Tag:Joe Flacco
Posted on: September 6, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Tomlin on PIT-BAL matchup '2 trains on a track'

The Ravens and Steelers meet in Week 1. Apparently, they do not like each other.  (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


There are eight division matchups in Week 1 but the biggest could be Sunday's Steelers-Ravens get-together. Both teams went 12-4 last season, made the playoffs, and the Steelers got to the Super Bowl before losing to the Packers.

Seven months later, Pittsburgh and Baltimore remain two of the AFC's best teams. And by Sunday night, we should should know the early favorite to win the AFC North (apologies to whoever wins the Bengals-Browns tilt).

But both teams enter the season with issues; the Ravens lack depth at wide receiver, quarterback and the offensive line, and the Steelers are one of the oldest clubs in the league. Over the weekend, we documented the Ravens' potential problems in great detail, but in the days since, head coach John Harbaugh announced that Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams will be the starting cornerbacks. Smith was the team's first-round pick in April; Williams has just one start in his four-year career. And they'll be facing possibly the best group of pass-catchers in the league. As a unit, the Ravens secondary will be tasked with stopping Mike Wallace, who had 10 touchdowns and averaged 21 yards per catch last season, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.

"I think we are younger, more athletic and faster than we've been the last two years," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, according to the Baltimore Sun. "I think this team will be a better team in October and November than they will be in September. Then you may go, 'What are you saying?' I'm saying we've got some young guys that are going to get better…"

The Rivalry

Baltimore also has plenty of veterans, although some are new faces around the locker room. The team signed center Andre Gurode over the weekend in case Matt Birk isn't fully recovered from back spasms, left tackle Bryant McKinnie was inked last month after Oniel Cousins flopped at right tackle (Michael Oher has since been moved to RT and McKinnie is penciled to play LT), and the Ravens traded for Lee Evans after it was clear rookie wideout Torrey Smith wasn't yet ready for the No. 2 job.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked repeatedly about the age of his team during his Tuesday press conference and, slightly agitated, he finally said “You’re making my job easy,” presumably because it would motivate aforementioned old-timers to play harder. That includes linebacker James Harrison, 33, who admits to being less than 100 percent after two offseason back surgeries.

Tomlin, however, remains unconcerned about the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. “I expect James to be James.” We suspect Joe Flacco feels similarly; in the past eight meetings between the two teams, Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have sacked the Ravens quarterback 12 times.



Pittsburgh nose tackle Casey Hampton put the rivalry in perspective: "They talk a whole lot," Hampton said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They don't like us. I think they don't like us a lot more than we don't like them. I think they have to talk themselves into it, kind of, know what I mean? Since I've been here, we've beat them a lot more than they beat us. They have to talk about it a whole lot."

For the record, since Hampton's arrival in 2001, the Steelers are 14-9 against the Ravens (including the playoffs).

Tomlin says the pregame gum-flapping doesn't mean much. “Who’s angry, who’s not, what’s said, what’s not said ... that’s going to be irrelevant. We have two ... teams with the same intentions: to put themselves in position to chase the Lombardi. That’s why we will always have issues with those guys. Two trains on a track. See you Sunday."

We'll be there.

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Posted on: September 4, 2011 7:16 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 7:20 pm
 

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues



Posted by Ryan Wilson

If the Ravens can stay healthy they have as good a chance as any team in the AFC to make a Super Bowl run. But this is football and not ping pong; injuries are as much a part of the game as touchdowns and interceptions. And with the regular season four days away, Baltimore still has plenty of unanswered questions, mostly having to do with the lack of depth at key positions.

On Sunday, the team addressed one of their needs by signing five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode, who lost his job in Dallas when he refused to restructure his $5.5 million 2011 salary. Gurode isn't nearly the player he was during most of his nine-year Cowboys career, but he doesn't have to be in Baltimore.

The 2011 Ravens

The Ravens signed him as insurance in case their other veteran center, Matt Birk, isn't yet fully recovered from August 3 knee surgery. Though general manager Ozzie Newsome sounded absolutely ecstactic when talking about the news publicly. "We just got better as a team.," he said. "To have a successful season, you have to have quality depth across the board. We just added great depth to the interior of our OL with Andre."

It's amazing to think that the Ravens, a team that was committed to building a formidable offensive line through the draft, has been reduced to searching through the free-agent lost-and-found bin for warm bodies to protect Joe Flacco and open up holes for Ray Rice.  Late last month, Baltimore signed Bryant McKinnie to play left tackle. The Vikings had released McKinnie earlier in the offseason because he was out of shape.

Since 2005, the team has taken seven o-linemen in the first three rounds and the results have been mixed. A quick draft recap:

2005: T Adam Terry, 2nd round
2006: C/G Chris Chester, 2nd round
2007: G Ben Grubbs, 1st round; G/T Marshall Yanda, 3rd round
2008: T Oniel Cousins, 3rd round
2009: T Michael Oher, 1st round
2010: T Jah Reid, 3rd round

Reid, Oher, Yanda and Grubbs are still with the team, and the last three are starters. That said, McKinnie was signed after Cousins flopped as the Ravens' right tackle (and was subsequently cut), and Oher remained unimpressive at left tackle. The plan is for Oher to move to right tackle (where he's previously had some success) and install McKinnie at left tackle. The other players listed above either weren't re-signed once their contracts expired, or in the case of Terry, released.



Baltimore also has issues at wide receiver and quarterback. They traded for Lee Evans after rookie Torrey Smith proved he wasn't ready to be the No. 2. (And rightly so -- he's a rookie who didn't have the benefit of OTAs or minicamps; no idea why coach John Harbaugh thought it was even a possibility.) And he'll team with Anquan Boldin and, well, that's it. The Ravens have Ray Rice, who was second on the team in receptions last season behind Boldin, and much will be expected of second-year tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

A much bigger concern is the backup quarterback. As it stands, rookie sixth-rounder Tyrod Taylor won the job by default. We'll have to wait and see if Newsome brings in a just-released veteran (Trent Edwards, Josh McCown and Dan Orlovsky are all looking for work), or risks sticking with Taylor. Flacco hasn't missed a start in his three-year NFL career, but without him the Ravens go from double-digit wins to a staring 6-10 right in the face.

A year ago, Marc Bulger dutifully held down that role but he retired this offseason. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron recently called Bulger to gauge his interest in returning to the Ravens and he was kindly rebuffed, at least for the time being. The Carroll County Times' Aaron Wilson tweeted Saturday that "Bulger has decided to stay retired at this time, but told Ravens he would be interested in case of emergency if Flacco got hurt."

It's a nice sentiment, but it's not exactly an ideal set up. The last thing a team wants to do after losing its franchise quarterback for any amount a time, is bring in a guy off the street to start in less than a week. Even one who is intimately familiar with the offense. There's the matter of being in shape, not to mention developing timing and chemistry with the receivers.

For now, though, Bulger's staying put and the Ravens are headed into the 2011 season with a couple of o-line veterans let go by their previous teams and a backup quarterback who has been in the NFL for a grand total of six weeks.

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Posted on: August 27, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Ravens move Oher to make room for McKinnie

McKinniePosted by Josh Katzowitz

Ever since the Ravens pulled tackle Bryant McKinnie off the free agent scrapheap, we’ve speculated about the immediate future of Michael Oher as the guardian of Joe Flacco’s blind side.

With Baltimore’s failure to re-sign Jared Gaither, it seemed clear that the team was banking on Oher at the left tackle spot. Until, that is the Ravens signed McKinnie -- formerly the Vikings left tackle. Now, it’s been made clear that Oher, who struggled mightily at times on the left side last year and helped contribute to an offensive line that allowed 40 sacks, will move to the right tackle spot to make room for McKinnie.

“If you give Joe time in the pocket he’s going to make the throws you need,” Oher said today, via Rapid Reporter Jason Butt. “It’s really not that hard. You were left, now you’re right. You just have to switch it.”

Oher, you’ll recall, began his career at right tackle, and now that the Ravens have moved him back, it seems clear that Oher might have found a permanent position (it would be a bit crazy for Oher’s fundamentals if he got moved back to left tackle again).

But this has turned out to be a great day for McKinnie, who says he’s down to 370 pounds (he was rumored to weigh close to 400 pounds before the Vikings released him). He also said he eventually wants to weigh 355.

"There's some things I can do as a veteran," McKinnie said, via the Carroll County Times. "I'm here to help everybody get better. I'm not real vocal, but I will pull people aside and give them tips."

He also claims he’s different than the way he’s been portrayed (apparent $100,000 bar tab notwithstanding).

"Actually, I'm more quiet and laid-back than what people think," McKinnie said. "Little things here and there used to pop up in my past, but it was kind of in my younger days."

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Posted on: August 23, 2011 6:01 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 6:09 pm
 

Bryant McKinnie gets a chance with Ravens

McKinniePosted by Josh Katzowitz

Bryant McKinnie’s long wait to sign a new deal with a new team is over. The former Vikings offensive tackle who was cut earlier in the preseason has reached an agreement with the Ravens, the Baltimore Sun reports.

McKinnie was a Pro Bowler in 2009*, but he upset the Vikings when he showed up to this year’s training camp far out of shape. Though the Vikings never actually came out and said that was the reason they got rid of McKinnie, coach Leslie Frazier said this before axing him: "There are a number of things that we want to work on with Bryant and some other guys as well. Conditioning is part of it. We just want to try to make sure that we're doing the right thing by every guy that's wearing the purple."

The Vikings also apparently were upset that McKinnie refused to budge off his base salary of $4.9 million, and for a guy who supposedly weighed in at nearly 400 pounds** when he arrived at camp, that was unacceptable.

*You might recall that McKinnie partied a little too hard in Hawaii, and he was not allowed to play in the game.

**McKinnie is 6-foot-8, but even for that height, 400 pounds is rather rotund.

McKinnie's drama
But now, he gets another chance with the Ravens -- who, according to the Carroll County Times, will sign him to a two-year deal worth $7.5 million (with a $1 million bonus).

It’s an interesting move by the Ravens, considering they failed to re-sign free agent tackle Jared Gaither earlier this offseason, essentially paving the way for Michael Oher to return to the left tackle spot, which used to belong to Gaither.

But as I’ve been saying, Oher, though he has a great backstory, isn’t always such a great left tackle. Perhaps the Ravens will give McKinnie, who can be a wonderful tackle when he’s in shape, the chance to prove himself worthy of protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side instead of Oher.

Remember this, though. In order for the deal to be consummated, McKinnie still has to pass his physical. As we’ve seen in the not too recent past, that’s not necessarily a slam dunk for McKinnie.

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Posted on: August 12, 2011 1:17 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 6:26 pm
 

Bills trade Lee Evans to Ravens for 4th-rounder

Posted by Will Brinson

Lee Evans, on the trading block for just over 24 hours, has a new home: the Baltimore Ravens.

We speculated earlier that the Panthers, Dolphins, Ravens and Cardinals could be interested in trading for Evans, but Baltimore announced on Friday that they had dealt a 2012 draft pick in exchange for Evans.

"He’s a quality veteran receiver who stretches the field and gives us a significant downfield presence," Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said Friday. "He's the type of person you want on your team. He brings leadership and maturity to the locker room."

Ravens Preseason

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, that draft pick is a fourth-round selection.

It's not a tremendous haul for Buffalo, per se, but they were able to unload a receiver who's underperformed for most of his career in a market that saw a heavy need for wide receivers.

Evans also won't be leaned on in Baltimore the way he was in Buffalo (at least prior to the emergency of our Super Bowl buddy and would-be rapper Stevie Johnson) thanks to the presence of Anquan Boldin, which should make him a much more viable threat.

Plus, despite what Ravens fans think of Joe Flacco, it's pretty clear he's an upgrade over either Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

For the Ravens, this is a huge move -- it was noted that rookie Torrey Smith struggled during Thursday night's action, and receiver was a clear-cut need for Baltimore as the season nears.

Now they've addressed it, and if Evans can produce, he'll be a tremendous value in exchange for a fourth-rounder.

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Posted on: August 11, 2011 12:43 pm
 

Jared Gaither to start over with Chiefs

GaitherPosted by Josh Katzowitz

With Jared Gaither helping hold down the Ravens offensive line, Baltimore was consistently one of the best running teams in the league. Last season, though, Gaither missed the entire year with a back injury, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Ravens running game became rather mediocre.

But with Baltimore set at the T position this season with Michael Oher and Oniel Cousins, the Ravens declined to sign the free agent Gaither -- which, as it turns out, opened the door for the Chiefs, who signed a deal with Gaither on Thursday.

The 6-foot-9, 340-pound Gaither played LT with the Ravens in 2008 and 2009. It’s not immediately clear on what side of the OL he’ll play for Kansas City, though it stands to reason that, assuming Gaither is healthy, he’s a more enticing tackle than Branden Albert on the left side or Barry Richardson on the right side.

There was a thought, though, that if the Ravens re-signed Gaither, they could return him to LT and switch Oher -- who struggled badly at times trying to protect QB Joe Flacco last season -- to the right side of the line.

But either Baltimore is extremely confident in Oher or not so confident in Gaither’s back, and now it’s up to the Chiefs to discover what Gaither has -- or doesn’t have -- left in his body.

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Posted on: August 10, 2011 9:22 am
Edited on: August 11, 2011 9:18 am
 

Podcast: Previewing the AFC North

Posted by Eye on Football Staff

We're rolling out the NFL previews and first up on the podcast: the AFC North.

Unlike other divisions, where any team could win, the AFC North will come down to the Steelers and Ravens, although there will be a race to the basement between the Browns and Bengals. That said, both Cleveland and Cincy have relatively easy schedules and there's a chance (remote but not impossible) that one or both of these outfits could win more than six games.

For that to happen, young quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Andy Dalton will have to play out of their minds and get a lot of help from their teammates. McCoy performed better than anybody expected last season, and with expectations predictably low for Dalton, there really is no place for him to go but up (assuming, of course, he doesn't get maimed by the Ravens' or Steelers' defenses at some point during the season).

Baltimore fans may not be sold on Joe Flacco, but the front office's decision to cut ties with two of his favorite receivers -- Derrick Mason and Todd Heap -- won't magically make him a better player. As it stands, the Ravens have Anquan Boldin and, well, that's it. Rookie Torrey Smith could be forced into duty, which while great for getting him some early experience, won't do much for the passing game. The solution: more Ray Rice.

Pittsburgh returns basically the same team that lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl. If you're a Steelers homer and looking for a silver lining from that loss: there won't be any Super Bowl hangover. So there's that.

Alright, talking starts below. (Just hit the play button and don't forget to Subscribe via iTunes.)




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Posted on: August 5, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 4:01 pm
 

Chargers reach agreement with WR Malcom Floyd

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Ravens, with a huge need for a big-play wide receiver to line up opposite Anquan Boldin, had an offer on the table for Malcom Floyd*. On Friday, Floyd, who spent the previous seven seasons in San Diego mostly as a backup, re-signed with the Chargers.

Chargers.com reports that the team reached an agreement with Floyd on a two-year deal.

“We have a lot of happy Chargers today with the return of Malcom,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “He has been an integral part of our team and it’s great to have him back. He is a very talented receiver and that will just add to the continuity of our offensive unit.”

In 2010, Floyd caught 37 passes for 717 yards (19.4 ypc) and 6 TDs. The season before, he hauled in 45 passes for 776 yards (17.2 ypc) and 1 TD. At 6-5, Floyd is an obvious red-zone target, but he's also capable of stretching the field as evidenced by his DeSean Jacksonian yards-per-catch average. He'll rejoin another 6-5 pass-catcher, Vincent Jackson, as well as Patrick Crayton, Kelley Washington, Laurent Robinson and highly touted rookie Vincent Brown as potential options for QB Philip Rivers.

Floyd will likely be the second or third WR in a Chargers' offense that features tight end Antonio Gates and one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Ravens, who have been trying desperately to find legit pass-catching options for young QB Joe Flacco. As it stands, Baltimore has Boldin, rookie Torrey Smith and, well, not much else. Thirty-seven-year-old Derrick Mason could return (despite his age, he has been productive for the Ravens), and perhaps the organization will make a run at recently released Jets wideout Jerricho Cotchery.

We have yet to play a preseason game but Ravens fans are already questioning if Flacco can lead the team to a Super Bowl. We're not absolving Flacco of blame in Baltimore's recent playoff losses, but it would certainly be a lot easier for him if he had someone to throw the ball to.

* UPDATE: According to Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens had trouble clearing enough cap room for Floyd.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com