THE GRAPEVINE: The latest buzz from One Winning Drive

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: The latest buzz from One Winning Drive

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Mark Clayton isn’t a bad player. In fact, he’s a pretty decent one who could have an above average to excellent game on Sunday at M&T against the Bengals. He’s just not a difference maker and it’s unlikely that he ever will be.

The trouble with Clayton in the Ravens’ offense is that he’s not a very complimentary player to Derrick Mason. They are far too much alike. Their respective skill sets point to the same position on the field – that of the Z receiver. Z receivers typically line up behind the line of scrimmage in part to avoid being jammed by defenders. Given their size and change of direction skills “Z” is the right fit for both.

But you can’t have two Z’s so therefore one plays the “X” receiver. The X is positioned on the line at the snap and that lends itself to a more physical receiver than Clayton or Mason, a burner or both – someone whose physical attributes are respected enough by defenders that the defender is hesitant to apply a jam at the line.

Perhaps Kelley Washington would be a better compliment to Mason.

That said Clayton has value to the team particularly if this is Mason’s last season. Clayton would be the perfect replacement for a retiring Mason although it remains to be seen whether or not Clayton has the toughness to challenge defenders between the hash marks the way Mason does.

Braylon Edwards was acquired by the Jets from the Browns for wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik (not exactly household names) and a third (which could move to a second) and fifth round draft pick. What the Browns do with those two picks and of course how long Edwards remains a productive Jet will ultimately determine the winner of this trade.

We’ve often heard how difficult it is for receivers to be immediately effective as rookies in the NFL. Perhaps not as difficult yet certainly challenging to even a veteran receiver like Edwards is to move from one offense to another in mid-season.

Edwards is imposing in a physical way and really isn’t viewed as a cerebral receiver with discipline and great hands like the Ravens’ Derrick Mason. Subsequently the move to New York might not be that easy. In an offense that is dummied down a bit because a rookie signal caller is at the controls, defenses will likely look for Edwards to run simple deep routes, comebacks and fades. It might invite even more pre-snap shifting on the part of Jets’ opponents to create even more confusion.

Couple the dummy-down style with Edwards’ unfamiliarity and the former No. 3 overall pick suddenly becomes a bit easier to cover.

Back in 1981 John Jefferson, because of contractual problems with the San Diego Chargers, sat out the first three games of the season. Jefferson was traded to the Packers after week three and he was expected to light it up in Green Bay. He did not.

After averaging 66 catches, 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns during his first three seasons in San Diego, Jefferson struggled in Green Bay his first season snaring just 39 balls for 629 yards and 4 scores.

These transitions are never easy.

"I’ve had to defend against [Edwards] twice a year in Baltimore, and that’s not fun," new head coach Rex Ryan said. "He is a matchup nightmare."

Given his off-field shenanigans mixed in with the Big Apple nightlife and the challenges that lurk ahead, Edwards could become a nightmare of a different kind for Ryan. Time will tell.

SPEED BAG…The Ravens’ corners have received their fair share of criticism so far this season. But if you want to find the real weak links in the secondary, look to the safeties. Dawan Landry’s play has been uninspiring and Ed Reed’s play purely pedestrian…Teams have had a degree of success running right at the Ravens out of a spread formation and one has to wonder if opponents are a bit ahead of Greg Mattison’s sub packages. Until they stop the gaping holes out of the spread, look for more of it particularly with Cincinnati coming into town. They will commit to the run with Ced Benson and if they do look for Carson Palmer to spread the defense with Messrs. Ochocinco, Henry and Coles…Kelly Gregg lost the 2008 season due to cartilage tears in his knee. Thanks to successful microfracture surgery, Gregg is back on the field but he’s hardly back to being a menacing and disrupting defensive tackle. He has always relied on that explosive first step to beat opponents to the punch and gain the upper hand in leverage. That is not the case so far in 2009 and so far Gregg is not much of a factor and that has hurt Haloti Ngata’s and Ray Lewis’ performance.

QUICK HITS FROM THE BIG CHEESE…Last week on Ravens Rap Steve Bisciotti was our special guest and he was very forthcoming. Among the things we learned…

ON BRIAN BILLICK ~ Bisciotti was originally hesitant to fire Billick because of all the money owed him and the negative repercussions in the media surely to follow if he cut Billick loose despite a $20 million golden parachute. Since these were the overriding reasons for KEEPING Billick, he knew he had to swallow humble pie and make the move because clearly those are not compelling reasons for retaining a coach…Bisciotti said that Roger Goodell questioned how he might absorb the loss of the $20 million, Bisciotti quipped, “I did’t lose any money. My kids just lost part of their inheritance.”

ON REX RYAN ~ Rex was never really a serious candidate for Billick’s vacated spot. While Bisciotti believed that Rex would be a good head coach in the NFL and he expressed sincere happiness for Rex’ success in New York, he felt that the Ravens needed a complete change and that Rex was a big part of a team that was dominated by defense. For Rex to usher in a needed cultural change would be too tall a task. The Ravens needed new blood.

ON HIRING BILLICK’S REPLACEMENT ~ Jason Garrett was the team’s first choice but when it became apparent that Garrett was leveraging the Ravens and the Falcons to improve his position with the Cowboys, he called Ozzie Newsome at 1:30 in the morning to have him make the call to get John Harbaugh in town. Judging from the things Bisciotti shared, Harbaugh was the preferred choice for many in the organization.

ON THE IMPACT OF HARBAUGH ~ Had Harbaugh not been the head coach, Rex Ryan would not have stayed around in 2008 and Cam Cameron would have opted to sit out the season and collect a paycheck from the Dolphins. Harbaugh changed the way both highly regarded coordinators viewed the job openings. Bisciotti emphasized that Harbaugh was the only head coach that Cameron would have served under in ’08.

Bisciotti said that in many ways Harbaugh reminds him of himself and that he carries a chip on his shoulder. He added that Harbaugh can be a bit corny at times with his clichés and expressions. He thought that Harbaugh’s dubbing of the final 53 man roster as the “53 Mighty Men” would be laughed at by the players but to his surprise and delight, the players fully embraced it.

ON DRAFT DAY 2008 ~ Bisciotti really wanted the Ravens to make a play for a quarterback. The Ravens had Matt Ryan slightly ahead of Joe Flacco but Ozzie and Company did not want to make the investment to move up to get him. Bisciotti wanted Ryan yet relented and gave way to his personnel guys. Bisciotti mocked himself saying that if he had had his way, the Ravens would be coached by Jason Garrett and quarterbacked by Matt Ryan and they would have lost money and draft picks in the process.

ON BILLICK v. HARBAUGH ~ The differences between a Harbaugh practice and that of Billick are huge according to the Ravens’ owner. Billick wanted to get through practices injury free and they were conducted in a way that would preserve players for game day. If it rained Billick brought the team inside and if they played on the road in front of a typically hostile crowd, Billick was not a big believer in piped in music and background noise to simulate the atmosphere. He thought that would simply disrupt the concentration at practice…Harbaugh often practices at full speed to simulate game conditions, preferring to fail in practice than on game day. Harbaugh doesn’t hesitate to practice in bad weather and he welcomes the piped in high decibel levels in order to prepare his team for game conditions. The speed of practice was one of the first noticeable differences Bisciotti detected between a Billick v. Harbaugh led squad.

ON THE CREATURE COMFORTS OF M&T BANK STADIUM ~ For those of you wondering about changes to M&T Bank Stadium…if you are waiting with baited breath for escalators to the upper deck, it’s not going to happen. They do plan on continually refining the bathroom queuing and they are looking into adding more TV’s in the future both in and around the bathrooms. New large screen HDTV’s will be available for the 2010 season.

Generally speaking Bisciotti said the lifecycle of a stadium in the NFL today is 30 years. He would like to extend that by working closely with the Maryland Stadium Authority in a proactive way to provide the best creature comforts for the fans and to extend the stadium’s longevity.

ON THE FUTURE OF TV AND THE NFL ~ Bisciotti is a member the league’s executive broadcasting committee, exploring new ways to offer value to their sponsors. He said that the notion of pay-per-view for each NFL game in the future, something predicted by some in the media will never happen. He said that with the growing interest in the number of cable companies seeking to broadcast the NFL that he could anticipate game broadcasts being part of premium cable packages but pay-per-view on a game by game basis would not work.


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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 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.

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