Thursday, September 30, 2010

THE STEELERS SUCK!


No they don’t.

Maybe many of their Yinzer fans do but the truth is the Steelers don’t suck and those who suggest they do are cerebrally challenged or they aren’t much different than “dem Yinzers.”

Consider this…

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti – a pretty smart guy, right? He’s publicly stated on a few occasions that he would like to model his organization after that of the Steelers because they have produced consistent winners while managing the club with class and style.

Don’t you want that for the Ravens?

If the Steelers truly did suck would they be such a heated rival?

I’m sure the poor people forced to live in Cleveland see the Ravens as a bitter rival. But here in Baltimore, we don’t view the Browns as such.

Why?

Because the Browns suck – and they have for a long time!

A true rivalry requires some semblance of competency and the logo-less team that wishes it was the Ravens has had none.

Let’s consider the Yankees for a moment. Most Orioles’ fans would say that the Bronx Bombers are the primary rivals of B’more’s Boys of Summer. Really? Do you think for a second that the Yankees or their fans see the Orioles that way?

Of course they don’t. They look at the Orioles in the same way we look at the Browns – as another free chip on the season’s bingo card. Let’s chalk up another “W.”

But the Ravens v. Steelers?

Now there’s a rivalry!

Consistently good teams that play similar brands of football comprised of players who respect but don’t like each other and in some cases, they hate each other. It drives the players – forces them to reach into the depths of their energy tanks to lay it all on the line to emerge as victors. It wouldn’t matter if the Ravens were the league’s best and the Steelers the league’s worst – THIS WOULD BE A WAR!




For me watching a Ravens v. Steelers battle on TV is excruciating. Every yard seems twice as long; every hit twice as hard; every penalty twice as costly; every turnover is the equivalent of a humiliating kick in the crotch; every bad officiating call almost always seems to go against the Ravens.

Even the President...well, let's not go there...

And then there’s that large collection of towel waving Yinzers who have a collective sense of entitlement and bad teeth. I could go on and on about other heinous and classless acts of Stiller fandom but I’ll refrain. There’s enough of that going down on message boards.

For now I’ll revel in the game’s build up and as it approaches I’ll pace like a caged tiger moments before feeding time. Then, when the ball is kicked off at 1:05 PM my wife, family and friends will keep their distance and hopefully cover their ears because there is no doubt bowling alley words that might make Chris Rock blush will be flying from my piehole.

This is football.

This is the Ravens v. Steelers.

This is the purple and black taking on those urine stained rags.

Would you want it any other way?


Monday, September 27, 2010

Ravens v. Browns: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and The Megan Fox


THE GOOD: Anquan Boldin isn’t thought of as a deep threat because he lacks top end speed. Clearly that’s not the only prerequisite for making big plays in the passing game. Boldin’s physicality and his strong hands make him a threat to make big plays downfield whenever he has single coverage. His 8 catches for 142 and 3 scores is not a performance NFL fans in Baltimore are used to seeing…Ray Rice was effective and while it’s hard to complain about Cameron going to the air with Joe Flacco, it would be nice to see the Ravens get their running game untracked. It has been productive albeit limited during the past two games. Rice averaged 5.3 yards on his 15 carries…The offensive line protected Flacco and absorbed blitzes from Rob Ryan’s defense. They also provided a nice push in the rushing attack…Chris Carr covered well and limited Josh Cribbs despite the ample time the Browns’ offensive line provided QB Seneca Wallace…Dannell Ellerbe was very solid in pass coverage in nickel situations. His tackling was also text book...Billy Cundiff and Sam Koch along with some sure coverage team tackling combined to negate Cleveland's most dangerous weapon -- Josh Cribbs

THE BAD: The front seven was ineffective against the run and the pass. This was the Cleveland Browns and that was Seneca Wallace and Peyton Hillis doing their best Jeff Garcia and Mike Alstott impersonations. Wallace was 18 of 24 and no picks while Hillis bulldozed the Ravens defense for 144 yards on just 22 carries. They also generated very little pressure against a quarterback in a new system on a new team and not exactly a long history of NFL starts. Greg Mattison has to take some of the blame with a questionable game plan…Tom Zbikowski was shaky on punt returns and should probably lose the job after prematurely calling for one fair catch and then failing to come up and catch a punt around the 25 yard line. It bounced inside the 10…Cam Cameron’s choice to throw a slant on a third and 1 after the Ravens had just rushed effectively for nine yards on two consecutive Rice carries made little sense.

THE UGLY: The Ravens tackling was awful and the guilty parties included Ray Lewis, Fabian Washington, Dawan Landry, Tom Zbikowski, Jameel McClain and Jarret Johnson.

The Megan Fox Award: After receiving a flood of criticism (including some from yours truly) Joe Flacco brushed off a breath taking first pass which nearly went for a pick 6 and delivered a near flawless performance from that point forward while connecting on 22 of 31 passes for 262 yards and 3 scores. It was a performance he needed particularly considering the Ravens will take on division leading Pittsburgh this coming Sunday. Let’s see if he can build upon it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

No doubt about it, Harbaugh should have yanked Flacco!


Joe Flacco's ineptitude last Sunday against the Bengals has been the dominant topic of websites and sports talk radio across the Land of Pleasant Living.

Early on the "Bench Flacco" lunatics were in full force but as the week progressed and decompression amongst fans set in, such irrational panic driven opinions slowly made their way to their proper burial grounds.

Our poll question on Ravens24x7.com from Sunday through Thursday asked, "Obviously struggling, should John Harbaugh have pulled Joe Flacco against the Bengals in favor of Mark Bulger?"Early on "yes" had a comfortable lead over "no." But as the week wore on Ravens fans cut No. 5 a little slack and in the end, 57% answered "no."

Well guess what? Fifty-seven percent were WRONG!

Flacco should have been benched.

No not permanently but at least during the fourth quarter.

And don't sit there and suggest that this isn't baseball and that you can't yank your starting quarterback in the same manner that Buck Showalter yanks Kevin Millwood in the fifth inning after serving up puss to opposing hitters.

Why not?

Why couldn't John Harbaugh go to Flacco and say, "Look Joe, you just don't have it today. In fact over the last 3 outings against the Bengals, you haven't had it. We'll study the game tape, break it down and figure it out. But for now, I'm going to let Marc Bulger take a shot at these guys and tomorrow we'll start getting you ready for the Browns."

What is wrong with that?

Wouldn't the call for Bulger have improved the Ravens' chances on Sunday? Didn't Ozzie Newsome decide to bring Bulger to Baltimore for $3.8 million in order to be a competent back up - to spell Flacco when no one told him there'd be days like these?

Oh so you say that pulling Flacco would undermine his confidence going forward, eh?

To borrow from Chad Ochocinco, "Child please!"

If your starting quarterback has his little feelings hurt because he was pulled out when he stunk up the Ohio River area, is he really the franchise quarterback that you want to build your team around?

Do you think your team's future poster child is going to sulk when a little adversity sets in? And if so do you want a mentally soft guy like that guiding your team's future?

Look I've never approached the level of a professional when it comes to athletics but I can tell you this...if I were benched I'd be embarrassed and determined never to let it happen again. And if in the process of that lesson my team actually won AND I'm now more determined, well double plus for the good guys then, right?

I don't think Flacco is soft mentally despite the regular comparisons of him to a deer in headlights (which on Sunday was an insult to the deer). And I do think that given his mental make-up and Harbaugh's management skills (see how Willis McGahee responded to his stay in the Harbaugh doghouse) everything would have been just fine if Flacco was taken out and then, just maybe the Ravens are now staring at 2-0 instead of 1-1.

Maybe that quick release of Bulger's was the answer to the Bengals pass rush and closing skills of their DB's.But we'll never know.

All is not lost. Harbaugh probably learned from his reluctance to give Flacco the hook and maybe next time his starting QB struggles immensely, his trigger finger will be a bit more twitchy.

Like say, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Just sayin'...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flacco alarmingly inefficient against quality opponents


"It's just one game," said Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson after the Ravens lost to the Bengals 15-10 on Sunday.

"It won't make us or break us."

True for the team but is that true for Joe Flacco?

Could the depths of his ineptness against Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s Cover 2 break the quarterback formerly known as Joe Cool? And while we’re on the topic of “cool” does that description really fit Flacco?

Really?

You know generally speaking it wouldn’t be fair to beat up on Joe the Quarterback after just two games and one loss. After all, didn’t most of us when considering the Ravens schedule conclude that the team needs to at least split the first two games of the season in order to set up the balance of the campaign properly?

But this isn’t about one game with Flacco. This is a body of work that suggests the third year signal caller can’t get it done against playoff caliber teams.

Since the 2008 post season Flacco has been in 14 games against playoff teams including the two 2010 contests. His record is 5-9. During those games Flacco has thrown only 10 touchdown passes while connecting with the wrong color jerseys 21 times. He’s connected on a little less than 55% of his passes in those contests on 447 attempts. He’s averaged just 191 yards passing.

Add it all up and Flacco’s QB Rating is a paltry 60.4 against high level competitors.

Many blamed the lack of weapons in the passing game for Flacco’s past failures and they concluded that if Ozzie could only surround the former Delaware Blue Hen with quality weapons, the numbers would climb and so would his success against the better teams in the league.

Usher in former Pro Bowlers Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh; draft polished receiving TE prospects Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta to go along with former Pro Bowlers Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason.

Mission accomplished Ozzie.

Yet the results aren’t any better.

In fact they are worse.

Flacco’s QB rating through two games in 2010 is an anemic 41.2. And other than blind faith there’s little evidence that suggests things will get better.

Sure, Flacco should get some medicine this weekend for his ills and the prescription reads: “The Cleveland Browns”. But will playing the Browns morph into a long term remedy for Joe? Can anyone realistically conclude today that he has a chance to beat the rugged Steelers in Pittsburgh on October 4?

Flacco’s mechanics are in disarray. He’s throwing off his back foot. His drops seem out of synch and consequently his timing with his receivers is off. He no longer seems to be throwing to a spot on the field. He waits until receivers break open and then throws.

By the time the ball arrives it’s often too late.

Or worse!

What happened to looking off the safeties the way Flacco did during the preseason?

Where are those effective pump fakes?

Jim Zorn said priority No. 1 for him as the club’s new QB coach would be to help Flacco develop suddenness and explosiveness in the pocket. Who detonated that plan?

Let’s face it – Joe Flacco is a mess.

On Sunday against the Bengals both Boldin and Mason seemed a bit perturbed about Flacco’s inability to deliver the ball. Instead of huddling on the sidelines Flacco’s confusion and stoic expression was matched only by Zorn’s apparent confusion and equally stoic expression.

Why not get together with Boldin and Mason and talk it over – discuss what they can do together to make it work? Wouldn’t that make sense? Wouldn’t that show leadership?

Instead Boldin and Mason brood while Flacco takes another trip to the land of the dazed and confused.

Ever see Peyton Manning on the sidelines after a series gone awry. He’s pouring over snapshots of formations, talking to his receivers, coaches and offensive line to work together to fix the issues.

We don’t see any pre-snap adjustments from Flacco in the form of audibles.

We don’t see any irregular cadences designed to disrupt the defense’s timing.

What we do see is Flacco locking in on receivers which draws defenders and prevents him from seeing the entire field as evidenced by a WIDE open Mason running all alone down the right side line (see video).

Flacco fell flat on his face for the third consecutive time against the Bengals. That’s a disturbing pattern that suggests little development.

Is he above being yanked for the balance of the game?

Isn’t the team more important? Isn’t the win?

Why worry about the psyche of the quarterback? Wouldn’t a good quarterback use the yanking as fuel to prove the world wrong and respond to the adversity? Isn’t that the kind of leader you want for your football team?

There are no more excuses for Flacco. Ozzie has provided all the toys. He’s carefully augmented the roster to give Flacco enviable weaponry via trades, the draft and free agent acquisitions.

Flacco has to start delivering and not just against JV teams like the Cleveland Browns. He needs to do it against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. If not there’s another free agent acquisition that Ozzie Newsome signed who just might be able to help.

His name is Marc Bulger who could prove to be the best free agent QB acquisition since Arizona hired Kurt Warner to “back-up” Matt Leinart.

Sure, one game as Jarret Johnson said won’t make or break the Ravens.

But how many more performances against good teams like the one Flacco turned in on Sunday can the Ravens absorb before the really are broken?

Let’s hope we never find out.






The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox: Ravens @ Bengals


Winning two consecutive road games to start the season is never easy particularly when the first is a very physical Monday Night contest and both games are against playoff teams from the previous year. Last week it could be said that the Ravens refused to lose instead of playing to win and they emerged with the “W” against the Jets. This week you might say that they refused to win, gift wrapping the game for the Bengals with four Joe Flacco interceptions.

Flacco looked comfortable on only one offensive possession – the first of the second half that produced the game’s only touchdown, a beautifully thrown ball to Derrick Mason for a 31 yard score. Sometimes the starting pitcher doesn’t have it and clearly yesterday was one of those days for the Ravens signal caller. A relief pitcher should have been called for.

Had Bulger entered the game, it wouldn’t necessarily trigger a quarterback controversy, not if properly managed. Flacco didn’t have it at all. If the Ravens were concerned about Flacco’s psyche after being pulled, well they shouldn’t be. If he’s that soft does anyone expect him to be a formidable leader? Get out of the game, take your medicine, don’t pout and hope that your team can bail you out of a miserable performance.

It should be an interesting week of sports talk radio here in the Land of Pleasant Living.

Now, on to The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox

THE GOOD: Haloti Ngata was a force registering a QB hurry and 8 tackles. He dominated the Bengals’ interior line…Ray Lewis’ play continues to belie his age. He was all over the field making plays at the line of scrimmage. Assist to his play goes to Ngata, Kelly Gregg and Brandon McKinney…Save his fumble Jalen Parmele was plus in the return game averaging 30 yards on 3 returns. Tom Zbikowski while not stellar rebounded with a decent performance as a punt returned, navigating some tight quarters deep in Ravens territory to help shift the battle for field position…Ray Rice was productive in relatively limited action which Cam Cameron will need to explain. He finished with 87 yards on just 16 carries.

THE BAD: TJ Houshmandzadeh had at least two chances to help bail out the Ravens’ offense and failed. When you get two hands on the football, you have to make the catch…The kick coverage team failed to keep the momentum for the Ravens after they took the lead in the fourth quarter, 10-9. The ensuing kick was returned 61 yards to the Raven 41 yard line…Cam Cameron for abandoning what looked to be a productive rushing attack particularly in light of Flacco’s struggles…Chris Chester and Marshal Yanda struggled in pass protection...Gene Steratore's officiating crew stunk! (see video below)

THE UGLY: Joe Flacco regression is alarming and he has learned next to nothing from his experiences against the Bengals who Cover 2 him to death. He was 17 of 39 for 154 yards with 1 scoring strike and four interceptions. His footwork is terrible, timing is off, decision making highly questionable and he locks in on receivers in much the same way as a fighter plane locks in on its target – the big difference being that the fighter plane connects. Flacco was so locked on the left sideline that completely missed Derrick Mason streaking all alone down the right sideline for what would have been an easy touchdown. Flacco could have punted the ball to Mason. Why does a QB who is 6’6 ½” tall get so many passes tipped at the line of scrimmage? You guessed it – staring down his primary target and predetermining prior to the snap where he is going with the ball. I don’t believe he checked out of one play the entire afternoon when it was obvious a few called in the huddle would never work despite having time on the play clock to make pre-snap adjustments. Just an absolutely wretched performance that should be cause for concern going forward.

THE MEGAN FOX AWARD: This week’s MFA goes to the Ravens’ secondary. They were heavily criticized the entire offseason and preseason yet they kept plugging away. Yesterday they teamed to limit the Bengals’ Batman & Robin tandem of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco to 7 catches for 111 yards and they kept Carson Palmer from striking pay dirt for four quarters and forcing him into a rather inept QB rating of 60.1 at home. Nice to see Lardarius Webb back in action making contributions as well as newcomer Josh Wilson. Fabian Washington and Chris Carr both turned in nice efforts and the safeties stayed true to their landmarks although they both could use work with the Juggs machine. If either Zbikowski or Dawan Landry makes one of those interceptions the outcome of the game could have been different.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Keys to game: Ravens @ Bengals


The Ravens go into Cincinnati today smarting from two convincing losses at the hands of the Bengals last season. A let down is not in the cards but the question does remain, do the Bengals have the Ravens number?

In 2009 the Bengals winning formula centered upon the running game. Cedric Benson rushed for over 100 yards in both contests effectively setting up play action for signal caller Carson Palmer. This year play action can prove to be even more threatening with the additions of Terrell Owens and rookies TE Jermaine Gresham and WR Jordan Shipley.

On defense the Bengals have some very solid athletes starting with the corners Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Ray Mauluga is an active and disruptive linebacker. Last week Marvin Lewis’ defense had trouble generating any pass rush. They will need to this week in order to keep the Ravens honest.

For the Ravens, expect them to take away Cedric Benson and force Carson Palmer to beat them by air. For this strategy to work, Joe Flacco has to be much more productive in the red zone this week than he was against the Jets on opening night.
This one looks to be a real dogfight as the Bengals try to steer clear of a 0-2 start.

So with this in mind, here are my keys to the game:

1. Joe Flacco and the Ravens need to stay patient on offense and take the short to intermediate routes over the middle that the Bengals struggle to defend.

2. Contain Cedric Benson

3. Get Ray Rice untracked in the passing game

4. Who’s got the Housh? The Ravens do…use him!

5. The Ravens secondary needs to keep the action in front of them

FINAL SCORE: Ravens 24, Bengals 17

Gaither takes chair once occupied by McAlister, McGahee


The Ravens offensive line was supposed to be one of the team's strengths this season. However, the deck has been shuffled a bit on the offensive front and now three starters are new to the mix: Michael Oher LT; Chris Chester RG; Marshal Yanda RT.

The Ravens have invested coaching time with this unit and they are hoping that they gel. Don't expect any lineup changes unless they falter and if they do, don't be surprised if it's Oniel Cousins who gets the call before Jared Gaither.

The former Terp is recovering from a back injury which isn't believed to be season threatening but the bet here is that Gaither will assume the doghouse seat formerly occupied by Chris McAlister and Willis McGahee even when he says he's fit to go.

Gaither's dependability is shaky and many question his love (or lack thereof) for the game.

And that as John Harbaugh would say, isn't "Playing Like a Raven."

McClain 4 RB is a losing campaign


Le'Ron McClain has championed his cause McClain 4 RB on his Twitter account and even printed tee shirts to distribute to teammates and coaches to support his cause.

It's no secret that McClain wants to be featured more as a runner and pass catcher and not just as a battering fullback. But that's unlikely to happen given the running skills of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

Maybe McClain should just let it go and focus upon honing his craft as a lead blocker.On Monday against the Jets, save an impressive block during McGahee's TD plunge the two-time Pro Bowl fullback had an outing that I'm sure he'd like to have back.

There is an opinion held by a few close to the team that McClain knows that the featured back is and should be Rice but McClain wants some of the carries that now go to McGahee - so much so that there are rumors that he's a less engage blocker when McGahee is carrying the ball.

Perhaps there is little to no substance to the story but it is worth watching.

The other Reed getting noticed but will he stick with club?


One receiver making a mark for himself without catching a single pass is rookie David Reed who registered four special teams tackles against the Jets.

Early during summer camp Reed struggled on special teams but so far he's shown signs of accelerating the learning curve.

"He never did [coverage teams] before", said John Harbaugh. "He really struggled early. He was kind of getting his rear end handed to him early on, and then all of a sudden, about halfway through camp, he started flipping that. He did a nice job."

That's a good thing for Reed because wide receiver mate Marcus Smith is also a popular player for special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. Some believe that one of the two will have to go when CB Cary Williams two game suspension is completed after the Bengals game.

Not so fast.

From what we hear, both Reed and Smith will remain on the 53 man roster because their roles as gunners are coveted. Don't be surprised if the odd man out upon Williams' return is one of the linebackers down on the depth chart.

Prescott Burgess and Jason Phillips better recognize!

Does anybody want to step up at inside linebacker?


For all intents and purposes, the inside linebacker position beside Ray Lewis has amounted to little more than a revolving door. Jameel McClain remains the starter and that has more to do with his dependability than superior skills. Coaches prefer to play guys that they can count on and they are willing to accept less accomplished athletes simply because they know what they are working with. It helps coaches to coordinate an entire unit better when they know what they are getting from each position.

Tavares Gooden clearly has superior athleticism when compared to McClain but the knock on Gooden is that he doesn't adjust well to post snap changes. Consequently his assignments are fairly defined pre-snap. It's a strategy that works well when the right calls are made but it can leave a hole in the defense if coordinator Greg Mattison loses the chess move on a given play call.

Dannell Ellerbe makes more impactful plays than the others - he's the one who will jump off the screen during film study more than McClain or Gooden but the knock on Ellerbe is consistency and focus. When engaged Ellerbe shows promise but the team has had trouble keeping Ellerbe locked in. Many feel it's a question of maturity and at some point the light will come on and stay on much like it did for another former undrafted free agent linebacker the Ravens once employed.

Bart Scott started very little early in his career but when he decided to grow as a professional, so too did the number of snaps he received on the field eventually paving the way to permanent starter status and a 2006 Pro Bowl nomination.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

RAVENS @ JETS: The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox


Sometimes teams play to win. I never got that sense from the Ravens last night particularly with some of the bashful play calling from Cam Cameron when backed up near their own end zone.

But the Ravens did refuse to lose thanks to another stellar defensive effort from the Ravens and costly mistakes from the Jets.

This was a game very reminiscent of many Ravens' wins over the years - tough, physical and painful to watch.

THE GOOD: Haloti Ngata was a force defending the run and he was a menacing presence for Mark Sanchez recording two QB hurries and a sack. He also was in position to intercept an errant screen pass but was a half-step late...Ray Lewis was big on the stat sheet but when he did make a tackle Jets' players didn't even have to get up to see if it was 52 -- they knew. Lewis also blew up a key3rd and 2 attempt by the Jets, exploding into the backfield to destroy FB Tony Richardson's lead block for Ladainian Tomlinson. The result - loss of one...Underrated contributor Chris Carr was solid in coverage locking up Braylon Edwards while Fabian Washington was efficient while checking Jericho Cotchery. Todd Heap, save the dropped touchdown played like he was 5 years younger. Hopefully his shoulder injury is nothing serious... David Reed played on special teams like he appreciates life in the NFL. That's an encouraging sign. Let's not forget that a couple of players will need to go when Cary Williams returns on September 26 and Ed Reed on October 24.

THE BAD: The punt coverage teams were weak and the tackling effort suspect. Punt returns were awful and Tom Zbikowski's decision making deep in Ravens territory was nearly fatal to the Ravens cause...McGahee's fumble was a big momentum changer...Ray Rice seemed to allow the emotion of the game to get the better of him and didn't play with as much control. His 2 yards per carry average is your proof.

THE UGLY: Joe Flacco looked like a deer in the headlights of a green truck and he was trucked on the offense's very first play. On a three step drop when the linemen are cut blocking, he has to get rid of the football otherwise as we witnessed, the results can be disastrous. His over throw of a wide open Le'Ron McClain in the end zone towards the end of the first half was embarrassing for a player who is supposed to be a franchise QB. The interception by Antonio Cromartie was the result of a quarterback predetermining where he was going with the football regardless of the defensive coverage. On a third and 2 from the Jets' 7 yard line with 7:16 left in the third quarter and the Ravens holding a 7-6 lead Flacco threw low and behind Ray Rice running a little angle route. It should have set up no worse than a first and goal from the 3 but instead the team had to settle for a 25 yard Cundiff field goal.

MEGAN FOX AWARD: Anquan Boldin is a dependable playmaker. He chipped in with 7 grabs for 110 yards during a night that offered next to no offense. Many of his catches were in traffic. He just wants the ball more than defenders and snatches the ball out of the air with those big strong mitts. Welcome to Baltimore Q and to your first MFA.






Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ravens to beat the Jets on MNF



The Ravens have never been a popular team outside of the Baltimore metropolitan area. Their bullying tactics on defense dating back to the 2000 season combined with Brian Billick's cocksure ways and the sullied reputation of Ray Lewis prevented most fans across the nation from embracing the purple and black.

However, thanks to Rex Ryan's big mouth, fans outside of the Big Apple just might be pulling for the Ravens on Monday Night.

Most think that Ryan's familiarity with the Ravens' personnel gives the Jets an advantage. The conventional thinking is that he is intimately aware of how to exploit the team's weaknesses.

Really?

Ryan once commented that it would take 5 minutes for him to prepare his defense for the Ravens offense. But that is so yesterday.The Jets now have to account for a confident and dynamic Ray Rice. Anquan Boldin wasn't a Raven before and if Rex knows how to check him, he sure didn't prove it back in 2007 when the Cardinals visited M&T Bank Stadium. On September 23rd of that season, Boldin racked up 14 catches for 181 yards and 2 scores.

Mix in a healthy and more seasoned Joe Flacco, a suddenly spry Todd Heap and his rookie TE compatriots and TJ Houshmandzadeh and suddenly Ryan might not know what to expect from the Ravens.

Perhaps the Ravens know more about what they'll see from Ryan than the Jets know what they'll see from Cam Cameron.But even if this chess match proves to be a standoff, perhaps the more interesting battle is between the Jets offense and the Ravens defense.

The Jets offense struggled mightily in the preseason and if one looks back to last year, the Mark Sanchez led unit was the 31st ranked passing offense. It would appear that Brian Shottenheimer's offense might not have the tools to work a Ravens' secondary that many believe is vulnerable, particularly without Ed Reed.

With that in mind here are my keys to a Ravens' victory:

1. Play Clean: Referee Walt Anderson's crew will work the game and last year it was his crew that threw yellow laundry all over Lambeau field when the Ravens lost to the Packers 27-14. The teams combined for 23 penalties good for 310 yards, second most in NFL history.

2. Prevent the Big Play: Greg Mattison should make sure that the Ravens secondary keeps things in front of them. The Jets are struggling offensively and it is doubtful that they can sustain long drives against the Ravens' defense. Stay away from the big play from Braylon Edwards and the big pass interference penalty.

3. The Meadowlands Crowd: The Jets have had a difficult time selling tickets at Meadowlands Stadium because the PSL's are exorbitant. Lower level tickets carry PSL's that are as high as $25,000 and this has forced many fans into the upper deck and further away from the field. These prices have also forced many long time Jets' maniacs to forego season tickets in this unsettling economy. So what does any of this have to do with the game on the field? A quieter crowd invites the no huddle.

4. No Huddle: The Ravens employed the no-huddle-offense for the entire first half during the seasonal dress rehearsal against the Giants in game 3 of the preseason. Joe Flacco gets into rhythm much faster in the no huddle plus it tires the opposing defensive line. That could help circumvent a potential weakness at right tackle as Oniel Cousins will likely get the start. You might recall that an Achilles' heel of Ryan's defenses has always been the no huddle. It doesn't provide them the luxury of resetting their version of organized chaos after each play or making pre-snap adjustments. Then the defense becomes more basic and a basic Ryan defense is exactly what Cameron wants.

5. Make the Jets' Corners Tackle: Darrelle Revis is rusty after just ending a prolonged holdout. Antonio Cromartie to tackling is like a vampire to daylight. The Ravens have to force the two to make tackles. It could affect the way they cover and make them susceptible to play action.

PREDICTION: Ravens 17, Jets 13 followed by a Rex Ryan snack.

J-E-T-S can be J-E-R-K-S


According to Pro Football Talk the New York Post's Bart Hubbuch made reference on his Twitter account about some juvenile behavior from the Jets and Jenkins relating to Ines Sainz (pictured during Super Bowl XLI Media Day), a female reporter from TV Azteca present at a recent practice.

Allegedly the Tweets told the story of defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman overthrowing players in drills in order to "accidentally" run into Sainz. Later Jason Taylor volunteered to participate in the drills.

Hubbuch described the scene as "hilarious."

Apparently the juvenile behavior spilled over into the locker room when Sainz entered. The scene has been likened to that of incarcerated inmates getting riled up by the promise of a conjugal visit. The most vocal offender was said to be Jenkins who defended the lewd behavior when he shouted, "this is our locker room."

Interestingly, the comments on Hubbuch's Twitter account are now said to be "temporarily unavailable." You have to wonder if the Jets asked Hubbuch to take them down fearing an investigation from The Commish.

One thing you can't deny with the Jets, they sure do dish out the drama.



Scott and Ray Lewis are hardly bosom buddies


Bart Scott is a pretty good linebacker. He's tough, physical, dependable and he's a guy who coaches know will be on the field each and every Sunday. Of a possible 128 games played in his career Scott has suited up 125 times and he has started every possible game since Halloween Night in Pittsburgh during the 2005 season.

Scott is also solid in the community and when he's on your side he's a great guy to be around.

Now a Jet, Scott is no longer on the Ravens' side.

Lucky for him that Jets' head coach Rex Ryan vividly remembers what the "Madbacker" was able to accomplish during his first 4 games of the 2006 season in Baltimore. During those 4 games Scott had 33 tackles (8+ per game), 5 sacks, 5 passes defended and an interception. Not bad work for an undrafted Southern Illinois Saluki.

However, over the course of his next 60 regular season starts including 16 last year in New York, Scott has averaged less than 6 tackles per game with just 7 additional sacks, 13 passes defended and one more interception. That's decent production but it's hardly worthy a contract that suggests "playmaker" - one that includes $48 million over six years, $27 million during the first 3 seasons.

Bart should at least in part thank Ray Lewis for his riches.

But he won't!

Scott never liked playing in Lewis' shadow.

Back in 2007 when I hosted the Bart Scott Show, the former Raven commented often about how he and other defenders would do the dirty work and take on blockers so that Lewis could clean up and record stats. He even insinuated that Lewis would enter the pile late just to show up on film and perhaps pick up a cheap assisted tackle or three.

Apparently time apart from Lewis and Scott's fat contract have done little to tame those feelings of resent bubbling just beneath the surface.

In a recent NY Times article Greg Bishop covered Scott's migration to Baltimore and the pleasant memories he harbors for Charm City. Yet even with such fond recollections you still get the feeling that Scott believes he never got his just due as a Raven.

Both he and Lewis were free agents after the 2008 season and both were rumored to be following Ryan to the city that doesn't sleep. When the free agent period commenced on a chilly February 27th night at 12:01 am back in 2009, it was Scott's driveway that Rex Ryan pulled in to as part of the courting process to bring the linebacker to New York.

"I was always Plan A," Scott said. "That was the first time in my life I was Plan A."

Recently after Lewis chastised the Jets for "yapping" too much and talking like soon-to-be-crowned champions Scott got in another dig.

"I don't even know what he said; I just know he said something. It's just part of the show. If you listen to all his news conferences, they're pretty much the same thing. It's part of how he builds it up."

Scott's teammate Kris Jenkins dug in a bit deeper when speaking to Newsday's Bob Glauber.

"I just hope [on Monday night] he doesn't hide behind the other linebacker that's taking all the hits for him."

Hmmm, wonder who planted the seed to that thought?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Q&A with Willis McGahee


Tony Lombardi: Willis many are speculating that a trade involving you is imminent. Can that be a distraction? What do you do to maintain the focus needed to perform between the lines?

Willis McGahee: Sure, I guess it could be a distraction if you let it, but I don't let that stuff get to me. Until someone tells me to pack my bags, I'm going to continue to be 100% focused on my training and winning! I just don't pay any attention to rumors and all that...never have.

TL: You seem to have settled into your role in Baltimore. You've also been quietly active in the community and you've personally made sure that many underprivileged families have enjoyed Thanksgiving Day. What motivates such generosity of your time and money?

WM: The kids motivate me. When I first set out to come up with a mission for my foundation, I wasn't totally sure what I wanted to focus on so I chose to just do a simple toy drive with some kids. Well, we blew it up and our very first year we were able to help over 250 local kids. It was the best feeling in the whole world. With Thanksgiving, I didn't ever want any parent to have to explain to their kids why they were eating leftovers or frozen pizza on Thanksgiving. I enjoy Thanksgiving with my family and I want to make sure they enjoy theirs too.

TL: What is your most pleasant surprise regarding the city of Baltimore?

WM: The most pleasant thing? Probably the people I've met here. People generally have been very supportive of me on and off the field and of my community efforts. The people here are pretty cool.

TL: The Ravens will wear the black uniforms three times this season. Is that something that the players get jazzed about?

WM: Well, yeah, we like doing the all-black thing and I think it gets the fans fired up too.

TL: Recently you agreed to support the Baltimore Blackout (see video below), an exciting new way for Ravens fans to support the team. What about the concept caught your attention?

WM: I liked the all-black theme and the thought of seeing all black versus all of those nasty yellow towels at Ravens/Steelers games just gets me going! (laughs) I like how the guys at Baltimore Blackout incorporated a charity aspect into the promotion, because, you know, that's real important to me and it's what I'm all about.

TL: Imagine 70,000 screaming fans waving Baltimore Blackout towels. How might that affect you and your teammates down on the field and the sidelines? Do you think such support can really alter the outcome of games?

WM: Man, I really do think that would get a lot of people fired up...fans and players alike. I can't wait to see what the stadium looks like in "blackout" mode.

TL: We've given some thought to presenting a Baltimore Blackout concept to the Ravens utilizing a Blackout Meter that measures decibels. The idea would be to disrupt the opponent with bursts of sound at strategic points during the game allowing the meter to help choreograph the effort. How might that make the home field advantage even more of a detriment to visiting teams?

WM: Baltimore has always been one of the loudest stadiums and one of the hardest for opposing offenses to play in and if we can amp that up even more, well, that would just blow those other teams away!

TL: Is there a way that the beneficiaries of the Willis McGahee Foundation can be positively impacted by the Baltimore Blackout?

WM: YES!!! The people behind this kind of tough-attitude blackout theme are really a couple of kind-hearted guys from right here in Baltimore and they've pledged to support my foundation with a portion of the proceeds from sales of Blackout merchandise. So every towel has a two-fold benefit...intimidate opposing teams and help kids in need. Can't get much better than that, can it?

Great stuff Willis. Thanks for your time and by all means, don't pack your bags anytime soon.

Ravens fans don't want you going anywhere!




BaltimoreBlackout from chris konkus on Vimeo.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ravens @ Rams: The good, bad, ugly & The Megan Fox


The Ravens for the most part played like they couldn't wait for the preseason to be over with. Subsequently, this blog will be written in that same "spirit."

The Good: The preseason is over; Curtis Steele's effort; Demetrius Williams showed up when he had to; Eron Riley albeit far too little, far too late; Jason Phillips against the run; KJ Gerard in spots showed why he should be on the practice squad again; David Reed's kickoff returns

The Bad: Troy Smith proved he's not NFL caliber - he should consider slot receiver but he won't.

The Ugly: The offensive line depth is very substandard. Bryan Mattison should consider the UFL; Prince Miller - hello basic knowledge for a punt returner...you don't field a punt inside the 10 particularly when back peddling; Jason Phillips in pass coverage. He would never have a career as a CSI. He can't cover a corpse with a blanket; Jalen Parmele in pass protection; Qadry Ismail's trip to the grocery store, showcasing his metrosexuality...I hope; to say WBAL's production was ugly is really an upgrade from what they actually delivered.

The Megan Fox: John Harbaugh for ringing up Dannell Ellerbe and reminding him that class matters to the Baltimore Ravens.