Tag Archive | "jared gaither"

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Ravens continue chasing ghost at left tackle position

Posted on 15 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has used high draft picks, made trades, and even handed out long-term contracts, but the same pursuit continues beyond a stopgap or two.

He’s still chasing the on-field ghost of Jonathan Ogden, the Hall of Fame left tackle and the first player selected in the history of the franchise with the fourth pick of the 1996 draft. With every passing year, appreciation grows deeper for what Ogden did for more than a decade as they complete their eighth season since his retirement at the end of the 2007 campaign.

Finding a future Hall of Famer at the position is one thing, but Newsome and the Ravens would settle for a guy who they can pencil into the lineup for the next four or five years and be able to sleep well at night.

Not counting backups filling in due to injuries, there’s been Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Eugene Monroe, none holding down the position for more than a season or two before concerns resurface. Fourth-year left guard Kelechi Osemele has become the latest man to receive a shot as he started his first NFL game at left tackle in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Osemele will remain at left tackle for the final three games of 2015, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

“I thought he looked good. There are some things that he can do better,” Harbaugh said. “Sometimes the sets and the angles and the timing the movement, sometimes it’s something that he’ll get a feel for more and more as he plays. But he had lots of good blocks [in] pass protection and the run game. I thought he was a bright spot.”

A left tackle at Iowa State before being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Osemele expressed his enjoyment for the position after Sunday’s 35-6 loss, but the Ravens may only be enhancing the lineman’s value on the open market instead of finding a long-term solution for themselves. With a less-than-enviable salary cap situation going into the offseason, Newsome signed four-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to a four-year extension earlier this fall, leading many to believe that Osemele will receive a big payday elsewhere.

Even if the above-average guard looks the part of a long-term left tackle over these final three games, there’s still the matter of what the Ravens will do with Monroe, who is only in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that clearly hasn’t worked out. Placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury over the weekend, Monroe has started just 17 games over the last two seasons and finished only three of the six contests he started this season.

Though he’s generally been solid when he’s played over the last two years, his performance still hasn’t been as strong as it was in 2013 when the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to Jacksonville to acquire him in early October of that season. After concluding that Oher, their 2009 first-round pick, wasn’t suited for the blind side and having concerns about McKinnie’s commitment to the game, the Ravens felt Monroe would finally be the long-term answer they had sought from the time that Ogden retired.

After missing only four games in his first five seasons in the NFL, Monroe has missed 17 starts in the last two years, including two playoff games last season. After he left the Nov. 22 game against St. Louis with a shoulder injury, backup James Hurt rolled into quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing a season-ending injury.

In addition to Monroe reportedly refusing a simple contract restructuring that would have provided some salary-cap relief this past offseason, his inability to stay on the field at such an important position has frustrated the organization.

“It’s just disappointing, because here’s a guy that you’re counting on, we trade two picks for him, and he has played well,” Harbaugh said. “As he said, he was playing the best football of his career this year when he came back for two or three weeks or whenever he was back. I think that was the most crushing thing for him, because he felt like he was really playing really good football.

“It’s not what we hoped for. We hoped that he’d be in the lineup and playing, and that’s not what he hoped for [either]. Nobody works harder. This guy trains like you can’t believe, so it’s a tough deal.”

Many fans are clamoring for Monroe to be released in the offseason as he is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and carry an $8.7 million figure for 2016. Cutting him with a pre-June 1 designation would save $2.1 million in cap space while leaving $6.6 million in dead money, a sizable chunk considering the many weaknesses Baltimore will need to address on both sides of the ball before next season. A post June-1 designation would push most of that dead money to 2017, but the Ravens would not be able to take advantage of that cap space until most free-agent activity would long be over.

Even if Newsome and the Ravens elect to move on from Monroe, it remains unclear whether Osemele would be within their price range, making it possible that they could turn to the draft to find their answer. Currently set to pick in the top five of April’s draft, the Ravens may find Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley as attractive — and more affordable — options at left tackle with their first pick.

Regardless of what happens over the next few months, the Ravens find themselves back in an all-too-familiar position.

They’re still trying to replace No. 75.

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A tale of two tackles: Ravens no stranger to adding veterans late in preseason

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A tale of two tackles: Ravens no stranger to adding veterans late in preseason

Posted on 23 August 2011 by Luke Jones

You can finally exhale with the Ravens’ major question at right tackle now answered with the addition of veteran Bryant McKinnie, right?

Let’s take a step back toward reality.

If the 31-year-old McKinnie’s conditioning and questionable character weren’t enough, the Ravens can look no further than their own history of bringing in veterans late in the preseason to strengthen the right tackle position. Unsurprisingly, the results are mixed.

In John Harbaugh’s first season in Baltimore, the Ravens were looking for help at tackle with Jared Gaither and Adam Terry slated to start in Joe Flacco’s rookie season. Only days after veteran Willie Anderson was released after 12 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore signed the 33-year-old to a three-year contract.

The Ravens often used max protection and Terry as a blocking tight end on Anderson’s side, but the veteran stabilized the right tackle position by playing in 14 games, starting 11 of them. As a result, Flacco was better protected, and the Ravens exceeded everyone’s expectations with an 11-5 record and an appearance in the AFC championship game.

Anderson retired after the 2008 season, but his contributions and veteran leadership were crucial for a young offensive line that was able to open lanes for the three-headed running attack of Le’Ron McClain, Ray Rice, and Willis McGahee. Anderson received the icing on the cake with the Ravens twice defeating the team that kicked him to the curb prior to the start of the season.

While the Ravens reaped the fruits of Anderson’s final season in the NFL, they struck out trying to harvest one more season from former Cowboys tackle Erik Williams in 2001.

After prize free agent Leon Searcy was lost for the season with a torn triceps early in training camp, the defending Super Bowl champions found a huge void on the right side and hoped the four-time Pro Bowl tackle could step in as the starter when the Ravens signed him to a one-year deal at the end of August. Williams had started all 16 games for Dallas in 2000 and appeared to be a far more attractive option than unproven tackles Sammy Williams and Kipp Vickers.

Despite coach Brian Billick’s optimism that Williams would be ready to assume starting right tackle duties by the third or fourth week of the season, it was apparent right away the 33-year-old was a shell of the tackle who had once opened truck-sized holes for Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith to run through in Dallas’ three Super Bowl victories in the 1990s.

Williams never made a start, playing in only five games while the Ravens eventually settled on Vickers to assume the position, though not with the prettiest results in a 10-6 season.

McKinnie — who will turn 32 next month — is younger than both Anderson and Williams were when they were signed, but he comes with far more baggage than Anderson and arguably more than Williams, who was no stranger to run-ins with the law during his playing career.

The Ravens are taking a modest risk in offering the former Viking tackle a second chance, but McKinnie will have to be fully committed to make it successful. And considering how little he apparently worked during the 134-day lockout, that commitment is far from guaranteed.

Whether McKinnie’s time in Baltimore winds up more like Anderson’s success or Williams’ whimpering exit remains to be seen, but the arrival of “Mount McKinnie” definitely adds spice to the current right tackle equation.

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Ravens-Chiefs Preseason Primer: What to watch tonight

Posted on 18 August 2011 by Luke Jones

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Playing their preseason home opener on Friday night, the Ravens envision a better showing against the Kansas City Chiefs after a lackluster effort in Philadelphia last week.

Coach John Harbaugh said starters will play well into the second quarter, a higher workload than you’ll typically find in the second preseason game, in an effort to accelerate the development of a young offense with question marks along the offensive line. With starting lineman Matt Birk (knee surgery) and Marshal Yanda (back spams) current sidelined, the Ravens will use Bryan Mattison at center, Oniel Cousins at right guard, and rookie Jah Reid at tackle — an uncomfortable proposition for quarterback Joe Flacco.

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Friday will also mark the preseason debuts for newly-acquired veterans Ricky Williams and Lee Evans. Williams had only practiced once prior to the opener against the Eagles, and the Ravens traded a fourth-round pick to Buffalo to bring the veteran wideout Evans to Baltimore a day after the Ravens’ 13-6 loss last week.

The Ravens will also welcome three former players back to Baltimore as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, fullback Le’Ron McClain, and offensive tackle Jared Gaither all signed with the Chiefs after spending multiple years in Baltimore. Gregg was released to create salary cap space while McClain and Gaither departed as unrestricted free agents.

Series history

The Ravens and Kansas City have never met in the preseason, but Baltimore’s 30-7 thrashing over the Chiefs in the Wild Card round last year will be fresh on everyone’s mind.

However, the Chiefs hold a slight advantage in the regular season series, 3-2. Kansas City won the first three meetings between the two AFC teams before the Ravens earned victories in 2006 and 2009.

Kansas City connections

In addition to the three former Ravens now on the Kansas City roster, there are several other links between the two teams.

Safety Bernard Pollard began his NFL career with the Chiefs after being selected by them in the second round of the 2006 draft. He played three seasons in Kansas City, accumulating 189 tackles, three interceptions, and one sack before being released prior to the start of the 2009 season.

Chiefs receiver Terrance Copper played two games for the Ravens in the 2008 season, Harbaugh’s first season as head coach. On the flip side, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff spent time during the 2008 offseason on the Kansas City roster.

Chiefs defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant played defensive end for the Ravens in their inaugural season of 1996 after spending the first six years of his career in Cleveland.

Kansas City tackle Branden Albert (Glen Burnie) and receivers coach Richie Anderson (Sandy Springs) are Maryland natives.

And perhaps the most interesting connection is Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli’s former role as the pro personnel coordinator for the Ravens in 1996. Pioli moved to Baltimore from Cleveland, where he worked as a personnel assistant for the Browns for four seasons.

Injury report

Yanda (back spasms) will not play after missing five straight days of practice this week, though Harbaugh is hopeful the guard can return for next week’s game against Washington. Birk has been sidelined since the first full week of camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Cornerback Chris Carr missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after straining his hamstring in Monday’s workout, leaving his status against the Chiefs in doubt.

Others not expected to play include receiver James Hardy (hamstring), running back Damien Berry (leg), and defensive back Marcus Paschal.

Receiver David Reed missed practice on Wednesday after being activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list at the beginning of the week.

Veteran cornerback Domonique Foxworth has increased his workload in practice in recent days as he continues to work his way back from the ACL injury that wiped out his entire 2010 season. The former Maryland star has worked with the second team while rookie Jimmy Smith and third-year player Cary Williams took reps with the starting defense. Foxworth did not play in the preseason opener.

7 Players to Watch

1. WR Lee Evans – Friday night’s game will mark one week since the Ravens acquired Evans from the Bills. The eighth-year veteran stepped into the starting lineup on his first day of practice, but Evans still needs to develop timing with Flacco. The former Wisconsin Badger has shown impressive speed in practice, including a fly route on Monday that caused Carr to pull up lame.

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Bringing Jared Gaither back makes sense for Ravens

Posted on 06 August 2011 by Peter Dilutis

Call me crazy. Call me insane. Say whatever you want.

But I want Jared Gaither back with the Ravens.

The offensive tackle failed his physical with the Raiders that cost him a potential contract in Oakland.

Most fans in Baltimore want no part of him. They think he doesn’t want to play. People do not believe he’s motivated. Is he hurt? Does he care? The questions go on and on.

But the one question that has been answered is that Jared Gaither is very good left tackle when he’s healthy. A healthy Jared Gaither would be an asset to any team.

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Regardless of what some want to believe, this guy wants to play football. Go check his Twitter. Does that sound like a guy who doesn’t want to be involved in the game?

For all the questions about his character, why did former Ravens QB coach Hue Jackson, who watched Joe Flacco flourish behind Gaither at LT for two seasons in Baltimore, jump at the chance to bring Gaither to Oakland?

Here’s what Jackson had to say about Gaither.

“He’s a tremendous player,” Jackson said. “When he’s healthy, he’s one of the better left tackles in the league. He has extremely long arms, very tall, very long. He’s a good football player. Again, there’s a question of health, and we’re going to do everything that we need to do to make sure that we know exactly where he is

Also some comments from defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, who went up against Gaither when he was with the Cleveland Browns and Gaither was in Baltimore from 2007-2009.

“He is a physical player, has great feet and I think he can help this team out if he comes here. He has ability, and he has the tools to make it tough on his opponents. When you are trying to rush, his long arms definitely create space. He has the ability to reset and things like that. Quick hands, quick feet, strong guy – those are the things you look for in an offensive tackle.”

So Gaither’s talent isn’t a question. I feel like that’s been pretty well established.

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As the NFL lockout ends, the time to say goodbye to some GREAT Ravens likely approaches ....

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As the NFL lockout ends, the time to say goodbye to some GREAT Ravens likely approaches ….

Posted on 25 July 2011 by WNST Interns

As we’ve now endured more than 130 days immersed within football’s version of HELL, it appears the brink of a new season awaits us.  Vote on this, vote on that ….

Training camps are supposedly opening next Saturday morning.  That’s the latest information from a twisted saga that has taken many, many turns.

Free agency is predicted to be a frenzied period of mass signings and cuts, along with very little time for dragging out negotiations.  In other words, we won’t be tortured with weeks of whether Brett Favre is coming back or not.

The biggest free agency prizes will likely have new homes and helmets by the time I return from vacation, two weeks from today.  And, Owings Mills will most certainly be a destination for a number of known NFL talents, as well.

Did I mention vacation?

That’s correct …. as the Ravens report to Westminster-East at the franchise’s headquarters, and as the world of the NFL is turned upside down with mass rumors, tweets, speculations and ultimate transactions, I will be enjoying all the news from the comforts of a beach chair in the surf, at Dewey Beach.

Perfect timing, huh?

We’re still days away from any official windows of negotiation – we’re not 100% certain of rules and policies regarding such overtures – and names of possible casualties and additions for the 2011 edition of the Baltimore Ravens are abounding.

Who do you believe?  What do you believe?  Should you even believe this lockout is really coming to an end?

The lockout is ending.  The owners and players have long concluded this marriage won’t suffer a separation that costs either side any money.  Thus, you can bet we’re on the brink of actually seeing, hearing and talking about football and its daily drama …..

And, as we’re on the verge of a new season, the speculation has already begun.  We know the Ravens will make some painful cuts of veteran talents, while also conceding to allow some of the team’s free agents to walk away.  But, they’re likely to make some very exciting additions, as well. 

We kinda know most of the team’s needs – but, we don’t really know what Ozzie Newsome and company are thinking …. OR how they’ll go about building their vision of the best team for the upcoming season.

But, we’ve heard the rumors.

Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie, Eric DeCosta, John Harbaugh and others whom are tasked with collaborating to the choices of parting with members of “the family” are undoubtedly conflicted over a number of such decisions.  They’re human and while the heart doesn’t likely figure into the ultimate decision, its certainly impacted – especially when they leave Winning Drive and explore their conscience. 

But, it’s the business of the National Football League.

I’ll leave you with a pictorial collection of the rumored potential exits that could transpire over the next couple weeks.  Some are predictably apparent and others are a reach.  From a personal perspective, I can imagine this process is among the toughest and most agonizing for any executives.

I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to weigh in with thoughts and opinions …..

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Possible Departures ???
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50 words .... where do you rank Adam Jones' catch?

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50 words …. where do you rank Adam Jones’ catch?

Posted on 02 June 2011 by WNST Interns

A tip of the cap to Brian Matusz on a very stellar season debut, in yesterday’s win over the Seattle Mariners. He looked very poised, and if Mark Reynolds could’ve avoided his TENTH error of the season, Matusz would’ve survived the 6th inning …..

Regardless of the two victories in games started by rookie phenom, Michael Pineda, the Orioles and every other opponent will likely agonize over future matchups against the young hurler.

Yep, he’s that good …..

And, speaking of GOOD, we’ll leadoff today’s blog with a good, umm …. make that a GREAT play in yesterday’s game:
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Simply Amazing
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I have witnessed some great defensive plays in my lifetime, including Jim Edmonds’ phenomenal catch against Kansas City, in 1997. And, Dante Bichette’s lasering throw from the warning track at Memorial Stadium, to nail Craig Worthington at the plate, in 1990.

But, yesterday’s catch by Adam Jones ranks with the very best plays I’ve ever seen in the nearly 40 years of my collective baseball memory. Where do you rank it?
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So Long, Old Friend
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My first impression of yesterday’s news on Jake Fox was a sense of bewilderment. After learning he was “Designated For Assignment”, I took a sympathetic approach to his plight; he’s never really had an opportunity to contribute on a regular or semi-regular basis.

That said, he never made the most of limited chances, and he obviously had a strained relationship with Buck Showalter. Poor production and pissing off the boss usually results in getting the boot.

Thus, we shouldn’t really be surprised, right?
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Absolute Shocker
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While the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks have garnered headlines as the most striking teams of the 2011 season, a more shocking surprise exists for many of us …..

Nobody could’ve, would’ve or should’ve predicted the Minnesota Twins would be the worst team in baseball, on June 2nd. Yet, that’s exactly the situation for Ron Gardenhire and his bunch.

The Twins are a dismal 17-37 thru 54 games. How bad is that? Well, on this very day just a year ago, the Orioles were 15-38 …..
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Seasons Greetings
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I know it’s a little early for most holiday bargain shoppers. After all, Christmas is still 206 days away. However, if you’re looking for a unique gift for a special person in your life, I have an excellent idea …..

Consider the new “Jared Gaither Personal Alarm Clock” from Hasbro. It can be fashionably worn around the neck, to ensure timely awakening for the daily schedule.

Get ’em while supplies last …..

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Reed, Ayanbadejo activated from PUP, Gaither to IR and E. Jones released

Posted on 23 October 2010 by Luke Jones

Ed Reed is officially back.

In a move first reported Friday night, the Ravens have officially activated Reed from the Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning the All-Pro safety will see his first action of the season against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday after missing the first six weeks of the season while still recovering from offseason hip surgery.

Also returning from the PUP list is linebacker and special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo, who suffered a torn quadriceps against the New England Patriots last October. Speculation had persisted that the team would wait until after next week’s bye to activate Ayanbadejo, but the 34-year-old will instead see his first action in over a year on Sunday.

To clear room on the 53-man roster, the Ravens placed offensive tackle Jared Gaither on Injured Reserve and released reserve linebacker Edgar Jones.

The move ends Gaither’s season and perhaps his career in Baltimore. The projected starting right tackle had only practiced once since Aug. 5 after suffering a thoracic disc injury on the first day of full-squad practice in Westminster. The roster move ends a tumultuous year for Gaither, who battled a foot injury during the OTA schedule and unexpectedly reported to training camp nearly 30 pounds lighter than his playing weight from last season.

Jones, in his fourth year from Southeast Missouri State, spent time at linebacker and tight end with the Ravens, struggling to find a niche and ping-ponging between the active roster and the practice squad during his time in Baltimore.

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Ravens 10-Pack: Baltimore feeling Super at 4-1

Posted on 12 October 2010 by Luke Jones

Even with the daunting task of traveling to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots this Sunday, you have to feel good about the Ravens’ 4-1 start and the early lead atop the AFC North with the first month of the season already in the books.

With three of the first four on the road (two of them division games), you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the Ravens would fare better than they have after road victories against the Jets and Steelers. And when you take a look around the rest of the league, the Ravens’ accomplishments look even more impressive.

Parity is a word all-too-familiar to NFL fans, but the notion seemed to be waning over the last few seasons with the regular-season success of the 2007 Patriots and extended runs at perfection by the Colts and Saints last year. However, with the 1972 Dolphins uncorking the champagne before Columbus Day — with no 4-0 teams in the NFL since 1970 — and only eight teams sporting one loss through the first five weeks of the season, 2010 appears up for grabs in mid-October.

Are the Ravens the best team in the NFL?

Being this early, who cares? But it’s difficult to argue any team has looked better than Baltimore.

If the Ravens can beat New England (3-1), it will mark just the second 5-1 start in franchise history, the other coming in the 2000 season.

However, for some perspective, at the time of the 5-1 start, Tony Banks was the starting quarterback and the Ravens had just won their second straight game without scoring a touchdown.

Things changed very quickly — in a bad way — before a historic run began and Trent Dilfer and the Ravens found themselves holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of January.

1. Since taking over as head coach in 2008, John Harbaugh has shown the uncanny ability to take care of business against inferior teams, home or away.

In 37 regular season games under Harbaugh, the Ravens have never lost to a team that finished the season with a losing record. As unimpressive as that might sound to the casual observer, you’ll find a “bad” loss by a playoff-caliber team nearly every week in the NFL.

Of course, the opposite argument can be made that the Ravens have fallen short too many times against quality opponents — especially last season when they struggled to get to the playoffs at 9-7 — but winning the games you’re supposed to win and holding your own against winning teams will put you in an enviable position.

The postseason.

Time will determine whether their Week 2 loss in Cincinnati breaks the string, but the Harbaugh-led Ravens have managed to avoid the unwarranted defeats the team suffered in previous seasons.

2. All eyes will be on Bill Belichick and the Patriots in their first game since trading disgruntled receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings and re-acquiring former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The removal of Moss will undoubtedly impact the New England offense, but how much?

Expect a little gadgetry on Sunday as Tom Brady deciphers where everyone fits in the post-Moss era.

Of course, Belichick had an extra week to figure it out with the Patriots’ Week 5 bye, and his record in New England coming off the bye week is an impressive 8-2, including seven straight wins. But before we write off the Ravens at Gillette Stadium and bow to the genius of Belichick, we should remember that four of the last six have come against the Buffalo Bills.

Not to belittle an impressive feat, but game-planning against a team led in recent years by the likes of Dick Jauron and Mike Mularkey is a bit easier than facing the team that blasted you in the playoffs just nine months ago.

In the Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 2-1 when playing teams coming off their bye week. All three games were last season, which included wins against Cleveland and Denver as well as a road loss to Cincinnati.

3. Putting aside the obvious threat of Brady to Wes Welker, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s biggest concern might be a pair of rookie tight ends.

Through the Patriots’ first four games, Welker leads the team in receptions (26), but not receiving yards. That distinction belongs to Aaron Hernandez (18 catches for 240 yards) despite being the second tight end drafted (fourth round) by New England in April. Rob Gronkowski, a second-round selection, has posted modest numbers (six catches for 62 yards) but was an impressive talent eyed by the Ravens leading up to the draft.

The Ravens have struggled covering the intermediate middle of the field in recent years, so the inside linebacker corps of Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe will need to keep a close eye on these rookie targets.

4. As much as we lamented the absence of Matt Stover a season ago, let’s tip our caps to Billy Cundiff. His ability to boot the football deep into the end zone on kickoffs is an underappreciated factor in the Ravens being 4-1.

His four touchbacks against the Broncos on Sunday matched the total number by Baltimore kickers all of last year.

Whispers of Stover will not dissipate — if they ever do — until we see Cundiff make a 47-yarder to win a late-season game, but the distinct upgrade on kickoffs cannot be overlooked.

As great as Stover was with the game on the line, fans easily forget his kickoffs barely traveling inside the 10-yard line, often setting up the opponent with good field position.

5. Plenty has been said about Cam Cameron’s choice to use Haloti Ngata at tight end on Sunday’s opening drive and the near-disaster that followed with the defensive tackle down on the field.

I offer you three names: James Jones (1996), Herman Arvie (1996), and Jonathan Ogden (1996 and 2003), three linemen who all registered touchdown catches with the Ravens.

The difference in this case? Cameron and Harbaugh have too many offensive weapons at their disposal to risk losing one of the greatest defensive players in the game today. Why spend draft picks on two tight ends to complement Todd Heap and then risk your best defensive player trying to be too cute?

Ngata playing offense was a fun spectacle until we saw what nearly happened with the Ravens’ season flashing before the eyes of 71,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium.

Lesson learned — hopefully.

6. It was natural for questions to arise whether the Ravens had any interest in bringing back Antwan Barnes after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but  Harbaugh promptly shot down the idea on Monday. (Update: Barnes signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday afternoon)

In three years with the Ravens, the linebacker-defensive end managed only five sacks and sealed his fate last October when he whiffed on a tackle of Cedric Benson that led to a 28-yard touchdown run and an eventual loss to the Bengals.

Barnes is too small to provide help at defensive end, where the Ravens need a consistent pass-rush threat, and not athletic enough to play linebacker on every down. If they didn’t want him before the season, what would have changed a month later?

“I haven’t had a conversation with him,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We don’t really have a roster opportunity right now for that. We wouldn’t be opposed to it. Antwan’s a good person, a good player. Obviously, he’s done some good things here. But, right now, there’s no way roster-wise we could pull that off.”

In other words, “Thanks, but no thanks — we’ve moved on.”

7. If all goes to plan and you believe the recent comments made by Harbaugh, Sunday will mark the final game before All-Pro safety Ed Reed returns to the 53-man roster after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list.

During training camp, I said Tom Zbikowski would do an adequate job at free safety in Reed’s absence, and the third-year safety has done just that. So with the Ravens currently having the second-best pass defense in the NFL (behind only the New York Giants), the question must be asked:

How well will Reed fit into the secondary when he returns to the starting lineup?

The Baltimore defense no longer plays the exotic, aggressive schemes of Rex Ryan, but employs a conservative, “bend, but don’t break” style under Mattison. Reed has always gambled in the defensive backfield, at times leaving teammates out to dry in coverage while also making some of the greatest plays in NFL history.

With the 32-year-old returning from hip surgery, it will be interesting to see whether Reed takes a more conservative approach in coverage or returns with a bigger chip on his shoulder to prove he’s still one of the best defensive players in the league and deserving of the new contract he so desperately wants. If Reed proves to be a lesser player than he was prior to the hip procedure but plays with the same aggressive style, the secondary could be more vulnerable to the big play.

That said, it is hard to doubt a player who will one day be enshrined in Canton.

8. Speaking of injured players, you have to wonder how long the Ravens will continue to wait for Jared Gaither to return. Other than being a limited participant in one practice a couple weeks ago, the offensive tackle has been out with a thoracic disc injury since training camp.

With roster decisions looming with Reed and fellow PUP list members Brendon Ayanbadejo and Matt Lawrence, Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh may need to pull the plug on the projected starter at right tackle.

The improved play of Marshal Yanda at right tackle and Chris Chester at right guard has eased concerns on the right side of the line. Cohesion upfront is difficult to develop, so Gaither’s potential return would require another period of adjustment, something the coaching staff might be uncomfortable with later in the season.

Keep in mind, Gaither has not played right tackle regularly since the early part of his collegiate career at Maryland, so this isn’t a savvy veteran who can step right in to his regular position when healthy.

If Gaither does not make significant progress by the bye week, his season will likely come to a disappointing end.

9. Much has been said about the return of the three-headed running attack and the 2008-like feel to Sunday’s win over the Broncos, but don’t expect it to last.

Like it or not, the Ravens’ current profile is a pass-first team that runs the ball efficiently. The dominating 233-yard rushing performance against Denver was more the effect of a comfortable lead than some epiphany for Cameron.

Of Joe Flacco’s 97 completions through five games, 50 have been for under 10 yards, looking a little like the “running” game of the Patriots with Brady under helm. However, his 6.6 yards per attempt (the lowest of his career) needs to increase for the offense to continue growing.

Despite the profile change — which really began last season — the ability to pound the football looms large when the elements grow harsh, and the Ravens will use it when appropriate.

10. Ranking 19th in the league in total offense (328.2 yards per game) and tied for 17th in points scored (18.4 per game), the Baltimore offense has room for improvement with Cameron and Flacco trying to distribute the ball to keep a plethora of talented players — and egos — happy.

As well as the defense has played, it hasn’t done its counterpart any favors in the turnover department with only three takeaways and a -6 turnover differential, both last in the AFC.

Nothing gives an offense more confidence than starting drives on a short field, and a few more turnovers might be the serum the offense needs to excel. Fortunately, the defense and kick coverage has played well enough to win the field-position battle in most instances, but the turnover differential must improve if the Ravens are to take a step toward elitism, offensively and as a team.

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Coming Up .... The Friday Football Frenzy

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Coming Up …. The Friday Football Frenzy

Posted on 24 September 2010 by WNST Interns

It’s time to get ready for another Friday Football Frenzy, brought to you by Guiness …..

This afternoon @ 2pm, Nestor joins me for FOUR HOURS of power-packed radio, as we discuss this week’s Ravens vs. Browns game, as well as other NFL action.

We’ve thrown away last Sunday’s debacle on the Ohio River, with the rest of the garbage. You can’t dwell on it – just beat the Browns. That’s it.

Joe Flacco as a leader of the Ravens offense? Yeah, we’ll talk about it.

We’ve got the entire quarterback debate covered, and we’re bringing in an expert to chat about it, too. Former NFL quarterback and USC star, Rodney Peete, will join us at 2:30pm …..
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Rodney will also share a personal story with us, as the father of a child with Autism. He’s in town this weekend to promote his book, “Not My Son.”

While many fans might be looking at the Cleveland Browns as a doormat, we’re aware that the game is played on the field. Cleveland has yielded just 178 passing yards, per game, in the first two contests. And, they’ve already intercepted 3 passes. This Sunday will be a nice challenge, as Flacco tries to get back on track.

Mark “Munch” Bishop, from Cleveland’s WKNR radio, will chat with us at 3pm. We’ll get the latest information regarding the Browns during our conversation with Munch.

Of course, our good friend and WNST-Insider, Glenn Clark will give us the latest report from Owings Mills, at 430pm. Glenn presents the Harbor Hospital Injury Report, each Friday. He’ll have updates on Terrence Cody, Derrick Mason and Jared Gaither.

Finally, we’re expecting a call from former Ravens Offensive Tackle, Tony Pashos, during today’s show …..
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Remember, it all starts at 2pm. Join myself and Nestor, as we bring you the BEST afternoon football talk, in Baltimore.

It’s Week #3 of the NFL season …..

It’s a home opener …..

It’s Ravens vs. Browns …..

It’s Purple Friday …..

It’s the Friday Football Frenzy …..

And, it’s brought to you by our good friend at Guiness …..
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Mmmmm …. looking good !!!!

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Bench Flacco for Bulger? Are you people on dope?

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

In the era of the internet, it doesn’t take long to ferret out the bitchers, moaners, whiners, complainers and bridge jumpers on a fall NFL Sunday afternoon. Being the social media zealot that I am, it’s easy to feel the temperature of the never-ending Baltimore “barstool” here at WNST.net during our Purple Haze live chats as well as all over Facebook and Twitter during games. For an old fart like me, it’s quite compelling (if not entertaining) to gauge the shaky and ever-changing morale of the purple fan base during each possession, each drive and each success and failure by the Ravens.

To say Sunday’s performance by Joe Flacco was a hot button would be an understatement. I could only hope that the Orioles 14-year free-fall would have such relevance and concern to the Baltimore sports community.

Sure, Flacco stunk. He stunk early and often and looked bewildered at different points during the first half of a 5-for-18, 23-yard first half. The second half started with a solo burst of offensive success as Flacco led the team into the Bengals’ end zone on the initial drive but in the end it wasn’t good enough as he threw four interceptions in a wretched 15-10 loss in Cincinnati, where the Ravens haven’t won since Anthony Wright was commandeering the purple ship. As Flacco said in his somber post-game comments, it wasn’t his best day or one that he’ll look back on with pride.

Seeing Flacco play through pain last December and January (while John Harbaugh continually lied to the fan base and everyone else while his quarterback limped on and off the field) and seeing him get up from brutal hits over and over again should speak to the resilience of No. 5. He’s not a particularly compelling personality or interviewee but you can’t question the kid’s toughness – physically or mentally at this point – and certainly his ability and the positive results speak for themselves.

If there’s ever a guy who we have to expect to bounce back from a bad day or should be given a “hall pass” for a stinker, it’s Flacco. In his two-plus years here, he’s been dubbed “Joe Cool” for a reason. Your blood might curdle and your emotions might shoot high and low, but Flacco is unflappable in most circumstances that I’ve witnessed – on and off the field.

So while the reactionaries and arm-chair head coaches are yelling the “Bench Flacco” refrains – and it’s more comical (if not sad, really) — the very real concerns I have are more about the locker room than the barstool.

It’s now common knowledge that Anquan Boldin went postal on Flacco in the locker room during a halftime rant that apparently has alarmed more than one person in the organization who witnessed it within the bowels of Paul Brown Stadium around 2:20 p.m. on Sunday.

Boldin, who is most famous around the NFL for chewing out his then-offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the NFC Championship Game two seasons ago, might’ve had his own way of motivating Flacco, who clearly responded in some positive fashion on the first drive culminating with a 31-yard TD pass to Derrick Mason.

But the demeanor of the locker room and the many outsized egos of the offensive personnel is a much larger issue than whether Marc Bulger should be inserted as a starting quarterback.

Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, whose new “rah-rah” coach in Seattle wanted no part of even having him on the roster four weeks ago, lived in a constant circus in Cincinnati with his offensive unit’s personalities. He’s grown up immersed in the drama of “gimme the ball.”

And Mason has been a grandstander (some might call it a “leader”) of the largest magnitude both in Tennessee and here in Baltimore over the past five years, especially when the ball hasn’t been thrown in his direction.

And running backs? Ray Rice is clearly the guy who should be getting the ball but former college superstar and first-round draft pick Willis McGahee thinks he’s still a No. 1 back. And fullback LeRon McClain would rather carry the ball than block and had his own level of success two seasons ago when he was asked to shoulder the load. McGahee got the ball three times yesterday and McClain just once.

Did we mention tight ends? The Ravens now have three legitimate weapons there with Todd Heap, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, who are all more offensive-minded than stay-at-home blockers in the system.

So, here’s the biggest problem: they still only play with one ball in the NFL. There’s only one place Flacco can throw the ball at any given time and that’s only when he’s not running for his life after the offensive line deteriorates in front of him. Cam Cameron and Flacco have a lot of egos to feed, especially the morning after losses when the quarterback struggles and the wide receivers don’t get the damned ball.

It’s not hyperbole to say that the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy in town and with our fabled quarterback history here dating back to Vinny Testaverde, Eric Zeier and Scott Mitchell, yelling for the No. 2 will seemingly always be in vogue in tough times for many “real” and “educated” Ravens fans.

So, then, assuming the obvious that a quarterback change is the last thing on the mind of Harbaugh and Cameron, what’s really wrong with Flacco and the offense that a home game against the once-again lowly Cleveland Browns can’t fix?

Let’s start with better play from the offensive line, which hasn’t really done Flacco any favors in regard to giving him an appropriate amount of time to execute the offense with the injury to Jared Gaither and the constant flip-flopping of the personnel.

This week the Ravens will get a reprieve. They have a full week of rest. Finally, they’ll have a home game against the once-again 0-2 Browns, who have their own coaching and quarterback controversies to debate. (Unlike the Ravens, they have some real problems over on the shores of Lake Erie.)

Flacco has only led the team to two consecutive playoff berths and an AFC Championship Game in his two seasons in Baltimore. If he hasn’t bought himself a “free pass” for an awful effort against a rock-solid Cincinnati Bengals defensive unit, then we just have awful, unappreciative and uneducated fans.

The Ravens are 1-1. They were underdogs in both games and played on the road against back-to-back playoff teams that also used their respective off-seasons to improve. And defense and defensive pressure and scheme confusion are the calling cards of the Bengals and Jets defenses. (And if you look behind the bench, you’ll see two of the finest defensive minds in the game, who both sport gold, diamond rings with purple birds and “Invictus” slogans.)

Don’t jump off the purple bridge just yet!

And please don’t yell “Bench Flacco” or write it on Facebook or Twitter during the second quarter of the second week of the season and then expect me to think you know anything about football.

The Ravens lost 15-10. The defense was its usual self and if the Terrell Suggs roughing call wasn’t made there’s a decent chance the Ravens could be 2-0 this morning. And let’s not forget the special teams meltdown on the kickoff in the fourth quarter, which was the beginning of the end in Cincinnati.

It’s not time to panic. It’s certainly not the time to even discuss benching Joe Flacco for Marc Bulger in Baltimore.

Let’s discuss how to get the ball to these hungry and capable wide receivers, keeping them happy and putting the Ravens in the win column.

That’s the discussion we’ll be having this week and all season here at WNST.net and in all of the places on the internet we call a barstool for cogent conversation for intelligent Baltimore sports fans.

Hope to see you at Fattie’s in Essex tonight for the Coors Light Neighborhood Tour and some Monday Night Football and conversation.

And in case you missed Ray Lewis’ classic rant in the locker room yesterday, just click play and enjoy:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkQaI0cW2dw[/youtube]

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