Tag Archive | "trevor pryce"

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Former Ravens DE Pryce Bored, But NFL Return Unlikely

Posted on 25 April 2012 by WNST Audio

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Trevor Pryce Headed To The Big Apple …..

Posted on 30 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, if you subscribe to the WNST Text Service, you’re already aware of the news regarding FORMER Ravens defensive lineman, Trevor Pryce …..

Believe me, there is a reason why I emphasized the word FORMER. This morning, Rex Ryan swooped in and pulled a fast one on his former employers by inking Pryce to a new deal for the remainder of the season.

The Jets have been dealing with issues and injuries to their D-Line, since the opener against the Ravens, a couple weeks ago. But, I’m sure it’s a sweet day for “Team Ryan,” nonetheless.

As always, Glenn Clark is on the scene in Owings Mills and he’ll be reporting throughout the day, at 1570am and WNST.net …..

Stay tuned AND IF YOU’RE NOT ON THE WNST TEXT SERVICE, SIGN UP TODAY !!!!!

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Live from Westminster: Ravens limping through final days of camp

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — With injuries continuing to hinder the training camp roster, John Harbaugh and the Ravens are probably thinking they cannot get away from McDaniel College fast enough and back to the cozy confines of 1 Winning Drive as the injury list continues to grow daily, particularly on the offensive line.

Right tackle Oniel Cousins was carted off the field after suffering from a headache on Wednesday morning. Cousins, already filling in for the injured Jared Gaither (back tear), appeared to be laboring earlier in practice and stood on the sidelines for a considerable time before leaving the field. The training staff will test Cousins for a possible concussion.

Tony Moll filled in on the right side in Cousins’ absence while Chris Chester continues to handle the center position in place of Matt Birk (neck). Other linemen missing practice included Stefan Rodgers (arm) and Daniel Sanders (arm).

It was an “over-30 club” day in Westminster, meaning the likes of Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason were given the day off. With veterans receiving a respite and so many others not practicing, fans could be forgiven if they didn’t recognize all players running with the starting units at times.

New absences from practice included fullback Le’Ron McClain (back/thigh) and linebackers Tavares Gooden (neck) and Prescott Burgess (undisclosed). McClain appeared to be dealing with an upper thigh issue over the last few days, even having the hip and thigh region wrapped during Saturday afternoon’s practice. The starting fullback was in street clothes, walking with a limp during the morning session, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

Gooden continues to deal with neck spasms after sustaining an awkward hit to the neck in the preseason opener. Despite practicing the last two days, the team will use caution the rest of the week in hopes that Gooden will be able to play against the Redskins on Saturday.

“[The neck] just keeps tightening back up on him,” Harbaugh said. “We need to just sit him down and settle him down.”

Gooden’s health clouds what has been an intriguing competition at inside linebacker after Jameel McClain lost his stronghold at the position with a poor performance in the preseason opener. McClain has received more work at the “Sam” outside linebacker with the second unit this week. Harbaugh hopes to get extended looks at all three with the starting defense over the final three preseason games.

“We’ll kind of move those guys around the next two weeks, and we’ll know where we’re at.”

In addition to the “over-30” club—which includes Lewis, Mason, Birk, Todd Heap, Travis Fisher, Trevor Pryce, and Kelly Gregg (Ed Reed and Brendon Ayanbadejo are still on the PUP list)—defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), and defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg) joined the aforementioned players as non-participants in the morning practice.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh, rookie receiver David Reed, and safety Tom Zbikowski’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson following practice.

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1:40 p.m. — Both Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham missed from 45 yards on Wednesday morning. Cundiff pulled his attempt wide left while Graham was wide right on his try.

Each kicker connected from 19, 40, and 51 yards as both continue to produce similar results day in and day out in Westminster.

12:45 p.m. — With Thursday being the last two-a-day of the summer, coaches and players are laboring through the final workouts in Westminster and toward the remainder of the preseason schedule. John Harbaugh has been pleased with the team’s work during camp, evidenced by his cancellation of three practices (one on Saturday and two on Sunday) over the last week.

“You get to this point and it’s time to [go],” Harbaugh said. “You’re looking into the next phase of camp. Going into this practice [on Tuesday morning], we wanted to make sure that we have five good practices before we leave here, to make the most of it, and we did a good job today.”

The Ravens will conduct a walk-through on Friday before breaking camp and continuing their preseason preparation at their practice complex in Owings Mills.

12:35 p.m. — As mentioned yesterday, rookie David Reed has struggled to catch the ball consistently after a strong beginning in Westminster. Reed, a fifth-round pick in April, was expected to battle for the fifth receiver job but has fallen out of contention with Demetrius Williams having such a strong—and injury-free—training camp.

With three preseason games remaining, Reed will need a strong showing at receiver and on special teams to avoid being cut or stashed away on the practice squad—or Injured Reserve with a mysterious injury.

“You want consistency,” Harbaugh said about the young receivers following Tuesday’s practice. “For whatever reason, we dropped a lot of balls out here today. I thought the quarterbacks were just a little more in rhythm with their throws [and] a little quicker versus the pressure, which is what we want, and maybe it caught the receivers a little bit off guard.”

Hale acknowledges he has struggled to catch the football in camp, something he has not experienced previously in his career.

“I don’t drop too many passes [typically],” Reed said. “That’s one thing I carry myself [with], I don’t drop passes. I’m getting it back.”

12:20 p.m. — Cornerback Chris Carr and receiver Mark Clayton suited up to practice but were limited participants throughout the morning session. Carr has taken part in individual drills the last two days but continues to sit out team portions of practice as he continues to recover from a left hamstring injury sustained on Aug. 7.

With Carr sitting out 11-on-11 drills and the 30-year-old Travis Fisher not practicing, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams were the cornerbacks with the first defense.

Clayton had his right ankle taped before walking out to practice, but the receiver stood on the sideline without a helmet and gloves for much of practice. Demetrius Williams and Donte’ Stallworth split reps at receiver opposite of Anquan Boldin with Clayton out and Mason receiving the day off.

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2010 Ravens Training Camp Preview: 10 Purple Questions

Posted on 27 July 2010 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens begin their 15th training camp at McDaniel College in Westminster, expectations are as high as they’ve ever been for a team with serious Super Bowl aspirations in 2010.

From the acquisition of impact receiver Anquan Boldin to the continued maturity of quarterback Joe Flacco, prognosticators across the country have earmarked the Ravens as serious contenders to raise the Lombardi Trophy at Cowboys Stadium in early February.

Despite the loud optimism for this Ravens team, many questions remain unanswered, as is the case with any of the 32 teams in late July.

In honor of this year’s 10th anniversary of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory, I pose 10 questions as the men in purple report to McDaniel College this week:

1. What’s the deal with Ed Reed?

Reed’s name has created buzz throughout the offseason dating back to his uncertainty of whether he would return following the Ravens’ playoff loss in Indianapolis. Since then, the All-Pro safety has declared his intention to return, but when we’ll see him on the field is anyone’s guess.

After undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, Reed declared himself at only “35 percent” as late as last week in comments to various media outlets. Speculation persists that Reed will begin the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and miss the first six weeks of the regular season.

In addition to his health, Reed’s relationship with the organization is on shaky ground after the veteran safety expressed his displeasure with the team’s amount of support during his recovery. Reed also shared his desire for a new contract several weeks ago when he spoke to Drew Forrester on The Morning Reaction and has repeated the sentiment several times since.

Regardless of Reed’s shaky standing with the team, his uncertain health with the hip and lingering nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder may force the Ravens to turn to newly-acquired veteran Ken Hamlin or third-year safety Tom Zbikowski to fill Reed’s void in the defensive backfield.

His health will be monitored closely over the next four weeks, as has been the case during the last two summers at McDaniel College.

2. Will Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb be ready to go on September 13th?

Reed’s status will grab the headlines, but the health of Washington and Webb could prove equally critical as the two corners—both recovering from ACL injuries—will compete for the starting job opposite Domonique Foxworth in the Baltimore secondary.

Washington appears to be further along in his recovery, but both are candidates to begin training camp on the active-PUP list (eligible to come off the list at any point during camp). In the meantime, Chris Carr will receive reps as the other starting corner.

Slow recoveries for either Washington or Webb would open the door for new acquisitions Travis Fisher and Walt Harris to compete with Cary Williams (suspended for the first two regular season games) and Marcus Paschal for the final cornerback spots on the 53-man roster.

3. Is Joe Flacco ready to take the next step into stardom in his third season?

Entering his third season as starting quarterback and fully recovered from leg injuries that hampered him last season, Flacco is expected to take the next step in developing into one of the finer quarterbacks in the league.

The offseason acquisitions of Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth and the re-signing of veteran Derrick Mason give Flacco a plethora of weapons in the passing game in addition to the dependability of Ray Rice coming out of the backfield.

Flacco was criticized last season for checking down so often and avoiding the middle of the field, but the excuse of not having sufficient weapons will no longer be in play.

In order for the offense to grow, he will be expected to do even more in the passing game.

4. How quickly can Sergio Kindle recover from his accident in Austin?

While the details surrounding the accident remain sketchy, Kindle’s injury on Thursday night creates a nightmarish start to his NFL career with the Ravens, as the young linebacker will miss all of training camp with a fractured skull.

Kindle was expected to back up linebacker Jarret Johnson and provide a legitimate pass rushing threat on third down for the Baltimore defense, so the Ravens can only hope he makes a speedy recovery and eventually contributes to a pass rush that struggled to pressure the quarterback in 2009.

Unfortunately, it sounds more like a matter of if—not when—he can return to contribute before season’s end. It’s a major blow to the Baltimore defense but paves the way for Antwan Barnes, Jameel McClain, and Paul Kruger to become bigger factors in passing situations.

5. How prepared is Terrell Suggs to rebound from a disappointing 2009 campaign?

It was no secret that the organization was unhappy with Terrell Suggs’ 2009 campaign after he signed a $62.5 million contract last July. The linebacker arrived in Westminster out of shape and injured his heel on the third day of full-team workouts, sidelining him for the duration of training camp.

This translated into a sluggish season for the talented linebacker, which included a career-low 4.5 sacks and an MCL injury due to a low block from former Browns quarterback Brady Quinn.

Harbaugh voiced his displeasure with Suggs’ absence through much of the OTA schedule, so it will be interesting to see what kind of shape the linebacker is in when he reports to McDaniel College this week. A healthy, motivated Suggs is needed if the Ravens hope to pressure the quarterback and help mask would could be a depleted secondary to begin the season.

With Kindle’s unfortunate accident, it becomes even more crucial for Suggs to return to his previous Pro Bowl form.

6. Can Michael Oher and Jared Gaither pull off the flip-flop at offensive tackle?

There’s little doubt that Oher can handle the left tackle spot after filling in for an injured Gaither last season, but questions remain over the health and mental state of the new right tackle.

It’s no secret that Gaither wants a new contract, as the tackle delayed signing his restricted free agent tender until early June. Gaither also battled a foot injury through much of the OTA schedule, missing valuable reps as he makes the transition to right tackle—a position he hasn’t played since his days at the University of Maryland.

Should Gaither struggle to adjust to right tackle, it may force the Ravens to shuffle around other players into the right tackle spot or force them to abandon the switch and return Oher to the right side of the offensive line.

7. Will Shayne Graham (or Billy Cundiff) be able to silence the memories of Matt Stover?

The Ravens inked former Bengals kicker Graham to a one-year contract in hopes of finally silencing fans who clamored for Matt Stover last season as the Ravens struggled in the kicking game with Steve Hauschka.

Cundiff returns after being signed mid-season to replace Hauschka, but most believe Graham has the inside track for the job despite missing two critical kicks against the New York Jets in a playoff loss last season.

We’ll inevitably be tracking every kick from the fields of McDaniel College as we did last season with Hauschka and Graham Gano, but the kickers’ performance in the four preseason games will hold the most weight in determining who’s kicking for the Ravens in September. Unlike last summer, however, both Graham and Cundiff bring more experience to the table, providing more confidence that special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg can choose a viable solution in the kicking game.

8. How much longer will Troy Smith be a Raven after the acquisition of Marc Bulger to back up Flacco?

Several players, including Flacco and Reed, have voiced their support for Smith as the backup, but the fact remains Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens have invested $3.8 million in Bulger to be the backup behind Flacco.

While Smith has said all the right things to this point, he has to see the writing on the wall as he’s now relegated to No. 3 quarterback duties. The problem for Smith is none of the other 31 teams have shown a strong interest in acquiring his services after he expressed a strong desire to start for another team at the end of last season.

As of now, Smith will compete with John Beck for the third spot, but it remains very possible that Smith finds himself on another roster before training camp ends.

Needless to say, the Ravens don’t want an unneeded distraction in the locker room, but it appears Smith’s supporters will continue to sing his praises, likely contributing to his departure at some point.

9. Can “Mount” Cody help form a brick wall in the middle of the Baltimore defense?

The 350-pound rookie will need to keep his weight at a manageable level, but the coaching staff was thrilled with his athleticism and strength during OTAs. Coupled with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, it’s no secret Newsome envisioned a brick wall in the middle of the Ravens defense reminiscent of the tandem of Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams.

Cody will begin his rookie season backing up Kelly Gregg, but if the big man is as good as advertised and maintain his conditioning, it won’t be long before Ngata and Cody form a 700-pound monster on the inside—that will also keep blockers away from Ray Lewis.

With Kindle’s rookie season now in serious doubt, Cody becomes the most likely (and needed) draft pick to make a serious impact in 2010.

10. Will the aging Ravens defense continue to fight off Father Time?

While three defensive starters over the age of 30 may not sound like a big deal, it is when two of them are Ray Lewis (35) and Reed (31). The other starter Kelly Gregg (33) will battle Cody for playing time while Trevor Pryce (35) remains a key member of the defensive line rotation.

Reed’s health issues are well-documented (see question 1) and may not have much time left despite his desire for a new contract.

Lewis continues to be an enigma at the inside linebacker position where even the greatest of all time typically retire by their early 30s. He lacks the speed he had in the prime of his career, but his cerebral approach and leadership are invaluable to the Baltimore defense.

Newsome has drafted young talent to supplement the veterans on the defensive side of the ball, but injuries to these key veterans likely prevents this unit from being great as it has been for so many years.

Of course, the Ravens are banking on having a more explosive offense, so simply having a good—not great—defense might be enough to take Baltimore deep into the playoffs. If the defense’s elder statesmen can fight off Father Time for one more season, they’ll have a chance to play for a ring in early February.

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Ravens Colts Playoff

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Divisional Playoff Preview: Ravens @ Colts

Posted on 15 January 2010 by Derek Arnold

Ravens Colts Playoff

Ravens Colts Stats 2

Another season, another trip to face the AFC South winners, holders of the #1 overall seed in the AFC. Can the Ravens repeat the huge upset they pulled last year in Nashville against the Titans? Methinks yes. Let’s look at the reasons why…

Peyton Zulu

1. The Colts’ regular season dominance will again hurt them in the postseason

The Colts won more games than any other team 00’s. However, as of right now there are two teams who have won more Lombardi Trophies than they did (Pats, Steelers) and three others who have won just as many (Ravens, Buccaneers, Giants). All their regular season victories have not translated into January and February success. In fact, at times they have been so dominant during the regular season that they have locked up the #1 seed early enough that their last game or two has been meaningless. Every time that such a scenario has played out so far, they have lost their first playoff game. That’s right; Peyton Manning and his Colts are 0-3 in the Divisional Round during years in which they had a bye during the Wild Card round. Their only Super Bowl win came in 2006, when they were forced to play a Wild Card game.

This year, the Colts wrapped up the AFC’s #1 seed on December 13th (Week 14). They then played to win one more time, four days later in Jacksonville. They did this only to set the record for most consecutive regular season wins (Edit – they had already broken this record the previous week. So, Bill Polian is not only a shithead, but he can’t count either). Since then, they have played a game “in anger” exactly zero times. They took their starters out in Week 16 against the New York Jets, and promptly lost any chance at an undefeated season they may have had (more on that later), and laid a stinker in Buffalo in Week 17, finishing up at 14-2. Tack on last week’s bye, and it will have been one day short of a full month since the Colts last tried to win a football game.

The Ravens, on the other hand, have been fighting for their Playoff lives all season. Under intense pressure to win, they came out on top in three of their last four in the regular season and then pounded Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Wild Card round. If not for a few costly drops in Pittsburgh in Week 16, the good guys in purple would be riding a nice little five game winning streak.

It will take the Colts at least a quarter to get re-acclimated to game speed, and part of me believes they will not be able to match the Ravens’ intensity at any point during the 60 minutes. If the Ravens can start fast like they did in New England (not necessarily 24-0, but 10-0 or 14-0), the thought of “here we go again” will force itself into the Indy psyche.

2. Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le’Ron McClain

The Colts were 24th in the NFL stopping the run, allowing 126.5 yards per game. Sure, these three managed only 100 yards combined in the Week 11 meeting, but that was back when the Ravens still had no offensive identity. Now that they are fully committed to being a pound-it-down-your-throat running team, they should have much less trouble pushing around the Colts’ undersized front seven. In four of the last five games, one of the Ravens’ rushers has topped the century mark – Ray Rice three times (166 vs. Det, 141 @ Pit, 159 @ NE) and Willis McGahee once (167 @ Oak).

The formula for success against Peyton Manning is the same as it’s been pretty much his entire career – keep him off the field as much as possible, and when he is on it, move him off his “spot.”

The Ravens’ running game will go a long way to fulfilling the first ingredient in that recipe. As far as the other…

3. The return of the Ravens’ pass rush

There is no denying that the Ravens have had trouble getting to the quarterback at times this season. However, over the last several games, they seem to have figured things out a bit.

In Week 16, they sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times – 3.5 came from defensive linemen
In Week 17, they sacked Jamarcus Russell three times and caused him to fumble once – all 3 were from defensive linemen
Last week, they sacked Tom Brady three times and caused him to fumble once – Two of 3 were from defensive linemen

So, not only are the Ravens now getting to quarterbacks, they are doing it without being forced to blitz the house. This latter point is huge against Peyton Manning, who eats blitzes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Peyton Manning BEGS you to blitz him. If the Ravens can pressure him, get his feet all nice and happy, and move him off of his spot, he will become very average very quickly.

Guys like Dwan Edwards, Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Antwan Barnes, who have picked up their games recently, need to keep it up Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Throw in the occasional well-timed blitz by Ray Lewis (who is much better served rushing the passer than say, trying to keep up with Dallas Clark in the middle of the field), and hopefully the Ravens will be making Peyton very familiar with the turf.

3(b). The Ravens’ Secondary

This point goes hand-in-hand with the last one. Since the Ravens’ front has been getting to passers, their formerly dreadful secondary has suddenly come alive. Dominique Foxworth has started to live up to his huge free agent contract over the last month or so. Chris Carr, filling in for the injured Lardarius Webb, has improved every single game since becoming a starting CB. Hell, even Frank Freakin’ Walker was making plays last week in New England. When Walker is batting down passes, instead of having flags heaved in his direction, you know things are going well.

The Ravens picked off Manning twice in Baltimore in Week 11. They won’t have the advantage of crowd noise that they enjoyed in Charm City, but the play of the aforementioned guys, along with Dawan Landry, has improved dramatically since even that mid-season contest. If they continue their strong play, that should more than make up for the fact that Manning will be operating in his cozy home confines.

4. Michael Oher and Jared Gaither

These two won our “Play Like a Raven” award in Week 11, as they kept the Colts’ fearsome twosome of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis completely shutout of the stat sheet. We all know from those investment commercials that past success is no indicator of future performance and all that, but it’s good that the Ravens’ young tackles will have some confidence going up against such an intimidating opponent.

Freeney, who said at the end of “The Blind Side” (book, not movie), “You tell Michael Oher I’ll be waiting for him,” will have another chance to back up those words.

Unfortunately, as far as the Ravens are concerned, he may have a much higher number of chances than he did in the previous meeting.

Freeney usually lines up on to the quarterback’s left (the “Blind Side,” naturally), while Michael Oher has spent the majority of his rookie season playing right tackle. However, Jared Gaither’s status for Saturday is still up in the air. If Gaither cannot go, Oher would again move to the left side. What happens on the right side would then also be undetermined – the Ravens could put Oneil Cousins at right tackle OR move Marshal Yanda from right guard to right tackle, and reinsert Chris Chester at right guard.

Gaither did fully practice on Thursday, but would not talk to reporters about his injury. Cross your fingers that he is able to go.

And now, for some silly reasons:

5. Karma

The Colts’ brass’ decision to forego the chance at a perfect season really sucks. It sucks for their players. It sucks for their fans. It sucks for fans of football in general. It sucks for anybody who gets sick of seeing that old curmudgeon Mercury Morris vindicated every damn year. It just…really sucks.

The Colts’ players were visibly distraught on the sidelines in Week 16 after the starters had been removed. Watching their chance at history go up in flames obviously did not sit well.

Understandably so.

Imagine being Peyton Manning. You’re constantly compared with Tom Brady. You hear all the time how the two of you are 1-2, in some order, among quarterbacks of this generation. Those that argue for Brady point to his postseason success as the deciding factor. Tom Brady was two minutes from posting a historic 19-0 season. He failed.

Now, you have the chance to be the one that goes 19-0. If you can win your second Lombardi Trophy, and go 19-0 in the process, something ol’ Tommy was unable to do, you’ll win. YOU will be the one that did what Tom could not. YOU will now be the undisputed best.

And then Bill Polian goes and takes all that out from under you.

How would you feel if you were Peyton? Deflated, I’d say, to put it mildly.

The other 44 guys wearing horseshoes on their helmets Saturday might not be dejected to quite that level, but they’ll still be a bit less motivated, to one degree or another, than they would have been had they finished the regular season 16-0.

Aside from that, the Colts NEED to lose at some point this postseason for the sake of football fans everywhere. If they win the Super Bowl, after deciding to rest their players and not try for 19-0, it will deprive us of the chance to see any team try to be perfect in the future. The Colts CANNOT be allowed to set the precedent that resting your players, even with the perfect season on the line, is the way to go, or other teams will surely follow.

Roger Goodell says there is “no solution” to teams resting starters. Yes there is: BEAT THE HELL OUT OF THOSE TEAMS. Prove, time and time again, that you cannot just turn the competitive edge on and off like a light switch.

SOMEONE needs to beat the Colts this January, for football fans everywhere. Might as well be the Ravens.

Oh, and of course there’s those whole stole-our-team then knocked-us-out-of-the-playoffs-in-2006 karma that needs to be repaid.

6. Nestminder in da house

Finally, the Ravens will win because I’m going to my first postseason road game. I’m ridiculously pumped to go to Indy, and judging by the fact that I had to book my flight out of Dulles, due to all Baltimore-Indianapolis flights being booked, I am very eager to see just how well the purple is represented in the Midwest.

I’ll be at the WNST pre-game tailgate party at the Rock Lobster, and if you’re in Indy, you should be to. Hope to see you there.

I’ll have plenty of pictures, and hopefully some videos, of the trip next week. Hopefully (come on, come on, COME ON) they will be celebratory in nature.

Ravens 24 Colts 20

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FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS ON THE PLAY!

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Packers 27 Ravens 14 (THE FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS Game)

Posted on 08 December 2009 by Derek Arnold

FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS ON THE PLAY!

Holy crap.

Ho. Lee. Crap.

No recap of last night’s game would be complete without mentioning the officiating, so let’s just get that out of the way first. As Ravens fans, we of course have the reputation of blaming the refs every time we lose. I’m not blaming them in any way for last night’s loss. But if anyone disagrees that that nationally-televised display of officiating ineptitude was not the strongest argument yet for the case that the NFL needs to make their referees full-time employees, they also probably think Tiger Woods should be nominated for “Husband of the Year.”

There were 310 penalty yards racked up between the two teams, the second most in a single game in NFL HISTORY (Tampa Bay vs. Seattle, October 1976)! Looking at the replays, MOST of the pass interference flags (on both teams) were probably warranted – the calls on Dominique Foxworth and Derrick Mason WERE NOT, however. There comes a point, though, late in the season in a heated battle between two teams jockeying for playoff spots, where these zebras just need to let the players decide the game. I’m not going to sit here and “complain,” per se, about the P.I. call on Green Bay’s Tramon Williams in the end zone with 9:52 to play, considering it SHOULD HAVE helped my team get back in the game (more on that later), but the unbiased football observer in me wishes the official would keep the flag in his pocket in that case. Either Demetrius Williams comes down with the ball or he doesn’t – if he doesn’t, then too bad. EAT THE FLAG!

I caught a show on the NFL Network in between college football games Saturday night, called “Greatest Fourth Quarters.” They showed the fourth quarters (obviously) of three games from about the 1992-1997 time frame. In each, there were calls that, nowadays, would have drawn red challenge flags from the coaches. This was before the days of replay, however. In each case, the zebras huddled up, talked about the questionable play, and in each case, GOT IT RIGHT. That’s right, the officials used to be able to correctly do their jobs without the aid of instant replay. In 2009, the goofs in the striped shirts can’t even seem to get it right WITH the replay.

Perhaps the refs were held more accountable back then? Maybe they were required to dedicate more time to their craft? Or maybe they just tried harder than they do now, when they know they have that little hood to save them if need be.

I don’t know the answer, but I thought it was very fitting that, after watching those officials from a time long past do their jobs impeccably, I was then subjected to the yellow flag storm of Monday Night.

The inconsistency is the worst part. Like all of you, I’ve watched a ton of football this year. I suspect you’ll agree that the discrepancies seen between what one official versus the next considers “pass interference” to be is mind boggling.

Jon Gruden pointed out during the telecast that it was as if the officials had one hand in their pocket whenever Aaron Rodgers put the ball up in the air, waiting for any slight indication of ANYTHING that could be interpreted as P.I. By the end of the game, it was obvious that the same could have been said when Joe Flacco threw the ball.

Entering the game, the Packers and Ravens were the #1 and #2 most penalized teams in the NFL, and it was obvious that their reputations preceded them. That’s not the way it should work. Each game…no, each PLAY…needs to be judged in and of itself, not based on some preconceived notion that the official has about a particular player or team being “prone to committing a penalty” in that situation.

Please, Mr. Goodell – quit wasting your time with stupid initiatives like playing in Europe and expanding the season, and address an issue that plagues the league EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Make the referees full-time employees.

Now, about that game…

Basically, the Ravens just are not a very good football team right now. Although they frittered away some games earlier in the year that they very easily could have won, after 12 games 6-6 seems like exactly where they deserve to be. They are a mediocre team with a struggling quarterback, ineffective running game, non-existent pass rush, laundry list of injuries, and below average coaching.

Joe Flacco, as many have already pointed out, played as poorly as he has in his two seasons in purple. Despite looking like his injured ankle had finally improved to the point that he could move around when needed (his 16 yards rushing were his most since Week 1), his throws still sailed and/or floated, and his decision making was horrendous at times.

More on Joe in this weeks “Did Not Play Like a Raven,” I’m afraid.

The announcement, about an hour before kickoff, that Ed Reed would not be playing, put the kibosh on just about any good feelings that I had going into this one. There weren’t many to begin with, but without #20 back there, Aaron Rodgers seemed likely to have an even bigger field day in store. The defense, however, didn’t play terribly. They forced three Packer turnovers (including one on an interception by Reed’s replacement, Tom Zbikowski) that kept the game from being the total blowout that it probably could have been.

Unfortunately, their lack of pass rush was on full display for all the football world to see. Even Matthew Stafford probably isn’t very worried going into next week’s game. Trevor Pryce’s sack of Rodgers in the 2nd quarter was the Ravens first since the Cleveland game. It was the only one of the entire contest though, as the Ravens now have just ONE quarterback sack in their last TWELVE quarters of play. Greg Mattison can’t seem to figure out when to blitz and when not to (um…no blitz on 3rd and 7 on our own 16? Come on, Man!), and when he does, the Ravens still can’t get any pressure. Their blitzes were picked up easily by Green Bay’s offensive line and backs all night long. “Anemic” is too soft a word for the pass rush at this point.

The Ravens held Packer running back Ryan Grant to just 2.2 yards per carry, but Rodgers hurt them scrambling, picking up 30 yards on 4 totes. Tight end Jermichael Finley proved way too much for Zbikowski and the Ravens’ poor-covering linebackers to handle (side note: every LB, CB, and S on the Ravens’ roster should watch A.J. Hawk on Flacco’s 3rd pick, and get an idea of how to LOOK FOR THE BALL in coverage), as he led the Packers with 7 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Two “Again”s:

  • Lardarius Webb played well, both on kick returns and in coverage.
  • Dominique Foxworth was awful. That whiff on Donald Driver’s touchdown had to have sent Chris McAlister falling off his barstool in laughter somewhere on Bourbon Street.

The offense was, again, inept for the first 30 minutes, as they got shut out. The slow starts are pretty much expected at this point. If it weren’t for the defense setting them up twice with short fields on turnovers, they may have gotten shut out for the entire 60 minutes.

The offensive line, especially tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither, have taken HUGE steps back since shutting out Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and then James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley for the first half of the Steeler game. Over the last six quarters, Joe Flacco has been absolutely running for his life. Inside, there is no movement in the running game, and Ben Grubbs probably had his worst game as a pro last night. Without holes, even Mighty Mouse Ray Rice isn’t going to go far.

It would have been nice to see some of Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain, who could have at least pushed the pile if there weren’t any holes. I was screaming for him all game, but apparently he just wasn’t in Cam Cameron’s “game plan,” as I’m sure he’ll tell us when questioned about it. Nor was the no-huddle offense, despite it seemingly being the only thing that provides any sort of spark these days. The insistence on giving Willis McGahee the ball at the goalline is also head-scratch inducing, even if he did get in once.

LET’S SEE SOME PAIN TRAIN!

As far as John “Andy Reid Jr.” Harbaugh’s clock management, it is just laughable (and Mike Tirico actually WAS laughing at the Ravens’ “hurry up” efforts at the end of the game). The Ravens had zero sense of urgency when they got the ball back with under two minutes to play – but that just mirrored their play through the 58 minutes leading up to that. They were slow in and out of the huddle all night, wasted timeouts on defense and in the red zone, and overall seemed to be playing like the game was untimed.

I have no idea what to make of Harbaugh’s clock management. It defies logic at times, and it only seems to get worse.

It was an ugly, ugly game. Sure, the Ravens were within 3 points in the second half, and had the chance to pull within a field goal one other time – but let’s be honest: they had no business being in this one. Just like they really have no business being in the AFC Playoff discussion.

Hey, at least beating up on the Lions should be fun next week, amirite?

Um…Am I right?

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Peyton Manning

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A Call to Harbs: Your Chance to Fix the Ravens

Posted on 10 November 2009 by Luke Jones

The sheer volume of opining, panicking, and lamenting jamming the airwaves, flooding inboxes, and littering message boards since 4:30 p.m. on Sunday has been impossible to escape if you’re a Ravens fan.

And it’s understandable with Sunday’s game clearly being one of the Ravens’ worst performances in recent memory.

Of course, the venting is part of the cathartic process of being a fan after a loss, but it ultimately does nothing to address the problem—or problems—and leaves you feeling helpless in the Ravens’ plight with a 4-4 record and two games behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

Ultimately, “it is what it is” for us observers.

In reality, the frustration and second-guessing displayed by us all is falling on deaf ears, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Who hasn’t made a bold proclamation—or several hundred—to their buddies but later felt relief that no one was really listening?

After all, I was convinced Peyton Manning would be the next Heath Shuler while Ryan Leaf would be the next John Elway, and we all know how that turned out.

Peyton Manning

So now that we’ve acknowledged our limitations and past gaffes in evaluating the NFL and its players, this is your chance to prove yourself once and for all.

The phone rings, and John Harbaugh is on the line asking for your astute opinion on the state of the Ravens. He doesn’t have time for personal attacks or whining; Harbaugh is looking for answers.

He’s willing to take three REALISTIC suggestions and implement them beginning in Cleveland on Monday night.

And the key word is REALISTIC.

Larry Bird and Kevin McHale are not—wait a second, wrong rant—Chris McAlister and Michael McCrary are not walking through that door. And if they did, their knees would be completely shot.

Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard say hello to the Charm City, but they’re perfectly content with Rex Ryan in the Big Apple. And the former defensive coordinator sends his regards, but his hands are too full with a rookie quarterback and the New York media to worry about the Ravens’ defensive woes.

Those Jets have long since taken off and aren’t coming back.

And like most of your kids’ Halloween candy, the deadline is long gone, so please spare us the trade proposals.

No matter how great they sound.

I don’t want to hear about officiating conspiracies either. It’s a defeatist attitude, and you’ll hear the same complaints in 31 other NFL cities. Well, maybe not Pittsburgh.

Steelers referees

Lastly, the Colts are more likely to return to Baltimore than Matt Stover is to play for the Ravens—at least until Adam Vinatieri returns from injury in a few weeks (How’d you like that middle-of-the-road remark? And no, I don’t think it will happen anyway).

So now that I’ve squashed 75 percent of the irrational suggestions running through our frustrated minds over the past 48 hours, you have THREE suggestions to offer to Harbaugh for the rest of the season.

And remember, Baltimore is counting on you.

No pressure, right?

I’ll go first.

1. A Nightmare on Russell Street

Yes, I know Paul Kruger does not play special teams.

I fully understand.

Harbaugh wants his reserves to be versatile, and it’s the perfect rationale when a team does not have any glaring deficiencies. However, the defense has struggled to pressure the quarterback from its base front, and Greg Mattison is reluctant to blitz due to a weak secondary—another issue entirely.

It’s clear Kruger is too small to take every snap as a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment and does not have the skill set to play as a stand-up linebacker at this point.

But this is the same player Jon Gruden described as playing like “Freddy Kruger” on draft day last spring.

Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ esteemed scouting department used a second-round selection on the defensive end from Utah, so it’s difficult to believe he cannot contribute to the pass rush in some form.

And don’t tell me it would be catastrophic to the team’s flexibility on special teams and other areas. This is the same team that carried two kickers on its roster for years. It’s not as though Danny Kight, J.R. Jenkins, or Wade Richey were contributing in more than one area during their days in Baltimore.

If we look at this from a different perspective, how many special teams players are consistently on the active 45-man roster on Sundays and fail to make any impact on offense or defense?  David Tyree, Prescott Burgess, and Demetrius Williams immediately come to mind.

In other words, there HAS to be a place for Kruger on a defense needing more pressure on the quarterback.

If even the threat of Kruger diverts a little attention away from a Terrell Suggs or a Trevor Pryce, it’s well worth it.

Let’s find out if the rookie can play.

2. Lost in Westminster

Speaking of Demetrius Williams, yes, he is still on the 53-man roster despite rumors of his abduction in Westminster back in August.

After a promising rookie season and two injury-riddled seasons in 2007 and 2008, Williams entered training camp as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Following the emergence of Kelley Washington and a nagging hamstring and knee that slowed him during the summer, the 6-foot-2 receiver has completely disappeared in Cam Cameron’s offense with the lone exception of a 17-yard catch in Minnesota.

But it became apparent during Sunday’s loss that Williams needs to have a presence in this offense.  With Joe Flacco trying to throw deep jump-balls to Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, wouldn’t it make more sense to send Williams (the only receiver with both size and speed on the roster) on one or two of those patterns?

Yes, a stiff breeze is as likely to injure the wideout as a strong safety, but keeping him healthy on the sideline serves no purpose to this football team either.

Williams is and should be the No. 4 receiver on the roster, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an option in the passing game, at the very least providing a bigger target in the vertical passing game.

If the coaching staff has no confidence in Williams, he should either be inactive every week (opening the door for Kruger) or off the roster entirely.

3. Waiting on Willis

Remember when Willis McGahee led the NFL in touchdowns after the first three weeks of the season with six?

It seems like an eternity ago.

It was clear Ray Rice had supplanted McGahee as the starting tailback heading into the season, but the veteran was entering the season healthy and revitalized after a rocky relationship with Harbaugh in 2008. McGahee was still figuring to be a major part of the running game.

Since carrying the ball 25 times in the first two weeks, McGahee has received 22 carries in the six games since. Unacceptable.

Rice is clearly having a tremendous season, but is it really what’s best for the team?

In the same way that Flacco could lead the league in passing yards if he threw on every down, is Rice producing such a large portion of the yards and being the only force in the backfield what’s best for the Ravens’ offense presently and moving forward?

With Rice putting up 732 total yards in the last five games, I’ll remind you that the Ravens are 1-4 during that stretch.

McGahee’s return to the game plan would serve two purpose for the Baltimore offense.

First, it would provide the Ravens with a legitimate threat to run between the tackles, something Rice does not provide. The 5-foot-8 back is more effective running from spread-out formations and getting into open space.

Two, it would improve the likelihood of Rice’s smaller frame holding up for the entire 16-game schedule. Though Rice carried the ball 380 times for Rutgers in 2007, that same durability cannot be guaranteed at the pro level. When you have another legitimate option at tailback, why take the risk in finding out?

McGahee needs to be more involved. No excuses.

***

If you’re sitting there thinking I didn’t address the secondary, kicker, or coaching questions, you’re absolutely right.

To be perfectly honestly, I’m not sure how to address the secondary at this point.

Do you blitz more, leaving your defense more susceptible to the big play, or play with more help in pass coverage, hoping for your front four to reach the quarterback eventually? Is rookie Lardarius Webb a better option than Fabian Washington?

As for the kicking job, would Mike Nugent or Billy Cundiff really be any better than Steve Hauschka?

Is Mattison in over his head, or is the talent holding this defense back?

All are questions for which I don’t have a definitive answer.

Remember, you only get THREE realistic suggestions.

Maybe that isn’t enough to fix the Ravens, but that’s all you’re getting.

Make them count.

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Ravens vs. Bengals

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Ravens (4-3) @ Bengals (5-2)

Posted on 06 November 2009 by Derek Arnold

Ravens vs. Bengals

Ravens vs. Bunghole Stats

If the Ravens can go into Paul Brown Stadium and exact some revenge on the Bengals this week, they will force their hat back into the ring of serious AFC North contenders. Otherwise, they will have fallen effectively three games behind Cincinnati in the division, quite a mountain to climb with eight games remaining.

So, do the Ravens have what it takes to “man up” and emerge victorious in a venue that has been none too kind to them over the years? B’More’s 34-3 win over the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bungles in 2008 was their first win at PBS since 2004, and they are just 2-4 in their last six in The Queen City. Quarterback Carson Palmer has owned the Ravens in his career, compiling a 7-3 record in 10 career starts.

As several have already pointed out, Cincy is starting to look like a “real” AFC North team – one that can run the ball and stop the run. The Bengals’ Cedric Benson was the one to break the Ravens’ streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher the last time these teams met, when he went for 120 and a TD on 27 carries (4.4 ypc). They also held the Ravens to 82 yards on the ground. Still, the Ravens averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which hints that maybe they should have stuck with their ground attack a bit more. Especially considering it was Joe Flacco’s worst game this season, as he threw for just 186 yards and added two interceptions for his 2009-low rating of 70.1.

85 care package

(Chad sent the Ravens’ D a care package this week. The Nest sends one of our own to #85. In it he will find a new helmet (to replace the one Ray knocked off him), a ball gag, a straight jacket, and a nice pretty new “grill.”)

Joe Cool has bounced back nicely since getting shut down by Cincy, putting up back-to-back games of a 109.2 rating, and tossing three scores to go along with nary an interception against the capable (23rd) and strong (8th), respectively, defenses of Minnesota and Denver. Derrick Mason, who was held without a catch by Mike Zimmer’s crew last month, has 11 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the two games since.

Ray Rice has been the catalyst for the Ravens’ offense of late, as the little RB that could (wow, that’s terrible…come on, people…THIS MAN NEEDS A NICKNAME!) has averaged over 149 yards from scrimmage per game over the last four contests. Le’Ron “PAIN TRAIN” McClain had a season-high 31 yards on the ground against Denver, as Cam Cameron’s offense showed that, as the weather is cooling, maybe they are starting to get back to the formula that produced so much success in 2008. The Ravens called more running plays than passing plays (35-27) for the first time since the San Diego game, and just the second time all season. This after three consecutive losses where the playcalling was extremely lopsided towards the pass, to the tune of 46-18 (@ Min), 33-18 (vs. Cin), and 49-17 (@ NE). Now, a factor that can’t be overlooked was that the Ravens were playing with the lead for the entire game against Denver, but we would expect that the balance will continue this week. That is, as long as the rejuvenated defense can keep the score close, as Chicago was unable to do in Cincy two weeks ago, getting blown out 45-10.

Speaking of that rejuvenated defense, the Ravens’ D needs to prove that last week was no fluke. Plenty of the pundits were quick to proclaim the Ravens’ defense “back” after they dismantled and nearly shut out the previously high-flying Denver attack last week. However, to those of us who watch every game (twice), the Broncos’ short-passing game was simply the perfect antidote for the problems we have seen with the purple defense all season. Namely, the fact that Kyle Orton threw the ball deep all of ONE time (while the game was in reach, anyway)…and on that ONE throw, there was of course, some laundry also thrown, as Dominique Foxworth was called for pass interference. Apparently Josh McDaniels didn’t get the “just chuck it up” memo that Ravens’ corners have been sending to every team this year, via game film. Carson Palmer is no Kyle Orton, and he will show no such mercy to Foxworth and Fabian Washington, especially with the ever dangerous Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry in his arsenal.

This isn’t to suggest that Foxworth and Washington have no prayer of having good games Sunday. The two played very well against Denver, lack of deep challenges notwithstanding, and Washington especially was extremely active in run support. It’s just that we Ravens fans need to see more of what we witnessed from the pair against Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal before we are comfortable putting the Pepto Bismol bottle down when we see opposing quarterbacks take 7-step drops.

The front seven will also need to continue their solid play from a week ago. Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, Justin Bannan, and Trevor Pryce collapsed the pocket on Orton the likes of which we haven’t seen all season, and Greg Mattison’s blitzes, when called, found gaping holes in the Broncos’ protection schemes. It was a welcome departure from what we had seen to that point, but like the secondary, consistency is the word. Haloti Ngata is still very questionable with the ankle sprain he suffered near the goalline against Denver, and his absence would be noticeable, especially as the Ravens attempt to keep Benson from going over the century mark again. If Haloti is unable to go, the Ravens’ ample depth at DL will have to step up, including Brandon McKinney, Dwan Edwards, and potentially Kelly Talavou, who has been active just once in 2009.

The Bengals have been doing a very impressive job of keeping Palmer upright, as he has been sacked only 11 times, good for 6th in the NFL. By comparison, Flacco has been sacked just 12 times. Rookie offensive tackle Andre “Yip Yip Belly” Smith may see his first game action, though he is said to be expected to mostly play on running downs. If nothing else, this could give the Ravens an advantage in reading the plays pre-snap.

A loss in Cincy on Sunday would, in all likelihood, relegate the Ravens to chasing a Wild-Card berth. Week 9 just seems too soon for that for such a talented football team, one that is legitimately a Top-8 NFL squad. The difference will be the explosiveness of Ray Rice, Joe Flacco continuing to find Kelley Washington for key 3rd-down conversions, and a Ravens defense that is ready to build on what they started last week.

Ravens 24 Bengals 20

Yours in the comments (no, I don’t have a prize like Bob, this is just for fun).

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RavensChargers

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Ravens (1-0) @ Chargers (1-0)

Posted on 18 September 2009 by Derek Arnold

RavensChargers

For the second time in 3 seasons, the Ravens travel out to sunny whale’s vagina San Diego (is that joke old yet? It was probably old 2 years ago, huh? Ok, I’ll stop) to take on the pewter blue Chargers. The two teams, who each saw their 2008 seasons end in Pittsburgh in the playoffs, also both struggled a bit against “lesser” squads in their respective openers. We all remember sweating a bit in the second half of the Ravens-Chiefs game, and San Diego needed a last-drive touchdown to put away the Oakland Raiders on the road. Ravens fans may be making a bit too much out of that Monday Night game, though, in thinking that somehow it exposed the Chargers as being “not that good.” We’re gonna go ahead and disagree with that assertion – remember, it was a divisional game, on the road, AND they put together a game-winning TD drive. Sounds like a good team to me.

What does make our ears perk up a bit going into this one though is a glance at the Chargers’ injury report.

LaDainian Tomlinson: DID NOT PRACTICE

Nick Hardwick: DID NOT PRACTICE

Louis Vasquez: DID NOT PRACTICE

Tomlinson will probably be able to go Sunday, albeit in a reduced role. However, the two starting offensive linemen, Hardwick (2006 Pro Bowl) and Vasquez (2009 3rd Round Draft Pick), are less likely to suit up for the game. Missing your starting Pro Bowl center is no small loss (see: Kevin Mawae, Tennessee Titans, 2008 AFC Divisional Playoff). San Diego signed former Jacksonville Jaguar Dennis Norman this week, who will likely start in place of Hardwick. The Ravens, with arguably the deepest defensive line in the NFL, should be able to exploit the offensive line issues and play defense in the backfield.

On the other hand, neither Hardwick nor Vasquez was on the field for San Diego on their game-winning drive in Oakland…and it didn’t seem to matter much. So there’s that.

If Tomlinson can’t go, 9th-year vet Michael Bennett will be splitting carries with Darren Sproles. Itty-bitty Sproles has the Ravens losing some sleep this week, with Trevor Pryce saying that watching Sproles run, “is like watching a Madden game.” Sproles was huge for the Chargers in their post-season win over the Colts last year, when he gained 105 yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries, and added 5 receptions for 45 yards. Pittsburgh was able to render him ineffective running the ball (11 carries, 15 yards), but he still managed 91 yards and a score on 5 catches, including a 62-yard score. Against Oakland last week, Sproles had just 66 yards on 14 touches from scrimmage – however, the Raiders felt the wrath of Tiny Darren in the return game, as he averaged 34 yards on 5 kickoff returns, including 66 and 59-yarders.

Basically….Sproles is good. He’s gonna get the ball, and he’s gonna make a play. The key will be limiting the number of plays he makes.

DarrenStomp

How about the Ravens on offense? Will we see another 500-yard day? More of Joe Flacco throwing caution to the wind and footballs all over the field?

Not likely, although San Diego was even worse in pass defense than Kansas City in 2008, finishing 31st in the league. Shawne Merriman is back this year, and how Ravens’ tackles Jared Gaither and Michael Oher (Merriman will switch sides during the game) are able to neutralize him will be a big factor. The Raiders were able to hold him without a sack (they allowed only 1 to San Diego all game), and they actually finished with 366 total yards of offense to San Deigo’s 317. Of that total, 148 came on the ground, as Oakland gained 4.6 yards per rushing play. Expect the Ravens to come out more like they did in the second half against Kansas City, using the memory of Joe Flacco’s 300-yard game to keep the Chargers honest, by pounding Rice, McGahee, and McClain right at the Chargers from the start.

Ravens’ tight ends could also play a big part in the outcome of this game, as Todd Heap looks rejuvinated after one week, and L.J. Smith has been back at practice and is eyeing Sunday for his purple debut. Tight end Zach Miller led all Raiders’ recievers last week, hauling in 6 passes for 96 yards.

Of course, the Chargers have a stud tight end of their own, Antonio Gates. Gates, who is fully healthy for the first time in quite a while, torched the Ravens for 105 yards and 2 scores the last time these teams met.

Yes, Greg Mattison and the Ravens’ D will have their hands full. Even with no Tomlinson, the Chargers still have Sproles and Gates – and we haven’t even mentioned wide receievers Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers. Big, physical guys on the outside who could give the Ravens’ corners, who are heavy on speed but light in stature, some issues.

And so, it all comes back to the Chargers’ O-line. We saw last year here in Baltimore what can happen when your offensive line can’t get the job done by themselves, and you have to keep tight ends and backs in to block. If Sproles and Gates are stuck blocking, they can’t be out catching passes. Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, and Terrell Suggs need to get in QB Phillip Rivers’ face early and often. When he sits in the pocket, Rivers can be one of the most accurate passers in the league, but he is far from mobile, and will heave up some disgusting floaters when flushed (if you’re reading this while eating lunch, I apologize for all the toilet imagery).

Earlier in the week, I was ready to predict 50+ points to be scored between the two teams in this one. However, I’m a firm believer that football games are won in the trenches, and the Ravens should be able to take advantage of San Diego’s line injuries and render all their fancy offensive toys pretty much useless. If they can do that, they won’t need another video game-like stat sheet to come home with a win.

Ravens 20 Chargers 17

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Live from Westminster: The swan song from McDaniel College

Posted on 22 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:05 p.m. – I chatted with Frank Walker as he walked off the field, and he was definitely glad to be breaking camp, though he emphasized it was a great experience in Westminster.

Even though the players were eager to leave summer camp behind, they continued to sign autographs for the fans out here in Westminster this afternoon.  You can tell these guys genuinely enjoy interacting with the fans.  The organization does things the right way, and it’s why the Ravens are king in this town.

4:00 p.m. – The special teams practice has concluded, as has the Ravens’ 2009 training camp here in Westminster.  The team will hold a walk-through tomorrow morning (closed to the media and public) before breaking camp.

The hour-long afternoon practice was uneventful, but tackle Oniel Cousins did not practice with the other young offensive linemen.  There was no word on any injury, but I did overhear offensive line coach John Matsko asking Cousins if he’d be able to play Monday as they were leaving the field toward the end of practice.

Cousins is the team’s top reserve tackle, so this will definitely be a situation to monitor leading up to Monday night’s game with the Jets.  The Ravens are thin at the position with veteran tackle Adam Terry already on injured reserve.

1:33 p.m. – I’m getting ready to head out to the field for the last public workout of the summer.  If the hotel lobby is any indication, I may be the only member of the local media out there this afternoon.

The ESPN Monday Night Football crew is here, as they prepare to broadcast Monday night’s game.  I saw Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden chatting with Harbaugh and Joe Flacco during lunch.

12:03 p.m. – As previously mentioned below, Suggs and Clayton were again absent from practice.

Harbaugh once again described Suggs’ Achilles strain as a “nagging injury” but admitted he thought the star linebacker would have returned by this point.  Suggs has been riding the exercise bike to maintain his conditioning.

Suggs injured the heel on Aug. 2 and has missed the last 20 days of training camp.

Clayton was working out after practice, catching passes from quarterback John Beck.  He appears to be making progress, but it’s doubtful we’ll see the receiver before the last preseason game, if not the regular season opener.

12:00 p.m. – When asked how long the first team would play against the Jets on Monday night, Harbaugh suggested we’ll see the starting units into the second quarter if not the entire half.  It will all depend on the number of plays they receive in the first quarter or so.

Of course, Harbaugh did say the amount of time will vary from player to player, so one would think veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will not play as long as younger starters such as Tavares Gooden or Michael Oher.

11:56 a.m. – The last Ravens practice open to the public and media will take place at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon.  It will only be a special teams practice, so many of the big names will not be present.

The team will hold a walk-through tomorrow (closed to the media and general public) before breaking camp and returning to the Owings Mills facility.  It’s obvious to see how eager the players are to break camp and get back to their normal lives and routines without the two-a-days in the August heat.

11:47 a.m. – I spoke to Kevin Byrne after practice, and while there is no official number yet, the Ravens expect to set a new record for a camp that did not include a scrimmage.  The overall record of 111,492 fans was set in 2001—the year following the Super Bowl XXXV victory.

If you ever wondered how the team comes up with those training camp attendance figures, no, it’s not the job of a new intern or long snapper Matt Katula, as it was suggested by one reporter.

The team uses the number of parked cars and multiplies it by 3 to get their estimated figures.

11:42 a.m. – Derrick Mason was once again wearing No. 85 in practice.  There was no word on whether the NFL has squashed his plan to honor the late Steve McNair by wearing No. 9 during practices.

11:37 a.m. – Harbaugh speculated with reporters about having the longest camp in the NFL.  When Philadelphia was mentioned as having a longer camp, the Ravens head coach jokingly suggested they’ll try to have the longest one next year.

He was pleased with the work his players have completed this summer and described the defense’s transition from Ryan to Mattison as “seamless.”

11:27 a.m. – Willis McGahee is expecting the second preseason game to be more intense than usual when considering who will be coaching on the other sideline.

With Rex Ryan returning to Baltimore as the head coach of the New York Jets, McGahee expects both sides to really go after each other compared to what you would normally see in the preseason.

When asked about his former teammate Bart Scott and his propensity for trash talk, McGahee playfully replied, “Bart’s going to be Bart.”

Monday night clearly won’t resemble a postseason game, but it’s definitely  more compelling than what you’ll typically find during an August football game.  As Glenn Clark has said all week, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ryan mix in more blitzing than normal in a preseason game.

11:22 a.m. – When asked about the differences between Rex Ryan and new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Pryce noted that Mattison gives the defense more time to meet with positional coaches.  The defensive schemes are very similar with just a few minor tweaks.

The veteran defensive lineman also noted that both men clearly have a passion for football, but everyone’s personality is different.

11:18 a.m. – Pryce spoke to reporters after practice and said this is the deepest defensive line on which he has ever played, an impressive statement considering Pryce played on two Super Bowl-winning defenses in Denver.

He emphasized how big the return of Dwan Edwards to the rotation will be for the defense.  Edwards missed the entire 2008 season with a back injury.

11:16 a.m. – The defensive play of the morning came from cornerback Domonique Foxworth when he picked off a Cleo Lemon pass.

The former Terp has had a very solid training camp and looks very comfortable playing in the Ravens defense.

11:13 a.m. – Rookie Eron Riley had the catch of the morning, grabbing a jump ball in a crowd on a pass thrown by John Beck.

The former Duke receiver has good size at 6-3 but hasn’t really done enough to warrant serious consideration for a roster spot.

11:08 a.m. – It will be interesting to see where Jayson Foster fits into the plans on Monday night.  Though mostly working with the second offense, he continues to receive a few reps with the first unit.

His shining play of the morning was a 33-yard touchdown reception from Troy Smith.

While he still may be on the outside looking in when the team trims the roster to 53, Foster is certainly one of the biggest surprises of training camp, even earning comparisons to Wes Welker from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron earlier this week.

11:04 a.m. – The Ravens worked on fake field goals at the beginning of practice before focusing on various third-down packages on defense.

The scout team offense showed a few Wildcat looks to the defense, but they were not very impressive.  Cedric Peerman will never be confused with Ronnie Brown as he threw a wounded duck that was easily picked off by Ed Reed (sporting the red jersey today).

On the next play, Yamon Figurs tried to take the shotgun snap but fumbled.  Needless to say, it was a comedy of errors from the Wildcat scout team.

11:02 a.m. – Terrell Suggs (Achilles heel), Mark Clayton (hamstring), and Dannell Ellerbe (knee) did not practice today, and Trevor Pryce did not participate in any team drills.

Pryce spoke to the media after practice and basically equated it to a morning off with no significant injury.

10:58 a.m. – The Ravens held their last full-squad workout this morning, a brief hour and a half practice in shorts and shells.

John Harbaugh eliminated the individual portions of practice, leaving only the team drills to execute.  The team practiced on the lower field due to the torrential rains that swept through the area last night, leaving the upper grass fields very slick.

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