LOMBARDI’S WAY: Ravens in Catch-22

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: Ravens in Catch-22

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Corey Ivy was brought to

back in 2006 to be a serviceable nickel back and a contributor on special teams.  When measured in those terms, Ivy has been a solid acquisition for the team.  His feistiness, competitiveness and toughness given his diminutive stature are a source of inspiration in the Ravens’ locker room.  And at this point the team could use all the inspiration it can find.


In 2007 Ivy was asked to play corner on a fairly regular basis due to an injury depleted secondary.  Given his alleged 5’9” frame and lack of top end speed, the results were fairly predictable. Ivy was torched more than the recreational paraphernalia in the dorm room once shared by Pacman Jones and Chris Henry.


Now the 31 year old Ivy isn’t getting it done at the nickel position either and that is cause for concern because defensive coordinator Rex Ryan can’t depend on Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington because of their fragile bodies.  The next time I watch Christmas Story, I half expect one if not both of them to pop out of the wooden crate marked “FRA-JEEL-AY.”


The warning signs were there yet the Ravens front office ignored them.  They Rolle-ed the dice and counted on Samari; hoped that a contract season might inspire Washington to tackle more efficiently than he did in Oakland; assumed that Chris McAlister would return to 100%; and they knew that Ed Reed was no longer Ed Reed – at least in the short-term but possibly forever.


What they thought was a young and developing group of corners in David Pittman, Derrick Martin and Ronnie Prude turned out to be nothing more than over matched, broken down or deep fried.  Perhaps PA announcer Bruce Cunningham was on to something when he repeatedly referred to Prude as Perdue.


So when obvious weaknesses are exposed on the backside the way Peyton Manning did this past Sunday, Ryan has to find ways to get to the quarterback.  Yet doing so without a prototypical pass rushing defensive end on the team’s depth chart, amounts to a Catch-22 for the creative Ryan.  If he sends too many defenders on a blitz, a depleted secondary becomes even more vulnerable.  Give the QB too much time, and a relatively slow secondary can’t keep up.


Opponents will more regularly and willingly abandon the run early against the Ravens, particularly on the road where teams won’t have to deal with the 12th man at M&T.  Teams will concede and let the Ravens stop the run.  Who would you prefer to take on, one of the best groups of linebackers in the league or a secondary more willing to give it up than Paris Hilton?


Chris McAlister despite his pleas to the contrary just doesn’t look healthy.  Perhaps his claims that his knee is fine amount to nothing more than red herrings.  The Dolphins don’t have much fire power on the outside to challenge McAlister but they do have a plethora of gadgetry.  And McAlister has always been a sitting duck for slight of hand.


What is going on with Antwan Barnes?  During games when Ryan’s defense could use a push from its front line, Ravens fans had to play a little “Where’s Antwan?”…Outside of the quarterback position, the Ravens have shown a reluctance to use young players.  Even as the fifth overall pick in the 2000 draft, Jamal Lewis didn’t see much action in his first two games as a Raven.  Now they are spoon feeding Ray Rice who is much quicker to the hole than the lumbering Willis McGahee.  It’s difficult to tell at this point if McGahee has lost a step, is out of shape, unprepared or some combination thereof.  The doghouse is already prepared with a bowl labeled “Willis.”…Some are criticizing John Harbaugh for naming Joe Flacco the starter for the entire season.  What’s the big deal? He can change his mind, right?  Didn’t Steve Bisciotti do that with Brian Billick?


Speaking of Billick, the Ravens look no different over the past 3 games than they did under Billick’s guidance.  They look undisciplined, out of control and incredibly unimaginative on offense.  The familiar look hasn’t escaped the notice of Billick who regularly takes digs at his former team on Fox broadcasts and on

with Shan Sharrif
on Delmarva’s ESPN Radio 1240…Marshal Yanda’s loss is a big one and it remains to be seen how Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and John Matsko will adapt.  There are some who believe that Adam Terry will take over for Yanda.  If so, that is a clear indicator that Chris Chester’s days in purple are very numbered.  Either way, Flacco’s comfortable passing pocket will likely collapse more frequently.


In other NFL developments, if you read Peter King’s Monday morning QB column and he makes a prediction of any kind, go the other way.  It might be a great way to lessen the blow of plummeting stock portfolios…Clearly this is nothing that you haven’t already concluded for yourself but I’ll say it anyway, I’d love a TKO on MNF – as in Tony Kornheiser Out on Monday Night Football.  He’s the equivalent of ketchup on a great steak.  He brings nothing to the broadcast except a bad comb over.  MNF would be much better without him – call it addition by subtraction.  Stick to PTI Tony!…What an up and down season in the NFL and perhaps more than any other season in recent memory this one clearly supports the cliché, “On Any Given Sunday.”…The national media absolutely loves the notion of the Colts getting it back in gear.  I’m not buying the Colts just yet.  They were the beneficiaries of an absolutely pathetic performance from the Ravens.  Only a handful of defenders deserve their paycheck for that “effort.”


And finally, look for fireworks in

.  Pacman Jones is looking at a possible suspension and with Tony Romo out, Dr. Dink & Dunk (aka Brad Johnson) will not make T.O. very happy in Big D and with more defenders in the box, Marion Barber will take a beating given his physical style of running.  With the Giants laying an egg in
Cleveland and

’ problems, the NFC is clearly up for grabs.  And so is the rest of the NFL for that matter.
Photo by Kevin Moore 

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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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