Tag Archive | "troy smith"

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Controversey? Don’t Be Ridiculous

Posted on 24 August 2010 by Joe Giglio

Sports talk radio is designed and made for debate among fans and hosts. Debates and disagreements are the lifeblood that keep good sports talk brewing for consecutive hours. If we all agreed about players/coaches/referees/owners/etc. the airwaves would be a dull and boring place. Rarely do I take my critiques from something I hear on the air and translate them into a written piece because a verbal argument allows for confusion and can sometimes be rushed and misunderstood. On the other hand, a written piece is usually longer and more thought out. But I have to take exception to a topic on yesterdays WNST airwaves (to clarify, this isn’t a commentary on the host or particular callers, but rather the idea floating out there among some fans):

There is no quarterback controversy in Baltimore. We need to stop reading too much into the preseason results and individual plays by the Ravens offense. The fact that Joe Flacco was pulled out of the game in favor of Marc Bulger for the last two minutes of the first half on Saturday night speaks more towards the confidence the team has in Flacco than the idea that Bulger is here to be anything more than a back up.

For one reason or another, some fans in this town haven’t seen enough to be sold on Beltway Joe. Don’t count me among them. Joe Flacco is the best and most gifted signal caller in the history of the Baltimore Ravens (I know that isn’t saying much, but still). He has won more road playoff games in his first two seasons than any quarterback in the HISTORY OF PRO FOOTBALL. His yards, interception ratio, completion percentage, and touchdowns all improved from his rookie to sophomore campaign. Ozzie Newsome has equipped him with the weapons to become even more of a dynamic passer in his third full season at the helm.

Marc Bulger is a quality back up. He was a star in the Mike Martz system for a few years in St. Louis and now comes to Baltimore with a chip on his shoulder and a ton of experience in his right arm. He can get this team through a few weeks if Flacco has a minor injury. But he is not even in the discussion to supplant Flacco as the starter, no matter what curious coaching by John Harbaugh might tell you. The decision to let Bulger run the two minute drill–which he did with precision–was more about finding out how much Bulger has left than any sort of commentary of Flacco and his standing within the organization.

Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh don’t need anymore information on their franchise quarterback. He has a rocket for an arm. He threw for over 3,500 yards without a true deep threat to stretch the field. And forget the stats in January, winning on the road is impressive. We found out everything we needed to know about Flacco when he overcame a rocky start in his rookie year and stood toe to toe against punishing defenses in Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Our bullish attitude was cemented when he played injured down the stretch last season and found ways to win the games the team had to have. He finally has legit weapons, yet some are reluctant to believe.

Marc Bulger is better than Troy Smith and John Beck. But just because he threw for 4,000 once upon a time in St. Louis doesn’t mean he is close to being the best quarterback on the team. Instead of making his two minute drill performance on Saturday night into a negative, we should see the positive. The team finally has depth at a position where it seemed they couldn’t find one decent player. Flacco is the guy. 4,000 yards isn’t just out of the question, I feel it should be expected. As for Marc Bulger? Sleep easy at night knowing his brains weren’t totally scrambled by the beating he took in St. Louis these past few seasons. He has pedigree and a quick release, but is a reserve and if all goes to plan he won’t see the field at all in 2010.

Respect Flacco. Enjoy Bulger. Don’t be ridiculous.

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FOR THE LOVE OF GOD…THERE IS NO QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY IN BALTIMORE!

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FOR THE LOVE OF GOD…THERE IS NO QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY IN BALTIMORE!

Posted on 24 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

On Monday, Glenn Clark came in the studio and wrote on our Twitter feed that if he heard from anyone that Ravens backup quarterback Marc Bulger should be the starter here in Baltimore, that he was going to quit.

Marc Bulger
He’s still here(thank God) and luckily we didn’t get a lot of buzz about it, but on my way out to Carroll County last night to preview the South Carroll Cavaliers football team, I heard differently over on that station on the FM Dial.

Now I know why they call it “The Fan”. There was not a lot of sense in that conversation, and a lot of air was getting blown going back and forth between hosts and callers.

The Ravens signed Bulger to a one year, 3.8 million dollar contract at the end of June to be the backup to starting quarterback Joe Flacco, and the move really showed the fan base that the organization was truly committed to winning the Super Bowl this year. The fact that they signed Bulger to that kind of contract for a backup quarterback showed that they wanted a competent insurance policy in case Flacco were to become injured.

Bulger, a two-time Pro Bowl selection in his nine-year NFL career, has thrown for 122 TDs and 22, 814 yards during his time with the St. Louis Rams.

But make no mistake. Bulger is not the same quarterback he was several years ago when he was in the driver’s seat of a Rams offense that put up tremendous numbers.

For the last several seasons, Bulger has been one of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the league behind a sketchy Rams offensive line, and the last season in which he played a full 16 game season was in 2006, where he posted a career high 24 touchdown passes and 8 INTs in 588 attempts.

This was also a guy who the fine folks at ESPN, in their production meeting with Bulger, said that he appeared to  have nothing left in the tank and that the struggles with the Rams over the last few seasons took the football spirit out of him.

Marc Bulger

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like the move to bring Bulger in. He is a veteran guy who can rub off some success and advice onto a young, developing quarterback in Joe Flacco. If Flacco were to get hurt, Bulger would be a serviceable starter for a couple games more so than Troy Smith would or John Beck would have before he was traded.

But after Bulger’s performance in the Ravens 23-3 victory Saturday, in which Bulger went 13-16 for 130 yards, fans yesterday on numerous talk-show stations here in Baltimore started calling in, saying the former Ram should be the starter or at least there should be an open competition for the job.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

There is a reason why Bulger was still available on the free agent market in June. He no longer is a starting quarterback in this league!

He’s 33 years old, and with the hits he has taken over the years, he is probably on the downhill of the 30′s.

He played against second-team defenses in Carolina and Washington, and the game-plan was slightly different than it was with Flacco in the game. Flacco’s throws called for five-step drops to test his arm, the receivers’ route-running ability, and the O-line’s blocking.

Bulger? Two and three step drops, throwing the ball on short routes and letting the receivers get YAC, yards after the catch, to make sure he stays upright.

Flacco was drafted to be the starter here in Baltimore. Not to sit the bench.

He is coming into his third year in the NFL, coming from a Division 1-AA school in Delaware, and he finally has a respectable receiving corps around him.

He had 21 TD passes last year, the second most in a season for a Baltimore quarterback. The first was Vinny Testaverde’s 33 TDs back in 1996, the Ravens inaugural season. Flacco’s 3,613 yards were second most in franchise history as well.

Flacco does have the best single season completion percentage for a Raven quarterback, at 63.1%.

In the last two years, the Ravens have won 3 games in the postseason with Flacco under center. And don’t give me that crap about the defense won those games. This team would be no where near as successful as they are with Kyle Boller still here or Troy Smith starting on this team.

If anyone other than Flacco starts for this team this year, the Ravens will not achieve their third straight postseason appearance, which the team has never done in the history of the franchise.

Heck, the Rams last year went with Kyle Boller as the starter INSTEAD of Marc Bulger. And depending upon the opponent, there may be times this year when Bulger is the inactive third quarterback behind Troy Smith because of his running ability.

Joe Flacco is the future of this franchise, and it’s his team to run. Let’s continue to give Flacco the keys to the car and I think we’re going to see some things this year out of Flacco that we haven’t seen before.

We as Baltimore Ravens fans desired for so long to have a franchise quarterback to call our own, and now that we have one, we want to bench him…for Marc Bulger?

There may be a game or two this season where the defense lets the team down-and looking at the secondary so far this year that’s a possibility-and Flacco may actually show us how good he is lifting his team on his shoulders.

But saying that Bulger should be the starter isn’t putting that trust and faith into action. In Ozzie We Trust, remember?

Oh, and to close this out, if any of you people out there say that neither of these two should be the starter and that Troy Smith should be the starter just because he won the Heisman Trophy…let me offer these names to you:

  • Matt Leinart
  • Jason White
  • Eric Crouch
  • Chris Weinke
  • Danny Wuerffel
  • Rashaan Salaam
  • Andre Ware
  • Ty Detmer

In other words, the success of the Heisman is a COLLEGE award. It has no bearing on future success to the NFL. And Troy Smith has enough trouble on his own not throwing picks to his own teammates in practice; I doubt he could avoid doing that in the real thing.

And if you do think Troy Smith is a starter in this league or on this team, let me also recommend you to a neurosurgeon, because you need your head examined. There’s a good one right here in town by the name of Dr. Ben Carson.

Tune into WNST and WNST.net for more news regarding the Ravens! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Mocking The 53: Roster Taking Shape Through 2 Preseason Games

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Mocking The 53: Roster Taking Shape Through 2 Preseason Games

Posted on 24 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

The Baltimore Ravens have wrapped up Training Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster and have now settled in at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills.

They’ve won their first two preseason games against the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, and have just two more preseason contests left (they host the New York Giants Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium and visit the St. Louis Rams a week from Thursday) before they open the regular season September 13th at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets on the national stage of Monday Night Football.

Before they get there, they’ll have to make some major roster decisions. After the game against the Giants, they’ll have to trim the roster slightly before the Tuesday (August 31) deadline to be down to 75 players. Following that, they’ll have just 4 days to make final decisions before the roster is cut to 53 on Saturday, September 4.

There are no changes to the physical roster (except where we expect Lardarius Webb to be when the season begins) since my 4th “Mocking the 53″ update, but there are some changes to the 53 itself. Before we get to that, a reminder of the explanation of the list I wrote before the initial version…

“Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and company will at least MOSTLY keep the 53 best players on the roster, I am going to try to identify the Top 53 players on the roster myself. It ISN’T a perfect science, and some of the players will have outside circumstances that will influence where they find themselves on the list. Similarly, the Ravens will make some decisions based on health, position needs, etc.

I’m putting “best overall players”, “most significant players”, and “position relevance” into my “Top 53″ rankings. This isn’t just a list of the 53 best players on the team. This is however a list-at this moment-of the 53 players I believe are most likely to make the roster.”

With that in mind, let’s look again at how the Top 53 shapes up…

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. RB Ray Rice
3. OT Michael Oher
oher
4. WR Anquan Boldin
5. DT Haloti Ngata
6. LB Ray Lewis
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
9. LB Jarret Johnson
10. G Ben Grubbs

Only one real change in the Top 10, and it comes from someone who hasn’t performed much at all. Ray Rice has played little at all through two preseason games, and it has shown you everything you need to know about the importance of the 3rd year back from Rutgers. His place in this Ravens offense is INCREDIBLY significant, and without him heavily involved, they are just not the same-no matter who is playing receiver.

Otherwise, everything about the Top 10 remains the same. I know Michael Oher has struggled a bit in the first two preseason games-but Oher is a very good player. He was a bit of a 2nd half guy a season ago (remember his struggles in the first half against Jared Allen when the Ravens visited the Minnesota Vikings but his stellar 2nd half in the same game), and might be a player who just needs some more rhythm to shine. I’m not concerned yet myself.

11. DE Trevor Pryce
12. DL Cory Redding
13. TE Todd Heap
14. DT Terrence Cody
15. CB Fabian Washington
16. FB Le’Ron McClain
17. OL Marshal Yanda
yanda
18. C Matt Birk
19. S Dawan Landry
20. S Tom Zbikowski

Almost all of this group remains the same as well. Tom Zbikowski enters the Top 20, as he has played very well knowing he will be in the starting lineup with the Ravens visit East Rutherford Week 1 barring some sort of Ed Reed miracle. I also think it is worth pointing out that while John Harbaugh may have claimed that he ISN’T voting “McClain 4 RB”, Le’Ron McClain has been very good during the preseason-and it would be surprising if he didn’t make more of an impact in the offense this season.

21. CB Chris Carr
22. OT Jared Gaither
23. QB Marc Bulger
24. TE Ed Dickson
25. S Haruki Nakamura
nakamura
26. CB Lardarius Webb
27. K Shayne Graham
28. WR Mark Clayton
29. OL Chris Chester
30. LB Dannell Ellerbe

There are some subtle changes in this group-starting with Jared Gaither. Gaither falls out of the Top 20 because we just don’t know what to make of his health. The initial prognosis surrounding his back tear made us believe that he should be available before the Ravens head to New Jersey on Sept. 13. Of course, at this point we’re starting to reach a place where “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Dannell Ellerbe moves back into the Top 30 this week. After watching the other interior LB’s competing for the starting JACK spot against the Skins, I get the feeling that Ellerbe’s ability to play the pass will ultimately get him back into the starting lineup.

Lardarius Webb re-enters “The 53″ at #26. As we see more of what he’s capable of doing early on, we will see how quickly he can rise on the list. Shayne Graham drops a few spots as well despite the fact that I truly believe he’ll be the kicker of record come MNF on Sept. 13. I just somehow needed to reflect the fact that Billy Cundiff has kicked well recently, including 2 makes Saturday night at FedEx Field.

31. P Sam Koch
32. RB Willis McGahee
mcgahee
33. WR Donte’ Stallworth
34. DT Kelly Gregg
35. TE Dennis Pitta
36. LB Jameel McClain
37. LB Tavares Gooden
38. CB Cary Williams
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. OT Oniel Cousins

There are a few significant risers in this group. One is Sam Koch, who was tremendous again Saturday night in DC. His contract situation is an uncomfortable spot for the team, as he is going to get paid SOMEWHERE-but the team has set a precedent in the past that they won’t give big money to a punter (see Kyle Richardson and Dave Zastudil).

Willis McGahee also rises on this list, despite the fact that a number of armchair GM’s in Charm City would have already dealt him for just about anyone with the letters “CB” next to their name. McGahee continues to prove himself as being very valuable, both as a reserve who can take a number of carries and as an impressive short yardage back.

The third riser in this group is Cary Williams-who was exceptional again Saturday night. It may have been preseason football, but the QB Williams picked off (Donovan McNabb) is still a future Hall of Famer. Williams’ size (he’s 6’1″) really DOES make a difference when it comes to how we look at his role moving forward. Should he continue to play similar to his size, Williams could develop into a legitimate NFL corner.

41. LB Antwan Barnes
42. S Ken Hamlin
43. QB Troy Smith
44. DT Kelly Talavou
45. DT Brandon McKinney
46. RB Jalen Parmele
parmele
47. OL Tony Moll
48. LS Morgan Cox
49. CB Travis Fisher
50. OL David Hale
51. LB Jason Phillips
52. WR David Reed
53. S/CB KJ Gerard

Travis Fisher is hanging by a thread-and I would suggest that at this point he’s BARELY ahead of either KJ Gerard or Prince Miller. No matter how quick Anthony Armstrong is, there’s no way that Fisher should have been embarrassed by him the way he was Saturday night. I’ll leave him on the roster for now, if only because the Ravens have to have SOME healthy corners lining up against Santonio Holmes Braylon Edwards and company September 13. I’m also keeping Gerard ahead of Prince Miller, only because Gerard has more to offer on Special Teams right now than Miller does.

(Editor’s note: Thanks to all who pointed out Holmes will miss the first 4 games. Absolutely right. My mistake. I need a better editor. Or an editor.)

Two players who I moved back onto the roster thanks to their performance Saturday night are Jason Phillips and David Reed. Reed not only played well offensively, but also made a very key Special Teams tackle. Proving his value on Special Teams changes everything-which goes for Phillips as well. That being said, Edgar Jones is a very valuable AND versatile player who I currently have OFF the 53, so these standings remain tentative.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)
(LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-potential PUP or injury settlement until known otherwise)
(RB Matt Lawrence-potential PUP or injury settlement until known otherwise)

I’m taking both Ayanbadejo and Lawrence out of the equation for now. There are other players on this team battling injuries, but neither of them have even done significant work in practice. Until I see that, I’m going to work under the assumption that they won’t be part of the team Week 1. That can change rapidly. A week ago, we were working under the assumption that Lardarius Webb would start the season on PUP.

54. K Billy Cundiff
55. CB Prince Miller
56. LB Edgar Jones
57. WR Demetrius Williams
58. DT Arthur Jones
59. OT Ramon Harewood
60. DT Lamar Divens
divens
61. TE Davon Drew
62. LB Prescott Burgess
63. WR Marcus Smith
64. WR Justin Harper
65. FB Mike McLaughlin
66. WR Eron Riley
67. DE Albert McClellan
68. RB Curtis Steele
69. OT Joe Reitz
70. CB Marcus Paschal

The reality is that Miller, Edgar Jones and Williams are in direct competition at positions where there is probably room to keep another player. Arthur Jones and Divens are probably in positions where keeping another player just might not be a legitimate option. Of course, we didn’t all think the Ravens would keep both McKinney and Talavou a season ago, and what did we learn there?

Mike McLaughlin’s name will keep coming up, but keeping him on the 53 really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There isn’t MUCH risk in exposing an undrafted rookie FB who has just converted to LB. Giving him more time on the practice squad could really benefit him as a player.

71. CB Doug Dutch
dougdutch
72. OL Bryan Mattison
73. OT Stefan Rodgers
74. CB Brad Jones
75. CB Chris Hawkins
76. OT Daniel Sanders
77. OT Devin Tyler

A good sign that you’re a longshot to make the roster? A simple Google image search doesn’t come up with a legitimate picture of you. Thank God for Facebook. Hopefully there’s some practice squad help in this group.

There you have it. Questions? Concerns? Comments? Thoughts in general? Song requests? Let me know.

-G

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Ravens Training Camp: The impressive and disappointing

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Another Westminster training camp has concluded with the Ravens now focusing their attention to the final three games of the preseason before the 2010 regular season gets underway against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.

Saturday night’s meeting with the Washington Redskins will be a key audition for  bubble players as coach John Harbaugh has already stated how important the second preseason game is for evaluating rookies and reserve veterans fighting for a roster spot.

Much will change before the initial cutdown to 75 players takes place on Aug. 31 and the final cut to 53 on Sept. 4, but here’s a breakdown of players—by position—who impressed and disappointed in Westminster.

QUARTERBACKS
Impressed: Joe Flacco is an easy choice after a strong camp with his new offensive weapons. The third-year quarterback still must prove he can read and throw to the middle of the field, but Anquan Boldin and a strong group of tight ends will certainly help.

Disappointed: Troy Smith knew his standing in the organization changed dramatically after the acquisition of Marc Bulger, and the former Heisman Trophy winner did nothing to push the veteran for the backup job. Smith lacks size and was too erratic in Westminster. He will stick as the No. 3 quarterback, but his performance made the Ravens look very wise for signing Bulger.

RUNNING BACKS
Impressed: Hard to go with anyone but Ray Rice at this spot despite Willis McGahee looking solid and healthy as well. Rice looked to be in mid-season form the first day veterans reported to Westminster. It will be another Pro Bowl season for the third-year back if he remains healthy.

Disappointed: Not his fault, but Matt Lawrence’s chance of making the 53-man roster continues to diminish as he remains on the physically unable to perform list. He is a capable special teams player when healthy, but this summer’s roster is too deep.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Impressed: Everyone assumed Mark Clayton would be cast aside in the offense when the Ravens acquired Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, but the former starter had a strong training camp, catching everything thrown his way. Stallworth was the logical choice as the No. 3 receiver, but Clayton received more reps in three-wide sets over the final two weeks of camp.

Disappointed: The Ravens loved what they saw out of David Reed during the OTA schedule, but the rookie failed to adjust to the quicker speed of training camp. Considered a sure-handed receiver coming out of Utah, Reed dropped countless passes and was not been given much of a look as a kick returner. Demetrius Williams is clearly ahead of Reed in the battle for the fifth receiver spot.

TIGHT ENDS
Impressed: Ed Dickson looked more like an established—not to mention explosive—veteran than a rookie on the upper fields at McDaniel College. The 6-foot-4 Dickson has tremendous size and great speed for a tight end. His versatility will be a welcome addition when the Ravens use him in two-tight end sets and at H-back on occasion. On a side note, Todd Heap had an excellent camp, showing he’s still capable of producing when healthy.

Disappointed: Already facing an uphill battle to make the roster after the drafting of Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Davon Drew was not able to stay on the field this summer. Drew showed more consistency than he did last season as a rookie, but it’s difficult to make the team when you’re never on the field. He’ll need to get healthy and make an impact in the remaining preseason games.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Impressed: Fellow guard Ben Grubbs earns more notoriety, but Marshal Yanda was ferocious in Westminster, proving he’s all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered two seasons ago. Yanda anchored and stood up Terrence Cody during a 1-on-1 drill in one of the highlights of the summer, just a couple plays after the 350-pounder had blown up the highly-regarded Grubbs.

Disappointed: Showing up 30 pounds lighter without the coaching staff’s approval and injuring his back on the first day of full-team workouts made Jared Gaither a slam-dunk choice. Not only are there concerns whether he’ll be ready by Week 1, but he’s missed valuable time to adjust to the right tackle position.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Impressed: He got off to a slow start while adjusting to playing with the 15 extra pounds he gained in the offseason, but Paul Kruger became a force on the defensive line, off the edge and even sliding to the inside in the nickel package. If Kruger can replicate what he showed in Westminster over the last two weeks, the Ravens will have another factor in the pass rush.

Disappointed: None. This is the deepest unit on the team. The only disappointment on the defensive line is the reality that the organization will have to cut a couple of talented players due to numbers.

LINEBACKERS
Impressed: His performance in the Carolina game aside, Jameel McClain was the biggest surprise of camp over the first three weeks, working at inside linebacker with the first defense. McClain played the run well and showed competence in pass coverage, but it did not carry over against the Panthers in the preseason opener. The competition for the starting job next to Ray Lewis is still wide open. Antwan Barnes earns an honorable mention.

Disappointed: The likely favorite to win the second inside linebacker spot prior to camp, Dannell Ellerbe came to Westminster out of shape and trailed McClain and Tavares Gooden for much of the way. Ellerbe improved his standing as the weeks progressed, but it was apparent how unhappy the coaching staff was as Ellerbe worked with the second defense in Westminster.

CORNERBACKS
Impressed: Expected to be brought back slowly, Fabian Washington provided a much-needed lift to the secondary when he returned to the field during the first week of camp. Washington appeared quick and made more plays as the weeks progressed. He will see his first game action against the Redskins on Saturday night and will be relied upon to be the team’s top corner, even if he’s nowhere near a true No. 1.

Disappointed: The injury to Domonique Foxworth is most appropriate here, but the brief eight-day stint of Walt Harris takes the cake in this department. He was unable to show he had anything left in the tank despite a solid career. And it’s tough labeling the likes of Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins as disappointments if you never had any expectations to begin with.

SAFETY
Impressed: While no one compares to Ed Reed, Tom Zbikowski eased concerns at the position with a very strong showing in Westminster. Zbikowski is faster and showed a strong nose for the football this summer after doing an adequate job in Reed’s place for four games last season. Despite not knowing the status of its future Hall of Famer, this unit of safeties looks very sound with Zbikowski and Dawan Landry anchoring the secondary.

Disappointed: Though labeling him a disappointment is bit strong, Ken Hamlin has done little to challenge Zbikowski for the free safety position, partly because the latter was excellent in practice. Hamlin was solid, but unspectacular, running with the second defense. The former Cowboy has great size (6-foot-2) but needs to show a stronger special teams presence to stick around when Reed returns to the field.

SPECIALISTS
Impressed: Yes, he’s younger, cheaper, and healthier, but the Ravens clearly loved what they saw from Morgan Cox to have jettisoned veteran Matt Katula two days after the preseason opener. Fans can only hope we won’t hear his name again all season.

Disappointed: Though he’s kicked reasonably well, the Ravens certainly wished Shayne Graham had seized early control of the competition with Billy Cundiff. Until the final two days of camp, Cundiff had outperformed the former Bengal by a slight margin. Graham struggled with field goals outside 45 yards in Westminster but kicked better during the practice at M&T Bank Stadium. The smart money is still on Graham to be the kicker, but the battle has been closer than most people thought.

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Mocking The 53: Checking Ravens Roster After Preseason Opener

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Mocking The 53: Checking Ravens Roster After Preseason Opener

Posted on 16 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

My 3rd Edition of “Mocking The 53″ hit WNST.net just 9 days ago, and much has changed since that time. The most notable difference is the departure of veteran LS Matt Katula, whose roster spot was taken by rookie CB Brad Jones (Cincinnati).

However, there is also some tinkering to the 53 based on how Baltimore Ravens players performed against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium; and how they continue to perform during Training Camp practices at McDaniel College in Westminster.

For the record, I’ve never been more convinced that any of 60 guys could end up making the final roster. There might not be 70 NFL players on the roster like there were before Camp, but there are still PLENTY of players who have every opportunity to end up amongst the 53.

Here’s a reminder of how I explained these rankings the first time I put them together…

“Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and company will at least MOSTLY keep the 53 best players on the roster, I am going to try to identify the Top 53 players on the roster myself. It ISN’T a perfect science, and some of the players will have outside circumstances that will influence where they find themselves on the list. Similarly, the Ravens will make some decisions based on health, position needs, etc.

I’m putting “best overall players”, “most significant players”, and “position relevance” into my “Top 53″ rankings. This isn’t just a list of the 53 best players on the team. This is however a list-at this moment-of the 53 players I believe are most likely to make the roster.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the 53 shapes up…

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. OT Michael Oher
3. WR Anquan Boldin
4. DT Haloti Ngata
5. RB Ray Rice
rice

6. LB Ray Lewis
7. WR Derrick Mason
8. LB Terrell Suggs
9. LB Jarret Johnson
10. G Ben Grubbs

I think we were reminded of just how much the Ravens value Ray Rice when he was all but held out of the preseason opener. It’s very clear who the Top 6 players are on the team-just not quite as clear what order the Top 6 are in. Ben Grubbs cracks the Top 10 for the first time, and with the way O-Linemen have been getting banged up for this team during Camp, he might still be rising.

11. DE Trevor Pryce
12. DL Cory Redding
13. TE Todd Heap
14. DT Terrence Cody
15. CB Fabian Washington
fabian
16. OT Jared Gaither
17. FB Le’Ron McClain
18. OL Marshal Yanda
19. C Matt Birk
20. S Dawan Landry

While Fabian Washington and Terrence Cody continue to climb, Jared Gaither is absolutely falling. John Harbaugh said he expected Gaither to miss 2-3 weeks; but didn’t appear to rule out the possibility that his back tear could keep him out longer. With that in mind, his value falls a bit.

On the flip side, after a rough start to Camp-Cody came on big time against the Panthers. He showed quite a bit of the promise the Ravens had hoped he would when they selected him in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft out of Alabama. Kelly Gregg may still be the starter in the middle of the D-Line, but Cody has significantly greater upside.

Washington is going to have to be ready to be a Top 15 guy on this team whether he’s…well…ready or not. It’s hard to move him so high without him having played against the Panthers, but his importance to the overall makeup of the roster cannot be understated.

21. S Tom Zbikowski
tomz
22. CB Chris Carr
23. LB Jameel McClain
24. K Shayne Graham
25. TE Ed Dickson
26. QB Marc Bulger
27. S Haruki Nakamura
28. WR Mark Clayton
29. DT Kelly Gregg
30. WR Donte’ Stallworth

A couple of movers in this group-including Jameel McClain, who appeared to have the starting ILB job nailed down next to Ray Lewis but has since been splitting time. He’s still very much in the mix and likely ahead of Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden, but we’ll need to see what the team does Saturday night against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

Chris Carr and Tom Zbikowski are risers, as their spots as starters have been solidified in recent weeks. Zbikowski may also end up winning the punt return job (I have him slightly ahead of Clayton and Stallworth right now), which could be enough to get him in the Top 20.

As far as Clayton and Stallworth are concerned-Clayton moves ahead of Stallworth for the first time as it appears he’ll be the team’s 3rd receiver. Expect both to get plenty of snaps throughout the season however.

Don’t be surprised if Ed Dickson is this team’s top Tight End sometime between now and the start of the 2011 season. He’ll be in the Top 20 on this list soon.

31. OL Chris Chester
32. LB Dannell Ellerbe
33. TE Dennis Pitta
34. P Sam Koch
35. LB Tavares Gooden
36. RB Willis McGahee
37. LB Antwan Barnes
abarnes
38. QB Troy Smith
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. CB Travis Fisher

Nothing drastically different about this group as of right now. Should Ellerbe or Gooden end up beating Jameel McClain out for the other ILB job, they would clearly move ahead of him on the roster. A good showing against the Panthers lifts Paul Kruger a bit, and the team continues to tell me they’re pleased with what they’ve seen from the 2nd year DE out of Utah since he reported to Westminster.

There have been rumblings that the team could keep just Flacco and Bulger and allow Troy Smith to walk-but I doubt that. Flacco and Bulger are similar QB’s, while Troy Smith is particularly different. After seeing what happened two years ago when Smith got sick and Kyle Boller got hurt, I don’t think the organization is ready to trim the number of QB’s on the Week 1 roster.

41. OT Oniel Cousins
42. S Ken Hamlin
43. DT Kelly Talavou
talavou
44. DT Brandon McKinney
45. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
46. RB Jalen Parmele
47. CB Cary Williams
48. OL David Hale
49. OL Tony Moll
50. LS Morgan Cox
51. LB Edgar Jones
52. S KJ Gerard
53. WR Demetrius Williams

A few things worth mentioning in this final group:

-David Hale was injured during practice Monday. Until we know more about the nature of the injury we have to assume he’s safely on the roster when the Ravens visit the New York Jets September 13th.

-I have Talavou and McKinney ahead of Arthur Jones and Lamar Divens right now, but Divens has had a solid camp and Jones is a player the Ravens might not want to risk exposing. All 4 remain very much in the mix to be on the team when they get to East Rutherford.

-Despite his suspension, Cary Williams basically has to be a safe bet to be on the team as he’s the 4th corner right now. That being said, the team could still make roster moves between now and their Week 1 appearance on Monday Night Football. Should they do that, Williams could be in trouble. If Williams DOES make the roster, the team will almost be forced to keep an additional corner. I’m keeping KJ Gerard ahead of Prince Miller for now, but if Gerard doesn’t get healthy soon he’ll forfeit that spot right back to Miller.

-Brendon Ayanbadejo is sliding. While he still appears upbeat about his spot on this team, I’m not sure how much longer it can be assumed. He hasn’t really been noticed doing much work on the side, and team sources have told me they’re disappointed in how long Ayanbadejo has remained out. Should he return, he has every chance to make an impact in the nickel package and on special teams; but he has to return to do that.

-I moved Demetrius Williams back to the safe side of the roster and David Reed off. Reed was expected to make a more significant impact in the return game-but that hasn’t necessarily been seen just yet. He could still win the kick return job-which would get him back on the good side of the roster bubble. In the meantime, Williams’ size continues to somehow separate him from the rest of the receivers on this team-which is enough to get him back on the good side of the bubble.

-Morgan Cox takes a spot in the 53. As the team’s only long snapper, that’s a bit of a no-brainer.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(CB Lardarius Webb-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)

54. K Billy Cundiff
55. CB Prince Miller
56. DT Arthur Jones
57. OT Ramon Harewood
58. WR David Reed
59. RB Matt Lawrence
60. TE Davon Drew
ddrew
61. LB Prescott Burgess
62. LB Jason Phillips
63. DT Lamar Divens
64. WR Marcus Smith
65. WR Justin Harper
66. FB Mike McLaughlin
67. WR Eron Riley
68. DE Albert McClellan
69. RB Curtis Steele
70. OT Joe Reitz

Plenty of things worth discussing about this group:

-Mike McLaughlin COULD make the roster at FB with the team apparently more willing to give Le’Ron McClain carries; but I don’t expect it just yet. McLaughlin isn’t the type of guy the team would HAVE to keep to avoid exposing him, so I imagine he’ll end up on the practice squad.

-Billy Cundiff is MUCH closer in the kicking competition than he might appear; but the team has made it clear that Shayne Graham will be their guy. If he’s not going to make the roster, I can’t have Cundiff ahead of 54th.

-Jason Phillips is a guy the team likes a great deal, but may be a victim of a numbers game. He doesn’t have a natural role right now that makes him a guarantee to earn a spot. Prescott Burgess is in a similar position.

-Don’t be stunned if the team ends up keeping Davon Drew and has 4 tight ends on the roster. I just don’t see the room to do it right now myself.

71. CB Marcus Paschal
paschal
72. CB Doug Dutch
73. OL Bryan Mattison
74. OT Stefan Rodgers
75. CB Brad Jones
76. CB Chris Hawkins
77. OT Daniel Sanders
78. OT Devin Tyler

Of this group, Rodgers may have the only realistic path to being part of the team when they hit the field at the Meadowlands. Should Jared Gaither remain out and the team choose to protect Ramon Harewood by placing him on IR; he would have a realistic chance of getting active behind Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll. But that’s a major (and frightening) IF.

-G

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Friday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

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Friday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 13 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

Happy Friday!

It’s a Happy Friday for me because we all know that with a preseason Week 1 win, the Ravens are most certainly Super Bowl bound. With the Super Bowl in Dallas (and considering that Sunday is WWE SummerSlam), I was hoping maybe we could hang out with this man while we were in town…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Exbsw5ssn4I[/youtube]

God I love HBK. No wrestling Pay-Per-View is ever as good without him.

Let’s see what everyone has to say…

1. The AP’s David Ginsburg says Joe Flacco ‘smooth’ in Ravens’ preseason win over Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium

No doubt about it.

Flacco wasn’t quite perfect (he actually surprisingly missed Anquan Boldin on a sideline route that he usually has no trouble with), but he was very good. He spread the ball out to various receivers and made no major mistakes during the 3 drives he was a part of during the first half.

It would have been nice to see a more representative effort from the offensive line; as Tyler Brayton looked like Julius Peppers early on. It would have also been nice to see a bit more balance in the offensive attack, as Ray Rice might as well have stayed home to watch Big Brother last night given his lack of involvement in the game.

That being said, this was preseason football. The Ravens came out of the game healthy, and that is REALLY all that matters.

2. The AP/WNST.net provide numerical evidence of win

Troy Smith added a 2nd half rushing TD, Cary Williams pulled down an interception, Curtis Steele was the team’s leading rush and Shayne Graham missed a 50 yard FG.

Anything else you might have missed after you couldn’t take the rain anymore or finally decided to flip over to something else?

You won’t mind looking at any of these numbers; but I have a recommendation beyond that. Look at the numbers, then look at this picture of Lola Ponce from Guyism. Like we always say, WIN-WIN…

lolaponce

3. WNST.net’s Glenn Clark says Terrence Cody looked like ‘gamer’ for Ravens in win

If that’s what the Ravens are going to get from Terrence Cody this season, they’re going to be THRILLED with taking him in the 2nd round.

Some guys are just the type of guys who need the lights to go on and to step on the field in a game situation to really turn up the volume. Cody told me after the game that the “adrenaline” of the evening changed things for him.

I don’t know if Terrence Cody will ever be a superstar on the practice field or in the classroom. I get the feeling he may struggle in those areas in the future. But what I saw last night as far as the ability to beat double teams, work into the backfield and force plays to come to a head whether they be passes or runs; the guy has a real chance to be a superstar.

“Refreshing” was the word that kept coming to me as I watched his performance.

4. WNST.net’s Drew Forrester thought Talavou, Kruger, Clayton all solid for Ravens in win

I agree with all three. I also thought Prince Miller and Lamar Divens were pretty good last night, as was Ed Dickson.

Completely absent from that last? One Joe Reitz. It was a tough night for one Joe Reitz…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lggBJYv2QgY[/youtube]

The guy played basketball at Western Michigan!!! I expect more!!!

Of course, Reitz made MUCH more of a name for himself by missing than he could have by connecting. He’ll be a YouTube sensation and will absolutely find himself on SportsCenter’s “Not Top 10″ later today.

So if it was all part of your plan Joe…good on you sir.

5. National Football Post’s Aaron Wilson says Chris Carr and Travis Fisher started in secondary

Fabian Washington (knee) did end up sitting; but apparently Carr talked John Harbaugh and staff into letting him play after the team had originally announced him as a scratch.

Of course, we saw an AWFUL lot of Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins last night-which means those of you who attended will have something to tell your grandkids someday.

Before we move on from the Ravens, a couple of notes:

-The Ravens are off today after last night’s game, they return to Westminster for a Training Camp practice at 2:45pm tomorrow. They’ll have two practices at McDaniel College Sunday-at 8:45am and 2:45pm. The Ravens don’t play another preseason game until next Saturday, when the visit the (ugh) Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in DC. I’d almost rather visit hell…

-Did you miss Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta with Drew Forrester this morning on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST? Make sure you head over to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault today to hear directly from the Ravens’ front office. Plenty of other things to listen to in the Audio Vault…

  • Antwan Barnes (Ravens LB) who joined Drew this morning after a big night last night
  • Cal Ripken Jr. (Like I need to explain) who previewed the Cal Ripken World Series with Drew this morning
  • Rich Herrera (Tampa Bay Rays Pre & Postgame Radio Host) who previewed the weekend series with the Orioles at The Trop with Drew
  • Jon Ladd (Baltimore Municipal Golf) who discussed the PGA Championship and this weekend’s Publinx Event with Drew
  • Plenty of locker room reaction from last night’s game-including John Harbaugh, Terrence Cody, Joe Flacco, Mark Clayton and Anquan Boldin
  • Jay Gibbons (Los Angeles Dodgers OF) who joined Rex Snider Thursday afternoon after returning to Major League Baseball
  • Trevor Matich (Comcast SportsNet Redskins Analyst) who discussed Ravens QB Coach Jim Zorn with Rex Thursday afternoon

It’s all in the Audio Vault. Hey-it’s Friday. It’s not like your boss expected you to do any work today anyway.

6. The AP says Jeanmar Gomez pitched Cleveland Indians past Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field

I mean, what can you be expected to do against a Cy Young Award candidate like Jeanmar Gomez?!?!?

I’m not going to try to pretend like I saw any of the game last night. Apparently Kevin Millwood was pretty good-but I guess he gave up a run in the first inning just to keep up appearances.

You know what’s funny? When the Orioles were 3-16, all I could think to myself was “how in the hell did they win 3 games?” Now that they’re 8-2 under Buck Showalter, all I can think is “how in the hell have they lost 2 games???

7. The AP/WNST.net offer numerical evidence of loss

And everything is right in the world once again.

You don’t want to look at these numbers, trust me on that.

Instead, look at this picture of Jaime Edmondson. We’ll be fine after that. (Thanks The Smoking Jacket!)

jamie

8. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli says O’s reached deals with draft picks Dan Klein, Connor Narron, Parker Bridwell

Klein is the most significant name amongst the group-he helped pitch UCLA to the College World Series a season ago. Connor Narron is the son of MLB vet Jerry Narron, and Parker Bridwell has a name that makes him sound like he should be writing for The New Yorker.

No news on progress with 1st round pick Manny Machado; as the deadline to get guys signed looms this Monday.

Andy MacPhail couldn’t possibly fail to sign a first round pick, right?

Right?

9. Baltimore Business Journal’s Ryan Sharrow says Birds extended agreements with Norfolk Tides, Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys through 2014

Between this and another story we’ll get to this morning, I guess yesterday was “no-brainer” day in the local sports world. The O’s are better off having their minor league affiliates nearby; as it gives them the option to watch the players in their organization more often and get them back to Charm City quickly should it be necessary.

In fact, I doubt there are better options for affiliates at each level in baseball.

Note-this is something the Orioles do well. You can’t say I didn’t point it out.

10. The Sun’s Dean Jones Jr. says Rick Vandenhurk strong for Norfolk Tides in win over Indianapolis Indians on farm

And before we move on from the Orioles, a few things…

-After wrapping their series with the Tribe in The Comeback City, the O’s now head to Tampa (or is it St. Petersburg?) for a series with the Rays at Tropicana Field. Jeremy Guthrie takes the hill tonight against James Shields; first pitch is at 7:10pm on MASN. Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta are scheduled to face Andy Sonnanstine and Jeremy Hellickson in the other games this weekend-tomorrow’s game is actually on FOX. Looking at the pitching matchups, I honest to God believe the O’s can win 2 of 3.

-The Orioles will apparently be wearing all orange tonight and the Rays will be wearing the colors of the 1970 Tampa Tarpons-yeah, them. The Village People are going to be playing a postgame concert. If I was celebrating 1970 I would have preferred Chicago myself…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCAbdNXx2sE[/youtube]

11. D1scourse’s Patrick Stevens says Maryland TE Lansford Watson has slight MCL tear

As Patrick reports, Ralph Friedgen appears inclined to allow the Terrapins’ TE to keep playing through the injury. Watson is trying to win the starting TE job in a competition with Devonte Campbell.

And if playing through the injury doesn’t work, it isn’t as if the Terps don’t have other options. For example, maybe ESPN’s Chris Berman can give them some scouting info on Dylan Thomas (Thanks Busted Coverage!)…

dylanthomas

12. HopkinsSports.com says JHU lacrosse coach Pietramala has contract extended through 2016

As I said yesterday on Twitter (follow us @WNST), this is an ABSOLUTE no-brainer. There isn’t much of anything more that the Blue Jays could have hoped for under Petro, and he deserves as much security as he wants from the school.

As if John Tillman’s gig in College Park wasn’t tough enough…

(Edit from GMC: As a side note, Johns Hopkins has redone their athletics website. It looks very cool. I’d take a look today if you have the chance.)

13. GoMustangSports.com says Stevenson held first football practice in school history Thursday

Congratulations to coach Ed Hottle and everyone involved in the Stangs’ program there in Owings Mills; as this is a great day for them. Hopefully they will continue to grow from there.

Stevenson also unveiled a new athletics logo yesterday, which actually looks pretty cool…

mustangs

And finally, I leave you with this.

Will “The Expendables” be any good? No idea. Does it have Stone Cold Steve Austin, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham? Yes, yes it does…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6RU5y2fU6s[/youtube]

You can’t possibly pick “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” over this, could you?

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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In NFL Debut, Ravens Rookie Cody Looks Like ‘Gamer’

Posted on 13 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE – There wasn’t much that made Thursday night’s preseason opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium particularly watchable. If you don’t REALLY love NFL football, it was probably tough to stomach once Joe Flacco was pulled in the 2nd quarter.

There were penalties and turnovers, the weather was terrible and there were players on the field that not even the most passionate football fans know much of anything about. As preseason games go, this one was somehow more painful than most-played out in front of a national audience on ESPN. It was a game won 17-12 by the Ravens, although I’m not sure how many folks were still watching when it went final.

That being said, there were a number of good things that happened, even if they weren’t so easy to notice.

Flacco was particularly impressive during a 96 yard TD drive that began at the end of the 1st and spanned into the 2nd; culminating with a TD pass to Mark Clayton. Paul Kruger and Antwan Barnes both looked solid, and Marc Bulger showed the strong arm that made him a Pro Bowl QB with the St. Louis Rams.

And then there was Terrence Cody.

Cody was an incredible talent during his college career at Alabama, creating havoc throughout SEC backfields with a combination of overwhelming size, great strength and deceptive speed. He was considered by some scouts to be a Top 25 talent in the NFL Draft, but red flags allowed him to fall to the 57th overall pick-where he was selected by the Ravens.

Cody immediately impressed in OTA’s, including the team’s mandatory mini-camp. He was in the backfield constantly, highlighted by an impressive sack of QB Troy Smith where the former Crimson Tide standout proved his speed did not necessarily match his 6’4″, 349 pound frame.

OTA’s and mini-camps traditionally tend to be less challenging from a studying and scheming standpoint. Teams tend to avoid breaking open their playbooks and unleashing too much on a new group of young players too quickly. Much of that is saved for Training Camp.

For Terrence Cody, Training Camp hasn’t exactly been a finest hour. He failed the team’s conditioning test multiple times upon reporting to McDaniel College; and even John Harbaugh was forced to admit he was “surprised” when Cody finally managed to work his way off the PUP list. He has frustrated coaches during practice, with D-Line coach Clarence Brooks at one point labeling him “persona non grata”-as reported by WNST.net’s own Luke Jones.

Cody’s struggles were particularly frustrating for fans in Westminster given the absence of fellow 2nd round pick Sergio Kindle-who remains on the PUP list after fracturing his skull in an accident the weekend before camp opened.

Driving in to M&T Bank Stadium Thursday night, Rex Snider and I chatted on AM1570 WNST. We touched on a number of topics, one of which was Cody. I suggested to Rex that the concerns surrounding Cody early on might disappear once he hit the field in an actual game. Or in this case, at least something that resembled an actual game. I suggested that some players (Terrell Suggs came to mind) are just better when they have the natural rhythm of a game than they are when they are on a practice field.

Terrence Cody looked like just that Thursday night, and he knew it. “In a game, you just get that adrenaline and you just want to do a lot more” he told me following the win.

The night started poorly for Cody, as he was inserted in Cam Cameron’s red zone offense and was flagged for jumping early on a crucial 3rd down play. However, the offensive side of the ball is not the area where Cody is going to be asked to make an impact.

On the defensive side, Cody was very good. He displayed a natural feel for where the ball was and where it was going. He handled double teams from John Fox’s Carolina defense and showed the pure dominance that him a star at the collegiate level. For the game, he finished with 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 TFL); but made an impract on even more plays.

Harbaugh was impressed with the play of his young DT, noting “he made some plays in some big situations” and the coach thought Cody “controlled the middle in there pretty well.”

But despite the solid night, Harbaugh said he still needs to see improvement from the man nicknamed “Mount Cody”.

“The biggest thing with Terrence right now is…again…technique.  We play a 2 gap system, a little bit different than what Alabama does. We think he’s very well suited for that, but he’s gotta learn those techniques.”

Harbaugh admitted there will need to be a learning curve with Cody. “It’s gonna be that way all year. It’s going to be a learning process all year for him. He’s really kinda built for that kinda system, that’s why we drafted him. It did show up tonight.”

As an early pick, Terrence Cody is going to be expected to make a great impact for the Baltimore Ravens, even early on. To do so, he’s going to have to match his on-field ability with equally impressive performances in workouts, classroom sessions and practice drills. Should he do so, he could press incumbent starter Kelly Gregg early and steal quite a bit of playing time in his first full season.

And in a game that was otherwise painful to watch, it was refreshing to see that Cody’s god-given ability appeared to translate perfectly to a semi-real game of football.

-G

—————————-

Hear reaction from Coach John Harbaugh, DT Terrence Cody, QB Joe Flacco, WR Mark Clayton and WR Anquan Boldin NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net. LB Antwan Barnes is scheduled to join Drew Forrester tomorrow morning on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST at 9:30am.

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10 Things I’m Watching For vs. Panthers

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10 Things I’m Watching For vs. Panthers

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

It may not be Week 1 of the regular season, but in my opinion it really doesn’t matter.

Football season is here in Baltimore, as the Ravens take on the Carolina Panthers tonight at 8 PM on WBAL and ESPN( apparently not MASN if you’ve had your head stuck in the ground).

Carolina Panthers

Over the next four games, the Ravens will do their best to evaluate the guys they have in camp right now in game situations and see who deserves to survive the roster cuts when the team has to be trimmed down to 53 come Week 1 against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.

This is the first instance we’ll see how well the Ravens did in the off-season of evaluating their draft picks-from Terrence Cody to David Reed, and how well they did in finding key free agent rookies like Prince Miller, and finally, evaluating their free agent signings that will be starting for the Ravens, such as Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth or Cody Redding.

I don’t care if it is a preseason game or if we only see the starters for one quarter, let alone a series, but it will be interesting to see if the Ravens come out on all cylinders or if they come out flat having not played football against another opponent in seven months.

Here are ten points, not necessarily players, but just things to keep an eye out on in the game and hope that they run smoothly for the Ravens in their evaluation process.

1. Newly Added WRs Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth

With the Ravens first team offense only playing sparingly in this game, we as Ravens fans would love to see the new toys in Cam Cameron’s arsenal. We could see them for a series or a two, or a quarter but with all the improvements made to the offense in the off-season and all the hype surrounding the unit in training camp, time is short to see how good the Ravens’ passing game can be with Joe Flacco at the helm. I would love to see the first play of the game, the Ravens going to their new addition in Boldin, the Pro-Bowl caliber WR they got in the off-season for third and fourth round picks in April’s draft, for a first down and to see the video of Jonathan Ogden up on the JumboTron to “Move Those Chains! Move those Chains!”

Boldin, the NFL’s career leader in receiving yards per game, should have a field day early if the Ravens choose to do so, as the Panthers will be without starting corner Chris Gamble, who is sitting out with an injured knee.

Anquan Boldin

And we have talked about the versatility of Donte Stallworth. He can be used in the slot, on the outside, and in a position where the Ravens can use his burning speed to their advantage. This is also the first time since 2008 that Stallworth will be playing since his year-long suspension that kept him out of the NFL for the 2009 campaign.

And while he probably will be sidelined along with the rest of the first-team unit, Stallworth could also see some playing time maybe late in the game as he is in a thick battle with current Ravens WR Mark Clayton for the third WR on the team on an already crowded wide receiver corps, combined with Demetrius Williams, David Reed, Justin Harper, Eron Riley and Marcus Smith.

But let this be clear. Donte Stallworth is making this team.

2. The Corners

The biggest storyline so far this season; the corner backs may be the biggest concern of the team. With Domonique Foxworth out for the season with a torn ACL, and with Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb coming back from their own season ending knee injuries, it’s going to be on corners on the roster other than the walking wounded to get the job done. We are probably going to see a lot of Travis Fisher, a five-year starter for the Rams and Lions.

Travis Fisher

If the Ravens are smart, they will keep Webb and Washington away from the playing field, given the lack of importance of the game, and the harsh weather conditions that came into Baltimore this morning and probably affected the field. Chris Carr and K.J. Gerard are both hurt, so it’s still a toss-up to see if they make an appearance, especially with Carr’s return skills being an asset to this team.

Two guys to keep an eye on: Prince Miller, the former Georgia Bulldog, who could follow the likes of former teammate Dannell Ellerbe to make the team as a rookie free agent, and Cary Williams, who needs to prove he still belongs on this team after being suspended the first two games of the season for violating the NFL’s Conduct Policy.

Prince Miller-Baltimore Ravens CB

3. Oniel Cousins, Ravens RT

Oniel Cousins

With all the controversy with Jared Gaither in training camp, from a new contract, to foot and back injuries, and losing 30 pounds, Gaither has become one of the bigger concerns on this team. Cousins actually started the first game of his three-year NFL career against Detroit last year, and the former UTEP tackle saw the starting lineup for two more games later in 2009 when Gaither was hurt. Cousins has often been knocked for playing smart at times, but Cousins could continue to improve if he sees more playing time.

4. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, TE

Dennis Pitta

Heap is the starter here in Baltimore for now, but one of these two could be the tight ends of the future for the Ravens. Both have great hands, and Dickson helps his cause even more by being an even better blocker than Pitta. Pitta runs fine and crisp routes, and is more of an H-back kind of player. These two may be the only players who catch passes from Flacco, Marc Bulger, and Troy Smith.

5. Marc Bulger

Marc Bulger

The starters will be out quickly, and with Flacco taking a seat, Marc Bulger is going to be the next man up. The Ravens put a lot of faith in Bulger in case Flacco should get hurt, and it will be interesting to not only see how he does in a better team with Baltimore, but with the reserves. Are we going to get a revived Marc Bulger, or the one who has struggled the last couple of years without a supporting cast around him in St. Louis?

Also, with the recent trade of John Beck to the Redskins, this means that the Ravens have to have some sort of confidence in Troy Smith as a quarterback on this team, whether it’s as the third or backup QB is yet to be determined.  It will be interesting to see if Troy will take this sign of confidence to heart, and show himself a better quarterback to not only the Ravens, but to other NFL teams out there.

6. Tom Zbikowski and Ken Hamlin

Tom Zbikowski

Ed Reed is most likely going to start the season on PUP, or will at least miss games due to the surgery he had on his hip in the off-season. Zbikowski played well in Reed’s absences last year, actually recording several more interceptions than on his record last season due to a few timely penalties.

Ken Hamlin, once one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL, will likely back up Zbikowski but still provides great play from the position. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have him on this team as an insurance policy, and for a guy who has spent his entire career in the NFC, I will be anxious to see this guy on an American Football Conference team for once.

7. Who will eventually start next to Ray Lewis in the middle?

This involves three guys, including Dannell Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden, and Jameel McClain. Ellerbe, who fought his way onto the team last year, has actually begun to have a falling out with the coaching staff and could be playing and acting his way OFF the team.

Gooden hasn’t been able to stay healthy his whole career, and we have yet to see his full potential coming out of Miami a few years back. The next Ray Lewis huh? Not yet?

And finally, Jameel McClain has excelled the last couple of seasons playing inside and outside, and with the injuries to Sergio Kindle and the question marks surrounding several of the other OLB on the team, McClain may see time at both positions. And the good thing is, he has excelled at both positions. I think if McClain sees full time duty, he is going to be a solid player on the Ravens defense as he has shown the last couple seasons.

8. The kicking game-Shayne Graham vs. Billy Cundiff

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said earlier in camp that each kicker would rotate after every opportunity, and Rosburg also said that real judging of how each of these kickers perform would be done in game-situations. Here we are!

It’s either the Pro-Bowl caliber kicker in Graham who could become of the league’s highest paid kickers versus the incumbent who stabilized the position last winter. Let the competition begin, and trust me, whichever one doesn’t make this team will be kicking for another team in 2010.

9. Willis McGahee, RB

Willis McGahee

The blogs are heating up today with talks that McGahee could be on the move and a decent value to another NFL team out there looking for a running back. His contract would make it difficult to move, but if he continues to play superbly, on top of the Ravens continuing want to have a shutdown corner, maybe McGahee could be running out of Baltimore instead of running behind Le’Ron McClain.

10. Ed  from Park Heights brought this one up during our show, and I hadn’t thought of it until he drew it to our attention:

INJURIES.

But I don’t want to see them. So technically, what we are looking for are healthy players. With the injuries to Gaither, Foxworth, Ngata, Chris Carr, Derrick Mason, Matt Birk, Ed Reed, Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb, and Sergio Kindle, this team cannot become the Baltimore version of the “Walking Wounded”.

I want a healthy Ravens team to finish the game tonight at M&T Bank Stadium against the Panthers, and if wins are scarce this year, let’s save them for the games that count.

But WNST and WNST.net will still follow this game as much as a regular season game! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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GAMEDAY: Five compelling Ravens to watch tonight

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With the pregame buzz of a nationally-televised game inevitably wearing off shortly after the actual game begins (the first preseason game always provides that letdown, doesn’t it?), fans must channel their focus on individual standouts among many with no chance of making the 53-man roster in early September.

Stars such as Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and Ray Rice will only be making cameo appearances, but the stakes are much higher for lesser-known players yet to make their name popular in the Charm City. A few are battling for starting positions while others are simply contending for a spot on the 53-man roster, with the Ravens or one of the other 31 teams in the National Football League.

Below is a list of five players to watch in tonight’s game against the Carolina Panthers. A couple of familiar names are trying to enhance their stature while the others have stood out in training camp and can improve their position for making the squad—in Baltimore or elsewhere—with strong performances in the preseason.

1. LB Jameel McClain

We all expected a battle between Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe for the inside linebacker spot next to Lewis, but McClain has emerged as the biggest surprise of training camp. The third-year linebacker was a special teams standout in his first two seasons with the Ravens, but he’s taken an overwhelming majority of the reps with the starting defense while Gooden and Ellerbe have worked with the second team.

McClain is beginning to draw comparisons to former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott in that both went undrafted, played multiple positions in college, and earned their money via special teams in the infancy of their respective careers. McClain can play all four linebacker positions in the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme, but he credits being able to focus on the inside spot as a major factor for his new-found status as a defensive starter.

Of course, being a starter in training camp doesn’t mean he’ll start in September, but it’s apparent how far McClain has progressed from the summer of 2008 when he was a nondescript linebacker-defensive end trying to make the team. His steady play in all aspects of the game makes him a valuable asset to the defense.

“That’s what [McClain] is, he’s consistent,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s physical between the tackles. He’s solid in pass coverage.”

2. OT Oniel Cousins

The 2008 third-round draft choice has drawn the ire of many in his brief opportunities to play in his first two seasons, but this is a critical preseason—and season—for Cousins. With Jared Gaither’s status up in the air, physically and contractually, tonight will be a valuable first step for Cousins to alleviate concerns at the right tackle position and convince the coaching staff he can eventually be an NFL starter.

Cousins began training camp on the non-football illness list after having a procedure to remove a cyst in his throat earlier in the summer, but one wouldn’t know he only returned to the practice field a week ago by the way he’s played.

“I think what [Cousins] has done has been pretty amazing,” Harbaugh said. “He’s just made up so much ground in the last week that he’s practiced. He looks good, so he should play quite a bit [on Thursday].”

With Gaither still sidelined with back spasms and other tackles (Tony Moll, Ramon Harewood, and Stefan Rodgers) banged up, Cousins will receive extensive playing time against the Panthers.

3. CB Prince Miller

At 5-foot-8, the diminutive cornerback has listened to doubters throughout his football career. It didn’t stop Miller from making 31 career starts at Georgia and matching up against the best receivers the highly-competitive SEC had to offer.

Miller has struggled in camp against taller receivers such as Anquan Boldin and Demetrius Williams, but shows good athleticism and an impressive skill-set in special teams, a critical factor for any player on the roster bubble.

The rookie was away from camp for two days to witness the birth of his first child but has played the nickel and dime positions with the first-team defense, largely because of the team’s health issues in the secondary.

With Chris Carr likely out and Fabian Washington a game-time decision, Miller will likely man the nickel with the starting defense in the first quarter and play extensively when the starters are removed.

“We gave him a couple days off [to be in Georgia for his child's birth], and he did have fresh legs [Tuesday],” Harbaugh said. “I think it helped him. He kind of had the little bounce in his step, but he’ll play a lot on Thursday night along with those other young guys.”

4. LB Albert McClellan

The Ravens scouting department manages to find an impressive “hybrid” on the rookie free agent list seemingly every year, and McClellan fits that description this summer. The defensive end-linebacker has performed admirably in Westminster, even picking off Troy Smith and returning it for a touchdown in a red zone drill.

It’s no secret McClellan faces an uphill battle to make the team with such a deep linebacker unit already in place, but the same was said about McClain in 2008 before the Syracuse rookie won a roster spot with big performances in the preseason.

McClellan was a three-time captain at Marshall and accumulated 19.5 sacks in his collegiate career as a defensive end, earning second team All-Conference USA honors as a senior and first-team honors as a junior. Even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, McClellan figures to have a good chance to catch on elsewhere or make the developmental squad.

5. DT Lamar Divens

With the Ravens drafting defensive linemen Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones in April, the 343-pound Divens has become a forgotten man in a very deep group of defensive linemen. Durability is an issue with the third-year tackle, finishing the season on Injured Reserve in 2008 (shoulder) and spending the entire 2009 campaign on IR (shoulder).

Divens has impressed during training camp, constantly getting to the offensive backfield while playing on the second and third defensive units. With so many defensive tackles on the roster, he is a long-shot to stick with the Ravens, but a strong preseason improves his chances to catch on elsewhere.

He will receive extensive playing time in the second half.

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Mocking The 53: Two Weeks In, Much Has Changed

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Mocking The 53: Two Weeks In, Much Has Changed

Posted on 06 August 2010 by Glenn Clark

It’s been just 11 days since I posted my Pre-Training Camp edition of “Mocking The 53″ here at WNST.net. In the short (almost) two weeks since the Baltimore Ravens originally reported to Westminster, there has already been some significant flux in the way the team’s roster shapes up.

Obviously the loss of Domonique Foxworth is the most significant shakeup to the team’s roster. However, he’s not the only player who has faced injury-related issues at McDaniel College (or elsewhere) thus far. For this week’s edition; I am going to take not only Foxworth out of the 53, but also the players that we believe will begin the season on PUP (if not IR).

That means that Ed Reed, Lardarius Webb and Sergio Kindle will get the asterisk treatment outside the 53. They’re clearly amongst the top 53 players on the roster, but we just don’t know if they’ll be there when the Ravens line up to face the New York Jets on Monday Night Football come September 13.

Additionally, the roster reflects the subtractions of John Beck and Walt Harris and the additions of Doug Dutch, Chris Hawkins, Daniel Sanders and Devin Tyler.

Here’s a reminder of how I explained these rankings the first time I put them together…

“Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and company will at least MOSTLY keep the 53 best players on the roster, I am going to try to identify the Top 53 players on the roster myself. It ISN’T a perfect science, and some of the players will have outside circumstances that will influence where they find themselves on the list. Similarly, the Ravens will make some decisions based on health, position needs, etc.

I’m putting “best overall players”, “most significant players”, and “position relevance” into my “Top 53″ rankings. This isn’t just a list of the 53 best players on the team. This is however a list-at this moment-of the 53 players I believe are most likely to make the roster.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the roster shapes up…

(Edit from GMC: This keeps shaking. The Ravens apparently DIDN’T release Walt Harris, but instead placed him on IR. Okay…)

1. QB Joe Flacco
2. OT Michael Oher
3. WR Anquan Boldin
4. DT Haloti Ngata
5. LB Ray Lewis
6. RB Ray Rice
7. LB Terrell Suggs
8. LB Jarret Johnson
jj
9. WR Derrick Mason
10. OT Jared Gaither

Jarret Johnson rises a few spots in the Top 10 and looks more and more important to this team every day. Some of that has to do with Sergio Kindle‘s injury, but even more of that has to do with Jarret himself. His position is such a delicate combination of up and back, the only player I can think of who has played even similarly to him is Adalius Thomas. Jared Gaither also drops a few spots as his weight has to be considered an issue, but he’s still very important to this football team.

11. DE Trevor Pryce
12. G Ben Grubbs
13. DL Cory Redding
14. TE Todd Heap
15. OL Marshal Yanda
16. LB Jameel McClain
jmcclain
17. CB Fabian Washington
18. DT Terrence Cody
19. FB Le’Ron McClain
20. QB Marc Bulger

A couple of the guys in this group have been quick risers. Jameel McClain was never REALLY on the bubble to make the roster, but he wasn’t terribly far away from it. Within weeks, Jameel has joined the first team defense. He’s been taking the majority of snaps next to Ray Lewis inside, and the team hopes that he can be helpful in pressuring the quarterback with Sergio Kindle down.

Also rising is Fabian Washington-as Domonique Foxworth‘s injury leaves him the team’s top corner. Fabian joined Thyrl Nelson Tuesday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST to discuss the pressure of being the top corner. Check it out in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net if you missed it.

21. C Matt Birk
22. K Shayne Graham
23. S Dawan Landry
24. DT Kelly Gregg
kellygregg
25. WR Donte’ Stallworth
26. CB Chris Carr
27. S Tom Zbikowski
28. LB Tavares Gooden
29. OL Chris Chester
30. S Haruki Nakamura

There are a couple of folks in this group worth pointing out. Had Terrence Cody come into Camp and looked like a guy who would be ready to go immediately, Kelly Gregg may have ended up being someone who had to fight to preserve his roster spot. That no longer appears to be an issue.

Chris Carr just became a much more significant part of this roster, as it appears he will be a starting CB for at least the first 6 weeks of the season. That was never the plan for Chris. Hopefully it won’t hurt Greg Mattison‘s defense.

31. TE Ed Dickson
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32. WR Mark Clayton
33. TE Dennis Pitta
34. P Sam Koch
35. LB Dannell Ellerbe
36. RB Willis McGahee
37. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
38. QB Troy Smith
39. DE Paul Kruger
40. S Ken Hamlin

I don’t know how much longer I can keep Dickson and Pitta outside the Top 30. It might just be Training Camp, but both have looked very good early on. Also looking good is Clayton, who may have been at risk of finding the bubble before Camp started.

On the flip side, Dannell Ellerbe as of right now looks to be 4th amongst the team’s inside LB’s, after vaulting into a job as a starter just a season ago. Troy Smith also appears to have solidified himself a bit with John Beck gone.

41. LB Antwan Barnes
42. OT Oniel Cousins
43. LS Matt Katula
44. DT Brandon McKinney
45. DT Kelly Talavou
46. RB Jalen Parmele
47. WR David Reed
48. OL David Hale
49. CB Travis Fisher
50. DT Arthur Jones
51. CB Cary Williams
52. OL Tony Moll
53. LB Edgar Jones
jones

A few things worth mentioning in this group. I’ll move Edgar Jones (who of course now wears #48 and plays OLB after having played roughly every other position on the field) back onto the good side of the bubble, as the injury to Sergio Kindle leaves the team thin at OLB. A couple of the other guys in this group (namely David Reed and Arthur Jones) are getting the benefit of the doubt as draft picks, but probably still have something to prove to make the final 53.

(CB Domonique Foxworth-IR)
(CB Walt Harris-IR)
(S Ed Reed-Likely PUP)
(CB Lardarius Webb-Likely PUP)
(LB Sergio Kindle-Likely PUP or IR)

54. K Billy Cundiff
55. WR Demetrius Williams
56. OT Ramon Harewood
57. LB Prescott Burgess
58. RB Matt Lawrence
59. S KJ Gerard
gerard
60. LB Jason Phillips
61. TE Davon Drew
62. DT Lamar Divens
63. WR Marcus Smith
64. WR Justin Harper
65. DE Albert McClellan
66. FB Mike McLaughlin
67. WR Eron Riley
68. CB Prince Miller
69. CB Marcus Paschal
70. RB Curtis Steele

There’s a few things about my current 53 that I don’t like. As of right now, I have just 4 true corners on the roster right now (Washington, Carr, Williams, Fisher). This could be a place where Gerard could squeeze his way back onto the roster. Also, Ramon Harewood could be in direct competition with Tony Moll for an O-Line spot.

I said before Camp that there were 70 legitimate NFL players (either guys who had been on the active roster or guys who were NFL Draft picks) fighting for 53 roster spots. That number has dwindled, but there are still some 65 legitimate players fighting for spots-and 5 current or former UFA’s also hoping to get on the team.

71. OT Joe Reitz
joereitz
72. CB Doug Dutch
73. OL Bryan Mattison
74. OT Stefan Rodgers
75. LS Morgan Cox
76. CB Chris Hawkins
77. OT Daniel Sanders
78. OT Devin Tyler

The team certainly believes there will be some practice squad guys in the final group.

There you have it. We’ll update again after the Ravens play the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

-G

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