Archive for July, 2011

Pro Football Focus: Jarret Johnson is an "Elite" Linebacker

July 20, 2011

The website, whose staff is in the business of analyzing every single snap of every single play of every NFL season, has a post up today that will likely raise some eyebrows around B’More.

In a good way, that is.

They named one of the Ravens’ outside linebackers as tops in the NFL at his position since 2008. I know who most of us automatically think of, but based on the title of this post you can tell it’s not Terrell Suggs.

No, it’s Jarret Johnson.

PFF had this to say:

1. Jarret Johnson, Baltimore Ravens

Even though he’s top of this list, you wonder sometimes if Johnson is a little miscast in how the Ravens use him. A truly elite linebacker who is unmatched in run defense, Johnson has never (nor can you imagine him becoming) [been] a player who puts the quarterback under consistent pressure. But, he’s a huge part of one of the greatest run defenses in the league, and has finished with our highest grade among 4-3 OLBs in run defense for two of the past three years.

Grade: +50.2

While we love JJ around here, most in Baltimore would have never really considered him “elite.” He strikes us as a blue-collar type who is happy to do whatever it takes to help the team, and who gladly lets his more bombastic teammates take all the credit. However, these experts beg to differ on that point, arguing that #95 is just as important to the defense as #52 or #55.

You may have also noticed the assertion of PFF that the Ravens play a 4-3 defense. This runs contrary to popular belief as well. Pretty much every time the Ravens are on television, the defense is presented as a 3-4 configuration, and common knowledge around NFL fan circles still dictates that the Ravens are a 3-4 team.

That, more than their stance that Johnson is elite, sparked up quite the intense and interesting debate on Twitter following the posting of the article.

I won’t show all of the tweets, because the debate raged on for quite some time (as a matter of fact, it’s still going as I type this), but here are a couple that give the gist of PFF’s stance:

If you’re so inclined, it’s worth the time to click over to PFF’s twitter feed and read the entire argument.

As for us, we have a newfound respect for Jarret Johnson, and will be watching the Ravens’ defense this year with an even more discerning eye, hoping to use some newly gleaned knowledge of what separates the 3-4 from the “4-3 under” in the Ravens’ scheme to better understand what we’re seeing.

Football is getting close people. Keep the faith.

Back-to-Back Jacks by Lee, Reyno Pad O's Lead in Win over BoSox

July 20, 2011

After seven consecutive losses to Evil Empire, Jr., the O’s finally pulled off a victory against the hated Red Sox on Tuesday night.

Jeremy Guthrie went seven strong innings, allowing only two runs. He likely punched his ticket out of B’More with the trade deadline looming. If indeed this was Guthrie’s last hurrah in black and orange, I say good for him. The guy deserves way better than his atrocious record over the past two-plus seasons (25-44). Should he go, hopefully it’s to a true contender that can slot him in the 3-4 starter spot where he really belongs. I really believe that, in the right situation, Guthrie will thrive for the next few seasons.

Back to the game…

Jim Johnson shut down the Sox over the final two frames, though the ninth was a lot less tense thanks to back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the 8th by Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds. Those dingers pushed the Birds’ lead to 6-2, saving us the heartburn of entering the ninth with just a slim 3-2 lead.

The Birds try to take the series (!!!!) today at 12:35 as Jake Arrieta takes on some dude named Andrew Miller (3-1, 5.68).

Because MLB finally stepped into the 21st century and now allows video of their games on third-party sites, we can show you those aforementioned bombs. Thanks, MLB!

(Update: Well, one of them worked anyway. Looks like MLB is still figuring out this whole series of tubes that we call the internets).

John Harbaugh Rips 'Da Bears

July 19, 2011

Remember back in April at the NFL Draft when the Ravens basically had to skip their turn during the televised first round? They were scheduled to pick at #26 and we all waited with bated breath while the clock…ran out. Then suddenly it wasn’t their pick any more, and they were picking 27th.

The Ravens still got their man in Colorado CB Jimmy Smith, but the fiasco left Ozzie Newsome and Co. with the proverbial pie all over their faces.

As it turned out, a miscommunication with the Chicago Bears, and a potential trade gone awry were the culprits.  The Bears came out and apologized, taking full responsibility for the situation. Still, it could have very easily cost the Ravens dearly, and owner Steve Bisciotti came out and basically said that he thought the Bears should face league reprimand.

“I’m disappointed in the Bears and the McCaskeys [the Bears’ owners]. It is in my opinion a deviation from their great legacy. They concluded that their heartfelt and admirable apology was sufficient for our loss. All of us at the Ravens strongly disagree … probably end of story.”

Most of us had pretty much forgotten about this story over the past three months.

John Harbaugh though, apparently has not.

Appearing on ESPN 1000 radio today, Harbaugh went off on the Bears:

“It was disappointing,” Harbaugh said. “They can get mad at me if they want, but I’m not buying the mistake thing. It wasn’t a mistake. They knew what they were doing.

“They put their guy on the phone. They agreed to a pick. They got their guy on the phone. They recognized he wasn’t getting calls from the team behind them, and they basically stalled for over a minute, telling us they had called the trade in. They hadn’t called the trade in. They said it was a mistake. Those guys have been doing it for a long time, c’mon.”

“You communicate back and forth. And someone’s responsible for calling a trade in,” Harbaugh said Tuesday. “There’s no way to not get that done. We saw on TV that they had their guy on the phone and he was who they were talking to, and then they drafted him.

“So they basically just stole two spots from us, and that’s not OK. That’s not something … it’s not ethical, it’s not right. And I personally agree with our owner Steve Bisciotti that they should have been held accountable for it. But also it is what it is, they didn’t do anything illegal. We were just disappointed with it.”

“Of course,” Harbaugh said, when asked whether the Ravens would be reluctant to deal with the Bears in trade matters moving forward. “How do you know that they actually called a trade in? I know one thing, we’ll be a lot more careful with all of our… we basically just took them at their word, and obviously that was a mistake.”

While it would make for good TV, the Ravens and Bears do not meet again on the gridiron (barring a Super Bowl match up) until 2013 (under current scheduling guidelines anyway – I suppose that could all change under this new agreement that is about to be signed?)

O's Extend J.J. Hardy for Three Years

July 19, 2011

In a related story, J.J. Hardy has been committed to a mental institution.

Why a guy with Hardy’s skills, who could have tested the free agent waters after the season and likely signed a very lucrative contract with a team that has a chance to win this century would re-up with the Baltimore Orioles organization has me seriously questioning the guy’s sanity.

Regardless, Hardy likes it here for some reason, so he and the team agreed to a new $22 million contract that will keep the shortstop here through 2014.

At his press conference, Hardy acknowledged that Baltimore is where he wants to be:

“I’m also very excited,” he said. “From Day One in spring training I’ve really felt comfortable in this clubhouse, all the coaches, players. Everyone’s really made me feel comfortable and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”

Hardy’s injury history is a bit of a concern – he has played over 150 games just once in his 6 years in the bigs – but the O’s were willing to overlook that in the hopes of solidifying the shortstop position until 2010 #1 draft pick Manny Machado is ready to take over.

J.J. is on pace for one of his best statistical seasons, hitting .281/.336/.500 with 14 dingers and 37 RBI in 287 plate appearances so far this season. In 2008 with Milwaukee, he put up a .283/.343/.478 line with 24 and 74.

He leads O’s regulars in slugging and OPS and is third on the team in average and HR. While I still have to really wonder what he’s thinking by wanting to stay in B’More, the fact is that the O’s could do a A LOT worse than Hardy at SS (remember Cesar Isturiz, anybody?)

With Hardy, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Zach Britton, the O’s have a decent core to build around for the next few years. With any luck, Brian Matusz will get his act back together and be pitching at a high level again soon. With a lot more luck, perhaps Chris Tillman will do the same.

I’ll save the rest of my pessimistic snark for another time.

For now, YAY J.J.!!!

And hey, at least the ladies in town are happy about this one, right @Mishel1824?

Matt Wieters "Plays Like an Oriole" in All Star Game

July 13, 2011

The Birds’ lone representative in last night’s Major League Baseball All Star Game, catcher Matt Wieters, went…well, full on “Oriole” during his first appearance in the Midsummer Classic.

Entering the game in the bottom of the sixth, Wieters’ first inning behind the plate went off without a hitch as he caught Indians’ pitcher Chris Perez’s scoreless frame. In the bottom of the seventh, though, Wieters did something he hadn’t done all year to that point – allowed a passed ball.

In his defense, he was catching Seattle closer Brandon League, who was all over the place, missing nearly every target. It’s no picnic trying to catch a guy for the first time, especially someone as erratic as League. Still, all the other catchers in the game managed to backstop unfamiliar pitchers without committing any errors.

Wieters’ passed ball bounced off the umpire and made it all the way to the backstop, resulting in a two-base error as Hunter Pence advanced from first to third. A few pitches later, Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval smacked a ground-rule double, scoring Pence. Of course, had Pence still been at first, he would not have been allowed to score on the hit. Wieters’ error effectively allowed a run.


Those of us who like to look at the glass as half full posited that Wieters was actually tanking the All Star game, in an effort to keep the damn Red Sox or Yankees from having home field advantage in the World Series.

In which case, we say ATTA BOY MATTY!

Having watched Wieters play all year as I have, I also had a pretty good idea of what was likely to happen next, as Wieters was scheduled to lead off the top of the 8th inning for the AL:

Which, lo and behold, is exactly what transpired.

I don’t really mean to pick on Wieters here. Nerves were likely a factor as the youngster played in his first ever All Star Game, facing and catching completely unfamiliar pitchers. Hopefully Matt will have plenty of chances to redeem himself in future Midsummer Classics, and will do so and then some.

It’s just hilarious that the O’s only representative in the game played exactly like he was from a team that has lost 21 of its last 27 games.

Second half time.

This is Birdland.

Cheap Shot's Mug Shot

July 12, 2011


Goob sure picked a hell of a weekend for us to be offline.

Not only did we miss the Joe Flacco wedding pictures coming out and the Kevin Gregg-Big Sloppy bench clearing brawl in Boston, but we missed Hines Ward’s DUI and the Ray Rice-Ryan Clark Twitter war that followed.

Hiney was pulled over in Georgia after hitting a curb in his car, then proceeded to fail the field sobriety tests.

News of this reached me Saturday just before noon via a text from Nick-A-What: “Hines Ward arrested for DUI! Dancing Behind Bars!!!”

Hines is OF COURSE, completely innocent.  You know, just like when he throws the first cheap shot in every on-field altercation he’s ever been in, then walks away smiling like the kid that just stole the whole cookie jar as flags fly on the other team.

“On July 9th Hines Ward was stopped by Dekalb Co. police for suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence. He cooperated fully with the police and truthfully answered all of their questions,” the statement reads.  ”We are currently in the process of ascertaining all the facts.

“From our preliminary investigation we can tell you that we are confident that the facts will show that Hines was NOT impaired by alcohol while driving. However, Hines is deeply saddened by this incident and apologizes to his fans and the Steelers organization for this distraction.”

Whatever, Hiney.

Following that was the fun between Rice and Ryan Clark (who swore off Twitter a few months back, by the way), the Steelers’ de-facto cheap-shot artist on the other side of the ball:

Rice began the brief exchange by posting on his Twitter account: “Well it looks like Hines Ward will miss week 1 when the lockout ends DUI charge not a good look.”

Clark responded: “So glad you could Weigh in. Thx,” which drew this reaction from Rice: “it’s whatever u wanna do bro you know how to find me.”

Clark assured Rice that he will find him in Week 1, assuming the months-long NFL lockout ends and Week 1 games are played as scheduled.

“I hear ya brother.Thought we were all better than that. Wouldnt speak negative of you. I’ll find you!It’s not hard. God bless,” he wrote.

This is all well and good, but you know what would make it 1000x more fun?


Fix it, jerks.

/points and laughs at Hiney one more time

Kevin Gregg – New Favorite Oriole

July 12, 2011

Like Joe Flacco’s wedding pictures, I realize I’m a few days late to the party on this one. Again, I was in Dewey Beach all weekend for Goob’s Bachelor Party, so I wasn’t able to post this immediately as I’d have liked to. Rest assured though, I was at the Starboard screaming my head off cheering for Kevin Gregg as all this was unfolding.

For weeks now I’ve been clamoring for someone – anyone – on this team to show some fire and start pitching inside and backing hitters off the plate as teams continue to tee off on our horrid pitching.

Chances are, if you heard the guy yelling “HIT THEM IN THE FACE!!!!” at OPACY, that guy was me.

Hey, 14 years of losing will do this to you.

So I just wanted to take a minute to salute you, Kevin Gregg, for telling Big Sloppy and those Massholes exactly where to stick it.

And to thank you for the first exciting moment from an O’s game in a month.

Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Rec Specs. Eventually, one of those haymakers will find its mark.

Joe Flacco Holds Workout at his Wedding

July 11, 2011

Sure, the lockout is still dragging on, but that didn’t stop Joe Flacco from holding an impromptu workout at his knot-tying last weekend.

The bottle of champagne is a nice touch.

Seriously, how can you not love our quarterback?

There are some good comments on the Deadspin article, my favorite of which was about Flacco’s wife being very understanding not because of this photograph, but because Joe’s eyes were locked on Derrick Mason the entire ceremony.

Sounds about right.

Joe Flacco’s New Bride is a Very Understanding Woman (Deadspin)

Ray and Reed Voted Top Two Defensive Players in NFL's Top 100 of 2011

July 5, 2011

Over the weekend, the NFL Network finally got to the Top 10 portion of their “Top 100 Players of 2011” list, which was voted on by NFL players. Two Ravens were not only in the Top 10, but were the highest two defensive players on the entire list.

I’m sure you’ll have no problem guessing which two Ravens were featured.

No, not Tavares Gooden and Paul Kruger.

Ray Lewis came in at #4 on the list, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Adrian Peterson. Right behind Ray at #5 was Fast Eddie Reed. Cousin It…errr, Troy Polamalu was staring at Ed’s backside at #6.

While it’s probably a stretch to say that Ray Lewis, at 36 years old, is still the best defensive player in the NFL – a league dominated by 25-year olds – it still speaks volumes of the respect his peers have for him. Ray had a good 2010, certainly, but he has unquestionably lost about a step and a half over the past few seasons.

Still, he ranked as the top defensive player in all of football, when you asked current players. Very impressive indeed.

As for Reed being rated above Polamalu, this list will certainly not put to rest the endless “Ed vs. Troy” debate. As Ed always says though, “just look at the resumes.” Not the team resumes – the individual ones. Here, Goob did it for you a while back:

You can see Ray’s segment from the NFL Network here. (Ed’s, for some reason, doesn’t seem to be available on the site – please let me know if you find it).

The Ravens were also the only team to place two players in the top 10. Of course, their highest ranked offensive player came in at a dismal 56th (Ray Rice). Other Ravens on the list were Haloti Ngata (17), Terrell Suggs (40), and Joe Flacco (90).


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