Monday, August 31, 2009

If the Ravens keep 2 kickers, it's bye-bye Hauschka


The Ravens coaching staff has to be feeling a little edgy about the way the kicking competition has unfolded. They wanted someone to win the competition through accomplishments, not by default. At this point it is anyone’s guess as to who will tee it up for the Ravens on September 13 against the Chiefs. If the team determines that they can carry the extra kicker and they then throw out the welcome back mat to Matt Stover, the extra kicker is likely to be Graham Gano. His kickoffs have been consistently deeper than Hauschka’s and his leg strength is clearly superior.

Heap shows old form


Clearly we can take away several positive things from Saturday night’s Ravens’ preseason win over the Panthers in Charlotte yet for me, the one that stands out the most is the performance of Todd Heap.

Heap has looked sluggish off the line of scrimmage and his cuts have been rounded. Consequently he gets little separation and doesn’t challenge the cover skills of opposing safeties and linebackers who normally draw No. 86 as a coverage assignment.

Last night didn’t start off well for Heap. He dropped a 6 yard pass from Joe Flacco in the first quarter, a catch that he once could make in his sleep. But to the surprise of this writer, Heap shrugged it off and contributed 4 catches for 35 yards and a score. Three of those catches were vintage Todd Heap showcasing soft hands in tight quarters.

If this game is an indication of things to come and Heap can stay healthy, it will go a long way towards elevating the Ravens passing attack.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Friday, August 28, 2009

This should FINALLY close the door on Marshall to Baltimore


For those of you who STILL want Brandon Marshall in Baltimore despite all of the evidence, discussion and innuendo that suggests the Ravens have absolutely no interest in this prince of a human being, I encourage you to click on the link below and then ask yourself honestly, “Do I really want this guy on my favorite team?”

“Play Like a Raven” is the theme for 2009.

Does this guy even remotely look like a player who would embrace that theme and warm up to John Harbaugh?

VIDEO: Brandon Marshall at Broncos’ practice

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hey Ravens fans, it won't be Reggie Brown at WR either...


Whether you choose to believe this or not is clearly up to you, but I can tell you without hesitation and this comes from an extremely reliable and well placed source...the Ravens have NEVER, contrary to what you hear every day on 105.7 The Fan, NEVER, reached out in pursuit of Brandon Marshall.

That’s not to say that calls weren’t placed to Ozzie by agents or the Broncos regarding Marshall but the Ravens have never had sincere interest. They like his ball skills – hate everything else. His character or lack thereof flies in the face of what the Ravens as an organization stand for today.

The team did hold discussions before the draft about Anquan Boldin. Some players were discussed that are currently on the team's roster along with a pick. It didn't work out primarily due to the contract demands of Boldin.

As for Reggie Brown, it's only natural to assume that the Ravens would have a friendly trade partner in the Eagles, given they are out of conference, just up the road and the Harbaugh-Reid connection. I've been told that the rumors regarding Brown are "garbage."

That doesn't mean the Ravens aren't interested in some wide receiver from the Eagles roster.

It appears though that that someone, assuming he’s an Eagle, isn’t Reggie Brown...at least not by trade.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hey Bart, Rex WAS NOT the Ravens head coach in '08!


Bart Scott was completely out of line after the Ravens preseason win against the Jets, reflecting upon the success of the Ravens in 2008 and giving the deliverer of his millions and millions a big (albeit misguided) pat on the back.

"[Rex] was always the head coach," Scott said in reference to Ryan's tenure in Baltimore. "He was the head coach of that football team last year, whether you guys know it or not. He kept that team together. The defense leads that team over there, and he controls that defense."

While it’s foolish to challenge the influence that Ryan had on the Ravens’ defense, to say that he was the head coach is a slap in the face to John Harbaugh who ushered in a genuine concept of “RAVENS”, where no individual, no unit was any more important than the team. Harbaugh also assembled an outstanding coaching staff that collectively helped to manage games and provide the necessary guidance and tutelage to navigate a team through a forfeited bye week and key injuries right to the AFC Championship Game with a rookie quarterback who had little time with the first team during training camp.

Harbaugh effectively dealt with issues concerning Willis McGahee and Chris McAlister – the later being a player that Ryan had trouble reeling in.

Bart is a good guy and is both family and community oriented. He’s intelligent, hard working and a tough player. But having co-hosted a radio show with him during the 2007 season, I can tell you that he can spew out things driven by emotion that belie his normally even keeled off the field temperament. Back in 2007 he publicly supported Michael Vick’s reinstatement even then. I tried successfully to go to a commercial break and sweep that one under the carpet.

Perhaps one day, we’ll do the same with this statement but for now to borrow from another coach that Bart didn’t seem to respect all that much, let’s call it an egregious lapse of reasoning on the Madbacker’s part.

Why is Derrick Martin playing safety?


Derrick Martin played well at corner for the Ravens during the 2008 summer camp and during the preseason before suffering a season ending labrum injury. This year the Ravens surprisingly moved Martin to safety despite the presence of Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. Martin at the very least has the cover skills ability of Frank Walker and he can be as physical as evidence by his play against the Jets. Mix in his bargain basement price and one has to wonder why the team moved Martin away from the corner if they are looking to augment Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington and Samari Rolle with a more physical player.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Ravens '09 WR's better than '00 but...


Those who will argue that the Ravens current corps of receivers will be adequate enough to win a Super Bowl will point to the 2000 season to support such an argument. That year the team’s best two receivers were Qadry Ismail and Brandon Stokley. However the argument is hardly valid because then the Ravens had well above average play at tight end with Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coates. This season the team is holding its collective breath given the propensity for injury of both Todd Heap and LJ Smith.

Ravens running backs fight to survive


It would appear that the Ravens will keep only 1 fullback and 3 running backs on the roster although a fourth is possible. They did carry Lorenzo Neal, Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Jalen Parmele towards the end of 2008 when Rice was nicked up. If they go with a fourth RB at the moment it’s a two horse race between Parmele and Matt Lawrence. Sixth round pick Cedric Peerman hasn’t looked very sharp and his change-of-direction skills have always been questioned. Further inhibiting Peerman’s cutting ability is a fumbling problem. Peerman has been overcompensating for his small hands by choking down on the football. Consequently his running style could be described as stiff.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Kelly Gregg injury could be damaging on several fronts


Kelly Gregg is having an MRI on his shoulder that he injured in Monday Night’s game against the Jets. At this point team officials are just hopeful that Gregg will be ok. Keep your fingers crossed Ravens’ fans. Gregg certainly hasn’t been himself during camp or in either of the preseason games. He is trying to recapture that quick, explosive first step that has always helped to give him an edge against larger opponents. With it he gained an upper hand in leverage. Without it, he can be eaten up. If Gregg does return, that is clearly something to key in on going forward. The defensive tackle’s injury could impact any potential deals the Ravens might be pursuing. Clearly with Gregg DT is a position of strength from which they can deal to add more depth at tight end or offensive tackle.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Frank Walker an inviting target in more ways than one


Sometimes a former assistant has an advantage over his old team – he knows their secrets. That’s why it’s no surprise that Rex Ryan used draws and screens against his old unit to counteract their collective aggressiveness.

It should shock no one that he also attacked Frank Walker with speed.

Walker brings physicality to the Ravens secondary that is clearly lacking on the edges. While he’s shown improvement Fabian Washington will remind no one of Chris McAlister when it comes to run support or tackling in the secondary. Nor will Domonique Foxworth for that matter.

Walker at this time last year was no different really than he is at this time this season. He was burned regularly. Yet somewhere along the way, he started to play well when the Ravens were forced to turn to him down the stretch last season due to injury.

Maybe his legs were fresher than the normally speedier opponents and maybe that helped him latch on inside of the 5 yard contact area. Maybe the wear and tear of the season slowed opposing receivers that were starters from day 1. Maybe it was a combination of both that led to Walker’s success late in the ’08 campaign.

But with a $1.6 million cap savings the Ravens will realize if they cut Walker loose and given Derrick Martin’s physical play coupled with the team’s needs on offense it’s looking more and more like Walker the Talker just might become Walker the Walker.

Rex Ryan did the Ravens a favor


Rex Ryan did his old team a favor last night by completely disrespecting the Ravens receivers and attacking Joe Flacco. Without a prototypical No. 1 receiver and a proven No. 2 or even a dangerous weapon at tight end Rex sent a message to Ozzie that he better get busy on the phones.

Last week I blogged that given the Ravens’ improved depth and the overall improvement of the team, they could advance beyond the AFC Championship Game even if the wide receiver corps remained status quo.

Unfortunately status quo is beginning to look optimistic.

Derrick Mason is Derrick Mason and Demetrius Williams is showing signs that he might be able to contribute – certainly more than last year but given his history of injuries, that is anything but an even money bet.

Kelley Washington looks like he can contribute here and there and for those who want to bust on him for not making a play on that jump ball in the end zone last night and close your argument by suggesting that Randy Moss or Larry Fitzgerald or Chad Johnson would have come down with it, here’s a newsflash for you – he is NONE of the above. He is being paid the NFL minimum PLUS, you have to give Lito Sheppard some credit for making a nice play on the ball.

Justin Harper made a stride or two in the game hauling in both passes thrown his way for 62 yards including a streak down the right side line for 51 yards. Beyond Harper, the highlights include a big drop by Jayson Foster who was clearly hearing footsteps.

This is what you expect from the Ravens receivers really and I have to think that if the first unit stayed on the field, Mason and Williams may have posted decent numbers.

Yet the lack of depth is alarming given the absence of Mark Clayton.

Clayton has had hamstring issues in the past and there are no guarantees that once he believes he’s fully rested that those hammies won’t rear their ugly heads again. There’s a better chance of a recurrence than Clayton going the full 16 plus without some sort of setback.

Making the wide receiver health/depth issues even worse is the team’s lack of depth at tight end. It’s no secret that the Ravens wanted Brandon Pettigrew in the 2009 NFL Draft and that to me is an indictment on Todd Heap. His cuts aren’t as sharp, he’s slower off the line of scrimmage and he seems to lack that gear in the open field that he once had. Bottom line is, he just plays much older than he is and for those who believe that there is some resurgence lying in wait for Heap, you better think again.

LJ Smith is far quicker than Heap off the line and shows decent change of direction skills but he is a china doll and at this point, given his familiarity with Smith in Philly, you have to wonder why Harbaugh gave the thumbs up on a guy so undependable particularly with an injury prone tight end sitting at the No. 1 position on the TE depth chart.

It’s time for Ozzie to get busy.

And no the answer isn’t Brandon Marshall.

The answer is another tight end AND another solid receiver. Waiting for the waiver lists to post might not be the way to go either. Maybe the Ravens need to start thinking about dealing from a position of strength and as always, that position is the defensive front seven.

The Ravens hosted 26 outside scouts last night looking at Ravens players on the bubble according to ESPN’s MNF broadcasting crew.

It’s time to find a dance partner or two Ozzie before your quarterback position ends up like the tight ends – that is fit for A Christmas Story wooden crate.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ravens fans should be wishing Roethlisberger a speedy recovery


The Steelers are saying very little about Ben Roethlisberger’s Achilles injury other than it doesn’t appear to be serious. He is making the trip tonight to DC where Pittsburgh will take on the Redskins at Fed Ex Field.

Could the Steelers be throwing out a smokescreen with Big Ben on board for the trip?

Are they secretly scouring the available quarterbacks while keeping Ben’s physical status shrouded in mystery with his presence tonight at the Snyder Estate amounting to no more than a red herring?

They might be and if so, who could blame them?

These questions aside, I can’t help coming back to the same hopeful conclusion – Ben is going to be ok!

I want Roethlisberger to be ok. A healthy Big Ben makes the league better. Of course it makes the Ravens’ arch-rival/enemy better as well but that’s ok. Who among you would want to beat the Steelers in 2009, win the AFC North Title and then have it feel somewhat hollow because the Steelers’ fans that infest the Land of Pleasant Living remind you repeatedly that the Ravens were 0-3 in ’08 against Ben?

Let’s face it, if you harbor resentment towards Roethlisberger it’s because he’s beaten your team. When he escapes a sack again and again and makes a play downfield, it sends you into a frenzy. Chairs have been broken, TV’s destroyed, windows shatters and marriages pushed to the brink when Big Ben slips a Ravens’ defender and hits Santonio Holmes with a game changing pass.

Admit it, with all due respect to Joe Flacco, you’d love to have Roethlisberger on your team. And since he never will be, you hope that someday Flacco can become the playmaker that Big Ben is.

Competitors want to beat their foes when both are at their best. The Steelers are not the Steelers without No. 7. Charlie Batch? Charlie B-B-Batch? How can anyone feel good about beating the Steelers with Charlie Batch behind center?

C’mon admit it; the best thing for all of us is for Roethlisberger to be 100% and ready to go at the start of the season. If you disagree, then you’re probably the kind that wanted a head start as a kid when participating in footraces or you are the first to suggest mulligans on the golf course.

That’s the behavior of a loser!


Photo by Sabina Moran

Friday, August 21, 2009

Want a Ravens ticket to Opening Day? Here's an "option" for you...


Fortunately for owner Steve Bisciotti, the Baltimore Ravens have attracted sellout crowds from the first day of the team’s inception. Over the years, beginning with the franchise’s early days at Memorial Stadium and since 1998 in their new home at what is now M&T Bank Stadium, Ravens fans have grown and are now considered among the NFL’s best.

That’s the good news.

The downside of the team’s popularity is…well, the team’s popularity. It often leaves fans who can’t afford season tickets or those without access to single-game tickets on the outside looking in.

Of course there is always StubHub, Ebay or some ticketing agency or broker. But oftentimes those alternatives are either cost prohibitive or they are not 100% fail proof – sometimes both!

Your inhibitions about the expense or the accountability of the transaction freeze you, and it keeps you from enjoying a live presentation of the National Football League.

If only there was a more economical and more secure way of purchasing single game tickets.

NOW…fortunately there is – OptionIt.com

Let’s first talk money…

With OptionIt, you are simply purchasing an option to buy Ravens tickets without taking on the obligation of actually paying for the ticket. For example, let’s say you’d like to purchase four tickets on Opening Day when the Ravens host the Kansas City Chiefs on September 13, 2009 – a game that naturally has extremely high demand and long ago was sold out.

With OptionIt you are guaranteed seats today for Opening Day when you pay $220 for four options ($55/option as shown here) to buy tickets having a face value of $95 each. PLUS you don’t have to pay for the $95 ticket just yet. Your option provides the flexibility for you to wait up to the drop dead date (in the case of the Chiefs game) of September 7, 2009.

With OptionIt, you can purchase options for all Ravens home and away games and the option prices vary depending upon the expected demand for the game at the time you purchase the option. Comparatively speaking the options to buy those same $95 face value tickets for the Browns visit to M&T Bank Stadium on September 27 sell for $50/each.

Options are also available for playoff tickets. Do you think the Ravens are playoff bound? Do you think they will finish among the top 4 seeds? If so they will host a playoff game and you can lock in your ticket AT FACE VALUE today with an option of just $45.00. As the season progresses and if the season goes as most of us think, that option value will undoubtedly climb.

Not only that, the option provides a few other creature comforts per se. Let’s refer back to that same Opening Day game against the Chiefs on September 13.

Same four tickets…two of your friends can’t make it because something came up and now there’s a conflict in scheduling. Well those two friends can then sell those options to someone else and even make a profit.

Perhaps none of you can go on September 13. Maybe an unexpected expense popped up and you could use the money. Fine! You can all sell your options and realize a handsome return on your initial investment.

Or maybe, you can all go to the game for the all-in total of $150 each and enjoy a premier game at less than premier pricing. StubHub for example is selling comparable seats from $193 to $206 each for the Ravens v. Chiefs game. Similarly, you are guaranteed a seat through OptionIt when the Ravens host the Steelers on November 29 for $205 compared to StubHub’s offerings ranging from $225 to $271 each.

Clearly there are financial advantages.

But is there a risk?

OptionIt: An Official Partner of the Ravens

Ok, so you’ve used StubHub before and you are comfortable with them and now you’re wondering, “What is this OptionIt company and can I trust them?”

ABSOLUTELY!

OptionIt is an official partner of the Baltimore Ravens and they guarantee the tickets which OptionIt provides on their website. You can view charts that itemize all tickets and their exact locations not just for home games, but away games as well.

“OptionIt gives fans an innovative, new way to access hard-to-find tickets”, says Baker Koppelman, Vice President, Ticket Sales and Operations, Baltimore Ravens.

“Not only will buying an option allow them to purchase a ticket at face value, it provides them with an unprecedented level of flexibility and convenience.”

Convenience, flexibility, affordability, upside potential, safety and peace of mind – that is what OptionIt provides.

And it is the best option for single game tickets for sold out teams like your Baltimore Ravens.

For more information on exactly how OptionIt works, take a few moments to watch the OptionIt video below.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Marshall to Baltimore rumors nothing more than hot air(waves)

It’s not going to happen no matter what rumors, newspaper sales, radio buzz and website hits The Sun's Mike Preston tries to stir up. Give the man credit for all the above but take a few points away for being way off base. We’ve been saying it and we’ll keep saying it – the Ravens are not interested in Brandon Marshall and contrary to what many say, the team has never pursued Marshall. They love his skills, hate everything else.

Marshall’s antics fly in the face of what John Harbaugh stands for. Steve Bisciotti has said in the past that he would like to model his franchise after that of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you can park your emotions at the curb for a moment, be honest…you would love for the Ravens to have the consistency of that organization.

So if we can take Bisciotti’s words at face value, ask yourself this, “Would the Steelers pursue Brandon Marshall if their wide receiver corps consisted of the Ravens’ receivers?”

I think that would be a, “No!”

And it’s a “No!” for the Ravens too.

Ravens plan to drive their Carr

Chris Carr was a bit disappointed by his Ravens debut. He looked a bit out of sorts on the outside as a corner but was very competent as the nickel assigned to a slot receiver. Look for the team to give him more snaps on the outside in the preseason so that he is more battle tested in the event that he is called upon to play corner due to injury. That said, look for him to contribute more in nickel and dime packages and add some punch to the return game.

Contrary to public opinion Ravens pleased with T Cousins

Oniel Cousins received his share of criticism following the Ravens preseason game against the Redskins mostly due to the holding penalties he committed. But keep this in mind – Cousins played the entire game at left tackle, a position he isn’t accustomed to. That’s 82 plays in the heat and humidity taking on fresher opponents who took far fewer snaps. And let’s not forget that he went face to face with Washington’s highly touted rookie DE Brian Orakpo. The Ravens believe that Cousins can be a competent back-up right tackle and that the mistakes he made against the Redskins are correctible technique issues.

The Ravens most impressive rookie so far this summer is...

Some team officials believe that the best rookie in Ravens training camp has been Lardarius Webb and that’s saying a bunch given the play so far of the team’s top 2 picks, Michael Oher and Paul Kruger. If Fabian Washington goes down for a game or two (and that’s pretty much an even money bet given his propensity for injury), don’t be surprised if Washington loses his job to Webb. Washington is playing for his next contract and given Webb’s promising future and the hardly dry ink on Domonique Foxworth’s contract, this is probably Washington’s final season in Baltimore barring some unforeseen circumstance.

Will the Ravens really miss former mates Ryan, Scott and Leonhard?


When the Ravens first lost Rex Ryan to the Jets only to be followed by Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, many in Baltimore fretted the departures and wondered if the voids could effectively be filled. To make matters worse the national media folk seemed to drive that worrisome point home even more, perpetuating those fears.

Today it seems that on the local front those fears have not only subsided, they’ve all but disappeared.

New Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison was hardly asleep during Ryan’s defensive meetings last season and he’s clearly incorporated some of the former coordinator’s flair into this year’s incarnation of the Ravens defense. Perhaps more importantly, Mattison wants to instill a bit more discipline and gap accountability into his unit. So far the results are solid.

Helping Mattison fill the voids (and then some) left by Scott’s and Leonhard’s departures are Tavares Gooden, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura, Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb.

Gooden has been a solid tackler during camp and is very quick to the ball exhibiting some explosiveness that Scott lacked. McClain is growing into an adept pass rusher, a skill that seemingly escaped Scott about midway through the 2006 season. Over the course of his final 45 games in Baltimore, Scott registered just 7 sacks. Dannell Ellerbe may be the surprise of camp so far showing suddenness in short spaces while delivering eye opening hits.

Leonhard reached rock star status here in Baltimore more because of his return skills and not so much for his ball skills as a safety. Leonhard was an inconsistent tackler when supporting the run and he was caught out of position from time to time when defending the pass. To his credit Leonhard got hot at the right time down the stretch and he cashed in.

Replacing Leonhard is the man HE replaced in ’08, Dawan Landry. Landry looks leaner, faster and has improved as a cover safety. Nakamura provides the depth that Leonhard once did and the coaching staff has been very impressed with his ability to blitz the passer and he’s shown ball skills in the secondary that Rex Ryan once compared to Ed Reed’s.

Chris Carr assumes the punt return responsibilities from Leonhard. Last year Leonhard averaged 11.3 yards to Carr’s 10.1 while with the Tennessee Titans. As a kick returned Carr was among the league leaders with a 28.1 yard return average. Waiting in the wings as a returner is the dangerous Lardarius Webb.

Miss their personalities and their place in the Ravens’ family.

Welcome them when they return on Monday.

But don’t fret the departures of Ryan, Scott and Leonhard.

The Ravens have it covered.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ravens don't need a stud receiver to advance beyond AFC Championship Game


We are three weeks into training camp and a game deep into the preseason schedule and the raging debate about the Ravens’ need for a No. 1 receiver continues. How many times have you heard that if the Ravens could acquire a No. 1 wide out it could catapult them from Conference Championship losers to Super Bowl contenders?

How narrow minded is that thinking?

Get an Anquan Boldin or a Brandon Marshall, keep everything else the same and the Ravens will be Miami bound come February, 2010.

If that is how you see it, please for a moment step down from the clouds of fantasy football la-la land.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Ravens wide receivers as a unit are no more productive in 2009 than they were in 2008. To then conclude that since there has been no improvement at the position, the team can go no farther than the AFC Championship Game completely kicks to the curb all of the other positive changes the team has made to augment their roster.

What if special teams are measurably more productive and the Ravens then are able to manage field position and the clock more efficiently. Suppose there is improvement in the secondary and they defend the intermediate routes more effectively. Maybe Joe Flacco’s familiarity with the playbook enables Cam Cameron to open up a few more of its pages and the Ravens more aggressively attack by air within the hash marks.

Ray Rice is stronger and fresher and now understands the rigors of an NFL season while Willis McGahee is rejuvenated and ready to compete to reclaim the starting position. Doesn’t that competition make the Ravens better, all other things being equal?

And then how about this…

What if Michael Oher can hold down the fort at right tackle without perpetual help from the tight ends or tailbacks? The Ravens could then get Todd Heap and LJ Smith out into patterns more just as they could with backs Rice, McGahee and Le’Ron McClain. Wouldn’t that put more pressure on opposing defenses and create more favorable one-on-one matchups?

Of course it would!

So at the end of the day, the emphasis doesn’t necessarily have to be upon finding a prototypical No. 1 receiver but rather upon overall improvement in the passing game. If you can get that with improved pass protection and distributing the football, what difference does it make if Anquan Boldin wears No. 81 in purple?

Had the Ravens made the trade to get Boldin and it would have cost them their No. 1 pick, they now would be without Michael Oher AND Adam Terry. Then the team would revert to holding in the backs and tight ends again and Boldin would see double coverage downfield while Flacco is on his back staring at the clouds.

The point here is that there are ways to improve a football team and the Ravens have done exactly that. They are better on both lines; stronger in the secondary and believe it or not linebacker too; better in the return game; healthier in the backfield and more dangerous at tight end. This team is deep – it has been evident during camp and it was pretty clear when the Ravens hosted the Redskins last Thursday.

The coaching staff has a full year together and familiarity with the roster while organizationally there exists a singularity of purpose. The collective pride of the team embodied in the mantra of ’08, “What’s Our Name?” has manifested itself into ‘09’s credo, “Play Like a Raven.”

Is this Ravens team better than the team that took the field in the 2009 AFC Championship Game?

Absolutely!

Does that mean they’ll advance to Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010?

Absolutely not!

As we’ve all seen the NFL season is a marathon and many things happen along the way. Some teams that you expect to be dangerous today may look like freebies on the schedule by mid-season as a result of injury or underachievement. Other teams will surprise you much like the Ravens did in ’08.

The league is extremely dynamic and characterized by an unpredictable ebb and flow. To simply add a No. 1 receiver to the roster of a 2009 AFC Championship participant is hardly a guaranteed ticket to Miami. Such a move guarantees only one thing – a higher payroll and foregone draft picks.

And we’ve seen before how that can set back an organization, haven’t we?

Friday, August 14, 2009

WEB ADVERTISERS BEWARE of Alexa Rankings


Alexa Rank is a ranking system which bases its ranking schema on the level of traffic each website receives from the number of people who visit a website with the Alexa toolbar installed. The trouble is, the toolbar may be considered a nuisance to many browsing the web and consequently they don't install the toolbar, the numbers become skewed and then all Alexa bets are off.

Alexa numbers can be manipulated in many other ways by placing the word Alexa frequently in a site’s content. Maybe a company’s employees are strongly encouraged to install the Alexa toolbar on their computer and then click on the company’s site often throughout the day.

The truth is there are tons of other ways to manipulate this highly inaccurate measuring system. Website managers who pound their chests about great Alexa rankings are probably doing exactly that and then they point to the manipulated results to convince their sponsors that they are delivering value.

But if you really want to test the effectiveness of a site, Google a subject that is covered by that site. After all, aren’t Google rankings the real standards of measure for a website’s popularity? When is the last time you Alexa-ed something? Basing popularity of a website on Alexa instead of Google is like choosing Ma & Pa’s Barnyard Bookkeepers over Ernst & Young for your company’s auditing requirements.

I have spoken to people in the advertising business, some who even sell web ads for organizations like the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Baltimore Sun. Not once have they used Alexa as a measuring stick and two of them never even heard of Alexa. One of the professionals who had heard of Alexa said, “Alexa is laughable as a credible source for web traffic data.”

For more on the problems with Alexa rankings, check this link from a credible source.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So far it's Justin Harper all over Marcus Smith in Ravens' training camp 2009


The Ravens wide receiving corps has certainly been under the microscope throughout the offseason and during training camp and it’s safe to say that the unit has received more scrutiny than all of the other team units combined.


I seem to recall similar attention directed towards the team’s offensive line last year and even the highlighted position of quarterback. Both positions answered their critics and I suspect that the wide receivers will do the same this year provided they can stay healthy.


Most close observers of the team expect the Ravens to carry five wide receivers. There’s just too much depth in the secondary and at linebacker to justify keeping a marginal at best wide receiver – one that can easily be replaced from the scrap heap of pass catchers that aren’t among the 1,696 players on active rosters league-wide.


Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams are locks for the 53 man squad barring a major injury. Kelley Washington has looked smooth and offers a special teams presence arguably unmatched by his corps mates. He looks like the fourth receiver among the group.


Battling for that fifth spot are Marcus Smith and Justin Harper.


Smith is a tough player and a converted running back. Those skills and his size and strength could translate to yards after catch (“YAC”). The problem is Smith can’t catch. He seldom makes a tough catch and often drops relatively easy ones.


Harper on the other hand has been the best homerun hitter in camp. He has size (6’3”), uses his body to box out defenders and he has deceptive speed. Just ask a few of the Ravens corners.
Harper needs to develop consistency but he’s been far more of a pass catching threat during camp than Smith. It really isn’t even close.


Now Ravens’ scouts are quick to point out that Smith is a tough player and brings it on special teams. But don’t the Ravens have plenty of guys that are good, tough, fast athletes who can strengthen Jerry Rosburg’s unit? The roster is loaded with those kinds of players.


What the Ravens have very little of are receivers who can make plays in the passing game and so far, Harper is that guy and he’s clearly that guy when measured against Smith.


Earlier during the 2009 summer camp, John Harbaugh made it clear that a player’s salary would not dictate his position on the team’s depth chart. Similarly we can only hope that a player’s draft position has no bearing on whether or not they make the final 53 man roster.


At this point the 2008 7th round pick Harper is far more deserving than Smith, a 2008 fourth rounder.


We’ll see if this continues when the games begin on Thursday.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Camp Notes: Flacco Struggles, Webb labeled "best rookie in camp"



It was over 30 day at Westminster today meaning that the veterans age 30 or older did not participate. Others not participating included: Terrell Suggs (heel); Mark Clayton (hamstring); WR Biren Ealy; WR Thomas White; Edgar Jones (thigh); Ben Grubbs (ankle); and Oniel Cousins (ankle). Tavares Gooden returned to practice after sitting out for precautionary reasons (sports hernia) as did Jared Gaither (trapezius).

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

OFFENSE: Joe Flacco had a poor outing overall today but managed to sprinkle in a few gems. However judging from the second year QB’s obvious frustration, the bad clearly outweighed the good. During red zone drills Demetrius Williams broke wide open from the right on a post just to the right of the right upright. Flacco’s pass sailed far over Williams’ head after which Flacco screamed an out of character expletive not suitable for children. He struggled throughout the session picking up blitzers, many of which came in untouched off the edges. The nemesis in those situations was often Lardarius Webb. Flacco was intercepted by Chris Carr on third and 7 while trying to squeeze a throw in to Kelley Washington. Frank Walker had a pick of Flacco as well and added another during one on one drills, a relative rarity in such breakout sessions.

Flacco was very impressive with his feet in the pocket and he was decisive and sudden when he spotted room to run…Cam Cameron emphasized the passing game today with running plays coming few and far between, normally only running after the offense hurried to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball to try and catch the defense napping. Results of those efforts were mixed…During 9 on 9 drills designed to install running plays, John Beck’s hard cadence once again triggered false starts on the offense instead of the intended encroachment penalties against the defense. At one point the false starts were so frequent that Justin Bannan pleaded with the offense barking, “Focus!”

Ray Rice caught a swing pass to the right and showcased his excellent change of direction skills, nearly forcing LB Jason Phillips to blow out his right ankle while trying to corral the second year RB…Le’Ron McClain seems to be shedding weight much like he did in ’08. The team appears to be trying to get McClain out in space as a receiver. Once he gets a head of steam, he is a tough tackling assignment... The backs seemed to miss blitz pick up assignments regularly today…Tight end LJ Smith practiced without issue. He stopped suddenly after one short catch to the right and changed direction to avoid Tavares Gooden in pursuit. As a blocker Smith faired decently but was no match for Paul Kruger on a couple of occasions…Davon Drew practiced and caught a few passes although he looked a bit sluggish on one crossing route.

The best wide receiver on the day was Justin Harper. He made a couple of nice plays across the middle on the receiving end of throws by both Flacco and Troy Smith. Harper did drop one nicely placed pass by Smith but recovered on the very next play badly beating Evan Oglesby on a go route down the right side for a 65 yard TD from Smith. Earlier he fought through tight coverage from Domonique Foxworth to muscle his way to a throw from Smith on a comeback route…Marcus Smith’s struggles with dropped balls continues. On one of his perfect throws on the day Flacco stepped up in the pocket and dropped a pass beyond the outstretched arms of defenders and hit a streaking Smith in stride while running down the right hash mark. Smith dropped it.

Smith seemed to run out of gas about halfway through practice although he did haul in another beauty from Flacco splitting defenders Tom Zbikowski and Evan Oglesby on a post that would go for a long score. Overall Smith just doesn’t seem to be a very dependable receiver at this point and he may need to outplay Harper in the preseason games to make the team if that roster spot is driven purely by performance and not the politics of a fourth round pick v. a seventh round pick.

Kelley Washington looked smooth as did Ernie Wheelwright…Eron Riley was sloppy out of his break on a 15 yard out delivered perfectly and on time by Beck. As a result the pass fell incomplete... Demetrius Williams had a rather uninspired practice and dropped a perfect pass from Flacco at the back of the end zone on a 35 yard attempt…Despite the absences of Mason, Clayton, Ealy and White; Yamon Figurs took no reps today at wide receiver. He is completely on the outside looking in at this point.

The offensive line was thin today and consequently their overall performance suffered. Michael Oher left the field without assistance with a slight calf injury. He did not return but the injury is not considered serious. Joe Reitz was singled out by the offensive coaches for a nice pick up during a slick defensive stunt. Shortly thereafter, Reitz was involved in a fight with an unspecified defensive lineman. A large gathering of players circled the combatants shielding the view of all onlookers. Antwan Barnes played the role of village idiot jumping on to the pile in a manner similar to baseball brawls near the pitcher’s mound. Generally speaking Barnes is a bit cocky for a player who has been pegged as an underachiever by some insiders…Reserve tackle Stefan Rodgers made a nice block on the right edge to spring Willis McGahee for a 15 yard TD scamper during 9 on 9 drills.

DEFENSE: It’s almost unfair at times just how good Haloti Ngata is. He had one sack today and on a designed rollout to the right led by Flacco, Ngata pushed his man through the backfield disrupting the play before it could develop…Paul Kruger pressured regularly…Jarret Johnson demonstrated some textbook bull rushing while William VanDeSteeg remains an intriguing prospect…Dwan Edwards is moving well and relentlessly pursues and hustles…Dannell Ellerbe continues to make a push for a roster spot and is well ahead of rookie Jason Phillips at this point…Tony Fein made a nice play in the backfield to drop Cedric Peerman for a 2 yard loss…Gooden seemed to be playing without discomfort.

Frank Walker played well and is far ahead of where he was at this point last season…Haruki Nakamura ran with the first team in Ed Reed’s place and is clearly ahead of Zbikowski on the depth chart…Lardarius Webb is explosive and was extremely effective as a blitzer today. One team official described Webb as the best performing rookie in camp so far. Clearly he was today…Chris Carr played well in coverage while Oglesby struggled…Derrick Martin seems to be growing more comfortable at safety. K.J. Gerard was a surprise during OTA’s but is borderline MIA in Westminster.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Graham Gano by his own admission had his worst day of camp missing from 35, 48 and 53 yards out. He did connect on kicks from 43 and 51. Gano may have some camp fatigue setting in…Steve Hauschka had the day off…Sam Koch boomed his punts towards the end of practice and was effective with his end over end punts intended to die inside the 10.

NOTABLES & QUOTABLES: Jim Hostler to Marcus Smith: “Marcus, get in shape, lose 5 pounds and we’ll be ready to go.”…John Harbaugh thought the team had a good practice and as a result towards the end of the session, he announced to the team that if Gano could connect from 36 yards out, the team would have the afternoon off. Gano connected. Afterwards I asked the rookie kicker if he had an escape route planned had he missed the field goal and he replied confidently, “No, I knew I would make it.”…Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator described both kickers as NFL caliber kickers in practice. He compared practice to singing in the shower. You have to be good at practice before you can take the real stage…The team doesn’t seem to be too concerned about Cousins ankle injury…Harbaugh believes that Foxworth has met and exceeded expectations so far and that he’ll benefit from the defensive mates who study film and really understand opponents.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mark Clayton...last man standing from Ravens' 2005 draft class


And then there was one…

Adam Terry’s assignment to the injured reserve list has ended his 2009 season, his fifth as a Raven before it ever really started. His problematic knee puts an end to any hope of a competition for the starting right tackle position and it could also put an end to Terry’s career as a Raven, particularly if Oniel Cousins steps up and proves to be a capable reserve. Terry is not signed beyond the 2009 season.

The loss of Terry leaves only one player on the Ravens’ active roster selected during the 2005 NFL Draft. That player…Mark Clayton.

Clayton is also playing for his next contract and his toughness and determination; his level of inspired play will be on display this season and reveal something about Clayton. The consensus opinion is that Clayton given his level of production thus far is a bust as a first round selection.

But is that fair?

Is it fair to pin that on him after suffering through the Boller/Billick years? Is it fair to conclude that he was a disappointment in 2008 when he and other Ravens’ receivers often faced double coverage given the Ravens preference to hold in their backs and tight ends to support the pass protection?

Maybe…maybe not…

Clayton’s ability or inability to step up in 2009 will determine how he is viewed once and for all. And in retrospect, it will also determine how the 2005 draft class is viewed. Besides Clayton, that draft class included: Dan Cody (2nd), Adam Terry (3rd), Jason Brown (4th), Justin Green (5th), Derek Anderson (6th) and Mike Smith (7th).

Brown and Anderson are value picks given their performances but the rest clearly underachieved and consequently critics will argue that Ozzie Newsome and his front office did as well if Clayton fails to step up in 2009.

So far during this 2009 Training Camp, Clayton has done little to quiet his critics and now he’s on the shelf for two weeks with a hamstring injury and that could cost him his job given Demetrius Williams’ performance thus far.

There’s still one from that 2005 draft class but for how long?
Photo by Sabina Moran

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Meet the new McGahee


I have been openly critical of Willis McGahee in the past. To me, he is a quintessential underachiever – a gifted athlete with highly desirable skills who for whatever reason, doesn’t put those skills to use for his employer on Sundays.

McGahee isn’t really a malcontent. He doesn’t lash out verbally at anyone in a malicious way. If anything, his body language when addressing the media is a bit sheepish and reminiscent of that of a little kid.

I think McGahee is just lazy and I have little use for such athletes.

I’ll take the Kelly Greggs of the world again and again and again.

Heading into this offseason the Ravens would have cut McGahee loose if they didn’t have what I referred to as an $11.25 million salary cap noose hanging around their collective neck. So they kept him on the roster, much to their chagrin.

Yet somewhere between his last appearance at mandatory organized team activities and the start of Training Camp 2009, the light went on for McGahee. Maybe his agent Drew Rosenhaus reminded the former Miami Hurricane that he could be cut loose in 2010 if he didn’t step it up AND if the Ravens did part ways with him, it would crush McGahee’s future market value.

Who would want what would then amount to a two-time loser (strikeouts in Buffalo and Baltimore) with a history of knee problems and poor work habits?

Whatever the reason, McGahee is clearly a different guy today then he was two months ago. He’s in better shape, practicing hard, he’s vocal and enthusiastic and the competition between him and Ray Rice can do nothing but make the Ravens better.

Let’s hope that John Harbaugh and his staff can continue to keep McGahee motivated and that they can employ the Motel 6 philosophy and keep the light on for No. 23.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ravens rookies' progress

Michael Oher continues to play well holding his own against nearly all challenges both in pass protection and run blocking. With the team’s depth chart taking a hit due to Adam Terry’s season ending knee surgery, I have to wonder how many are now challenging this first round pick and suggesting that the team should have opted for Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt…

Paul Kruger batted down a Troy Smith pass and exhibited toughness in special teams drills. He’s a high energy player who needs to develop some moves at the point of attack. Offensive linemen, particularly Oher, swallowed him up today once they engaged…

Lardarius Webb plays with toughness but today seemed a bit slow to recover after a receiver’s second move. He was beaten for a score during live scrimmaging by Harper from 2 yards out…

Jason Phillips saw more snaps today than he has the entire camp. While shaking off the rust, he was applauded by Ray Lewis for shooting the gap on a running play…Davon Drew sat out today…

Cedric Peerman fumbled at the 3 on a third and goal from the 2.

Key Camp Battles heat up

Key Camp Battles

Tavares Gooden v. Jameel McClain: Gooden has the inside track on the inside linebacker position vacated by Bart Scott. It’s his job to lose at this early point. McClain seems much more comfortable off the edge and at times has been very explosive as a blitzing OLB. He could be more of a situational player much like Adalius Thomas early in the former Ravens’ career. McClain has improved as a pass defender.

Ray Rice v. Willis McGahee: Rice continues to run with the first team although McGahee gets a fair number of snaps with the No. 1 offensive unit. Both look very good and the competition is a very healthy thing for the Ravens offense. So far this battle could not be going any better and looks like a dead heat so far although Rice is a more dangerous weapon as a receiver than McGahee.

Graham Gano v. Steve Hauschka: Both kickers have competed well but give the edge overall to Gano. He’s been slightly more consistent on field goal attempts and measurably better off the tee.

Marcus Smith v. Justin Harper: The coaching staff loves Smith’s toughness and special teams abilities but Harper has been the better receiver so far during camp. He needs to be more consistent but generally he makes more plays than Smith and while his hands can’t be defined as “sure” they are better than Smith’s. The winner of this battle will be the team’s No. 5 receiver and usually that means special teams contributions will weigh heavily.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS: Marshal Yanda ran with the first team at right guard while Chester moved over to left guard in place of the hobbled Ben Grubbs. Grubbs did practice sparingly. Yanda's availability is borderline miraculous…The team ran some no huddle with 4 receivers split wide, one of which was Ray Rice…Jalen Parmele caught a short pass over the middle and collided with Tom Zbikowski. Zibby left the field shaken. Parmele runs heavy…Haruki Nakamura is fast becoming an exceptional blitzer. He came in clean to sack Troy Smith…Smith was up and down on the day. He hit Harper on a skinny post, nice throw and catch despite tight coverage from Evan Oglesby…Joe Flacco didn’t make any costly mistakes yet his play can hardly be categorized today as sharp. He is throwing off his back foot often when pressured heavily…After a TD pass from Smith, Kelley Washington celebrated by mimicking Ray Lewis’ pregame entrance dance.

Yamon Figurs was dressed but was mostly an observer with limited participation on special teams drills…Jarret Johnson looks very comfortable in the hybrid role and is active against the run, in coverage and getting after the quarterback – clearly a poor man’s Adalius Thomas. He provides excellent value to the roster…Robbie Felix played a little guard in addition to center and pulled nicely from the RG position to lead a nice run for Matt Lawrence.

Shaping the Ravens' Roster


It’s very early in camp and clearly many battles have yet to be won and lost. But as of now here’s how I see the Ravens’ roster shaping up with 41 locks to make the squad as of now and the rest competing for those remaining 12 spots. Note the talent listed among those that are not locks. There will be some very difficult cuts this season for the organization:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks: Joe Flacco; Troy Smith; John Beck (3)
Running Backs: Ray Rice; Willis McGahee; Le’Ron McClain (3)
Wide Receiver: Derrick Mason; Mark Clayton; Demetrius Williams; Kelley Washington (4)
Tight Ends: Todd Heap; LJ Smith; Edgar Jones; Davon Drew (4)
Offensive Line: Jared Gaither; Ben Grubbs; Matt Birk; Marshal Yanda; Michael Oher; Chris Chester; O'niel Cousins (7)

DEFENSE

Defensive Line: Trevor Pryce; Haloti Ngata; Justin Bannan; Kelly Gregg (4)
Linebackers: Ray Lewis; Terrell Suggs; Tavares Gooden; Jarret Johnson; Jameel McClain; Paul Kruger (6)
Secondary: Ed Reed; Domonique Foxworth; Fabian Washington; Dawan Landry; Haruki Nakamura; Lardarius Webb; Chris Carr; Tom Zbikowski (8)
Specialists: Sam Koch; Matt Katula (2)

OTHERS IN THE MIX

RB: Jalen Parmele; Cedric Peerman; Jason Cook (3)
WR: Marcus Smith; Justin Harper (2)
OL: Robby Felix; David Hale; Joe Reitz (3)
DL: Brandon McKinney; Dwan Edwards; Lamar Divens (3)
LB: Dannell Ellerbe; Antwan Barnes; Brendon Ayanbadejo; Prescott Burgess; Jason Phillips; William VanDeSteeg (6)
DB: Evan Oglesby; Derrick Martin; KJ Gerard; Frank Walker; Samari Rolle (5)
Specialists: Steve Hauschka; Graham Gano; Yamon Figurs (3)

ROSTER THOUGHTS: With Adam Terry on the shelf for the year it could be that a fourth tackle on the 53 man roster could come from another team’s list of roster casualties…Note that the number of locks (41) does not include a kicker at this time...I'll revisit this after the first preseason game v. Washington

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Camp Notes for August 1 ~ Morning Session


Saturday’s morning session could have lulled a sleep deprived visitor to Westminster into a long summer nap. It started slow and lacked energy but in retrospect, it proved to be the calm before the storm.

When the team set up for live scrimmaging, the energy levels soared as did the intensity of the play on the field.

The second team defense was matched against the first team offense and on the very first play Ray Rice scooted around the right edge following a crushing block by Michael Oher who collapsed the defensive left side. Rice turned the corner and reeled off a run of over 20 yards before being forced out by Fabian Washington.

On the very next play, Willis McGahee knifed through the line behind Chris Chester and Oher for a 9 yard gain. Oher stood up fellow rookie Paul Kruger on the play. McGahee followed that play with a 5 yard run between Matt Birk and Chester.

Rice got the call on a simulated third and four play and ran behind Ben Grubbs and Jared Gaither on the left side for 8 yards and a first down.

This was the pattern early during live scrimmaging – the first and second team offensive lines executing very well, save for a McGahee run that ended abruptly when Dannell Ellerbee darted through the line to drop No. 23 after just a 1 yard gain.

In the following sequence with Troy Smith at the controls of the second team offense, Smith hit fellow namesake Marcus Smith on a deep pass down the sideline. Marcus adjusted to the throw nicely to haul it in despite the physical coverage by Frank Walker. The officials ruled that Smith was guilty of offensive pass interference. The side judge is in training as well – the call was wrong and if anything Walker was guilty of the infraction.

Marcus Smith is an interesting player to watch during camp. He seems to find ways to get open but has struggled to hang on to the football. He has blocked well in support of the run and he’s also a solid special teams player. But strictly as a receiver, Justin Harper is outplaying him. He flat out has dropped too many balls.

On Saturday Troy Smith rolled left on a designed roll out and delivered a strike to Smith on a comeback route down the left sideline. Domonique Foxworth had tight coverage but Smith had a chance to make a play. He didn’t and it prompted Cam Cameron to bark, “Come on Marcus, make that play!” As if to give Smith a chance to redeem himself, the Smith combination was called upon again on the very next play. Running a crossing route from left to right, Troy hit Marcus in stride. Unfortunately Marcus deposited the ball on to the turf once again.

OTHER NOTES & OBSERVATIONS: Cedric Peerman earned the praises of his coaches for attacking the line of scrimmage…RB Coach Wilbert Montgomery was heard grumbling on the sidelines following a Matt Lawrence run which was stopped short of a first down. “Running backs cannot come out of the huddle and not know where the first down markers are.”…Ed Reed made a nice play in Cover 2 support when Demetrius Williams got by Foxworth on a stop and go route down the left side. Flacco made an excellent throw but Reed arrived with the ball to break up the play. The Flacco to DWill tandem connected later in practice on a 40 yard play over Foxworth…John Beck for the second consecutive day was accurate with his throws in short tight spaces…

Early on in practice the offense had their way with the Ravens’ defense prompting Hue Jackson to rib Ray Lewis, “Not saying much today Ray!” Shortly thereafter, the defense took over and dominated…The deep pass was featured regularly late in practice with mixed results. Flacco was intercepted by Dawan Landry with no receiver in the neighborhood. Landry got Flacco once again a short time later after a poorly thrown screen pass that overshot its target (Ray Rice)…Troy Smith was picked off by Haruki Nakamura who returned the INT for 30+ yards. Smith knocked Nakamura out of bounds in frustration prompting the second year safety to toss the ball in Smith’s direction. Antwan Barnes got in Smith’s face after his unnecessary hit on a former high school teammate…

Fabian Washington struggled last year holding on to near interceptions. On Saturday he experienced a bit of déjà vu, dropping another INT that probably goes for a score if he hangs on. To make matters worse, Reed was just behind Washington waiting for the ball. Reed would have scored as well. Washington was seen after practice working with the pitching machine to hone his catching skills. He’ll need to go back to the machine a few more times, particularly after watching him completely whiff on one throw.

The battle between kickers Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka is close. While the later has been assigned to the first team field goal unit, Gano has the early edge and is noticeably stronger than Hauschka off the tee. Each kicker attempted field goals from approximately 32, 39, 44 and 48 yards. Hauschka missed his 48 yard attempt while Gano was wide left on his 39 yarder. Terrell Suggs stood under one of the uprights alongside an official signaling good or no good with each of the kicks to the amusement of the fans on hand.
Photo by Sabina Moran

Ravens were never interested in Brandon Marshall

It’s interesting how many sources claim that the Ravens were in pursuit of Brandon Marshall. They never, ever seriously considered the guy. Read my lips…NEVER…that’s N-E-V-E-R!

Just because Marshall has game and wanted out AND everyone outside of the Ravens’ front office believes the team has a glaring need at wide receiver, media folk and fans alike pegged the Ravens to this malcontent.

The fantasy football-minded among you who supported the idea of Marshall in purple rationalized away this off the field train wreck’s transgressions by saying, “Who cares about the 13 run-ins with the law! How many CONVICTIONS has he had?”

Or what about this one: “His girlfriend is just a gold digger.” You know the one he’s allegedly used as a speed bag a time or 13?

Then there were those who point at the troubled players that have made their way through Baltimore in the past. Bam Morris, Eric Green, Corey Fuller and Jamal Lewis – all have had skirmishes or worse with the law as a member of the Ravens’ organization. And let's not forget Atlanta and Ray Lewis.

So what’s one more thug, right?

Maybe you are on board with Anita Marks’ opinion that Marshall is going to be putting up numbers somewhere this season so why not have him do it in Baltimore?
Now there’s some seriously flawed thinking…

Last year the Ravens credo, “What’s our name? RAVENS” was all about the team. This year the theme is “Play like a Raven.” Add the two together and does it suggest that the Ravens give up high end draft picks and a boatload of money for a player whose behavior screams arrogance, entitlement and selfishness?

Some might suggest that a little bit of thug on an NFL football team isn’t such a bad thing. Do you have to have a 53 man roster of choir boys?

Not necessarily but why pay dearly for the risk of trouble? It flies in the face of what John Harbaugh stands for and it really goes against an organizational philosophy that touches the players, the coaches, the scouts, the front office and the ownership. The philosophy is one that stresses team and the composition of the team will consist of tough, smart, fast, good citizens who love the game of football.

By creating an organization marked by classy employees, it invites more of the same. Future free agents may be more inclined to join the Ravens over clubs competing for their services because of the culture. All things being equal, do you think that the wife of a player looking at the quality of an organization might pick a team like the Ravens over another because they nurture an inviting value system?

From a business perspective, Steve Bisciotti is boxed in to the north by the Eagles, to the south by the Redskins and to the west by the Steelers. All of those organizations have deep, rich traditions with large fan bases. So how does Bisciotti reach out and expand his fan base to help him sell more tee shirts and hats, etc, etc? He has to appeal to the masses and a wholesome quarterback and a solid organization practicing core values might have national appeal particularly when the current commissioner deals with off the field issues in a heavy-handed manner.

Marshall to Baltimore never had a chance and for those who want to twist quotes from Ozzie Newsome or Harbaugh and suggest they had sincere interest in the guy, let’s put that notion to bed now. Marshall has talents the Ravens would love to harness but not with the associated risks. If Marshall were to come in and become an off the field problem, Harbaugh would lose credibility with the players who are now on board the Harbaugh train but initially hesitant to embrace his style.

Think of Willis McGahee. Here’s a talented player who has struggled to toe the Harbaugh line. Now a year later and judging from his surprisingly inspired play during camp thus far, it appears that McGahee is on board with Harbaugh.

The system works.

Why would they risk it for even one malcontent?

The TEAM is building something here and the idea of Marshall to Baltimore was really dead on arrival. The Ravens probably chose not to squelch the rumors and allowed them to fester because the rumors can’t fracture their organizational resolve and they might even help to create leverage for them when dealing with other players, perhaps even Derrick Mason.

Now that Mason has returned and is practicing with the team today maybe fans will back off the Marshall idea.

But then again the prevalent fantasy football mentality might not allow it.
You only need to listen to The Fan weekdays between 3-6 PM for proof.