Thursday, December 30, 2010

Joe Flacco, The Pro Bowl, Spit and a Commissioner's Goof

The Ravens face the Bengals this week, a team that has had success against the Ravens with Cover 2 looks while rushing only 4 defenders. That has been problematic for Joe Flacco. What can he do to improve against the Bengals zone looks? For that answer we consulted with QB Coach Chris Johnston from

The Cover 2's natural weaknesses are three vertical seams - one outside each of the safeties and one between them. Over the last 30 years, since the Pittsburgh Steelers of the late 70s began tweaking the base Cover 2 formula, defensive coaches have sought to put a combination-type of athlete at the Middle LB position - one like Chicago's Brian Urlacher, for example - to get a deeper pass drop after making an initial run/pass read. This allows the Safeties to play with a bit more width in their half-field assignment. With the middle seam vulnerability at least partially remedied, defenses have evolved to present almost unlimited variations of "underneath" (the area from the LOS to roughly 15 yards downfield) zone coverage and blitz/stunting combinations. That leaves the intermediate range (15-25 yards downfield) area from roughly the inside of the numbers to the sideline as Cover 2's most vulnerable window.

All of that said, Flacco's best strategy for improving vs. today's Cover 2 would be improved accuracy in attacking this area, one attacked most effectively by "comeback"-style routes that break sharply outside of deep Safety coverage and above LB/CB coverage. One of the toughest throws in football, a well-thrown comeback or similar route, is nearly impossible to defend. The built-in bonus here is that Joe Flacco possesses a legitimately big-time NFL arm, and is capable of completing this throw.

Most would agree that Sam Koch is deserving of Pro Bowl accolades and the accompanying Hawaiian vacation. It looks like he’ll get half of that anyway. Koch and his wife were invited to attend the game as guests of Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff. Koch is taking the snub in stride as Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time and for the fourth year in a row.

“Lechler’s been there, well-deserving of it,” Koch said. “He’s a great punter. It’s hard to beat out a great punter. He’s got great numbers. I wish we could be there, me and Billy, but the good thing is Billy’s going to be taking me.”

Not so fast Sam. Your travel plans may be disrupted by a trip to Dallas the first week of February.

A player not as accepting of his failure to make the Pro Bowl squad is Le’Ron McClain. McClain ranked first in fan balloting but ultimately lost to Texans’ fullback Vonta Leach after the players and coaches submitted their votes.

“Oh yeah, very disappointed about that, but I can’t do nothing about it,” McClain said. “I got no control over it. My team’s winning now, so I’m just looking forward to the Bengals and getting this 12th win.”

Hey Le’Ron, maybe you can do something about it – like not being so unnecessarily chippy with opponents and/or “accidentally” showering them with saliva.

Don’t be surprised to see the Ravens let McClain go in the offseason. Word is the Ravens inner circle is a bit tired of his act.

Some fans are hopeful that if Marvin Lewis is let go by the Cincinnati Bengals that he might consider a return to Baltimore as defensive coordinator. Not so fast folks!

Lewis is a good guy but highly overrated as a defensive strategist. Think back to the early days of the Ravens from 1996-98 when Lewis commanded a sieve of a defense. The years from 1999-2001 were great but then again so was the talent.

For my money the best D-Coordinator the Ravens have had is Mike Nolan. Look what he did with that cap purged roster of 2002. If the Ravens consider a free agent defensive coordinator (and that’s a big if given John Harbaugh’s close personal relationship with Greg Mattison), Nolan should be the guy, not Lewis.

Some interesting games this weekend with playoff implications and the curious betting lines make these games all the more interesting. It’s hard not to see the Steelers covering a 5 ½ point number in Cleveland. The number opened at 6. But in Vegas when something seems pretty obvious, go the other way.…Those who don’t want the Ravens to travel to Indy to take on their nemesis the Colts, might be pleased to see the number in Kansas City where the Chiefs will host the Raiders is just 3 ½ points. The Raiders may do well as spoilers against their arch rivals. Keep in mind the Ravens nearly lost to a less talented Oakland squad way back in January in a must win situation.

And finally the next time I write about Brett Favre, I hope it’s to announce his retirement – but I’m not holding my breath. That said, I have to chime in on Roger Goodell giving Favre a hall pass on his “sexting” scandal with Jenn Sterger. Favre’s penalty – a $50,000 fine!

To put that number in perspective, that’s a $250.00 fine for someone making $75,000/year. (Favre makes no less than $15 million).

Think about that!

I really don’t give a rat’s you know what about Favre. Once, one of my favorite non-Ravens, Favre wore out his welcome mat with me about three retirements ago.

But this $50K fine for “failure to cooperate” is a little unsettling. What’s to prevent other players in the future to “fail to cooperate” if the anticipated fine ($50K, a new benchmark) is perceived to be a lesser penalty than one that is levied with cooperation?

The Commish goofed here.

He wants to brush Favre and all his B.S. under the carpet but unfortunately it won’t stay there.

Not a chance!


fran said...

Ah, so this is how the players and coaches in the league pay back McClain for that "spittle" incident. Players have long memories and the video is particularly incriminating (at least to my eyes). No snub; well deserved omission.

Fran the Fan

Jerry B said...

Please have Chris Johnston contact Cam Cameron because he needs all the help he can get!!! Cundiff's gesture towards Koch speaks volumes about his character! Wish I could say the same for McClain, but he's simply a.....character! As for Roger Goodell, he's becoming more like a gestapo with every passing day! Yeah, he was way beyond the pale on this one, but my guess is he wouldn't be heavy handed without permission from the owners! Speaking of owners, Bisciotti, to his credit, does not meddle. But, he's a huge fan and sees the same things we do, so what's the liklihood of his influencing Harbaugh to jettison either or both coordinators at season's end?

Phil from Frostburg said...

Flacco's performance against the Bengals will give us some indication whether we have any hope against the Colts, since they play the same cover-2 and have both given him fits. Win or lose, if Flacco struggles again, there will be very little hope against Indy.

I could not agree more on the overrated Marvin Lewis. It's amazing how many clueless people remain who insist that Marvin was more responsible for the Super Bowl win than Brian Billick.

Harryos29 said...

Harry OS 29 Dec 31, 2010
...I think Flacco has the advantage vs the cover 2 because he has two of the best receivers in the league, for COME BACKS:
# 81 and # 85.

..I would also give the Bungles a steady died of RAY RICE. I'd line up RICE as a W/R at times also.
..Happy New year to all Ravens Fans.

Harryos29 said...

Harry os 29 Jan 2,2011
REGARDING the ravens in today!
What a poor effort today!
What was that? Flacco missed two tight ends for
Apparent Touchdowns? One was intercepted...
.... I hate to repeat myself but: