Friday, April 30, 2010

Could Ronde Barber be a short-term solution for the Ravens?

Word out of Tampa is that the Glazer Family, owners of the Buccaneers, is feeling a cash flow squeeze and that they have possibly overextended themselves when they acquired England’s professional football club Manchester United.

Rumors are now flying that the Bucs are looking to trim their payroll and they may be targeting high priced veterans in the twilight of their respective careers. One such veteran could be Ronde Barber.

The highly decorated 35-year-old cornerback is a five time Pro Bowler, a three time first team All Pro and he is among the players on the NFL’s All Decade team for the 2000’s.

However for the first time since his rookie season, Barber failed to record an interception in 2009 and his coverage slipped noticeably.

If released the question is, “Does Barber have anything left in the tank?”

Should Ozzie Newsome conclude that he does, might Barber be a short-term solution to bridge the gap to the healthy returns of Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington?

Could he muster up a little of that old flare while surrounded by better defensive teammates?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Did the Ravens discover the Next Michael Oher?

We are all very familiar with the story of Michael Oher not only here in Baltimore but throughout the country. Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game and then later Hollywood in a movie based on the book starring Sandra Bullock made sure of it.

Clearly Oher’s story is fascinating, enabled by the selflessness of the Tuohy Family.

Could it be that the Ravens have discovered a candidate who might serve as the subject of The Blind Side sequel in recently drafted tackle Ramon Harewood?

Harewood, a native of Barbados was not introduced to football, never played a down until his freshman year in 2007 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Harewood arrived at Morehouse on an academic scholarship but this video describes, the Barbadian was convinced that he could put his size to use for the betterment of his family.

This will undoubtedly be one of the more interesting and developing stories to observe during training camp and the preseason.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Asomugha to Baltimore rumor has no merit

There’s a silly rumor floating around the internet about a deal that would send Jared Gaither and a 2011 pick to the Raiders in exchange for Nnamdi Asomugha. The deal sounds crazy and a team source indicated to me that it is. He added that the Raiders aren’t shopping Asomugha and then wondered aloud, "Why would they?"

Good question, right?

Al Davis’ pirates have actually had a pretty decent off season and another lopsided trade like this would be a setback for them.

Now if the Raiders were talking to the Patriots who seem to regularly fleece Oakland it might have some semblance of merit. But the Raiders of late have exercised more lucid decision making.

Maybe they stuck Al Davis in a closet somewhere out there in the Bay Area.

Funny, I just had this image of the controversial owner starring in a Weekend at Bernie’s sequel…

Ravens' Brooks has some new toys

Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks has some new toys this season. The Crimson Tide's Terrence Cody is stout at the point of attack and while his weight issues concerned some clubs, the Ravens were not among them. Ozzie Newsome shares a great relationship with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and as a result the Ravens gathered enough reassurance that they can manage the weight and shape the athletic behemoth into a very productive football player. Cody is a likable guy and is likely to pick up a few tricks of the trade from Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata.

Defensive tackle Art Jones was very productive in 2008 for the Syracuse Orangemen (he had 18 tackles in one outing against Notre Dame) and was highly regarded at one point. Jones grew complacent and was a bit out of shape in 2009. The Ravens believe they got value with the fifth round selection and project him as a productive rotational player.

Besides Cody and Jones, Brooks will now be working with Cory Redding. While the former Lion and Seahawk lacks experience in the 3-4 alignment he does provide three-technique efficiency and should be able to more than pick up the slack for the departed Dwan Edwards. He may not be the run stuffer that former Raven Justin Bannan was, but he does provide much more competency rushing the passer than either Bannan or Edwards. Interestingly Redding has been referred to as a more economical version of Trevor Pryce.

Here’s something else to keep in mind…Redding was once so highly regarded by the Lions (2007) that he was slapped with the franchise tag. Also, defenders seem to play better when they become Ravens, sort of the polar opposite of defenders that leave the Ravens’ system.

2010 could be Heap's last in Baltimore

Many have questioned Todd Heap’s durability and toughness throughout his career as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. He has started 108 of a possible 128 regular season games (84%) missing 10 games in each of the 2004 and 2007 seasons. But other than his rookie, Heap has started all 16 games in his 6 other campaigns with the club.

No one can deny that Heap’s speed and quickness have been affected by the wear and tear of the Kyle Boller years. There isn’t a Ravens receiver in the team’s history that has taken more vicious hits than the two-time Pro Bowler.

Sure part of that can be blamed on Boller’s inaccuracy – often forcing Heap to slow down, adjust to errant throws and then leaving himself vulnerable to punishing tackles.

But another culprit leading to Heap’s crowning as the team’s King of Pain is the offense itself. Without much in the way of homerun threats, safeties could always roll double coverage towards Heap and if they couldn’t break up the pass, they could and did chip away at Heap’s career with bone crushing tackles.

It’s ironic now that as Heap’s career winds down, the Ravens suddenly have the weapons to open up the field, distribute the ball and prevent the doubling down strategies. With the additions of tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta along with Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Donte Stallworth, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can spread opposing defenses.

As a rookie Heap tutored under Shannon Sharpe back in 2001. The following season Sharpe was a cap casualty. This season Dickson and Pitta will look to draw from Heap’s experiences. Don’t be surprised if the former Arizona St. Sun Devil meets a fate similar to his mentor.

Actually, you should expect it.

This is more than likely the last season you will hear M&T Bank Stadium ringing with that familiar sound.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Concerns about Ravens secondary are overblown

Back on January 21 I blogged that the Ravens had other concerns besides the secondary that require more immediate attention – specifically the passing game and the pass rush.

Before the bye last season, the Ravens secondary was shredded by some top flight quarterbacks and they gave up six plays of 40+ yards. After the break, they yielded just 2 during their remaining11 games. Tom Brady did next to nothing against the Ravens in the playoffs and Peyton Manning wasn’t the reason the team didn’t advance further in the playoffs. The blame for that rests on the shoulders of the offense.

So the team made the move to get Anquan Boldin; they’ve added Donte Stallworth and re-signed Derrick Mason; and now in the draft they’ve added two promising tight ends and a Brandon Stokley-like receiver in David Reed.

Many will argue that the best way to help the secondary is to improve the pass rush. The additions of Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody help in that regard. Now most will tell you that Cody is a two down guy and does little to help a pass rush. But given his ample girth and ability to push offensive linemen around, his interior thrust coupled with Haloti Ngata should help collapse the pocket and make it easier for Kindle, a re-committed Terrell Suggs and the developing Paul Kruger to make a difference on the edges.

Folks forget that after the bye last season, Greg Mattison’s unit was the second best pass defense in the league. Chris Carr played much better and even the beleaguered Frank Walker played better. Walker will never be a starting corner in the league but he does bring toughness and tenacity to the nickel and/or dime position.

Might they all benefit from an improved pass rush?

Might they all be more comfortable in Mattison’s system?

Critics are quick to point out that the team has injuries at corner (Lardarius Webb & Fabian Washington) and it’s possible that neither will be at full strength to start the season. But let’s not forget that both were out down the stretch last season. Both were spectators in Oakland, New England and Indianapolis.

Both should be available early in the season.

A look at the early season schedule shows the Jets, Bengals, Browns, Steelers and Broncos on the docket prior to a trip to New England. Outside of Carson Palmer, I’m not seeing much of a threat there in the passing attack of the other opponents.

Besides, there will absolutely be some fallout on the rosters of teams during training camp. Because there is no salary cap, there’s no reason for teams to shed players from rosters now. Most teams welcome the battles that are sure to ensue during camp as players fight for their careers. Teams will love the competition.

The losers who play corner could be short-term winners for the Ravens.

An improved roster now is great.

But the one that matters most is that which takes the field on Monday Night, September 13 in Meadowlands Stadium.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More From the War Room

The Ravens were well aware of the reported knee issues with Sergio Kindle yet their doctors were comfortable with his physical condition. Given his availability with the 43rd pick in the draft the consensus was that the former Longhorn is well worth what was deemed to be marginal risk. Kindle’s intensity could provide some special teams value as well…Terrence Cody is a player that some believed the Ravens would select at No. 25 depending upon how the board unfolded in the first round had they kept the pick and were unable to move out. While there are some mild concerns about weight, the team believes that Cody is moving in the right direction in that regard and has shown improved levels of maturity.

Ed Dickson's selection in the third has been lauded by most draft analysts and clearly it fills a need. It was however surprising to see the Ravens follow that pick with another tight end, Dennis Pitta. The BYU Cougar is somewhat reminiscent of Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten. The Ravens love his football instincts...Most will wonder why the Ravens haven’t selected a corner thus far in the 2010 draft (6th round pick still outstanding). They wanted to draft a corner but true to his long-standing best player available mantra, Ozzie has refused to concede to need. The last corner that the team thought was worthy of their pick was Javier Arenas, CB from Alabama selected by the Kansas Chiefs. Just a thought here, don't forget about CB Cary Williams who the Ravens plucked off the Titans practice squad last year. The team believes that he has ball skills and could emerge as a solid backup in 2010.

David Reed the WR selected out of Utah was described by ESPN’s Todd McShay as the best value wide receiver in either of the fourth or fifth rounds and. Reed is compared to Brandon Stokley…DT Art Jones is a player who once carried a second round grade before a knee injury. The Ravens get value and more depth to the all important position of defensive line.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ravens explored trading up to get Bryant

Some draft buzz…

The Ravens couldn’t find a trading partner to move up and get Dez Bryant. The Packers at No.23 were in love with Bryan Bulaga while the Patriots at No. 24, a frequent trading partner, wanted a third round pick just to move up one slot. The Ravens said no thank you! Keep in mind that the Ravens only had to give up a sixth round pick in 2006 to the Cleveland Browns in order to move up one slot (from No. 13 to 12) to select Haloti Ngata.

I would be very surprised if the Ravens don’t take a tight end with one of their three picks today. Word is if Jermaine Gresham was still on the board at No. 25 they would have chosen the Sooner. That said the organization, particularly the scouts and coaches are said to be very excited about the added picks. They’ll get value with their next tight end.

The surprise pick of the draft, Tim Tebow aside, has to be California Bears defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. A good player who fits a Jacksonville need may have been available in the middle of the second round. They could have picked up another pick or more to move back and get Alualu later. Jacksonville doesn’t pick again until No. 74 (3rd round). Their former second round pick belongs to New England.

Wonder if Jerry Jones will be as smiley when Bryant holds out?

It will be interesting to see if Dez Bryant reports to training camp on time…

Let’s put the reported behavioral issues aside and consider the facts.

To start, let’s turn the clock back one year to the 2009 NFL Draft. Then a raw burner named Darius Heyward-Bey was the first wide receiver to come off the board, selected by the Oakland Raiders with the 7th pick. Three slots later the 49ers chose Michael Crabtree.

Other than Al Davis, no one in this galaxy thought DHB was a better player than Crabtree, particularly Crabtree and his agent Eugene Parker. Crabtree threatened to sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft in 2010.

After a hideous holdout (ending in early October) during which Parker argued that his client should be paid more than DHB’s $23.5 million in guarantees, Crabtree caved and accepted the paltry sum of $17 million in guaranteed money.

Yesterday with the 22nd pick the Broncos made Demaryius Thomas the first wide receiver selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. Thomas has off the chart athleticism but like DHB, he is a bit unrefined. Also like DHB, a receiver most consider superior was chosen after him.

Enter Dez Bryant.

Similar circumstances right?

Given the NFL’s slotting system, you would think that Thomas would receive a slightly better deal than Bryant. Tell that to Bryant’s agent.

His name is Eugene Parker.

Think Parker learned anything from last year?

I guess time will tell but the bet here is Bryant will opt for a big H in big D.

Dez'd and confused!

From the start of the draft folks repeatedly asked me who I thought the Ravens would take.

Tough question really because as I blogged before, I don’t think the Ravens knew who they would take.

But that was a cop out of an answer so instead of the cop out, my oft repeated reply tonight was staged in three categories:

1. Who do I think might be available and who from that group might the Ravens take that I would be ok with?

2. Who do I think might be available and who from that group do I hope they pass on?

3. And finally, a pair of players that I didn’t think would fall to them but if they did, boy would I love them in purple.

So, those were my categories…

For No. 1 I listed Kareem Jackson, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson and Jared Odrick.

For No. 2 my frightful list included Jermaine Gresham, Terrence Cody and DeMaryius Thomas.

And for 3, my guys were Brandon Graham and Dez Bryant.

The players from list No. 1 were all selected relatively close to the Ravens at No. 25 and therefore I see them as fair value picks. Not steals, but solid nonetheless.

Gresham predictably went to the Bengals and I breathed a sigh of relief – but not because he’s a bad pick. I just think that given the draft’s depth at tight end, there’s no reason to burn that pick for a guy with questionable blocking skills on a team built around the run.

Terrence Cody’s man cleavage made me question his desire to excel.

DeMaryius Thomas while a gifted athlete to me represented a player never challenged at the collegiate level and never forced to really execute the complete wide receiver route tree because he was so athletically superior to opposing defensive backs. Plus Georgia Tech’s pre-dominantly run first offense never really challenged him to make pre-snap adjustments and get in psych with his quarterback. THAT is an every down occurrence in the NFL and at No. 25, I want a player ready to produce in 2010. I’m not seeing Thomas that way.

Now to category three…

Brandom Graham simply just makes plays in the offensive backfield. Whether it be in run support or chasing down the chucker, this guy is a baller. That said, at No. 13 in the draft I’m thinking, “slight reach.”

Dez Bryant is the guy I really wanted for the Ravens. You see I’m not one of those guys who thinks the Ravens defense needs retooling. They were the No. 3 defense overall in 2009 and that happened during a season in which they were adjusting to a new D-Coordinator.

A No. 3 defense is plenty good to win it all and let’s make no mistake about it, Greg Mattison’s troops were NOT the reason the team failed in the playoffs in Indianapolis. That burden rests on the shoulders of Flacco & Co.

In many ways the best defense is a productive and sometimes lethal offense. It can force opposing offenses to be one-dimensional.

So when Dez Bryant had slipped to New England there was a buzz in the air at Manhattan Grill where I took in Round 1 of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Bryant has game. He has speed, size, hands, physicality and change of direction skills. Mix him in with a maturing Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Donte Stallworth and suddenly you have an offense that screams, “danger.”

I’m thinking Lost in Space Robot B-9 right about now…

Danger plus a top end of the spectrum defense spells AFC Championship Game or better in my mind.

I’m not sure what happened when the Ravens were one pick away from Dez.

Did they not want him?

Did the fact that Bryant is represented by the agent (Eugene Parker) who orchestrated an insanely unproductive hold out for Michael Crabtree weigh in?

Or did New England (a frequent trading partner of the Ravens) simply want to keep Bryant out of their own conference, opting to peddle him to Jerry Jones?

Choosing Bryant would have been huge for the Ravens from the outside looking in.
The buzz of anticipation in the air was zapped as we watched in a collective state of uncomfortably numb NFL Network and ESPN cameras showing a celebratory Dez Bryant and family just above the Dallas Cowboy logo.

Yet before the disappointment of the Ravens’ failure to land an obtainable Bryant could actually seep in, we learned that the Ravens acquired the Broncos’ 2nd, 3rd and 4th round choices in exchange for the Ravens No. 1.

In a deep draft, that was an opportune exchange for the Ravens.

Thank you Tim Tebow.

Thank you Josh McDaniels.

Let’s hope by Saturday night we can also say, “Thank you Ozzie Newsome.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Who do you think the Ravens will take?

Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of

You know it really jazzes me when I read Facebook notes, instant messages or emails from visitors to regarding the NFL Draft. The Football IQ out there amongst the Ravens Nation flat out rocks!

That said, I find it almost laughable how much criticism is directed towards the Ravens’ front office when it comes to who isn’t drafted and what available free agents are not signed.

I think fans sometimes forget that the men running the Ravens have been doing “football” for many years. They played it as toddlers, in high school and college. Some even played at the professional level. They’ve been scouting for years; studying tape; analyzing tendencies, body styles, attitudes, life adversities, intelligence and passion amongst many other things to ascertain whether a player can play at the NFL level or mix in with the collection of talent that currently wears the purple and black.

They do this 24x7 and they have forgotten more about football then we’ll ever know.

Questioning them is really like questioning your surgeon’s internal medicine advice.

So when I am asked, “Who do you think the Ravens will take with the 25th pick?” I don’t know really.

And you know what? I don’t think the Ravens know.

Do you think they went into the 2009 NFL Draft thinking Michael Oher?

I don’t think so.

They really liked Brandon Pettigrew with that 26th pick last year and when the Lions surprisingly selected him, a few in that war room were visibly upset – or so I’m told.

I don’t know, you don’t know and they don’t know who they will select at No. 25 – that’s what I know!

But for you-know-what and giggles let’s kick around a few names.

Based upon my conversations with sources and the things I observed and heard during the Pre-Draft Luncheon (which by the way is often filled with strategic lying) here are my thoughts on a few of the names often slotted for the Ravens as it relates to the 25th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft:

DE/DT Jared Odrick ~ He’s rising on draft boards and the sense I get is the Ravens really like the guy. He’s tough, determined, loves the game, has played for a big time program at Penn State and he just seems like a John Harbaugh kind of player. I’m just not convinced that they think he’s worthy of this pick. That said, he’s a safe pick. Maybe not a real difference maker but a solid contributor, compared often to Pittsburgh’s Aaron Smith.

TE Jermaine Gresham ~ Everyone loves Gresham’s pass catching ability and he is a smooth route runner. He’s a guy who could flank out wide and create mismatches and pressure defenses. But the thing I can’t get away from is how often I’ve heard the club discuss how some the league’s elite tight ends have been selected in the third round. Mix that in with the depth of this tight end class and I think Gresham, if available, will be passed on. The Ravens will probably take their chances on a tight end in Round 2.

WR DeMaryius Thomas ~ Prior to his foot injury one source said that he didn’t think that Thomas would be available to them at No. 25. Thomas brings all the measurables but he hails from a run first offense and was never asked to run a full route tree. Therefore he may lack the polish early on in his career to be successful at the next level. My guess, if Thomas is there the Ravens will reluctantly pass. They’ve done next to nothing in the way of developing WR talent and given how close they are to challenging for a title, I think the team is more inclined to go with a player who can contribute right away.

CB Kareem Jackson ~ This Crimson Tide baller has been climbing boards. He’s a guy who has played top level competition in the SEC and he’s spoken of in glowing terms by opposing wide receivers. Oh and I did say he’s from Alabama. His height might come into question but Jackson brings a nice combination of cover skills and tackling ability. He looks like a safe pick at No. 25.

DE/OLB Brandon Graham ~ The Ravens need a playmaker at defensive end and that describes this LaMarr Woodley clone. Some believe he is better than Woodley at this stage of his career and if that’s the case, drafting him is a no brainer. However, while I do believe the Ravens like Graham a lot, I keep hearing the issue of size surfacing. Graham is listed at 6’1” and his arms are relatively short. If there is a division in the ranks of the Ravens’ war room and Graham is available, a trade could and should happen if Ozzie opts not to pick the Wolverine.

WR Dez Bryant ~ Some think that the character issues that are part of this Oklahoma State prospect will send him tumbling down the board. Bryant’s issues are not real behavioral problems with the law. Concerns regarding this Cowboy’s attitude stem from his love, or lack thereof, of the game of football. What might he do with millions in the bank, but bankrupt in football passion? I can’t help but think about Randy Moss back in 1998 falling to No. 21 in the draft but maybe that’s just wishful thinking...I don’t think Bryant falls past the Broncos and the Bengals but if he does, I expect the Ravens to jump all over Dez!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Will Gresham be the Ravens pick?

Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of
Some have speculated that the name on the Ravens’ draft card that is delivered to Roger Goodell at the podium in Radio City Music Hall on April 22 will be Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham. The pick makes sense but despite the team’s screaming need for depth at the position the bet here is that the Ravens will look beyond Gresham even if he’s still on the board.

The 2010 draft is relatively rich with tight end draft candidates and given the team’s needs coupled with limited picks (five) they may opt to see who might be available with their second pick. Or they could possibly even grab a tight end in the third round should Ozzie Newsome manage to move back in the draft and pick up via trade the third round pick they sacrificed in the Anquan Boldin trade.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about the tight end position:

Generally speaking tight ends much like safeties and guards are somewhat undervalued. Those selected early in the draft (Rounds 1-2) are usually the best receiving tight ends; those in the middle rounds are often balanced providing competency as both a receiver and blocker but not great in either category; tight ends chosen at the back end of the draft are often good blockers who require development as receivers.

Yesterday following the annual Pre-Draft Luncheon, Eric DeCosta was questioned about the position of tight end. Now granted answers during these luncheons are often served up as red herrings to disguise the team’s real intent. That said DeCosta was quick to point out that Pro Bowl tight ends Jason Witten and Chris Cooley were both third round picks.

Could that be an indication that the Ravens might be more interested in draft eligible tight ends like Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski , Miami’s Aaron Hernandez or even Oregon Ed Dickson?

I’m thinking yes.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ravens still need more offensive punch!

Now that the Ravens have adequately addressed the position of wide receiver this offseason with the acquisitions of Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth and assuming that tomorrow’s Derrick Mason press conference isn’t to announce his retirement (again), most believe the Ravens will set their sights on a defensive player with the draft’s 25th pick – assuming of course they keep that pick.

I would agree that the Ravens need to get a bit younger on the defensive line. In fact it is my strong opinion that the biggest single need the team has is a pass rushing specialist. That said I would also argue that the Ravens defense is just fine as is for 2010.


I think Terrell Suggs will be motivated and determined to quiet his doubters and I also believe that Paul Kruger will do his part to help improve a sagging pass rush. I think that Cory Redding will bring more heat than Dwan Edwards did. I think that with a year under his belt, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will pick up where he left off in 2009. Keep in mind the Ravens were the third ranked defense overall last season and the second best after the bye.

The Ravens defense didn’t keep the team from advancing beyond the Colts.

The offense did!

Give me a more mature Joe Flacco with more weapons. I like how Boldin shuffles the deck and changes the coverages. I like that Willis McGahee is still around to support a burgeoning superstar in Ray Rice.

And if the Ravens go for a tight end or a wide receiver with their first pick, I am totally down with that!

And if Dez Bryant somehow falls to the Ravens at No. 25 they should be doing back flips to the podium to submit his name to The Commish.

I seem to recall a guy named Randy Moss sliding down the draft board to No. 21 back in 1998. Could Bryant be this year’s Moss?


I’ll take five years of a guy with Moss-like potential.

The Ravens gave up 13.2 points per game last year after the bye.

They don’t need to prevent points, they need to score points.

Give me another offensive playmaker please!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Steelers make Holmes fall guy for troubled organization

Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of

The Steelers have traded WR Santonio Holmes to the Jets for a 2010 fifth round pick.

Let’s allow that statement to linger for a bit…

Ok, are you kidding me?

Now it’s no secret that Holmes has off-the-field issues and there’s a building consensus that he will face a four game suspension in 2010. Still, the lopsided nature of this trade is an absolute head scratcher.

Couldn’t the Steelers have waited and shopped Holmes a bit more? Wouldn’t all of those teams with interest in Brandon Marshall represent a prospect list for the Steelers and Holmes? If the Seahawks for instance have considered relinquishing a No. 1 for Marshall might they not give up a No. 2 or 3 for the Super Bowl XLIII star?

Look it’s not as though either player is going to help senior citizens cross the street.

So the Jets steal from the Steelers.

How could Pittsburgh let that happen?

Look the Rooneys didn’t wake up on Sunday and suddenly become stupid. Of course they know they could have gotten more than a fifth round pick (that might not even make the team) in exchange for a former first round pick who put up 79 catches and 1,248 yards in 2009. The fact that they didn’t is a message in and of itself.

The Steelers know Holmes better than the Jets and better than any other team. Their willingness to part with him just says that they are fed up.

Yet it might say even more.

Could Holmes be the Steelers sacrificial lamb?

Might they point to their willingness to practically give Holmes away as their way of no longer tolerating inappropriate off-the-field behavior?

Might it also serve as an organizational cop out if they do nothing to reprimand Ben Roethlisberger for all of his embarrassing outside the lines antics?

It will be interesting to hear how the Georgia courts proceed if at all with Roethlisberger later today and if they don’t even more interesting to hear the Steelers’ organizational spin on the developments.

When it all shakes out, Holmes will be the fall guy, Rex Ryan and his burgeoning collection of malcontents (Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, and Holmes) will be smiling in New York and Roethlisberger will escape trouble unscathed as he has so often during games.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A guaranteed solution to improving the Ravens secondary

It’s interesting that Ravens fans are so highly critical of the team’s secondary play during the 2009 season. After a rough start during which they faced a posse of highly capable gunslingers (Rivers, Brady, Palmer and Favre) yielding 311 yards per game on average, the unit eventually hit its stride.

They did meet up with a buzz saw named Manning who picked them apart for 299 yards in November but on whole, defensive coordinator Gregg Mattison’s backfield played well.

You don’t think so?

Consider this, during those early season contests and coupled with the game against the Colts, the team yielded a total of 1,542 yards through the air. During the balance of the schedule they gave up 161 yards per game through the air.

The league’s best secondary for the season (NY Jets) yielded 154 yards per game.

Maybe those quarterbacks had something to do with the early season struggles?

Perhaps the unit was adjusting to Mattison?

After the bye week, always a time to reflect and adjust, the Ravens’ pass defense yielded just 181.7 yards per game, second best in the league.

Prior to the break the defense surrendered 6 plays of 40+ yards in six contests but only 2 plays of 40+ yards the rest of the way.

Perhaps the most important statistic of all, the Ravens’ defense allowed only 13.2 points per game on average after the bye. The league best on the season was the Jets’ 14.8 ppg.

Even more telling, the pass defense turned in this impressive performance without a consistent pass rush. The Ravens were tied for 18th in sacks (32) and overall pressure was down as evidenced by declining quarterback hurries.

And let’s not forget that injuries took a toll.

Ed Reed missed four games during the second half of the season while starting corner Fabian Washington missed six. His replacement Lardarius Webb was lost for the final 2+ games of the regular season.

One year with Mattison is now under their collective belt and injured players are on track to return (Washington, Webb and Haruki Nakamura).

Certainly reinforcements and depth will help but that said, the secondary is nowhere near as needy as most fans would like to believe.

Fix the pass rush and then watch an already capable secondary suddenly be considered among the league’s best.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Ravens should never allow first round picks to wear No. 89

Travis Taylor is generally recognized as one of the Ravens few first round flops. The former Florida Gator wide receiver fell far short of his professional projection and in large part his failures in Baltimore and ports of call elsewhere are centered upon toughness or lack thereof.

The Ravens learned a hard lesson with Taylor and the team would like to think that it would not repeat that 2000 NFL Draft mistake again. Some might argue that Ozzie Newsome and company were repeat offenders in 2005 when they drafted Mark Clayton.

Clayton has hardly developed into the playmaking receiver that the team expected and some might say that at best he’s an adequate No. 2 receiver at the NFL level.

Because of his overall likability and perceived toughness when compared to Taylor, Clayton isn’t as quickly labeled a first round bust the way Steve Spurrier product is yet statistically speaking, the argument could be made that both players who have worn the No. 89 for the Ravens are equally disappointing.

Consider their respective career statistics as Ravens:

Player - Rec. - YDS - Avg. - TD

Taylor - 204 -2,758 - 13.5 - 15
Clayton - 234 - 3,116 - 13.3 - 12

Taylor played with quarterbacks such as Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Blake, Elvis Grbac, Chris Redman, Anthony Wright and Kyle Boller. Clayton caught balls from Boller, Steve McNair and Joe Flacco. Relatively speaking Clayton enjoyed far more consistency and proficiency from his quarterback plus Clayton benefitted from playing opposite Derrick Mason who has outclassed any receiver who played opposite Taylor.

A current poll on asking visitors who was the team’s biggest first round disappointment shows Kyle Boller with 61% of the vote with Taylor a distant second at 35% of the vote. Clayton has gathered just 3% of the vote with cornerback Duane Starks pulling in the final 1 percent.

It’s been said that good guys finish last.

In the case of this poll the good guy Clayton is benefitting from fan goodwill because his performance, stats and other favorable circumstances when compared to Taylor clearly do not justify such a large disparity in the voting.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

THE RUMORMILL: Ray Lewis retiring after 2010, Ed Reed to coach & more...

Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of

Haloti Ngata is seeking a new contract and the Ravens appear determined to get it done for the Pro Bowl defensive tackle – but it won’t be easy. Word is that the starting point for discussions between Ngata’s representatives and the Ravens is the Albert Haynesworth contract. If that’s the case look for Haloti to get hit with the franchise tag faster than Ozzie Newsome can say, “Ngata chance!”

Hundreds of Steelers’ fans in Harford County gathered together for a charity basketball game thanks to the efforts of North Harford High’s varsity football coach Ken Brinkman. That’s right, I did say Steelers fans – Harford County, MARYLAND. Seven Steelers made their way to North Harford High including Santonio Holmes, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, Deshea Townsend and Anthony Madison. Unfortunately most in attendance fell ill due to a batch of improperly aged Iron City Lite.

Brinkman set up the event to raise money for Ben Roethlisberger’s legal expenses for the alleged inappropriate sexual behavior. Apparently the star quarterback’s liquidity is tied up in Pittsburgh area real estate and given the allegations against him Pittsburgh area banks are not inclined to provide Roethlisberger a bridge loan until his roster bonus comes due. And with good reason…the Steelers might not pay that bonus.

The Rooney Family is completely up in arms in Pittsburgh over Roethlisberger and no one should expect the classy Rooney family to look the other way in the case of their star quarterback. Despite the two Super Bowl wins with Big Ben under center, this proud franchise from what we hear is looking to move Roethlisberger before the huge 8 digit roster bonus becomes due. Word is the Cleveland Browns are interested and Mike Holmgren has already prepared a package that would include Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas plus a few picks in 2010 and 2011.

It isn’t often that impact players like Roethlisberger are traded within a division but given the competitive nature of the Rooneys it makes sense. They may prefer to take their shots at Roethlisberger a couple times per season.

The NFL Draft is just 3 weeks away and the rumors are hot and heavy. One rumor has the Ravens sending Mark Clayton and next year’s No. 2 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for the Chiefs’ second round pick, the 36th overall in 2010. The Ravens would then trade their second round pick in 2010 to the Chiefs in exchange for the Chiefs’ third and fifth round picks in 2010. The deal is a complicated one and hinges on Clayton’s willingness to accept a three year, $6.5 million deal, $5 million of which would be guaranteed. Clayton however is balking on the deal because he wants to go into radio following his playing career and a local sports talker has promised the former Sooner his own talk show for the coming season.

Who said talk was cheap?

Jared Gaither’s name has been front and center in the rumor mill recently and this bit of news will only serve to fan the flames of controversy. Gaither, a player who has never been accused of being fiery or passionate was recently spotted in the Reisterstown area filming an episode of CBS’ Criminal Minds. Gaither reportedly is a huge fan of the series and landed a bit part as an athlete who ventured into politics and has loosely connected ties to a serial killer.

Word on the street is that Gaither was so enamored with the bit part that he now wants to seriously pursue that career path and it could explain why he has been a passive participant in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

We were disappointed when he shot us down to blog for 24x7 and now we’re even more disappointed. Fox 45’s and 105.7 The Fan’s Bruce Cunningham has been named Baltimore’s Blogger of the Year by DCRTV Digest. The award recognizes journalistic achievement on the web. From what we hear Cunningham’s brilliant piece entitled, Enough Already,
a riveting account of Baltimore’s snowfall clinched the award for the Ravens’ PA guy.

Speaking of public address, the NFL will now take the handcuffs and mute button off the home team’s game day experience. Scoreboard operators and PA guys can now use props and video to stir the home town team into a frenzy creating an even more dramatic home field advantage.

But before we all have visions of sugar plums and the league’s best 12th man dancing in our collective head, you might want to slow down. A civic activist named Joel Louder who is the President of a not-for-profit organization called The Greater Good for Federal Hill has already approached the City Council about a noise ordinance on Sundays. Louder claims that the NFL’s new policy puts local area churches at risk. Let’s pray that Louder loses this battle.

Many have questioned whether or not Ed Reed will return to patrol the middle of the Ravens’ secondary. Even those close to Reed say that it’s 50-50 whether or not Reed once again dons the purple and black. However one source at the New Orleans Times-Picayune who hails from Reed’s hometown of St. Rose, Louisiana stated that Reed has told the athletic director at his alma mater Destrehan High School that he plans on coaching the Crazy Cajuns this fall.

Anita Marks may not be leaving the Baltimore sports talk landscape after all. Press Box recently landed a daily gig on Fox 1370 and the news has leaked that the host will be none other than Ms. Marks. Her friendly relationship with Press Box mastermind Stan Charles certainly didn’t hurt her cause. Deepening the ties are reports that Marks has been romantically linked to Charles’ nephew Josh of Dead Poets’ Society fame and currently starring in the CBS Series, The Good Wife. Josh for those that don’t know, is a diehard Ravens fan. Apparently Marks doesn’t hold that against him.

Dancing with the Stars is in full bloom and Ravens’ divisional rival Chad Ochocinco is waltzing and tangoing his way into our living rooms a couple nights per week. Now we are hearing that Ochocinco who is a good friend of Ray Lewis, has convinced the face of the Ravens to take his Nelly-It’s-Getting-Hot-in-Here act to the hardwood floors where other footballers like Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp and Jason Taylor have fared well. If Ray does in fact put on those dancing shoes, you have to wonder if 2010 could be his swansong season.

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone!

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