Tag Archive | "Baltimore Ravens"

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Ravens were AHEAD of schedule

Posted on 01 February 2020 by Dennis Koulatsos

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, my co-host and producer Peter DiLutis and I took a look at the Ravens schedule.  It’s an annual exercise which I’m sure all of our fellow Ravens fanatics engage in.  We look at each game and mark it down as  “W” or an “L”.  Our consensus was that the floor for this team would be 8 wins while it’s ceiling 11.  We thought there was a chance they would make the playoffs, but if they didn’t we didn’t consider it a big deal, given the surprise playoff appearance the year prior.

We knew how hard Lamar Jackson had worked, liked the draft class and also the addition of Earl Thomas.  We figured this would be a “foundational year”, one in which the team would build upon.  In the off-season they didn’t have much cap space to work with, so we thought that 2020 would be the year were Eric DeCosta could roll up his sleeves and do some serious work in bringing some great free agents to Baltimore.  Add in one more strong draft class, and we thought 2020 would be the year that this team would make the playoffs.

I am only aware of one prognosticator who foresaw the dominant season the Ravens would have.  99.99% of us never saw it coming.  At least not in the fashion that it did, in the form of a 14 – 2 season with a #1 seed in the playoffs to boot.  As the win streak grew, naturally the expectations grew along with it.  The Ravens cruised into the playoffs with a first round bye and were installed as 10 point favorites over the upstart Titans.  We know what happened next.

Yes.  The unthinkable and most unlikely thing happened.  The Ravens lost.  Not many people thought the Titans would win.  Tennessee’s three beat writers all picked the Ravens.  Not many expected the Titans to advance to the AFC Championship game.  The Ravens had AFC Champs t-shirts in boxes, champagne on ice, all that good stuff.

We’ve had some time to reflect on the loss.  The NFL laughed at us.  Rival fan bases mocked us, while we had to keep reminding ourselves of a plethora of feel good things – Lamar Jackson is only 23, and he’s going to be the MVP.  The team overall is very young.  It took Peyton Manning 6 years to win a playoff game.  We have cap space in 2020.  We won back to back division championships. The list went on and on.

We broke down the game to the point of exhaustion.  Were the Ravens outcoached?  Did the coaching staff panic?  Was the team rusty?  Should the starters have played some snaps against the Steelers in game 16? Should they have treated it like a pre-season game? Were the coordinators distracted by their interview process and what was at stake for them?  Why did the Ravens get out hit?  Why did the Ravens lose the battle in the trenches, on both sides of the ball?  Why did they lose the field position game?  I am sure there are several more items we can interject here.

I’ve had some time to get my emotions under control after soaking up that horrible loss.  I’ve watched the All-22 film on the NFL Game Pass.  It is clear by now to most knowledgeable Ravens fans that the team needs to add a few more key pieces.  Eric DeCosta saw what you and I saw.

Expect EDC to shore up the front 7, including the pass rush.  He will no doubt address the offensive line, particularly with Marshal Yanda being on the retirement fence.  After the Titans loss, I would have bet all I had that he was retiring.  Three weeks later I am not so sure, but either way the Ravens must address the offensive line.  They must address both lines.  Great teams are built from the trenches out.  A mean d-line and a mean o-line are the keys.  And then there are the receivers.  Hollywood Brown, Willie Snead and Miles Boykin I’d bring back.

I would also give Jaleel Scott, Antoine Wesley and Sean Modster every chance to make the team.  I would also draft a wide receiver rather high, and also sign a solid veteran.  This organization must draft a Pro Bowl wide receiver at some point, although I think Hollywood Brown will in fact make the Pro Bowl.  His play was outstanding, particularly if you factor in that he still wasn’t 100% as he recovered from his Lisfranc injury.  I can’t wait to see what he can do when fully healthy.  But due to his stature, he is not going to win many 50/50 balls.

And that’s exactly what the Ravens desperately need.  As I was watching the Pro-Bowl (first time in over 2 decades) there was a play where Michael Thomas went up to get a jump ball.  Booger McFarland – who is the butt of many social media jokes – made an outstanding comment as the play unfolded.  He quipped that when Thomas goes up to get a 50/50 ball, it’s really an 80/20 ball.  And as he was saying that, Thomas did in fact come down with the ball.

Clemson’s Tee Higgins wins a lot of those balls.  I don’t think he’ll be there at #28 in the first round when it’s the Ravens’ turn to make a selection.  But he would be such a difference maker!  This is a very deep wide receiver class in the 2020 draft, so even if they get a great route runner with great hands and a little bit more size than Brown (LSU’s Justin Jefferson comes to mind) then they could look to free agency for that second receiver that they need.

AJ Green would be a terrific addition, but the past several seasons he’s spent more time in the tub nursing injuries than with the club on the field.  Robbie Anderson could be a great fit if they could get him at the right price.  Either way the Ravens need to add a minimum of two “real” receivers in the off-season.  John Harbaugh said as much at his season ending presser.

Since taking over the general manager duties from Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta has shown that he’s willing to take a few more gambles, as few more chances than the Hall of Famer.  I’m confident he’ll get the additional pieces to make this team even stronger in 2020.  Although I don’t expect their record to be 14 – 2 again, I do expect the team to be even better.  And that is great news for Ravens nation.

You can bet Lamar Jackson will keep putting the work in to get himself to the next level.  What he has over Michael Vick and all of the other “running” quarterbacks that preceded him are the recent rule changes where defenders just can’t abuse the QB.  Unless he suffers a freak injury, he stands no greater chance of being hurt than a traditional drop back pocket passer.

The QB, head coach and coordinators are all coming back.  The team has cap money.  There will be a brand new draft class coming in.  The schedule doesn’t look as daunting as the one that was rolled out a year ago.  I’m not too concerned about the loss to the Titans.  The team arrived a year ahead of schedule.  that is my opinion.  If I am right, I will be writing this column from Tampa on February 7, 2021, home of Super Bowl 55.  Hope to see you there!

 

 

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I think………

Posted on 21 December 2019 by Dennis Koulatsos

I think……….

  • it’s great that the Ravens are currently navigating uncharted waters in franchise history, in full control of their destiny to secure the #1 seed in the playoffs
  • that Eric DeCosta is hands down NFL Executive of the Year. He struck gold once again in this year’s NFL draft and retooled the roster on the defensive side of the ball which elevated week’s four #26th ranked defense in the league to their current position at #6
  • Matt Judon has grown a lot on me this year. Prior to the start of the regular season I wasn’t sold on him, but his performance has been outstanding. He plays like a Raven, he’s never missed a game, and his best football is ahead of him. Sign the man!
  • I had an inkling that Mark Ingram was going to be great in the running backs room and a leader, but my goodness. He has exceeded all expectations on and off the field. He’s a veteran who plays with the enthusiasm of a rookie. What a combo!
  • Of all of the John Harbaugh haters – where ya at now? I’ve knocked the front office since 2013 for failing to draft play makers, and I’ve knocked the coach when I felt he mad bad decisions. But overall I’ve thought of him as a top 5 coach in this league, and I never felt that the Ravens should have moved away from him. Now that he has some talent to work with, it is clear just how talented he is
  • that the Ravens will be selecting the 32nd pick in the 2020 NFL draft. They are hands down the best team in the league and I would be surprised if they weren’t in Miami on February 2nd and don’t come away with the organization’s 3rd Super Bowl ring.
  • Lamar Jackson is a generational talent. He has the charisma of Muhammad Ali and the tenacity of Michael Jordan. They’re my 2 all-time favorite athletes and in his early stages of development he looks to me very much like a combination of both
  • I’m torn on Marcus Peters. He sat out his junior year of college because he got in a fight with the coaching staff at the University of Washington. Then he got traded by the Chiefs to the Rams and then to the Ravens. His talent is obvious but one can’t ignore the flags. Will the Ravens trust him enough to offer him a long term deal? Stay tuned…
  • Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey are cornerstone players, and the Ravens will be well served to extend their contracts sooner than later
  • The Ravens still need a WR1. How about AJ Green in a Ravens uniform next year? My gut says that will happen. AJ will want a ring or two or three to cap of a Hall of Fame career
  • Marshal Yanda is a first ballot Hall of Fame player. I can picture him in a gold jacket at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton. He’s been the most dominant offensive lineman over space and time about as far back as I can remember
  • Don’t think Michael Pierce will be wearing a Ravens uniform next year. He’ll ring the proverbial bell in the free agent market, and 5th round draft pick out of Texas A&M Daylon Mack should be ready to step into that same run stop role that Pierce will have vacated
  • that Tayvon Young will hopefully come back at full strength from the neck injury that ended his season to make the NFL’s stingiest secondary that much better. He’ll easily be the best cover slot DB on the team
  • the Ravens are a year ahead of schedule. I had their ceiling at 11 wins and their floor at 8, figuring they’d need a year to fully mature and develop, particularly as #8 figured things out. His MVP level play has obviously made the THE YEAR and the Ravens know they’ll need to take full advantage of it as many things can happen to close their window. But with that said, you’d have to like the amount of draft picks and available cap space for the 2020 season.
  • With the 32nd pick of the 2020 NFL draft the Ravens will draft the best player available. They’ve usually done that although at times it has looked that they’ve stretched into drafting for need. They can certainly take an interior offensive lineman, a rush end, a linebacker, a wide receiver or even a running back. They’ll identify 16 – 18 red star players and hope one of those is available at 32.
  • Ravens offensive line coach Joe D’Alassandris has been a difference maker. This line is virtually the same one that couldn’t keep Joe Flacco upright, but a year later looks like one of the best in the NFL. Matt Skura goes down with a season ending injury and Patrick Mekari steps in there without skipping a beat. A lot of that has to do with coaching folks
  • Ravens Nation will cheer if the Browns bring back Freddie Kitchens for another year. They should have kept him in his lane as offensive coordinator. Whatever “it” factor a head coach has, clearly he doesn’t have “it”
  • Mike Tomlin has done a good job but in no way should be coach of the year. The Steelers have feasted on a slew of poor teams, and they don’t have a quarterback. Credit GM Kevin Colbert for getting Minkah Fitzpatrick. But…the Steelers don’t have a 1st round draft pick in 2020. Don’t know who wins coach of the year at this point, but I have John Harbaugh ahead of Tomlin. Way ahead
  • don’t care if the Bengals draft Joe Burroughs. They’re one of the worst organizations in all of sports. Marvin Lewis kept them competitive for years with smoke, mirrors and a slew of red flag players. They’ll flash once in a while only due to the collection of high draft picks, but they’ll never be a consistent winner. Same with the Browns, who have only one playoff appearance in 25 years. Of course it was a loss

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Random Ravens Thoughts 12-26-18

Posted on 26 December 2018 by Dennis Koulatsos

Just a couple of weeks ago the Baltimore Ravens were given around a 4% chance of making the NFL playoffs, and lo and behold now here they are on the doorstep of not only getting in by beating the Cleveland Browns, but also in great position to win the division and earn a home playoff game.

One of the funny things – and believe you me, there’s no shortage of funny things surrounding this team right now – is the notion locally and nationally that this team can’t win with this “gimmicky” offense.  It reminds me of back in the day when Ray Lewis and the Ravens faced Miami with their version of a gimmicky offense which came in the form of the Wildcat formation.  After easily disposing of the Dolphins, Lewis quipped “that no matter what, it’s still football.”

What the 1st ballot Hall of Famer was talking about is that no matter how you scheme it up, it still comes down to blocking and tackling. It still comes down to one on one matchups. It’s a simple game.  Win those matchups, win the game.  And that is exactly what the Ravens are doing, right now.

Chargers’ coach Anthony Lynn said as much after the post game rubble he was standing in that the Ravens had left.  He said they got outplayed and got outcoached.  The most noteworthy thing he said was that the Chargers didn’t see anything from the Ravens that they hadn’t seen before, and that they hadn’t seen anything that they weren’t expecting.  It was all right there, on film, on the field, right in front of them.  They simply couldn’t stop them.

That’s the beauty of the current edition of the Baltimore Ravens.  They run a very simple offense, and they execute the heck out of it.  It’s just a handful of plays, disguised by different sets and multiple players in motion.  It causes linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks to pause and look to see where the ball is, often confused by where the ball is going.

Defenses are built on read and react principles, and they are having a hard time of doing just that against the Ravens.  Much has been made that mercurial rookie QB Lamar Jackson forces defenses to play 11 on 10 football, versus the traditional 11 on 11.  It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them.  If they key in on Jackson too much, then bruising backs Gus Edwards and Ken Dixon gain chunk yards between the tackles.  Focus on the backs, and they risk Jackson going around the end for big gains.

And then there’s the play action passes, when Jackson pulls the ball out and surveys the field.  It is truly rare to see a rookie QB with his eyes downfield, but Jackson has done this since day one.  That’s a skill that takes some time to develop, and lots of QBs never develop it.  In terms of Jackson’s future and continued growth, the fact that he has this skill in spades bodes well for him as well as the organization.

Jackson has developed good rapport with all of the receivers, particularly Willie Snead and Mark Andrews.  He’s also shown the ability to deliver crisp, on target passes across the middle. That’s where most interceptions in the NFL occur.  It’s usually late throws across the middle, and Jackson thus far has excelled in that area.

Of course pundits are quick to point out that Jackson is prone to put the ball on the ground, but he also recovers about 70% of those fumbles.  He’s also shown a penchant for shaking off not only fumbles and interceptions, coming back to make big plays.  His short term memory in regards to making mistakes also serves him well.

The Ravens have a big time game coming up against the Browns, who are also on a hot streak right now.  I watched their last game, in which they disposed the Jeff Driskell led Bengals in a workman like fashion.  It wasn’t much of a game, as the Browns dominated in every phase. It looked to me like the Bengals had packed it in for the season.

It was also a home game for the Browns, and they had that going for them.  Baker Mayfield looked good at times and like a rookie QB at others.  He made some gains with his feet, buying some time to find open receivers as well as tucking the ball in and taking off with it downfield.  He is barely 6 feet tall and he had a couple of passes batted down.

His frequent  targets were WR Rashard Higgins and TE David Njoku.  Jarvis Landry and Breshad Perriman also contributed but to a lesser extent.  Nick Chubb is a handful at running back, and that’s the one player I am sure that the Ravens defense will focus on taking away.  Chubb and Njoku are the keys to that offense, and who the Ravens defense needs to pay particular attention to.

Much of the credit for the Browns’ dramatic turnaround this season not only goes to their interim head coach Gregg Williams, but to their offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.  His offense has been very creative, productive and overall fun to watch.  Kitchens has done such a good job, that his name is emerging as a head coach candidate for many of the jobs that are going to be open at the end of the season.

He uses RB Duke Johnson very creatively in the run and pass game, as well as Jarvis Landry and Breshad Perriman.  In fact, Landry threw a bomb to Perriman on a double reverse.  But going back to what Ray Lewis had said, it’s still football.  The Ravens have to stay discipline, the ends have to stay at home and set the edge, and they will be fine.

As far as the Browns’ defense is concerned, the Bengals had some success running between the tackles with Joe Mixon.  The Browns are 24th in the league against the run, so the Ravens should have continued success running the ball against them.

Back to Baker Mayfield.  At the end of the game versus the Bengals, as he was running off of the field he stared down Hue Jackson for what seemed like an eternity.  It wasn’t exactly a good look for him, and it showed that he still has some immaturity issues that have haunted him throughout his college career.

It’s still early but it looks to me that not only have the Ravens selected the better quarterback, but more importantly the better person.  These two have some history going back to 2016, as Jackson beat Mayfield and Deshaun Watson for the Heisman Trophy.  That one still burns Mayfield for sure, and you can bet he’s going to be fired up to end the Ravens’ season this Sunday.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address coach John Harbaugh and his status with the Ravens.  I thought that Friday’s 7:00 p.m. announcement by the team that he is going to coach the Ravens through 2019 while they mutually worked on a contract extension was brilliant.  Whether they do or not at this point is irrelevant.  Lots of people questioned the timing of the announcement, but I thought it was great.

It accomplished two things.  First, I thought it was a good way to double focus the team the day before a big away game with the Chargers.  It told them that if they had any doubt about Harbaugh and his coaching staff to just get it out of their minds.  More importantly it sent a message to the veteran players that they – not Harbaugh – were playing for their jobs.  They didn’t have to worry about the incoming coach – they had to worry about the current one, not only for this year but the next and even well into the future.

Respected sports journalist Peter King – among others – is still skeptical in regards to Harbaugh’s return to Baltimore as head coach in 2020.  He is of the opinion that Harbaugh – who gets a raise in 2019 and will make in the $8 million range – will play out his contract and see what his options are in 2020.

I certainly don’t share King’s opinion.  John Harbaugh is a smart man, but the Ravens are also a smart organization.  I cannot imagine a scenario where Harbaugh is a lame duck coach next year.  The Ravens will make it a boy or a girl.  It will be one or the other.  Either he signs a long term contract, or they will trade him to a team and receive as much compensation for him as possible.

Harbaugh will agree to that for a number of reasons.  For starters he would be the hottest head coach on the market.  He would be clearly the number 1 candidate on almost any teams’ wish list – this year.  Who knows what the market will be next year and who’ll be available?  Coach will strike while the iron is hot, and he should.

I believe that Harbaugh wants to stay in Baltimore and I believe the owner and front office want to keep him.  The only reason I can see stopping it from happening is if there is additional power that Harbaugh would demand over personnel decisions.  That could end negotiations.  And if that happens, I believe the Ravens would leak out word to the rest of the league that Harbaugh is available, and would seek to trade him to a team they would receive maximum compensation from in the form of draft picks.

That aside, here’s to a victory over the Browns and a long playoff run.  The Ravens have a shot to write history.  It is a long shot, but winning a Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback would be one for the ages.  They have experience, defense, special teams, running game, coaching and momentum to get there.

I don’t know if truly any teams fear them and don’t want to face them, but I do know that they are going to be an awfully tough out.  If in fact they beat the Browns and get into the Super Bowl tournament, history tells us that anything can happen.

 

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The Ravens should shut down Joe Flacco for the season – here’s why

Posted on 26 November 2018 by Dennis Koulatsos

I’m going to make a case for the Baltimore Ravens to shut down Joe Flacco for the season.  Flacco had a solid off season and looked healthy and ready to roll.  He was solid through the first 4 games, but when his offensive line became thin due to injuries, his performance suffered the next 4 games.

As a result the offense because predictable and one dimensional.  The Ravens receivers couldn’t beat press coverage, so defenses stacked the box and took the run away.  Flacco lost confidence in his offensive line, and started throwing the ball to his primary read, determining where he would go with the ball pre-snap.

At halftime in the games against the Panthers and the Steelers, I commented that I did not see Flacco being able to bring the team back, and called for Lamar Jackson to come off of the bench in relief.  Flacco hurt his hip during the Steelers game, and now it’s wait and see in regards to his availability for the Atlanta game this weekend.

Lamar Jackson has provided a spark for the team in relief, albeit against two terrible defenses.  Teams can no longer play 10 on 11, as Jackson’s dual threat ability forces them to play 11 on 11.  It’s an interesting dynamic, one that many offenses do not have and one that is difficult to prepare and game plan for defensive coordinators.

As Nestor Aparicio pointed out during our conference call today, I am not anti Joe Flacco as much as I am pro Lamar Jackson.  I respect what Joe Flacco has done for the Ravens, and respect his body of work, particularly his performance during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run and subsequent victory in 2012, where he threw for 11 TDs vs zero interceptions.

But that was then and this is now.  Flacco – like most NFL QBs – needs a stout offensive line and a strong running game, one that he can play action off of.  He also needs receivers that can create separation, high point, and have a large catch radius.  The Ravens could not provide any of those tools for Flacco, particularly in the last 4 games he played in.

To me there is no quarterback controversy in Baltimore, and it’s not even close.  Clearly Lamar Jackson gives this team it’s best chance of winning.  He is a dual threat QB, one that can compensate for a less than stellar offensive line.  One that can buy time with his feet, which in turn allows receivers extra seconds to break free and lose their defenders.

Jackson is the reason that Gus Edwards has starred in the past two games, as linebackers and safeties have to freeze for a second, just to make sure that Edwards does in fact have the ball versus Jackson keeping it and going around the end for huge chunk plays.  He has amazing feet and tape doesn’t come close to revealing just how fast he is, until other teams see him on the field and he is just a blur.

The rookie has a lot of growing to do, but the arm strength, touch, and all of the intangibles he possesses are all there.  He spent the first half of Sunday’s game against the Raiders proving that he can throw the ball.  Then in the second half he and the Ravens went back to their newly discovered identity and pushed the Raiders into oblivion via a dominating run game.

It’s a lot easier for offensive linemen to run block than it is to pass block.  When run blocking they are firing off of the ball.  When pass blocking they are on their heels and under attack.  The strength of this offensive line clearly isn’t pass blocking, which is yet another reason as to why Jackson is the right QB for this team at this time.

As the season wears on Jackson has to strike a balance with his run/pass ratio and just let his instincts take over.  He will stop over thinking and he will just react.  He showed zip on the slant to Michael Crabtree for a touchdown,  and he showed touch in the deep passes to Mark Andrews and John Brown, although the pass to Brown was called back for a hold.

The game against the Falcons is critical.  If the Ravens lose, they’ll drop to 6-6 and probably finish 8-8.  If they beat the Falcons then they have a chance at 9-7 and perhaps 10-6.  In games past I’ve always said the Ravens would go as Joe Flacco and the offense would.  The defense in most games was good enough.

In this game against the Falcons, I am confident that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense will put up points.  My concern is how will the defense defend Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley and Tevin Coleman.

I think the recipe going forward is the same one the Ravens have used to defeat the Bengals and Raiders. Run the ball effectively and pass efficiently.  Shorten the game.  Don’t get into shootouts.  There aren’t many teams that have the plethora of skill players that teams such as the Rams, Chiefs, Chargers and Saints have at their disposal.

The way to beat those teams is to take the air out of the ball, shorten the game, frustrate the opposing offenses by keeping them on the bench.  Keep the game close and hope for turnovers and specials teams to be the difference makers.

The Ravens don’t even have a WR1 to make any sort of noise with those teams.  Their best bet is to execute 15 -17 play drives, win the time of possession battle, take the opposition into deep water and hopefully drown them.

There is simply no upside to playing Joe Flacco again the rest of the season.  To do so would be a disservice to him and to the organization.  He is less than 100% and he would risk further injury.  All indications are that the Ravens will move away from him at the end of the season.  So why risk doing anything that would lessen his market value?

In this quarterback driven and starved league, Joe Flacco would command no less than a 3rd round draft pick all the way to a 1st!  Jacksonville, Tampa Bay are just two teams that jump out as being QB needy in 2019.  John Gruden absolutely loves QBs, and the silver and black have 3 first round draft picks next year.  They also have around $83 million in cap space, so it’s not hard to imagine Joe Flacco in a Raiders uniform next year.

They are moving to Vegas, and he would be a great fit for them.  They have a decent offensive line, and if they can give Flacco a running game and some receivers, he could do some damage with his big arm.  But his time in Baltimore is done.  The Ravens lack a 2nd round draft pick in next year’s draft and this is one of the few ways they can get it back.

They need to protect their investment in Joe Flacco to ensure they will get maximum return for him in the off-season.  If he gets hurt again it will diminish his market value.  He got hurt in the first series against the Steelers and spent the rest of the game stretching out his hip on the sideline.  He is immobile and he would be a sitting duck.

In that game he severely under threw a wide open Michael Crabtree at the goal line.  A healthy Joe Flacco would have completed that pass with his eyes close.  The time has come for Joe Flacco to close out his career in Baltimore, and he deserves to do so with dignity.

The Ravens need to start Lamar Jackson the rest of the season, with RGIII as his back up on game day.  Joe Flacco should rehab his hip and get himself ready for 2019.  It is not only the business thing to do, it is the right thing.

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Thoughts and comments on Ravens win over the Browns

Posted on 18 September 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

Here are my Monday morning thoughts after the Ravens solid performance over the Browns, and my view from my vantage point from the upper deck of M&T Bank Stadium:

  • The elation of being 2-0 was tempered by a season ending injury to future Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda.  He suffered a broken ankle when a Cleveland player rolled on his ankle.
  • Newly acquired G/T Tony Bergstrom replaced Yanda in the lineup, and played well for the 32 snaps that he was in.
  • Yanda hadn’t allowed a sack since game 7 of the 2015 season versus the Arizona Cardinals.
  • RB Terrance West definitely has a nose for the goal line. You can see by his body language just how much he wants the ball any time the Ravens get in the red zone.
  • Speaking of running backs, Buck Allen had a very nice game (highlighted by a 37 yard run) and fresh-up-from-the-practice-squad Alex Collins also shined.  Looks like the Ravens now have a 3-headed monster at the position, with 3 backs that have different skill sets to offer.
  • Although Collins put the ball on the ground – primarily due to second effort – he ran hard and decisively.  His “one cut plant the foot in the ground and go” style fits in well with Greg Roman’s power blocking scheme.
  • More Collins: much like Tony Jefferson he had a bad combine, and dropped to 5th round primarily because he ran a 4.59 40.  But when you roll the tape of him at Arkansas, you see vision, balance, toughness, and enough speed to get the job done.
  • Coach Harbaugh has to love the competition at running back.  The Ravens commitment to the run has served them well through 2 games, so expect more of the same going forward.
  • TE Benjamin Watson had a break out game with the Ravens. Targeted 8 times by QB Joe Flacco, he caught all of them for 91 years, and more importantly 40 after the catch. His blocking was also outstanding and contributed to the running game’s success.
  • The other two tight ends also received high grades for their blocking.  Nick Boyle really stood out, as he consistently sealed the edge and gave Ravens’ running back daylight to the outside. Maxx Williams’ status is up in the air, as he was seeing leaving the stadium in a walking the boot right after the game.
  • Austin Howard has done a nice job coming in as the team’s new right tackle.  He also had a nice game against a tough Cleveland front.
  • Brandon Carr’s veteran presence has been impressive on the field.  The Browns were definitely targeting him and he came up big, capping a nice day with a timely drive killing interception.
  • Joe Flacco was more accurate than usual, and looked a lot more comfortable moving around in the pocket versus one week ago.  Even in warm ups he was airing the ball out.
  • The interception Flacco threw was inexcusable and careless.  Jabrill Peppers and Jason McCourty were both playing very deep, and there was no way that Mike Wallace was going to out jump them for the ball.  Mike Wallace can win 50/50 foot races, but he’s not going to win many 50/50 jump balls.
  • Flacco was hot against the blitz.  Browns defensive coordinator Greg Williams blitzed early and often, but the Ravens QB was poised and able to deliver the ball to his open receivers.
  • The Cleveland linebackers had a horrible day, as they couldn’t cover the Ravens backs and tight ends.  Kudos to the Ravens offensive coordinators for a great game plan against them and great execution by the players.
  • Rookie CB Marlon Humphrey allowed only one pass to be completed against him, and it was for only 3 yards.  Talk about press coverage!  He just gets inside of people’s shirts and doesn’t let go.  He was on the field for only 11 plays, and I expect to see him continue to earn more playing time as the season progresses. He has the DNA to be a shutdown corner down the line.
  • Big ups to coach Harbaugh.  With just 5 ticks left on the clock right before halftime, the Ravens had the ball on the Browns’ 2 yard line.  My whole section – including me – were screaming “take the points!”  Of course we know that Flacco completed a pass to Jeremy Maclin in the end zone for the touchdown, which put the Ravens up by 14 points instead of 10.
  • Rookie LB Tyus Bowser got a sack and an interception.  He is big, fast, fluid and instinctive.  GM Ozzie Newsome really did a great job in finding some gems in this year’s NFL draft.
  • Terrell Suggs usually doesn’t have a great game against Joe Thomas, but in his defense, not many rush ends do.  Yesterday was an exception though, as Suggs clearly got the best of him.  He harassed the Browns’ QBs all day and his tenacity was rewarded by a strip sack.
  • WR Jeremy Maclin got his second touchdown in as many games as a Raven.  He’s going to keep Jimmy’s Famous Seafood’s kitchen busy popping out those great crabcakes for him all season long!
  • Safety Lardarius Webb got his second interception of the season, and it was a big one as it was in the endzone.  He also had a couple of big hits that got the attention of the Browns’ receivers.
  • The Ravens had a 7 minute edge in time of possession over the Browns. It was less than the 9 minutes they held the ball longer than the Bengals in the prior week, but even more so impressive as the Browns run defense in particular was a more stout group.
  • The Ravens now have 10 takeaways in 2 games, and have themselves turned over the ball 3 times this season, giving them a +7 in that area.
  • The Ravens rushed the ball 32 times for 136 yards.
  • Breshad Perriman had a ball bounce off of his hands on a slant pattern.  You could hear the “brick” sound all the way in the upper deck.  He really has to turn it on before the “bust” whispers get louder.
  • Love to see the Ravens get Mike Wallace more involved in the passing game.  I understand that Jeremy Maclin is a better player, but Wallace showed last year that he is still capable of being productive and putting up some good numbers.
  • We haven’t heard his named called the last 2 games, and that’s a good thing.  I’m talking about LG James Hurst. No news is good news.
  • Glad to see the Ravens improved in cleaning up penalties.  They had 7 for 45 yards, in sharp contrast to the undisciplined Browns’ 11 for 65 yards.
  • It’s natural to root for high draft picks to develop, but clearly WLB Patrick Onwuasor is a better player than Kamalei Correa.  For his part, Correa is a good team teammate as he is always smiling and supportive.  He has good body language.

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Opportunistic Ravens defense pitches shutout in the season opener

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

This was a vintage Baltimore Ravens defensive performance, one that may have even been worthy of applause by their 2000 record setting counter parts.  That version kept 5 teams from scoring on them that season, and held teams to an average of 10 points a game.

For all of the talk about the plethora of great players at skill positions on the Cincinnati Bengals, their offensive line was exposed, particularly by the fierce Ravens pass rush.  Andy Dalton never got comfortable, never found a rhythm, as time and time again his throws were hurried.

Dalton was sacked a total of 5 times, and threw 4 interceptions.  Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was stout against the run, and continuously collapsed the pocket, creating space for his teammates to break through.  Edger rusher Terrell Suggs mocked father time as he came up with 2 sacks.  C.J. Mosley showed why he may very well be the best inside linebacker in the league in defending the pass, as he came up with a huge interception in the Ravens’ end zone.  That was the turning point in the game.

The Ravens offense was efficient, tough and resilient.  The offensive line did a great job overall, creating holes for running backs Terrance West and Buck Allen.  They combined for 40 carries and over 150 yards rushing, while giving Baltimore a 9 minute advantage in time of possession.

Our own Peter DiLutis texted me during the game “MVP Greg Roman,” and he couldn’t have been more right.  Although his official title may be “senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach” you could clearly see his fingerprints all over this offense.  It was refreshing to watch, particularly after two seasons of abandoning the run.

Quarterback Joe Flacco may wish to “sling the pill” all over the field, but that’s made the Ravens spectators the last two post-seasons versus participants.  We all know that he’d much rather throw the ball 4o times per game rather than hand it off – and as a competitor I guess that’s a good thing.  But that’s not what wins ball games.

Somehow Flacco needs to understand this.  Someone needs to sit him down and frame a conversation in a way that he will understand, in a way that he will buy in.  Maybe it will sink in that he has to do what’s in the best interest for the overall greater good of the team….versus himself.  In the red zone he threw into triple coverage.  He made poor choices.

That’s part of the problem with these canon armed quarterbacks.  They fall in love with their arms, thinking the can put the ball in the smallest of windows. That is why an Alex Smith can have great success in the NFL.  What he lacks in arm power he makes up for with intellect, unselfishness and in being a field general.

Of course Flacco – as he said – would rather win 42-0.  What he needs to understand is that as this offensive line jells together, and the running game grows, he will have a chance to put up some big numbers.  When the running game is going strong, the safeties will have to come up in the box.  The cornerbacks will have to play closer to the line of scrimmage.  This will give him ample downfield opportunities via the play action pass.

I absolutely loved the offensive line play.  It looked to me that all of the linemen were firing off of the ball, as the new blocking scheme made an obvious positive difference.  The misdirection plays and counters were particularly enjoyable to watch.  Terrance West said the offense “ran like the same 5 plays all day,” but it didn’t matter.  They ran them from different formations, gave the Bengals defense different looks, and most importantly they executed well.

And now for the negatives. Center Ryan Jensen is tough, but he has to clean up the penalties that were called on him.  For that matter the entire team does.  Running back Danny Woodhead reinjured his hamstring and was carted to the locker room.  His status is unknown at this time, but it doesn’t look good. Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith sprained his knee, and his status is also up in the air at this time.  Both players stood out as Woodhead had great chemistry with Flacco and was a difference maker in the Ravens’ opening drive, while Smith had a sack prior to leaving the game.

Going forward the team needs to stick to this same formula that got them the shutout yesterday. They need to run the ball, or at least try to run the ball without abandoning it too quickly.  They need Joe Flacco to take care of the ball, not turn it over. They need to save him from himself.

Looking ahead the Cleveland Browns come to town this Sunday for the Ravens home opener, after losing a tough one to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Their quarterback is DeShone Kiser, who I think has a very high ceiling.  However he is a rookie and M&T Stadium is no place to start your second NFL game and first one away from the friendly confines of your home field.

It will be loud, as I expect the Ravens’ 12th man to show up.  This fan base is used to being energized by an aggressive, nasty and opportunistic defense.  Kiser is tough, but for now he holds the ball too long.  That’s a recipe for disaster against the Ravens defense.  I’m not taking the Browns lightly, and I am not overconfident, certainly not after one game in.  But it would not surprise me if the Browns – like the Bengals – do not put up any points on the board this Sunday.

If the Ravens execute the same script against the Browns as the Bengals, if they take care of the ball and do not turn it over, there is no reason that they won’t start the season with a 2-0 record.

 

 

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NEW YORK, UNITED STATES:  Baltimore Orioles' owner Peter Angelos (2nd L) talks at a press conference with Chicago Cubs' CEO Andy MacPhail (L), Major League Baseball President Bob Dupuy (2nd R) and MLB chief negotiator Rob Manfred (R) 16 August 2002 at baseball headquarters in New York. The baseball players association set 30 August 2002 as a strike date if an agreement is not reached with the current contract.  AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Being Thrift with mounting debt and wringing the Belle with an insurance policy

Posted on 16 August 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 12 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

12. Being Thrift with mounting debt and wringing the Belle with an insurance policy

 

I’ve been very productive in my life in baseball. I’m not going to be taken as some amateur or semi-pro trying to build a resume to get a job somewhere else, like a lot of my colleagues have done over the course of time. We really have had a plan of where we’re going, how we’re going to get there, what we’re going to do. And so far we’re very pleased with the progress that we’ve made with this team.”

Syd Thrift

April 2000

 

 

THE LOSS OF MIKE MUSSINA in November of 2000 came as a massive blow to the fans of the Orioles, whom by and large, were still loyal to the team and more so even to Cal Ripken who was clearly coming to the end of the line of what had been a legendary career.

The Orioles not only missed the playoffs the previous three seasons but really never spent a day anywhere near contention despite the many contentious vibes the team had been casting off in the shadow of an owner who had lost his way and was getting attacked on every front in the public eye.

Peter G. Angelos bought the Orioles in 1993 because he was nouveau riche and starved for attention and the power that came along with controlling a civic trust for the local sports community. He wanted to be important. He wanted to be famous. He wanted to be loved.

Now, he had the eyes of the metropolis on his every move and was wilting under the pressure of trying to follow through on his promises to make the team a winner every year. There was little doubt that Angelos wanted to win. He just had no idea how to do it and simply throwing money at players wasn’t the answer to chasing down George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, who were the reigning champions and winners of four of the previous five World Series. And now, the damned Yankees took the only thing the franchise had left that was worthy of pillaging – ace pitcher Mike Mussina, who led the evening news in a pinstripe uniform and a dark NY hat because Angelos had essentially botched the negotiations and demeaned him publicly.

Angelos refused to pay Mussina the going rate.

It was never brought to light or reported – mainly because after being transparent regarding the finances of the Orioles in the early days of his ownership, Angelos went silent and became evasive – but the team began truly hemorrhaging money during this era of ineptitude on the field. Angelos admitted that the team wasn’t making money in 1996 and 1997, when wins on the field didn’t translate to profit for the club. The Orioles had the third highest payroll in Major League Baseball in 1997 and led the sport in 1998 and were still massive spenders vs. the marketplace in 1999 and 2000.

Angelos inherited a team with a $27 million payroll in 1993. By the turn of the century, the Orioles were spending $84 million per year despite seeing revenues dropping sharply over the previous three seasons when losing affected everything about the bottom line for the team. Fans who had tickets through corporations began not using them. Concession sales suffered. And attendance was falling because it had nowhere to go but down after the halcyon days of Camden Yards as the stadium approached the decade mark and many other cities had seen their own new stadia and downtown renaissance.

Angelos was quietly writing checks, privately, to fund the tens of million of dollars of losses of the Orioles. He acknowledged to other investors that it was his decision-making – and his alone – that had guided the team into a predicament where it wasn’t profitable and was bordering on dreadful on the field.

And as much as Mussina was one check that Angelos refused to write for $14 million per year, he had another similar check with three more years on the line and $39 million of team payroll still committed to Albert Belle, who struggled mightily during the summer

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Back to the future – recap of Baltimore Ravens 2017 NFL Draft

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

After the Baltimore Ravens selected Chuck Clark with their last selection in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL draft, the vision that the front office and scouting staff had for the 2017 season began to come into focus.  Clark – a defensive back from Virginia Tech – was one of 5 picks for the defense versus 2 for the offense.  In fact Joe Flacco, Marty Mornhinweg and company had to wait until day 3 of the draft before hearing an offensive player’s name called.

Based on Joe Flacco’s performance last year, his penchant for the untimely turnover, coupled with the defense’s inability to hold a 4th quarter lead in 4 November and December games, led to the defensive windfall. It looks to me that they will try to do all they can to “Dilferize” the offense, limiting turnovers, and relying on the defense and special teams to win games.  They will put a premium on field position, and they will scrap the zone blocking scheme for one that is of the  power blocking hat on hat variety.

Justin Tucker will take over the role that Matt Stover had in 2000.  The 4 defensive players (the Ravens took 5 but I do not expect Chuck Clark to make the team) will have to have an immediate impact, as will newly signed free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr.  Of course this defense will not be anywhere near as good as the historically good 2000 version was, but it should be dramatically better than last year’s which couldn’t hold a lead.

Georgia’s Tuys Bowser (2nd round pick) and Alabama’s Tim Williams (3rd round pick) will both get opportunities to rush QBs from the edge, while Michigan’s Chris Wormley will see playing time at defensive tackle as a 5-technique end (lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle).  First round pick Marlon Humphrey will see get some valuable time early in the season, in case Jimmy Smith’s legs do not hold up as has been the case the past two years.

The Ravens also selected guard Nico Siragusa (absolutely no relation to Tony – although how great is it going to be to yell “Goooooooose” at M&T Bank once again:) a huge guard out of San Diego State in the 3rd round, and fellow guard Jermaine Eluemunor out of Texas A&M.  Eluemunor was told he was going to compete for the right tackle position, presumably against holdovers De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot and James Hurst.

Siragusa in particular is very intriguing.  He is a mauling guard who excels at pulling and blowing up defenders are the line of scrimmage as well as turning up field.  The fingerprints of new run coordinator Greg Roman are already evident. This team will employ a similar power running scheme that the 49ers used effectively back in 2012, when they played the Ravens in the Super Bowl.  It is a scheme that allows offensive linemen to pin their ears back and fire off of the ball.

The key is going to be who’s going to start on the offensive line and how quickly it comes together. Perhaps the Ravens will sign former Jet Nick Mangold to anchor that line from the center position, or maybe former Duke center Matt Skura – with one year in an NFL weight room – has progressed enough to man the position.

The Ravens have enough running backs to get the job done. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, Buck Allen, Ken Dixon and Stephen Houston are all solid between the tackles, and Danny Woodhead offers the team a great change of pace back as well as a third down threat. This scheme also requires a fullback that’s very much an anvil, and currently they don’t have one on the roster.  Moving TE Nick Boyle (6’4, 265 pounds) may be an option, but look for the Ravens to be very active in the undrafted free agent market for a couple of stout blocking fullbacks.

In the NFL if you run the ball effectively, if you don’t turn it over, and if you have a great defense and special teams you will win a lot more than you lose. It is a formula that worked in 2000 and it looks like the Ravens brass are hedging their bets that it will also work in 2017.

I was also thinking about titling this blog “Saving Joe Flacco from himself.”  That’s what the Cowboys did with Tony Romo a few years ago.  They put a huge offensive line around him, and then they had DeMarco Murray run in excess of 400 times behind it.  The end result was a 12-4 record, and after three successive 8-8 seasons they finally made the playoffs.

Joe Flacco does not need to put the ball up 40-50 times a game.  That’s a formula for disaster.  The Ravens need to run the ball effectively.  This way the safeties come up in the box, the cornerbacks come closer to the line of scrimmage, and then Flacco can do some serious damage.  Plus he’s always been a “chunk” quarterback.  He has a big arm and he is not wired for a West Coast offense.  He excels when the Ravens are running the ball effectively (as they did in 2102 with Ray Rice), where he can plant his feet and let if fly downfield.

The last thing is that the Ravens final roster is nowhere near complete.  There will be the June 1 cuts, and there will be several veteran players available that can help the team. No need to panic at this time that there are no clear starters at inside linebacker next to CJ Mosley, or at right tackle and center.  The Ravens will address all of those needs well before the pre-season commences.

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Ravens do not select immediate starter – Draft Grade “C”

Posted on 28 April 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

When it came time for the Ravens to make their selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, there were 2 Alabama players that were in the top 10 in most of the mock drafts.  In fact defensive tackle Jonathan Allen was a consensus top 5 pick, while talented but troubled middle linebacker Reuben Foster was a lock as a top 10 pick.

Foster had an incident at the combine with a medical staff member, and a couple of days before the draft a story broke out that his combine drug screen specimen had come back diluted.  This is why he was still there at 16, and didn’t come off of the board until the 49ers picked at 31.  He also had a history of injuries, but I thought for sure Foster would have been a Raven this morning.  He is the closest thing I’ve seen on tape to one Ray Lewis.  I know it’s a lofty comparison, and only time will tell who got the best of this deal.

Allen has some arthritic shoulder concerns, and he slid to Washington one pick after the Ravens took Marlon Humphrey, a talented cornerback from Alabama who should become an eventual starter.  And that’s what I have come concerns with, to say the least.

For a team that has to win now, I do not know why they wouldn’t draft a player that could potentially start right away.  As long as Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr are healthy, Humphrey will not start, at least not this year.  Tavon Young played on the outside last year, particularly when Jimmy Smith was lost to injury, but at 5’9″ he’s more suited to play inside in the nickel and dime packages, and cover slot receivers. He is height challenged and that limits him from playing on an island.

The Ravens certainly needed depth at cornerback, and this is one of the deepest drafts at that position in the last decade.  There’s going to be great value there in rounds 2-4, and that’s where the Ravens should have found their eventual starter at cornerback.  In fact, the two corners from the University of Florida quickly come to mind.  Teez Tabor or Quincy Wilson would have been solid second round picks for the Ravens, and they may have even more upside than Humphrey.

Humphrey does check all of the boxes in terms of character, health, etc.  He even has an NFL pedigree as his father was former Dolphins running back Bobby Humphrey.  He has all of the necessary physical tools and may develop into a shutdown corner. However there are some concerns.  He doesn’t have long speed, doesn’t track the ball well in the air, and he may be better suited to play safety as he is at his best when things are right in front of him.

Now I get that the draft isn’t nowhere near over, and that the Ravens still have 6 picks left. But this is a team that finished 8-8 and lost a starter at WR (Steve Smith), RT (Rick Wagner), C (Jeremy Zuttah), ILB (Zach Orr), and Edge (Elvis Dumervil).  You’d think they would address one of these positions with their first pick.  The receivers came flying off of the board, and in my opinion it wouldn’t have made sense for the Ravens to have traded up for any of them, particularly with the glut of defensive talent that was sliding down to them.

This is a draft that is extremely short of starting quality receivers and offensive linemen, and although there wasn’t a run on 0-linemen, 3 receivers went in the top 9 picks.  This is also a draft that is deep in cornerbacks and edge rushers, and that is precisely why there was no need to take a player at either position at 16. Nothing but the old Economics 101 rule of supply and demand in process here.

Two tackles went in the first round, Garrett Bolles from Utah to the Broncos at 20, and Ryan Ramczyk to the Seahawks at 32.  Both could have started at right tackle for the Ravens on opening day.  Ozzie Newsome said they had fielded some calls to trade back, but they really liked Humphrey and kept the pick. I don’t know what the offers were, but if faced with picking Humphrey or trading back, I would have traded back and picked up one of these two tackles, or Forrest Lamp out of Western Kentucky.

Yesterday I heard former Ravens Director of Personnel and Browns General Manager Phil Savage say that a team should never draft a guard in the first round.  I couldn’t disagree more with that statement. Marshal Yanda blows that theory right out of the water.  Here is a potential Hall of Fame guard, who has played center as well as right tackle at a high level when called upon.  I guarantee you if we went back a decade and redrafted that class, Marshal Yanda would be selected a lot higher than the third round that he went in.  He would have been a top 5 choice for sure.

That is why the Ravens should have traded back for Lamp.  Lamp  is a left guard and would have been great right next to Ronnie Stanley.  I don’t think he drops to 47 today, and I do not think the Ravens will trade up for him – although they absolutely should.  As a left guard he could slide to left tackle in the event that Ronnie Stanley suffered an injury.  There is a dramatic difference with which side an offensive lineman plays on.  The footwork is different. It’s akin to being right handed and holding a fork with you right hand, then switching to the left to eat.

Lamp could play all 3 offensive line positions, and would be a day one starter at guard or center, and possibly even right tackle.  And he would have filled the need created by departed starter Rick Wagner.  Maybe he could have played left guard and Alex Lewis right tackle.  I don’t know. All I know is that if I was making the pick, I would have taken Foster, and if I had traded back, I would have taken Foster or an offensive lineman. Either way I would have selected a player that could start immediately.

The Ravens still own pick 47 in the second round, and picks 74 and 78 in the third round.  Hopefully they can select players that can start from day one – they’re out there.  As a die hard Ravens fan I always wish them the best, but when it comes to analyzing their moves I do take off my purple colored glasses, and I cease drinking the purple Kool-Aid.

I also want to address the notion that somehow Ozzie Newsome gets some “inside information” or “information that no one else does” from the Alabama coaching staff simply because he is a highly decorated alumni.  The Ravens have drafted exactly 7 players since the franchise’s inception in 1996.  They are DB Ralph Staten, TE Terry Jones, LB Jarrett Johnson, FB Le’Ron McClain, DT Terrence Cody, LB Courtney Upshaw, and LB CJ Mosley.

From that group McClain made 2 Pro Bowls and Mosley has made 1 so far. Off of the top of my head Staten was talented but had some serious off-field problems, Jones was a nice guy 3rd tight end type, JJ was a solid player, McClain flashed for a bit before going to KC, Cody was drafted in 2010 and he is out of football, Upshaw was a decent player but has never lived up to his draft position, and it looks like Mosley has a bright future.  I don’t see where Newsome’s Alabama picks have shined.

Furthermore, a couple of years ago Nick Saban publicly proclaimed that Landon Collins was “the best DB he had ever coached.”  He was counting safeties and corners in that group.  You’d think the Ravens would have been paying attention! Not only did Collins slide down the draft board, but the Giants traded up to get him with the very first pick of the second round.  After an uneven rookie season, Collins has developed into a Pro Bowl safety, who would have looked awfully good in a Ravens uniform. So much for Newsome’s perceived “inside information.”

I think Humphrey has a chance to be a solid NFL starter.  I understand that the team still needed a young corner due to Jimmy Smith’s recent inability to stay healthy.  In a draft full of quality corners, I thought they could have waited and selected one in a later round. They found Tavon Young in the fourth round last year, pick #104.  They could have drafted a quality corner at 47, 74 or 78.  That’s why I have a bit of heartburn today.  They absolutely passed on a day one starting caliber middle linebacker and offensive lineman.

 

 

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Ravens 31-32 since 2012 Super Bowl victory

Posted on 26 December 2016 by Dennis Koulatsos

After their heart breaking loss to the Steelers last night, the Ravens are now a very pedestrian 31-32 since they beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in 2012.  Over that period, they have been very mediocre, very average, with only one playoff appearance.

The loss to the Steelers was devastating on a number of levels. This was a critical game for both organizations. Had the Steelers loss, Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley would have been left wide open for criticism by their fan base, front office and ownership.

They would have had to account for burning all of their time outs on their last drive. For not leaving at least one in order for them to kick a field goal, in a worst case scenario setting, that would have taken the game into overtime had Antonio Brown failed to cross the goal line.

Antonio Brown had the presence of mind to stretch his left arm and break the plane of the goal line.  It was a play for the ages, by a magnificent player.  Never mind that Steelers WR Cobi Hamilton was not set on that play. Never mind that Ravens safety Eric Weddle had several of his fingers wrapped around Brown’s facemask. But hey, that’s the game.

The outcome of this game can potentially set both of these franchises in dramatically different directions. This will no doubt will be an interesting off-season, especially for the Ravens.

For all of the questions as to whether Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti will bring back coach John Harbaugh, one has to wonder as to whether or not Harbaugh will be in a mood to come back, depending on how the conversation goes.

For one, coach Harbaugh will have options, no matter what. I don’t know that he’ll be in a mood to be a lame duck coach with one year left on his contract.  I would think he’d want more a vote of confidence from ownership, versus playing out what amounts to a “show me, prove yourself” one year deal.

Not when – if he were to become available – he would have a plethora of suitors to pick from. I know that he loves living in Maryland, and I know that he loves being the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.  But with that said, I don’t know that he’d stick out what amounts to a one year contract at 7 million, where he may be able to get a 4 year deal at 7 million somewhere else. He also may be able to get a 5 year deal that would also pay him north of that 7 million mark.  That’s not a stretch and it very well could happen.

Harbaugh would be a hot commodity not only with current vacancies in the NFL, but also with college football opportunities as well.  He is charismatic and a proven winner, so recruiting players for his college team (if it goes down that way) should not be a problem for him. Plus big brother Jim has done a nice job with his college programs, and that’s something else that works in his favor.

In regards to explaining the team’s mediocre record the past 4 seasons, Harbaugh could point in the scouting department and GM Ozzie Newsome’s direction. With the exception of their most recent draft, the Ravens have not drafted particularly well.  They have missed on a slew of top draft picks. That is simply something that cannot be pinned on Harbaugh.

Ozzie Newsome selects the players, and John Harbaugh coaches them. It has always been that way. Who’s responsible and who’s accountable? We can debate that all day long, but both have left themselves open to scrutiny.

Since the conclusion of the 2012 season, the talent level on this team hasn’t been on par with division rivals Steelers and Bengals. That falls on the shoulders of the front office. For his part, coach Harbaugh has to answer for his team blowing a 10 point lead on the road to the hapless New York Jets. Plus a dismal home loss to the Washington Redskins. Those October losses have come back to haunt the Ravens, and one can easily argue that they shouldn’t have been in the position of having to beat the Steelers last night for the division crown as well as a playoff berth.

I think it’s fair to question Harbaugh’s loyalty to offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who seems to be a polarizing figure since the day he arrived. There’s no doubt that the offense has to be completely overhauled. The Ravens need an offensive coordinator who will install a system that takes full advantage QB Joe Flacco’s strengths, while minimizing his weaknesses.

I don’t think the Ravens are that far away from becoming a perennial contender once again.  I believe with another strong draft and a new offensive coordinator, this team can get deep into the playoffs next year. I believe with their first 3 picks, they need to take a cornerback, a free safety and a rush end. No particular order, just the best player available at those positions when they’re on the clock.

It will be interesting to see if coach Harbaugh is here for those picks.  The team has options, and so does he.  In this situation, the door certainly swing both ways. Unless something drastic happens after the season’s last game in Cincinnati, I would say at this point it’s 50/50 that he comes back.

 

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