THE GRAPEVINE: Mad Backer gone mad?

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Mad Backer gone mad?

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Bart Scott was completely out of line after the Ravens preseason win against the Jets, reflecting upon the success of the Ravens in 2008 and giving the deliverer of his millions and millions a big (albeit misguided) pat on the back.

"[Rex] was always the head coach," Scott said in reference to Ryan’s tenure in Baltimore. "He was the head coach of that football team last year, whether you guys know it or not. He kept that team together. The defense leads that team over there, and he controls that defense."

While it’s foolish to challenge the influence that Ryan had on the Ravens’ defense, to say that he was the head coach is a slap in the face to John Harbaugh who ushered in a genuine concept of “RAVENS”, where no individual, no unit was any more important than the team. Harbaugh also assembled an outstanding coaching staff that collectively helped to manage games and provide the necessary guidance and tutelage to navigate a team through a forfeited bye week and key injuries right to the AFC Championship Game with a rookie quarterback who had little time with the first team during training camp.

Harbaugh effectively dealt with issues concerning Willis McGahee and Chris McAlister – the later being a player that Ryan had trouble reeling in.

Bart is a good guy and is both family and community oriented. He’s intelligent, hard working and a tough player. But having co-hosted a radio show with him during the 2007 season, I can tell you that he can spew out things driven by emotion that belie his normally even keeled off the field temperament. Back in 2007 he publicly supported Michael Vick’s reinstatement even then. I tried successfully to go to a commercial break and sweep that one under the carpet.

Perhaps one day, we’ll do the same with this statement but for now to borrow from another coach that Bart didn’t seem to respect all that much, let’s call it an egregious lapse of reasoning on the Madbacker’s part.

Back to Rex Ryan for a moment, he did his old team a favor on Monday night by completely disrespecting the Ravens receivers and attacking Joe Flacco. Without a prototypical No. 1 receiver and a proven No. 2 or even a dangerous weapon at tight end Rex sent a message to Ozzie that he better get busy on the phones.

Last week I blogged that given the Ravens’ improved depth and the overall improvement of the team, they could advance beyond the AFC Championship Game even if the wide receiver corps remained status quo.

Unfortunately status quo is beginning to look optimistic.

Derrick Mason is Derrick Mason and Demetrius Williams is showing signs that he might be able to contribute – certainly more than last year but given his history of injuries, that is anything but an even money bet.

Kelley Washington looks like he can contribute here and there and for those who want to bust on him for not making a play on that jump ball in the end zone last night and close your argument by suggesting that Randy Moss or Larry Fitzgerald or Chad Johnson would have come down with it, here’s a newsflash for you – he is NONE of the above. He is being paid the NFL minimum PLUS, you have to give Lito Sheppard some credit for making a nice play on the ball.

Justin Harper made a stride or two in the game hauling in both passes thrown his way for 62 yards including a streak down the right side line for 51 yards. Beyond Harper, the highlights include a big drop by Jayson Foster who was clearly hearing footsteps.

This is what you expect from the Ravens receivers really and I have to think that if the first unit stayed on the field, Mason and Williams may have posted decent numbers.

Yet the lack of depth is alarming given the absence of Mark Clayton.

Clayton has had hamstring issues in the past and there are no guarantees that once he believes he’s fully rested that those hammies won’t rear their ugly heads again. There’s a better chance of a recurrence than Clayton going the full 16 plus without some sort of setback.

Making the wide receiver health/depth issues even worse is the team’s lack of depth at tight end. It’s no secret that the Ravens wanted Brandon Pettigrew in the 2009 NFL Draft and that to me is an indictment on Todd Heap.  His cuts aren’t as sharp, he’s slower off the line of scrimmage and he seems to lack that gear in the open field that he once had. Bottom line is, he just plays much older than he is and for those who believe that there is some resurgence lying in wait for Heap, you better think again.

LJ Smith is far quicker than Heap off the line and shows decent change of direction skills but he is a china doll and at this point, given his familiarity with Smith in Philly, you have to wonder why Harbaugh gave the thumbs up on a guy so undependable particularly with an injury prone tight end sitting at the No. 1 position on the TE depth chart.

It’s time for Ozzie to get busy.

And no the answer isn’t Brandon Marshall.

The answer is another tight end AND another solid receiver. Waiting for the waiver lists to post might not be the way to go either. Maybe the Ravens need to start thinking about dealing from a position of strength and as always, that position is the defensive front seven.

Kelly Gregg is having an MRI on his shoulder that he injured in Monday Night’s game against the Jets. At this point team officials are just hopeful that Gregg will be ok. Keep your fingers crossed Ravens’ fans. Gregg certainly hasn’t been himself during camp or in either of the preseason games. He is trying to recapture that quick, explosive first step that has always helped to give him an edge against larger opponents. With it he gained an upper hand in leverage. Without it, he can be eaten up. If Gregg does return, that is clearly something to key in on going forward. The defensive tackle’s injury could impact any potential deals the Ravens might be pursuing. Clearly with Gregg DT is a position of strength from which they can deal to add more depth at tight end or offensive tackle.

It would appear that the Ravens will keep only 1 fullback and 3 running backs on the roster although a fourth is possible. They did carry Lorenzo Neal, Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Jalen Parmele towards the end of 2008 when Rice was nicked up. If they go with a fourth RB at the moment it’s a two horse race between Parmele and Matt Lawrence. Sixth round pick Cedric Peerman hasn’t looked very sharp and his change- of-direction skills have always been questioned. Further inhibiting Peerman’s cutting ability is a fumbling problem. Peerman has been overcompensating for his small hands by choking down on the football. Consequently his running style could be described as stiff.

Those who will argue that the Ravens current corps of receivers will be adequate enough to win a Super Bowl will point to the 2000 season to support such an argument. That year the team’s best two receivers were Qadry Ismail and Brandon Stokely. However the argument is hardly valid because then the Ravens had well above average play at tight end with Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coates.  This season the team is holding its collective breath given the propensity for injury of both Todd Heap and LJ Smith.

Derrick Martin played well at corner for the Ravens during the 2008 summer camp and during the preseason before suffering a season ending labrum injury. This year the Ravens surprisingly moved Martin to safety despite the presence of Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. Martin at the very least has the cover skills ability of Frank Walker and he can be as physical as evidence by his play against the Jets. Mix in his bargain basement price and one has to wonder why the team moved Martin away from the corner if they are looking to augment Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington and Samari Rolle with a more physical player.

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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 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. More from Tony Lombardi


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