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THE WATER COOLER: Unfair Criticisms From Ray Lewis

Street Talk THE WATER COOLER: Unfair Criticisms From Ray Lewis

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Last night on Monday Night Countdown Ray Lewis was asked to weigh in on the Bryant McKinnie birthday party bus tour through DC, which ended with Jacoby Jones allegedly being hit over the head with a bottle by a stripper named Sweet Pea.

Lewis questioned the Ravens’ leadership now that both he and Ed Reed are gone.

Sorry Ray, that’s a bit unfair!

A little perspective please!

Ray and Ed have been gone for a grand total of three games, hardly sufficient time for others to step up as leaders. To throw stones now seems a little self-serving.

Leadership is earned. Let’s not forget that when Ray was the de facto leader of the team, there were a few off-the-field incidents that took place on his watch – repeat offender Chris McAlister, BJ Sams and Corey Fuller come to mind.

Was Ray’s leadership questioned then?

And then there’s that infamous night in 2000 following Super Bowl XXXIV.

No I don’t think Ray was responsible in any way for what went down, despite what the court of public opinion outside of Baltimore believes. But at the very least Ray was guilty of poor judgment – no different than Jacoby or Bryant on Sunday night.

For nearly 5 years the Ravens tolerated Cam Cameron’s offensive offense. Many pointed to John Harbaugh’s over-the-top loyalty to the former offensive coordinator who tried to fit talent into HIS system instead of shaping his system around his talent. It took an intervention from Steve Bisciotti to convince Harbaugh to move on from Cameron.

This season, Harbaugh brought in another old friend in the form of “Running Game Coordinator” Juan Castillo. Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? Castillo is the offensive line coach and like Cameron, he is taking the team’s offensive line talent and shaping them into HIS system – a zone-blocking front despite the fact that the talent screams for mano y mano schemes.

One of the reasons the Ravens offense gelled late last season was due to the marked improvement in the offensive line play. If it ain’t broke…

Should the running game struggles continue and if Harbaugh extends the same loyalties to Castillo as they were to Cameron, then duck. The “ish” is going to hit the fan!

The past two seasons Haloti Ngata has been plagued by nagging injuries. This season however, Ngata is healthy and has played well overall, despite a somewhat sub par game versus the run against the Texans this past Sunday.

The guess here is that Ngata will have a very good 2013 campaign IF the Ravens and defensive line coach Clarence Brooks have enough healthy bodies to optimize the rotations and keep everyone fresh.

This past week without Chris Canty (groin) and Brandon Williams (toe) Ngata was in for 84% of the defensive snaps. Making matters worse is Terrence Cody’s knee injury. Clearly it’s something to watch for. Canty played in only 9 games in 2012 and toe injuries for big defensive linemen like Williams can become a season-long nuisance.

Back to Ngata for a moment…

The All-Pro DT will eat up $16M of the team’s 2014 salary cap but given his bonus proration ($15M) it’s unlikely that the Ravens will do anything with Ngata next season other than to play and pay him.

The Ravens could do a post-June 1 release and take $7.5M in dead money in both 2014 and 2015. Neither is a likely scenario but if the Ravens do opt for either approach, it could be a signal that they are concerned about the real cash and not necessarily salary cap dollars.


• So the Ravens drafted Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth round why?

• The Ravens defense hasn’t surrendered a single TD at M&T over the past 3 games dating back to the Wild Card Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

• The Ravens are listed as a 3-½ point favorite in Buffalo this weekend. The early forecast calls for temps in the low 70’s with a 30% chance of rain.

• Around the AFC North the Bengals are 5-point favorites over the Browns in Cleveland while the Steelers are a 1-point favorite over the Vikings in London.

• The Ravens next opponent following the game in Buffalo is the Miami Dolphins who play in New Orleans next Monday night. Currently the Phins are listed at 6 ½ point underdogs in the Big Easy.

• And last but not least, our most sincere and heartfelt wishes for a speedy and full recovery to the Orioles Manny Machado. Stay strong!


Note: Brian McFarland and Ken McKusick contributed to The Water Cooler.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. He also hosts Backfield in Motion with Justin Forsett seen on ABC2 every Saturday at 1PM. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham. He ignores the passengers in cars beside him who laugh. Follow Tony's new Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi


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