Three Myths Heading Into Training Camp

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1. The Ravens no longer have an identity now that Ed Reed signed with Houston, Ray Lewis retired, Bernard Pollard was cut and Anquan Boldin was traded.

Really? REALLY? Does anyone actually believe this?

I guess Suggs, Ngata, Rice, Oher, Joe, Torrey, Webb, Dumervil, Daryl Smith, Corey Graham, Art Jones, and several other players just sit back and don’t offer any leadership quality at all?

Furthermore, folks are acting like losing Ed Reed and Ray Lewis is going to negatively impact the defense. I’m sure there will be a major drop in overall defensive knowledge, but all of the media pundits and gullible fans thinking that this defense isn’t going to perform without Reed and Ray need to take a breather. There are plenty of quality locker room personalities on this current team and the overall speed of the defense has increased tremendously.

Even though the Ravens won the Super Bowl, last year’s defense was one of the worst units the city of Baltimore has seen in a long time and almost lost a lot of games for the Ravens. The reality is that as fans we will probably never see consistently top tiered defensive units in Baltimore again because it is not easy replacing two Hall of Fame players.

I assure you Baltimore Faithful, this team will have an identity and this team will have quality leadership on and off the field.

2. Gino Gradkowski is too small.

I’m not really sure where this all got started. The guy weighed in at his combine at 6’3” 300lbs. First, even at that size, he is not small. Some of the best centers in the league (Jason Kelce, Chris Myers, and Scott Wells) are under 300lbs. Does anyone remember Terrence Cody (6’4” 350lbs) getting man-handled by Chris Myers of the Houston Texans (6’4” 290lbs)? I sure do.

Myers is a technician at center and even though he isn’t a 300+lb lineman, he does an excellent job because he knows how to play the position. By all accounts, Gino is a smart guy with a nasty streak. He handled himself really well last year against the Bengals and it wasn’t like he was playing against the Bengals’ 2nd and 3rd stringers. He was lining up across from Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, two of the better defensive tackles in the AFC. This is also assuming that after an entire season (and off-season) with NFL strength coaches, an NFL nutritionist, and an NFL weight room he is still lingering around his combine weight of 300lbs.

Folks, Gino is going to be fine. He may have some growing pains as the starting center, but keep in mind he will be on a very experienced offensive line right between two Pro-Bowl caliber guards.

3. Courtney Upshaw is a bust because he showed up overweight.

This one makes me chuckle. Yes, the guy needs to hire a nutrition specialist, but keep in mind this is a 23 year old kid. Yes, he is a kid.

When you’re used to eating a certain way for so long, it is difficult to all of a sudden change gears and take your diet seriously. Suggs only recently started taking his diet seriously and he has been in the league for a decade. I think Ravens fans need to consider why Upshaw was drafted and it wasn’t to be a 12+ sack per year outside linebacker. Upshaw was drafted because he is a heck of a run defender and sets the edge very well. In fact, I believe statistic sites like PFF had him ranked as one of the top run defenders in the league last year.

Additionally, there is a reason why Upshaw played almost the entire Super Bowl while Paul Kruger (the team’s best pass rusher last year) sat on the sideline: Upshaw could stop Frank Gore and keep Colin Kaepernick contained. Upshaw has never been an explosive player. He’s got short arms and he is built like a tank. He allegedly played in the high 260’s last year (weight wise) and supposedly right now he is in the 280’s. Clearly he has to drop some pounds, which won’t be hard for a 23 year old, but even if he did drop into the 250’s, he still likely wouldn’t become an elite pass rusher. That’s just not his game.

Upshaw was drafted to replace Jarrett Johnson, plain and simple. Look for guys like Dumervil and even John Simon to pick up the slack for losing Paul Kruger’s sack total. My bet is that Suggs and Dumervil can be one of the most effective pass-rushing duos in the NFL.

However, that doesn’t mean that Upshaw won’t see the field and won’t be an effective component of this defense.

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About Paul Lukoskie

Paul Lukoskie
Paul (aka WickedSolo) has been an avid football fan since he was a little kid. As former player himself (through college only...turning pro and having million dollar contracts and fame just sounded too overwhelming...or he's just a 5'11" 200lb guy who was only good enough to play D-3 ball...but who's...more

31 Raves on “Three Myths Heading Into Training Camp

  1. Anonymous on said:

    People love to hate the Ravens, lets face it, we are not the picture on the Wheaties box, or the poster boys like Lady Brady. But the numbers and rings do not lie…they get it done. Part of the problem in this country, too many dont get it done and there are too many pundits that are full of crap.

    • Anonymous on said:

      Look ive been a ravens fan since 01 so dont think im not a fan. But you really need to delete that stupid comment. All that you said does not fit think about what you said

      • Rants N Ravens on said:

        I agree with the first anonymous’ opinion, the Ravens aren’t media darlings like Patriots, Broncos, Niners, etc. And this country does have a ton of people who don’t get it done as well as a bunch of pundits full of crap.

        I also say that being a fan since ’01 has nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing with what the first anonymous person wrote.

    • Paul Lukoskie on said:

      It isn’t just the media though. Do you get on the forums on here? There have been A LOT of fans who seem to be thoroughly convinced that the team has no more identity because of the roster changes.

      Sometimes, you gotta let go. I believe it was John Harbaugh who stated after letting Mason and Heap go that one of the hardest parts of being an NFL coach is accepting that you can’t keep everyone together if you want to consistently win.

      I agree with him wholeheartedly.

    • tuxman on said:

      I received my Jostin’s xlvii key ring’s by ups yesterday. I asked from whom he said, Jostin i said my super bowl ring stuff. He looked like o yea frown . I said yes the team everybody hates. He must be a sqeeler fan. The Florida space coast is loaded with them.

  2. Timpo on said:

    I think that the pundits usually want to find a weakness in any team so that it can help bolster someone elses team. For the longest time the Ravens defense is what everyone else wanted to be (Still makes me sick when I see the whole “Play like a Jet!!” in new york.. .ugh.. thanks Rex) People want to emulate the good but want to think that there will be weakness somewhere.
    Thats what gets me.. its a TEAM GAME. So if all you have are two or three key people.. you have weakness. We have worked to eliminate any weakness in the defense.
    I just want to mention that I think that the Ravens Secondary is going to benefit like crazy from having Cary Williams gone. I know I hound on this but.. every week that kid made me nervous as hell.

    • Paul Lukoskie on said:

      I agree Timpo. Cary Williams had a handful of good plays last year, but IMO that doesn’t make up for him giving up damn near a first down every time he was thrown at. I’m not sure why he wasn’t up at the line of scrimmage jamming receivers, which is what he did the year before under Pagano. Maybe Deen Pees wanted him to give that kind of a cushion? To me, Cary Williams was a big reason (not the biggest though) as to why last season’s D had such a hard time getting off the field consistently. Hope he does well in Philly, but I am looking forward to Webb/Jimmy/Corey/Chykie.

  3. Hut Guy on said:

    AMEN !! AMEN !! AMEN !! This defense is much much improved !! Suggs + Dumervil = Best duo at OL in the NFL !! AMEN !!

  4. Bruce_Almty on said:

    My 2 cents.
    Ray and Ed personified the Raven defense–Ray the violent enforcer, Ed the chess master. Yes, they are gone but certainly not the identity of the team they helped to build. An identity I’m sure they are proud to leave as their legacy. Bottom line…Talking heads need talking points.
    Gino’s status…to be determined, but to signs are positive.
    Courtney was all we hoped for (if your hopes are realistic). He was a 2nd round pick that played his position better than most. He’s entering his second season…we’ll see what he looks like in Sept.

    and yes, i have confirmed that i am human….almost

  5. Opportunity To Be Better on said:

    1. The ‘Identity’ may be better. This is because the Defense may be better without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Yes, I said it. They had slowed down and were liabilities, but could not be benched by the coaching staff because they were legends.
    2. How can a 300 pound center ever be considered too small? That is totally ridiculous. The question is, can he play the position the way he needs to play it. Trust the coaches: they believe in Gino.
    3. Upshaw’s weight is basically a non-issue, although I understand Harbaugh wanting to motivate him to get in top shape. For a role model there, look at Suggs compared to last year. The real story is that the Ravens have some awesome guys in their front 7 defensive rotation, whether they play a 3 – 4 or 4- 3 defense. Look for everybody to get some sacks this year, including not only Upshaw but also Ngata, Canty, Williams, Brown and Elam among others. They’ll also be better against the run. And Upshaw will be in shape, so don’t worry.

  6. Gotta Go Joe on said:

    This Article makes me laugh, first of all The Ravens wouldn’t have had to search frantically for replacements, had it not given Joe Flacco that ridiculous contract. Flacco is mediocre at best and didn’t deserve the MVP (Jacoby Jones should have received it) That contract releases Boldin… The Best receiver on the team. The argument is still to be made that Jones and Pitta can fill those shoes. Next Part of the reason that the defense has been terrible the last 2 seasons, is the fact that Flacco cannot move the offense especially at the end of the game (i.e. Redskins, Eagles, ect.) Check the time of possession and the number of 3 and outs the offense had…. Lastly YOU WILL NOT replace the leadership of Lewis and Reed with people who are just coming there from other teams. Okay, the reigns are in Flacco’s hands. The Bright spot is that there is still Suggs ( who has to get back to form) and Ngata, Rice was little used last year in favor of the passing game (Lowest rushing yards in his career) I really think it will take some time for that many new additions to gel before they can play well together.

    • Paul Lukoskie on said:

      Clearly you know very little about the way the salary cap works and how they structured Flacco’s deal.

      Might I suggest reading some of the cap pieces that Brian McFarland has produced on this website?

      To be truthful, why are you even a fan? Seriously. I mean, if you’re going to hate…at least get it right. Without Flacco, this team doesn’t win the Super Bowl last year. Period. I don’t know how anyone could refute that.

    • Just SHHHH on said:

      If we would have kept Boldin I believe he would have been making more than Flacco would AFTER his contract was signed. I believe Joe’s cap hit is small this year and Boldin was actually more expensive. Boldin’s production won’t be hard to replace, you idiot, we have Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Dennis Pitta AND Ed Dickson, two very talented tight ends are entering their contract years, you don’t expect them to give everything? We have a fantastic O-Line to protect Flacco and to provide a great hole for our AMAZING one-two punch in Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, who is getting comparisons to Arian Foster, and we have this Kyle Jusczszyk guy who I don’t think you can sleep on in the passing game. We have a stable of fresh, eager, hungry wide receivers who want to prove themselves and as Coach John Harbaugh said “Competition takes players to the next level.” Shut up. You don’t know anything. Call me when you’re on and,, and more every day reading this stuff. Our offense and our defense is going to be amazing this year. And our special teams. Suggs is back to form…google it. And Rice was used in the running game sparingly last year due to Cam Cameron…I bet you can’t tell me where that jerk is even employed right now.

    • michael T. on said:

      Gotta Go, this reply ain’t about bashing you, but …..what are you smoking?
      Each point you bring up has been refuted a million times. Flacco’s money has little effect on the Boldin release. His cap hit wasn’t all that this season.
      If you really think Ozzie was in a panic, grabbing who ever came available, you obviously think with your anus.
      Flacco couldn’t move the ball….really?…maybe you are right because all we did was win under his leadership.
      And lastly, all good things must end, Ray and Ed, each made their own decision to leave…..with a SUPERBOWL RING and the title of SUPERBOWL CHAMPS. It is a young mans game and they knew it wasn’t going to get better if they continued in Baltimore!

      Like I have told others, If all you want to do is bitch….choose another team to bitch about….we don’t want you as a fan!

  7. Ben Caplan on said:

    Excellent article. Short, to the point, and substantive. Plus you helped me feel better about my own worry (Upshaw’s weight). Good job.

    • Paul Lukoskie on said:

      Don’t get me wrong, Upshaw showing up in the shape that he did was a big no-no when you play for someone like John Harbaugh. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised in the lease to see Pernell McPhee and John Simon eating into Upshaw’s playing time this year.

      I like Upshaw as a run defender, but at this point (and I know it has only been 1 year) I’m not sure that he makes it into another contract with Baltimore. Simon was a hell of a run defender at Ohio State and he takes conditioning very seriously. Furthermore, Simon is a bit more explosive and has better closing speed than Upshaw does. Same with McPhee. Some guys, no matter what size they are, just don’t have that explosive first step. If Upshaw were to truly develop into a good pass rusher, he is going to have to do it by learning a plethora of pass rushing moves and getting much better as a bull-rush specialist because he isn’t going to shake/juke or run by many offensive linemen.

        • Paul Lukoskie on said:

          I’m sure he could, but that doesn’t mean he will.

          No team can truly gauge how a young player is going to respond to the NFL. I mean, look at Sergio Kindle. Does anyone really think Ozzie & company thought Kindle would take a tumble down the stairs and do permanent damage to his brain/hearing?

          Hind sight is 20/20, but the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league and as Bryant McKinnie and many others have found out, Harbaugh demands that players remain dedicated throughout the off-season; that means showing up to off-season activity in shape. McKinnie re-dedicated himself and showed up to mandatory mini-camp in fantastic shape. He is ready to go for the season. If THAT guy can show up in shape, then no one else really has an excuse unless they’re rehabbing a legitimate injury like Ngata or Webb.

          Like I said above, it took Suggs a while to figure out how to maintain his body throughout the season and in the off-season. Upshaw will figure it out, or he won’t be in the league for very long.

  8. carmen on said:

    If flacco wins the superbowl again and again, people will say hes mediocore. Can someone help me find a QB that’s gone to the playoffs his first 6 years in the league. looks like its ” GOTTA GO BEN “

  9. True on said:

    I think that people are underestimating every single postion we have. They’re not expecting all of our players to be worthy of the Top 100 next year. I couldn’t disagree more. Joe Flacco has added 10 extra pounds. He’s working with a great running game, a great O-Line, hungry wide receivers and tight ends, an OC he likes, and he practices against a great defense every single week. Ray Rice will run a little more this year and catch a little more this year due to Boldin and the O-Line and the new OC, Caldwell. Bernard Pierce will be a great #2, the O-line, Ray Rice helping him, and the OC. Yanda and Osemele speak for themselves. Gradkowski is a technician. Michael Oher is a mediocre LT but a fantastic RT. I keep seeing tweets from Bryant McKinnie of him boxing, playing tennis, working out and he’s been acting WAY better than last year. Plus he’s got the rest of the O-Line that’s going to make him better. Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, contract years–all I got to say. Torrey Smith–new leader–all I got to say. Jacoby will stay the #3, that’s where he belongs so he can return punts and kickoffs. The entire offense makes eachother better as long as they play hard. If they all play hard, they make it easier on eachother so they can work even harder and exploit some major weaknesses. The SAME exact thing with the defense except now…we have a gnarly defensive front with a gnarly rotation to keep them all fresh. We have a chance to get an interception or a sack or a fumble every single play. No one is running on us, no one is passing on us. Michael Huff is going to take advantage of Dean Peas and Steve Spagnulo and finally having a great defense surrounding him. Matt Elam is Bernard Pollard but can cover and is very explosive. We’re getting Webb back, Jimmy Smith might live up to his potential or an explosive Corey Graham might start in his place. Arthur Brown and Daryl Smith and Jameel McClain will all be great run stoppers, both have Brown and Smith are good at blitzing as well. Defensive front=Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs(best pass rushing duo of Baltimore Ravens history)(I know it!)Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Arthur Brown, Jameel McClain. Defensive front rotation=HUNGRY Pernell McPhee, HUNGRRYY Terrence Cody, Brandon Williams, Courtney Upshaw, Marcus Spears, John Simon, and more. We’re going to break a lot of records this year, this is the most complete and beautiful roster I’ve ever seen!

      • We Are The Champions Of The World on said:

        Like many other Ravens fans I am totally excited about the upcoming season. As of right now, we are undefeated and the reigning Super Bowl Champions. As of right now, I feel like every one of our top 30 players is an all-pro and in the Top 100 of all NFL players. I’ve never felt so much anticipation and excitement in a preseason before.

      • Paul Lukoskie on said:

        I agree. I totally think Art Jones is poised for a huge season. He is in a contract year and he is coming off a really strong 2012-2013 campaign. Unfortunately, it is likely that Art Jones won’t be a Raven after this season. The Ravens will have some cap room heading into next off-season, but they may have to juggle some contracts (namely Suggs and Ngata) to make room for Pitta, Dickson, Art Jones, and even Michael Oher.

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