowl defensive player’s comments when asked about it during his Tuesday press conference. While not backing down from his post-game comments, Suggs clarified his thoughts and shared the universal vision shared by all within the organization.

“There’s no big deal about it,” Suggs said. “We know we’re a great team. Like I said, we’re a great team when those guys are getting the ball. That’s what I meant. We’ve got to take our hats off to Jacksonville. They played a physical game and won the game, but we can’t give them any help. That’s what I meant about it.”

The most common theme expressed by those involved with the offensive side of the football has been execution, an area where Rice simply wants to have a bigger say reflecting in the number of times he’s able to touch the ball.

While the Ravens running back was ready to shift his focus to the Cardinals, he reiterated how important it was to learn from an abysmal experience in Jacksonville.

“We’re not to ignore the fact it happened,” Rice said. “We didn’t execute. It’s the same thing I’ve been talking about all the time. We didn’t execute. It’s us as the whole offense. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m begging for carries. At the same time, I do know when we’re getting first downs I touch the ball. We’ll get that as the week goes.”

‘Flag’ football

Safety Bernard Pollard said he has yet to receive a fine from the NFL for his penalized hit of Jaguars running back Deji Karim on the opening drive of the third quarter, which extended the Jacksonville drive and led to a field goal to make it a 9-0 deficit for the Ravens.

While Pollard made it clear he’s against malicious hits the head and understands the league’s intent to make the sport safer, he shared the same frustration expressed by countless defensive players around the NFL, who are contemplating where exactly they’re allowed to hit an offensive player.

“This is a sport that’s violent, so you can’t say, ‘Well, go get in a car crash, but be careful,’” Pollard said. “You can’t do that, so we all know and understand this is a car wreck every single play with guys. We know and understand how to take care of our bodies as far as what’s a violent shot and then what’s an unnecessary violent shot.”

Pollard suggested that the increasing number of penalties and fines for hits directed toward the chest — where he appeared to hit Karim with his shoulder — will lead to more hits directed at opponents’ knees, which will lead to even more injuries.

Linebacker Ray Lewis, who said he got a good look at the Pollard hit from his vantage point on the field, stated officials need to be held responsible for the calls they make and suggested the NFL consider using instant replay to review questionable hits.

“I just think every man needs to be held accountable for whatever call they make,” Lewis said. “If you review so many other plays, review that one, too. That’s so big in that game. And every man makes a mistake.”

Regardless of the impact the penalty had on the third-quarter drive, Pollard does not intend to change his hard-hitting, aggressive style of play, even if it means he’ll receive penalties in the future.

“Football is football,” Pollard said. “If you ask me to go do it again this Sunday, I’m doing the same thing, so they’re going to either keep flagging us or they’re going to have to do something about this rule.”

Heap homecoming

Sunday will mark the return of former Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who spent the first 10 years of his career in Baltimore before being cut in a salary cap move prior to the start of training camp. Always popular in Baltimore, Heap will undoubtedly receive a warm reception from the 71,000 gathered at M&T Bank Stadium as he steps foot on the field as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Joe Flacco expressed how critical Heap’s veteran presence was in his first three years, as the tight end was a reliable target inside the red zone and on third-down situations for the young quarterback.

“Anytime you have veteran guys around that you can get along with, and they trust you out there on the field, it makes things easier for a young quarterback,” Flacco said. “And Todd was one of those guys. He was a veteran guy who’s been around, played a lot of good football in his career and was able to trust in me when I was out there.”

While many former teammates will greet him prior to the game, the warm sentiment changes at kickoff.

“The love is always going to be there off the field,” said Lewis, who was teammates with Heap for 10 years. “Of course, once you put on a different-colored jersey, here we go again. If the ball comes his way and it just happens I’m there, I might tap him on his shoulder a little bit.”

It’s still undetermined whether Heap will actually be able to play after being sidelined for the last two games with a hamstring injury. The 11-year veteran was a limited participant for Arizona’s practice on Wednesday as the team will monitor his progress during the week.

“He’s real close,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said in a conference call with the Baltimore media, “but we have to make sure as this week progresses he can handle it — opening up and blocking and those things that we’re going to ask him to do. We’ve got to make sure his hamstring is in a position where he can do that.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Matt Birk, and Bernard Pollard right here.

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Having had just over 24 hours to digest (and regurgitate) the Ravens loss to the Jaguars, here are my 7 points to ponder from the Ravens disappointing performance on Monday night in Jacksonville, a veritable touchdown of takeaways in honor of the Ravens lone TD in the game.

 

 

Point #1 – This might be the best defensive performance we’ve seen from these Ravens in a long time.

 

Unlike their turnover driven performances against Pittsburgh and the Jets, this was smash mouth, “punch you in the face” defense. The 12 points that the Jags scored in the game were tough to come by. Ray Rice’s 1st quarter fumble set the Jags up for a 51-yard field goal if they had simply kicked it immediately on 1st down, in hindsight not a bad idea. Instead the Jags, pulling out all the stops, drove to the 1-yard line and converted on a 4th and 2 in the process before Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled the ball back to the Ravens. The ensuing possession had Sam Koch punting from his own end zone. Again, if the Jags had kicked immediately on first down, the field goal attempt would have been 51-yards from the spot where the drive started. Three negative yards, a timeout and a tough decision later, Jack Del Rio and the Jags were kicking from 54-yards and taking a 3-0 lead.

 

The second field goal for Josh Scobee and company, another ambitious 54-yarder, came only after a Paul Kruger running into the kicker call negated a Jags punt and improved their field position as a result.

 

The Jags 3rd field goal was the result of their most impressive drive in the game, a drive 16 plays in duration and one that arguably should have ended at 5 plays with a punt if not for a terrible unnecessary roughness penalty on Bernard Pollard. Another stop for the Ravens at the 7-yard line was nullified by a Brendon Ayanbadejo penalty and ejection. The 3 points they yielded on that series was ultimately a relief despite it putting the margin at 2 scores, the 8 minutes and 30 seconds they spent getting there might have been an even bigger win for the Jags.

 

And of course the 4th filed goal came after the decision to try and onsides kick at 2:02 of the 4th quarter and was the result of a 4-yard drive.

 

At the end of the day it was a shutout caliber performance by the defense, spoiled by circumstance and bad luck.

 

 

Point #2 – The Ravens were in the shotgun way too much.

 

The Ravens officially ran 38 passing plays and just 12 running plays against the Jags. In the aftermath of the defeat, those numbers have been heavily criticized and deservedly so. In a game as close as that one was, that type of imbalance is all but inexcusable for a team of the Ravens offensive identity. That said, that’s life in the modern NFL, and had the Ravens won, no one would have batted an eye.

 

That Ray Rice only had 8 “touches” has been a bit overstated though as he also had 5 catches on 8 targets in the passing game. Furthermore down and distance have a lot to do with making running opportunities available and the fact that the Ravens offense only ran 25 plays in total in Monday’s first half, 8 of which were 3rd downs explains the imbalance somewhat.

 

What’s tough to explain from where I sit is why the Ravens felt compelled to tip their hands out of the running game as readily as they did on Monday.

 

By my unofficial count, the Ravens lined up 46 times on Monday either in the shotgun formation or with Flacco under center and intending to pass (this includes sacks and penalties). Of those 46 plays, 14 snaps under center were passes leaving 32 snaps from the shotgun.

 

On each of those shotgun snaps the Ravens seemed to go to silent counts with no cadence from Flacco at all. Instead, Marshal Yanda would watch for Flacco’s foot pump and then tap Matt Birk on the leg. Once Birk felt the tap, he’d rock back and snap in a predictable rhythm. I say predictable, but in fairness it appears the Jags got caught jumping offsides at least twice while trying to anticipate the snap. That said, that means there were 30 other plays where they conceivably timed it correctly. Surely this had something to do with the effectiveness the Jags were having with simple 4 and 5-man rushes.

 

That Jacksonville generates enough crowd noise to dictate the Ravens using a silent count in the shotgun is strange (especially after watching Matt Ryan direct the no huddle in Detroit last week). That Flacco is looking less and less like a quarterback during these scenarios is debatable in its impact perhaps, that the Ravens are essentially declaring that Ray Rice running the ball (a staple of the Ravens attack) is not an option and giving the defense a timing mechanism with which to start their jump at the line is absolutely baffling.

 

That Flacco looked so out of sorts when trying to direct a hurried offense when the Ravens needed him to may speak to the limited control he’s given of his offense pre-snap throughout the game.

 

 

Point #3 – Home field advantage may be more important than ever this year.

 

The Ravens have played 3 road games against 3 very bad teams and have looked good for exactly one quarter of one game. They’ve lost 2 road games to teams that had no business playing with them on paper, and while we all know that’s why they play the games, it’s un-Raven-like to say the least.

 

Your glass could easily be half empty or half full regarding the Ravens road successes and failures in the playoffs in the last 3 years and concerning the path that led them there and the missed opportunities to have games at home. If the Ravens are going to have a real shot this season in the playoffs, getting there will only be half the battle. These Ravens thrive on home cooking it seems.

 

 

Point #4 – This is not the same old offense.

 

It may be the same old result, but it’s not the same old offense. Don’t let your lingering frustration from the previous regime cloud your point of view. This isn’t even the same offense they had last year. Much less the Billick offense or the unbalanced run heavy (literally) attack of 2008. Call them crutches, call them security blankets, call them whatever you want, but Flacco knew where Mason and Heap were going to be all of the time it seemed. This new group…not so much.

 

The offensive line was an ambitious experiment to begin with putting 3 of 5 opening week starters in positions that they hadn’t even played in the pre-season together spoke to the possibility of tough sledding. The number of plug-ins necessitated by injuries on the line already only serves to perpetuate that problem. That the offensive line is struggling shouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe the bigger surprise should be how good they have looked at times. Either way they project to get better as time allows them to continue to evolve.

 

Anquan Boldin and two second year tight ends are the long tenured members of the receiving corps already, rookie LaQuan Williams seems to be playing more wide receiver as a rookie for the Ravens than he ever did as a collegiate for the Terps and Lee Evans has been a non-factor.

 

It stands to reason that this offense would struggle and will again, check back on them around week 13 or so, once the weather has changed, to see how well primed they are for the playoffs.

 

 

Point #5 – There’s lots of finger pointing going around.

 

Harbaugh pointing at Cundiff, Suggs pointing at Cam, the fans and the media joining Suggs in pointing at Cam and at Flacco too, everybody it seems blames somebody, and everybody just might be right. For a 4-2 team though this has to be at least a little bit unnerving.

 

This was a lot funnier when it was coming from the Jets locker room a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

Point #6 – You can’t blame apathy again.

 

When the Ravens lost to Tennessee apathy could have been to blame. Whether it was actually the case or not, it was easy for everyone to simply dismiss the loss as the Ravens were riding too high after a win against Pittsburgh or that the Ravens simply didn’t come to play. On the surface you might be tempted to say the same about Jacksonville, but it simply can’t be true.

 

As pointed out in Point #1, the Ravens defense did come to play. It was the defense that should have and could have been riding high and resting on their laurels, but they didn’t. It was the offense that failed to perform on Monday. The offense has been feeling the proverbial heat of criticism for weeks, and while folks were surely taking the Jags as a whole lightly, no one was discounting their defense. The Jags needed a big performance to have any chance against the Ravens on Monday; everyone knew that, including the Ravens.

 

Apathy may never be a legitimate excuse, here it absolutely wasn’t.

 

 

Point #7 – There are deep waters in the AFC North.

 

The sting of Monday’s loss was surely agitated by the fact that it represented a loss of first place in the division (at least mathematically) to the 5-2 Steelers. It also puts the Ravens in a tie with the surprisingly 4-2 Bengals and just a game ahead of the 3-3 Browns. This isn’t your dad’s AFC North it seems, and the 5 games the Ravens have left in the division are looking scarier by the minute.

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