Archive for August, 2009

Preseason Game 3 – Ravens @ Panthers

August 28, 2009

The “most important” of the fake football games is upon us, as the Ravens travel to Charlotte to take on the Panthers in preseason week 3.  Week 3 of preseason is traditionally the game in which the starters play the most out of any of the four exhibitions.  As such, we want to see our boys in purple and black looking sharper then we saw against either the Redskins or Jets.

What specifically will I be watching for from my couch?

Run Defense

Seeing an opponent rack up rushing yards is about as foreign to us here in B’More as a menu that considers “crab” snow crabs or some such nonsense.  The Jets, though, were able to find some room on the ground, even when the Ravens starters were on the field.  Baltimore fans have been a bit uneasy after seeing that, so we are all a little anxious about whether first-year defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s squad can plug the holes we saw in Week 2.  Carolina was the #3 rushing team in the NFL in 2008, averaging over 152 yards per game.  They will be without half of their lethal 1-2 rushing attack though, as Jonathan Stewart is sidelined with an injury.  DeAngelo Williams (5.5 ypc in 08) will see the bulk of the carries, and will present a significant challenge for the Ravens.

Hindering the Ravens’ efforts will be the lack of DT Kelly Gregg, who injured his shoulder against New York.  Word is that Kelly would play if this were a regulat season game, but will sit out just to be safe.

Linebacker Battle

Depth at linebacker is nothing new in B’More, but this preseason the Ravens are even more stacked at the position than normal.  As a result, some guys that seemed to be a lock when they checked into the Best Western in Westminster now find themselves teetering on the bubble.  Antwan Barnes, for instance, who saw action in 13 games and made 14 solo tackles as a pass-rush specialist in 08, finds himself neck-and-neck with such newcomers as Jason Phillips and Dannell Ellerbe.  Ellerbe missed the Jets game though, and will need to suck it up and get some reps in Charlotte.  Prescott Burgess is in a similar situation.

Speaking of linebackers, is it time to start worrying a little about T-Sizzle?  He hasn’t seen the field since the first week of August, and now that the team is back at their complex in Owings Mills, it seems unlikely that Suggs is still just trying to avoid practice.


This one isn’t so much a battle any more as it is a “hang on” situation for Steve Hauschka.  He has a definite lead over rookie Graham Gano at this point, and as long as he hits his kicks from here on out, the 2nd-year player from NC State should find himself on the roster opening day.  Hauschka might have some extra friends and family in the stands down in the Tar Heel State, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Pancake Man

Beast OT Michael Oher will see his first true test in the NFL, as he takes on Panthers DE Julius Peppers, who had 14.5 sacks last year.  Oher, who has been calling out the likes of Dwight Freeney since he was in high school, certainly won’t back down from the challenge, but he will have his massive hands full keeping Joe Flacco upright.

Wide Receiver

Of course we couldn’t go an entire preview without touching on (beating) the ravens WR situation (dead horse).  Mark Clayton, despite returning to practice this week and declaring himself available for the game, will be held out by Coach John Harbaugh.  This will give the slew of guys competing behind Clayton some more precious reps to show that they can be the consistent option on the outside that B’More desperately needs.  Kelley Washington has played well, but Demetrius Williams, Justin Harper, Jayson Foster, et al. need to step up, lest the Ravens be forced to hit the waiver wire over the next several weeks.  Some sources have them coveting whatever WR the Philadelphia Eagles decide to cast off.

As always, the main point of focus in a preseason game is for everyone to come out healthy.  These items (and more) though, will give us plenty of other sports-talk fodder for run up to the regular season opener.

How about you, see anything I missed?


Just Say "NO!!!" to Brandon Marshall

August 28, 2009

Listening to Ravens fans whine on the airwaves lately about the team’s wide receiver situation has been particularly irksome.  Never is it worse, though, than when a caller (usually led by a particular noodle-haired sports talk show host in town) practically begs Ozzie Newsome & Co. to sell the farm and go get Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall.

Take a look at this video, of Marshall making a mockery of practice this week, and reevaluate your stances please, Anita those of you who think the NFL works like fantasy football.

That’s what you want on your team?

When it comes to Brandon Marshall, just say no.


August 24, 2009

7:06 – The entire opening segment was about the Jets and Mark Sanchez.  Ravens mentioned only in passing.  Shock.

7:08 – Someone needs to tell the fine folks at Wrangler that, not only does Mr. Favre not play for the Packers any more (oh, you haven’t heard?) – his shirt is yellow with a green #4 on it – but NOBODY LIKES HIM!  His days as an effective jeans-seller are about 4 years in the past.  FIX YO COMMERCIALS

7:15 – Cris Carter just gave us this gem, regarding the aforementioned (number) fore four: “Your body can only just entail so much.”  Wtf.  This man gets paid to talk on TV.  Do we have a replacement for Emmitt?

7:16 – Not to be outdone, Chris “Rooting for Favre is like rooting for America” Berman chimes in with “he’s a kid playing a game,” about Favre.  I need to note that he said this with a completely straight face.

7:18 – After 18 minutes, we finally get a promise that the Monday Night Countdown crew, will, at some point…talk about the Ravens, as there is a preview for an upcoming segment about Joe Flacco.  I’ve had enough of these idiots for a while…

7:24 – Flacco is the subject, so I couldn’t help myself.  Cris Carter adds himself to the list of idiots who apply the baseball-based “sophomore jinx” to football.  Hearing him criticize the Ravens for not “giving Flacco more weapons,” I’m starting to think he shares a brain with Anita Marks.  I swear, if he brings up Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall and/or his fantasy teams, I’m done.  CC is staking himself to the early lead for stupidest pre-game show panel member.

7:52 – Prompted by Berman making no sense, Carter just admits that he needs a dictionary.  See 7:15 entry to understand why I find this particularly amusing.

8:09 – Haloti Ngata just gave Mark Sanchez a proper welcome to Baltimore.  HALOTI with the 25- yard pick 6.  Looks like Sanchez had a facemask full of #52.  Never saw anything like that in the Pac-10, huh kid?

8:11 – Graham Gano with a great kick and, unfortunately, tackle.  Where is the coverage team, John?

8:20 – Hate the call on 3rd and short.  Luckily, Ray Rice be jukin.  Bart Scott with the hit on Flacco.  Not quite Roethlisberger-esque, but a hit for sure.

8:22 – Bart Scott isnt a Raven any more, boys.  We need to block him.

8:24 – Flacco misses a wide open Ray Rice.  McGahee might have had it, but Mighty Mouse can’t jump that damn high.

8:26 – Sam Koch’s job is safe.

8:33 – AFC Divisional playoff game, much?  Flacco-to-Mason very reminiscent of Tennessee.  Of course, theres a flag.  Looks like it wasnt an issue.  Awesome play.

8:36 – Statue of Liberty!  This continues to not feel like a preseason game.  Ravens lead 14-0.  After being annoyed that Cam Cameron called two straight passes from the 3-yard line, he redeems himself.  Three consecutive runs by Pain Train McClain would have been ok to see too, though.  So far this preseason, the Ravens have now outscored their opponents 37-0.

8:50 – HEEEEEEEEAP.  Todd with the first down reception reminding us of the old Heap.  Hopefully it will become a familiar sight once again.  The Ravens are putting together a very nice drive here.  Starting from their own 10, they are now in field goal range.

8:58 – HATE throwing on 3rd-and-short again.  And, you’d think Harbaugh would use the opportunity to let Graham Gano try a 47 yard field goal in game conditions.  Peculiar going for it on 4th.  But, SUCCESS!

9:00 – A hold on Matt Birk brings back a great scramble for a first down by Joe Vick Flacco.  A nice call on the WR screen to Demetrius Williams gets the Ravens back into FG range, but Gano misses from 42.  That probably negates his good kickoffs, and the grumbles for Matt Stover from Ravens fans get a tad louder.

9:04 – One concern with the Ravens’ defense so far tonight is against the run.  The Jets have been getting some big runs on first and second down from Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.  Looks like the over-30 club members are out (Lewis, Reed, Pryce, etc.)  The Ravens finally get a sack, as Tavares Gooden comes through untouched to bring up a 3rd and long.

9:08 – Washington picks up 18 on 3rd and 12.  Very disappointing.

9:10 – Another huge choke job by the Ravens D on 3rd and long.  Mr. Mattison needs to address this in the coming weeks.

9:12 – Right on cue, the Ravens give up a TD on 3rd and 9.  The Ravens linebackers looked confused without Ray Lewis on the field.  Lots of yelling back and forth and directionless jumping around before the snap.  Oh well.  Nearly 85 minutes into the preseason, the Ravens finally give up their first points.

9:17 – Troy Smith taking over for the Ravens.  The final line for Flacco – 8/18 120 yards, 0 TD 0 INT.  I’d give him a solid B for the evening.

9:30 – Jaws fills us in that Troy Smith missed the hot read on 3rd-and-short, while Demetrius Williams broke his route off correctly.  The pump fake cost Smith a likely first down, and resulted in a sack.

9:33 – Jameel McClain makes up for giving up the TD to Washington earlier with a pick 6 of his own.  Haloti Ngata had a hand in this one as well, applying the pressure that caused Kellan Clemons to throw up the duck.  The Ravens’ defense with their 2nd touchdown on the night, and the good guys now lead 21-7.

9:35 – The Ravens take a 21-7 lead into the locker room.  Not a bad performance overall.  I’ll be back in the 2nd half, just not quite as often.

10:22 – The Ravens D makes a nice stop on 4th and 3 from their own 30.  Pretty much the lone bright spot of the 2nd half so far.  Troy Smith and the entire offense have been ATROCIOUS, and special teams hasn’t been much better.  Ledarius Webb threw the ball right to a Jets player on the opening kickoff return, quite an ugly blunder.  The backup offensive linemen are playing terribly, as Troy Smith has zero time to throw, in his defense, and Willis McGahee runs into a wall as soon as he takes every handoff.

10:25 – Speaking of Willis, he just had a great 16-yard run, weaving in and out and switching hands with the ball mid-run like vintage McGahee.  On the next play though, of course, the other 9 Ravens heard Troy Smith say “on 3,” while he and his center heard “on 2.”  Ugliness ensued.

10:27 – Another terrible pass from Smith, a floater from his back foot.  After playing so well against Washington last week, Smith looks like a wholly different player tonight.  Maybe its the poor play of the guys blocking in front of him, maybe he’s just off his game, or maybe the Jets’ backup defenders are just that good.  Whatever the case, it would probably be best to get him out of there.  Let’s hope we see Cleo Lemon or John Beck here in the 4th.

10:37 – Bart Scott, always a good interview.  He stopped a few steps shy of telling Michelle he wanted to kiss her, at least, although it wouldn’t have surprised me.  Good to see him smiling and jawing with the fans in the stands down there as well.  I think the Ravens have the players to adequately replace #57 on the field, but B’More will still miss Bart.

10:39 – Smith in to start the fourth, and immediately he gets sacked again.  Get him out!

10:40 – Making me eat my words, Smith completes a deep ball to Justin Harper from his own end zone to put the Ravens in New York territory.  Two plays later, Smith runs the option perfectly to pick up the first down.

10:43 – Steve Hauschka true from 42 yards.  He may wake up tomorrow morning and find himself with the inside track to win the Ravens’ kicking job.

10:50 – Ray Lewis tells Michelle Tafoya that Ngata called him out on the sideline from dropping his chance at a Sanchez interception, and made sure Lewis did his punishment push ups.  The guy gets his first touchdown and hes already gettin’ mouthy…D-linemen, psh.  Jon Gruden drops the interesting stat that no linebacker has ever had 30 sacks and 30 interceptions.  Lewis needs 2 more picks to become the only member of that particular 30-30 club.

11:03 – Thanks to the Ravens’ backups inability to get off the field, it looks like we have a pretty good chance of seeing the Jets score a TD and go for 2 and the win.  Guh.

11:07 – Ainge in on the sneak.  Will Ryan call a Statue of Liberty play of his own?

11:08 – During a Ravens timeout, I think I’m going to have to rethink this whole live-blogging thing.  The last time I tried it, this happened.   And now a damn preseason game is almost giving me a heart attack.

11:09 – Ladarius Webb and Prescott Burgess combine to foil the Jets’ 2-point attempt.  The Ravens will escape with the win, 24-23, and will have bragging rights over their former mates in green and white for the time being at least.  Thanks for tuning in with us tonight.

Scouts, Inc. Player Ratings for the Ravens

August 19, 2009

Scouts, Inc. has released their player rankings for pretty much every player in the NFL.  I thought I would take a closer look at their ratings, and also give those of you who don’t subscribe to ESPN’s insider a chance to view them.

The highest ranking any player received was a 94 (out of a supposed 100).

Two players tied with these high scores, DeMarcus Ware and Tom Brady.

Meh, no arguments there, I suppose.

At a point lower, at 93, there were 10 players, including two Ravens.

Haloti Ngata – 93

They gave this scouting report on #92:

Ngata is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and possibly the most important member of an excellent Ravens defense. He is a massive and incredibly strong. Ngata also has rare athletic ability, quickness and closing burst for such a huge force in the middle of the defensive line. He is extremely versatile and can shoot gaps while holding the point and absorbing double teams. He can also effectively line up in many spots along the defensive line. Ngata can be a force rushing the passer, but he could stand to develop a wider variety of moves. His effort also has been somewhat of an issue here and there, but that problem has progressively improved as he has matured. Ngata is an elite player.

Pretty high praise for a guy that has yet to even make his first Pro Bowl appearance.  Now -I’m not arguing, just pointing out the deficiencies of the Pro Bowl voters.  I will argue with the “effort” knock, though.  We heard a lot about this (cough, Mark Schlereth, cough) when Ngata was drafted out of the University of Oregon, but I sure can’t remember hearing one peep about Ngata taking plays off since he has been in the NFL.  Can any of you?

To compare, the rankings for the top five defensive tackles in the NFL were:

1.  Albert Haynesworth – 93

2.  Haloti Ngata -93

3.  Shaun Rogers – 91

4.  Kevin Williams – 90

5.  Casey Hampton – 87

The other Raven scoring 93 was, of course –

Ed Reed – 93

Simply put, Reed is one of the best in the business. He has elite range and is one of the few backend defenders who opposing signal-callers truly fear. Reed is a game-changer from his deep center field position and allows the Ravens to be very aggressive with their schemes. Not only is he a supreme ball hawk with rare anticipation and ball skills, but he is also an extremely dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands and is an immediate threat to score. He is also a superb kick and punt blocker when used in that capacity. Finding negatives on Reed is a difficult thing to do, but in 2008 — while playing with a neck/shoulder injury — he did take care of his body more than usual and wasn’t as violent with his collisions.

Everyone knows how great Mr. Reed is.  Although they count his only “negative” as his less violent collisions, I have to commend them for remembering that Ed was, at one point, a huge hitter from the safety position (something the Troy Polamal-who? fanatics are quick to forget).

Speaking of Troy-Boy, he also scored a 93, adding yet another to the list of analysts who find it impossible to choose between the two.

Top five safeties:

1.  Reed – 93

2.  Polamalu – 93

3.  Adrian Wilson – 90

4.  Bob Sanders – 87

5.  Kerry Rhodes – 80

Terrell Suggs – 86

T-Sizzle was the next Raven on the list, scoring an 86.

Suggs has been a mainstay on the Ravens’ defense. He has been a solid pass-rusher in the base 3-4 scheme. He has excellent quickness and speed off the edge with enough burst to close to the quarterback. He understands leverage and how to get his opponent off balance as a pass-rusher, while using his strength and quickness to counter back inside. He uses his hands well to disengage as a run-defender and work the edge of blockers. He is a versatile player who can drop effectively in coverage and is best in underneath zone schemes. He isn’t extremely fast in pure man coverage and is rarely used in that way. Suggs is an instinctive player who reacts quickly as plays unfold, which enables him to be active to the pile. He is a tough hard-nosed player who wins with effort, intelligence and athleticism.

We would add that, in addition to making him “active to the pile,” Suggs’ great instincts also lead to some other big plays, as he showed with his two interception-return touchdowns in 2008.

Suggs came in at #6 on the list of linebackers, behind Ware, James Harrison, Shawne Merriman, Patrick Willis, and Karlos Dansby.

Kelly Gregg – 84

A bit of a surprise (at least to those who don’t follow the Ravens and/or don’t know football), was seeing Kelly Gregg next on the list.  Always under-appreciated by the fans and talking heads, Gregg gets plenty of recognition by opposing coaches and others who know the game (in this case, scouts).

Gregg is built low to the ground and very powerful. He is an exceptional hands player who plays with excellent overall aggression. His motor never stops and his hustle can be infectious on his teammates. Gregg consistently wins one-on-one matchups and can handle a double-team while also making plays in the backfield. Although he offers little as a pass-rusher and rarely disrupts passing lanes or bats down passes, Gregg is the type of player who would make any defense better regardless of scheme.

It will be a welcome sight to see #97 putting his hand in the dirt (or Field Turf, as the case may be) again in 2009, after missing all of 2008 with knee injuries.

Ben Grubbs – 84

Grubbs, the Ravens’ 2007 first round draft selection, came in as the #3 ranked guard, behind Steve Hutchinson and Leonard Davis.

Grubbs is one of the best young guards in the league today and should only be getting better. He is both powerful and athletic. He can move big-bodied defensive tackles off the ball in one-on-one situations and can pull or combo block to the second level. He is not a liability in space and also can recover laterally when initially beaten off the snap. Grubbs has heavy hands and can stun his opponent, while also showing the ability to finish plays.

Derrick Mason – 81

Again reminding us how grateful we are that Mason decided to “Favre” his retirement this year, he was easily the Ravens’ highest scorer at WR.

Mason is the consummate pro and remains one of the most reliable wide receivers in the game today. Mason catches just about everything thrown to him and has superb natural hands. His route-running skills are even better with very fluid movement skills and a very good burst out of his break. However, Mason is not a big-play guy and doesn’t stretch the field. He is more agile and quick than fast, but also is a top-notch student of the game who takes his craft very seriously. His size is a bit of a problem and he isn’t a physical presence with the ball in his hands.

Joe Flacco – 80

Flacco burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2008, leading Baltimore to the AFC Championship Game. He showed the ability to digest what was given to him and obviously is quite intelligent. He has elite arm strength and can threaten the entire field. He has excellent size and the ability to scan the entire field clearly. Flacco could stand to add more bulk to better handle the rigors of playing the position at this level. Flacco is a surprising athlete who can make plays with his feet and throw well on the move. Flacco has a ton of upside and was very impressive in 2008, but he also had the benefit of having a grind-it-out rushing attack and an elite defense to help his cause.

Joe Cool actually tied for the #7 best QB after only one season in the league.  Also scoring 80 were Donovan McNabb and Kurt Warner.

I’m guessing QB is the position on this list that will trump up the most controversy.  Along with tying with the two listed above, Flacco was also rated higher than Tony Romo (79), Matt Ryan (78), Phillip Rivers (77), Jay Cutler (75), Aaron Rodgers (74), and a host of others.

We love Joe Cool, of course, so we love seeing him get so much respect.  However, this one is taken with a grain of salt, as they also had Matt Cassel (81) above everyone we just listed.

Would anyone really rather have Cassel on their team than Rivers or Cutler?

Interesting barstool debate.  Thanks, Scouts, Inc.

Rounding out the Top 10 Ravens on the list were:

Ray Lewis – 80

Lewis continues to be one of the most dominant run defenders in the league at the linebacker position. He is a powerfully built player with outstanding tackling power between the tackles. His ability to wrap up and tackle with jolting force is still evident in his 13th year. He has excellent instincts and vision to react quickly to the run and pass. He has outstanding football intelligence and is able to make all the checks and adjustments needed in the complex Ravens scheme. He uses his hands well to work through trash as well as having natural power to run through blockers. He is a crafty veteran who takes great angles in pursuit and maintains leverage on the ball-carrier. He has lost a step, but still has enough speed and quickness to be effective inside-out to the ball. He is a solid pass-defender primarily due to excellent anticipation and route recognition.

Trevor Pryce – 80

Pryce is a king-sized defensive end who can be a penetrating one-gap end or can hold the point in the run game an allow those around him to make plays. He is powerful with long arms and excellent hand usage. He keeps blockers well off his body and is quick to shed. Pryce is also a powerful tackler who can jolt ball carriers. As he ages, his leverage becomes more and more of a problem. Pryce shows more stiffness and his pads can get too high at times. Also, while a crafty pass-rusher, he doesn’t offer much from a speed off the edge.

Matt Birk – 76

Birk is a crafty veteran who understands angles and leverage as an interior blocker. He is an excellent technician who uses his hand well to maintain body position. He has good pop and power on contact and is effective with combination blocks. He is athletic enough to slam and chip to the second level and stay connected with his target. Matt is effective in space and keeps his pads over his feet well when down-field blocking. Birk can anchor in the middle agaisnt powerful bull-rushers and has the quickness and range to make blocks on the perimeter. He is an experienced player who could play other positions along the offensive line in a pinch.

Birk actually scored a point lower than the man he replaced, Jason Brown.  As much as we were sorry to see ol dancin’ JB go, it is pretty much universally agreed around B’More that the Ravens had a net gain at center this offseason.  Apparently these guys have a different view.

Anyway, feel free to argue for/against any of these rankings in the comments.  And let me know if there is any other specific player you are curious about, and I’ll do my best to find their score and report to fill you in.

Ravens 23 Redskins 0 (Preseason Games Merit No Clever Nickname)

August 14, 2009

Whether starters or backups, veterans or rookies, none of the Ravens had much problem disposing of the Washington Redskins last night in the first preseason action of 2009.  There was plenty of good that comes from a double-digit shutout win, of course, but there was also some bad sprinkled in.  Here’s what I noticed:

Michael Oher = BEAST

Wow, what a game this kid had.  We knew he was going to be solid, but he came out and absolutely mauled people from the start.  Any of you picking up Madden today, let me know what Oher’s run-blocking rating is – because anything less than say, a 95, isn’t giving the man-child his due.  He straight up pancaked at least two Redskins.

Now, if only we could get the guy a helmet that fits.

Oher lost his dome-piece twice, the second time right before he bashed heads with the Skins defender, and was a bloody mess as a result.  After going into the locker room to get three stitches to close the gash (and some saran wrap around his noggin to hold on the gauze), Oher was right back on the field.

Looks like another great pick by the Ravens’ front office.

Quarterbacks Effective

Joe Flacco was a quiet 9/15 for 103 yards.  Joe Cool didn’t do anything spectacular, but he was efficient in going through his reads, avoided any sacks or turnovers, and led two 60+ yard scoring drives.  Unfortunately, both drives stalled in the red zone (Deja Vu alert).  Perhaps Flacco’s best throw of the night, a sideline pass to Marcus Smith, bounced off Smith’s chest.

Troy Smith saw the most action last night, throwing 30 passes and completing 14 of them for 200 yards and a score.  He was impressive in his ability to sidestep pressure and extend plays, but Smith still has a tendency (as I noted here) to lock on to his primary reciever.  It didn’t hurt hit against the Redskins’ 2nd-teamers, but against a starting NFL defense, methinks it would be a different story.

John Beck wasn’t bad either, going 5/9 for 105 yards.  He may give Troy some competition for the backup job, yet.  He looks too good to be a #3 QB in the NFL, though.

All 3 quarterbacks benefited from…


Ray Rice caught a short check-down from Flacco in the 1st quarter and turned it into a 34-yard gain.  Near the end of the game, Jayson Foster grabbed a quick out from Beck, dodged a defender, and raced 64 yards before being pulled down just short of the goal line.  Foster likely earned himself a closer look as camp continues.

This is an area where Ravens receivers have struggled year-after-year, and it was nice to see somebody step it up, even if it was just a RB and a likely-to-be-cut WR.


I mentioned that the kicking game would be interesting to keep an eye on.  Steve Hauschka was 2/2, hitting from 21 and 37 yards, and put one of his kickoffs into the end zone, though not deep enough to garner a touchback.  Gano hit from 39, but banged a 28-yard attempt off the right upright as time expired.  He probably wishes Coach John Harbaugh had just let the clock run out.

Rex-Less Defense

As promised, new DC Greg Mattison ran most plays out of his base 3-4 defense, going light on the blitzing.  He admitted after the game that he was not satisfied with the amount of pressure the Ravens were able to get on the QB while only rushing four, so it will be interesting to see if his tactics change at all moving forward.  While Kelly Gregg, Justin Bannan, and Haloti Ngata are all extremely effective D-linemen, getting to the QB has never been any of their bread-and-butter.  The return of T-Sizzle to the lineup will obviously help, but there were times watching the game when Ravens fans, more accustomed to an aggressive scheme, wanted to see more bodies flying towards the pocket.

Still, the Ravens racked up 3 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery, and ended the day +2 in the turnover department.  We’ll happily give Mr. Mattison’s debut a favorable review.

Return Game

Did veteran return man Chris Carr have a few butterflies in his first appearance in purple?  He called for a fair catch on a punt return when nobody was within about 12 yards of him (although, as pointed out by the RaveTV broadcast team, this could have been due to his noticing that the Ravens had already been flagged on the play), and dropped another punt before scooping it up and gaining positive yardage.

Jayson Foster had the best punt return of the night, a 21-yard gain.

Ledarius Webb, a guy we have big hopes for here at the Nest, had returns of 6 and 10 yards, an unspectacular start.

Yamon Figurs, widely considered the odd man out of the group, did nothing special on punt returns either.  However, he did have two receptions, one of which went for 42 yards.  He’ll likely need a couple similar performances catching passes in the coming games to make the opening day roster.

Speaking of Receivers…

Ravens wideouts had an up-and-down night.  Marcus Smith dropped a couple, including the aforementioned sideline throw from Flacco.  He tried to redeem himself by making a tackle on special teams, but he injured himself in the process, and is rumored to be seriously hurt.

Justin Harper, the star of training camp so far, had 4 catches for 57 yards, including a 19-yard TD, but had at least 3 drops of catchable balls.  Some consistency would be very nice to see.

Kelley Washington and Demetrius Williams, two guys who will likely see plenty of the field (barring injuries) in 2009, combined for 3 catches for 42 yards.  We’ll excuse Washington for doing the Chad Pennington “air stab,” because he looked -300% as dorky doing it as Chad does.

Ravens 23 Redskins 0

Just wanted to type that one more time, because hey…kicking the crap out of the skins is always fun, even if it is just practice.

Ravens vs. Redskins Preseason – What to Watch For

August 13, 2009

Football season is back!  Finally, after seven months of the bad taste in our mouths that came with the AFC Championship game loss in Pittsburgh, we get to see our Ravens take the field once again.

Seeing those ugly burgundy and….yellow(?) uniforms lining up at M&T Bank Stadium will bring back fond memories of last December 7, when the Ravens beat up on the Redskins in sub-zero temperatures in prime time.

The thermometer won’t be the only thing drastically different when Washington and B’More knock heads at 7:30 this evening though.  Sure, kickoff temps will be about 60 degrees warmer, but much more interesting is that instead of seeing teams fighting for playoff spots, this time around we will be watching individual players competing for jobs.

So what are some of the most interesting position battles to watch for the Ravens?  Let’s take a look…


While many NFL towns would give a collective yawn at the prospect of a battle for the placekicker position, here in B’More, where we have grown all too used to winning games 3 points at a time over the years, we know the importance of a good leg.

But in 2009, for the first time in franchise history, that good leg won’t be attached to the hip of Matt Stover.  Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano will vie for one spot all preseason, and their performances in these games will go a long way to determining which of the two dons purple on September 13, and which is hoping to be picked up off the waiver wire.

By all accounts, the two have been neck-and-neck in Westminster, making the four “exhibition” contests all the more crucial.  Hauschka is set to work the first half, with Gano doing the honors in quarters three and four.  They will be judged on kickoff distance (Matt Stover’s weakest point late in his career), and on, of course, making their field goal attempts.  Keep a close eye on both kickers, and how they perform both tasks tonight.

Inside Linebacker

While it seemed a given entering training camp that Ray Lewis would be lining up next to “Little Ray,” Tavares Gooden against Kansas City on Opening Day, but Jameel McClain and rookie Dannell Ellerbe have other ideas.  The two have both played well in training camp, and have made it a three-horse race in the battle to replace the departed (*tear*) Bart Scott.

According to Mike Preston, Ellerbe has been extremely impressive “between the tackles” (read – against the run), while McClain is the best of the three at pressuring the quarterback, and Gooden has the most range.  It will be interesting to see which of the three has their name called the most on broadcasts tonight and over the next few weeks.

Running Back

The bulked-up Ray Rice has been getting most of the reps with the starters in training camp, and was expected to win the job of #1 back.  However, Willis McGahee has shown an improved work ethic in 2009, and has not let himself be pushed to the back burner quite yet.  And of course, there is last season’s leading rusher, Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain, who, despite promises from Cam Cameron to be used more in the traditional fullback role this year, will demand his share of touches.

The Ravens will undoubtedly be a RB-by-committee again in ’09, but the three will engage in a healthy competition to determine who receives the lion’s share of the carries.

For the third RB spot, Jalen Parmelee has had a good showing at McDaniel College, but will be challenged by 6th-round draft pick Cedric Peerman.

Wide Receiver

Saving the most talked about position on the Ravens for last, we come to the WR situation.

With starters Mark Clayton (hamstring-out), Derrick Mason (finger – questionable), and Demetrius Williams (hamstring – questionable), set to see minimal reps, Kelley Washington, Justin Harper and Marcus Smith will see plenty of “burn” tonight, and have the chance to catch passes from Joe Flacco in live game action.

With those three playing early, the lower rungs of the depth chart will get more chances than they usually would.  Jason Foster, Eron Riley, and Ernie Wheelright will have plenty of opportunities in the second half to show that they belong in purple and black.

A very interesting guy to watch will be Yamon Figurs.  Figurs, the Ravens’ former unquestioned return specialist, seems to be out of a job, and a roster spot, with the signing of Chris Carr.  He will have to prove that he can line up and run routes, something he has thus far been unable to do, save for a long TD reception in Houston last season.

While admittedly not completely exhaustive, that’s probably a long enough list of things to pay attention to in tonight’s game.  Because, hey, even with so much going on, it’s still preseason, after all, and nobody expects you to watch four quarters with your notebooks out.

NestMinder + Nick-A-What!? = Championship Softball

August 12, 2009

During an off day, we figured it’d be fun to let you have a peek into the sporting lives of your favorite bloggers.

Here’s the team photo after our last game.  The end of a championship season that wound up with a 17-3 record.  Of course there is some photoshopping there,  but not everyone could make the game.  Heaver Bunters ’09!

Can you guess which players didn’t make it?

Ravens Training Camp, Sunday 8/9/09

August 10, 2009

Goob and I made it out to training camp yesterday.  For me, it was the first time since 2005.  Aside from the annoyance of the Ravens holding the majority of the practice on the far field, as opposed to the one right in front of all the nice tents they have set up (seriously, wtf?), it was a good time.  Here are a couple pics and vids of the goings-on that we witnessed:

 DE Paul Kruger and LB William Van De Steeg, holding down the “white dudes with afros” portion of the practice.  Seriously, these two could definitely trade jerseys and I doubt anybody would be able to tell.

 The DBs coming over for a drill.


Mr. REEEEEEEEEED.  Note the lack of Red (no contact) jersey.  A good sign, although I hear he has it back on today.

 Speaking of Mr. Reed – we saw one defensive touchdown during 11-on-11 drills, and to the surprise of exactly nobody, it was Fast Eddie doing the honors.  A botched snap between Matt Birk and Joe Flacco ended up on the ground, and #20 scooped and scored.  You can see Flacco giving chase in the photo.  He actually almost caught Ed, who was in about 1.5th gear at that point, but much like a dog chasing a car, I’m not sure that Joe had any idea what he would have done had he caught up.  Can you just imagine that headline in today’s paper? “Flacco and Reed Injured as QB Tackles S.”  Guh.  I’m glad he didn’t catch up.


Here’s Steve Hauschka booting what was about a 45-50 yard FG.  His competition, Graham Gano, didn’t practice on Sunday, and spent all afternoon rolling some sort of bar over his right quad, as if trying to knead out a cramp.


On this one, Flacco completed a nice sideline pass to…somebody.  I couldn’t see.  Let’s go with Demetrius Williams.


Finally, we see Troy Smith commit a Red Zone turnover.  If you listen, you can hear me saying to Troy during the video, “stop staring over here.”  He was locked in on the spot WR Marcus Smith was running to, which happened to be directly in front of me, so I could see that he never even attempted to look the defense off.  Of course, they noticed too, and K.J. Gerard made the pick.

Some other notes:

  • The defense beat up on the offense for the most part, just as we’re used to seeing in Westminister.  The first-team offense struggled mightily.
  • Some of the walking wounded were back on the field, including L.J. Smith, Ben Grubbs, Michael Oher, and Oneil Cousins.
  • Still no sign of T-Sizzle.
  • Coach Harbaugh has a blast with special teams practice.  He had everybody under the sun, including kids and what looked like some United States Marines, running down with the kickoff coverage teams.

That’s likely the last training camp report you’ll get from me this year, but Luke Jones over at WNST does a great job every day from McDaniel College.

Ravens vs. Redskins Preseason Game Raffle

August 10, 2009

Last night, Nick-A-What?!, myself, and our lovely assistant convened at Ruby Tuesday to hold the raffle for the Ravens vs. Redskins preseason game, to be played this Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium.

And now, without further adieu, the results (cue drumroll):

A Big Thank You goes out to all of those who contributed to the success of this raffle.  You have inspired us to try it out again with a regular season game!  More details will follow.

And of course a Special Congratulations to Jeff, Linda (Linder), and/or Jessica Lecronier for winning the Tickets!!

Can We Please Stop Fawning Over Snoop Dogg?

August 6, 2009

In case you hadn’t heard (not likely), Snoop Dogg paid a surprise visit to Ravens training camp today, as a guest of his “good friend” Ray Lewis.

Everybody has been ooo-ing and ahh-ing the appearance of Mr. Doggy Dogg in Westminster.  He even basically had his own press conference, which Jamison Hensley transcribed here.

Snoop said all the right things that you would expect when surrounded by the Ravens and throes of their most dedicated fans.  However, for some reason, nobody is mentioning Snoop’s dirty little (not so) secret.






That’s right.  Snoop is an unabashed Squealers fan.  I, for one, was hoping Ray Ray would stop mid-sentence and knock his towel-waving block off.  Either that, or to see a nice Sizzle vs. Snoop Dizzle sparring match.