Tag Archive | "Todd heap"

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10 Ravens-Steelers Halftime Observations

Posted on 11 September 2011 by Glenn Clark

Here are ten observations about the first half of today’s Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium. A reminder that Ryan Chell and I will be back on the air for the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” following the conclusion of today’s game on AM1570 and WNST.net.

-Looks like David Reed was being honest when he told me players had been given the green light to bring kicks out of the end zone just as long as they were moving forward. There were a couple of touchbacks, but Lardarius Webb and Antonio Brown were certainly willing to bring the ball out even from fairly deep to significantly deep.

-So much for not being able to run on the Steelers defense, huh? Still no luck running up the middle, but running to the outside worked well.

-The first drive from Joe Flacco and Ray Rice was something to behold. I don’t know how much of that had to do with this being the first game of the season, but it was fun. It goes without saying that we’d like to see a few more quick hitters this year.

-Any more questions about why the Ravens were willing to let go of Todd Heap this offseason? The team continues to have high hopes for Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, who each made plays.

-For the most part, the Offensive Line has held up despite everything. The holding call on Bryant McKinnie was questionable (although I thought he was beat on the play) and Cam Cameron/Todd Washington/presumably Andy Moeller did a nice job in scheming and organizing help.

-It would be nice to see more from the receivers in general. Flacco was a bit early on the first play where he targeted Lee Evans (the second was a bit of a prayer along the sideline) and Torrey Smith has yet to be targeted. In general, this team will need to hit the receivers more for the offense to be dynamic. Some of this remains on Flacco, who continues to be quick to look for Rice and his tight ends.

-The run defense has certainly been an issue. The Steelers’ TD drive was built on nice runs by Rashard Mendenhall (and Isaac Redman). There were far too many second and short scenarios for Ben Roethlisberger and company during the drive.

-Cary Williams got lost in the back of the end zone on the Emmanuel Sanders touchdown, but otherwise had a very good first half. The reason everyone thinks he’s playing well is because for the most part he’s played well. He deserves credit. It wasn’t good to see Jimmy Smith pull up, but fortunately it doesn’t appear significant.

-Ed Reed made a very nice play on Hines Ward before the half, but you know he’ll be thinking about the dropped interception for awhile. When he’s giving his Hall of Fame speech in Canton years from now he’ll have probably forgotten about it however.

-Hard not to think about last year’s AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field with the Ravens ahead 21-7. Hopefully no one went into the locker room running their mouth the way a certain TJ Houshmandzadeh did in January.

We’ll be taking your calls (410-481-1570) after the game. Look forward to talking to you then. Hopefully things are still good then.

-G

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For Whatever Bad, Evans & Dickson Supplied Plenty Good in Ravens Win

Posted on 25 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — It’s not as if Baltimore Ravens fans were likely to forget former WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap.

The duo totaled 938 catches for 11,269 yards and 70 touchdowns during 16 combined seasons in Charm City.

Both were released before the start of Training Camp for salary cap reasons and found new homes. Mason with the New York Jets, Heap with the Arizona Cardinals.

They were great Baltimore Ravens and will never be forgotten.

With all of that said, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and company have to be pleased with the early returns they’ve seen from WR Lee Evans and TE Dickson; which could go a long way in helping the organization move past the Mason/Heap era.

Evans and Dickson each made contributions to the Ravens’ 34-31 preseason win over the Washington Redskins Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Dickson made three catches for 57 yards in the win, Evans added three catches for 60 yards-including an impressive field-stretching 35 yard touchdown strike from QB Joe Flacco.

Neither was the team’s leading receiver (WR Anquan Boldin grabbed five balls for 73 yards and a touchdown); but the contributions of each were significant in helping Flacco bounce back from an early interception which was returned by Skins CB DeAngelo Hall for a TD.

“I think we started off a little slow, obviously” said Flacco. “It took us a drive to kind of pick it up from there, and you don’t want to see that. But I think we responded pretty well. We responded well with two drives. We went down there and put the ball in the end zone three times tonight. We came out strong in the second half and finished off a drive, so I think we’ve got to be pretty happy with where we are.”

(Flacco finished the game 17/27 for 219 yards and two TD’s to go with that pick.)

The contributions of both are particularly noteworthy considering how quickly they had to adapt to new roles.

Dickson fell into the starting TE role just 31 days before the Redskins game; but did not begin practicing until August 13 due to a hamstring injury. Evans also began working with his new quarterback on August 13, just a day after being traded to Baltimore from the Buffalo Bills.

In less than two weeks, there is already a clear comfort level between Flacco and the two new starters.

“I think we’re still getting better” said Evans. “We’re still in Training Camp mode, but each day, we come out here and get better. We realize this is one of the last opportunities we’re going to have to tune-up, so we just want(ed) to come out here and try to put a good game together. I think we showed a lot of character early on after we were down, so that part of it was good.”

Seeing chemistry between the quarterback and Evans/Dickson in the third preseason game was especially critical considering Head Coach John Harbaugh is unlikely to want to play his starters in the team’s fourth preseason game next Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.

This will likely be the last time Flacco, Dickson and Evans work together in a game situation until the Ravens face a critical early test September 11th against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers back at M&T Bank Stadium.

It’s been a strange preseason for the trio (along with the rest of the National Football League), but they will not be granted any extra time to prepare. In roughly two weeks, they have to play one of the most important games they’ll play all season.

“We have a long ways to go before we get to that September 11 game” said Dickson. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to be ‘popping out of our skin’ so-to-say. That’s a quote of coach Harbaugh, which basically means we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got another two weeks to go before that game, but we’re going to try to get better every day.”

The good news is that they look to be clicking as the game approaches.

Not all offensive questions were answered in the victory. The Ravens struggled badly again along the offensive line, but they hope the impending returns of C Matt Birk (knee) and RG Marshal Yanda (back) will help; combined with a potential shift to RT for Michael Oher and the impending addition of free agent LT Bryant McKinnie.

Additionally, rookie receiver Torrey Smith (Maryland) did little to make fans breathe easier with two early drops. Smith was expected to be the team’s third receiver, but has struggled while on the field.

They’re far from perfect at this point, but they’ve taken big steps in the right direction in a short amount of time. Evans’ long TD haul was a sight for Ravens fans who have longed for a receiver who could truly extend the field. Dickson’s first half 30 yard grab was reminiscent of plays a younger Heap would make regularly on the same field.

Ravens fans won’t necessarily be without concern, but any lingering concerns about the team’s decision to let their veteran playmakers move on seem to be disappearing more and more each day.

Of course, it’s still the preseason.

-G

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Ed Dickson

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Ravens TE Ed Dickson: “You are definitely going to see me out there Friday night”

Posted on 19 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ravens tight end Ed Dickson lost out on a lot in the last week-more than what you would think.

Not only did he lose playing time  in Baltimore’s Week 1 preseason loss to the Eagles 13-6 last Thursday due to an injury, but days later he lost his number #83-albeit giving it up willingly-to the recently acquired WR, Lee Evans of the Buffalo Bills who wore the number for nine years.

However, he told Glenn Clark on WNST this week that he could not have given it up to not only a better football player, but a stand-up guy.

“Lee Evans came in, and he’s kind of a soft-spoken guy,” Dickson said. “But he’s a real great individual. He came to me and took it to me-just as classy as anyone can take it and asked me if I was interested in changing numbers.”

Evans was acquired by the Ravens for a fourth-round pick less than 24 hours after the preseason game versus the Eagles-a game Dickson missed due to a hamstring injury, but it took time for Dickson to give up a number he wanted to have as a Raven for the long-term.

“I’m telling you it was really hard,” Dickson said. “I was that number my whole time in college, and I wanted to keep that number. But at the same time, I understand how it feels to him and I wanted to be a great teammate and help him out.”

Dickson will now wear #84-a number he wore in high school. And on top of that, he guaranteed that you’ll see him in uniform with it on versus the Kansas City Chiefs in the home preseason opener at M&T Bank Stadium tonight.

“You are definitely going to see me out there Friday night,” Dickson said,” competing and seeing the Ravens offense a little better than they were last week and I’m going to be out there trying to get a victory.”

Dickson-who was drafted by the Ravens in the 3rd-round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Oregon-was projected to be the starter going into this season after the release of two-time Pro Bowler Todd Heap, who spent a decade in a Baltimore uniform.

Ed Dickson

That was a moment this off-season when Dickson felt a vote of confidence coming his way.

“I thrive off those moments,” Dickson noted to Clark.

And despite his fellow 2010 draftee Dennis Pitta making several big plays in his stead last week, Dickson said both he and his fellow teammate think alike.

“Speaking on Dennis’ behalf, we thrive for those moments,” Dickson said.

Dickson said both he and Pitta have nobody in the world to thank but Todd Heap for his guidance in their rookie years.

“He was a great mentor,” said Dickson. “He did a great job of teaching us, and not basically forcing info on us.”

An outside critic would look at Heap’s departure and say that Dickson should be upset by Pitta gunning for his snaps and vice versa, but Dickson doesn’t feel that way at all.

“Man, I was proud to be  tight end,” Dickson laughed. “Dennis is like my brother, so I was one of the first people that came up to him and congratulated him on that catch. [I told him] to stay in the game, make a lot of catches, and I knew he had it in him.”

The only thing missing Dickson said?

Making it a tag-team effort.

“We didn’t have a chance to showcase it-both of us,” Dickson said.

And Dickson knows his value going forward and the benefit he has of being in an offense ran by Cam Cameron that loves to utilize the tight end.

“I really love his offense,” Dickson said,” because he really gets the tight ends and other players involved. I wanted to learn and grow in his offense…so I’m real excited to get him back and he really is a great offensive coordinator.”

Tune into WNST Friday afternoon to hear myself, @RyanChell87, and @GlennClarkWNST take you up to kickoff and give you post-game reaction on “The Nasty Purple Pre-Post Game Show” Tune in @WNST!

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10 Reasons to Be Excited About the Ravens in 2011

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10 Reasons to Be Excited About the Ravens in 2011

Posted on 18 August 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Honorable Mentions: Thanksgiving Day Football and the HarghBowl, Renewing Old Titans Rivalry, Dawan Landry and the Jags on Monday Night (week 6), Derrick Mason returns to Baltimore with Jets (week 4), Todd Heap returns to Baltimore with Cardinals (week 8), Matt Stover’s Ring of Honor Induction vs. CIN (week 11), Chance to Exorcise last season’s demons vs. PIT (week 1) 

 

Reason #10 – The Orioles are 47-74

 

How do you spell relief as a Baltimore sports fan? R-A-V-E-N-S. After another trying baseball season the Ravens loom as a harbinger of the return of credibility to the Baltimore sports scene. With expectations however, often come inordinate expectations. Our collective sports passion has been suppressed since January 15th and teased with the lockout pretty much ever since, as football returns let’s be determined to enjoy it. Anything can happen and often does in the NFL, and what happens in September, October and November to playoff teams rarely bears much relevance once the playoffs actually begin. When they do the Ravens will be there. Read on, you’ll see…

 

 

Reason #9 – New Faces Less Predictability

 

Even more than their inability or unwillingness to audible last season (a frequent complaint of fans) the Ravens seemed to leave little mystery about their pre-snap efforts, seemingly giving opponents a leg up through their straight forward play calling and dressing. While guys like Heap and Mason were reliable targets who Flacco seemed to have an instinctive idea as to where they would be at any given time, defenses also may have benefited from the predictability of the offense as a result. With new personnel groupings come new strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. Opposing teams as a result should be more challenged to figure the Ravens out pre-snap.

 

 

Reason #8 – Luck Follows Speed

 

This was one of my Dad’s favorite sayings and one I have come to accept in sports. What the Ravens gave up in comfort and experience in the receiving corps, they’ll try to make up for in increased speed and athleticism. As members of the wide receiving and tight end units struggle to command playing time and opportunities, renewed hunger should be a factor too.

 

 

Reason #7 – Rushing Improvements

 

Maybe it doesn’t fit the modern NFL protocol for team building but the improvements that the Ravens have seemingly made to their ground attack can’t hurt, especially for a team that struggled as mightily as the Ravens did with grinding out second half leads. Marshall Yanda is back and will ideally play guard, Ray Rice is running for a payday, Ricky Williams seems to be an improvement as a goal line back, Vonta Leach is a star maker (Steve Slaton / Arian Foster). As teams gear up more and more to stop the league’s prolific passing attacks, the Ravens ground game could be tough to deal with and should open up their aerial options too.

 

 

Reason #6 – The Rookie Talent Infusion

 

The Ravens have gone high risk / high reward in the last couple of drafts. In 2010 they suffered the risk, if 2011 brings forth the rewards they’ll be in interesting shape. Sergio Kindle was a steal (talent wise) in the minds of many, who fell to the Ravens because of “character concerns”, having suffered the byproducts of some of those concerns and missing all of last year, Kindle returns hopefully matured as a result of some tough lessons and realizations and ready to make the most of his second chance.

 

Jimmy Smith slid to the Ravens late in the first round of this year’s draft, again mostly due to “character concerns” If he proves himself to be top 15 talent without the other baggage the Ravens will be looking at a pair of potential impact rookies on the defensive side of the ball. Smith doesn’t need to be the proverbial island in the Ravens system, but if he eventually evolves to that, no one will complain. As a rookie that seems too high a bar to set or to predict, but what he should bring to the table will be exciting enough.

 

Torrey Smith was a name that some fans were tabbing for the Ravens first pick. His is a great story, and one that unfolded in our backyard. Tandon Doss is Flacco’s first endeavor into scouting, making him successful should be amongst the QB’s top priorities. Jah Reid may be called on to start at right tackle from day one. Anthony Allen and Tyrod Taylor are also interesting pieces to be developed and stored for future use.

 

 

Reason #5 – Storybook Ending

 

The ends of the Ray Lewis and Ed Reed eras in Baltimore have been eminent in the minds of fans for some time now. As age and injury begin to take their tolls on these warriors, it appears they too may be beginning to see it. Hopefully they’ll have the option of riding off into the sunset, together, on the crest of a Lombardi Trophy…or three.

 

 

Reason #4 – I like Cam Under Fire Too

 

So said Owner Steve Bisciotti as he wrapped up last season offering fans an echo of their own sentiments and answer to their question and an explanation for his decision to keep offensive coordinator Cam Cameron under the Ravens employ in one fell swoop. Let’s face it, there are few if any between DC and Philadelphia (and probably further) at present at a credible enough level of understanding to even discuss offense with Cameron much less question his strategies…including John Harbaugh. That seems to put Harbaugh in a uniquely safe position (unfairly I’m sure) seen as a manager of men but not a game planner. Given his special teams background, Harbaugh seems perceived as neither a master of offense nor defense, leaving his coordinators open to a greater level of criticism (or credit) than they probably deserve. Harbaugh has seemingly done little to dispel this notion so far.

 

As the screws tighten around Cameron, hopefully he’ll take it as a license to open things up a bit. If he starts unleashing the types of game plans that torch opposing defenses, we’ll all like Cam under fire.

 

 

Reason #3 – Pagano’s Defense

 

Although fans didn’t get their wish with Cameron, to some degree their hopes for defensive coordinator Greg Mattison were realized as he took a position at the University of Michigan. New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano looks to return the fire to the defense that has been Baltimore’s trademark since the turn of the century. Baltimore’s legacy at defensive coordinator might be their proudest legacy (or simply a Ray Lewis trophy case of sorts) and didn’t begin with Rex Ryan. Hopefully it won’t have ended with Ryan either as Pagano looks to relight that torch.

 

 

Reason #2 – Flacco’s Show

 

The Ravens are looking for Joe Flacco to make strides in a number of areas. In addition to statistical improvements, it’s time for Flacco to take full ownership of the offense. As we look around the offensive side of the ball only Ben Grubbs (by 1 yr) has a tenure with the team that predates Flacco’s. For better or for worse, the offense is now Joe’s show both on and off the field. Let’s face it; the good old days on offense were never very good anyway.

 

 

Reason #1 – The Schedule

 

I’ll continue to declare it until history proves otherwise…the Ravens have the softest schedule this year that I can ever remember. Within the parameters of the NFL formula, it’s tough to imagine they could’ve written it any better for themselves. Fortunes change from year to year in the NFL, but because of the lockout this one should be different. Teams carrying continuity (especially the good kind) from last year to this are at an advantage. Bad teams have had little time to improve, new regimes have had no time to implement schemes and systems and young and developmental players from rookies on up all lost valuable time that could have been devoted to learning their crafts.

 

Even if none of that proves to be true, the NFC West has been less than mediocre for at least 3 years running and don’t look to be getting their acts together anytime soon. Games at St. Louis and Seattle and at home against Arizona and San Francisco (who’ll travel coast-to-coast on a short week) should all be seen as likely wins. Road games against Tennessee and Jacksonville should be seen as winnable. Of course there are the Browns (with a new head coach) and Bengals (whole new offense) for four games too.

 

Aside from a trip to San Diego and the obligatory trip to Pittsburgh, all of the Ravens “tough” games (PIT, NYJ, HOU, IND) are at home too. If they don’t get double digit wins from that schedule then they shouldn’t be in the playoffs anyway. Trust me they will…but so will the Steelers.

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Ravens-Eagles Preseason Primer: What to watch in tonight’s opener

Posted on 10 August 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Purple Haze live chat beginning at 7:30 p.m. as WNST.net brings you live coverage from the preseason opener in Philadelphia. For the quickest updates and analysis, follow WNST on Twitter and be sure to subscribe to the WNST Text Service.***

Nearly seven months after the Ravens walked off the field after suffering a gut-wrenching loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC divisional playoffs, Baltimore begins preseason action on Thursday night looking noticeably different.

And younger.

After waving goodbye to veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee, and Kelly Gregg and watching a number of others depart via free agency, the Ravens find themselves in transition, getting younger while still hoping to maintain their Super Bowl aspirations. However, questions at several positions including wide receiver, tight end, right tackle, and backup quarterback as well as the pass rush remain unanswered.

Couple those uncertainties with a 134-day lockout that eliminated off-season workouts and the typically mundane preseason opener appears to carry extra significance — depending on who you talk to, at least. With a young offense trying to find a new identity in the passing game, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron labeled this first preseason game as more important than any other year he could remember. On the other hand, new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said his veteran-laden defense will just “go out and play.”

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The final score will inevitably be forgotten in a matter of weeks, but the Ravens view the meeting with the revamped Eagles as a good indicator to evaluate how much work needs to be done before the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11. Key veterans such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs figure to play little more than a series while other starters will see more extensive time through the first quarter or two.

“It’s hard to say a preseason game is ‘big’ big,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s big for a lot of guys. Is it going to be big for the team? Well, it’s big in the sense of, ‘Where are we?’ I think that’s going to be very important for us. It’s going to be very interesting to see where we’re at.”

With the Eagles signing the likes of cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive end Cullen Jenkins, running back Ronnie Brown, and defensive end Jason Babin, the Ravens will get a decent picture of where they stand after two weeks of training camp. Regardless of the outcome, however, viewers will fight the urge to overreact to what happens at Lincoln Financial Field — good or bad.

Series history

Thursday will mark the 12th time the Ravens have been scheduled to meet Philadelphia in the preseason, holding a 7-3 all-time mark in August. The last time the teams met in Philadelphia was 2004 when Terrell Owens caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb on the Eagles’ first offensive play from scrimmage. The most recent preseason meeting, however, was a 29-3 victory for Baltimore in 2007.

The Eagles were involved in the most unique (infamous?) moment in the preseason history of the Ravens when unsafe turf conditions at Veterans Stadium forced the 2001 preseason opener to be canceled. That night of embarrassing events was documented in the premiere season of HBO’s Hard Knocks.

In games that actually count, the Ravens are 1-1-1 all-time against Philadelphia, with their victory coming in a 36-7 drubbing at M&T Bank Stadium in 2008.

Coaching connections

Harbaugh coached 10 seasons as a member of the Eagles staff, serving nine campaigns as the special teams coordinator and his final season as the secondary coach under Andy Reid. The Ravens head coach returns to Philadelphia for the first time since taking the helm in Baltimore in January 2008.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if I know where the visiting locker room is. It’ll be my first time in the visiting locker room. I fully expect to be cheered rabidly when I walk out onto the field. (laughing) I’ll be highly disappointed if that doesn’t happen.”

In addition to Harbaugh’s Philadelphia ties, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery visits a place fond to his heart. Having played in Philadelphia from 1977 through 1984, Montgomery holds the franchise’s career mark for rushing yards (6,538) and rushing attempts (1,465) as well as the Eagles’ single-season rushing record (1,512 in 1979).

Montgomery will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in November.

On the opposing side, Eagles linebackers coach Mike Caldwell played linebacker for the Ravens in their inaugural season in 1996.

Local flavor

Inside linebacker Jameel McClain is a Philadelphia native while quarterback Joe Flacco hails from nearby Audubon, N.J.

Flacco will have plenty of family and friends in attendance despite their past loyalties to the Eagles.

“I hope they’re rooting for Ravens,” the fourth-year quarterback said. “I know they’re all Eagles fans, but when they have to make a decision, I hope they make the right one. (laughter) But yeah, they’re crazy about their Eagles in South Jersey. I mean, I’m not going to convert all of South Jersey, hopefully just the people I know. I’ve got to remind them, ‘Hey, I got you the tickets, so you’ve got to root for us.’”

Though he recently landed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Eagles defensive end Victor Abiamiri was born in Baltimore and attended Gilman.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was born in Philadelphia in 1960 before moving with his family to Baltimore a year later.

Injury report

Tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring), cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin), center Matt Birk (knee surgery), offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (active PUP – knees), and receiver David Reed (active PUP – wrist) will not play. Smith has returned to practice on a limited basis after missing four days last week, but the Ravens are taking extra precaution with the talented first-round pick.

Others not expected to play include newly-signed running back Ricky Williams, long snapper Morgan Cox (knee), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), receiver James Hardy (hamstring), and running back Matt Lawrence (undisclosed). Williams only has one practice under his belt since signing a two-year deal with the Ravens while Cox and McKinney only came off the active PUP list to begin practicing this week.

Domonique Foxworth missed consecutive practices on Monday and Tuesday, leaving his status for Thursday in doubt. The former Maryland cornerback has battled soreness and “ups and downs” throughout the off-season in rehabbing a surgically-repaired torn ACL that caused him to miss the entire 2010 season.

7 Players to Watch

1. TE Dennis Pitta – With Dickson sitting out the preseason opener with a hamstring injury, Pitta will get the start at tight end and the early opportunity to distinguish himself in the passing attack. The 6-foot-4 product from BYU has drawn comparisons to Todd Heap in his overall makeup, but production is another story entirely. Pitta made just one catch for one yard in his rookie season.

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Former Ravens receiver Mason close to joining Jets

Posted on 04 August 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:40 p.m.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I Can’t Tell You How Much I Like Idea of Malcom Floyd in Baltimore

Posted on 04 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

I think the headline makes my opinion pretty clear, but I hope you’ll read on anyway.

As San Diego Union-Tribune ace Chargers beat writer Kevin Acee indicated Wednesday, the Baltimore Ravens are the front-runners to land free agent WR Malcom Floyd after offering him a contract worth more than $3 million per year. Acee says the contract offered by the Ravens exceeds any known offer from the Bolts.

A deal for Floyd could be in place as early as Thursday, the day the NFL’s 2011 league year begins.

Floyd is by no means a prototypical “Number 1” type receiver, and could be considered somewhat of a “late bloomer” after making his debut for the Chargers in 2004 as an undrafted free agent out of Wyoming.

Until 2009, Floyd failed to record as many as 30 catches or 500 receiving yards in a single season.

But in his last two seasons, Floyd has exploded for a combined 82 catches and 1,493 yards; adding in seven touchdown receptions.

The knock on Floyd has been a propensity to drop the ball, but that stigma might not be completely fair.

AdvancedNFLStats.com provides a statistic known as “Catch Rate” (CR), which they define as “the proportion of passes targeted to a receiver that are caught.” While the statistic reflects not only dropped catches but also passes defended, it is the fairest known way of answering the question “how many times does a particular receiver catch the ball when it is thrown in his direction?”.

Over the last two seasons, Floyd has averaged a CR of 53.65; catching nearly 54% of passes when he was the intended target.

As a base of comparison, free agent Ravens WR Derrick Mason (who is rumored to be a target of Rex Ryan and the New York Jets) has averaged a CR of 56.05 over the last two seasons.

Mason is considered to be one of the more sure-handed receivers in the NFL, while Floyd is believed to suffer from a significant case of the “drops.”

Mason has caught roughly 56% of the passes where he was the intended target over the last two seasons. Floyd has caught roughly 54% of the passes where he was the intended target in the same time frame.

The criticism of Floyd is largely without merit.

Floyd’s numbers are not the most significant attribute he would bring with him to Charm City. The most significant attribute he would bring would absolutely be his size.

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In A Word, Todd Heap Was “Steady” in Baltimore

Posted on 02 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

I kept trying to come up with the word throughout the weekend.

After Todd Heap’s tenure with the Baltimore Ravens officially ended this weekend when he signed a two year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, I had hoped to come up with a word to describe Heap’s time in Charm City.

When we made a list of the Top 10 players in franchise history last week, both Drew Forrester and I agreed he was deserving of Top 10 status. There’s no doubt that Heap will ultimately return to M&T Bank Stadium to see his name honored along the facade in the team’s Ring of Honor.

That being said, Heap’s career numbers would certainly fall short of being considered “spectacular” during his 10 seasons in Baltimore. He  finished with 700 yards receiving or more in only three of those seasons, never tallying more than 855. He also never hauled in any more than seven touchdown passes in a single season. After achieving Pro Bowl and All-Pro status twice early in his career (2002 & 2003), the former Arizona State Sun Devils star never again reached the same heights.

While perhaps not always “great”, Heap was always good. Usually he was very good.

Heap wasn’t exactly a football highlight reel. There will always be certain plays that will be remembered from Heap’s career, starting with the leaping catch he made over two defenders in the Ravens’ 2002 Monday Night Football win over the  Denver Broncos and ending with the tremendous layout catch he made on MNF in the Meadowlands against the New York Jets in 2010.

There were others in between, but Heap was never a “SportsCenter” staple or must-see YouTube star.

Rarely would the word “spectacular” be used to describe the way Todd Heap played football. On top of that, Heap’s nature as a person was by no means larger-than-life. Unlike retiring NFL WR Randy Moss, Heap was rarely the go-to guy a reporter looked to for a quote, never making controversial statements about teammates, coaches, or frankly anyone.

If “spectacular” wasn’t going to be the word, perhaps the more appropriate word would be just “steady”.

Steady.

During his ten years in Baltimore, Todd Heap’s play could be best described as steady.

When a play needed to be made, it was safe for the Baltimore Ravens to look to Heap.

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Vonta Leach

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New Ravens FB Vonta Leach: “I’m ready to move on to a team that’s in the running for a Super Bowl”

Posted on 02 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Baltimore Ravens last week cut four veterans in an effort to clear some cap room-three of them veterans on the offensive side of the ball in WR Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, and RB Willis McGahee.

This also does’t include the likes of free agents T Jared Gaither, G Chris Chester and FB Le’Ron McClain who are all likely to take their services elsewhere, and in Chester’s case, he already has.

With wide receiver Anquan Boldin the only veteran returning to the lineup and with a coaching staff wanting to commit themselves to getting back to running the football with Ray Rice, the Ravens knew they needed to bolster that part of the offense.

So why not get the guy that blocked for the NFL’s leading rusher in Houston’s Arian Foster in 2010?

And that’s just what the Ravens did Sunday afternoon, as Baltimore signed FB Vonta Leach-widely believed to be the top free agent at the position.

Leach-the AFC’s Pro Bowl FB last year-signed a three year, 11 million dollar contract with the Ravens, which will reportedly make him the highest paid fullback in the league.

And he told Drew Forrester Monday morning that he’s worth every penny of that money.

He’s going to prove it, and he already told Ravens RB Ray Rice so.

“Me and Ray have talked on the phone,” Leach told Forrester. “I told him that I feel like if I block, whoever behind me will be alright.”

And for the most part, Leach is right.

Vonta Leach

Arian Foster last year for Houston-in only his second year in the league-finished atop the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards with Leach leading the way.

Leach also helped a former Maryland target in WVU RB Steve Slaton reach the 1,000 yard plateau in 2008-Slaton’s rookie year.

And he finally got the respect he deserved this year by earning a trip to Honolulu.

However, Leach told Forrester that he’s not playing in the NFL to make Pro Bowls.

He’s here to win Super Bowls, and he felt like the Ravens give him a good chance to make it there.

“I spent five great years in Houston,” Leach told Forrester. “I’m ready to move on to a team that’s in the running for a Super Bowl every year.”

It was having his seasons as a Texan end in the last week of December that got him thinking about his free agent destination despite Houston’s desire to overpay to get him back.

“I haven’t been playing in January in awhile, and I’m ready to get back into it,” he said.

And finally, he feels like if he does his job and the Ravens commit to using his and Ray Rice’s skills to their potential, he’ll be able to fulfill his desire very easily.

“I know what’s expected of me,” Leach said. “I’m a blocking fullback. That’s what I do. My main job is to do what I can to help this team win.”

WNST thanks Vonta Leach for joining Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction”! We sure to welcome to Baltimore on Twitter (@Vleach44) and check out the conversation at the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens lose Gregg; but Carr is parked in Baltimore

Posted on 30 July 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens continued their trend of 3-hour practices at Owings Mills on Saturday watching yet another member of their 2010 squad find his way to another NFL team, as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg signed a one-year with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gregg, 34, was one of the Ravens’ four big cuts last week (Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Willis McGahee and Gregg) and after McGahee reportedly signed a contract with the Denver Broncos yesterday, Gregg becomes the second of them to find another team, and another to join the AFC West.

Gregg was in high spirits last week when he talked with WNST’s own Glenn Clark, but it was indicated today that Gregg never received a contract offer from the Ravens.

The Ravens must have felt like if Gregg’s wait for a new deal would be extended, they might be inclined to go as low as possible to bring him back to Owings Mills.

Gregg signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs and will immediately compete for the nose tackle position out in Kansas City.

LB Jarret Johnson, who is in his ninth season, spent most of that time around Kelly. He talked with him over the phone several days ago, and while he hoped Gregg would come back, Johnson said both and he Gregg knew the writing was on the wall.

“I think he kind of expected it,” Johnson said, “but I know he wanted to be here obviously. But, it’s a tough situation, and you get to that stage in your career when the front office has to make moves. We’re all going to be there one day.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh used a classic movie line to discuss the departure of Gregg.

“Kansas City just gave him an offer-I guess you could say-‘an offer he couldn’t refuse’.”

Ravens keep their Carr

However, the wait didn’t last as long as you might expect, but the move the Ravens made wasn’t a big of a splash and still only brought one of their own back into the mix.

CB Chris Carr announced on his Twitter feed (@Triplcarr) that he had re-signed with the Ravens about midway through Saturday’s practice.

“Well, bmore. I’m backkkkk,” Carr said on Twitter. “Very excited to finish my career here.”

The fifth-year man out of Boise State who has played for both the Titans and the Raiders previously, returns to the Ravens and will likely be immediately placed back in his comfortable nickel corner position behind starters Domonique Foxworth and rookie Jimmy Smith.

Carr, who registered 61 tackles and 2 INTs last season in 16 games of work, played well last season in an expanded role.

The New York Jets and longtime defensive coordinator Rex Ryan had expressed interest in Carr, but fortunately for the Ravens, Carr is back in Baltimore.

“I’m very excited,” Harbaugh said. “This is something that we had hoped to do certainly with Josh or Chris-one of those two guys. They were both highly sought after, and Chris is a really great fit for us because he’s so versatile.”

Carr expressed that same enthusiasm.

“Thanks to all the support,” Carr tweeted. “I love it here in bmore and I love everything about being a Raven.”

The deal is reportedly four years in length, and Harbaugh was quick to say that he got what he deserved.

“I know he talked about wanting to be a starter, and we certainly consider him a starter. He is getting starter money.”

Harbaugh said they would have been happy to bring in any veteran corner back. They’re even more excited that it’s one of their own who knows the system.

“You can’t have enough corners,” Harbaugh said. “Ozzie said it, and it’s true. You have to be able to cover the quick passes, and those passes are covered one-on-one. There is just no way around it.”

Fullback Dicussion

The Ravens are still probably in need of a veteran fullback to replace the likes of LeRon McClain, who is a free agent.

The “veteran” on the roster-Jason McKie, who joined the team midway through the season last year, returned to practice Friday after suffering what appeared to be a serious leg injury on the first day on camp. He was again out for Saturday’s session and appeared like what happened on Wednesday was nothing more than a scare.

Reports however did surface on Wednesday that the market for McClain may be heating up out in Oakland, and the other fullback that has been linked to the Ravens, Texans FA FB Vonta Leach, has been given a bigger contract offer by his home team in an effort to retain his services.

Leach may be asking for a contract similar to that of former Raven Ovie Mughelli, who signed a six year, 18 million dollar contract with five million guaranteed back in 2007. If that is the case, the Ravens will probably decline his services to go with a cheaper option at the position.

Practice Notes

  • Safety Ed Reed was in attendance for today’s practice, but did not participate in drills.  Safety Nate Williams lined up at safety in Reed’s absence.
  • WR/KR David Reed, T Ramon Harewood, DT Brandon McKinney, G Ben Grubbs all did not participate in practice as they remain on the PUP list. Others who did not participate in today’s practice include WR Hakeem Moore (Towson), T Andre Ramsey, C Ryan Bartholomew, WR Terrell Zachary also did not practice. Bartholomew was not present.
  • With Grubbs on PUP and Yanda not able to suit up until the league year begins, the two guards lining up with the first team unit were rookie free agent Justin Boren and Brady Bond, who spent time on the practice squad last year. Boren lined up at LG next to Michael Oher, and Bond lined up at RG next to Jah Reid.
  • Reid said at the podium afterward that he is getting used to the speed of the game, and that he took several good licks from the defense. When asked who delivered the hits, Reid said he couldn’t remember, but that it was “one of those linebackers.”
  • The receivers certainly did their part in Saturday’s practice, as both Torrey Smith and James Hardy got looks with the first team unit opposite Anquan Boldin. Torrey Smith caught a fade route late in practice over his fellow draft pick in CB Jimmy Smith, and those two have been competing back and forth day-by-day in practice. Torrey after practice said that their competing will be an institution in Baltimore for years to come, he thinks. “He got me a couple times at the line today, so we can go back and forth for years. I’ll wear mine, and he can wear his.”
  • James Hardy offers an intriguing scenario to the Ravens. Everyone keeps talking about how the Ravens need to get a big WR who can go up and get the ball. Hardy-a former 2nd round pick of the Bills and stands at 6’5”, 220, could be that guy. But fundamental mistakes-including letting the opposing CB jump in front of his routes at times during Saturday’s practice, might deflate that suggestion. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron at one point ripped into Hardy, yelling “Get in front of his face! We have to win our one-on-one battles gentleman! They’ll be double-teaming us on the other side, and we won’t be able to do anything!”
  • Tyrod Taylor-who got much of the second and third looks on the day, started out inaccurate with his throws, either missing the receiver completely or not allowing the ballcatcher to get the ball in stride.  He did make a nice 30-yard throw along the sidelines to Justin Harper over CB Josh Victorian, but it will be interesting to see how his progression comes along each day in camp.
  • LB Jason Phillips did a great job in pass coverage hovering over the running back, and even delivered a bone-crushing hit on RB Matt Lawrence in the hole that was probably the biggest and loudest of the day. At the same time though, he also missed some tackles on outside sweeps.

Hear from John Harbaugh, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, WR coach Jim Hostler, and LB Jarret Johnson in the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!

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