REAL FOOTBALL, FINALLY
Since I last checked in on 24×7, we’ve seen the best and the worst of the Ravens. Without rehashing in detail what is now very old news, let’s review where the Ravens have been over the past two weeks – games, cuts, additions, and a prediction for Monday night.
Harbaugh’s response to Ellerbe’s stunt reinforces for me who’s running this team. He began the culture change in ’08 when he benched then subsequently axed Chris McAlister, and he continues to mold the team in his vision. Some, in the press and social media, say that Harbaugh should similarly treat other players who act out, namely Derrick Mason and Ed Reed. I look at it this way: When healthy (and, face it, even when not) Mason and Reed are play makers and game changers. They don’t embarrass the team inside the locker room, on the field, or on the street. I’d rather Harbs put his effort into molding players like Dannell Ellerbe who, in a couple of years, will hopefully mature into a valuable veteran. By which time Mason, Reed, and Ray Lewis will be out of football anyway and counting the days to their Hall of Fame inductions.
The Ravens steal Josh Wilson from Seattle to shore up their secondary. Darrelle Revis signs with the Jets to shore up theirs (and in the process saves Rex Ryan’s potty-mouth butt). Next, the Ravens poach the waiver wire to pick up T.J. Houshmandzadeh to cover Donte’ Stallworth’s absence.
Is this a chess match or what?
Final Squad Cuts
No surprises here. As expected, Ozzie Newsome managed to keep all the 2010 draft picks. I’m happy that he could sneak tackle Ramon Harewood onto the I.R. list. He’s intelligent (majored in engineering physics), a mauler, but he’s also a W.I.P. I was less happy about Edgar Jones, Ken Hamlin, and Jason Phillips keeping their jobs, mostly because the first two stunk during preseason and the last because Phillips, as a certain web master pointed out to me, can’t cover a corpse with a blanket.
If fans were concerned that Troy Smith was unfairly buried at #3 on the quarterback depth chart, their doubts were erased in St. Louis. Troy threw 2 picks, basically because he’s too short to consistently get the ball over the hands of defensive linemen and, when he does get the ball out of the backfield, he had absolutely no pace on his passes. Some of his throws look like they came out of a howitzer. I saw all of 3 quality passes all evening. It’s hard to believe that Troy came into camp two years ago as the top candidate for the QB position. The grand experiment is now over. The former Heisman Trophy winner can now pursue his career in a city that’s even farther away from his beloved Cleveland than Baltimore is – San Francisco.
Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets
Fran’s Preseason List of Coaches Most Likely to be Fired: 1. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville (hanging by a thread); 2. Tom Cable, Oakland (it’s only a matter of time); 3. John Fox, Carolina (a perennial favorite); 4. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay (in over his head from the beginning); 5. Eric Mangini, Cleveland (he wasn’t Holmgren’s choice).
The Ravens are near consensus picks of the media to win the AFC North. Both ESPN the Magazine and their premier NFL analyst Ron Jaworski have picked the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. Even most Washington Post writers put the Ravens in Dallas in February. Ditto Pro Football Talk, CBS, FOX, and others. Yikes! Makes you happy? Yes! But in true neurotic Baltimore fan fashion I say -can we tone it down a bit?
S.I.’s Peter King and Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock are picking the Steelers to win the Super Bowl. I feel better already.
This is the most exciting Ravens opening game in recent memory: The Ravens against the Jets in their new 1.6 billion-dollar, unsold PSL “New Meadowlands” Stadium; Ray Lewis vs. Mark Sanchez; Joe Flacco vs. Bart Scott; Darrelle Revis vs. the entire Ravens receiving corps; The Rexinator versus the world – or at least the continental United States.
Here’s how I think the Ravens can win the battle against the Jets: Alternating Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, with a little Le’Ron McClain thrown in…I look for the Ravens to run the ball to set up the short to medium passing game as our tough possession receivers and tight ends will navigate the dangerous currents around Revis Island. I know he’s all-world, but he can’t be in 4 places at once. Ball possession, Baby!
Defensively, the game will turn on how our defensive backfield performs. Is Mark Sanchez smart enough and quick enough to exploit the Ravens’ biggest weakness? I think not. Not after throwing 20 picks last year and lucking his way into the playoffs. Not after looking very ordinary against some very ordinary defenses in preseason. Not after the harassment he will receive from a relentless Ravens pass rush. The early Vegas line is Jets -2, but I see the Ravens easily covering the spread and winning going away.
Ravens 23, Jets 13