What to make of the Baltimore Ravens 2015 season

Well, it’s been about a week since the regular season has ended in the NFL, the playoff line-up is set, the draft order is almost completed and a Super Bowl Champion will soon be crowned.

Coming into the season, the Baltimore Ravens were expected to return to the playoffs and compete for another championship. Sports Illustrated predicted them to win the Super Bowl on the cover of their NFL preview edition.

Obviously, none of those things will be happening this season… and it’s not an easy pill to swallow.

The combination of injuries and missed late-game opportunities were too much for the Ravens to overcome. Falling to a 5-11 record, Baltimore missed the playoffs for the second time in Coach John Harbaugh’s tenure and endured the first losing season since he arrived in 2008.

It’s hard to believe that this team was never really a factor in the league at all, considering that they’re only 3 years removed from their Super Bowl victory. Oh course, it’s not easy losing your star QB, running back, No.1 receiver (who is 36 yrs. old), top defensive player and handful of impactful players.

But, even through all the turmoil that occurred throughout the year, the resilience of this football team was apparent; win, lose or draw. That resilience was shown through a 12 game stretch of close games (winning or losing by at least 8 points or less). This, of course, ended when the team was routed by the Seattle Seahawks, 38-6.
In the wake of this abysmal season, they’re plenty of questions that will need some answers before training camp arrives.

One of that will pop up in fan’s minds…Can the Ravens make the playoffs again in 2016?

For most, they would easily say ye,s but think about it. The team’s biggest need, after the loss to the New England Patriots in the divisional round last season, was the need to build the secondary and find a solid receiver for Joe Flacco.

To me, NONE of those things were fixed (of course, we haven’t been able to see what Breshad Perriman can do out there!). If anything, the secondary took a huge step back this season, and the need for a playmaker was very noticeable. Again, I know that injuries created a huge dent in what the team wanted to do this season, but this can’t be ignored any longer (unless we want to make picking in the top 10 of the draft a regular thing)

But hey, even in this disappointing season, though so much went wrong, the Ravens weren’t that far from being in the playoff picture (that’s how bad the league was this season!). They needed five more wins, but think about it. One of their losses (Jacksonville) was actually a victory not credited because of an officiating mistake. Another (Cleveland) came in overtime. And the Ravens led in the fourth quarter of two others (Oakland, Cincinnati at home). That’s four losses by the narrowest of combined margins.

I’m not saying this team was better than their record, they ended at 5-11 for a reason. But, they aren’t that far off from being great again.

This offseason is the key!!!!

The Ravens have about 30 players scheduled to become free agents in March, the three key names are OT Kelechi Osemele, K Justin Tucker, and OLB Courtney Upshaw. These players should have somewhat of priority for the front office (the biggest being negotiating Joe Flacco’s $120 million contract!)

This team will also need to focus on getting back to full health after a franchise-record 20 players ended the year on injured reserve. And, of course, some additional playmakers to the roster won’t hurt either.

Yeah, it’s going to be a long few months without football in Baltimore. But, this team has the front office, the coaching staff, and some playmakers that are currently on the roster that can turn this season in the fuel they need to push them over the edge next season.

Until next time, Baltimore!

 

 

 

 

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Return of the blogger! Let’s get back at it.

Hi there!

It’s been quite some time since I logged on here and posted…well anything really. How are you? You doing well, buddy?

Good!

Well, for those of you reading this and have gotten a chance to look through some of my older work from the past year, you would notice that I talk alot about sports.

…Because, well, this is a sports blog.

I started this little project back in Spring of 2015, a simple blog for one of my journalism courses at Salisbury University. In an attempt to build a reputation (and solid resume’!), I feel in love with blogging and talking about anything that had to do with football or the major news in the sports world.

Then I graduated…and since this wouldn’t help pay off my loans, this took a backseat on my to-do list.

But now I’m back, and I ready to go at this even better than before. I would love for you to join me on this journey (constructive criticism is always welcomed…but be easy with the use of foul language, please and thank you!)

So, kick back in your chair and let’s dive into some sports talk!

Baltimore Ravens 2015 Schedule Released

The Baltimore Ravens have released their 2015 regular season schedule to public Tuesday night. The team will need to prepare to hit the road for most of the first half of the season, as five of their first seven games are on the road, kicking off in Denver against Manning and Gary Kubiak’s run-style offense.

Here’s the entire 2015 schedule (minus pre-season games):

Week 1, Sept. 13: at Denver (4:25 p.m.)

Week 2, Sept. 20: at Oakland (4:05 p.m.)

Week 3, Sept. 27: Cincinnati (1 p.m.)

Week 4, Oct. 1: at Pittsburgh (8:25 p.m., Thursday)

Week 5, Oct. 11: Cleveland (1 p.m.)

Week 6, Oct. 18: at San Francisco (4:25 p.m.)

Week 7, Oct. 26: at Arizona (8:30 p.m., Monday)

Week 8, Nov. 1: San Diego (1 p.m.)

Week 9, Nov. 8: BYE

Week 10, Nov. 15: Jacksonville (1 p.m.)

Week 11, Nov. 22: St. Louis (1 p.m.)

Week 12, Nov. 30: at Cleveland (8:30 p.m., Monday)

Week 13, Dec. 6: at Miami (1 p.m.)

Week 14, Dec. 13: Seattle (8:30 p.m., Sunday)

Week 15, Dec. 20: Kansas City (1 p.m.)

Week 16, Dec. 27: Pittsburgh (8:30 p.m., Sunday)

Week 17, Jan. 3:  at Cincinnati (1 p.m.)

Key Matchups:

Week 1 at Denver: Right off the bat, you got to deal with Peyton Manning, in Denver. The upside is Gary Kubiak is their head coach, so the Ravens might know some of the tricks to stop that run/zone scheme that was a success during his time with the team last season. The downside is Kubiak might know the weak spot of the Ravens secondary, which I’m sure Peyton will enjoy. Not an easy game to start out with.

Week 6 at 49ers: a rematch of the “Black-Out” Super Bowl, and a reunion with WR Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Will the 49ers be as dysfunctional as everyone expects after a wild off-season or will they be contenders in the West.

Week 14 vs. Seahawks: Two winners from the last three Super Bowls face off in Baltimore, the first time since 2003. Baltimore will need to improve their receiving core through the draft if they want to stand a chance against “The Legion of Boom”, but I feel they’ll lean heavily on the running game most of that game. Russell Wilson will also prove to be problematic with his elusiveness in the pocket, but the Ravens have a strong front seven, so getting a hat on him will at least take the passing game out of it, hopefully “Beast Mode” is kept at bay.

Week 16 vs. Steelers: Last game at M&T Bank will be against the Steelers. The teams might look different, the rivalry will be as strong as ever. We have seen how the Ravens responded after the Ray Lewis/Ed Reed era, let’s see how well the Steelers respond post-Polumalu era.

My First Podcast: 2015 NFL Draft Preview

Is Polamalu a first ballot lock for the Hall of Fame?

As an inspiring journalist, I would consider Troy Polamalu not only one of the top safeties during his era, but possible one of the greatest to every play the game.

As a Ravens fan, I can’t really say I’m that upset to see him go, just as Steelers fans weren’t that upset when Ray Lewis called it a career.

But whether you liked him or hated him, no true football fan can deny the type of level Polamalu played at for the last 12 years with the Steelers. Considered one of the NFL’s most explosive and dynamic players, the former first-round pick for Pittsburgh back in 2003 was a nightmare for teams (mainly QBs) to game plan around, serving as the backbone of the Steelers’ defense. Polamalu retires a four-time first-team All-Pro, with eight Pro Bowl appearance, 2010 Defensive Player of the Year and two Super Bowl championships.

Though his resume show that he should easily be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in five years,  some believe it might not be that simple for Mr. Polamalu.  For starters, Polamalu isn’t even considered the greatest safety the Steelers have every had.  Some might say that Donnie Shell, who played for the “Steel Curtain” defense was equal as a good or even better than Troy during his time in the 1970s, and he’s not in the Hall of Fame either. Yes, he might not have been as dynamic as Polamalu or as big of a name as “Mean” Joe Greene, but Shell was a three-time All-Pro, a five time Pro Bowler with 51 interceptions and a four-time Super Bowl champion.

Another discussion that pops up when you talk about Polamula is whether or not he is considered the best safety in his era. Let say in another month or so, former Baltimore Raven safety Ed Reed officially calls it a career (currently a free agent), both he and Troy would be eligible at the same time in five years, but the committee could only select one over the other ( which is possible since the Hall can only select five modern-day candidates in at a time, and there could be some big names up for consideration during this time).

Who would get in first? Both play with similar, yet distinct styles that opposing offensive coordinators had to be thoroughly prepared for. If you go by stats you probably would say Reed (643 Tlks, 64 INTs, 11 FF, 13 TD) over Polamalu ( 710Tlks,35 INTs, 13 FF, 4 TDs). If you want to look at championships, you would have to go with Polamalu’s two over Reed’s one. We can go back and forth with what this guy did or what this guy didn’t do, but if you had to choose between the two to go into the Hall of Fame first, it’s almost a coin flip in my opinion.

One thing that is certain is that it will be challenging for either of them to get in on their first try, safeties are among the most under-represented positions in the Hall of Fame. Though there are 24 defensive backs enshrined, only 7 of them are considered true safeties (others played both corner and safety).

Though the road to Canton might not be as bright as some Steelers fans would had thought it was for Troy Polumalu,  it doesn’t effect the lasting legacy he left on the field, the amazing plays that left our jaws on the floor, and the constant headaches he gave some of the teams over his career (especially for Ravens fans). There is no question, whether it’s  five years from or more, Troy will be receiving his bust up in Canton at some point down the line, probably sooner rather than later.

Enjoy you’re retirement Troy, though I may not have liked who you played for, those Ravens-Steelers games won’t be the same without seeing No. 43 run around in the secondary, with his signature black curls flowing in the air.

Should the “Final Four” be moved out of Indianapolis?

Sometimes you have to wonder “Can’t we all just get along?”

In case you haven’t heard, a law has been passed in the state of Indiana that has the nation, organizations and some media figures in an uproar.

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed into law by Governor Mike Pence last week, makes it legal to discriminate against LGBT customers in the name of “religious freedom”.The bill has set off a wave of criticism from all over the country, calling for the resignation of Pence and moving major sporting events like the upcoming NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 2016 Women’s Final Four out of Indianapolis.

ESPN reporter Keith Olbermann called for not only the NCAA but the NFL, who took quick action after a similar law was passed in Arizona before Super Bowl 49, as well as the NBA to cease doing business in the state. He went on to suggest the NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, should move their offices if the state chooses not to repeal the law.

Here’s the entire segment:

Now, I would like to throw in my two cents on the matter, but before I begin I want people to understand where I’m coming from and understand my mindset (or at least part of it). Now, I grew up as a Christian, in fact I would consider myself Christian to this day. I had a pretty basic Christian upbringing as a child, went to church, attend sunday schools and youth groups, read my bible, etc. Obviously there are certain things were are told from the Bible that we as Christian should try to incorporate it into our everyday lives (don’t steal, don’t kill, respect your parents,etc.). Now though there are rules that we should live by, one of the biggest things to remember is to love each other or love your neighbor as yourself. Now there is a lot of things going on in the Bible, but love is probably one of the bigger messages that book has to offer. Loving your neighbor as yourself is probably something not only Christian, but pretty much everyone has at least heard about at least once.

Now, I don’t want to make this post all about religion, I wanted to just make a point.

My mindset when it comes to topics like homosexuality is that though I was taught that being gay was a sin, I’m still going to treat you with the same respect I would treat anyone else that I know or see on the street. You being different from myself isn’t going to change the way I act around you, life is way to short for all that. We all have done wrong or done something that others would agree with, does that mean that makes them less of good person than yourself. I get that people don’t agree with that kind of lifestyle and have their own opinions about the matter (which they can have), but don’t we all have more important things in our own lives to deal than worrying about how a homosexual chooses to live there lives?

Though it might be too late for the NCAA to move the men’s Final Four tournament out of Indy, I think it’s best to move the women’s tournament as well as any other operations in the near future, and I think other big name organization should follow suit if something isn’t changed. Some might say “Oh it’s the business has the right to serve whoever they want”, but to say I’m not going to serve you because you look a certain way or you don’t have the same views as me or because you’re different is absolutely ridiculous to me,IT’S FREAKING 2015 FOLKS, GET OVER YOURSELF!!!!

I look at this situation and wonder how this is any different from what African-American went through during the civil rights movement, not being served inside restaurants because of the “law” says the owners didn’t legal have to serve them because they didn’t like their skin color. How can you say “I’m against racial inequality but if your gay, you need to find somewhere else to go”.

What’s the difference, your still alienating a specific group of people. How is that “justice for all”. This is supposed to be a country that gives equal opportunities to those who put in the work and strive to make something of themselves. If this is the case, my question to Gov. Pence,the state of Indiana and anyone who agrees with this law is what kind of message do you think you’re sending to not only the gay community but anyone who is different from you when you pass this bill?

The word “equality” doesn’t come to mind.

Has Free Agency Effected Ravens Draft Plans?

The first week of the “new” NFL league year has left the league in turned upside down. This has been one of the more exciting starts to an off-season in quite some time. Teams are trading their star players left and right, players are returning to their previous franchises’ and of course millions of dollars are being thrown like monopoly money.

Certain teams have used this off-season to show the rest of the league they are ready to throw everything on the table to win the Lombardi right now (like the Bills, Chiefs and Eagles),while some try to make do with what they have and build towards the future at the moment.

This is something the Baltimore Ravens have been doing for years under General Manager Ozzie Newsome and its been working. This off-season has been no different…

For the Ravens, this off-season has been a little bit smoother than the last year’s. The team lost the “original raven” in Ray Lewis to retirement, they traded away the play-off warrior founded in Anquan Boldin, they were coming off an 8-8 record, missed the playoffs for the first time under John Harbaugh, the Ray Rice scandal was all the nation was taking about and it seemed the team, as a whole, took a few step backwards. Of course the move to acquire Steve Smith from the Carolina Panthers really saved what had been a terrible off-season.

This year, things weren’t as crazy, but the drama was still pretty present after loss to the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoff. The team thought they were keeping Gary Kubiak as their offensive coordinator, but he pulled the Ol’ Baltimore Colts/Mayflower stunt and headed to ELWAYLAND up in Denver (no hard feelings Gary). Then, we realized that we still have a good bit of dead money to deal with after cutting Rice during the season, which meant we had little cap space to make any moves (which was huge) and we might not be able to keep, possible any of the unrestricted free agents that were going to hit the market. Then, POOF…it’s March, and free agency is quickly approaching and a lot of money i needed, well that normal means cuts (i.e. Jacoby Jones,Terrance Cody and Chris Canty). Then we lose Torrey Smith to the 49ers (blow to the wide receiving core), then Pernell McPhee to the Bears (blow to the linebackers),then Owen Daniels to the Broncos (blow to an already weaken TE core), then as soon as the Free Agency doors open up…BOOM, Haloti Ngata is traded away to the Detroit Lions (huge blow to the D-Line and the defense altogether).

Obviously, something need to be done to make space for the team’s need and with some of those guys gone means there’s money to be spent:

  • RB Justin Forsett   (Three year deal/ $9 million)
  • S Kendrick Lewis  (Three year deal)
  • CB Anthony Levine (Two year deal/ $2.2 million)

But that Ngata trade still kinda stings, but Ozzie knows what he is doing.

But, even with guys like NT Brandon Williams and DT Timmy Jernigan being very capable replacements for Ngata, they can’t truly replace a player like that, he is a one of a kind, though he was declining due to age and injury, we saw how much of an impact he was during the playoffs after being suspended for four games. Now fans want to know what the priority is now heading into the draft. Is the secondary still number (ranked 31st against the pass in 2014), is replacing Torrey Smith for a bigger wideout our biggest concern or is replacing that big hole left by Ngata now more important than anything else?

Let’s not forget, there are still plenty of qualified free agents out there right now to help replace some of the needs the Ravens now have (and the list keeps piling up), but how much money is Ozzie planning to use?

I don’t have the answers to a lot of these questions, it seems the mock draft for us keeps bouncing around from WR being our top concern to DL to DB. All I can say is IN OZZIE WE TRUST!

NFL Free Agency: Day 2

Well, now that dust has settled, it’s time for a Day 2 recap of the NFL carousel known as free agency.

Let’s start with the Philadelphia Eagles, shall we…

Well, it started off with head coach Chip Kelly breaking down what the organization’s free agency moves up to this point. Everything from why he traded his best RB in LeSean McCoy, to all the release of some of his star players, to the Nick Foles/Sam Bradford trade. But of course, everyone really wanted to know if Kelly would take a chance at acquiring Oregon QB Marcus Mariota in this year’s draft. Obviously, everyone, including Kelly, believe the Mariota is possible the best QB in the draft, and placing a player like him in Kelly’s offense would spell trouble for the NFC East teams and pretty much the rest of the league. But, for now, Kelly has other plans in mind stating, “. I think Marcus is a the best QB in the draft, but we’ll never mortgage our future.” So, it looks like, for now, Bradford will probably be the starter come September for the team, but that Kelly did mention he was offered a 1st round pick for Bradford, so never say never.

Moving on, news broke that former Charger Ryan Mathews would agree to a $11.5 million deal with the Eagles, which indicated he would be the starter next season. But, the this broke…

Murray ended up signing  a five-year deal,  worth $42 million deal with $21 million guaranteed. For most people, would think, well Mathews needs to start packing his things because it’s apparent  who the team wants as their franchise RB…and it ain’t you. But,Kelly decided to move ahead with the deal, however, which pairs Mathews with last year’s rushing champion, which raises the question as to “what the heck is he going to do?” He won’t keep both RB on the squad, would he or is there a bigger plan in the works?

Then, the dismemberment of the New England Patriot’s secondary was completed when CB Brandon Browner decided to head to “The Bayou”, signing with the Saints with a three-year deal ,worth $15 million, including $10 million guaranteed. The physical play of Browner upgrades the Saints secondary, which was ranked at the bottom of league last season. But, as if thing couldn’t get worst for the Pats with both Browner leaving for the Saints and Revis leaving for New York, the Jets made a move that would make New England’s run for their fifth Super Bowl one of the hardest it’s been in a while. The Jets signed Antonio Cromartie to a four-year deal, worth $32 million, reuniting him with the New York and Revis, recreating the “Batman and Robin” duo that scared offensive from 2010 to 2012.

Their were a few other big name signings (J.Forsett re-signed with BAL, B.Orakpo signed with TEN, A.Johnson signed with IND, J.Cameron signed with MIA), but after the Murray signing, it was a pretty quiet day (compared to Day 1). Now tat most of the big name guys are off the board, the following days should be pretty normal for NF/l fans.

NFL Free Agency: Day 1

Um….What the heck just happened?

The NFL world was moving along all fine and dandy , then 4 o’clock comes around and…BOOM, the entire league  blows up.

As of 4 p.m. Eastern Standard time Tuesday afternoon, the “new year” of the National Football League began, and boy did it kick off with a bang. As soon as the gates opened, we hear Saints TE Jimmy Graham, yes the same Jimmy Graham who has been one of the biggest pieces of the Saints offense, is traded away to the Seattle Seahawks (BOOM!) Then,maybe two minutes later, Ravens DT Haloti Ngata is traded away to the Lions (I’m a little salty about it), but the even bigger trade was Eagles QB Nick Foles for Rams QB Sam Bradford.

Now things get interesting….

Obviously, Foles wasn’t the long-term solution for the Eagles (or maybe wasn’t the long-term solution for Chip Kelly), but I don’t think Bradford is the answer either. It’s apparent Philly is trying to make some major moves, possible a big push for a certain QB from the Oregon?

You had former 1st round picks retire, some believe way too early. Jake Locker, age 26, never really got anything going in Tennessee, and figured he would call it a career with his head held high. Patrick Willis, age 30, has been banged up for a few season, but when he was healthy, had a decent career with the San Francisco 49ers, and at one point was consider the best inside linebacker in the game for a few year (this was while Ray Lewis was still in his prime btw). One is no doubt going into the Hall of Fame someday, while the other will be just be remembered as a bust (just like all the other QBs of that 2011 NFL Draft).

Then there’s Revis…

As the first day of free agencies came to a close, the New York Jets signed Darrelle Revis with a  five-year deal, worth $70 million. The signing reunites the All-Pro corner with the ball club which he was with from 2007 to 2012.

Now that Day 1 is over, what does the aftermath look like?Who are the winners?

There’s plenty of top name guys out there for teams to shop around for, but the clear winner of the day, to me, our the Seattle Seahawks. This team is making it clear that they are trying to win NOW! Remember, they were a yard short from being back-to-back champs, but if they had to rewind that pass play and plug-in Jimmy Graham into that play, we might be talking about how Tom Brady lost three straight Super Bowls.

I also think the teams of the AFC East (besides the Pats) are winning this offseason at this point. With both Revis and Brandon Browner leaving the team, that Patriot secondary looks bare again. The Dolphins and Jets both get an upgrade with Suh ad Revis, respectfully. But, those Buffalo Bills pose the biggest threat to the division crown at this point. Give this team a decent QB and we’re look at an AFC team having to go up to Buffalo come January.

Oh, the story-lines are getting exciting and folks it’s only Day 1!!!!

The McCoy Trade:Who’s the winner, Eagles or Bills?

…Well, I didn’t see that one coming at all, and I guess neither did LeSean McCoy.

The Philadelphia Eagles reportedly traded the star running back to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, a former Oregon Duck during the Chip Kelly era. Now, the trade won’t be finalized until Tuesday, March 10, when the new league year begins, but one thing that’s for sure are the multiple pissed Eagles fans and the grateful Bills fans that are beginning to come forward. Former teammates Trent Cole, Todd Herremans and a few other players around the league took to Twitter to voice their thoughts on the trade:

Needless to say, they were all pretty surprised. But, the question now is why? Why make this type of trade when McCoy is still technically in his prime? Why wasn’t anyone aware that something like this was going to happen (kinda of a smack to the face if you’re an Eagles fan)? And was it just the players traded away or did someone have to give up something else (draft picks!!!)

Maybe the biggest question of them all: Who wins in the long run?

Some may say the Eagles won it all (crazy right?). McCoy had a relatively quiet 2014 season, he finished with 1,319 rushing yards on 312 carries and 155 receiving yards on a career-low 28 receptions while scoring only five rushing touchdowns. Some believed that he since Chip Kelly came to town he really had no big role in his schemes, plus since he turning 27 (usually the ripping age for RB) he was flexible to give away by the club and could find someone else to replace him for the long-term.

Some say it was the Buffalo Bills (and I would agree with them). The Bills went 9-7 last season with a bad QB situation (though Kyle Orton did pretty good down the stretch), a star-in-the-making at WR,a decent defensive unit and still just missed the playoffs. Giving an elite player like McCoy to that team spells trouble for all the teams in the AFC East, especially the Pats. Shady is going to be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder this season as well, his mind-set has to be to go out their and show the world he is still the one of the top running backs in the game and has plenty left in the tank to make a run. I’m telling it’s going to be scary to watch him play if he does what he’s saying he will do, there is no doubt this team will closing in on a playoff spot, heck if this team is a good QB away from giving the Pats a good fight for that division crown (of course there’s also the Dolphins who just signed Ndamukong Suh for $114 Million/6 yrs.).

We’ll have to see who really is the winner during the season next year, McCoy has a lot to prove, but so does Kiko Alonso, coming off his second ACL injury had a great rookie campaign but is still young and unproven in the league. It could turn out to be a win for the Eagles in the long ru of things but if they were look to win a Super Bowl right now, this may be the worst move to make at this point.

#WoW  (WordsofWoodroffe)