Every Tuesday throughout the ’08 NFL season, I’ll post my “Top 7″ Ravens performers of the current campaign. It will be a cumulative total, but a “#1 star of the game” will be awarded each week to single out the player with the best performance from that week’s game.
Here’s the first edition of the “Top 7″:
7. Jason Brown – The center doesn’t get much recognition, but J.B. had a great day on Sunday against the Bengals. He handled all the line calls, helped the offensive line open enough holes to post over 200 yards in rushing and was seen on a number of occasions laying a block 10 to 15 yards downfield. Brown has handled his move from guard to center with seamless ease.
6. Jared Gaither – When your team’s quarterback doesn’t get sacked – or touched, for that matter – it’s a safe bet that your left tackle had a big game. Jared Gaither had an exceptional game on Sunday. Some Ravens staffers say he’s been the team’s best player in practice since returning from a training camp injury and his play against the Falcons (final pre-season game) and the Bengals supports that statement.
5. Terrell Suggs – Hard to believe, but T-Sizzle was one of the big reasons why Chad Johnson caught one more pass than you and I on Sunday. Suggs met 85 at the line of scrimmage on the game’s very first play and stood his ground all afternoon…yet another new defensive twist employed by Rex Ryan. Suggs also had four tackles on the day, but it was help in pass coverage on Johnson that was noticed the most.
4. Jarrett Johnson – J.J. had one of his best games as a pro, with a sack and a team-high (tied with Landry) 5 solo tackles on the day. Like Suggs, he was used in pass coverage on short down-and-distance situations and looked much more comfortable in that role than in previous years.
3. Joe Flacco – Ran for a TD and didn’t turn the ball over, completing 15 of 29 throws and outplaying his Heisman Trophy counterpart from Cincinnati. More than anything, he handled all the “extras” well — ran the no huddle to perfection, kept the cadence balanced and clear (one false start penalty the entire game) and showed poise and a coolness that weren’t reflective of a guy making his first pro start.
2. Chris McAlister – All this guy does is take on the shutdown corner role and then SHUT DOWN his man. CMac did it again on Sunday, with help from Rex Ryan’s scheme and a few others, limiting the big mouth to just one catch while getting his own mitts on a Carson Palmer throw that helped squelch an early-game drive. McAlister also had a fumble recovery and, in general, was once again the guy who stepped up (without having to talk about it during the week) and played his position to near perfection. Carson Palmer didn’t even throw for 100 yards on Sunday. CMac had a lot to do with that.
1. Le’Ron McClain – What DIDN’T this guy do on Sunday? Led the team in rushing yards with 86, caught 2 passes for 24 yards and in the all-important 4th quarter, he was the team’s go-to-guy in the backfield and punished the Bengals defense whenever they tried to tackle him. He was a major reason why the Baltimore offense finished the afternoon ON THE FIELD at the end of the game, not allowing the Bengals a chance to get their offense out there for one last gasp drive. His best-ever game as a pro, without question.
#1 Star of the Game – Le’Ron McClain