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Blog & Tackle: Week 1 NFL scoring struggles

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Blog & Tackle: Week 1 NFL scoring struggles

Posted on 14 September 2010 by Chris Pika

If you thought the amount of scoring in the NFL’s Week 1 games was less than usual, you were right in a big way. A total of 21 teams scored less than 20 points in the 16 games — that number was the highest total of Week 1 sub-20-point team scoring since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, according to research through Pro-Football-Reference.com.

The 2010 teams under 20 points? Minnesota 9, New Orleans 14, Cleveland 14, Tampa Bay 17, Miami 15, Buffalo 16, Denver 17, Atlanta 9, Pittsburgh 15, Oakland 13, Carolina 18, Detroit 14, Chicago 19, Arizona 17, St. Louis 13, San Francisco 6, Dallas 7, Washington 13, Baltimore 10, New York Jets 9 and San Diego 14. The league, as a whole, averaged just 18.3 points per team in Week 1.

Here are the year-by-year teams scoring 19 points or less in Week 1 from 1970-2009 (via Pro-Football-Reference.com.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is sacked by Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata during the second half in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 13, 2010. The Ravens won the game 10-9. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The 21 teams was a far cry from last season’s Week 1 total of only 14 teams. In the decade of the 2000s, 153 teams scored under the 20-point mark in Week 1, an average of 15.3 per season. Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams and eight divisions in 2002 for 16 opening weekend games, the average was 15.25 per season from 2002-09.

There are a lot of factors at play in why this was the case in this particular opening weekend. Better defenses, weather issues and injuries to key players certainly played a part. But one other factor might also be in play.

The last time most clubs play their starters for an appreciable time in the preseason is Week 3. Most clubs hold out starters or play them very little (one or two series) in the final week in order to look at players fighting for the final spots during the remainder of the game.

It’s almost a bye week for the starters on both sides of the ball, since they will not face live competition for two weeks until the regular season starts. So, when the starters get back on the field in Week 1 of the regular season, the timing is off when it needs to be at its sharpest.

Here are the year-by-year totals of Week 1 teams at or under 19 points in the decade of the 2000s.

Total Teams Scoring 19 Points or Less in Week 1 (2000-09)
2009: 14
2008: 17
2007: 18
2006: 19
2005: 15
2004: 15
2003: 14
2002: 10
2001: 15
2000: 16

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Is arrogance rewarded in today’s society?

Posted on 14 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The Ravens beat the NY Jets last night 10-9 to start the NFL season the right way for the purple and black. For whatever reason, I’ve never liked the NY Jets for most of my “career” as an NFL fan. I can’t really tell you why, I just never have. I guess I always saw them as the weak step-sister of NY football so to speak. It didn’t help when Vinny Testaverde, who I always saw as an embarassment to Italian-Americans, joined the Jets in the end of his career. Nevertheless, I’m glad the Ravens beat them.

Everyone chronicled the Darrelle Revis situation for most of the summer leading into training camp, preseason, and now the regular season. Personally, I think that cases as such shed a bad light on professional sports. The way I see it through my “civilian eyes,” Revis signed a contract when he came into the league. By holding out for more money, he effectively welshed on a contract that had been signed. Suddenly, he felt that he was worth more than what he was being paid, so he decided to hold out. Ultimately, he got his way and signed a new deal on September 5th. Not only did he get his payday, but he also missed all of camp and the entire preseason. Yet on the Jets’ first defensive series of the game last night he was in the game. Not only that, but according to ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew, the Jets’ fans applauded his presence during the TV timeout.

In the same regard, this game was played up a lot by the fact that Rex Ryan wanted to beat the Ravens because he felt that Steve Bisciotti made the wrong decision in not hiring him as the head coach. I suppose in a way I can understand that. We’ve all been turned down for jobs that we felt we should have gotten. Heck, at my current job I recently had an associate offered a promotion, and the reasons that corporate gave for wanting to promote this person were aspects of the operation that I had done. In my heart I wasn’t very happy about that, but I didn’t throw down my pad of paper and walk away. However, the person that they promoted did try to go the Darrelle Revis route and tell the corporate office that the compensation they offered wasn’t sufficent; they rescinded the promotion. That aside, this game was made for TV in that the media probably wanted the Jets to win so they could talk about how Ryan was snubbed and he got his revenge. Last I checked, John Harbaugh seems to be working out okay for the Ravens, and Ryan’s made out pretty well.

I suppose that the moral of the story is that if you win, you’re suddenly granted the right to have a degree of arrogance. I think that sends a bad message. Last year the whole story of Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sidelines during a game was somewhat glossed over…the Jets made it to the AFC Championship game. Had they finished the season 5-11, Sanchez probably would have been crucified as the season wore down. How many legal problems and off-field issues did Michael Irving have during his career? Yet media and fans alike allowed him to get away with it because he won. Personally I think T.O. is a bum, and he’s not granted the same courtesy as Michael Irving was (even though his problems don’t come close to those Irving had), because he’s not thought of as a perennial winner. However the one year that the Eagles went to the Super Bowl people talked about how tough he was to play hurt and so forth. Survey says, there’s a bit of a correllation there.

As a kid that grew up watching the likes of Cal Ripken Jr, Art Monk, and Darrel Green, that’s kind of the attitude that I think athletes should have. The Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1991 with quarterback Mark Rypien winning the MVP. Over the course of the off season he held out for more money, which he was ultimately given in a new contract; as a result, Rypien was booed in the first preseason game at RFK Stadium the following year. In 1994 the Redskins drafted Heath Shuler, who held out for $19 million, which was ultimately granted. Shuler turned out to be a bust, but the Redskin fans never took to him because of his holdout. Yet had he been an instant success like Mark Sanchez, would he have been cheered? Maybe, but we should also keep in mind that we’re talking about a different era and time. Many people accept the fact that Bill Belichek and Tom Brady routinely run up the score on teams, because they win. The fact that the New York Yankees have such a high payroll and throw around the fact that they can outspend people is accepted because they’re perennial contenders. When the Washington Redskins throw money around people say that they’re being stupid with money because they aren’t thought of as a perennial contender. Even the Dallas Cowboys, whom I despise, get a bad rap for having the audacity to build a monstrocity of a new stadium with $100K seats. Go figure, the Cowboys have won one playoff game since 1996.

Winning and losing has unfortunately become the line that people have to toe in order to “have the right” to be arrogant. I suppose that I’m still cut from the mold where you should never do anything to disrespect the game regardless of whether you win or lose. Jumping around like you’ve won the world series after a home run is disrespectful to the game of baseball in my opinion, yet the Boston Red Sox get away with it because they’re thought of as winners. The antics of Darrelle Revis were disrespectful to the game of football; the Jets went to the playoffs last year and are thus winners. What he’s done is no better or worse than what Albert Haynesworth does, yet Revis isn’t thought of as a goat as is Haynesworth. Ultimately, your goal should be to win the game and most importantly to be respectful to it and it’s history. Ultimately, the Ravens did that last night.

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IT’S A TRAP!!!

Posted on 12 September 2010 by Erich Hawbaker

This is a tirade that I’ve been meaning to go on for awhile now. And after watching Penn State get smacked around tonight and seeing this on ESPN’s webpage, I’ve decided to do it. Political correctness has once again reared its ugly head in the world of sports. This time, the victim is the mascot of the Ole Miss Rebels, Colonel Reb.

The character of Colonel Reb is actually based on a real person; a man named “Blind Jim” Ivy, who was peanut vendor in Oxford and a fixture at Ole Miss sporting events for over 50 years. The son of a former slave, Ivy was beloved by the student body and the community alike until he died in 1955 (seven years before segregation came to an end). The cartoon version of Colonel Reb, which is still being used today, was created in the 1930s, about the same time the school’s athletic teams were renamed the Rebels (they had previously been called “the Flood”). Although Caucasian, the caricature very much resembles Ivy’s goatee, hair, and face. But obviously, what he’s supposed to be is an old southern plantation owner, complete with walking stick, long-tailed suit, and string tie.

The administration of Ole Miss finally banned Colonel Reb from appearing on-field at sporting events in 2003, caving to accusations of him representing the south’s history of slavery and racism. A vote among the students was held to select a new mascot, which failed miserably, because, according to some, keeping Colonel Reb was not one of the choices and unofficial polls found that as many as 94% of the student body wanted him to stay.

It was from this Charlie Foxtrot that the idea of selecting Admiral Ackbar first came to light. For the Star Wars illiterate readers (including you Todd), Admiral Ackbar is of the species Mon Calamari from the watery planet of the same name. He was the leader of the Rebel Alliance’s attack on the second Death Star in Return Of The Jedi, in which he uttered his most famous line “It’s a trap!” He has brown skin and yellow eyes, and sort of resembles a catfish.

Some say that electing Ackbar would allow Ole Miss have a ‘rebel’ leader again for their mascot without anybody being able to cry racism. Others got behind it out of spite, choosing the most ridiculous thing in hopes of illustrating just how stupid this whole controversy is. Unfortunately for both groups, Lucasfilm has apparently declined to allow Ole Miss to use their copyrighted character. And while the proud Star Wars nerd in me thinks it would be hilarious, I would put myself in the latter category. There is no good reason for Colonel Reb not to be Ole Miss’s mascot if the student body wishes him to be it.

As my grandfather used to say, “When you try to please everybody you’ll end up pleasing nobody.” I went thru a somewhat similar situation in my college days at Shippensburg. There had been calls for Ship to drop the Red from Red Raiders because of the implied reference to American Indians. Ship resisted, and has instead tried to portray us as pirate-y raiders as opposed to Indian-y ones. Now, Ship had never had an on-field mascot that I know of, and when they opened it up to suggestions, a few of my marching band buddies and I put forth the idea of the Shippopotamus, or Shippo Hippo. It was far better than the alternative of this dumb-looking red pirate parrot, it was versatile in that it could be either cute or mean, plus our fight song is called “The Horse” and hippopotamus is actually Greek for ‘water horse’. When it was put to a campus vote, Shippo won; but the administration went with the bird anyway. So what we ultimately got was “Big Red, the red-tailed Raider Hawk”. But what really made the excrement hit the fan was that at the exact same time, our archnemesis, IUP, ceased to be the Indians under the same pressures and became the Crimson Hawks. So now, the Steelers and Ravens of the PSAC have almost identical mascots. Isn’t that lovely?

My question is simply “Where does it end?” Although it can be well-meaning, political correctness in practice usually amounts to a small group of self-appointed, self-righteous bullies imposing their will in situations that are none of their business. Our Constitution grants everyone the right to free speech and free expression, but it doesn’t grant anyone the right not to be offended. If Colonel Reb or the Shippensburg Red Raiders or the Florida State Seminoles offend you, go to college somewhere else. If the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Indians or St Louis Rams partly owned by Rush Limbaugh offend you, don’t buy a ticket.

And furthermore, who gets to decide exactly what is offensive? If the color red is offensive to American Indians, could the half dozen or so golden things Ship plays every year be offensive to Asian people? (I’m not making that up. Within Pennsylvania Division II football, we have Golden Eagles, Golden Bears, Golden Rams, and Golden Knights.) Might the Milwaukee Brewers be offensive to Mothers Against Drunk Driving? Or are the San Diego Padres offensive to atheists? How about the Tampa Bay Rays offending the family of Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter? Now, I’m illustrating absurdity by being absurd, but I’m also making two points. First, if you think about it hard enough, you can find a reason for anything to be offensive to somebody. And secondly, in nearly all instances, team names and the mascots that go with them are some reflection of that city’s history and culture, not a means of degrading or insulting any race, ethnicity, or whatever.

If I were in charge at Ole Miss, I would politely tell the NCAA and NAACP and anybody else who complained about Colonel Reb that we would be more than happy to do away with him and all other references to the Civil War the day after that baseball team up in New York ceased to be the Yankees. After all, Yankees killed thousands and thousands of Mississippians in the Civil War, and it’s a painful memory for us too.

Unfortunately, Emperor Steinbrenner’s star cruisers can repel firepower of that magnitude.

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Quoth the Raven: SURPRISE!

Posted on 05 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

There are generally surprises on every team when the 53-man roster is announced. In my opinion, the biggest surprise from the Ravens’ roster cuts yesterday was QB Troy Smith. When he was drafted I thought that Smith had a bright future in the league, and I still think he could be a solid quarterback. It’s fairly obvious at this point that he probably won’t start for the Ravens anytime soon, however that’s not to say that he couldn’t play somewhere else. (We should also keep in mind that five players will be allowed to be place on the practice squad; odds are Smith will be one of those five.)

The bigger surprise to me isn’t that Smith was cut outright, but that the team’s only going with two quarterbacks. While it certainly helps to have that extra roster spot potentially for another wideout or running back, I think it’s a very risky move. You never know when a backup, or even a third stringer is going to be pressed into action in the NFL. I’m reminded of the 1990 game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and Redskins when nine different Washington Redskin players were carted off the field (including two quarterbacks). As I said, you just never know what’s going to happen in an NFL game. Speaking of the Redskins, they had a similar setup last year with Jason Campbell and Todd Collins being the only two QB’s on the roster. However at the time the Redskins also had Antwaan Randle-El, who was a quarterback in college. I’m sure that Harbaugh will designate someone as the “emergency quarterback,” however I think going into the season with only two QB’s is a bit of a calculated risk.

Safety Ed Reed has been placed on the PUP list, which will mean he’ll be eligible to play only after the first six games of the year. Billy Cundiff ended up winning the kicking battle, and will be the Ravens’ kicker going into week one (and presumably for the entire season). Keep in mind that the Ravens had issues in the kicking game almost all of last season, with Stephen Haushka getting cut in November after shanking a few attempts. Cundiff’s a bit of a journeyman and he’s been around the league a few times, so one has to hope that Cundiff will get the job done for the Ravens’ special teams this year.

The Ravens also traded linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Philadelphia Eagles for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick. Speaking for myself, I firmly believe in building a team through the draft, so if you have a guy like Barnes for whom you can get a draft pick, I’m all for it. Obviously you don’t want to give away the house so to speak (and I don’t think the Ravens did that), but a GM like Ozzie Newsome will be able to find a diamond-in-the-rough with a later round draft pick. Ultimately, here’s the list of final cuts made by the Ravens yesterday:

TE Davon Drew, CB Travis Fisher, DB K.J. Gerard, K Shayne Graham, WR Justin Harper, CB Chris Hawkins, DB Brad Jones, G Bryan Mattison, OLB Albert McClellan, T Joe Reitz, WR Eron Riley, QB Troy Smith, RB Curtis Steele, T Devin Tyler, WR Demetrius Williams

Ultimately like them or not, everyone else that was on the roster are your 2010 Baltimore Ravens. People can debate the roster moves all they want, but ultimately all of that will be a moot issue if the Ravens beat the Jets on September 13th.

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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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Ravens CB Cary Williams on Pre-Season Success: “I Really Want To Take Advantage Of The Opportunity The Baltimore Ravens Have Given Me”

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Ravens CB Cary Williams on Pre-Season Success: “I Really Want To Take Advantage Of The Opportunity The Baltimore Ravens Have Given Me”

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Cary Williams

One of the reasons why the Baltimore Ravens signed Cary Williams off the Tennessee Titans‘ practice squad last season was because the Ravens had injury concerns with their corner backs.

Flash forward almost a year, and Cary Williams is still on this team because…the Ravens have injury concerns at the corner back position.

But Williams, if he continues to play like he has in first two Ravens preseason games-both Baltimore victories against the Panthers and the Redskins-, he might find himself a roster spot in the Ravens crowded secondary when the 2010 season starts on September 13th against the Jets.

Williams has recorded interceptions in the first two games of the season, intercepting Panthers second-round pick Jimmy Clausen in the Ravens opening round victory, and on Saturday, he did one better, intercepting Redskins starter Donovan McNabb on a pass intended for Santana Moss.

He returned the interception 37 yards.

Williams got both interceptions not seeing starting action.

“The ball was a little under-thrown,” Williams told the media after the game. ‘I guess Donovan was trying to give the guy an advantage on the ball because of my position on top of his outside shoulder, but I just came down and saw it and tried to run as fast as I could.”

Williams played well on special teams down the stretch last season as the Ravens made their way into the playoffs, and now going into the 2010 season, Williams is still trying to prove to the Ravens that he is worth a taking a flier on in a more active-role when it comes to being a part of this defense.

“I just relish any moment that I can go out there and show my abilities,” Williams told Drew Forrester Monday morning, fresh off the weekend victory over the Redskins.  “I really want to take advantage of the opportunity that Ozzie and the Baltimore Ravens have given me.”

Since Williams joined the Ravens last November after being signed off the Titans practice squad, Williams said he has taken each day as a way of improving his play as NFL corner, hopefully as a Raven.

“I just want to take it one day at a time really and just continue to get better each week. I want to show the guys that I’m a dependable corner and that I’m a guy who can really help this team out.”

Williams was originally a seventh-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2008 Draft out of Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas. He became the fifth player in school history to be drafted into the NFL.

Listed at 6’1”, 185 lb, Williams is a bigger, physical corner who can leap and compete with bigger wide receivers.

In his senior season as a Ichabod, he nabbed seven interceptions, good for second in school history, while also recording two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

But that was Division-II football. He now is playing in the NFL, but through the ten career games that he has played in, not including the likes of the preseason game on Saturday, he says the game is slowing down for him a bit.

“To me, it really didn’t feel any different,” Williams told Forrester. “But I guess with the starters, McNabb came out on fire, completing passes left and right. I guess it felt like a regular season game with the tempo and things like that.

“But when I got out there, it didn’t feel like that. It felt like football. And you just try and play football at the best of your ability just like any other game, and try to perform and put your best foot forward.”

Williams is stepping forward as an option to help solidify the secondary when it comes to the corner back position. And he knows what he is capable of in this league.

“I feel like I’m capable to go out there and play against anybody. I just want to become a sponge this off-season and try and learn as much as possible from Coach [Chuck]Pagano and from the rest of the guys like [Lardarius] Webb. I want to try and get their perspective on things and try to soak in as much as possible…and learn the game, and each week get better and better gradually.”

Unfortunately, even if Williams does continue to progress week-by-week in the preseason, there will be a hiccup in that process as he will miss the first two games of the regular season after being suspended by the league for violating the NFL’s conduct policy.

It stems from an incident that occurred when he was with the Tennessee Titans last year, an issue that Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens staff knew all about before bringing him in.

Williams was suspended twice in his college career while at Fordham University before being kicked off the team, forcing Williams to play at Washburn.

And while Williams and the rest of the Ravens defense shut down the Skins offense Saturday to a total of three points, Williams-along with the rest of the Ravens defenders-will tell you that they were far from perfect.

“I think we have some things to work on,” Williams said. “Obviously today we’re going to go out and review the film, and do the corrections through practice. But as a unit, I think we did alright. I don’t think we did too bad at all.”

And Williams said he has been around one of the best game-film studiers of them all in linebacker Ray Lewis.

“You’re playing with one of the greatest in the game. In my opinion, he is the greatest field-general to ever play the game,” Williams told Forrester. “Ray is a great guy off the field, but he’s even better on the field. It’s almost as if he knows every position and every scheme that we have. He knows everyone’s responsbillites.”

“He can help you out in any aspect of the game, and it’s just a wonderful experience, and its the greatest experience of my life.”

But, since Williams has become a member of this organization, he has learned the importance of winning games to the Ravens coaching staff.

“Winning is a big part of this organization,” Williams replied.”It’s already known when you put on a Raven uniform what is expected of us, and we have to go out there with high intensity. And every week, we’re going out there trying to put our best foot forward trying to win games.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net for more information regarding Cary Williams and his chances at making the Ravens 53-man roster. WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ….

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Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ….

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Rex Snider

My highly anticipated “Sports Saturday” started off on a positive note, thanks to the Orioles 8-6 victory over Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers. The game was full of pleasant surprises …..

Who would’ve ever predicted that Josh Bell would connect more often than Joe Flacco on a simultaneous gameday? Ahh …. the magic of the unexpected in sports, huh?

By the time I hit the Lazy-Boy for the Ravens vs. Redskins preseason showdown, I was convinced it was going to be a GREAT night. I can’t say it turned out badly, but I did go to bed knowing John Harbaugh’s bunch still has A LOT of work on its hands before reuniting with Rex Ryan and his Jets.

While I can readily admit Saturday night’s game left me agonizing over a few areas of concern with this team, I’ve chosen to take a more sensible look at the overall picture of the 2010 Baltimore Ravens …..

For the past few weeks, we’ve heard the gloomy forecasts from those who invested a significant portion of their collective hope in Domonique Foxworth’s presence at cornerback. From callers to on-air hosts and even occasional guests, some sobering words have been spoken.

However, in all fairness, there has also been a fairly respectable amount of us who believe the team will be just fine, while downplaying any real handicap to the secondary. And, we’ve had answers for our continued positive outlook, right?

The common rationale in defending the stubborn optimism has been along the lines of “THE RAVENS ARE GONNA HAVE TO BLITZ MORE OFTEN AND GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK.”

This certainly seems like a logical solution, right? Heck, it’s Football-101 …..

But, we’ve also heard the fairly warned potential ramifications to this solution, too.

As many realists have concluded, if you’re blitzing, you MUST get to the quarterback. If not, guys like Donovan McNabb are gonna make plays. And, the Ravens will be facing a host of ‘slingers better than the former Philadelphia Eagle, in 2010.
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At times during Saturday’s game, McNabb looked like he was doomed, only to fool all of us by stepping up or rolling out of the pocket to buy an extra tick. He succeeded in some crucial situations, including a couple opportunities from the Redskins endzone.

By the way, does anyone know if Travis Fisher made the trip to DC?

The good news is we still have three solid weeks remaining before action on the field really counts. That’s 21 days for Lardarius Webb to get healthier. That’s 21 days to shop for better options on the rosters of other teams. And, that’s 21 days for Greg Mattison to assert some Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis “PURPLE MAGIC” into his defense.

I’m certain a proportionate amount of this week’s WNST phone calls will be directed at finding a way to help the crippled cornerback unit. That’s the way it always is with the fan base. Among our consistent reactions, nothing is stronger than the tendency to PANIC.

Well, I’m telling you to relax.

Absorb the preseason for what it is – PRESEASON.

John Harbaugh and Greg Mattison weren’t really worried about stopping Chris Cooley, Santana Moss or Anthony Armstrong. Indeed, I’ll guarantee you they were more interested in seeing how their patched up secondary would fare against them – for better or worse.

For some players, like Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason, this game was simply about finding their rhythm and getting back into the flow of established gameplans.
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For some others, like Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, Cory Redding and Ken Hamlin, this game served as a prime opportunity to become intimate with their surroundings and a whole new playbook, at fullspeed.

And, yet, for some guys, like Travis Fisher (really …. did he play?), Prince Miller, Jason Phillips and Cary Williams, this was a vitally significant opportunity to prove they can play at this level and for this team.

You can bet a few sets of discerning eyes were cast on Flacco and his cohorts, as well as Boldin and his gang. But, I’ll bet the house nearly every eye that matters was watching that final group, as they danced upon the bubble …..

So, while you’re worried about the Ravens cornerbacks being able to cover the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, I’m urging you ….. LET IT GO.

Unless he suddenly finds some of Ronnie Lott’s natural ability deep within his soul, Travis Fisher will not find a spot on this Ravens team. Greg Mattison surely suspected it going into Saturday night’s game. Fisher, himself, only confirmed it.

Perhaps, that’s why Mattison emphasized on a blitz-happy defensive attack. I can see that strategy. Think about it …. they might as well test the unproven or unlikely guys in an ideal situation, right?

Thus, they blitz and leave “Fisher Island” all by itself.

The preseason is partly about bringing the obvious back into focus, while also helping the truly qualified to learn a new system. But, it’s equally apportioned to testing the untested, to see if they can be part of a championship-caliber organization.

This trip to FedEx Field was nothing more than the second step in John Harbaugh’s FOUR-STEP preseason process. This team is in a self analyzation stage. They must find out who can contribute, even in the most mitigating ways, to this team’s immediate future.
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While we love and savor those summer days in Westminster, it won’t be revealed there. Harbaugh and company cannot determine their 53rd man at McDaniel College. The survival process does not surround the practice field.

Two meaningless games are in the books and two more still remain. I don’t mean to undervalue the meaning of playing the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams over the next couple weeks. But, these games really don’t matter.

Let me rephrase that ….

The next couple games don’t matter UNLESS you’re standing in the shoes of Fisher, Miller, Williams and a few others. For them, these games are every bit as important as Super Bowl XLV.

These are the biggest games of their lives.

As I suggested, relax. This team will be just fine. Ozzie Newsome didn’t spend more than six months agonizing over a kick ass opportunity, just to be totally derailed by losing a cornerback in the early stages of training camp.

He’s obviously not panicking, why should we?

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Ravens beat Skins 23-3

Posted on 22 August 2010 by Domenic Vadala

More importantly than the final score, the Ravens left FedEx Field in Landover, MD fairly healthy. According to John Harbaugh, wideout Demetrius Williams rolled an ankle in the second quarter, but that shouldn’ limit him in practice this week. Ultimately the Ravens beat the Washington Redskins 23-3 in a game that was probably more noted for how it dragged on in the second half than anything else. Although the Ravens won the game, it’s preseason…this game left much to be desired on the part of the Ravens. They put three fumbles on the ground in the first half; the coaching staff might want to spend some time on hanging onto the ball this week in practice. However, quarterback Joe Flacco completed 9-16 pass attemps although he only had 72 yards. I thought the Redskins were the team that used the West Coast offense?!

Defensively the Skins were able to complete some big plays on the Ravens’ defense. Coming out of last season the secondary was a big question mark, and with Dominique Foxworth out for the year that continues to be the case. On the Redskins’ opening drive of the game Donovan McNabb was able to complete a 45-yard home run ball downfield to Anthony Anderson, who ran under the slightly underthrown pass to make an amazing catch. The play saw the Ravens getting caught in a cover-two defense, which they might not want to continue playing if that’s going to be the result. One thing that was fairly impressive was the Ravens’ red zone defense, which tightened to hold the Redskins to a field goal. McNabb also hooked up with tight end Chris Cooley as well as wide receiver Santana Moss on numerous occasions throughout the first half to move the chains on Redskin drives. However the Redskin offensive line, which looked fairly good last week against Buffalo, seemed to wilt under the pressure of the Ravens’ defense. McNabb found himself getting knocked around on several occasions; right before halftime they even caused a rushed McNabb to commit an intentional grounding penalty. Overall, the Redskins put up three points in the game, which means that the defense played well.

One thing that we do have to keep in mind is that it’s preseason. Admittedly I’m a firm believer in the preseason system in the NFL, as I think these games all serve a huge purpose. There are certainl aspects of any sport which cannot be mastered in practice, such as timing with receivers if you’re a quarterback, or running a route through a defensive secondary. So when I hear people talk about shortening the preseason, first off I tell them that they’re going to see two or three weeks of bad football in the newly elongated regular season. However that would also mean that coaches would have less time to evaluate their players in games. Traditionally the fourth week has always been the game where the starters play very sparingly, givng coaches the chance to see the reserves for most of the game. That wouldn’t be the case if there were only two preseason games. That aside, odds are that had this been a regular season game the play calls would have been different at various stages of the game, so who knows what the final score would have been. When players and coaches get ready for a game, their main goal is always to win (preseason or regular season). However I think that John Harbaugh’s probably happier with the fact that they came out of the game with just a few nicks than he is with the final score.

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Former Raven and Redskins Kicker Graham Gano: “I’m Looking Forward To The Game on Saturday”

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

This preseason, the Ravens are in a kicking battle to decide who will be their starting kicker come Week 1 of the regular season when they face the New York Jets on Monday Night Football September 13th.

It will either be Shayne Graham, a Pro-Bowler in his own right, or Billy Cundiff, a kicker who came into the fold mid-season last winter and stabilized the kicking position.

This is the second straight year the Ravens have had an open competition to decide who will be their kicker, and last year it was the battle between two ex-ACC kickers in Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano, who was the Lou Groza Award Winner in 2008, the award given to the NCAA’s best kicker.

Hauschka won the job out of training camp last August because Gano, who appeared on “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider Thursday, seemed to be the lesser of two evils at the end of camp.

Gano admitted to Snider that his head was spinning a little bit just trying to impress the coaching staff here in Baltimore trying to earn a spot on the team.

“Last year when I came into Baltimore, I was learning a lot,” Gano said. “I wasn’t a very developed kicker. I went in learning a lot, and I had a lot to learn.”

He had an impressive resume at Florida State, where during his one year as kicker for the Seminoles, he kicked better than 90% of his field goals(24-26), led the ACC in scoring, and was named a first-team All-American by the AP and Sporting News.

But Gano couldn’t transfer that success to the Ravens in camp, and the Ravens released the rookie.

After the Ravens released Gano, who was invited to camp as a rookie free agent, Gano signed with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL, which was in its first season.

Gano put his mark on the recently-created UFL, as he not only scored the game-winning field goal in the championship game of the league; he also scored the league’s first points and has the longest field goal (53 yards) in the history of the league.

Those numbers drew the attention of NFL teams yet again to Gano, and the Redskins signed Gano in December of last year after UFL players were allowed to sign with NFL squads.

Now he will suit up against his old team when the Ravens travel to Landover to take on the Redskins in preseason action at 7pm on Saturday.

“After they released me, I had the chance to go to the UFL and really develop my kicking game,” Gano said. “When the Redskins picked me up last year, I was a completely different kicker than I was in Baltimore. Both teams do a great job with their special teams, and I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday.”

Gano really cherished the opportunity he had with the Locomotives because it gave him the chance to have fun with football yet again.

“The UFL really helped me out last year as far as developing and getting my confidence back after being released from the Ravens,” Gano said. “When I did get my opportunity with the Redskins, I know that I wouldn’t have been prepared if I didn’t have the opportunity in Las Vegas.”

Gano hopes that his story can be an example of how effective the UFL can be at being like a developmental league for the NFL.

“The talent in the UFL is very good…it was really good competition. Hopefully it will keep growing and giving more and more guys the opportunity to make the NFL.”

Now, Gano said he is very comfortable and relaxed kicking for the Redskins, and for the first time in his football career, he is just having fun playing football.

“When I started kicking at Florida State, I would get a little nervous going out for a big kick or a long field goal. Now, its just a lot of fun to me. I have a good time. Even when I run out on the field, I’ll be laughing and just having a good time out there.”

Gano said that his mental strength now may be a bigger asset to him now as opposed to his leg strength.

“I think that’s just what keeps me so focused and so calm. I don’t have any worries when I go out there and kick. I know that I’ve practiced so many times in practice, and in my mind at practice. I’ve put myself through so many situations, when the kicks do come in a game like that…I’m already prepared and I think that’s what helps me out.”

And even when the fans are blaring now, Gano is still having fun. In fact, it fuels him even more.

“I could try and practice as much as possible, and try and simulate it, but when you step out on the field and you have all those fans screaming at an away game, its a lot different. But that’s what makes it fun, and thats what I live for. I live for those opportunities.”

Gano actually keeps in touch with his former teammate and “rival” in Hauschka, who is now in a similar situation as Gano after being cut by the Atlanta Falcons a week ago.

Now the roles are switched, as Gano has an NFL kicking job and Hauschka is unemployed. But Gano knows Hauschka will have the same determination he had in trying to get back in the NFL.

And actually, even though Hauschka took a career in Baltimore away from Gano, Gano was probably one of Hasuchka’s biggest fans.

“I still keep in touch with Steve. I was talking with him the other day. Throughout the season, I still kept in touch with him. I was wishing him the best of luck, and I know that it was hard times for him.”

“That’s the thing…it could be one or two kicks that make or break your career, and he was unfortunate to experience that those two games. I still think he’s a great kicker, and hopefully he’ll get picked up somewhere and have a great career. I felt bad for him those two misses.”

Keep an eye out for Gano on Saturday when the Redskins take on the Ravens on Saturday at 7. And while we will be watching him from afar, Gano is just trying to get ready for Week 1 when the Skins take on the Cowboys.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” Gano said. “The guys have really been working hard, and the coaches brought in a lot of good players to help our team get better.”

“We had a great first preseason game, but the tests are really going to start when we face Dallas in the first regular season game. I think everybody on the team is focused and ready to go, and we’re just preparing for that game.”

Big Thanks To Graham Gano for joining us on WNST and We Wish Him The Best in Washington…except on Saturday! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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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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