Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ravens news, notes & an old friend pays a visit

Quarterbacks are so overprotected in today’s NFL that the integrity of the game – the game that the founding fathers of the league envisioned, is now seriously being challenged. NFL analysts have suggested without a trace of sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek intent that quarterbacks should be considered down after a two-handed touch.

Overly inflated fines are being levied by the league for little love taps to the helmet. Just ask Haloti Ngata who made that mistake against league princess Tom Brady.

Now those roles have been reversed.

On Monday Night Football before a national audience (at least those who were enjoying some form of energy drink and were still awake), Brady Quinn took an unnecessary shot at Terrell Suggs knee after Quinn tossed a pass that ended up in the wrong hands – those of Ravens nickel back Chris Carr. The blow will put Suggs on the shelf for at the very minimum 2 weeks but more likely it will be 4+ weeks. The injury puts a serious dent in the Ravens’ playoff chances, a team already struggling to rush the passer.

Cheap, unnecessary, a foul born out of frustration and arguably malicious intent…

Is Suggs’ knee any less valuable than Quinn’s? If Suggs took that shot at Quinn while he was in the pocket and as defenseless as Suggs was on the interception return, wouldn’t he receive a major fine?

Quinn’s fine should be no less.

And he better keep his head on a swivel the next time he shows up at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens lost another valuable contributor to injury on Monday when special teams ace Haruki Nakamura went down on the opening kickoff after suffering a broken ankle. Although no official word has come down yet, Nakamura seems destined for injured reserve which would then free up a roster spot for the Ravens.

Will they promote a practice squad player or might they scour the waiver wire to fill the 53 man roster spot to be vacated by Nakamura?

Here’s a suggestion – Lorenzo Neal.

Cameron's Crew has struggled to find an identity on offense and many have suggested that the team revert back to the three-headed monster approach with Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain. The trouble with that approach is that McClain no longer has the lead blocker that he had in 2008 with Neal.

Granted it is difficult to justify taking carries away from Ray Rice at this point. But if the Ravens are successful at developing an offensive identity and that is one of balance, it may be wise to have the jumbo style backfield to grind it out late in games during the cold, inclement weather months while featuring McClain and Neal. Of course this is all predicated upon Neal being in decent shape.

Even if the Ravens don’t bring back Neal, Cam Cameron would be wise to get the ball in McClain’s hands more frequently. The 2009 Pro Bowl fullback has been very productive as a pass catcher and his efforts with the ball have often moved the chains and sustained drives. If the Ravens can feature McClain as a receiver more, opposing defenses will be forced to assign additional resources to defend him and that could free up slot receivers or tight ends over the middle.

Speaking of tight ends, it is borderline mind boggling how Cam Cameron can’t find a way to get Todd Heap more involved in the offense and producing more explosive plays. Cameron had a high degree of success with Antonio Gates in San Diego and Heap has often represented a mismatch when flanked outside of the tackle box. Equally surprising is Cameron’s inability to incorporate LJ Smith into the game plan. Smith is an athletic receiver and along with Heap they would pressure opposing safeties and linebackers and force defensive coordinators to account for the potentially dangerous duo. That could help free up space on the outside for Joe Flacco who very clearly prefers to throw the ball outside of the hash marks.

Early in the season the Ravens did an excellent job of spreading the ball around on offense. That keeps all players engage, alert and contributing with more enthusiasm. Lately players like Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington have disappeared.

Kelley Washington is a big target who possesses solid hands and athleticism. It’s time the Ravens handed him the No. 2 receiver position over struggling Mark Clayton. Washington’s size is more conducive to throws inside the hash marks and he increases the margin for error. Slightly errant throws like the somewhat high pass to Clayton on a slant against the Browns that should have gone for a touchdown (thank you very much ESPN for the lame replays) would be less challenging for Washington. His size also helps in tight coverage against smaller defenders. Clayton can’t enjoy that kind of advantage because of physical limitations.

Matt Birk seems to be struggling. Word surfaced during the game in Minnesota that his pre-snap movements were tipping pass plays and placing unwelcomed stress on the offensive line. Some have opined that he continues to tip plays. While that could be true, the Ravens offensive line has just played poorly as of late, particularly inside the tackles. Perhaps a line-up change is in order. Marshal Yanda could and should be the next man up.

And finally, the Colts visit Baltimore again on Sunday and the fan experience is almost always surreal. Those of us who were Baltimore Colts fans are still left somewhat breathless when the day’s enemy is wearing the colors we collectively loved. For my money, they are the league’s best uniforms.

Over time, the level of surreal has lessened but this week I expect it to perhaps reach unprecedented levels when Matt Stover takes the field wearing his traditional No. 3 and sporting a horseshoe on his helmet.

A Raven from the beginning, seeing Stover on the visitor’s bench could hurt like hell, particularly if his foot puts a dent in the Ravens’ playoff aspirations.


Harryos29 said...

Harry os 29 Nov 18th
...Thought provocking comments as always T.L.
... I some times wonder if Cameron is getting too cute. All of your points about using 2 Tight ends excites me. I remember LJ SMITH when he played in Philly, causing havoc in opposing secondaries. Who can forget the OLD TODD HEAP?

...YES YES YES, on replacing Clayton as the Slot receiver with big # 15 Kelley Washington. On that HIGH pass to Clayton, as soon as Flacco Released that Pass, I said "TOUCHDOWN",,, then as I put my beer back down I said something else $%#%#%$^&%&*(()
... I thought the RAVENS would have re-signed Lorenzo Neal long before this? The injury to SUGGS will give some of our young LINE BACKERS, a chance to step up and get some game experience.
...Finally, best wishes to Billy Cundiff on his debut with the Ravens this Sunday.

Jerry B said...

The "Brady Rule" is a joke! Are you telling me that the safety of QBs is paramount to the safety of every other player on the field?! That is not just absurd, it's a personal affront to every player who straps on a helmet week in and week out, risking life and limb in a violent sport. Did anybody see what Brady Quinn, one of the "untouchables" did to Terrell Suggs Monday night? And the league is going out of its way to protect his ilk? The rules are making a mockery of the game of football, which is and has always been and will continue to be a violent sport. Isn't that why the players wear all those pads and helmet? Ridiculous......

Anonymous said...

Another note from the game: I want to see an end to the whining about Paul Kruger, especially from TL. I'll accept he was probably rusty, but he was clearly a fish out of water against Cleveland. His only penetration into the line was when he lined up offsides. The coaches apparently know a little more than the media and the average fan. The guy who needs to get into the rotation now with Suggs out to produce some pressure is Antwan Barnes. Just don't expect him to actually finish a tackle.

Tony Lombardi said...


You call it whining about Kruger when I've opined about his lack of playing time. The team has repeatedly said that he needs to contribute on special teams to make the active roster yet Demetrius Williams does zip. So why not try Kruger given the team's glaring needs at pressuring the QB.

Now I will admit that he did look a bit excitable but he did run a stunt that gave Ray Lewis an open lane to Quinn for a sack. Ray even acknowledged the effort after the play. And now with Suggs down, might some earlier playing time have benefitted him AND the team now?

To your point about Barnes...If the coaching staff knows better about Kruger than the media and fans (and I would agree) and they didn't see enough from him to activate him, can't you then say the same about Barnes? Why is it that you can argue for Barnes when the coaching staff knows more about him than you?

Or do you know more than they do?

Please enlighten us. I'm sure others want to know too.

We still have an open spot for you to blog here, Anonymous.

Paco Toce said...

Is that fat-ass no-talent coach wanna-be Yaffe posting as anonymous, Tony? Enlighten us so we can switch sites............

Jerry B said...

Good article, as usual, TL. Agree about Lorenzo Neal, but the "skinny" is they don't have "cap" room for his $1.5M contract. Hard to believe that a team supposedly groomed for a post season run would take that approach, especially with some "dead wood" on the roster. As for Stover, no way does he deserve anything but gratiude from Baltimore fans. If anyone deserves to be booed, it would be management for releasing him........

Anonymous said...

Gee Tony, but we HAVE seen Antwan in action quite a bit. He know he CAN get pressure on the QB. He just can't finish a sack or a tackle. Manning won't get sacked, however. We only need the line to make him release the ball early a few times, especially on 3rd down. Antwan can do that. And by the way, you HAVE been whining about Kruger.

Anon [But Not Yoffe]

Tony Lombardi said...

Funny, I never said "Yoffe."

What is that, something new at Starbucks?

So when Kruger is inactive it's because the coaches know best but when Barnes is inactive it's something else?

Little double standard?

And I'll stand by my "whining" to activate Kruger who has already contributed more than Demetrius Williams with his stunt to free up Ray Lewis for a clean path to Quinn.

Harryos29 said...

harry os 29 Nov 20 2009
OK guys.. This will be settled on the field on Sunday as it should be. Then we will all see if Barnes and Kruger can play. I'm going to whine a bit here.. I'm a big Fan of # 87..Dimetrius Williams...Ok ok..maybe he doesnt' practice well..what ever? How much talent does it take to ..get off the LINE..put on a Double move and run 50 yards down the field for a pass. If nothing else, we could use him to wear out the DB's?

Harryos29 said...

Harry Os 29 Early Monday
... Well , the Irony of all Ironies...MATT STOVE did come back with the COLTS and Make the Winning FG. Billy Cunduff had a terrific day, except for the chip shot 30 yarder that he missed. Flacco needs to look in the Baltimore History books and read that part, where JOHNNY UNITAS always said "DON'T THROW LATE OVER THE MIDDLE"! JOE FLACCO DID AND THE RAVENS LOST .. i MUST QUESTION CAM FOR CALLING FOR 3 STRAIT RUNNING PLAYS AT THE GOAL LINE.. OTHER TEAMS(NE) , FAKE INTO THE LINE AND ALWAYS HIT A WIDE HOPE TIGHT END FOR THE SCORE. I GUESS OUR O-LINE JUST CANNOT OPEN HOLES IN CRITICAL SITUATIONS.?