State of the Franchise: Baltimore Ravens 3/30/13

A few quick updates on our beloved Super Bowl XLVII Champion Baltimore Ravens.

Things are not NEARLY as bad as everyone thought only a few short weeks ago. The sky is not falling, the Ravens are rebuilding but not in bad shape at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the biggest fan of the Boldin to San Francisco trade (more on this later), nor the release of Bernard Pollard or Ed Reed. I just realize that there will always be turnover each year, just like the NFL analysts and the radio show hosts are saying. Get with the program, our team will still compete for the AFC North crown with Pittsburgh and *cough* Cincinnati. So relax.

1. Furthermore, I have to say I like many of the free-agent signings so far this offseason. Michael Huff, the versatile former 1st-round draft pick out of Texas, has a ton of potential and can be very good in Baltimore. He’s far from a lock Hall of Famer like Ed Reed is but at this point in their respective careers, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s going to play a lot better than he did in Oakland. He might even make the Pro Bowl if our defensive line can generate any pass rush this year.

2. Chris Canty is another big acquisition this offseason. I seem to remember him being a pretty big deal a few years back when he got traded from Dallas to New York. I think that was 2009 or 2010. Either way, he’s definitely a good defensive lineman, better in run-support than pass-rush, and I’m pretty sure he’s got at least a few more good years in the tank. If you don’t really understand what kind of player he was previously, only 3-4 years ago he was worth $42 million to the Giants. He JUST turned 30. Unlike wide receiver or cornerback or ESPECIALLY running back, the big uglies in the middle of the field don’t suddenly go bad, they often play into their mid or even late 30s.

3. F*#k Paul Kruger. He can go eat a bag of baby dicks in Cleveland. For all of you who thought he was such a huge loss this offseason, I promise you never even heard of him until really the beginning of this season. He was a huge bust for like 3 years of his rookie contract coming out of Utah. So either he was lazy as shit and just underwhelmed with his play for several years or was too stupid and just took that long to figure out our defense. Either way he’s the Browns problem now. Here, let me make it real simple for you:

Paul Kruger is 27 years old. In 4 seasons he has a total of 15.5 sacks regular season, 6.0 sacks postseason. Since 9.0 regular season and 4 postseason sacks all happened this season, he only had 6.5 and 2.0 through 3 whole seasons. Combine that with how bad he truly is in run-support and you can see why I’m not really all that stressed over losing him. He’s costing Cleveland $40 million dollars/5 years!

“One year of decent pass rush does not a star defensive end make.”

Elvis Dumervil is 29 years old. in 7 seasons he has 63.5 sacks regular season, 1.5 sacks postseason. 5 out of 7 seasons he’s had at LEAST 8.5 sacks, including 17 in just 2019!!! Look up the definition of reliable pass-rushing defensive end and there’s a picture of Dumervil next to it. Nobody in the league short of Jared Allen, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware or Terrell Suggs gets to the QB as often as he does. Guess how much we got him for? $26 million base or $35 million max, contributing only $2.5 million towards this years salary cap.

Who would you take, Kruger for 40 mill over 5 years or Dumervil for 35 mill over 5 years. Enough said.

4. Let’s talk about Anquan Boldin for a minute. This is the guy who dominated the Super Bowl this season, the guy who caught 6 TDs this postseason. Boldin is a large, powerful possession-type receiver who is hard to tackle and even harder to bring down. That kind of receiver can be quite effective in the NFL for a long time, especially when he’s comfortable in an offensive system with a good Quarterback. So WHY the F#$K did we give him to San Francisco for peanuts?!?! Answer me that!!

Ok, now that I’ve calmed down, slightly, let me explain. Keep in mind that I might not have access to all relevant information involving Boldin’s contract, cap numbers or terms of the trade. This is what I think:

Boldin would have costed Baltimore around $6 million dollars this season, which would mean 6 million towards our salary cap number. Because he would be an unrestricted free-agent if we refused to pay this number, Ozzie/Harbaugh/Whoever decided to offer him up to San Francisco in return for a) not having to pay him $6 million dollars and b) because we would receive a 6th round draft pick in return. Seriously think about that for a second.

There is nothing wrong with a 6th or even 7th rounder, plenty of decent NFL starters are drafted in the later rounds. At the time Baltimore had next to no salary cap room, and that’s why we gave him away for chump change. The thing is, we’re not talking about Bobbie Williams here or even David Reed, the receiver we did end up resigning, albeit for a lot less money ($2.5 million). This is arguably the best receiver on the team when you consider just how valuable he was during the playoffs if nothing else. Instead of getting all antsy and dumping him for whatever we could get for him at the time, I would have done things way differently.

Instead of accepting that trade offer, a better strategy involves paying him the 6 million we owed him this season, and then initiating trade talks with any number of teams. I’m sure there are plenty of teams who would be willing to give us more than a 6th rounder. Since any team that traded for him would essentially be picking up his tab, the $6 mill that we couldn’t afford to pay him wouldn’t have been a problem anyways. Or we could have just kept him, especially since we made so many other moves to free up cap space later anyways.

5. Quickly running through the projected starting lineup. This is how I see things in terms of positional value at this very moment. I’m sure things will fluctuate all the way up until opening day, so in no way is this issue settled:

Quarterbacks: A+ Starting QB Joe Flacco is coming off his best season ever, culminating with a world championship for the team and a Super Bowl MVP award for himself. You couldn’t ask for much more from your QB. Back-up QB Tyrod Taylor is, well, Tyrod Taylor. He’s not great at anything in particular, except for scrambling around during the preseason. It’s not like we ever use him anyways, knock on wood.

Running Backs: A+ Ray Rice is still one of the premier backs in the league, regardless of a minor case of fumblitis during the playoffs. He should still have a few good years left in the tank, especially since his back-up Bernard Pierce is looking like a capable starter himself. Hopefully both will stay healthy and be a steadying veteran influence on the many new players joining the team this offseason. There are several other young backs on the team, such as Bobby Rainey, trying to make the team but they are trying to make the final roster. There’s always hope that one of them can help the team, maybe. FB Vonta Leach is still on the team too. He is a gigantic part of our running game and continues to play at a Pro Bowl-level, despite the NFL’s numerous attempts to eradicate the position.

Wide Receivers: C+ Torrey Smith will be the primary option now that Boldin is playing for San Francisco. He has become an exceptional player over the past couple years, bringing elite speed and above average route running to the table. Jacoby Jones will help him stretch the field, using his speed and quickness for other things besides Dancing with the Stars. David Reed was re-signed during the off-season and will compete for playing time w/ Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter and several other players that have thus far failed to make an impact. Luckily we’ve got over a dozen draft picks AND we’re solid at the tight end position.

Tight Ends: B+ Both of our impact tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, are restricted free agents this season. We’ll get Dickson back since he already signed his tender but Pitta is still up in the air for the moment. Tight ends that can take advantage of mismatches are in high demand, especially those with a history of making big plays in the postseason like him. If we somehow escape free agency with both, the Ravens will be in pretty decent shape in terms of receiving options. If all else fails, we still have uh… Billy Bajema, Alex Silvestro, and Steve Watson? 😛

Offensive Line: B For some reason, Michael Oher is still with the team. Ever since the Blind Side came out, he has been one of the most overrated players in the league. He will NEVER be the franchise left tackle the Ravens thought we would be when they drafted him out of Mississippi, contrary to what Hollywood says. Having said that, I am still overwhelmingly impressed with how the O-line blocked during the playoffs. They should staple Oher to the ground at right tackle. Bryant McKinnie, the incredible bulk, looked like a new man after being benched and embarrassed during the regular season. Marshal Yanda continues to play at a Pro Bowl-level, while Kelechi Osemele will be even better with a year (and a Super Bowl ring) under his belt. Gradkowski is in for some “Welcome to the NFL”-moments this year at Center, while everyone else will battle for playing time while continuing to provide depth. If you asked me this question before the playoffs, I would have given a very different answer. As it stands though, I’m actually ok with this group of relatively young men.

PS: KEEP MICHAEL OHER @ RIGHT TACKLE. Or cut him, whichever.

Defensive Line: B- Star Defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata should move back in the middle, surrounded by Chris Canty, Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears, Pernell McPhee, etc. That doesn’t sound TOO bad. I’m obviously not 100% sure about how good this group will be since games are won on the field, not on paper. Canty and Spears are new acquisitions and will need time to get comfortable. They might not be accustomed to playing Baltimore defense, which is more aggressive, and more physical than anywhere outside of the AFC North. Players need time to play instinctively, or as a team. The primary objective of this group will mostly be to take on blockers and stop the run so that our linebackers can flow to the ball.

Linebackers: A- Speaking of which, our star linebackers appear to be all set to make plays all over the field. Close your eyes and imagine a back to 100% Terrell Suggs on one side, elite pass rusher Elvis Dumervil on the other side, with Courtney Upshaw, Jameel McClain, and Albert McClellan rotating in the middle. Even before adding anyone else through free agency or the draft, our linebackers look pretty solid. There’s plenty of potential fireworks in this group, as long as they can figure out how to work together. We still have to find Ray Lewis’s heir apparent but with 12+ draft picks already, it won’t be as difficult as many people think. We don’t need a Hall of Fame-caliber middle linebacker, at least not at the moment, we just need someone who can get the job done for now.

Cornerbacks/Safeties: C+ Did anyone see Jimmy Smith during the Super Bowl? The former 1st round pick out of Colorado made two of the biggest plays of the game, solidifying the Ravens trust & faith in his abilities. If you don’t know which two plays I’m talking about, go watch the 4th quarter, you’ll figure it out. Jimmy-boy still has a long way before I will consider him a dependable starter on Baltimore’s defense but luckily he won’t have to do everything by himself. Cary Williams is long gone, having taken a job in Philly to the tune of $17 million over 3 years. Lardarius Webb (aka: Webbie) is on schedule to make it to training camp. When he’s healthy he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player, which will take some of the pressure off losing Williams, Ed Reed AND Bernard Pollard. Corey Graham is coming back too, and he played well enough to warrant a starting gig last season. Hopefully between free agency and the upcoming draft, we’ll find some upgrades for the defensive backfield.

Special Teams: A+ This is the best Special Teams group in the entire country. Period. There might have been games where the Ravens gave up some big plays or missed a field goal, but that happens to every team. Both of our kickers, punter Sam Koch and kicker Justin Tucker, are as good and confident as they get. Koch already has a few Pro Bowls under his belt, while Tucker will get his share if he continues to play like he did last season (He got ROBBED by Phil Dawson BTW). Jacoby Jones was the best kick returner in the NFL last year, even over the usual suspects like Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs. Baltimore’s coverage unit continues to be led by Pro Bowl Special Teams-Ace Brendan Ayanbadejo.

To put that in perspective, Pro Bowl-caliber Punter, Pro Bowl-caliber Kicker (check his stats! honestly!), Pro Bowl-caliber kick returner, AND Pro Bowl-caliber coverage gunner. You can’t really beat that, but I dare you to try.

That’s pretty much all I got for today. Feel free to voice your agreements and complaints alike, it’s not like I honestly care what anyone thinks about my beloved Ravens anyways but I’d love to hear what everyone has to say. Opinions are like chocolate cake, they can go fudge themselves. I’m just kidding, I must be tired or something.

~Michael

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Contact me @ Wong_83@Hotmail.com OR message me @ Kyarnboy.Wordpress.com

Joe Flacco: All-Around Humble Guy, and Super Bowl MVP

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Just some quick thoughts on Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco‘s impending contract extension. From a die-hard, hardcore, purple blood dripping Ravens fan.

Let’s face it, he’s worth it. We’re definitely going to pay the man, and pay him top dollar. Even if he is a terrible human being, who doesn’t give money to charities, womanizes all the time, and was addicted to weed, heroin, crack, and alcohol, we’d still end up paying him in the weeks ahead. Big time.

Luckily he’s not any of those things. Surprisingly, in the search for the perfect poster boy for the new (and improved) NFL, one with strong family values and morals, Joe Flacco is exactly what the NFL and Baltimore needs at the moment. Here’s why.

1. He’s a family man who has never gotten in any type of womanizing scandal, loves his wife, his daughter, and the one that his wife is pregnant with. The happily married couple announced the coming of their second child only hours after a thrilling win in Super Bowl XLVII (WOOHOO!!!). The worst thing that’s said of him, for the most part, is that he can sometimes be extremely boring.

He has this certain caveman-esque aura that can have you imagining him driving his family to the grocery store in a vehicle made of rock, and powered by their quickly churning feet. Although this is bad for infamy or notoriety, this is good for garnering trust from football-watching families across America.

2. His stunningly good work on the football field. He may not throw for 50 touchdowns and 5000 yards a season, or anything even close, and there are times when Ravens faithful everywhere just scream for him to stop looking like a confused ogre behind a quickly deteriorating pocket. That’s not completely his fault. Actually it’s usually Michael Oher’s fault (Blind Side My Ass). But other statistics, not advanced statistics or true QBR or any other fancy stathead crap, say he’s better than anyone else in the game over the past 5 seasons. Such as regular season wins, regular season losses, and postseason wins. It’s really that simple.

Like many other people in America currently, I don’t really give a flying dog turd about all the hours of computing that go into making some of the more ridiculous statistics found in ESPN the Mag, or Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, etc. If I can’t add it up on my fingers and toes, or at the very worst with a bunch of pencil scribbles on my bar napkin, it doesn’t really make much sense to me. What I know is that Joe Cool 2.0 has 9 playoff wins in his first 5 seasons and averages over 10 regular season wins a year. He’s never NOT made the playoffs like some other “elite” QB’s out there.

The definition of an Elite quarterback is ambiguous at best. Falcon’s QB Matt Ryan has great statistics and plenty of wins, averaging 11 wins per season. His 11-win rookie campaign helped turn the page for a city still reeling from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting scandal. Now all he needs is some playoff wins, beyond the single miraculous comeback win against Seattle.

Flacco, on the other hand, has won at least one playoff game for every year he’s played. This year he won 4, including 3 on the road. He finished with 11 passing touchdowns to 0 interceptions during the playoffs. I’m pretty sure no other QB, including Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway, Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning. His career statistics, regular + postseason, are as follows: 20,308 passing yards, 130 total TD, 64 INT, 509 rushing yards, and 21 fumbles lost. 2-1 TD to INT ratio, check.   Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP, check. 4000+ yards avg. per season, check.

Did I mention he’s never missed a start? 93 of 93 games.

He wasn’t a 1st-overall draft pick, or even a top-10 pick. He somehow someway got himself drafted 18th-overall, even though he wasn’t even a D-I starter! That’s a story for another day, but basically he couldn’t get the starting gig at Pittsburgh, so he decided after much consideration to go to D-I FCS Delaware, just up the road from Baltimore. He had to fight and scratch his way into the NFL, where his tall, solid build and laser-rocket arm, combined with Troy Smith’s sudden illness, made him a starter in week 1. In his rookie year. The rest is history.

3. He’s the best quarterback in Ravens history, by a long shot. Not including his Super Bowl victory, or his string of consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance/playoff win, Flacco just exudes the type of confidence and quiet leadership needed to pilot a AFC North team to victory. I want you to carefully think about Baltimore’s long turbulent history with quarterbacks.

1996 – Vinny Testaverde(16)

1997 – Vinny Testaverde(13)/Eric Zeier(3)

1998 – Jim Harbaugh (Yes, that Jim Harbaugh)(12)/Eric Zeier(4)

1999 – Tony Banks(10)/Stoney Case(4)/Scott Mitchell(2)

2000 – Tony Banks(8)/Trent Dilfer(8)

2001 – Elvis Grbac(14)/Randall Cunningham(2)

2002 – Jeff Blake(10)/Chris Redman(6)

2003 – Kyle Boller(9)/Anthony Wright(7)

2004 – Kyle Boller (16)

2005 – Kyle Boller(9)/Anthony Wright(7)

2006 – Steve McNair(RIP)(16)

2007 – Kyle Boller(8)/Steve McNair(6)/Troy Smith(2)

2008 to 2012 – Joe Flacco (16)

Summary: in the 12 years before drafting Joe Flacco, the Ravens started 15 different QBs. A single QB started the entire season only 3 times. Flacco has started and FINISHED 5 entire seasons by himself, including every postseason game. I don’t think 18-20 million per year is too much to ask, do you?

4. Humble and soft-spoken, Flacco does everything asked of him without a complaint. He’s the first one in, and the last one out (as expected). He takes less credit and more blame than he’s due, while usually saying all the right things when dealing with press conferences or public appearances. Can you manage the game without F-ing things up for the defense? Sure. Can you win the game on the strength of your arm? Absolutely.

5. Joe Flacco is the FUTURE of Baltimore professional football. There’s a 99% chance  Ray Lewis is retiring. That’s been the heart and soul of this team since the day he got drafted. Except for one almost forgotten season, the defensive captain has always been there, making sure everyone’s prepared and ready to play on game day. Now we prepare for life without Ray Lewis and probably numerous others.

Ozzie Newsome, the genius General Manager of the Ravens, has already publicly stated he won’t restructure many contracts, pinning all his hopes on another Super Bowl next season while basically sacrificing 2014.

That means we’re probably gonna lose our other defensive captain Ed Reed as a salary cap casualty. Keep in mind that’s another hall of fame-type player who will no longer be with the Ravens. Pro-Bowl fullback Vonta Leach could be next. WR Anquan Boldin, TE Dennis Pitta, DE Paul Kruger, all starting players who will be free agency decisions this offseason. Oh, C Matt Birk is retiring too, supposedly, but he’s said that before.

Hopefully we don’t lose ALL these players. I just don’t have much hope in a repeat if we can’t at least salvage a few of these cap casualties. Regardless of whether we do or don’t, it’s going to take top-5 QB money to keep Flacco around Charm City, and we’d be incredibly stupid not to pay him.

Let’s just say I hope there will be some great players available at the end of each round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Fighting for the Right to Bust Heads.

I’ve had enough with all the bologna about CTE, concussions, etc. and so forth. Quit trying to make me feel bad for wanting to watch football players crack into each other like 200 lb monster trucks. I don’t care about your studies, your clinical trials, the fact that your husband can’t sleep at night after playing pro ball for 15 years, or anything else you might throw in my face.

I just want to watch my professional football. Period.

Forgive me for being blunt, and probably not PC, but this really just feels and sounds like a lame excuse for people to point fingers at the most popular sport in America, or even the world. I wanna know who’s coming up with these bullshit figures. Someone please tell me how the game of football is solely responsible for head injures in the US. It’s not, and before anyone else jumps on that bandwagon, how about I list just a few of the other sports in which players are likely to get a head injury.

Ever watched NASCAR, Formula-One or any other form of professional race car driving? Why do we watch it? It’s inane and boring, stupidly repetitive and perhaps my least favorite professional ‘sport.’ For me, the single thrill of watching a bunch of overpaid rednecks zoom around a track for hours is the crashes. Not the fender benders, and not the jockeying for position, but the spectacular flaming wreckage that occurs when a car flips over repeatedly, car parts and oil scattering like coins across the rubber and asphalt. Do you know what else happens when those cars lose control at over 100 miles an hour? They cause head injuries, even with a helmet and safety gear.

What about MMA, Pankration, Boxing, and all other forms of hand to foot combat? Right after the announcer with the deep, harmonic voice announces the competitors, the various career statistics of each fighter come up on the television screen underneath their picture. These statistics include wins, losses, ties, wins by decision… and wins by KNOCKOUT. Need an example? Go re-watch last month’s fight between Juan Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. To put it plainly, the Pac-man got knocked the FUCK out. This occurs when an extreme amount of force applied by fist or foot to an opponent’s head/neck area causes the brain to go into shutdown mode, ie: Blacking Out. This is usually accompanied by a concussion, which occurs when the brain bounces violently against the sides of the skull causing a bruise. How come nobody is picketing Mandalay Bay or the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? Why don’t we change the rules of Boxing so that fighters can only hit each other with pillows taped around their fists.

While we’re at it, let’s take the Enforcer-role out of NHL Hockey, and permanently ban all fighting on the ice. Let’s remove the baseball from MLB baseball games, and exchange it for a wiffleball instead. This would prevent head injuries from occurring to either the hitter or pitcher, at the expense of changing the entire game of baseball. Bull-Riding, Skateboarding, Snowboarding, BMX, Drag-Racing, Rugby, the list of sports that do/can cause head injuries could go on forever. Even fake sports such as Professional Wrestling can cause real concussions and damaged grey matter. So again, what is it about Football in general that has parents, loved ones and even the President calling for reform?

When asked about the Ravens ability to outhit their opponent, and their reliance on playing physical football in the trenches, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh had this to say: “That’s what we’re all about. That’s what football is. Ultimately, if you don’t have that foundation, you’re not gonna last. It might look pretty, you might light up the scoreboard, but without that, there’s nothing. That’s what football is in the end. It’s not the off-tackle belly that Woody ran or the power that Bo (Schembechler) ran or Jim runs. Those are plays. It’s the format. It’s hard work and dedication and commitment.” Well said.

These are the defining ideals behind the game of Football, regardless of whether we’re talking about Pop-Warner, Prep, Collegiate, Arena or Professional Football. This is what Football is all about. Not to be callous, or uncaring, but most of the players suing the NFL currently on grounds of irreversible physical/mental damage are almost certainly looking out for number one. You knew the risks involved when you started playing, and if you didn’t want to continue playing after getting your bell rung, you should have quit right then and there.

I’ll give you an example. If you applied to work as a crash-test dummy, would you sue the company after being in an accident? What if they offered to pay you $100,000 dollars per accident? If you wasted that money on hookers and a fleet of expensive handmade convertibles, would it be fair to say that the only reason your attempting to sue the company is because you are broke as shit and are looking for a handout? This is how I feel about many if not all of the dozens of bullshit lawsuits out there. I guarantee if you gave me 30 million dollars over 5 years, I wouldn’t need to beg for charity after my career was over.

I don’t care if you have 6 children by 3 different women, a charity, 3 mortgage payments, there is absolutely NO good reason these players shouldn’t have some money left over from their playing days. Even back in the 50s and 60s, when Football was a side job rather than a career, there were perks and benefits for being a Professional Football player. Women, bonuses, game checks, coaching opportunities, free food, vacations, advertising jobs, and I’m not even talking about anything from the free-agency era. So the next time you hear about a lawsuit against the NFL, or how another ex-player’s suicide is a result of CTE, remember this:

Make them sign a waiver. Make sure they understand the permanent damage that can result from repeated collisions with other gigantic men. If your thinking of entering the NFL Draft, go buy a Fathead (A life-size wall sticker) of J.J. Watt first. Put it up in your room and close your eyes. Imagine yourself getting hit by a ton of bricks, many, many times over the course of a 3 hour game. If your completely OK with that, then DON’T FUCKING COMPLAIN ABOUT IT AT THE END OF YOUR CAREER.