Divisional Preview: Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

Now its time for the big boys to swing into action. For most Patriot backers, they believe that Rob Gronkowski is going to be the difference. He wasn’t there as the Ravens had playoff success in Gillette Stadium.

Terrell-Suggs-Baltimore-Ravens-Football-2011-NFLIf you think back to Lee Evans dropping that last second touchdown in the 2011 the AFC Championship, this team would be on a winning streak in Foxboro. Baltimore can pressure with Elvis Dumervil along with Terrell Suggs. This will allow Darryl Smith and CJ Moseley to concentrate on clogging Brady and Gronk’s passing lanes. With Haloti Ngata back from suspension, he’s rested and should stop the run.

New England fields a better defense and Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner can take away the Ravens receivers as well. The truth is Steve Smith will sneak open a couple times as will Torrey Smith. It will be a tight contest and the winner will be the Baltimore Ravens 26-21.

Advertisements

Ravens Rebuilding Defense With Dumervil and Huff Signings

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

The start of NFL free agency wasn’t kind to the Baltimore Ravens. They lost LB Dannell Ellerbe,  LB Paul Kruger, then both Safeties in Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. All of this with the retirement of Ray Lewis meant the defense would see a dramatic makeover. Yesterday they signed former Raider S Michael Huff just days after landing DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil. You can hear the “ahhhs” coming from the Raven fan base that there is life after Reed and Lewis. The question is did they get better??

Well upon further review… In Huff you have to measure his projected production vs what Ed Reed would have brought to the table. First things first they signed him  for $6 million over 3 years where Ed commanded $15 million from the Texans. They did get younger by 5 years going with Huff but they’ll need him to be more productive than he’s been. In 7 years he has averaged 58 tackles and only has 11 career interceptions. Reed had 15 in the last three years and 4 last year alone.

In some circles he has been considered a bust after being drafted so high out of Texas. He averages 8 passes defensed per season and needs to make more tackles. In that department Reed had 15 passes defensed in 2012 and averaged 12.5 per season. He has to show improvement and that is hard to do when learning a new system. He will probably be teamed with a rookie unless an experienced SS comes available later before the season starts. They signed a veteran safety but our CEO doesn’t think they improved the position.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn't offer in 2012.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn’t offer in 2012.

With the signing of Elvis Dumervil, GM Ozzie Newsome has pulled a coup. Not only did they rip the Broncos for one of the league’s best pass rushers, they took a defensive captain from a conference rival. What do you think that “C” means on his jersey. Don’t forget he’s only going into his 8th year, has been to the last three Pro Bowls and is just two seasons removed from a 17 sack season.

They saved $5 million in signing him v. Paul Kruger, whom has to live up to his contract and hasn’t been a full time starter yet. Dumervil is just in time to aid a Terrell Suggs who should be back to full strength and needs a bounce back year. Coming back from an Achille’s injury he was a shell of his former self. It might be ironic that his best game of the season was the 2 sacks he had against Denver in the playoffs with Dumervil watching.

Now its reported that Suggs helped recruit Dumervil and has a proven running mate to crash the pass pocket. Elvis is going into his 8th year and has averaged 10.5 sacks in his first 6. Which is good until you realize how good he was last year. He was a force across from Von Miller and had 11 sacks but more important 6 forced fumbles. He’s not only going to be able to duplicate the pass rush with two guys on the corners, there will be Haloti Ngata providing a push up the middle. He’s also reuniting with linebacker coach Don Martindale, who coached in Denver when Dumervil came into the league. He’s already played in a 3-4, is familiar with the coaching staff and has an effective pass rusher on the other side, this was a dramatic upgrade that should affect the overall defense.

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly "I got this" can't you?

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly “I got this” can’t you?

What Ozzie is hoping for is the improved pass rush to affect Huff in being a better center fielder as a safety. However there is a wait and see aspect to this because it hasn’t translated into better performance yet. In 2010, the Oakland Raiders were 2nd in the NFL with 47 sacks and he only had 3 interceptions. Last year they were 31st in sacks with 25 and he had 2 picks. However he can benefit from the standpoint of more crowd noise and Baltimore having more leads which forces opponents to pass.

Let it be known that Dumervil will draw the initial double teams and if Suggs returns to form, this could be a sack machine in 2013.  Haloti in the middle and these two from the outside and don’t forget they picked up Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to possibly emerge as a DE who can provide support.  This can be a 40 -45 sack team in 2013. The question remains who they have at the inside linebacker position. However now you get a sense that Ozzie might have something up his sleeve. Which leads to a question… Having built two different Super Bowl winners, is Ozzie Newsome the best General Manager in the NFL??

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Free Agency Days 3 – 5: Moves That Complete Teams

It was the hard hitting SS Leonard Smith that pushed the late 80s Bills into the NFL elite.

It was the hard hitting SS Leonard Smith that pushed the late 80s Bills into the NFL elite.

Just because some of  the sexier names have taken up the headlines the last two days doesn’t mean there aren’t valued players left to be signed. Those spots that can complete a team and put a team over the top. When you look back at moves of yesteryear, the Buffalo Bills were building through the draft with Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett, Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas. It was a move to bring a leader and proven old pro in SS Leonard Smith to push the Bills into the league’s elite. He was the last move that sent the Bills to several Super Bowls as the next decade dawned.

Not Charles Haley...it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Not Charles Haley…it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Same thing for the early 90’s Dallas Cowboys when they traded for Pittsburgh Steelers’ Safety Thomas Everett in 1992. Where they had been 1-3 against Run & Shoot teams in 1991, they went 5-0 against those teams including the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII that finished as the top passing teams that year. It was this interception in Super Bowl XXVII that started the 1990’s reign of the Dallas Cowboys. Otherwise the Bills take a 17-14 lead and the Bills take control of the game.

Wilson moves to New England.

Wilson moves to New England.

In these cases as it has in many instances, it’s the non headline signings that have made the difference in teams turning around their fortunes. One such signing could be SS Adrian Wilson joining the Patriots. Going into his 13th season he is a quick fix that can pay short-term dividends on the field. However he can pay long term dividends  for Belichick by mentoring a young secondary.

You’ll notice the Patriots re-signed CB Kyle Arrington to a four-year deal worth $16.5 million and a one year deal with Aquib Talib, who is only entering his 6th season. They are looking to upgrade the 29th ranked pass defense and will benefit from a full offseason to improve players who know the Bill Belichick and the Patriot way. What happens if the Patriots can improve to a ranking in the teens against the pass?? After all their last two seasons ended in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl XLVI respectively.

Another way to improve your pass defense is to improve on the pass rush. Don’t overlook the fiasco that left Bronco LB/DE Elvis Dumervil a free agent. Now the New England Patriots are among those that are pursuing him. Sure he was going to re-sign for a lesser amount to stay with the Broncos. That was all well and good until other teams start to entice him with offers. Just ask the 49ers who didn’t franchise S Dashon Goldson and are now looking at lesser talents in an aging Charles Woodson and the signing of SS Craig Dahl. Who?? Exactly!! Keep your eye on Dumervil with the Steelers, and Ravens also vying for his services. To strengthen yourself and weaken your enemy is the root of free agency.

Greg Jennings is going to look different in a Viking uniform.

Greg Jennings is going to look different in a Viking uniform.

In the words of Robin “Holy Brett Favre batman.” After watching the animosity and angst thrust at his former teammate, Greg Jennings decides to play for the hated Minnesota Vikings. Going into just his 8th season he’s as complete a receiver there is in the NFL. Unlike a Wes Welker, he can play the X receiver, Z receiver, or the slot.  This more than makes up for the loss of Percy Harvin who wasn’t a polished receiver. Taking his career 425 receptions 6,537 yards and 53TDs to a division rival, he will get booed lustily when he returns to Lambeau Field. His play will help the maturation of QB Christian Ponder and take heat off of Adrian Peterson. Don’t forget the Vikings will be going outdoors after next season. Having a cold weather receiver will pay dividends down the road.

Steven Jackson's physicality might be what the Falcons needed. They aren't perceived as a tough team.

Steven Jackson’s physicality might be what the Falcons needed. They aren’t perceived as a tough team.

The Atlanta Falcons have made many moves this off-season and one of the best moves was coaxing Tony Gonzalez from retiring and playing one more year. This up’s the ante for the organization to get it done in 2013 even though he’s signed a two-year $13 million deal. To fill the role of the departed Michael Turner, the St Louis Rams all time leading rusher Steven Jackson signs and brings a big play running back to the defending NFC South Champions. His hunger and desire to be a champion along with Tony’s could propel this team to the top or at least another NFC Championship appearance.  They now have every piece in place with wideouts Roddy White, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan having his first playoff win under his belt, along with Coach Smith are these the two signings that will put the Falcons over the top??

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!