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Jul 07

The Baltimore Ravens find a way to stay healthy

The injury bug has left Baltimore alone according to the rankings

While last season Baltimore battled a depleted secondary and filled them with practice squad replacements, their troubles don’t seem to be near the rest of the National Football League. The ranking for healthiest teams has come out over the past two years, and the Ravens sit behind only the Eagles and Ravens.

While this could mean Baltimore is having a stroke of good luck, it could also be the Ravens training staff in the health & conditioning department. A little of column A and B is not a bad thing either. I don’t expect this train to take a 180 any time soon, and if the Ravens don’t have all the injuries in one particular position, as last years story played out, they are more than capable of great things. We as fans can only hope going forward this continues.

Something worth note is the AFC North is the healthiest of groups with their lowest ranking team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, coming at 13th, still 3 places above .500. The AFC North rankings are all very high in fact:

  • Baltimore 3rd
  • Cleveland 5th
  • Cincinnati 8th
  • Pittsburgh 13th

The ranking of AFC North teams is a little odd when you consider the smash mouth style of football that each team is known for. Hard running, stout defensive play with big plays splashed in, the matchups between the Ravens and the Steelers is always a “double chinstrap” type of series. With such a high ranking, it goes to show that flashy high-passing offense don’t always mean that players stay out of the training room.

Meanwhile, NFC East Eagles sit at #1 while rival New York Giants sit at 32nd and by a margin almost doubling 29th ranked Falcons. Jason Pierre-Paul also not helping with the silly injury of a fireworks incident this 4th of July either.

Jul 07

Trestman utilizing running back Justin Forsett to his full potential

Trestman’s backfield passing could help Justin Forsett see a career season in yards from scrimmage.

Marc Trestman came to Baltimore to follow in the footsteps of Gary Kubiak, Jim Caldwell, and Cam Cameron as former head coaches finding their roots as offensive gurus. Trestman has been hands on this offseason already and his past gives us a lot of insight into his future.

With Marc Trestman arriving in Baltimore for the Offensive Coordinator position means two things in my book:

  1. Our bigger receivers will be expected to block more than they have been asked before
  2. The backfield will become a dual threat attack of not only great rushing technique behind a zone blocking scheme, but also a pass-catching threat that will be utilized frequently.

While some only know Marc Trestman from his stint in head coaching for Chicago, most don’t know his great play-calling as an offensive coordinator in the National Football League. From bringing the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002, to all but guaranteeing his running backs have 50 catches every season (not him saying it, but instead his RB’s statistics when coaching).

Some are skeptical of Trestman, but time and again Harbaugh & Co. have already promised that the great playbook of last season is hardly touched on, and will be only tweaked to an even higher degree. The Zone Blocking Scheme this year will be just as dominant, the running game just as solid, and the passing attack only more lethal. No negative marks so far from me.

Just last season with the Bears Trestman helped Matt Forte get 102 catches, over 1,800 total yards, and also 10 total touchdowns. Forte had over 1,000 yards on the ground, and 808 yards receiving. If Forsett puts up these numbers sign me up, I’m ready. But with the studded offensive line I believe Justin Forsett could even eclipse the 2K total yards mark if given the opportunity.

Jul 06

Jason Pierre-Paul Played With Fire, and Got Burnt

This was an injury straight out of ‘The Onion’.

Looks like he forced their hand.

Perhaps the Giants feel he won’t be as explosive anymore?

This really blew up in his face.

These puns all needed to be said, I’m sorry readers (and JPP). But be thankful that I stopped before they got out of hand.

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, New York Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul seriously injured his hand and fingers Saturday night, during Fourth of July festivities. The injury happened while he was trying to light fireworks and he was treated at a hospital, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said. This is truly unfortunate. At this time, details are murky on the extent of the injury, with reports ranging from “he could lose his hand” to “he’ll be fine”. As of now, I’d trust Adam Schefter, who tweeted “JPP has burns on palm, 3 fingers. 1 finger could have nerve damage. Didn’t lose any fingers, team thinks he’ll be OK, per @DanGrazianoESPN.” This is surely great news for fans everywhere, as Pierre-Paul is a dynamic young player who is one of the best pass rushers around. It’d be a league-wide loss if this injury were career-threatening.

Here’s an image of what appears to be Jason’s fireworks.

However, the biggest development in the story came this afternoon, when the Giants announced they were rescinding their $60M long-term offer to him. It is speculated that the team did this either because they are concerned about his future with his now-injured hand, or to gain leverage on Jason, as they could potentially resign him for cheaper now.

All signs point to ‘JPP’ playing on a franchise tag this season, which will make him $14.8 million richer. It should be noted that he hasn’t signed the tender yet.

Football aside, this incident is a testament to fire and pyrotechnic safety. Fireworks are no joke. Jason is lucky to still have a hand, and a career. Here’s to a safe and swift recovery for Jason, perhaps this incident will help prevent future ones.

Jul 06

Joe Flacco’s doppleganger is thieving credit cards

To buy some McDonald’s Mighty Wings?

Somebody wearing Joe Flacco’s face stole and swiped a credit card in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Obviously the near-identical twin has not seen Tom Wriggleworth’s commercial with another elite quarterback, Packers Aaron Rodgers.

This is the what the suspect looks like on the left below (photos via AACPD/USATSI).

Joe Flacco Lookalike

An AACPD officer should show the culprit the video of Wriggleworth when he’s sitting behind bars. If you, or you know someone who could help assist with the impostor’s arrest, from the Facebook page of the Anne Arundel County Police Department:

We know how you all are, before you start, it isn’t Joe Flacco. But who is it? Help us ID.

Theft from auto suspect

Credit card that was stolen out of a vehicle was used at a Severna Park convenience store.

If you recognize this suspect, please contact Officer Chen at 410-222-6145 or email at p92015@aacounty.org.

Thanks for your help.

Jul 06

Jimmy Smith Continues to Mature, Thanks to Bisciotti

“With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s a motto Owner Steve Bisciotti has taken to heart.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s a motto Owner Steve Bisciotti has taken to heart.

I’ve written before about how the strong and firm leadership of Owner Bisciotti has lead the Ravens to success. His ability to trust his staff, yet still have a presence in decisions has been a great approach. When he speaks up, you better listen. A case in point would be the selection of Joe Flacco in 2008, in which Bisciotti and now-Assistant GM Eric DeCosta had a heated exchange.

“Bisciotti wanted the Ravens to trade a third-round pick and move up, but Eric DeCosta, the Ravens’ director of player personnel at the time, didn’t think the team should do it. DeCosta told Bisciotti that Flacco would be there at No. 26. Bisciotti then looked across the table at DeCosta and told him, “And what if he isn’t? What if somebody takes him? Is it going to be worth an extra third-round pick? We have three of them. So, stop being a pick whore. Let’s give up a third, and go back and get him, and be done with this.”

- via The Post Game

The rest is history, as the Ravens secured their franchise QB by trading up with Houston for the 18th pick. Without Biscotti’s executive decision, the Ravens could’ve been stuck with Chad Henne or Brian Brohm.

You see, it’s Bisciotti’s sage advice that makes a difference.

“Bisciotti is a billionaire because he knows when to let his people do their job and when to give his input. He knows when his experience can shed light on a situation.”

I just think his style of ownership is great because he doesn’t step in often, so when he does, you know it’s very important to him.

- Redditor /u/KarmaCollecting

“We are very lucky to have the owner we do. Bisciotti seems like the perfect voice of reason on our team, and when he talks you listen.”

- Redditor /u/Patchy911

These two hit the nail on the head as to why Steve is such a great owner.

Steve’s excellent ownership has shined through once again. As Tony Lombardi of Russell Street Report reported, Biscotti played a key role in developing Jimmy Smith, not only as a player, but as a man.

Coming out of Colorado in the 2011 Draft, Jimmy Smith had all of the traits of a Top 15 pick, and look destined to be a shutdown corner for years to come, however, character concerns held him back. Three failed drug tests, alcohol-related violations, an assault arrest, and a link to two abortions all drove away most NFL teams. The Ravens, however, weren’t one of those teams. Bisciotti & Co. were able to look past these incidents, and deemed them a thing of the past. Not to mention, this astute observation by Biscotti likely helped Smith’s case with the Ravens.

“I remember reading about the wife of the Colorado coach [Dan Hawkins] being quoted as saying that when she heard [about the off-field issues of Jimmy Smith] that she was crying and saying that they cannot be talking about Jimmy. So I thought, ok, who knows better than a coach’s wife? It speaks volumes.” – via Russell Street Report

The exaggerated character concerns of Smith resulted in him falling to the Ravens at the end of the first round. The team knew they got a bargain on the field, but could Smith maintain composure off it? Bisciotti wanted to be sure that Smith was kept in check.

“I remember asking [Ravens Executive VP] Kevin Byrne, ‘I want you to do me a favor before [Jimmy] leaves tomorrow. I want you to get me two binders and a [bunch] of articles on the most accomplished corners and the most talented corners that [messed up] their life like Pacman Jones. So I want you to get me everything you can on Darrell Green, Champ Bailey and a couple others. And then I want you to get me everything you can about Pacman Jones, Aqib Talib and all of these other guys.”

When Jimmy Smith was about to leave the facility, head to the airport and make his way home, Bisciotti decided to walk downstairs from the executive offices with the native of Colton, California. It was then that Bisciotti shared with Smith the fruits of Byrne’s research.

“When you’re flying back to California you’ve got 6 hours. I want you to read these two [binders] and I want you to read every single article. And I want you to decide today where you’re going to be when you leave me. I want you to decide what kind of man you want to be. Take these two books and you will know that the books aren’t written about you, but you will know that you are going to end up in one of them.

“Decide which one it’s going to be.”

Wow. This is empowering stuff. Bisciotti is basically saying that Smith has all the potential in the world to be great, like Green or Bailey. Or he can be that guy who had so much talent, but fell short because of general stupidity (see ‘Pacman’ Jones). It seems like Bisciotti got through to Smith, who has said “I’m growing like everybody, just age-wise. My son matured me years already just in nine months. So, every day of life for me is a process. Not a process, but just growing. That’s all that is.” While Smith has matured exceptionally well, his play on the field has been even better. Smith has constantly been a mainstay in the secondary when healthy, and is one of the best in the league, despite not getting much attention for his play. Last year, Smith was ranked the 20th best CB in the league, and Smith allowed the fifth-lowest passer rating on throws that went his way. Smith is now locked down to a five-year deal in Baltimore, as the Ravens got a steal in him. I’m most certainly looking to seeing him terrorize opposing offenses for years to come.

I’m really happy we have a great cornerback, and an amazing owner.

‘In Bisciotti We Trust’?

Jul 06

Baltimore Beatdown Apparel Contest!

You wanted some new kick-ass designs to wear and show off your Baltimore Beatdown pride. Now is the time to put your skills to the test.

You wanted some new kick-ass designs to wear and show off your Baltimore Beatdown pride. Now is the time to put your skills to the test. We will be choosing at least 1 design from the community and putting it up for sale with our partners at Gameday Depot.

What you need to do:

Provide a clear design on a white background to our email. A JPG would be fine for the voting purposes, but any vector art would be best once it goes to print. Your design must be in our email by August 1, 2015 in order to be entered into the contest. You can enter as many times as you want, but additional designs will be subject to the staff’s approval before going up (trying to keep down on the spammed designs).

How to win:

Once we have all the designs, we will put them all up for viewers to comment on and vote for. The design with the highest number of votes will be the winner. If we have a few great looking designs that the community seems to love, we might even have multiple winners.

What you can win:

You’ll win a shirt for you to display proudly or wear out. In addition, we’ll work with you to give you a portion of each shirt sold.

Design ideas and specifications:

Player designs always do well. With the NFL Draft behind us, doing something on some of the new players would probably be great. A ‘MADD MAXX’ design would be fun to see done up by someone. The offense is also looking to be quite interesting this year, so a design centered around what could be the best offense in Baltimore would be cool. Defensively, the Ravens have another stout defensive line. I’m sure the community here will throw out a ton of other really awesome design ideas for those capable of putting things together.

All designs need to be free of any copyrighted material. That means no Ravens logo, no use of the Baltimore Ravens font and no use of any player’s direct likeness. Sadly, we aren’t authorized to do any of that, so putting up a design for sale would be a major no-no for everyone here at Baltimore Beatdown.

The shirts are direct to print shirts and are made when ordered. The positive thing here is that you have pretty free reign on the number of colors you can use and can be very inventive with your designs. The negative is that print areas and sizing is limited, so no all-over designs can be done and the design should be kept as one sided if at all possible.

What that all being said, send us your designs and good luck to everyone entering the contest!

Jul 06

The Ravens have the best offensive line in football

Yeah, that’s right, the Baltimore Ravens have the best offensive line in the game.

When you think offensive line, most people look towards the Green Bay Packers or the Dallas Cowboys for their lines. Yet, the Ravens have quietly been putting together the best offensive line in the league.

We’ve covered the individuals behind this achievement previously, but when healthy, the Ravens were able to propel a journeyman runningback to greatness and a Pro Bowl. Justin Forsett had his most productive season as a football player behind the combination of Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, and Ricky Wagner. Even when players like Monroe, Wagner and Zuttah had to miss time due to injury, the Ravens were able to shuffle players around and bring up young depth players to fill the holes nicely throughout. Quarterback Joe Flacco enjoyed his most upright year and one that saw him have his best season as a pro.

With both the rushing game and Flacco’s sack numbers being fantastic, we only have the offensive line to thank for that. First Top Fantasy took a look at the Ravens offensive line and ranked them as the best in the league. While noting that Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the third best unit, the combination of right guard Marshal Yanda’s top offensive lineman grade along with the rest of the offensive line being able to keep Flacco upright and keep the rushing attack churning is what gives them the edge overall.

Slater Jackson also points out that under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, the Ravens needed extra time to set up longer developing pass plays. While the offense sometimes had the help of play action, the offensive line routinely had to handle some of the best pass rushers in the league by themselves. Even with two games with four sacks, Jackson points to that being more of a gameplan issue rather than one of talent. With new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, we might even see quicker developing pass plays that should improve upon Flacco’s 19 sacks last season. The addition of Forsett in the passing game and a renewed tight end corps should also improve everyone’s numbers and give the Ravens offense more than enough to run the ball even more effectively than last season.

A lot of the reason for the Ravens’ improvement along the line has been the addition of depth and keeping guys healthy. Also the zone blocking scheme perfected by offensive line coach Juan Castillo certainly helps maximize the Ravens’ slimmer, but more athletic offensive line. The simplified scheme allows the offensive linemen to get upfield on rushing plays and open up holes quickly while being able to work together as a team to give Flacco more than enough time to make a play.

Jul 06

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti knows how to build an organization

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s approach to building an excellent organization has trickled down to head coach John Harbaugh and could go a long way towards explaining the coach’s success while in Baltimore.

Ravens full owner Steve Bisciotti didn’t become an NFL owner overnight. It took time, patience and creating a business that could give him the funds to join such a notorious and lofty club. It also took late owner Art Modell’s blessing and willingness to move on after owning the Ravens for 8 years and the Browns for 34 years before moving them to Baltimore.

Garrett Downing of the Baltimore Ravens’ own website took a look at Bisciotti’s hiring process and exactly how head coach John Harbaugh responded. With a single question, Bisciotti was able to not only gauge the responsiveness of his soon to be head coach, but provide a little insight to how he wanted things to be ran.

My question to him was, ‘If, by a strange twist of fate, I gave you the job today but told you that you could only spend 100 hours in this facility from now until the kickoff of the first game, how would you spend those 100 hours?’

Like most interviewees, Harbaugh had a difficult time answering the question. Before Bisciotti left the room for a few minutes, Harbaugh could only ask “I’m going to get this wrong, aren’t I?”

Ultimately Harbaugh answered and was granted the position, which he has excelled at over his career here in Baltimore. What is truly telling is exactly what Bisciotti was looking for.

Bisciotti stressed to Harbaugh the importance of connecting with his players on individual levels. Going back to his original question about the 100 hours, Bisciotti explained that he would want his new coach to spend 20 hours talking with him and General Manager Ozzie Newsome, another 20 hours with the coaching staff, and then 60 hours meeting with each player individually for an hour.

That is something that gives us some insight on why the head coach before Harbaugh, Brian Billick, was let go somewhat surprisingly.

Billick was a winning head coach, bringing the city it’s first Lombardi with purple colors, and amassing a record of 85-67-0. It wasn’t the fact that the Ravens went 5-11 in 2007 that led Billick to his fate, it was the reported locker room divide that did him in. There had been rumors swirling for some time that Billick had allowed the players to get “soft” and would play favorites. That type of leadership had the locker room at odds against each other, most notably the offense versus the defense.

After 8 seasons, Billick had lost touch with the majority of his players and he wasn’t able to get as much out of them as was needed to field a competitive team. John Harbaugh came in and with the introduction of quarterback Joe Flacco, was able to right the ship through being equally tough and loving on his players. One can only assume that in addition to Harbaugh’s personality, Bisciotti’s approach to building an organization has stuck with him.

Jul 06

Historical Raven to Add to the 2015 Squad

An interesting question for fans is which historical Raven would help this year’s squad the most. The discussion would obviously begins with the 3 pillars in Ravens history: Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, and Ed Reed. All three are 1st ballot Hall of Famers, and among the best ever at their respective position.

Unfortunately, positional needs prevent us from giving real consideration to some players. Ray Lewis, the GOAT for the Ravens and historically for the entire NFL at LB too, is not needed on this year’s Ravens. Although he is the greatest leader to ever play the game, and his dominance at the position is unparalleled, the inside linebacker position is under control. Manned by 2nd year ILB C.J. Mosley, a Pro Bowler in his only season, and Daryl Smith, also a top 8 ILB in the entire NFL, this unit is the strongest on the team. So while Lewis would be an upgrade, there are other area’s of need that are much bigger.

Ogden, while a large upgrade at left tackle, would only strengthen an already strong unit. The current starter, Eugene Monroe, while not an all-pro, is a solid performer who is expected to bounce back in a big way. Despite a down season in 2014 where he was battered with injuries and was only mediocre, the offensive line was still a top performer in the entire NFL. So while Ogden would be a large upgrade, he would only make a strength even stronger.

While the big 3 were the obvious candidates, I bandied around a 3rd name due to him also being a Ravens great at a position of need: Todd Heap.

Heap’s Ravens career spanned about 10 years, with a litany of sub-par Quarterbacks slinging the ball. Yet he consistently performed on a Pro-Bowl level, despite Randall Cunningham, Elvis Grbac, Jeff Blake, Chris Redman, Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, Troy Smith. Heap had 1 year with Steve McNair playing at a high level, and caught passes from Flacco during Joe’s first 3 seasons, so we have an idea what he would look like on this year’s team, although Flacco is better at this point than himself and McNair when Heap played with them.

However, while Heap would be a great addition to this year’s squad, he played a low priority position. So with solid yet unproven options in Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams currently on the roster, I think the position is solid. That leaves only one player who would make a world of a difference on the 2015 Ravens: perennial All-Pro safety Ed Reed.

Ed Reed was a game changer. He played both safety spots at different points in his career, and he could impact the game in so many ways. In his prime, he was a hard hitter, ball hawk, and had no flaws in his game. I mean no disrespect to our current safeties, but Ed Reed would be a massive upgrade. Reed was a player quarterback’s had to account for on every play. Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were known to write on their play sleeves to find #20 before the play. Bill Belicheck, arguably the best coach in the NFL has been effusive in his praise of Reed over the years. Reed could help you cover your flaws, and win games for you. He is the among the leaders in defensive touchdowns scored, and is #1 all time in defensive return yardage . He is 6th on the list of career regular season interceptions, but he has played at least 2 less seasons than anyone ahead of him.

Ed Reed was a stud safety, and that is a position the 2015 Ravens would benefit most from an upgrade. Reed played the game at an extremely high level, and would upgrade the defense’s ability to force turnovers, a big weakness for the 2014 defense. Reed, Will Hill, and Jimmy Smith manning the back end would result in the #1 pass defense in the league, and it wouldn’t even be close. Coupled with our top notch pass rush lead by Sizzle and Doom, the defense would give 2006 and 2000 a run for the title of best Ravens defense ever.

So Ed Reed would be my choice, and its not really even close. If Ed in his prime were here in 2015, I would be starting the countdown to 16-0. Obviously we don’t have time travel, so this can’t be a reality, but a man can dream!

Jul 06

Dennis Pitta ranked 19th on Ravens’ top 20 players of 2015

Needless to say that when healthy, Pitta is something that his quarterback and team likes to see on the field. However, health has been a major factor for Pitta over the last few seasons.

Tight end Dennis Pitta is a force to be reckoned with when healthy. The tight end has been a major outlet valve for quarterback Joe Flacco and is one of Flacco’s best friends. Needless to say that when healthy, Pitta is something that his quarterback and team likes to see on the field.

ESPN is continuing their countdown of the top 20 Ravens for 2015, including Pitta at number 19 on this list.

However, health has been a major factor for Pitta over the last few seasons. 2013 saw Pitta go down with the first of two eventual hip injuries. Only able to play in 4 games, Pitta was severely limited even when healthy enough to suit up, only able to notch 20 receptions and 169 yards. 2014 was the return and expected rise of Pitta back to one of the top tight ends in football, but ultimately ended after 3 games and yet another hip injury.

2015 will be an interesting year for Pitta mainly because if he is unable or unwilling to return 100% this season, the Ravens could opt to let him go at the end of it all. In 2016 Pitta stands to count as $7.2 million against the cap while only having a dead cap number of $6.6 million. While not a major dent in the cap pool if cut, if his continued health is a concern at the end of this season, it will save the Ravens a significant amount over the last 2 years on his contract ($16 million total would be saved).

It appears that the Ravens might be looking to do it regardless as they have stockpiled tight ends over the last 2 seasons through the draft. Newcomers Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle add to Crockett Gillmore to make 3 healthy tight ends that each have their own specialty and niche in this offense. If Pitta is able to return, someone is going to be the odd man out and that could be the guy with the highest contract.

With the health and the contract issue hanging over Pitta’s head, I wonder if he deserves a place on this list. We’ve covered Pitta ad nauseam so far this offseason, so you all know the reasons here, but the Ravens are a stacked roster with players having a definitive spot and role this season. It seems like a waste to have Pitta ranked at all when he is a giant question mark for 2015. If Pitta were to be healthy from week 1 of the regular season and be good for the remainder of the year, he would unquestionably earn a top 5 ranking on this list.

What do you think of Pitta’s place on this list? Who would you rather have in this spot instead?

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