Baltimore Ravens’ scouting report

Street Talk Baltimore Ravens’ scouting report

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1. How will Kyle Boller fare in place of Steve McNair?


As the Ravens (4-2) take on the Buffalo Bills (1-4) today at Ralph Wilson Stadium, this marks the backup quarterback’s third start of the season. Although Boller has performed viably in his two previous starts with a pair of victories over the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams, he made some poor decisions a week ago in a 22-3 win with one interception. Plus, his mobility isn’t 100 percent due to a banged-up knee. This is also an extremely noisy, unfriendly environment. Boller is 15-4 as a starter at home, but isn’t nearly as efficient away from Baltimore where he hasn’t won a road start since Nov. 14, 2004 in an overtime victory over the New York Jets at The Meadowlands. He has lost his last seven road starts, but at least he’s facing off with the NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense. The Bills allow 421.4 yards per contest.
2. Will Willis McGahee behave like he has something to prove?


The former Pro Bowl runner has attempted to downplay his emotions all week as he returns to Buffalo, the city he ridiculed for its women, restaurants and lack of glitzy nightlife as well as suggesting that the team should be moved over the U.S. border to Toronto. Now, the people of upstate New York are going to let him know how they feel. It will be interesting to see what sort of rushing rebuttal the league’s fourth-ranked runner issues against the league’s 25th-ranked run defense.
3.Will the injury bug affect the Ravens?


In addition to not having starting quarterback Steve McNair due to a back injury, it’s conceivable that the reigning AFC North champions could also be without middle linebacker Ray Lewis (knee), tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), cornerback Chris McAlister (knee), tight end Daniel Wilcox (foot) and offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) and Adam Terry (sprained ankle). At some point, the shorthanded personnel will lead to a loss. Perhaps not this week, though, as Baltimore tries to improve to 5-2 heading into its bye.
4. Can the Ravens confuse Trent Edwards?


The former Stanford star quarterback is an intelligent young man, but he hasn’t seen a defense this aggressive or this prone to trickery in his prior two NFL starts. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan couldn’t hide a grin Thursday when asked about defending a rookie passer.
5. Is the secondary vulnerable?
With McAlister out, Samari Rolle and Corey Ivy are likely to be targeted with deep threat Lee Evans stretching the field. Edwards is liable to toss a few lobs to test out a defensive backfield bereft of its top cover cornerback. Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed will need to provide consistent help over the top.
Ravens Offense
Total (19) Rushing (16) Passing (13)
Kyle Boller, this is your audition even if Brian Billick has said there won’t be a quarterback controversy. A rare road victory for this backup could create intrigue, though, if he excels today and starter Steve McNair stumbles when he returns after the bye against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Running back
Willis McGahee is bracing for a rude welcome home, which he anticipated since he bashed the city of  Buffalo’s women, nightlife, and restaurants and offered a hurtful suggestion that its civic treasure, the Bills, should be moved to Toronto.
Derrick Mason is on pace for 130 receptions, leading the league with 18 catches on third down. Since 2003, he has 394 catches to rank behind only Torry Holt and Chad Johnson. With tight end Todd Heap out, the Ravens need especially strong performances from Quinn Sypniewski, Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams.
Offensive line
It looks like it will be three rookies starting again, and left tackle Jared Gaither needs to be on his game against Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel. Left guard Jason Brown had a bad case of the yips last week with two crucial penalties. Center Mike Flynn could return today to solidify the line after being out last week with a sprained knee.
Ravens Defense
Total (4) Rushing (3) Passing (12)
Defensive line
They excelled a week ago with Dwan Edwards notching his first interception since high school along with interior linemen Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata and Justin Bannan all registering sacks. Trevor Pryce got the pins removed from his broken wrist this week and is slated to return Nov. 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ray Lewis is expected to be a game-time decision with a knee injury. Linebacker Bart Scott’s pass-rushing prowess has been negated by extra attention and pass-coverage responsibilities. Jarret Johnson has been a force against the run with 44 tackles and two forced fumbles.
The Ravens set a franchise-record with five interceptions against beleaguered Rams quarterback Gus Frerotte. Now, they’ll have to play without injured Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister. It’s a tall order for Corey Ivy and Samari Rolle, but it should be mitigated by the fact that they’re facing rookie quarterback Trent Edwards in just his third NFL start.
Special teams
Kicker Matt Stover leads the NFL with 18 field goals. He ranks fifth on the league’s all-time scoring list with 1,777 points behind Morten Andersen (2,474), Gary Anderson (2,434), George Blanda (2,002) and John Carney (1,779). Linebacker Gary Stills leads the Ravens with 10 special-teams tackles. He set a franchise-record last season with 44 special-teams stops. Rookie return specialist Yamon Figurs ranks second in the NFL behind Devin Hester with a 33.4 kickoff average and a 17.2 punt return average.
Bills Offense
Total (31) Rushing (20) Passing (31)
Trent Edwards is a strong-armed, rookie pocket passer with average mobility. He’s extremely accurate, but needs to improve his touch on timing patterns. Edwards has captured the imagination of upstate New York and the Bills organization, but this defense has brought plenty of rookies down to earth.
Running back
Marshawn Lynch is a shifty, compact runner, but hasn’t made many big plays yet. He has gained 373 rushing yards on 100 carries with three touchdowns. The Bills hardly ever use any other running backs.
Lee Evans is an explosive deep threat who burned the Ravens last season. However, he has been relatively dormant this year with a long reception of 22 yards. Return specialist Roscoe Parrish has aided the cause with 20 catches. Josh Reed is an average possession receiver.
Offensive line
Left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Derrick Dockery form an impressive tandem. Former Maryland center Melvin Fowler is well-traveled, but appears to have found a home in Buffalo. The right side is vulnerable with guard Brad Butler and tackle Langston Walker.
Bills Defense
Total (32) Rushing (25) Passing (31)
Defensive line
Aaron Schobel, the Pro Bowl defensive end, is the headliner. Right end Chris Kelsay and nose guard Larry Tripplett are underrated performers who relentlessly chase the football.
The Bills have grown soft across the middle with rugged rookie middle linebacker Paul Posluszny out for the season with a broken forearm. Angelo Crowell is an undersized, active tackler. John DiGiorgio and Keith Ellison are marginal starters.
Strong safety Donte Whitner is the hitman of this defensive backfield. He was a player Baltimore targeted last year in the first round, but was unavailable when they drafted defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Special teams
This is a strong unit with kicker Rian Lindell, punter Brian Moorman (45.3 average), punt returner Roscoe Parrish (33.3 average, one touchdown) and kickoff returner Terrence McGee (30.4 average, 103-yard return for a touchdown).
EDGES: Quarterback: Baltimore; Running back: Baltimore: Receivers: Baltimore; Offensive line: Baltimore; Defensive line: Baltimore; Linebackers: Baltimore; Secondary: Baltimore; Special teams: Even.

Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed has demonstrated a knack for timely, important interceptions. Of his all-time franchise leading 31 interceptions, 21 have come in the second half. That’s the most in the league since 2002. Thirteen of his interceptions have occurred in the fourth quarter. Eleven have come when the offense was in Baltimore territory. Seven have happened within the Ravens’ 30-yard line and another four have been picked off in the red zone. Plus, the Ravens are 22-5 when he intercepts a pass and 4-0 when he has two or more interceptions.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Photos by Sabina Moran

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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