Tag Archive | "Mark Clayton"

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 19: “You want to be the last team standing”

Posted on 19 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 20 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The 2006 campaign was shaping up to be a pivotal one.

With the Ravens coming off their worst season since 1998, head coach Brian Billick was firmly on the hot seat and former first-round pick Kyle Boller wasn’t the franchise quarterback the organization hoped he would be after drafting him three years earlier. That prompted general manager Ozzie Newsome to trade a fourth-round pick to Tennessee for former MVP quarterback and longtime rival Steve McNair to boost a mediocre offense needing to better complement a championship-caliber defense led by future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who were both healthy after injuries the previous year.

Baltimore began the season with a bang, shutting out Tampa Bay on the road and flattening Oakland in the home opener. A fourth-quarter comeback win at Cleveland gave the Ravens the first 3-0 start in franchise history to set up a Week 4 showdown with undefeated San Diego at an energized M&T Bank Stadium. Led by MVP running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers and their No. 1 scoring offense going up against the league’s best defense felt like a potential preview of the AFC Championship game.

The teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter, but it was an ugly affair for the Ravens for much of the day with McNair throwing two interceptions, backup tight end Dan Wilcox fumbling at the San Diego 1 in the third quarter, and top wide receiver Derrick Mason dropping a sure touchdown in the fourth quarter. But the Chargers had made their own mistakes with conservative play calling and a fumbled snap that squandered a 52-yard field goal attempt that could have put them ahead by two scores midway through the final period.

Backed up on its next possession and not wanting to give the Ravens a short field with time winding down, San Diego intentionally took a safety to make it a 13-9 game with 3:12 remaining. It was just enough time for McNair, who had led the go-ahead drive against the Browns a week earlier and was trying to redeem himself after a poor showing in front of his new fans.

After punting or committing a turnover on their first five drives of the second half, the Ravens moved into the red zone thanks to two completions to Mark Clayton and a vintage 12-yard scramble by McNair. Out of timeouts after burning all three in the third quarter, Baltimore faced a second down from the 10 with 41 seconds to go.

Motioning across the formation, Todd Heap wasn’t a primary read on the play, but the Chargers rushed only three after applying heavy pressure much of the day, allowing McNair to look back to his left. Heap, a two-time Pro Bowl tight end despite having played with a motley crew of quarterbacks over his first five seasons, reined in a high pass and absorbed a shot from Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman at the 3 before stretching across the goal line with 34 seconds remaining.

“I felt the hit,” Heap said after the 16-13 win. “Luckily, I was able to bounce, fight, and do whatever I could to get in the end zone. You want to be able to take the hit. You want to be the last team standing.”

The upper deck seemingly shook during one of the loudest eruptions in the stadium’s history. All that was left was for the Ravens defense to put a bow on its impressive performance against an offense that averaged just over 30 points per game that season.

A fourth-down completion from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates gave the Chargers a last-gasp chance from the Baltimore 49, but outside linebacker Jarret Johnson sacked the San Diego quarterback on the next play as time expired. The Ravens had prevailed to improve to 4-0 and would go 13-3, the best regular-season record in franchise history until 2019.

The Chargers and Ravens would finish as the AFC’s top two seeds respectively in 2006, but there would be no January rematch with both teams being upset in the divisional round. Still, you couldn’t ask for better theater in Week 4 than what Ravens fans witnessed on that early October afternoon.

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest offensive needs

Posted on 13 February 2012 by Luke Jones

If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, or so the saying goes.

It’s been three weeks since the Ravens fell a few tenths of a second short — how much longer Lee Evans needed to hold the ball in the end zone — of advancing to Super Bowl XLVI. The organization is now faced with difficult decisions while trying to improve but also acknowledging just how excruciatingly close it came to reaching the pinnacle contest of the NFL.

With free agency set to begin in one month (March 13 at 4:00 p.m.) and the draft just over two months away, the Ravens are evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the first of a three-part series, I offer thoughts on the offensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need entering the offseason.

1. Left guard

I’ve tried to think of as many conceivable scenarios as I can for the Ravens to re-sign Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs while not putting their future salary cap space in jeopardy, but I continue to come back to the same theme over and over.

In the modern era, NFL teams simply cannot and do not spent an extraordinary amount of money at the guard position. And after signing Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to a $32 million contract with $10 million guaranteed, it’s difficult envisioning general manager Ozzie Newsome forking over even more money for Grubbs, especially with quarterback Joe Flacco and cornerback Lardarius Webb set to become free agents following the 2012 season.

Neither the Ravens nor Grubbs have spoken with any level of confidence that the 2007 first-round pick will be back in Baltimore, so a hometown discount appears unlikely. Though Baltimore has retained all but one (2005 selection Mark Clayton) of its first-round picks since 2002, it appears Grubbs will find a new home in 2012.

So, how do the Ravens replace him? The only viable in-house candidate might be 2011 third-round tackle Jah Reid, who practiced at both tackle and guard last season, but his 6-foot-7 frame isn’t ideal inside and he’d be making the transition from the right tackle position.

The draft would figure to be the logical outlet, with a young guard such as Stanford’s David DeCastro or Georgia’s Cordy Glenn potentially available at the end of the first round. However, the Ravens could elect to address other positions of need in the early rounds and roll the dice in finding a competent veteran on the free-agent market.

2. Center

On the surface, the center position would appear to be an urgent need with no veteran currently under contract for 2012, but the Ravens have short-term veteran options in Matt Birk and Andre Gurode.

Birk has yet to decide whether he’ll play in 2012 or retire, but the Ravens could elect to re-sign the five-time Pro Bowl center Gurode, who is three years younger. Regardless of which way the Ravens go, they will need to think about the future at the position with both players close to the end of their respective careers.

Former Ohio State product Justin Boren finished the season on the practice squad and could be a center to groom for 2013 and beyond. Should the Ravens elect to draft a center in April, it likely wouldn’t be until the middle or late rounds unless Wisconsin’s Peter Konz would strike their fancy at the end of the first round.

3. Wide receiver

The receiver position has seemingly showed up on the list every year, but this unit appears to be in better shape than it has in quite some time.

Veteran Anquan Boldin is clearly not a No. 1 receiver at this point in his career, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a better season in 2012 after he played with a partially-torn meniscus for most of 2011. When he returned for the postseason after late-season surgery, Boldin appeared more effective, catching 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games.

Torrey Smith figures to only get better with a full offseason to work on his route-running and build a stronger rapport with Flacco. If he can become a bigger threat in the short-to-intermediate passing game, Smith might become the No. 1 receiver the Ravens have lacked since the infancy of the franchise.

The disappointing Evans is under contract for the 2012 season, but it’s hard to envision the Ravens paying the receiver a $1 million roster bonus in March and tolerating his near-$6 million cap number for the upcoming season. He’ll likely be released, with a small chance for a return at a reduced rate.

The Ravens would love a young receiver with height to complement the speedy Smith moving forward, but it’s easier said than done in the pass-happy NFL where every team is looking for big, speedy targets on the outside. A veteran free agent such as Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, or Dwayne Bowe would provide another threat at receiver but would not provide the height the Baltimore receiving group lacks. San Diego wideout Vincent Jackson would be the ideal 6-foot-5 name in free agency, but his price tag will be hefty.

Adding another impact wide receiver might be the only way to truly gauge whether Flacco can take the passing game to the next level, and the Ravens will try their best to do it this offseason.

4. Running back

(see next page)

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With Ravens fans snickering at Mason, has Boldin received a free pass in Baltimore?

Posted on 12 October 2011 by Luke Jones

After Derrick Mason’s abrupt departure from the New York Jets on Tuesday night, many fans have offered their zingers and potshots at the former Ravens receiver, whose poor production and crumbling relationship with the Jets coaching staff led to him being traded to the Houston Texans for a seventh-round pick.

While I couldn’t resist making a snide comment or two about the whole situation, I’m mystified at the amount of disdain hurled toward the Ravens’ all-time leading receiver who caught 29 touchdowns in his six seasons in Baltimore. Yes, he could be a cranky diva — not unlike most productive wide receivers, mind you — but far too many are discrediting his work. The reliability he provided for a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco, who was thrown into the starting lineup out of necessity in 2008, turned a potentially disastrous situation into one of the most enjoyable seasons the Ravens have ever had and sparked a promising career of a franchise quarterback.

Yes, it was time for Mason and the team to part ways, especially with the 37-year-old’s high salary-cap number in 2011, as many expected his production to be absorbed by veteran Anquan Boldin in his second season with the Ravens.

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And that brings us to a different topic entirely.

Through four games in 2011, Boldin has just 15 catches for 222 yards and a lone touchdown catch on the Ravens’ first drive of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11. It follows his 2010 season in which the former Arizona Cardinals wideout caught 64 balls for 837 yards and seven touchdowns. The only season in which Boldin had fewer receptions and receiving yards was his second season in 2004 when he played in only 10 games.

In comparison, Mason has 13 receptions for 115 yards in five games as the No. 3 receiver in New York before the trade to Houston on Tuesday. I mention this not to suggest that the Ravens should have kept Mason, but it poses an interesting, and largely unspoken, question with Boldin’s numbers not exactly blowing Mason’s out of the water by leaps and bounds.

Has Boldin received too much of a pass in his first 20 regular-season games in Baltimore?

We’ve seen all the explanations.

He, Mason, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were too similar in what they did best as receivers.

Boldin matches up against the opposition’s No. 1 cornerback and deals with bracketed coverage on a regular basis.

Flacco hasn’t developed the same rapport with Boldin as he enjoyed with Mason and doesn’t target him enough while going through his progressions.

And — of course — it’s offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s fault for not finding better ways to get the ball to Boldin in the offense.

While all of these explanations undoubtedly factor into the equation to varying degrees, at what point do we begin to wonder whether the Ravens really got their money’s worth when trading third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona a year ago and signing Boldin to a three-year, $25 million extension through 2013 with $10 million guaranteed?

When do we begin looking at Boldin himself?

That’s not to say Boldin has been a bad player in Baltimore. Far from it, in fact. The 31-year-old has shown mostly-reliable hands other than a critical drop in the end zone in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ heartbreaking 31-24 loss to the Steelers in the AFC divisional round last January. He had three 100-yard games a year ago, including a three-touchdown explosion against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.

But, he’s yet to show himself as even a proper replacement for Mason during his best seasons in Baltimore, much less the impact receiver Ravens fans thought they were getting a season ago.

For those pointing to the injury of Lee Evans and the lack of talented receivers to deflect attention from Boldin, Mason wasn’t exactly reaping the benefits of playing opposite Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams over the years, but he still found ways to be very productive.

The great ones are able to find space to get open in order to produce, even when the circumstances are far from ideal as they are right now in Baltimore, with the Ravens relying heavily on unproven rookie receivers in Evans’ absence.

With the offense still searching for its identity in an otherwise successful 3-1 start, the Ravens would sure benefit from a Mason-like — or even better — boost from Boldin, in whom they invested a lot after seven superb seasons in Arizona where he became the fastest player to reach 400, 500, and 600 catches in NFL history.

We’ve seen flashes of the Boldin who teamed with Larry Fitzgerald to form one of the most feared receiving tandems of the last decade, but the consistency just hasn’t been there to the degree that anyone expected.

Perhaps the surge is finally coming after the bye when you consider the lack of an offseason and how that might have stunted his development with Flacco. Or, maybe this is all we’re going to get from Boldin.

So, before we continue finding amusement in what’s amounted to a humbling conclusion to Mason’s playing career — yes, much of it his own doing — ask yourself a question.

Are we sure the Ravens are really that much better off without him?

Boldin’s numbers don’t support it.

At least, not yet.

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Houshmandzadeh - Another Fulfilled Example Of "Buyer Beware" ???

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Houshmandzadeh – Another Fulfilled Example Of “Buyer Beware” ???

Posted on 01 October 2010 by WNST Interns

When that WNST.net text flashed across the screen of your phone, the excitement started to overflow, right?

“T.J. Houshmandzadeh signs 1 year deal with Ravens” …..

Many of us ….. umm, scratch that …..

Nearly ALL of us thought Ozzie Newsome and his cronies just pulled the equivalent of a late night stickup at the local 7-11 store. And, we had good reason to think the Ravens cup runneth over on this particular deal.

Think about it …..

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a sure-handed, veteran wide receiver. He is quite familiar with the AFC-North. He is a guy who backs up all his jawing on the field.

Oh yeah, and he came here from Seattle.

Baltimore has a recent run of success when importing players from Seattle …..
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Say what you will, but for all the bubble gum popping and easily-distracted maneuvers of Adam Jones, I would trade away Erik Bedard for his services a MILLION times over.

Thus, I have that buoyed optimism whenever something from Seattle arrives.

But, indeed, there is a malfunction in my madness …..

T.J. Houshmanzadeh does not play baseball. And, more importantly, the Seattle Seahawks didn’t trade him away; they gave him away. They didn’t ask for Mark Clayton. They didn’t ask for Prince Miller. They didn’t even ask for a crate of crabcakes or an autographed Elvis Grbac jersey …..
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The Seahawks were so eager to jettison Houshmandzadeh that they ATE his 2010 salary just to rid themslves of him. If you’re counting the beans, that’s $7 million in big bills.

Yet, all of us looked past that.

We envisioned the same T.J. Houshmandzadeh who tormented us with end zone catches in a Bengals uniform. Uh, speaking of the Bengals …. he’s the same T.J. Houshmandzadeh who dropped four passes, in Cincinnati, just two weeks ago.

Now, this morning, we’re learning that Houshmandzadeh is surprised at his lack of participation in the Ravens offense.

HERE’S THE LINK

Really?

Hmmm ….. he should try standing in the shoes of Pierre Garcon, in Indianapolis. That’s right, if you develop the “dropsies” in Indy, #18 looks elsewhere. And, you’re obligated to re-prove yourself over time.

This is absolutely GREAT. The Ravens are preparing for a road game against their nemesis, in Pittsburgh. T.J. Houshmandzadeh has played in this division; he knows the importance of battling the Steelers.

Yet, he’s chosen one of the most inconvenient times to question his role.

God bless Drew Forrester. He said this day was coming …..

Is there a silver lining to this drama? You bet. I take great comfort in knowing this guy will NEVER, EVER allow a verbal distraction to sabotage his team …..
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Ahh ….. I feel better already.

Happy Friday !!!!!

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Is Mark Sanchez really a fruitcake? We’ll find out tonight as Ravens visit Jets

Posted on 12 September 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

If you don’t watch Hard Knocks on HBO, you won’t get the humor in the headline but I have a hunch you will be watching tonight as eight months of sports silence in Baltimore and a revenge game on national TV for Jets coach Rex Ryan should whet your appetite for the deliciousness of the next 17 weeks and beyond.

Tonight, the Ravens finally play football. For real…

I have been quite silent this summer as the Orioles have continued to tank it en route to a last-place finish but today I recommit to telling you what I think during the football season. I’ve been busy 24 hours a day building the new WNST.net that many of you are enjoying daily via our many means to reach you: the Morning Newspaper, text service, Facebook, Twitter, AM 1570, this very website at WNST.net, etc.

The Orioles are winning and no one is watching while the Ravens have been dormant since that dark night in Indianapolis eight months ago but have once again captured the imagination not only of the local marketplace but they’ve become the national media darlings and are expected to be in Dallas in early February by many pundits.

The locals have been waiting since January for a reason to cheer and tonight we’ll get it in prime time glory with story lines galore for ESPN to pitch America.

The world expects the Ravens to be a playoff team – a 10-to-13 win machine of big-time offense with an emerging Joe Flacco and a hard-hitting (if not hard-covering in the secondary) defense still led by the credentials of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and some fresh faces on the back side.

Tonight we begin to find out not only what our Baltimore Ravens are made of but we’ll also find out whether Rex Ryan’s men in green actually “Play Like Jets” after talking incessantly for the past month in our living rooms via the loudest, brashest most reality-based reality TV ever made – “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets”

The harsh words have all been exchanged: Rex Ryan disrespected Ray Lewis who disrespected Mark Sanchez which led to Kris Jenkins and Bart Scott piling on in what the linebacker formerly known as “Hot Sauce” called “part of the show.”

It was a week of pre-game hype that Vince McMahon and Don King could both appreciate but Ray Lewis summed it all up here:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL5CZcMqqWA[/youtube]

Honestly, I was actually blown away when I finally watched last week’s “Hard Knocks” on Saturday afternoon to hear what Rex Ryan actually said on the show that set off No. 52 in a tirade for the ages. Before he spoke, Ray Lewis admitted that he didn’t watch it and still went nuts with the notion that the Jets could somehow be more relevant or favored in tonight’s game.

I was five feet away from Lewis when he went nuts.

I went over to him in the locker room 15 minutes later and told him that I’d seen ALL of the press conferences over the last 15 years and it was his finest moment. “Really, you think so?” he said with a smile.

Yes, Ray! That one was for the ages and has this city inspired to spit purple lightning at 7 p.m. tonight.

So how will this go tonight?

Here are the five things I’ll be on the lookout for from Sect. 324 of the upper deck of the New Meadowlands Stadium. If you like my analysis here at WNST.net feel free to join our Twitter page tonight or friend us on Facebook or chime in with your thoughts in our Purple Haze LIVE CHAT that will begin at 7 p.m. And if you’re coming to New Jersey this afternoon, make sure you join us in Parking Lot L for a BYOB pre-game party of biblical proportions.

Sanchez accuracy can’t be dirty

If the Jets are going to be a contender this year they need to utilize a strong receiving corps with a passing attack that was woefully lacking in 2010 as Mark Sanchez slogged through his rookie campaign until the last few weeks when their defense caught fire and led them to the AFC Championship Game in Indy. Sanchez was portrayed as a bit of a clown in “Hard Knocks” and was referred to by Mark Brunell as a “fruitcake.” I wasn’t impressed with Sanchez on or off of the field this past month in preparation for tonight’s game. I think he’ll throw the Ravens a few opportunities to change the game. What they do when he does that will dictate the Ravens fortunes because with a few turnovers I believe the Ravens could win this game in a rout. And that’s without Ed Reed!

Jets taking care of the ball

The Jets were quite sloppy in many facets of the game in the preseason and turnovers were a major problem. Their running game seems to be a strength in their attack and you’d have to believe that running up the middle against the Ravens will be a tall task for an aging LaDainian Tomlinson and company. In general, I’m wondering how the Jets will attempt to exploit the Ravens through the air because it’s their best chance to win, lining up mismatches in the secondary and hoping Sanchez will be protected and can deliver the ball accurately.

Revis rusty?

We know that Cam Cameron will be mixing it up with this compliment of offensive weapons that Ozzie Newsome has assembled in the offseason. This team went from having Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton to having Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh become a true No. 1 and 2 with Mason almost certainly to move into a more complimentary role as the season wears on. Not that this is a bad thing: Mason will be a true weapon come December and other teams wear thin in the secondary as the weather chills. But the real secondary story tonight will be the return of Darrelle Revis who will be out on the island tonight chasing Boldin in many cases with just five days of practice under his belt. They say he’s the best in the business. Well, tonight he’ll face live bullets and there’s no doubt the communication of the Jets’ back line will be put to the test early and often by Flacco and company.

Flacco directing the offense and multiplicity

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has had three years in the system now and the list of weapons he has is impressive by any measure. The best offense Baltimore football fans have seen since 1977 will take the field tonight. How will Ray Rice be used? When will Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain get the ball? How will Todd Heap and Ed Dickson be used? What role will Houshmandzadeh grow into in this offense? Tonight we get answers including the protection up front that Flacco will need to deliver in this ramped up offensive attack.

The New Meadowlands as a weapon

The Jets have always been the second citizens of Giants Stadium. The team is a generational under-achiever. This year there’s more heat than there’s ever been due to Rex Ryan’s boasts and the braggadocio of the entire franchise being led by a cool, cussing, confident leader who expects to win tonight and every night. Tickets started at nearly $300 and have fallen to less than $100 to get into the game tonight. I know they’ve expanded the stadium but I thought the expanded expectations would expand their horizons to pack their own stadium in a sea of green for a Monday Night Football debut against a real contender and Ryan’s former franchise for a revenge bowl of biblical proportions. It will be interesting to see if the crowd can affect Flacco, who’s earned a bit of a reputation for being Joe Cool when impacted on the road. Flacco has won playoff games in Miami, Nashville and New England in his first three years in the league. I’m not sure the bright lights of New York will affect him tonight.

Quite frankly if Sanchez is the “fruitcake” Brunell alleged, the Ravens will waltz tonight at The New Meadowlands.

My prediction: Ravens 24, Jets 13

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SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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Blog & Tackle: How TJH was used in 2009

Posted on 07 September 2010 by Chris Pika

The Ravens acquisition of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh yesterday gave the club a tough receiver who will help Baltimore in the short term by giving QB Joe Flacco another target in the expanding passing game.

What kind of numbers will the about-to-be 33-year-old TJH put up in 2010? It’s obviously hard to say as the Ravens will have to get him up to speed on offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s playbook and Flacco’s passing style. But, we can look back on how he was used in Seattle last season, thanks to STATS, Inc.

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seahawks targeted him 61 times (31 receptions) on first down, 39 times (28 catches) on second, 31 times (18 receptions) on third and four times (two catches) on fourth down. Of all game situations of down and distance, he was thrown to the most on first down and between 8-10 yards to go — 58 targeted passes.

He averaged over 10 yards per catch, regardless of the down, and had six plays of 25 yards or more. Of his 79 catches, 52 resulted in first downs, a 65.8 percent rate.

After a two-touchdown day at Arizona in mid-November, he did not catch a touchdown the remainder of the season. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. He was targeted almost the same in each half of the season — 68 targets/41 receptions/417 yards in the first eight games; 67 targets/38 receptions/494 yards in the final eight games.

Seattle threw to him the most between the 40s (43 targets/29 receptions/311 yards) and also from their own 20 to their 39-yard line (40 targets/23 receptions/249 yards).

In the red zone, the Seahawks targeted him 19 times, and he caught just four passes for 19 yards and two scores. The four red zone catches were his lowest total since 2002.

Inside the opponent 10, he was targeted 10 times, and he made three receptions for six yards and one TD.

Where did Seattle throw him the ball, direction-wise? Mainly to the right side of the field with 36 targets to the right (23 catches), and 40 (21 catches) to the right sideline. He also caught as many balls behind the line of scrimmage (eight) as he did over the middle in 2009. But, interestingly, 13 of his 16 receptions caught on the left side of the field went for first downs, an 81.3 percent rate, while eight of his 11 catches to the left sideline moved the chains (72.7 percent).

The Seahawks looked for him the most in three-receiver sets (67 targets/34 catches/3 plays of 25+ yards/23 first downs) and in four-receiver sets (45 targets/31 receptions/2 25+ yard plays/17 first downs).

One oddity was that despite playing just four games on grass in 2009, TJH averaged more yards per catch (15.7 to 10.0), had more catches go for first downs by percentage (76.2 to 62.1) and had more 25+ yard pass plays (4 of 6) on the real stuff.

Finally in yards after catch, he averaged 3.6 per reception, which was 102nd in the NFL. Bookending him at 101 was Ravens TE Todd Heap (3.7) and former Baltimore WR Kelley Washington (3.6). TJH’s average was better than Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco (3.3), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (3.2) and now-former Ravens (and current Rams) WR Mark Clayton (2.6).

TJH was tied for 56th in the league in total yards after catch (284) with New England’s Kevin Faulk and Denver’s Jabar Gaffney. His YAC total was better than four players with at least 1,000 yards receiving — Derrick Mason (273), Carolina’s Steve Smith (246), Ochocinco (239) and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson (228).

While not one of his best overall statistical seasons, Houshmandzadeh led the struggling 5-11 Seahawks in both receptions and receiving yards in 2009. While he won’t be counted on to lead the 2010 Ravens in those two categories, he can still be an important part of Baltimore’s passing game as someone opposing pass defenses shouldn’t forget about when checking on Anquan Boldin deep and Ray Rice coming out of the backfield.

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (81-99)

Posted on 31 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number recently, we continue to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 covered jersey numbers 1 through 80 if you missed them.

Part 5 (81-99) concludes our trip down memory lane by looking at some of the greatest receivers, tight ends, and defensive linemen in franchise history.

81 Michael Jackson (1996-98)
Jackson

Anquan Boldin is a good bet to hold this honor in the near future, but “Action” Jackson was a big-time receiver in the Ravens’ first season in Baltimore, catching 14 touchdowns and eclipsing the 1,200-yard mark. Jackson’s numbers declined in his final two seasons with the Ravens, but he and fellow wideout Derrick Alexander were huge weapons in Ted Marchibroda’s passing game.

82 Shannon Sharpe (2000-01)

The former Denver tight end came to Baltimore and immediately provided the leadership sorely lacking on the offensive side of the football. His game-winning 29-yard touchdown catch with seconds remaining in a 39-36 comeback victory over Jacksonville set the early tone for what would eventually be a championship season in 2000. And he also had a big catch in the AFC Championship that you might remember…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiL2gJTVPec[/youtube]

83 Daniel Wilcox (2004-08)

Wilcox rarely had the chance to shine in the Baltimore offense, but the dependable backup tight end caught 76 passes and eight touchdowns in his five years with the Ravens.

84 Jermaine Lewis (1996-2001)

The diminutive Maryland Terp is unquestionably the greatest return specialist in franchise history and returned six punts for touchdowns in his six years with the Ravens. Though he never returned a kickoff for a score in the regular season, the two-time Pro Bowl selection capitalized on the world’s biggest stage with an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to seal the eventual Super Bowl XXXV victory. His courage down the stretch of that magical season was documented (see below) in the NFL Network’s “America’s Game” series.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seVOzeRNBIM&feature=related[/youtube]

85 Derrick Mason (2005-present)
Mason

Though overshadowed by bigger, faster receivers throughout the NFL, Mason has been the model of consistency throughout his first five seasons with the Ravens. The veteran has averaged 82 receptions per season and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in four of his five campaigns in Baltimore.

86 Todd Heap (2001-present)
Heap

Injuries have stunted his production in the latter half of his career, but few tight ends have shown the versatility of Heap with his ability to split out wide or outleap  defenders as a dangerous red zone target. Heap has 36 touchdown catches in his nine seasons.

87 Qadry Ismail (1999-2001)

The “Missile” was a rare weapon in a passing game that struggled to produce in the early stages of the Brian Billick era. Ismail caught 18 touchdowns and had two 1,000-yard seasons in his three years with the Ravens.

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88 Brian Kinchen (1996-98)
Kinchen

Injuries prevented Quinn Sypniewski from potentially earning this distinction, but Kinchen was a steady if unspectacular tight end for the early Ravens. His 1996 season included 55 catches for 581 yards and a touchdown. Kinchen also had the ability to long snap.

89 Mark Clayton (2005-present)

Clayton and fellow No. 89 Travis Taylor are viewed as two of the biggest draft busts in the history of the franchise. The former Oklahoma Sooner holds a slight edge in receptions (234 to 204) through five seasons with the franchise, but Taylor had more touchdowns (15 to 14). Neither player met expectations, but Clayton still has the opportunity to improve his résumé, enough to give him the nod here.

90 Rob Burnett (1996-2001)
Burnett

One of the most unheralded members of the dominant Baltimore defenses from 1999 to 2001, Burnett had 10.5 sacks and forced three fumbles in 2000 but was a Pro Bowl snub. The defensive end compiled 26.5 sacks in his six seasons with the Ravens.

91 Lional Dalton (1998-2001)

Dalton never had the chance to show his stuff as a starter on the defensive line, but he was a key member of the rotation for a deep unit of tackles. He wins narrowly over defensive end Marques Douglas (who also wore No. 94) and defensive tackles Aubrayo Franklin and Brandon McKinney.

92 Haloti Ngata (2006-present)

Considered one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL today, Ngata has wreaked havoc on opposing running games from the moment he stepped foot in Baltimore. 350-pound defensive tackles are not supposed to be as athletic as Ngata, and the league finally recognized his rare talent by selecting him to his first Pro Bowl in 2009.

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93 Keith Washington (1997-2000)

The defensive lineman is remembered most for his block of an Al Del Greco field goal that was returned by Anthony Mitchell for a go-ahead touchdown in the Ravens’ memorable 24-10 victory over the Titans en route to a Super Bowl title, but Washington was a key member of the defensive line rotation in his four seasons.

A strong final season by Dwan Edwards in 2009 was not nearly enough to earn strong consideration here after the defensive lineman was largely a flop in his first three seasons with the Ravens.

94 Justin Bannan (2006-09)

The defensive tackle was a major factor in 2008, starting 15 of 16 games in Kelly Gregg’s absence. His four strong seasons with the Ravens earned him a nice payday with the Denver Broncos following last season.

95 Sam Adams (2000-01)
Adams

Many will argue for Jarret Johnson for this jersey number, and a legitimate argument can be made, but how can you overlook Adams’ massive impact—literally and figuratively—in his two seasons with the Ravens? The defensive tackle made the Pro Bowl twice and teamed with Tony Siragusa to form a 700-pound wall around which the menacing Ray Lewis could freelance.

Johnson is a very good player and received his just due in Part 4 (No. 76), but Adams was the better player in his two-year stint in Baltimore.

96 Adalius Thomas (2000-06)
Thomas

The former sixth-round pick transformed himself from a defensive end to one of the best outside linebackers in the league over his seven seasons with the Ravens. The two-time Pro Bowler was also a menacing 270-pound gunner on the punt team and was the most versatile player on the talented defenses of the post-Super Bowl era.

97 Kelly Gregg (2000-present)

The former wrestler hardly looks the part of an NFL defensive tackle, but Gregg has manned the interior of the Baltimore defensive line for nearly a decade. “Buddy Lee” ranks second on the Ravens’ all-time tackles list, behind only Lewis.

98 Tony Siragusa (1997-2001)
Goose

The brash, rotund Siragusa arrived in 1997 and was part of the defensive transition from a hapless unit to the record-setting company that struck fear in the opponent’s heart. His controversial hit on Rich Gannon knocked the Oakland quarterback out of the AFC Championship game, but the outspoken Siragusa would have been the first to say it did not matter whether Gannon played or not against that Ravens defense.

99 Michael McCrary (1997-2002)
McCrary

His blue-collar style still resonates fondly with Baltimore fans, and the undersized defensive end is recognized in the Ravens Ring of Honor. McCrary’s 51 career sacks ranks third behind Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs on the Ravens’ all-time list. Chronic knee issues cut short what had already been a brilliant career.

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Ravens pick up a costly preseason win

Posted on 29 August 2010 by WNST Interns

So what can we decipher from the Ravens’ victory over the Giants last night in preseason week three? First off, if there’s ever a preseason game that you want to win (or at least look good, it’s week three. As we know, the third game is the one where the starters generally play the most in the preseason. In next week’s preseason finale against the Falcons, the veterans will play sparingly in the first quarter before surrendering the remainder of the game to the reserves trying to make the team. So if we see Joe Flacco and company at all next week, it won’t be for long. Therefore this game was a nice finishing touch on a preseason where the Ravens’ offense did in fact look pretty good.

So the Ravens win, the starters look good, it’s a win-win, right? Not totally. Wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Mark Clayton both sustained injuries during the game. Win or lose, injuries are big time buzz kills in preseason games. Clayton has a concussion, but is expected to be ready for September 13th against the Jets. Stallworth’s injury is a bit more serious in that he has a broken foot. Preliminary indications say that Stallworth will miss the first half of the season, and will return towards the end of October.

One thing that I found interesting and a bit refreshing was the use of the no-huddle offense, known to many of my generation as the “run-and-shoot.” While twenty years ago many teams such as the Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers utilized this offensive strategy on almost every play. In my opinion the run-and-shoot is something that should be strategically employed when the defense least expects it, which is how the Ravens used it. If a team’s playing against a “run-and-shoot team,” they can game plan for it just like anything else. If a team throws the ball every down without running, they won’t get anywhere because teams will adjust their defense to protect against the pass. The way the Ravens used the no-huddle offense seemed to catch the Giants off guard, which is what it’s designed to do.

So while the Ravens won the game, in a sense they lost because they sustained a major injury to a player that was expected to contribute to the team in a major way. One thing that’ll be interesting to see is whether or not the Ravens pick up another receiver, or stick with what they have for the first part of the season. The Jets released Laverneus Coles this weekend, so he’s available. And go figure, the Ravens open the season against the Jets; Coles wouldn’t only be a valuable fill-in for Stallworth, but he would also potentially know a few things about the Jets that would help the Ravens. Hmm…

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Ravens-Giants Notebook: Stallworth breaks foot, gone two months

Posted on 28 August 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Despite 243 total yards of offense in the first half and an impressive 24-10 thrashing of the New York Giants, the Ravens suffered a significant loss on Saturday night, losing wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth for the next two months due to a broken left foot.

Stallworth will have surgery immediately and a screw will be inserted in the foot with hope that the receiver can return after the bye in Week 8, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

“That’s really disappointing for him and for our football team, obviously,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll do what we do. We’ll step up and the next guy will play well.”

The injury was sustained when the receiver “just planted wrong,” according to teammate Derrick Mason.

With Stallworth working as the punt returner and fourth receiver, the Ravens will now lean more heavily on Tom Zbikowski and Mark Clayton for return duties and will look down the depth chart at Demetrius Williams, David Reed, and Marcus Smith for additional help in the receiving unit.

Passing offense thrives

Joe Flacco may have only played 34 minutes in Saturday night’s win over the New York Giants, but his right arm received a full night’s work as the quarterback threw 34 passes, completing 21 and accumulating 229 yards through the air.

“I like to play and come out and just throw the ball, throw the ball, and throw the ball some more,” Flacco said. “It was fun man. I had a great time, and I think everybody out on the field did.”

It was apparent offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wanted to see his passing offense find a rhythm after an uneven performance against Washington last Saturday. The Ravens decimated the Giants defense for 243 yards of total offense and 17 points in the first half. The offense turned the ball over once in the first half on a late interception thrown by Flacco.

“Our tempo with the no-huddle was good, and our ball protection was better,” Cameron said. “We stressed both this week.”

Flacco’s favorite target on Saturday night was Heap, who continues to have an impressive preseason with two rookie tight ends pushing him for playing time and the veteran avoiding the injury bug. Heap caught six passes for 69 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown catch to put the Ravens ahead, 17-0 in the second quarter.

“It was just a play where [Flacco] had faith in me to go get the ball,” Heap said. “I’m definitely glad to see it work. It’s a play where you have to body the guy up and make a play.”

Boldin-more

Though Anquan Boldin made his Baltimore debut two weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers, Saturday night marked the first time the impact receiver was announced to the crowd in pre-game introductions, earning loud cheers from the 70,742 on hand at M&T Bank Stadium as the starting offense was announced.

The raucous crowd grew even louder when Boldin reined in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Flacco early in the second quarter. The Ravens hope it was the first of many this season as the new impact wideout will be leaned upon to help the passing offense reach new heights. The score put Baltimore up by 10, and the Ravens never looked back.

“We’re just starting to get comfortable with one another,” Boldin said about his relationship with his new quarterback. “For us, we considered the half a real game, and we tried to pick it up a little bit and get in sync because this is truly the first dress rehearsal that we’ll get before the regular season.”

Boldin finished his evening with four catches for 52 yards with the aforementioned touchdown grab. The former Arizona Cardinals receiver has also earned a reputation as a strong blocker during his career, displaying it Saturday night when he wrestled a defensive back to the ground during a run play.

“That’s always been a part of my game,” Boldin said. “I hate to see a running back break a run. He could have gone for 30 or 40 yards, but my guy makes the tackle. So that’s something I take pride in. I was in one of those situations where a guy put his hand on my face mask, that pissed me off a little bit, so I had to get him back.”

Field goal opportunities passed up

The kicking competition remains undecided with Saturday’s victory providing little clarity in the process.

The Ravens converted three fourth-down tries in the second quarter, passing on potential field goal attempts from 26, 53, and 48 yards. Billy Cundiff made the only attempt by either kicker on the night, a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter.

“We have confidence with this [offense] on fourth-and-short, and we’ll continue to be aggressive with those,” Cameron said after the first half.

Shayne Graham lined up for a 41-yard field goal late in the first half, but Mason was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the Ravens out of field-goal range and forcing the punting unit onto the field.

McGahee M.I.A.

Though completely healthy and dressed in uniform, running back Willis McGahee did not play in the third preseason game. The Ravens’ running game did not get much of a workout as a whole in the first half, with only 11 rushing attempts and four of them coming from Flacco.

“We just don’t need to play those [veterans] every single week,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think we need to see what [McGahee] can do.”

Health update

In addition to Stallworth, the Ravens lost another receiver against the Giants when Clayton sustained a concussion on an illegal hit from safety Antrel Rolle in the second quarter.

“That’s obviously something to be careful with, but we’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “It shouldn’t be a long-term thing.”

Linebacker Ray Lewis left the game early in the second quarter and was icing his right knee on the bench in the first half. The 15-year veteran, however, told WNST.net’s Glenn Clark that it was “nothing” to be concerned over after the game.

Odds & ends

The Ravens now hold a 7-5 all-time record against the Giants in the preseason. The victory was the team’s seventh straight preseason win. … Giants receiver Victor Cruz’s 1-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter was the first defensive touchdown allowed by the Baltimore defense in the preseason. … Lardarius Webb was listed as inactive for Saturday’s game, but dressed in uniform and went through pre-game activity before the game. The Ravens’ other inactives were Jared Gaither, Terrence Cody, Oniel Cousins, Demetrius Williams, Eron Riley, Marcus Paschal, K.J. Gerard, David Hale, Daniel Sanders, Ed Reed, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Matt Lawrence.

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Ravens Training Camp: The impressive and disappointing

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Another Westminster training camp has concluded with the Ravens now focusing their attention to the final three games of the preseason before the 2010 regular season gets underway against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.

Saturday night’s meeting with the Washington Redskins will be a key audition for  bubble players as coach John Harbaugh has already stated how important the second preseason game is for evaluating rookies and reserve veterans fighting for a roster spot.

Much will change before the initial cutdown to 75 players takes place on Aug. 31 and the final cut to 53 on Sept. 4, but here’s a breakdown of players—by position—who impressed and disappointed in Westminster.

QUARTERBACKS
Impressed: Joe Flacco is an easy choice after a strong camp with his new offensive weapons. The third-year quarterback still must prove he can read and throw to the middle of the field, but Anquan Boldin and a strong group of tight ends will certainly help.

Disappointed: Troy Smith knew his standing in the organization changed dramatically after the acquisition of Marc Bulger, and the former Heisman Trophy winner did nothing to push the veteran for the backup job. Smith lacks size and was too erratic in Westminster. He will stick as the No. 3 quarterback, but his performance made the Ravens look very wise for signing Bulger.

RUNNING BACKS
Impressed: Hard to go with anyone but Ray Rice at this spot despite Willis McGahee looking solid and healthy as well. Rice looked to be in mid-season form the first day veterans reported to Westminster. It will be another Pro Bowl season for the third-year back if he remains healthy.

Disappointed: Not his fault, but Matt Lawrence’s chance of making the 53-man roster continues to diminish as he remains on the physically unable to perform list. He is a capable special teams player when healthy, but this summer’s roster is too deep.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Impressed: Everyone assumed Mark Clayton would be cast aside in the offense when the Ravens acquired Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, but the former starter had a strong training camp, catching everything thrown his way. Stallworth was the logical choice as the No. 3 receiver, but Clayton received more reps in three-wide sets over the final two weeks of camp.

Disappointed: The Ravens loved what they saw out of David Reed during the OTA schedule, but the rookie failed to adjust to the quicker speed of training camp. Considered a sure-handed receiver coming out of Utah, Reed dropped countless passes and was not been given much of a look as a kick returner. Demetrius Williams is clearly ahead of Reed in the battle for the fifth receiver spot.

TIGHT ENDS
Impressed: Ed Dickson looked more like an established—not to mention explosive—veteran than a rookie on the upper fields at McDaniel College. The 6-foot-4 Dickson has tremendous size and great speed for a tight end. His versatility will be a welcome addition when the Ravens use him in two-tight end sets and at H-back on occasion. On a side note, Todd Heap had an excellent camp, showing he’s still capable of producing when healthy.

Disappointed: Already facing an uphill battle to make the roster after the drafting of Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Davon Drew was not able to stay on the field this summer. Drew showed more consistency than he did last season as a rookie, but it’s difficult to make the team when you’re never on the field. He’ll need to get healthy and make an impact in the remaining preseason games.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Impressed: Fellow guard Ben Grubbs earns more notoriety, but Marshal Yanda was ferocious in Westminster, proving he’s all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered two seasons ago. Yanda anchored and stood up Terrence Cody during a 1-on-1 drill in one of the highlights of the summer, just a couple plays after the 350-pounder had blown up the highly-regarded Grubbs.

Disappointed: Showing up 30 pounds lighter without the coaching staff’s approval and injuring his back on the first day of full-team workouts made Jared Gaither a slam-dunk choice. Not only are there concerns whether he’ll be ready by Week 1, but he’s missed valuable time to adjust to the right tackle position.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Impressed: He got off to a slow start while adjusting to playing with the 15 extra pounds he gained in the offseason, but Paul Kruger became a force on the defensive line, off the edge and even sliding to the inside in the nickel package. If Kruger can replicate what he showed in Westminster over the last two weeks, the Ravens will have another factor in the pass rush.

Disappointed: None. This is the deepest unit on the team. The only disappointment on the defensive line is the reality that the organization will have to cut a couple of talented players due to numbers.

LINEBACKERS
Impressed: His performance in the Carolina game aside, Jameel McClain was the biggest surprise of camp over the first three weeks, working at inside linebacker with the first defense. McClain played the run well and showed competence in pass coverage, but it did not carry over against the Panthers in the preseason opener. The competition for the starting job next to Ray Lewis is still wide open. Antwan Barnes earns an honorable mention.

Disappointed: The likely favorite to win the second inside linebacker spot prior to camp, Dannell Ellerbe came to Westminster out of shape and trailed McClain and Tavares Gooden for much of the way. Ellerbe improved his standing as the weeks progressed, but it was apparent how unhappy the coaching staff was as Ellerbe worked with the second defense in Westminster.

CORNERBACKS
Impressed: Expected to be brought back slowly, Fabian Washington provided a much-needed lift to the secondary when he returned to the field during the first week of camp. Washington appeared quick and made more plays as the weeks progressed. He will see his first game action against the Redskins on Saturday night and will be relied upon to be the team’s top corner, even if he’s nowhere near a true No. 1.

Disappointed: The injury to Domonique Foxworth is most appropriate here, but the brief eight-day stint of Walt Harris takes the cake in this department. He was unable to show he had anything left in the tank despite a solid career. And it’s tough labeling the likes of Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins as disappointments if you never had any expectations to begin with.

SAFETY
Impressed: While no one compares to Ed Reed, Tom Zbikowski eased concerns at the position with a very strong showing in Westminster. Zbikowski is faster and showed a strong nose for the football this summer after doing an adequate job in Reed’s place for four games last season. Despite not knowing the status of its future Hall of Famer, this unit of safeties looks very sound with Zbikowski and Dawan Landry anchoring the secondary.

Disappointed: Though labeling him a disappointment is bit strong, Ken Hamlin has done little to challenge Zbikowski for the free safety position, partly because the latter was excellent in practice. Hamlin was solid, but unspectacular, running with the second defense. The former Cowboy has great size (6-foot-2) but needs to show a stronger special teams presence to stick around when Reed returns to the field.

SPECIALISTS
Impressed: Yes, he’s younger, cheaper, and healthier, but the Ravens clearly loved what they saw from Morgan Cox to have jettisoned veteran Matt Katula two days after the preseason opener. Fans can only hope we won’t hear his name again all season.

Disappointed: Though he’s kicked reasonably well, the Ravens certainly wished Shayne Graham had seized early control of the competition with Billy Cundiff. Until the final two days of camp, Cundiff had outperformed the former Bengal by a slight margin. Graham struggled with field goals outside 45 yards in Westminster but kicked better during the practice at M&T Bank Stadium. The smart money is still on Graham to be the kicker, but the battle has been closer than most people thought.

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