On ESPN’s “Countdown to Kickoff” show last Sunday, former Eagles QB Ron Jaworski did a feature on QB Joe Flacco’s deep-throwing ability. “Jaws” said, “Joe is the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL.” High compliment. The Ravens are consistently hitting on “explosive” deep balls this year. The Ravens are tied with the Denver Broncos for the NFL lead in pass completions of 25+ yards (27).
However, that aspect of the Ravens offense was noticeably absent last week in Pittsburgh. Flacco missed an open Torrey Smith across the middle of the field on a deep attempt, but the Ravens played it quite conservatively otherwise. They’ll certainly need some big plays this week to keep up with San Diego’s high-powered attack.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU ~ Q&A with Jacoby Jones
What does it mean to you to be the only player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for 105-or-more yards?
“I really haven’t thought about it. I have so many great returners in front of me that have 15 or so returns for touchdowns. I’m just trying to catch up to them. I’m not really worried about the yards. That’s just a great compliment to the unit – the guys and coaches on special teams.”
Why did you transfer from running track in college to playing football at Lane?
“I actually got tired of just running for no reason at all. All you do is just run. I wanted to run for something. I always loved playing football when I was young, but I never got the opportunity to play, because I was always smaller than everybody. I graduated high
school 5-7, 160 pounds. I was small.”
What is your mindset when you take the field instead of a track?
“I still have the track mentality when I walk out on the field. I always think, ‘Catch me if you can.’ When I’m getting ready to return a kick, I sometimes try to fake the kicker by swaying back and forth. I don’t want them to know where I am lining up. I love hearing the crowd chant. When we are away, all I can hear are the boos; that gets you pumped up. But still, I like the home crowd better.”
What quality do you possess that makes you a great returner?
“My speed and my ability to stay patient. I have Anthony Allen in front blocking for me. He’s like my eyes out there. Once he makes the first couple of blocks for me, I just take off as fast as I can – fast feet.”
Describe this Ravens team:
“Work hard, be hungry and be humble.”
If you were to get another tattoo, what would it be?
“My next tattoo will be my son’s footprint on my leg. I saved a spot for it. I think I have the most tattoos on the team. The most talked about tattoo that I have is on my back. I have the city of New Orleans, which I put on my back, because that’s where I was born and raised. A lot of people lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, and being a guy that is blessed but is still trying to make it and achieve my goals, I said, ‘I’ll put the city on my back, literally.’ I have a lot of belief in my city that they can come back from Katrina.”
Now that you know a little more about Jacoby, feast your eyes on these impressive stats:
Jones leads the NFL with a 37.4 KOR average and has posted three combined kick return TDs (2 KOR and 1 PR), all of which have come in the last five games. Not only is Jones the first Raven to ever tally 3 kick return TDs in a season (I know, I was shocked Jermaine Lewis never did it too), but he’s just one of four NFL players since 2008 to score a PR, KOR and receiving TD in a single season.
I’d say he was a pretty valuable pickup this offseason. Jones joins fellow former Texans Vonta Leach and Bernard Pollard as guys who came from Houston and fit right in and made immediate impacts in Baltimore.
Throw in some guys that play in the other stadium downtown – Chris Davis, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day (all former Texas Rangers) – and the message to Baltimore GM’s is “keep scouring those Texas teams for talent!”
SPECIAL TEAMS FINALLY SPECIAL
When John Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore in 2008 with a special teams background, many expected the Ravens to immediately have one of the top units in the league. However, they’ve been anything but spectacular, and there were even some calls last year to fire ST coordinator Jerry Rosburg.
This year has been a different story. The Ravens are dominating in both returns and in coverage. The Ravens rank fourth in the NFL in opponent average starting position after a KO (20.3-yard line) and are third in average starting position after a KO (25.5-yard line).
AVG. START AFTER KICKOFF
1. Chicago Bears . . . . . . . . . 26.2
2. Minnesota Vikings . . . . . 25.6
3. Baltimore Ravens . . . . . 25.5
4. Miami Dolphins . . . . . . . 24.5
OPP. AVG. START AFTER KICKOFF
1. Chicago Bears . . . . . . . . . 19.6
2. Cleveland Browns . . . . . 19.9
3. New Orleans Saints . . . . 20.0
4. Baltimore Ravens . . . . . .20.3
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“A special teams coach has to invent a new core every year, and Rosburg showed his value again Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The punt return [unit] he coaches produced the only Ravens’ touchdown of the game – a 63-yard cannonshot by the quick and fast Jacoby Jones – and it’s the third return touchdown by Jones of the season. Rosburg has also had to wean the Ravens from a veteran kicker to rookie (Billy Cundiff to Justin Tucker), while improving the overall play of the kicking game, which last year was a sore spot.” – SI.com’s Peter King, naming assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg his Coach of the Week
“Talk about one of the year’s most underrated moves. Getting Jones gave the Baltimore Ravens another weapon, with Jones producing his third touchdown off a return Sunday night. At some point, people are just going to stop kicking to the guy.” -CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge on the Ravens signing free agent WR/RS Jacoby Jones in the offseason
“We don’t play for stats here. We’re playing to win games. The world gets caught up in fantasy stats. For us, the fantasy
stat is 8-2.” – RB Ray Rice on the Ravens’ 8-2 record
“I’m starting to believe that the numbers really don’t matter for the simple fact that we’ve been in the Top 10 in defense for years, and yet, have no Super Bowl rings to account for them. Last year, in the AFC Championship, we lost to the 31st-ranked defense [of New England]. I guess the numbers are all good for [critics] to pile on, but I guess the only thing that matters is wins or losses.” – OLB Terrell Suggs on the Ravens’ defensive rankings and their 8-2 record to start the year
DON’T I KNOW YOU? RAVENS-CHARGERS CONNECTIONS
Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron served in the same role for the Chargers from 2002-06. Under his lead, San Diego’s offense flourished, leading the NFL in scoring with 492 points in 2006. Cameron was instrumental in the development of former Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson (who in 2003 became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes), QB Philip Rivers and Saints QB Drew Brees. Cameron was named NFL Offensive Assistant Coach of the Year in 2004.
Chargers FB Le’Ron McClain spent his first four seasons as a member of the Ravens after being selected by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. As a Raven, McClain rushed 314 times for 1,185 yards, including a career-high of 902 yards in 2008.
Chargers OLB Jarret Johnson was drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft and played his first nine seasons in Baltimore. One of the team’s leaders and defensive stalwarts, Johnson established two franchise records with the Ravens: 80-consecutive starts and 129-consecutive games played.
Chargers DT Aubrayo Franklin was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round (146th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. Playing four years with the team, Franklin posted 40 tackles and 1 sack.
Chargers DB Chris Carr played three seasons (2009-11) with the Ravens, seeing action in 41 games (21 starts) and posting 125 tackles (103 solo), 20 PD and 4 INTs.
Chargers T Jared Gaither played his first four seasons (2007-10) as a member of the Ravens, after being selected in the fifth round of the NFL Supplemental Draft. In his four seasons, Gaither played in 33 games and made 28 starts for Baltimore.
Chargers OLB Antwan Barnes played for the Ravens for three seasons (2007-09) after being selected in the fourth round (134th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft. Barnes totaled 37 tackles (all solo) in 38 games in Baltimore.
Ravens director of player development Harry Swayne spent six years (1991-96) with the Chargers. Swayne, an offensive lineman, helped San Diego win the AFC Championship in 1994 along with Ravens West area scout Lonnie Young, who played DB for the team.
LAUGH OF THE WEEK AT THE EXPENSE OF RAVENS’ OPPONENT
Let’s hope the Ravens can give Phil another “worst day ever.”