THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens news & rumors

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens news & rumors

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There’s a silly rumor floating around the internet about a deal that would send Jared Gaither and a 2011 pick to the Raiders in exchange for Nnamdi Asomugha. The deal sounds crazy and a team source indicated to me that it is just that — crazy! He added that the Raiders aren’t shopping Asomugha and then wondered aloud, "Why would they?"

Good question, right?

Al Davis’ pirates have actually had a pretty decent off season and another lopsided trade like this would be a setback for them.

Now if the Raiders were talking to the Patriots who seem to regularly fleece Oakland it might have some semblance of merit. But the Raiders of late have exercised more lucid decision making.

Maybe they stuck Al Davis in a closet somewhere out there in the Bay Area.

Funny, I just had this image of the controversial owner starring in a Weekend at Bernie’s sequel…

Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks has some new toys this season. The Crimson Tide’s Terrence Cody is stout at the point of attack and while his weight issues concerned some clubs, the Ravens were not among them. Ozzie Newsome shares a great relationship with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and as a result the Ravens gathered enough reassurance that they can manage the weight and shape the athletic behemoth to produce a very productive football player. Cody is a likable guy and is likely to pick up a few tricks of the trade from Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata.

Defensive tackle Art Jones was very productive in 2008 for the Syracuse Orangemen (he had 18 tackles in one outing against Notre Dame) and was highly regarded at one point. Jones grew complacent and was a bit out of shape in 2009. The Ravens believe they got value with the fifth round selection and project him as a productive rotational player.

Besides Cody and Jones, Brooks will now be working with Cory Redding.  While the former Lion and Seahawk lacks experience in the 3-4 alignment he does provide three-technique efficiency and should be able to more than pick up the slack for the departed Dwan Edwards. He may not be the run stuffer that former Raven Justin Bannan was, but he does provide much more competency rushing the passer than either Bannan or Edwards. Interestingly Redding has been referred to as a more economical version of Trevor Pryce.

Here’s something else to keep in mind…Redding was once so highly regarded by the Lions (2007) that he was slapped with the franchise tag. Also, defenders seem to play better when they become Ravens, sort of the polar opposite of defenders that leave the Ravens’ system.

One more attractive quality of Terrence CodyHe will go up against Steelers rookie C/G Maurkice Pouncey twice a season. Ravens scouts are quick to point out that Cody performed well against Pouncey when the two squared off at Florida and Alabama respectively during those SEC battles.
 

Many have questioned Todd Heap’s durability and toughness throughout his career as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. He has started 108 of a possible 128 regular season games (84%) missing 10 games in each of the 2004 and 2007 seasons. But other than his rookie, Heap has started all 16 games in his 6 other campaigns with the club.

No one can deny that Heap’s speed and quickness have been affected by the wear and tear of the Kyle Boller years. There isn’t a Ravens receiver in the team’s history that has taken more vicious hits than the two-time Pro Bowler.

Sure part of that can be blamed on Boller’s inaccuracy – often forcing Heap to slow down, adjust to errant throws and then leaving himself vulnerable to punishing tackles.

But another culprit leading to Heap’s crowning as the team’s King of Pain is the offense itself. Without much in the way of homerun threats, safeties could always roll double coverage towards Heap and if they couldn’t break up the pass, they could and did chip away at Heap’s career with bone crushing tackles.

It’s ironic now that as Heap’s career winds down, the Ravens suddenly have the weapons to open up the field, distribute the ball and prevent the doubling down strategies. With the additions of tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta along with Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Donte Stallworth, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can spread opposing defenses.

As a rookie Heap tutored under Shannon Sharpe back in 2001. The following season Sharpe was a cap casualty. This season Dickson and Pitta will look to draw from Heap’s experiences. Don’t be surprised if the former Arizona St. Sun Devil meets a fate similar to his mentor.

Actually, you should expect it.

This is more than likely the last season you will hear M&T Bank Stadium ringing with that familiar sound.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAP!

Most concerns expressed by fans about the Ravens’ corners are really centered upon the uncertain availability of Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington to start the season. Both are ahead of their respective schedules in the rehabilitation process yet it is still possible that one or both will be unable to go for the opener in New York. That said it doesn’t necessarily mean that either will start the season on PUP. It may just be a case of one or both being inactive for a couple of games to start the year.

During the Pre-Draft Luncheon John Harbaugh discussed the new options in the Ravens passing game. Not once did he mention the name Mark Clayton when discussing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s weaponry.

Now that the Ravens have added to their arsenal with tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta plus Utah WR David Reed, it would appear that Clayton has slipped even further off Cameron’s radar screen.

And if that’s the case with Clayton, where does Demetrius Williams stand?

The odds are really stacked against both players. Neither contributes to special teams and both have had a history of nagging injuries, particularly during training camp. Williams is scheduled to earn $1.176 million and Clayton when he signs his restricted tender offer will earn $2.229 million. If either is injured during OTA’s or camp, the team is on the hook for their salaries.

Some believe that Clayton could bring something to special teams in the punt return game but to say he’s experienced in that department would be an overstatement. During his senior season at Oklahoma, Clayton had 7 punt returns, averaging 14.4 yards and 1 score.

That’s not much to bank on particularly when you consider that the team has added UDFA CB Prince Miller out of Georgia. As a Bulldog Miller averaged 14.9 yards on his 29 career punt returns with 1 score. The 5’9” Miller is said to have very good change of direction skills and is a definite possibility to make the team as a return specialist. The speedy defensive back who projects as a possible nickel or dime back has been clocked in the high 4.3’s.
Some have questioned the Ravens’ decision to pass on Boise St. cornerback Kyle Wilson. One source has indicated that the team was never really interested in the Jets’ newest first round pick. Not only did they question his value as a first rounder (they view Lardarius Webb, an ’09 3rd round pick as a superior player) but there are also circumstances off the field that influenced the "pass."
The Ravens were obviously interested in improving the position of tight end with the selections of Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. What isn’t so obvious is why they opted for Dickson and passed on the higher rated Florida Gator Aaron Hernandez or why the failed to make an earlier move to get  Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski, chosen by the Patriots just before the selection of Sergio Kindle.
The Ravens had character concerns with Hernandez and Gronkowski did not get the thumbs up from the club’s medical staff.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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