Tag Archive | "Drew Brees"

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 24-23 loss to New Orleans

Posted on 23 October 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling to 4-3 in their 24-23 loss to New Orleans, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Jimmy Smith played poorly in his first start with Marlon Humphrey sidelined, but some criticism was over the top. Being suspended didn’t change the reality of him coming back from a torn Achilles, an injury that takes time for someone to return to previous form. Michael Thomas is also terrific.

2. Especially with the Saints down to their third-string left guard during Sunday’s game, you’d like to see the pass rush manage more than one sack and three quarterback hits. It’s very tough to beat a great offensive team without more disruption in the pocket or a game-changing turnover.

3. I’m all for trying to keep opponents guessing, but eight different Ravens running the ball at least once Sunday says plenty about the current state of a ground attack that ranks 31st in the NFL in yards per carry. The only team worse (Arizona) just fired its offensive coordinator.

4. Of the 16 times running backs carried the ball, 10 went for two or fewer yards and only one netted a first down. I’d be much more interested in upgrading the offensive line before the trade deadline, but exploring other running backs should be a consideration as well.

5. Both Drew Brees and Sean Payton talked about the 20-play opening drive setting the tone and allowing the Saints to jump ahead in time of possession despite not scoring. The Ravens defense surrendered only seven points through three quarters, but that long series took a toll later in the game.

6. Of course, that drive would have ended quickly had the special teams stopped a fake punt attempt after what looked like an initial three-and-out. I’m a big Jerry Rosburg guy, but there have been too many lapses with multiple special-teams units this season.

7. Coming off two quiet games, John Brown made seven catches for 134 yards — season highs — and a touchdown. Considering he caught all seven targets, why not go to him even more, especially in the first two fourth-quarter drives when he was thrown to just once for 17 yards?

8. Mark Andrews caught a touchdown Sunday, but tight ends have combined for 11 receptions for 84 yards over the last three games. Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are helping offensive tackles in pass protection, but you want more when dressing four tight ends. Hayden Hurst needs to be more involved.

9. Lamar Jackson’s usage continues to be debated, but it was good seeing him pass in a third-down situation, something the Ravens must be willing to do if he’s going to play. His first NFL touchdown on a read-option run was a great example of how to properly use him.

10. I agreed with kicking the extra point, but there would have been at least an argument to go for the win if the Ravens had a running game. I wouldn’t have loved their chances in overtime after Brees had carved up the defense on three straight drives. Challenge traditional thinking.

11. The Ravens are 8-13 in games decided by a single possession since the start of 2016 and dropped to 0-2 this season. Common sense would tell you a playoff-hopeful team should be .500 or better in this department. Fourth quarters like Sunday’s have loomed large.

12. The debut of the purple-on-purple uniform — non-“Color Rush” edition — was the sixth different combination used by the Ravens since the start of the preseason, and they haven’t even worn their black alternates or the aforementioned purple tops with gold numbering yet. Watch out, Oregon.

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Signs there, but Ravens still learning how to become really good team

Posted on 22 October 2018 by Luke Jones

Nothing really changed about the Ravens with their 24-23 loss to New Orleans.

The defense remains at or near the top of most statistical categories after holding the high-powered Saints — with an extra week to prepare coming off a bye, mind you — to 12 points below their season average, a number many fans would have taken going into Sunday’s game. Even while struggling to run the football, the offense ranks in the top half of the league, which is substantial improvement from the last few years.

We did learn Justin Tucker is human after all, but he remains the best kicker in the NFL and has won a slew of games over the years, earning him plenty of slack for missing the game-tying extra point.

To be clear, there’s no shame in losing to the Saints, who might be the second-best team in the NFC and are viewed by many as a serious Super Bowl contender. Perhaps you expected John Harbaugh’s team to go undefeated at M&T Bank Stadium, but New Orleans was easily one of the season’s two most difficult home games on paper — the other being Pittsburgh — entering the season. This loss hardly breaks them.

Sunday’s defeat was a missed opportunity, however, and a reminder that the Ravens are still learning how to truly become a very good team. The components are there for a return to the playoffs and to perhaps make some noise if they get there, but just 13 players remain from Baltimore’s last playoff team in 2014, meaning a number of key individuals — including the last four draft classes — are still seeking what it takes to make it to January.

You have to finish when owning a 17-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, something the Ravens have struggled to do against top-flight teams these last few seasons. Yes, they went toe to toe with the Saints in an intense game and were only an extra point from likely forcing overtime, but let’s not pretend the last couple non-playoff teams were always blown out in such affairs either. The truth is this one hurt because the Ravens have had more than their share of “moral victories” as some have tried to label this one to be.

Holding future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints offense to a single touchdown through three quarters is a very impressive feat, but surrendering 17 points in the final three drives — not counting Brees’ final kneel-down — left the defense licking its wounds. The turning point really came late in the third quarter when Brees converted a third-and-8 pass to wide receiver Michael Thomas as safety Tony Jefferson was bringing the 39-year-old quarterback to the ground. From there, the run began in a way not unlike an NBA team erasing a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit in the blink of an eye.

Just like when playing Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Peyton Manning several years back, the best defense is only going to hold down Brees for so long. That’s just reality in today’s offense-driven game, especially without a game-changing turnover or a few more sacks to help get you off the field in crunch time. You’re only going to make so many stops straight up when facing an explosive offense, and the Ravens defense just couldn’t make a big play when the momentum shifted.

More to blame than the defense was a Ravens offense that sleepwalked through most of the fourth quarter and didn’t awaken until a 10-point lead had turned into a seven-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining. Injuries along the offensive line and a shortage of possessions in the first half didn’t help the overall output, but responding to two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter with a three-and-out and a turnover on downs against a below-average New Orleans defense isn’t a winning formula against a great opponent. Games against Brees have been rare for the Ravens, but they’ve played Brady and Ben Roethlisberger too many times not to know how a low-scoring affair can morph into a shootout at a moment’s notice. The offense wasn’t prepared to counter-punch until it proved too late with Tucker’s rare misfire.

Asked after the game about his 14-yard touchdown pass to John Brown that looked like it would tie the game with 24 seconds remaining, quarterback Joe Flacco regretted the offense not coming away with some points on the previous two drives. A poor running game didn’t help as the Ravens offense neither provided rest nor scoring reinforcements for its defense after the Saints came alive. Scoring 23 points usually isn’t going to get the job done against an elite offense.

How the Ravens respond over these next two weeks will go a long way in determining whether they’re closer to becoming a really good team. Rebounding from Sunday’s loss to top a tough Carolina team on the road and to beat Pittsburgh at home would give them a 6-3 record entering the bye week and put them in really good shape to contend for their first AFC North championship since 2012. Anything less feels too much like the last couple years and leaves a tiny margin for error down the stretch with road games still to be played at Atlanta, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Chargers.

If the Ravens want to make it back to the playoffs, they’ll need to get on a roll at some point. It looked like they might have graduated after their huge road victory at Pittsburgh, but they produced a dud in Cleveland the next week. Their dominating shutout at Tennessee was followed by a potential win slipping through their fingers on Sunday.

At some point, they’ll have to break the pattern of one step forward and one step back to get to the next level.

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Ravens-Saints: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 21 October 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will be without three starters for Sunday’s meeting with New Orleans.

After suffering injuries late in the practice week, cornerback Marlon Humphrey (thigh) and right tackle James Hurst were both deactivated, joining starting left guard Alex Lewis (neck) after he had already been declared out on Friday. Those absences leave the Ravens with just four healthy cornerbacks and six active offensive linemen against the Saints, less-than-ideal developments against one of the NFC’s best teams.

Humphrey made an appearance on the field roughly 25 minutes before the inactives list was released Sunday afternoon, but he was only an observer while wearing a sweatsuit, making it clear he wasn’t preparing to play. His absence means veteran Jimmy Smith will make his first start of the season after playing on a rotational basis in the last two games. Smith will play opposite Brandon Carr on the outside with Tavon Young manning the nickel and Cyrus Jones serving as the fourth corner. Rookie cornerback Anthony Averett (hamstring) was deactivated for the fifth straight game after returning to practice on only a limited basis this week.

Hurst being scratched was surprising after the Ravens elected not to promote one of their three offensive linemen — Jermaine Eluemunor, Nico Siragusa, and Randin Crecelius — currently on the practice squad. Rookies Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown are expected to make their first NFL starts at left guard and right tackle, respectively, with Hroniss Grasu serving as the lone reserve lineman. Baltimore typically goes into every game with two active reserves for the offensive line, so an in-game injury or two could spark a major problem.

The Saints will have the services of right guard Larry Warford, who was listed as questionable on the final injury report with a back injury. New Orleans will be without left guard Andrus Peat, who was ruled out with a head injury on Friday.

New Orleans also deactivated reserve offensive tackle and former Towson University star Jermon Bushrod, who revealed this weekend that he’s mourning the death of his week-old daughter.

The Weather.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 50s. However, winds 15 to 25 miles per hour with occasional gusts approaching 40 miles per hour could create problems in the passing game. Winds are supposed to decrease as the game progresses.

Sunday’s referee is John Parry.

The Ravens are wearing their purple jerseys with purple pants — the first time we’ve seen this combination in a non-“Color Rush” capacity — while New Orleans dons white tops with black pants pants for Week 7.

Sunday marks the seventh all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 5-1 advantage and a 3-1 record in Baltimore. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is just one touchdown pass away from the 500th of his career, but the future Hall of Famer is 0-4 in his career against the Ravens, the only NFL team he has never defeated.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Marlon Humphrey
OL James Hurst
CB Anthony Averett
G Alex Lewis
WR Jordan Lasley
DL Zach Sieler
QB Robert Griffin III

NEW ORLEANS
G Andrus Peat
OL Jermon Bushrod
OL Will Clapp
DB J.T. Gray
DE Trey Hendrickson
DL Mitch Loewen
DT Taylor Stallworth

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Ravens-Saints: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 20 October 2018 by Luke Jones

Sunday isn’t just an enticing showdown between the top scoring offense and best scoring defense in the NFL, but it serves as a measuring stick for both the Ravens and New Orleans.

Allowing a minuscule 12.8 points per game and ranking at or near the top in virtually every notable category, the Baltimore defense has faced the fourth-easiest slate of offenses so far this season, according to Football Outsiders. Meanwhile, the Saints are scoring a whopping 36.0 points per game against the second-easiest schedule of defenses to this point.

Regardless of the competition, each group’s body of work is very impressive, but this matchup offers the opportunity to prove just how great they truly are.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for just the seventh time with the Ravens holding a 5-1 advantage and a 3-1 record in Baltimore. As has been mentioned throughout the week, Drew Brees is 0-4 in his career against the Ravens, the only NFL team the future Hall of Fame quarterback hasn’t defeated over his 18 seasons.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Brees will throw his 500th and 501st career touchdowns as well as his first two interceptions of the year. The 39-year-old is off to a brilliant start with a 122.3 passer rating through five games, but he’s yet to face a defense quite like the Ravens, who are allowing just 6.0 yards per passing attempt. Marlon Humphrey’s status could be pivotal, but Jimmy Smith should be ready for a bigger workload with two games under his belt if the former can’t go. How nickel corner Tavon Young holds up defending Cameron Meredith or even Michael Thomas in the slot will be critical, but the Ravens will mix their coverages enough to force Brees into making a few more mistakes than usual.

2. Willie Snead will lead the Ravens in receptions and catch a touchdown against his former team. The slot receiver downplayed the significance of this one, but you know it would mean plenty to show well after his nightmare 2017 that followed 141 catches and 1,879 yards in the previous two seasons. Twenty of Snead’s 30 receptions — tied with Michael Crabtree for the team lead — have gone for first downs this season as he’s been exactly what Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh envisioned. The Saints have had significant problems at the slot cornerback position since the injury to Patrick Robinson, setting up Snead to gain some payback with his second score of the year.

3. Saints running back Alvin Kamara will score the first second-half touchdown of 2018 against Baltimore. Much was made about Kamara receiving only nine touches in Mark Ingram’s return to action two weeks ago, but the former is averaging 9.2 yards per reception, which is prime Ray Rice territory out of the backfield. The Ravens have covered running backs well so far this season, but Kamara presents a different kind of challenge who will offset the efforts of the pass rush at times and test tackling ability. Baltimore is bound to give up a post-halftime touchdown at some point, and Kamara will get loose for a score to put that impressive streak to an end.

4. Za’Darius Smith will collect another sack for one of three total for the Ravens. The key to slowing Brees and the New Orleans offense is disguise and deception, which is what Wink Martindale has so masterfully used to this point in his early tenure as defensive coordinator. Because Brees gets the ball away so quickly, you cannot count on edge rushers to get to him and need your interior linemen to hit him or at least make him move his feet to throw off his timing. Saints left guard Andrus Peat is out and right guard Larry Warford is questionable, which should make things easier for Smith, Brent Urban, and Willie Henry. The inside rushers will do just enough to make life difficult for Brees.

5. Joe Flacco and the passing game will be the difference in a 27-23 Ravens victory. The sexy story all week has understandably been about the Baltimore defense trying to slow the Saints offense, but New Orleans ranks 30th in the league in pass defense and the Ravens have been a top 10 passing attack so far this season. Talented Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore may contain one side of the field, but Flacco should be able to make plays against the rest of the New Orleans secondary for a productive day. Brees and Saints head coach Sean Payton having the bye week to try to crack the code that’s been the Ravens defense does make you take pause, but home-field advantage and a more balanced roster will make the difference in a game that has the potential to be a regular-season classic.

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Ravens-Saints showdown capable of giving both sides “nightmares”

Posted on 17 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A meeting between the NFL’s top scoring offense and best scoring defense feels like a heavyweight fight, but Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs didn’t offer the anticipated bravado.

Not when you’re facing a quarterback who just broke the career passing yardage record and is still going strong at age 39 in an offense averaging 36.0 points per game.

“They’re the kind of explosive offense that gives you nightmares,” said Suggs about Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. “It’s going to be a good, fun game. We get to play football against one of the premier quarterbacks, the premier offenses with explosive pieces.”

At the same time, Brees spent his bye week watching the Ravens defense collect a franchise-record 11 sacks in a 21-0 road shutout against Tennessee. Baltimore’s 12.8 points per game allowed this season looks like something out of 1978 rather than in 2018 when offense reigns supreme.

He’s faced them only four times, but Brees is fully aware the Ravens are the only team he’s never defeated in his 18-year career. Suggs — a rookie when Baltimore beat Brees for the first time when he was the quarterback of the San Diego Chargers in 2003 — tried to chalk up that past success to “luck” on Wednesday, but the future Hall of Fame quarterback has fallen prey to an abundance of defensive standouts from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to Haloti Ngata and Elvis Dumervil over the years.

Now Brees will meet a deep and unpredictable defense that leads the league in sacks and has allowed only eight touchdowns in six games — none after halftime.

“They’re all over the place, and I think that’s just something we have to be aware of,” Brees said in a conference call with Baltimore media. “Making sure that we’re spot-on with our scheme and what we’re doing, making sure that the ball gets out on time, making sure we’re doing good things in the back end in regards to getting open. But yes, it’s a formidable defense. It’s a formidable pass rush.”

“All over the place” is an appropriate description as new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has employed extensive depth and more pre- and in-snap flexibility to keep opposing offenses guessing as to what the Ravens are doing. Whether disguising coverage and blitzes or even using “amoeba” looks (see below) with upwards of seven or eight players at the line of scrimmage before the snap, the Ravens have confused quarterbacks, forcing them into mistakes or holding the ball too long as the pass rush gets home.


(Screen shot courtesy of NFL Game Pass)

Of course, the Ravens are unlikely to confuse the veteran Brees to the same degree they baffled Nathan Peterman, Case Keenum, or Marcus Mariota, but their style of play is already the blueprint for trying to slow down a quarterback who processes information quickly and makes plenty of pre-snap adjustments. The concern is Brees and Saints head coach Sean Payton have had an extra week to study the Baltimore defense, adding another layer to an already-intriguing chess match.

“If he knows what you’re doing or what you’re going to do, you’re going to have a long day,” said Ravens slot receiver Willie Snead, who spent the last three seasons with the Saints. “I think disguise is going to be huge with the [defense] because they do have a great offense. Drew Brees is one of the best. You guys know that.

“But I think the way you get him off his game is you have to bring pressure. You have to mix it up, and you have to make sure that he doesn’t know what you’re doing. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Knowing you have to pressure Brees and doing it are two different things as he’s been sacked just eight times in five games this season and has been dropped just 28 times since the start of 2017. The New Orleans offensive line ranks fifth in Pro Football Focus’ most recent rankings with offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk grading particularly well.

The challenge of pressuring Brees is compounded by how quickly he gets rid of the football, another obstacle for rushers trying to come off the edge. According to Next Gen Stats, Brees’ average time to throw of 2.52 seconds from snap to release is tied for second fastest in the league and is 0.04 seconds quicker than Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, whose quick throws frustrated the Ravens in a Week 2 loss in which they didn’t record a single sack.

Those variables are why it’s critical for the inside pass rush to get Brees off his spot and keep him out of rhythm. That effort will be led by the surging Za’Darius Smith, who is coming off a career-best three-sack performance against the Titans. Smith estimated Wednesday that the coverage in the Ravens secondary just needs to give the front “three to four seconds” to get after Brees.

Easier said than done, but the Ravens don’t have to try to be something they’re not, which is good news when playing such an explosive offense. Ultimately, they’re hoping to give Brees some nightmares of his own while continuing their undefeated streak against one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

“We’ve got to do our best to not let him know what we’re in before the snap because we’re going to be dead if he does know,” safety Eric Weddle said. “It’s a fun challenge. The great ones always bring out the best in you, and they can bring out the worst in you too. If you make a mistake, it’s a touchdown. That’s the pressure you like.”

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Historic outing puts Ravens in good position for defining stretch

Posted on 15 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Tennessee Titans waved the white flag early in their shutout loss to the Ravens on Sunday.

Perhaps it wasn’t as pronounced as when Chris McAlister claimed Eddie George “folded like a baby” after taking a big hit from Ray Lewis in an old AFC Central rivalry game that was once every bit as intense and nasty as what Baltimore-Pittsburgh would become, but the Titans running the ball on a third-and-10 play from their own 36 late in the second quarter said all you needed to know after the Ravens had already collected six sacks in the first half.

The score was just 14-0, but Tennessee wasn’t going to threaten the rest of the way, crossing midfield only once after intermission — to the Baltimore 49 — in a 21-0 final that included a franchise-record 11 sacks. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota never had a chance as he finished with fewer completions than the number of times he was sacked.

Yes, it was a historic single-game defensive performance by the Ravens, a team that’s no stranger to such feats over the last two decades. But playing defense in today’s offense-crazy NFL is a different animal than it was six or seven years ago, let alone trying to make modern-day comparisons to the gold standard that is the 2000 Ravens. For some context, only four teams in that Super Bowl XXXV season averaged 25 points per game whereas nearly half the league is doing that so far in 2018.

That’s not to say this year’s Ravens after just six games are anywhere close to being deserving of comparisons to that historic group or another handful of great Baltimore defenses, but the eye-popping numbers are tough to ignore. Consider that Sunday’s marquee showdown between New England and Kansas City featured a total of 83 points scored, six more than the Ravens have allowed all season. Early opponents Tennessee, Cleveland, Denver, and Buffalo may not be keeping defensive coordinators up at night, but the Ravens are surrendering only 12.8 points per game in a league in which only six other teams are allowing under 20 points per contest. Chicago is the only other team to surrender fewer than 100 points on the season, and the Bears have allowed 96 — in five games.

Baltimore still hasn’t surrendered a second-half touchdown despite playing four of its first six on the road, including the last three in a row. The Ravens defense has had only one truly bad half of football when it gave up 28 points to Cincinnati in a Thursday road game, which is always a difficult proposition.

Making the aforementioned numbers even more amazing is the fact that Wink Martindale’s defense has forced only six turnovers so far, meaning the Ravens have shut down opponents in a more “straight-up” fashion. Sunday was the 14th shutout in franchise history and the first not to feature a single takeaway, meaning there was never the need for a fumble recovery in the red zone or an end-zone interception as is usually the case to preserve a goose egg.

That will need to change with the real fun about to begin.

The Ravens will play four of their next five games at M&T Bank Stadium, but their next four opponents — New Orleans, at Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati — all rank in the top 15 in scoring offense with the Saints, Steelers, and Bengals each in the top seven. Week 7 features the No. 1 scoring offense against the top scoring defense in the league as future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and Super Bowl-winning coach Sean Payton have had an extra week to prepare for Martindale’s creative schemes.

The good news is the defense shouldn’t need to do it alone as the offense is much improved from recent years and ranks in the top 12 in most major categories. You can’t expect to entirely shut down a team like the Saints, of course, but what’s made the Ravens’ 4-2 start so encouraging is how much more balanced the performances have been. It will certainly mark the biggest test of the season to date.

John Harbaugh’s team finished its road-heavy start to the season on a high note Sunday with one of the greatest single-game defensive performances in team history. Victories in two of the next three games — a challenging but reasonable goal for a legitimate playoff team — would put the Ravens at 6-3 entering their bye. They’ve entered their bye week with a losing record in each of the last three seasons, ultimately leaving too little margin for error down the stretch each time. December trips to Atlanta, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Chargers will be easier to navigate if the Ravens are contending for a first-round bye rather than needing to be virtually perfect just to sneak into the tournament.

The Ravens have looked like a playoff team with an elite — and throwback — defense, an above-average offense, and an ability to hold their own on the road to give them their best start since 2014.

Now we’ll find out just how great this defense is and how truly serious the Ravens are as contenders.

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Ravens-Saints: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 23 November 2014 by Luke Jones

Fresh off their bye week and trying to complete a 2014 sweep of the NFC South, the Ravens return to the site of Super Bowl XLVII to take on the reeling New Orleans Saints Monday night.

Baltimore hopes that a Week 11 bye coupled with the Saints’ two-game losing streak will create enough momentum to snap New Orleans’ 14-game winning streak in prime-time home games. The 4-6 Saints are trying to find some semblance of consistency in a division in which no team has made a strong claim as a viable playoff contender.

The Ravens are 5-1 in games coming off their bye week in the John Harbaugh era and will attempt to win their third road game of the season. While they were able to find success against an underwhelming Tennessee offense in Week 10, the Baltimore secondary will have its hands full against the league’s third-ranked passing attack.

Monday marks the sixth all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-1 advantage. This is the first contest between these teams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since the 2006 season — which resulted in a 35-22 win for Baltimore — but the Ravens are obviously familiar with the surroundings after winning the Super Bowl in New Orleans two years ago.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 7-4 to keep pace in the AFC North …

1. Will Hill will draw the bulk of the assignment against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who will catch a touchdown and eclipse 80 receiving yards. Much was made about Cincinnati’s physicality last week in limiting the All-Pro tight end to just three catches for 29 yards, but the Ravens haven’t exactly been imposing in the back end of the defense aside from Terrence Brooks’ big hit on Tennessee’s Delanie Walker two weeks ago. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to mix it up as much as possible against Graham, but Hill is the best fit with his 6-foot-1, 207-pound frame and ability in coverage. The Ravens have held tight ends in check for most of the season, but they haven’t encountered a talent like Graham and he will bounce back from a tough week against the Bengals with a strong game in Week 12.

2. Steve Smith and Marlon Brown will catch touchdowns passes against a banged-up New Orleans secondary. A week off and a meeting with an old foe he tormented year after year as a member of the Carolina Panthers are just what the doctor ordered for the 35-year-old Smith whose production has declined in recent weeks. The Saints are down to their third-string free safety and top cornerback Keenan Lewis has been dealing with a knee issue, which will lead to the veteran wideout finding the end zone for the first time since Week 6. Looking to boost their 19th-ranked red-zone offense, the Ravens will rediscover Brown as a viable option inside the 20 as the 6-foot-5 receiver will rein in a pass in the back of the end zone for his first touchdown of the 2014 season.

3. The Ravens will contain top rusher Mark Ingram, but a returning Pierre Thomas will create problems as a receiver out of the backfield. After a very slow start to his NFL career, Ingram has emerged in 2014 with a 4.5 yards per carry average to take over the feature back role for New Orleans, but the Baltimore defense has allowed only 3.4 yards per carry and won’t have an issue keeping him in check. The return of Thomas — who hasn’t played since Week 7 — will be critical for a passing game that will miss the injured Brandin Cooks, who was becoming the Saints’ second-best receiver behind Graham as a short-to-intermediate target. With the secondary providing plenty of cushion and linebackers paying close attention to wherever Graham is, the Saints will slip Thomas free out of the backfield repeatedly to move the chains.

4. C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will both collect sacks as the Ravens use inside blitzing to try to get to Drew Brees. Pees knows his defense must create pressure in the pocket against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but Saints tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief have been the strengths of their offensive line, meaning it won’t be a given that Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs will create enough heat. The best way to pressure Brees is up the middle where center Jonathan Goodwin and guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have struggled in pass protection. Smith and Mosley have both been effective as A-gap blitzers, making it a good bet that the Ravens will try to ambush Brees up the middle. The strategy will pay off with each inside linebacker collecting a sack on Monday night.

5. Joe Flacco and Brees will each throw for over 250 yards, but the veteran will be a little better in a 31-23 win for New Orleans. A few weeks ago, it would have been tough to give the Ravens much of a chance in this one following the injury to Jimmy Smith on top of the Saints’ reputation for playing so well at home. But New Orleans is difficult to figure out with two straight losses at home that came after blowing out mighty Green Bay less than a month ago. On the other hand, a solid performance against the Titans isn’t enough to ease concerns that the Ravens secondary will be able to prevent the Saints from passing up and down the field all night. Flacco and the offense will put together one of their better road performances of the year, but it won’t be quite enough to put the Ravens over the top on Monday night.

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Saints rookie receiver Cooks out with broken thumb

Posted on 17 November 2014 by Luke Jones

As if they weren’t encouraged enough by watching the New Orleans Saints drop their second straight home game Sunday, the Ravens learned a day later they won’t have to deal with standout rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks in Week 12.

Cooks suffered a broken thumb that’s expected to sideline him at least for a few weeks, meaning the Saints’ first-round pick and emerging wideout won’t be available when Baltimore travels to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Monday night. Of course, New Orleans has a wide array of other weapons in All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, but the Saints are coming off their lowest scoring output at home since 2006 and Cooks was emerging as their second-best playmaker behind Graham in recent weeks.

He leads all NFL rookies with 53 receptions for 550 yards and three touchdown catches, ranking second on the team behind Graham in all three categories.

The Saints are also banged up in the secondary after losing safety Rafael Bush to a broken fibula in the fourth quarter of their 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. This comes after New Orleans already lost Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd for the season last month.

Though their Monday night trip won’t be easy with an inexperienced secondary, the Ravens should be feeling much better about their chances with quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints off to an underwhelming 4-6 start and even experiencing inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball at times this season.

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Ray Rice Advances To Final Eight in Madden Cover Voting

Posted on 04 April 2012 by WNST Staff

April 4, 2012 – Fans have come out in force to support their favorite Madden NFL 13 cover athlete candidates, casting 16 million votes to date. This year’s vote tally has already eclipsed last year’s 13 million votes, with three rounds still to go. Voting continues at ESPN.com/MaddenVote through April 25 when the next Madden NFL 13 cover athlete will be announced on ESPN’s SportsNation at 5 p.m. ET.

ROUND 3 BREAKDOWN OF MADDEN NFL 13 COVER VOTE CAMPAIGN 

§  Cam Newton vs. Larry Fitzgerald
§  Patrick Willis vs. Victor Cruz
§  Aaron Rodgers vs. Ray Rice

§  Calvin Johnson vs. Rob Gronkowski

 

 

Second round voting highlights include:

 

§  Upset of the Week

§      No. 6 seed Calvin Johnson (WR, Detroit Lions) over No. 3 seed Arian Foster (RB, Houston Texans)

 

§  Largest Voting Differential

§      No. 1 seed Cam Newton (QB, Carolina Panthers) over No. 8 seed Antonio Gates (WR, San Diego Chargers)

§      No. 2 seed Rob Gronkowski (TE, New England Patriots) over No. 7 seed Jared Allen (DE, Minnesota Vikings)

§  Closest Matchups

§      No. 5 seed Ray Rice (RB, Baltimore Ravens) over No. 4 seed Drew Brees (QB, New Orleans Saints)

§      No. 4 seed Larry Fitzgerald over No. 5 seed LeSean McCoy

 

Round 3 voting is now open and fans can make their selections exclusively atwww.ESPN.com/MaddenVote to determine which of the eight NFL players advance to the next round of the Madden NFL 13 cover athlete voting campaign. Every Wednesday throughout the campaign, fans can tune in to SportsNation at 5 p.m. ET for analysis and commentary on the competition.

Fans can visit the Madden NFL Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EASPORTSMaddenNFL) orSportsNation page (www.facebook.com/SportsNation) to join discussions surrounding the Cover Vote.  Fans are also encouraged to tweet their Cover Vote picks using the hashtag #MyMaddenCoverVote on Twitter.

To view or download assets* for the Madden NFL 13 cover athlete voting campaign including player screenshots, b-roll, and renders, please visit: http://maddennfl13.newslinevine.com/cover-vote.html 

NOTE – All player assets are taken from Madden NFL 12.

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Former Raven, Baltimore Native Foxworth Voted NFLPA President

Posted on 25 March 2012 by WNST Staff

FOXWORTH ELECTED NFLPA PRESIDENT, SMITH RE-ELECTED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Hasselbeck, Light, Moore, Watson join NFLPA Executive Committee during annual meeting

MARCO ISLAND, Fla. (March 25, 2011) – Domonique Foxworth was nominated and elected without opposition as President of the NFL Players Association today at the NFLPA Board of Player Representatives Meeting. DeMaurice Smith was reaffirmed unanimously as Executive Director by the board on March 22.

“One of the most important things I learned from Kevin is about responsibility,” Foxworth, a free agent cornerback, said to the board following his election. “Players like to say, ‘The NFLPA is our organization.’ There is a wealth of experience and talent in this room, and I will reach out to each and every one of you about your interests and passions. If we work as hard as we did during the lockout now in peacetime, we will be the strongest organization in the world.”

Foxworth’s unanimous election to the post follows four years of service on the executive committee. In 2007, he was elected by the Broncos as a Player Representative and was named the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year. In 2008, he ran and was elected as the youngest Vice President of the NFLPA Executive Committee.

Newly elected to serve on the Executive Committee are Matt Hasselbeck (Tennessee Titans), Matt Light (New England Patriots), Brandon Moore (New York Jets) and Ben Watson (Cleveland Browns).

They join current Executive Committee members Charlie Batch (Pittsburgh Steelers), Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints), Brian Dawkins (Denver Broncos), Scott Fujita (Cleveland Browns), Jeff Saturday (Green Bay Packers) and Brian Waters (New England Patriots) who were re-elected by unanimous affirmation. There are also two chairs for former players on the NFLPA Executive Committee, currently held by Cornelius Bennett and Jim McFarland.

With the 2012 election, Kevin Mawae, Sean Morey, Tony Richardson and Mike Vrabel cycle off the NFLPA Executive Committee.

“We don’t take on roles of leadership in order to pad our stats, build our resumes, or strengthen our positions,” Mawae said as he retired from the post of NFLPA President, a spot he held for four years. “We become leaders so that we can serve others who themselves don’t yet have the wherewithal, the knowledge, or the experience to lead. We don’t coerce, manipulate, or force. We simply serve.”

“It’s been a blessing,” Richardson said. “The biggest thing I’m proud of is taking advantage of every opportunity we were offered, from education to development to benefits, because if I didn’t do it, how could I tell the young guys they should be doing it? Every decision we made was for the betterment of our organization. My only agenda, ever, has been to serve the players.”

“We get a chance to play an amazing game and compete on the highest level, and I feel fortunate to have stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest men in this game,” Morey said. “I appreciate our leadership letting me talk, trusting me, helping me understand the negotiation process and keeping me disciplined and focused.”

Hasselbeck, a Boston College graduate, has been playing in the NFL since 1998 and owns nearly every single-season and career record for quarterbacks with the Seattle Seahawks. The three-time Pro Bowler was first elected to the NFLPA Board of Player Representatives in 2008. Off the field, Hasselbeck is involved with numerous charitable efforts, including raising funds and awareness to help provide clean water to those in need.

Light was first elected as a Player Representative in 2008 and has served continuously since. A graduate of Purdue University, his career in the NFL has consisted of four Pro Bowl selections and three Super Bowl championships. A member of the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team, he established the Light Foundation which provides youth with unique outdoor experiences to help them become stronger individuals and better members of their communities.

Moore is an offensive lineman with the New York Jets and graduate of the University of Illinois. He has served as on the NFLPA Board of Player Representatives since 2007 and was a recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2011. The Pro Bowl selection created the Moore Family Foundation to provide disadvantaged youth with positive holiday experiences, school supplies and other important needs.

Watson, a tight end for the Cleveland Browns, was first elected as a Player Representative in 2010. The graduate of the University of Georgia was a first round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. A Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots, Watson created a foundation to support charities that provide educational and enrichment opportunities. He is also a spokesperson for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and volunteers for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

The 2012 NFLPA Board of Player Representatives Meeting continues through March 26.

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