Tag Archive | "todd"

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The Young and Restless

Posted on 14 November 2008 by Brian Billick

As I prepared for my game this week between the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs I had a chance to see first hand what the Chiefs are going through with their purging of their roster and building anew this franchise. Trading away their best defensive player (Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings) and loading up on draft choices this year you can clearly see the commitment the Chiefs have made to the future, and the growing pains they are experiencing at 1-8.

Seeing Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson put this plan in motion, I can’t help but think back to the 2002 season when Ozzie Newsome and I were faced with the same task.

As much as we as coaches would like to think otherwise, our jobs (particularly that of a head coach) are inexorably linked to the finances of any given situation. In 2000 the Baltimore Ravens reached the top of the professional football pyramid winning Super Bowl XXXV and then returning to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in 2001. The price was unavoidable, however.

In 2002, the Ravens fielded the youngest team ever (19 rookies) in the history of the NFL. The decisions made in the preceding years to the “Cap Purge” of 02’ were all made with the consensus agreement that the team would have to be gutted after the 2001 season. With every signing leading up to the Super Bowl year General Manager Ozzie Newsome would make the obligatory observation, “Now we all know the piper has to be paid in 2002, right.” It was an acknowledgment by all involved that the expenditure “over the cap” had an unavoidable consequence in today’s NFL. That for every dollar “over the cap” you spend you will be devoid of those dollars in subsequent years.

At the heart of the Ravens’ Championship year were players like Shannon Sharpe, Priest Holmes, Rob Burnett, Duane Starks,Tony Siragusa, Qadry Ismail, Sam Adams. Jeff Mitchell, Jamie Sharper, Jermaine Lewis and even future Hall of Fame Rod Woodson would all be victims of the financial “balancing of the books” that every team must come to recon with.

It was only fitting that the cover of the 2002 Ravens’ Media Guide adorned the oil portraits of myself and Ozzie. Indeed, we where left with the task of rebuilding a championship team with our “financial” hands tied behind our backs. We did so in the only way left to a team in this situation and that is to draft and draft well.

Draftees like Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Todd Heap, Gary Baxter, Casey Rabach, Edgerton Hartwell, Ed Reed, Anthony Weaver, Dave Zastudil and Chester Taylor would team with holdovers Chris McAlister and future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden to form an AFC North Division Championship team in 2003. They key was the franchise’s willingness to take the dramatic steps to “purge” their championship team of older and more expensive talent and replace it with younger more affordable players.

The problem lies in being a victim of your own success. When you draft well, even though the young player comes cheaper, they play themselves into the higher priced market that makes it increasingly tough to keep all of your good players. Ultimately, the successes of drafting Ed Reed, Todd Heap and Terrell Suggs then forced the Ravens to let go of Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Gary Baxter, Casey Rabach, Edgerton Hartwell, Anthony Weaver, Dave Zastudil and Chester Taylor. It has become a vicious cycle, in a reverse of nature, the “young eating their old.”

In training camp of the 2002 purge year Todd Heap had a humorous, but acute observation. We had long had a tradition on our team that the most veteran players got to sit in first class when we traveled. Typically that would be seven or eight players, usually with 10+ years in the league. Todd Heap, who was just entering his third year in the league, at our first OTA with this young group observed, “Coach, looks like I am going to be in first class this season.”

Having spent the day with Herm Edwards, it’s clear he is finding the same things I did in 2002. Though tough getting through the loses, it was one of the most enjoyable years I have had coaching. Working with and developing the young talent is what being a coach is all about. Herm will also find that by having to play so many young players you are going to learn a great deal more about them than you might otherwise have a chance to do. Next year when he looks at his roster and sees a bunch of 2nd and 3rd year players he will not have to worry about how they will play in their first starts. They will all have 10 to 16 games of playing experience.

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Just how good are the Ravens?

Posted on 10 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s not time to start printing playoff tickets just yet but if there’s any message that the Ravens sent to not only the Houston Texans but the NFL in general yesterday, it’s that this team is suddenly “for real.”

Any team that can go on the road and paste a team 41-13 in November to go to 6-3 must be taken seriously as a January threat.

Sure, it’s easy to say this: “Who have the Ravens beaten this year that matters?”

The answer: Cleveland twice, Oakland, Cincinnati, Miami and now Houston – combined record of 13-29.

Fair enough.

But the next seven weeks will work all of that out.

Are the Ravens a mediocre team that has bested a homely lot or an emerging playoff team waiting to break out and start beating some quality opponents?

There is one thing we know for sure.

With a date at the Meadowlands pending – and yes, we still have a handful of seats left on our “Miller Lite Purple Bus” to the swamps of Jersey this Sunday – the Ravens now control their own destiny in this chase for playoff football and a potential AFC North division crown.

It’s down to the Ravens and the Steelers in the AFC North and as tough as the purple schedule looks during the upcoming holiday season, it’s not any easier for yins’ donton either.

The Ravens have played nine games and have laid just one egg. They could easily be 8-1 with a little luck and some fourth quarter defense in the losses against Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

But I’m delighted with 6-3 and an emerging offense, stingy defense and the veteran play of Ray Lewis, Trevor Pryce and company leading the way for John Harbaugh’s troops. Yes, it’s been a VERY good year thus far, especially given the team’s modest expectations to be a .500 outfit.

There’s no crystal ball and no telling how the team will fare when the likes of the NFC East comes calling. But all of a sudden the upcoming matchups against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh at home don’t look so lopsided and quarterback Joe Flacco has looked less like a rookie than a veteran game manager and occasional long ball tosser who, combined with an effective three-headed backfield of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain, looks to be a factor in this run for January football.

It’s officially “Festivus” season in Baltimore.

Break out the purple lights.

Break out the expectations of fun on Sundays.

And by all means, enjoy this rarest of seasons – a November and holiday full of cheer, potential and hope for a playoff berth.

The good news came in waves yesterday.

The most significant developments happened on the offensive side of the ball, where Derrick Mason went down with a separated shoulder and Todd Heap got off the milk carton of the purple offense.

No doubt that No. 86 has heard the whispers of his pending demise and answered yesterday with his best game of the season.

Meanwhile, Ray Lewis turned in an effort with the impact he formerly had as a much younger man. Two interceptions, running sideline to sideline to once again hold an opposing offense’s star running back to less than 100 yards of rushing.

That makes 29 in a row, if my count is right.

Haloti Ngata’s interception at the goal line sparked a defensive effort that was classic Ravens defense but his contributions on every play should be earning him a grass skirt en route to Honolulu in early February. You’d be hard-pressed to find me a defensive tackle who is playing the game at a higher level right now as the defense continues to break the will of opposing running backs and frustrate and chase quarterbacks each Sunday.

Next up: the World Champion New York Giants.

They had their hands full with Philadelphia last night.

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The afterglow of Cleveland

Posted on 03 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

With just over a quarter remaining in yesterday’s key divisional AFC North matchup, the Ravens were 14 points down on the road, the Browns fans were coming to life with a chorus of “Hang on Sloopy” (don’t ask…just watch the video!) and the vultures were circling our black birds at Cleveland Stadium.

Some of the Cleveland “faithful” had already begun to pile out onto the street to watch Bruce Springsteen perform before the Barack Obama rally, which was literally adjacent to the stadium (think as close as Oriole Park is to M&T Bank Stadium).

The Browns had our rookie quarterback on the run. Our beaten defense had been pushed around for 30 minutes – or as Terrell Suggs said: “We were getting our asses handed to us.” And staring at a two-touchdown deficit on the road in a hostile environment, it didn’t feel as though a comeback was in the offering.

Todd Heap hadn’t caught a pass. Willis McGahee was on the pine. The backend of the secondary, while not looking like Ike Booth and Donny Brady circa 1996 was still not Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle in their prime for sure.

But, as we learned in the locker room after the game, it was about that time that Ray Lewis came to the forefront on the sidelines and talked about playing a full 60 minutes of football. He talked about believing and not quitting. All of the stuff many may view as “rhetoric” when it doesn’t work was viewed as gospel once the Ravens came storming back to score 24 unanswered points during the final 16 minutes of the game.

And, lo and behold, the Ravens created their first miracle of the John Harbaugh administration and gave us our best memory of Cleveland yet, a stunning 37-27 victory on The Lake. (Well, it’s at least the the best memory in Cleveland since the Roberto Alomar homer back in 1996.)

While the real world is in a seemingly constant state of financial crisis and life isn’t a whole lot of fun for most of us from the gas pump to the checkbook, it’s stupid stuff like sports that can create a little bit of fun and a diversion from daily life. At least here in Baltimore with the fantasyland that sports provides us, it’s turning into a very good year for our football team, which makes for nice Monday mornings.

Hell, it makes for great WEEKS in my world, where everywhere I go and everything I do leads me into a conversation about football and the Ravens.

So, on a personal note, there’s nothing more gratifying than when the Ravens win.

It helps WNST morale. It helps the morale of the community. And it makes food taste a little better and the beer is, to quote Chuck Thompson, a little colder.

The Ravens are 5-3, headed off to play Houston in six days and apparently will draw the Sage Rosenfels quarterback card instead of Matt Schaub, who left the Texans’ game early yesterday.

Ray Lewis is playing like a man possessed, showing himself to be the veteran leader in his “walk” year that we’ve been wanting to see as fans.

It’s officially time to start talking about “Festivus.”

(Does John Harbaugh even know about this sacred football holiday?)

And then there are the three “rookies” who stepped to the podium after yesterday’s gritty, improbable win.

Ray Rice had as big of a day on the road when it mattered against a division rival as you can imagine a rookie having. (Although he’ll be hearing about getting knocked out of bounds short of the end zone a few times this week from teammates.)

Joe Flacco was almost flawless in his effort yesterday and continues to show poise, confidence and ability that are beyond his years.

And rookie coach John Harbaugh is starting to show results in the only place it really matters: the team is 5-3 and could be in first place by the end of the night.

Only time will tell if yesterday’s offense-defense bonding on the Lake will take root and this will be a playoff team (or maybe even a true contender for a Super Bowl title in this oddest of seasons).

The conversations here and around town will talk about the obvious problems: the lack of a bye week, the powerful NFC North teams looming during the holidays and tough games and the secondary will probably be a question mark until proven otherwise. There will be plenty of time to debate all of this, week to week, as the team continues to mature.

But yesterday was one for the books — a classic, an unexpected gem to begin the Festivus season. Not even being stuck in the Cleveland airport for three extra hours last night could wipe the smile off of my face.

As I walked to the subway after hearing about 25 minutes of Springsteen (as many of you know, one of my favorites), we strolled to Tower City Mall as Bruce broke out an acoustic version of “The Rising” and dedicated it to Barack Obama, who was about to take the stage.

Bruce could have just as easily sent that one out to the purple birds, who were trying to navigate the insane scene of 100,000 people on the square downtown en route to the airport for a “rising” of their own.

The rising to the top of the AFC North, creating even more separation from the whole state of Ohio.

The rain began to fall on the Cleveland night as the sun set before 5 p.m. for the beginning of a long, cold winter on Lake Erie.

The Ravens are 5-3. The Browns are 3-5.

Going in opposite directions once again.

The bad news?

We’re all stuck rooting for the Redskins tonight.

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Selig makes the right call in Philadelphia

Posted on 28 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Even the blind squirrel finds the nut eventually, my Mom once told me. And for once, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball did the right thing.

Calling the game when they did in its suspended fashion was absolutely the obvious choice in deciding this sticky weather situation.

Via the magic of the internet and the Comcast DVR, I’ve had quite an evening. My evening began at the Ravens team Halloween party to benefit Goodwill Industries at Dave & Buster’s at Arundel Mills Mall. My comrades Casey Willett and Ray Bachman joined me and we did a series of wnsTV interviews with Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Jason Brown and Jameel McClain. It was a great party, raising over $100,00 for the charity and there were 15 Ravens players in the house, including co-host Mark Clayton, Haruki Nakamura, Adam Terry and a bunch of others.

I got home at 10 p.m. I had both the World Series and the Tennessee-Indianapolis game set on the DVR. I got caught up in the baseball game before we even left the bar and joined it in real time. By 10:30, it was raining pretty hard and anyone who was watching had to be asking the same question we were: “Why in the world are they playing? This is no way to settle a World Series title!”

So, they halted the game in a rain delay right after the Rays tied the game 2-2, and 45 minutes later (after we had started the Colts-Titans game on the DVR), we heard about the “suspended” status on MLB.com. We tried for a few minutes to get the info about the rules, the makeup time and date — ya know, the basic 411 and “what are they doing?” stuff. Ten seconds later, I’m listening to the Bud Selig press conference in real time on the internet as I watch the second quarter of the football game from Nashville. And this shapes up to be a pretty good game right now.

(Shh, don’t wreck it for me!! And don’t send me result-related texts in real time during a gamenight. I’m in delay probably 80% of the time.)

It’s a perfect sports world, being around and on the internet in 2008, right?

I’m pretty sure the game is over and I’m avoiding surfing the web because I’m now watching the second half of the Titans-Colts game in delay.

It’s midnight. One false move and “Titan win late” or “Colts pull out big road win” headline blare and it wrecks my whole night.

I have no idea who won and I might even turn it off and pick it up in progress for breakfast. In my living room, sometimes Monday Night Football often becomes Tuesday Morning Football. With coffee and cereal…

Certainly tonight has been memorable and Game 5 of the 2008 World Series has instantly become a fascinating “footnote” in baseball history.

The game is suspended. And they’ll pick it where they left off. And the darts will come from every direction.

Should they have even played past the fourth inning?

Should the Phillies be ahead or tied?

Does Bud Selig have the power to change the rules and decide anything he feels like deciding on short notice?

And they might not even play until Thursday night with the weather forecast ominous over the next 48 hours. Who knows?

But it’s gonna make for a good water cool talk.

Or a day’s worth of sports talk radio.

Hey I’m watching a great football game and we’ll pick the baseball tomorrow.

Or Wednesday.

A perfect sports night…

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Watching Moyer awakens old O’s memories

Posted on 25 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

The World Series has returned to Philadelphia for the first time in 15 years. The fans are bathed in red and the series is tied 1-1. To the mound tonight for the Fightin’ Phils: Jamie Moyer.

A blast from the past, and I suppose most fans don’t even associate him with the Orioles, but I remember his time in orange and black quite vividly.

I met Jamie Moyer at the Huggins-Stengel Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. during the spring training of 1993. I wrote an extensive blog about my experience there last year but it was an incredible adventure covering those Orioles teams. One of my favorite experiences as a professional even after all of these years.

Moyer was a super astute student of the game, a likeable guy who a young Mike Mussina and others like Todd Frohwirth and Mark Williamson liked to talk strategy and “real pitching” with. He was a borderline major-leaguer at that point, who had bounced around three organizations and didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 1992 (he spent the whole summer in AAA Toledo after six years in the big leagues)

He was a long shot to make the team coming out of Florida. He was a non-roster invitee and basically an afterthought. That was a season when Ben McDonald, Fernando Valenzuela, Rick Sutcliffe, Arthur Rhodes and Mussina were the starting staff.

It was 1993 and he was basically “washed up.”

Well, you know the rest of the story.

He made the team (and I think he might’ve had some coffee in Rochester that spring as well). He was a back of the rotation starter, who was wily mixing speeds and location like a Scott McGregor and used his smarts like a Mike Flanagan to get guys out. In three seasons of the Orioles’ heyday for attendance and overall interest after Camden Yards’ opening, he went 25-22 on some forgettable on-the-field teams sandwiched around the 1994 strike. He was on the field the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gerhig’s streak.

Moyer was a good guy, a real professional. His wife, Karen, is former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps’ daughter. Phelps was omnipresent around the team during those years, always making time to do my radio show and talk college basketball with me. Moyer’s wife was outgoing, friendly and loved sports. She even asked me for “GET NASTY” shirt and swore she wore it when she ran every day.

When he left the Orioles before the 1996 season, Moyer had made less than $3 million playing baseball for a decade.

He signed in Boston, was dealt to Seattle and went on to win 145 games in 10 seasons there as a franchise pitcher.

Moyer is still pitching in the World Series at the age of 46. He’s doing it in his hometown. He’s pitched 22 seasons and won 246 games but has never pitched in a World Series game after three other trips to the postseason. It’s the greatest night of his professional life and he’s made almost $60 million more dollars after being all but out of baseball 15 years ago, right around the last time his hometown Phillies were last playing October baseball.

The game started a little late, the fans are pretty stewed up in Filthy.

I hope Jamie Moyer pitches a classic.

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Coach Harbaugh speaks on Chris McAlister’s status and Terrell Suggs comments

Posted on 24 October 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some news and notes as it relates to Ravens on Friday:

-Chris McAlister took 11 reps on Wednesday and has not practiced the last two days. So do not look for him to start on Sunday.

-Derrick Mason missed the last two days of practice with a severe headache. Mason attended meetings this morning but did not practice.

-Coach Harbaugh said that all of the talk about Terrell Suggs, Troy Smith, and Chris McAlister, has not been a distraction for the team. Some of the guys have joked with Suggs about it, but that is about as far as is it goes.

-Terrell Suggs and Coach Harbaugh have discussed his statement about Troy Smith should be the starting quarterback and that it is a non issue and he takes Suggs at his word when he said he just thought they both should play.

Here is the statement released by Terrell Suggs about the statements that he made about the bounty:

I’ve got to set the record straight about what I said about so-called bounties. I tried to explain this on Wednesday, but it keeps coming back up.

“We, the players, don’t pay each other to take another player out of the game. And you know coaches don’t do that. As I said before, we prepare to stop the other team’s best players every week. Those are the players who can beat you with big plays. For example, we’ve focused all this week on stopping the Raiders’ running backs. We’ve focused on them in practice and in meetings. They are marked men by our defense – we have to know where they are on every play, and we can’t let them get rolling on Sunday.

“When I did the radio show in Atlanta, that’s what I meant and I thought that’s what I said. I did repeat the word bounty early in the interview after the guy asking me the question used the word. That was a mistake. I misspoke, and I’m sorry for that.

“I hope that clears this up.”

Jim Leonhard  took some reps as the backup holder for Matt Stover. He is doing this because he would be the guy if something was to happen to Sam Koch. This is because Todd Bouman will be the 3rd string emergency quarterback.

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I heart 1983 & The AirTran Curse

Posted on 16 October 2008 by emilyagueda

I cannot let this anniversary pass without reminiscing on one of the most celebrated sports events in my life.  A middle class family of 6 doesn’t spend a lot on outside entertainment.  When it came to baseball, even though my mother spent most of her formative years at the stadium watching home team – the team her father managed – my sisters and I never set foot in a stadium.  The O’s pennant run and World Series victory gave me my one chance as a kid to get close to the team I listened to on the radio and watched on TV.  It was the biggest surprise of my life when my parents packed us up in the big brown station wagon and took us to the airport to greet our victorious team.  That memory is ingrained in my head.  I hope to do that again in my lifetime.

For some reason, last night driving home, the Todd Heap AirTran billboard jumped out at me.  Does the AirTran billboard have the same power of a Madden NFL cover shot?  I seem to remember the last version of this billboard had Steve McNair, with Danica Patrick in between.  Interesting.  Although, getting into a public girl fight might not merit as a curse fulfilled.

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Today we continue out education about the 2008 Ravens

Posted on 05 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concerns for the Ravens today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ravens – Browns notes and my six pack for the game

Posted on 21 September 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some notes from the history between the two teams:
The Ravens look to snap a 2-game losing streak to the Browns. Last season, Cleveland swept Baltimore for the first time since 2001.
The Ravens are 11-7 all time vs Cleveland, including 6-3 at home. Baltimore has won 4 of the last 5 games played against the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens are 19-6 in their last 25 home games. Dating back to 2000, Baltimore is 47-18 at M&T Bank Stadium, tied(Ind. And Den.) for the 2nd-best home record in the NFL.
The Ravens look to start 2-0 for just the 3rd time in franchise history (2000 and 2006).
The Ravens have won 5 of their last 6 coming off the bye. Baltimore snapped a 5-game bye winning streak in 2007 when it dropped a 38-7 game at Pittsburgh (11/5) after the bye.
Ed Reed has 263 INT return yards and 2 INT-TDs are also his most against any NFL team.
The Ravens have recorded at least 1 INT in 7 consecutive games against the Browns. Baltimore has posted 11 picks in those contests, producing 256 return yards and 2 TDs. Here are the individual game-by-thefts for Baltimore over that time
Here is my six pack for the Ravens – Browns game:
  1. Contain Braylon Edwards: So far this year Edwards has had a disappointing season. The Ravens can not afford to let him get going against them today. Cover Edwards from the time he gets off the team bus till the time he gets back on it. I would not be surprised to see a Terrell Suggs or Bart Scott go out on Edwards just to give him a nice solid hit and try and rattle him early. Edwards maybe a game time decision as to whether he will play or not due to a shoulder injury he suffered last week against Pittsburgh. If he does try and play with a hurt shoulder, the Ravens will be very physical with him.
  1. Make Derek Anderson uncomfortable: Anderson has proven that maybe he is not this legendary quarterback that everyone thought he was last year. Last year all of his offense was healthy. This year he is missing two of his receivers, Braylon Edwards is a little banged up, and Jamal Lewis has struggled. The offensive line for the Browns will be with out Eric Steinbach today who has been a huge help to the development of Joe Thomas. Maybe the Ravens defense can throw some exotic blitzes at Thomas and try to confuse him.
  1. Limit Josh Cribbs: Cribbs has become one of the most dangerous return guys in the NFL. The Ravens will have to have a plan today to limit his chances for big returns. Cribbs can help a struggling offense out a lot by giving them a short field to work on. One big advantage that the Ravens might have is that Jerry Rosburg the Ravens special teams coach was the special teams coach for the Browns the first couple of years Cribbs was in the league.
  1. Attack with offense: The Browns defense comes into the game missing a couple of big pieces. With DE Robaire Smith now out with a season ending achillies injury, and the secondary missing Sean Jones, what was already a suspect defense has some big holes in it. The Ravens offense has to be physical and attacking much like they were against the Bengals. The big matchup to watch and the key to the Ravens running attack having success is Jason Brown versus Shaun Rogers. If the interior offensive line can contain Rogers that could really open up some big running lanes for the running backs.
  1. Find Heap: After most fans were ready to run Heap out of town after his week one performance, I look for him to have a big game this week. Heap will want to go have a solid performance to make up for last week, but also he creates match up problems for the Browns defender trying to stay with him. There is really no one on that defense who can stay with Heap, and they may have to send extra guys to put pressure on Flacco which could open up the field for Heap.
  1. Let Joe go: Look for Cam Cameron to open up the playbook a little bit in the passing game for Flacco this week. This will be a key to keeping the Browns honest in respecting the passing game. Now, I do not think that you will see Flacco throwing the ball 20 times down the field for long gains, but I think he will take some deep shots to test this suspect secondary. Ideally the Ravens do not want Flacco to throw the ball 20-30 times, because that might be an indication that the running attack is not working. Flacco will probably end up with the same type of stats as in week 1, but with more throws down the field.
My prediction : Ravens 23 – Browns 13

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Thursday Ravens Notes

Posted on 18 September 2008 by caseywillett

4:33
Here is the Ravens injury report for Thursday:
OUT:
Troy Smith
Did Not Participate:
Brendon Ayanbadejo (leg)
Kelly Gregg (knee)
Corey Ivy (ankle)
Limited Participation:
Yamon Figurs (hamstring)
Nick Greisen (thigh)
Derrick Martin (shoulder)
Fabian Washington (neck)
Full Participation:
Todd Heap (wrist)
Marshal Yanda (knee)
Demetrius Williams (hamstring)

Here are some notes from the media session with Special Teams Coach Jerry Rosburg, Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan, and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron:

The Ravens special teams unit will have their hands full with Josh Cribbs as he is one of the most dangerous return guys in the NFL. Interestingly enough, Coach Jerry Rosburg was the person who turned Cribbs into a return guy. Cribbs was a quarterback out of Kent State when he was signed as a free agent by the Browns in ’05.
The Ravens offensive line will have their hands full with big defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. He is a guy that demands a double team from the offensive line and will be a big challenge for Jason Brown.
Willis McGahee will see some playing this Sunday, but I do not look for him to start and to only play a limited amount of time on Sunday.
According to Rex Ryan, this will be the best defense that the Browns will have faced so far this year. So far they have faced the Cowboys who only allowed 10 points, and the Steelers who only allowed 6 points.
Rex Ryan pointed out that part of the struggles of the Browns so far has been that they are missing Joe Jurevicius and Donte Stallworth on offense, but are still a very dangerous team offensively.
Look for Justin Bannan to get another start on the defensive line as Kelly Gregg still appears to be unlikely to play on Sunday
Willie Anderson will fit into the mix at the tackle position this Sunday. Willie will now rotate with Adam Terry and Jared Gaither, and Terry could move over to left tackle at times during the game
Here are notes from the media portion of practice:
-Missing: Troy Smith, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Kelly Gregg, Corey Ivy
-Back at work: Yamon Figurs, Ed Reed, Demetrius Williams, Derrick Martin
-Lorenzo Neal was wearing #43 which is the number that belongs to Haruki Nakamura. Haruki was also wearing #43. Lorenzo is listed on the roster as still wearing #42.

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