Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Doubts about Ed Reed disappear while concerns over special teams linger

Earlier this season I had my doubts about Ed Reed. I watched him closely during training camp. I locked in on not only what he was saying but how he was saying it. The clear and present message the Ravens’ All Pro safety delivered suggested to me that he was hurt and he was frustrated over the neck and shoulder nerve impingement that forced him to the sidelines during the Westminster summer days.

And he seemed very concerned so much so, that I wondered if this could be Reed’s last season as a professional football player. I even wondered if he would make it through the season.

Today those thoughts seem like such a distant memory as the Ed Reed we’ve grown accustomed to, the one who has spoiled us for years, has nearly returned.

Clearly his ball hawking prowess remains intact and he has shown signs of returning to the physical style of play we’ve come to expect from Reed. Yet he’s not quite there. For good and obvious reasons, his tackling is suspect at times. That said, as Reed continues to make game changing plays, it’s easy to overlook a missed tackle here and there.

Speaking of missed tackles, the Ravens’ kick coverage continues to struggle. Some have criticized Jerry Rosburg and question the schematic changes he’s made. But here are a few things to chew on if you too are pointing the finger of blame Rosburg’s way…

First, you need to keep mind that the Ravens have 16 players on injured reserve. That depletes depth and depth is normally employed by special teams. Among the injured who were big contributors on special teams are Dawan Landry and Derrick Martin.

Secondly, the team lost other key special teamers as a result of attrition – guys like Musa Smith, Gerome Sapp, Gary Stills and Justin Green.

Finally, much like a new offensive or defensive system, it takes time for players to become familiar with the schemes and even the other personnel. When that personnel changes regularly as a result of injury, that prolongs the learning curve and the productivity suffers.

But that doesn’t necessarily free Rosburg from all accountability. One former Raven who once played special teams under Rosburg didn’t necessarily describe the former Falcons’ and Browns’ Special Teams Coach in glowing terms. And that player I would describe as a class act and one who chooses his words carefully.

Another problem on special teams is the relatively sheepish approach taken by Yamon Figurs in the return game. Last year after a stern pep talk from Ray Lewis, Figurs seemed to recapture his missing mojo and finished the season strong. He appeared to be growing into the explosive player that Eric DeCosta envisioned when the Ravens selected Figurs in the third round in 2007.

But clearly Figurs has regressed. He is hesitant and he can hardly be described as explosive and he appears lost following his blockers. In defense of Figurs, the blocking seems to be out of synch and dependent upon one-on-one blocks instead of a well planned schematic approach. That said, it hardly helps to explain why Jim Leonhard is more productive behind the same collection of blockers. Figurs days in Baltimore beyond 2008 could very well be numbered.


math_geek said...

Former Raven who once worked for Rosburg? I'm so freaking curious, but I can understand why you would keep that hush-hush.

So, some sleuthing is in order. First, the Biography.

2007: Atlanta Falcons
2001-2006: Cleveland Browns
1999-2000: Notre Dame
1997-1998: Boston College (Secondary Coach, so it doesn't count)
1996: Minnesota secondary coach (ditto)
1992-1995: Special Teams and other stuff at Cincinatti.

The Ravens Biography specifically names LB Brad Jackson as having played for Rosburg. He might be the choice.

Next up, Gerome Sapp is a possibility. You've always liked Sapp, haven't you Tony?

The only possible Atlanta Falcons player I can think of would be Ovie Mughelli. Did he play special teams in Atlanta last year?

Cleveland Browns players - Zastudil, of course. Also, Darnell Dockett, Gary Baxter (but I'm not sure he ever played ST there).

My guess is still Gerome Sapp.

Jerry said...

Ed Reed is a......PLAYMAKER!!! Even with the nagging injuries, I wouldn't trade him for either Polamalou or Sanders, both of whom are sensational, too.

Not buying the not-so Special Teams argument. This is a coaching problem, not a personnel problem and it's been a persistent problem all year! Figurs probably concentrates so much on not screwing up that it hurts his confidence and deprives him of that initial burst of straight away speed that is/was his trademark. Zbikowski returned kicks successfully at Notre Dame - surprised they haven't tried him there.

Willis McGahee is a huge disappointment. He appeared to be somewhat of a "slacker" last year, frequently seeking the refuge of the sidelines. And let's not forget that he had issues in Buffalo as well where they were obviously anxious to jettison him.

The Mission Statement of the NFL Hall of Fame states, "To honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football." Art Modell has made as much, if not more, of a contribution to professional football as any other owner, past or present. Failure to induct him not only tarnishes the image of the Hall, but also casts a shadow over their selection process!

RE: Sunday's game; count me as one who likes the Ravens chances at home, IF.........Rex Ryan's guys pressure Roethlisberger RELENTLESSLY. We dominated the Steelers in Pittsburgh for 56 minutes until, for some inexplicable reason, Ryan decided to attempt to protect a 3 point lead, which led to a loss in overtime!