THE GRAPEVINE: RAVENS’ INVESTMENTS PAY DIVIDENDS

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: RAVENS’ INVESTMENTS PAY DIVIDENDS

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While watching (or at least trying to watch) the Bears @ Rams on Monday night I couldn’t help but notice a few things: 1) Devin Hester…talk about a game changer, WOW! I questioned the Bears decision to take Hester in the second round back in April but when you can get an impact player like that as a rookie in the second round you do it every time; 2) I know that Brian Urlacher is a beast but Lance Briggs, that guy can play some ball too but that being said, the Bears have some chinks in that vaunted defense and if opponents pry them open, the Bears don’t have the offense to stay with good teams; 3) Mike Tirico must have a sore back carrying both Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann all season; 4) Is it just me or are you tired of hearing Steve Young defend every quarterback and Michael Irvin defending every malcontent that doesn’t play quarterback?; 5) I once enjoyed Chris Berman. Now he’s nothing more than a big windbag with Grecian Formula orange hair; 6) I couldn’t help but to think back to the last time the Ravens played the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday Night Football. And then for some reason I thought about Adam Archuleta. Now there’s another great investment the Redskins made. On the season Archuleta has 57 tackles, 1 sack, 0 interceptions and 1 pass defended. All that for a $10million in guaranteed payola. Conversely the Ravens’ Dawan Landry has 59 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 interceptions (1 for a TD) and 4 passes defended. All that for a fifth round pick; 7) I hope the Ravens can find a Steven Jackson in April’s NFL draft.
 
Don’t look now but since Brian Billick assumed OC duties Steve McNair’s passer rating is 100.1. Now he isn’t the prolific 100+ passer that Peyton Manning is but he has been efficient and he’s protecting the football while being protected. During those 7 games in which the Ravens have won 6 times, McNair has thrown 8 touchdown passes while being intercepted only twice (both times by the Titans). Also during those 7 games McNair has hit the turf only 4 times.
 
Baltimore loves an underdog and one Raven that fits that description is Kelly Gregg. Gregg is tenth in the NFL in custom jersey orders and that is certainly a testimony to the local status of this Baltimore fan favorite. And for good reason…Gregg on the season has 53 tackles, 2 ½ sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 pass defended. Comparatively speaking perennial Pro Bowler Casey Hampton from the Pittsburgh Steelers has 32-0-1-0 and 1. Can I get a Pro Bowl vote for Gregg?
 
Brian Billick took time to defend Cory Ross and his troubles fielding punts. And while I have no problem with him on kick returns, I think it’s time to go to plan B if there are continued signs of unsure-handedness from the UDFA out of Nebraska. The way the Ravens play football winning the turnover battle is crucial and for that 6 or 8 return yards — whatever it is that Ross might average on punt returns, I’d rather have a player with sure hands who can come up and make a clean fair catch on a short punt. I’ll take the ball before I take the 8 yards. Did someone say Mark Clayton?
 
Imagine if you could the Ravens advancing to the AFC Championship and losing. Then next season in 2007 the Ravens are 7-4 and in solid contention for a playoff spot. Now imagine that Brian Billick pulls a slumping Steve McNair in favor of the heir apparent, rookie Drew Stanton out of Michigan State who has yet to take a snap from center in a regular season NFL game. Are you then part of the mob escorting Billick to the gallows pole? One only needs to look to Denver to witness a real world occurrence of this scenario. Mike Shanahan has taken the meaning of arrogance to new NFL heights.
 
Odds and Ends…Tom Brady once had an “S” on his back. Now there’s just the number 12. His kryptonite is the declining talent around him. No longer does it appear that he and Bill Belichick make it all work with a patchwork lineup. If Lawrence Maroney doesn’t get healthy quick it will be one and done for New England during the post season dance…Michael Vick ran for a seasonal low of five yards against the Bucs on Sunday in Tampa. Earlier this season Vick rushed for 127 yards against Tampa. Was he asked to tone it down so he could break Bobby Douglas’ 34 year old single season rushing record for QB’s of 964 yards at home? Vick needs only 31 yards against the Cowboys on Saturday on the featured NFL Network game in Atlanta to break that record. Seems kind of dirty birdish to me…Reggie Bush is getting it done as is Vince Young. What about No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams? Williams has 36 tackles and 4 ½ sacks on the season. Kansas City’s Tamba Hali and the Giants’ Mathias Kiwanuka, the other first round defensive ends selected in the 2006 NFL draft, have tallied 48 and 5 and 38 and 4 respectively. I bet you are wondering how former Raven and current Mario Williams’ bookend Anthony Weaver is doing, right? On the 2006 season Weaver has 34 tackles and 1 sack. In opting for Trevor Pryce over Weaver the Ravens not only saved $2.5 million, they also traded Weaver’s productivity for Pryce’s: 40 tackles and 9 ½ sacks plus he has helped to free Terrell Suggs.  Nice trade off there Ozzie!
 
It’s a race between the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders for the very first pick in the NFL draft. Recent history suggests that trading such a pick may be more rewarding than actually making the pick. The Chargers traded the rights to Michael Vick to the Falcons and parlayed that deal into LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees who by the way are arguably the top two contenders for MVP. The Chargers also traded away the rights to Eli Manning and turned that into Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman and Nick Kaeding. Plus the Chargers are likely to receive a handsome compensatory pick for the loss of Brees. That’s not too shabby. But back to that “race”, my bet is that Al Davis sabotages the balance of the season to get that pick. Could Mike Vick become a Raider in a trade?
 
The Ravens now are the No. 1 defense in the NFL both in yardage and in points allowed. But you have to love the Ravens attitude towards that statistic which in so many words suggests that it’s nice but only if it comes as part of a package that includes a ring…Speaking of rings, it appears more and more likely that the Super Bowl winner will come from the AFC. So far this season the AFC holds a 35-20 record over the NFC (aka the JV). Over the last 5 weeks that record is a whopping 15-3. As reported by the USA Today’s Bob Velin, the Bears’ two losses are to AFC teams and 3 of the Saints’ 4 losses are to AFC North teams, beating only the lowly Browns 19-14. The JV hasn’t held the series edge since 1995.
 
And finally as if you need proof that the NASCAR fumes actually got to NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins’ skipper is now 21-26 since his return to the sidelines despite a seemingly unlimited supply of cap space and a wide open budget on top shelf assistant coaches. No disrespect to Coach Gibbs but you’ve gotta love it Baltimore, you know what I’m saying?

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 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.

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