Friday, April 30, 2010

Ravens Weak Secondary NOT a Liability!

Media experts and fans are poking and prodding at every NFL roster trying to find potential holes. The consensus hole for the Ravens is at the CB position because Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb are both coming off of knee injuries and may not be ready to start the season. Emphasis should be put on “may not” because from all accounts both are well ahead of schedule and at least one of them will be ready week 1. But ignore that for the moment, let’s say they both start the season on the physically unable to perform list and don’t return until week 6, what kind of trouble are the Ravens in? None and it is not because I think Ozzie Newsome is a master at filling holes, even though he is. I think the Ravens will be fine with or without Washington and Webb for a few reasons.

Assuming the Ravens bring back Frank Walker, the secondary that they will start the season with is the same one they played the last 4 games of the season with. In the last 4 games of the season the Ravens faced Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. The Steelers, Colts, and Patriots all had top 10 passing attacks last season and the Ravens walked away 2-2 in their last 4 games, including the playoffs. That’s not too shabby, for a group that most people think is terrible. In fact even in the two losses the secondary was not overmatched and they played well enough to win. At Pittsburgh, they held Roethlisberger to an average 259 yards passing before the Ravens entire team went into meltdown mode. In the playoff loss to the Colts, the Ravens offense was the reason they lost the game not their secondary. So, what does all this have to do with why the Ravens will be fine with their current backfield if Webb and/or Washington are not able to start the season? Look at the opponents the Ravens will face the first 8 weeks of the season. 4 of the 7 teams ranked 25th or worse in passing last year and none of them made upgrades that would catapult them into an elite passing game. Only the Patriots ranked in the top 5 and again the Raven beat the Patriots convincingly with their current secondary. The Steelers, who ranked 9th, will be without Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes. A closer look:

Jets: Mark Sanchez was a below average starting QB last year and the Jets 31st ranking in the passing game proves that. The Jets did acquire wide receiver Santonio Holmes to bolster the passing game and help Sanchez develop but he’s suspended the first 4 weeks of the season and therefore will not play against the Ravens. Which means Sanchez’s improvement is the only upgrade to the Jets passing game that the Ravens will face. Sanchez should improve considerably, he can’t really get much worse but I doubt it is enough for the Jets to beat the Ravens through the air. Add in the fact that the Jets are a run happy team and the Ravens secondary should be fine in this matchup.

Bengals: The Bengals beat the Ravens twice last year but it wasn’t because of their 26th ranked passing game. It was because of defense and a solid run game. Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson have both lost a step and are not as explosive as they once were. The Bengals didn’t do anything to drastically upgrade their pass offense this offseason. In my opinion, Antonio Bryant equals Laveranues Coles. They did add two wide receivers in the draft but drafting wide receivers is such a crap shoot that neither can be considered a real upgrade at this point. Jermaine Gresham will be valuable to them but the Ravens were the best team in the league at defending TE’s last year. So, this isn’t a game where the Ravens secondary will be overmatched.

Browns: Ranked 32nd in passing last season. Whether it is Jake Delhomme, Wallace, or Colt McCoy, the Browns upgraded at QB this offseason but it is not enough to catapult them into an offense that can take advantage of a “weak” Ravens secondary. Besides who are the Browns receivers again?

Steelers: Ranked 9th in passing last season but the Ravens will be facing a very much watered down version of this passing game. Roethlisberger has been suspended for at least the first 4 games of the season and the Steelers, as was stated earlier, traded their number 1 receiver Santonio Holmes to the NY Jets. Hines Ward and Heath Miller, will not be enough for the Steelers to exploit the Ravens secondary, and it doesn’t matter which backup QB they use.

Broncos: The Bronco’s 13th ranked passing offense didn’t matchup well with the Ravens defense last year and without Brandon Marshall and Ryan Clady, the Bronco’s passing game has been downgraded. Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn have not faired well against the Ravens. The Ravens held Orton to 137 passing yards on 37 attempts and number 1 receiver Eddie Royal to 2 receptions for 10 yards.

Patriots: This 3rd ranked passing attack faced the same undermanned Ravens secondary in the wildcard round of the playoffs and the Ravens secondary did just fine that game.

In my opinion, the only team with enough fire power in the passing game to expose the Ravens secondary is the Patriots and again the Ravens, not to beat a dead horse, beat the Patriots with this same secondary in the playoffs last year. So, as long as Webb and Washington are ready by the week 8 bye , (wk 7 they face the 30th ranked Bills passing attack) the Ravens secondary will be fine with their current group. That doesn’t mean the Ravens are going to start the season 7-0 but the secondary will not be as big of a liability as some people seem to think. The Ravens should look to add more bodies and hope all their current guys can stay healthy but there is no need to make any drastic changes, even if Webb and Washington are not ready to go, unless their injuries will keep them out for the entire season.

Monday, April 26, 2010

An Early Guess: Ravens 53 Man Roster!

With the draft behind us, I thought I’d give the Ravens 53 man roster a crack. This is only a prediction and it’s a terribly early one at that. In no particular order, here it goes:


QB: Joe Flacco, Troy Smith, John Beck

HB/FB: Ray Rice, LeRon McClain, Willis McGahee, Jalen Parmele

TE: Todd Heap, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Edgar Jones

(*Note: Davon Drew heads back to the practice squad)

WR: Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, Marcus Smith, Mark Clayton, Donte Stallworth, David Reed

(*Note: Eron Riley and Justin Harper back to the practice squad)

OL: Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Marshall Yanda, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, O’Neil Cousins, David Hale

(*Note: Ramone Harewood to the practice squad)

Special Teams

P: Sam Koch

K: Billy Cundiff

Matt Katula


DL: Haloti Ngata, Terrance Cody, Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg, Corey Redding, Arthur Jones, Paul Kruger, Brandon McKinney

(* Kelly Talavou to the practice squad)

LB: Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Sergio Kindle, Jarrett Johnson, Dannell Ellerbe, Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, Jason Phillips

(*Note: William VanDeSteeg to the practice squad)

CB: Dominque Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb, Chris Carr, Frank Walker

S: Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura


Wide Receiver- The Ravens should carry 6 this year due to the injury history of the group as a whole. Stallworth and Boldin have been two of the most oft-injured wr’s in the NFL. Smith is coming off that horrible injury from last year. Mason has struggled with injuries at some points the last few years and so has Clayton. I had a really hard time choosing between Riley, Harper, Williams and Reed. At the end of the day, I gave Reed the benefit of the doubt being a draft pick. Although, I think Williams would probably be the best option of the 4. If it is Williams, than I see Reed on the PS and Riley getting his walking papers, because Harper is a little further along in his development at this point. Personally, I am not 100% sold that Stallworth will make the roster but for arguments sake he is there.

TE- Edgar Jones versatility and special teams play saves his job.

LB- Antwaan Barnes and Brendon Ayanbadejo are two notable absences. Not all these guys are going to remain healthy, sad but true. Barnes could sneak his way onto the roster that way. The same for Ayanbadejo. I just have a hard time keeping an ST ace over all those young LB’s. Ayanbadejo is what he is at this point and he’s not going to be much more. Some of those other guys have the potential to be much more. He also suffered that injury early and the special teams unit did not miss him. His value drastically decreased last offseason.

CB- The Ravens will add a short term stop gap, eventually. AND the dreaded Frank “illegal contact” Walker will most likely be back, as well. I went on and counted Walker in my initial 53 because I KNOW he will be back but I didn’t count the other guy, whoever it is.

Practice Squad: I threw some names out there for the PS but I have to imagine the Ravens will be looking to add some undrafted free agents from the 2010 class to it. So, some of those guys may very well have run out of time.

Overall: Not much roster turnover. Its about what you expect from a team that has been deep in the playoffs two years in a row.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Baltimore Ravens Draft Grades!

2(43)/ Sergio Kindle/ OLB/ Texas- I think this has the potential to be the biggest steal of the draft. There are two knocks on Kindle that have people down on this pick, concerns about his character and his knee. The character concerns don’t bother me as much as they would if he were a 1st round pick because the financial obligation is substantially less. And make no mistake character is only a concern because of the money involved. I have to admit the knee worries me, especially given the Ravens history of wasted 2nd round picks like Dan Cody and Dwan Edwards the first 5 years of his career. The Ravens medical staff cleared him but I am not giving the benefit of the doubt on this one. I think he’ll be a guy that can upgrade the pass rush immediately but, until proven otherwise, is not a long term solution which is a shame. Of course, if I am wrong and he stays healthy, the Ravens have a great pass rush talent on their hands. This is a high risk/ high reward pick.

Grade: C+, with the potential to turn into an A+.

2(57)/Terrance Cody/ DT/ Alabama- Cody is a monster in the run game and I think when teamed with Ngata, he gives the Ravens one of the best run stuffing duos in football. A duo that in a few years could take the title of best running stuffing duo away from the Williams Wall of Minnesota. Cody is also good for the Ravens for practical reasons. The Ravens lost Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan in free agency and Corey Redding, can only replace one of them. So, they lost depth that they simply needed to replace and Cody does that. Cody also gives them some much needed youth at the position because Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, and Corey Redding are not young players. The knock on Cody is that he sometimes takes plays off and he has weight issues. This is a common complaint about defensive tackles coming out of college. Haloti Ngata had some of those same red flags attached to his name and ESPN ridiculed the Ravens for taking him. Albert Haynesworth, Shawn Rogers, and Casey Hampton are some of the best DT’s in the business and they have all either struggled with weight at times or been accused of taking plays off. That makes me completely comfortable with this pick. At best the Ravens have a long term DT on their hands at worse they replaced a rotational guy.

Grade: A

3(70)/ Ed Dickson/ TE/ Oregon- Dickson adds much needed depth at the TE position and another weapon for Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco. The beauty of this pick is that he doesn’t have to step in and contribute right away. He can sit behind Heap and contribute on a marginal basis. He needs to work on his blocking but so did Heap coming out of college and he seems to do just fine now.

Grade: B+

4(114)/ Dennis Pitta/ TE/ Brigham Young- This was a bold move by the Ravens and one that many people have been critical of but I am not one of them. I love that the Ravens picked up two good young TE’s. In SD, Cam Cameron used a multitude of TE’s in that offense. Gates was the main guy but they got contributions from several other guys at the position. Heap is getting older and the Ravens just need the depth. Before picking up Pitta and Dickson, Edgar Jones and Davon Drew were Todd Heaps backups. Jones, came into the NFL as a DE/LB hybrid and Davon Drew was cut by two teams, including the Ravens, after being drafted last year. Long story short: The depth behind Heap has just not been good and this Ravens fan has been thanking his lucky stars that Heap has stayed healthy. Losing him could have been catastrophic. Now it doesn’t have to be.

Grade: A

5(156)/ David Reed/ WR/ Utah- I am not a huge fan of this pick, mainly because the Ravens will have about 4 guys in training camp that are very similar to him. This guy is the 6th wideout that the Ravens have drafted in the last 5 years and the only guy that is no longer with the team is Yamon Figurs. Yet, the projected top 3 WR’s for the Ravens come from other teams. Do you see where I am going with this? The Ravens have failed miserably at drafting wideouts. They just have. I am not suggesting that they stop trying but they’ve got 5 “project” receivers on the roster right now. They need to be patient and see if one of them can emerge before drafting another project. The wideouts that the Ravens should be drafting now and within the next 2 or 3 years need to be as close to sure things as they can possibly be. They have enough projects at WR, they don’t need more.
Grade: D

5(157)/ Arthur Jones/ DT/ Syracuse- This pick adds more youth to the defensive line. If he can remain healthy, he’ll be able to help fill the void left by Edwards and Bannan, as well as be a solid starter or reliable rotation guy in the future. This is a low risk, high reward pick.

Grade: B+

6(194)/ Ramone Harewood/ OL/ Morehouse- He’s a project but he has a lot of raw talent and he’s massive. Given Ozzie’s history of taking project lineman early in the draft , Chris Chester and Adam Terry come to mind, I am very happy to see this pick made here in round 6 as opposed to round 2. I think this guy needs a lot of coaching and help with his mechanics but the good thing about going to the Ravens is that they have a great OL coach and they are set on the offensive line. They can afford to take the time to develop him properly. Another low risk/ high reward pick.

Grade: B

Overall Grade: B. The great thing about the Ravens is that they are a very deep football team, so none of these guys have to start right away. There are a couple of project players in there but the Ravens can bring them along slowly, without compromising their ability to win now. They also managed to get talented players at positions of need. The only player that did not fill a need is Sergio Kindle. In fact, linebacker is the deepest position on the Ravens roster. But with his pass rush abilities, even that pick sort of filled a need. Overall, I think the Ravens had a good draft.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Draft

I'll be unveiling my thoughts on the draft and the post draft Ravens, soon. I've got draft grade for the Ravens and their AFC North foes, but doesn't everyone. I've got an early projection of the Ravens 53 man roster. I am also going to be unveiling a new feature called Hate it or Love it.
Hate it or Love it will be a section of the blog that chronicals an NFL event, the draft, a game, etc. I'll tell you five things that I hated and five things that I loved about that event. The first event will be the draft. Then a couple of games during the regular season. The regular season games will most likely be MNF games, the Thanksgiving day games, and Ravens and Panthers games (since I am a Ravens fan living in North Carolina). I'll generally do two or three games per week. Then I will do all 11 playoff games, including the SB. End of the season awards, the Pro Bowl, and the combine.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jared Gaither v. Michael Oher: Ravens LT of the Future

There is very little buzz coming from the Ravens these days because of it Jared Gaither’s future in Baltimore is being beating like a dead horse. It is all speculation at this point. I don’t believe Jared Gaither isn’t going anywhere. So, let’s explore some of the reasons people seem to think the Ravens want to get rid of Gaither, RIGHT NOW.

1) Michael Oher is the LT of the Ravens future: Whatever! Just because Ogden came out said he thinks that’s what is going to happen doesn’t mean TPTB think the same way. If I can recall, Ozzie Newsome once said he thought Gaither was a better “prospect” than Ogden was coming out of college. Do you think Ogden and Ozzie agreed on that? Not a chance. Another thing is that the Ravens brass have given no indication that they are planning to move Oher to LT in the future. When they make plans to move a player to a certain position, they generally indicate that they plan to right away. (ie. Suggs and JJ to LB, Kruger to DE). All those guys played other positions coming in but it was known when they were drafted where they were expected to end up. Oher was drafted as a RT to play RT, not to convert to LT.

2) The Ravens don’t want to pay two guys LT money: This one of course is contingent on whether you believe Oher is the LT of the future for the Ravens, I don’t but for arguments sake we will say he is. They still don’t have to trade Gaither, RIGHT NOW to save that money. Oher has 4 years left on his rookie contract and given Ozzie Newsome’s history, he WILL play 4 years before he gets a contract that pays him LT money. The Ravens can avoid paying two guys LT money by: a) signing Gaither to a 4 year contract. Let Gaither be LT and Oher the RT for now. Allow the deals to expire at the same time and then make the final decision. They can also give Gaither a 3 year deal and decide his fate a year earlier than Oher’s. b) they could structure Gaither’s 5 or 6 year deal, so that its front loaded and cap friendly in the later stages of it. Somewhat like they did Suggs recent deal. That way when Oher gets his LT money, Gaither’s salary and cap numbers are not elite LT money anymore.

3) Michael Oher is a better LT than Gaither: This one blows my mind. Gaither is by far the better player at this point and in my opinion he’s got much more potential to become an elite LT than Oher does. Oher’s performance at LT was admirable for a rookie but Ravens fans need to stop kidding themselves, he was a serious down grade at LT. The Ravens were 2-4 with Oher playing LT, the two wins came against the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. They were 7-3 with Gaither at LT. The disparity in the win/loss column when Gaither is playing vs when he is not playing is too vast to ignore.

4) Jared Gaither’s work ethic isn’t that good: In my opinion this is the only valid reason for why the Ravens would be hesistant to commit to Gaither long term. They don’t trust him to continue to working hard after he gets his big pay day. If that truly is the case, not many other teams are going to trust him enough to take that risk either. In fact, you could count on one hand how many teams would they are : The Oakland Raiders, The Washington Redskins, Al Davis Raiders, the Raiders and finally the Raiders. Having traded for McNabb recently you can take the Redskins off that list. My point is the Ravens are not going to get the compensation they are looking for in a trade for Gaither if there are character concerns. And Gaither to this point has been a very good starting LT, you don’t give guys like him, work ethic issues and all, away for pennies.

In short, I don’t think Gaither’s future is in any way tied to that of Michael Oher. Oher was drafted to play RT and I believe the Ravens will stick to that. If Gaither is traded somewhere down the line, the Ravens will look to the draft to sign another LT. Not every tackle drafted in the first round is meant to be the teams LT of the future. If a guy is an elite RT and a slightly above average LT, he needs to play the position where he is elite. That’s how the situation with Oher will play out. Look no further than the guy he replaced, Willie Anderson, as the prime example of this. I am sure if absolutely necessary Anderson could have filled in admirably at LT in his younger years but he was an elite RT, which is why he stayed there his entire career.

But this is just one football fans opinion.