Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Nov 2006

Every Play Counts: Baltimore's Linebackers

by Michael David Smith

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush was held to just 16 rushing yards on five carries in Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but that's no surprise. Bush has struggled to run all season -- in fact, his average Sunday of 3.2 yards a carry was actually a little better than his average for the season as a whole.

What is surprising is the way Baltimore dominated the rest of the New Orleans offense. Bush's backfield mate, Deuce McAllister, was averaging nearly five yards a carry this year, but the Ravens shut him down to the tune of just 11 yards on five carries. Quarterback Drew Brees was a league MVP candidate with just four interceptions in six games, but the Ravens picked him off three times. The Ravens swarmed the Saints from the very beginning, jumping out to an early lead as the Saints' first four drives consisted of two interceptions, a fumble, and a three-and-out.

The key to the game was the Saints' complete inability to account for the Ravens' linebackers. An examination of those linebackers on every play against the Saints shows two young and versatile players on the outside in Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas, and a middle linebacker in Ray Lewis who is playing at a higher level than he has in the past couple of years, though still not in the same class as he was when he led the Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2000.

Thomas is like a chameleon. Lines him up on the line of scrimmage and he attacks the quarterback like a defensive end. Line him up as much 10 yards off the line and he covers wide receivers like a safety. He's very tough against the run but quick enough to keep up if he's called on to defend downfield passes. He's also the gunner on the Ravens' punt team. Sometimes it just seems unfair for a 270-pounder to move like Thomas does.

On New Orleans' second play from scrimmage, Thomas lined up at left outside linebacker, and the Saints called a swing pass. That call required receiver Joe Horn to pick Thomas and keep him on the inside so Bush could take the pass and go to the outside. For future reference, I have a message for any NFL offensive coordinators reading this: Your wide receivers can't block Adalius Thomas. Horn never had a chance of stopping Thomas, and Thomas burst into the backfield to tackle Bush for a loss of five.

As a pass rusher, Thomas sacked Brees once and hit him as he was throwing four times. The Saints usually assigned McAllister to blitz pickup, but he struggled with Thomas. On the first play of New Orleans' second drive, Thomas came on a blitz and McAllister tried to pick it up. Although McAllister did impede Thomas enough for Brees to throw, Thomas hit Brees just as he released the ball and brought him to the ground. On a later play, Thomas blitzed to the outside, pushed through McAllister, and hit Brees as he passed, forcing a bad throw that rookie safety Dawan Landry (who looks like one of the steals of this year's draft) intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

On a second-and-11 in the third quarter, Brees dropped back to pass, couldn't find anyone open, and took off running, gaining seven yards. Brees looked in the direction of wide receiver Marques Colston, but Thomas had Colston covered. Linebackers rarely drop into man coverage on wide receivers, but Thomas did a fine job of it. On the next play Thomas was back to his typical outside linebacker position, and he covered tight end Mark Campbell like a blanket, allowing Campbell to catch the pass but tackling him immediately for three yards on third-and-4, leading to a New Orleans punt.

Thomas frustrated the Saints' passing game, so New Orleans tried to get Thomas out of position with some misdirection plays. On one such play, all the action went to the left, but Campbell slipped out to the right and was wide open in the flat. Thomas showed good closing speed in leaving the player he had been covering, fullback Mike Karney, and getting to Campbell after a gain of only eight yards. I can't say for sure whether Thomas was out of position in allowing Campbell to make the catch or whether Campbell was someone else's responsibility, but I can say he limited Campbell to eight yards on a play that could have gone for a lot more.

Unlike most teams, who move one outside linebacker to the strong side on every play and the other outside linebacker to the weak side, the Ravens keep Scott on the right and Thomas on the left because they think having Scott, who has a very quick first step, on the blind side of a right-handed quarterback makes a big impact on their pass rush.

Scott got off to a furious start this season, with five sacks in the Ravens' first three games. Since then teams have begun adjusting to him, putting a tight end on Scott's side of the field to force him to line up farther to the outside and have a tougher angle when to rushes. When the Saints did that, Scott often dropped into coverage instead of blitzing. Scott isn't as effective in coverage as he is rushing the passer, so I think teams will continue to line up tight ends on their left against the Ravens.

Overall, Scott wasn't as effective as Thomas as a pass rusher on Sunday, but he did play the run extremely well. On New Orleans' first play, Scott shoved aside the lead-blocking fullback, Karney, to tackle McAllister for a gain of just a yard. On a fourth-and-2 run up the middle by Aaron Stecker, Scott made a quick move into New Orleans' backfield, and center Jeff Faine had to hold him to keep him from stuffing Stecker. The holding penalty on Faine negated what would have been a first down.

Lewis is still the biggest name on the Ravens' defense, but at age 31 he's clearly past his prime. Still, he played an active role Sunday, especially in pass coverage. When New Orleans tried a trick play with Bush throwing a pass, Lewis lined up about five yards off the line of scrimmage. He initially pursued to his left when it looked like Bush would run, but he read the pass and ran back to the end zone to get into position to make the interception.

On one Bush run around the right end, Ed Reed forced Bush out of bounds for a loss of three before Bush could turn the corner. Lewis was following Reed in pursuit, but Bush would have run past Lewis if Reed hadn't been there. I don't know if there was ever a time that Lewis was fast enough to keep up with Bush, but if there was, that time has passed. Still, Lewis makes his share of tackles in pursuit. On a second-and-4 in the second quarter, Lewis lined up over the right guard. He seemed to recognize something just before the snap, because he started on a run blitz before the snap and made a beeline for the left tackle, which is exactly where Bush was going when he took the handoff. Lewis stopped Bush for no gain.

Bush's best play of the day was a five-yard run on first-and-10 in the second quarter. On that play, Lewis and Scott were lined up as inside linebackers, and Bush ran directly up the middle. New Orleans guard Jahri Evans blocked Scott, and center Jeff Faine blocked Lewis. Although Lewis did shed Faine's block to tackle Bush, he did it after a five-yard gain, and Lewis didn't show the kind of speed in filling the hole that he would have a few years ago. If you want to beat the Ravens on the ground, running directly at Lewis is the way to do it.

But running isn't the best way to attack the Ravens' defense. From watching Sunday's game, it seems to me that offenses that line up in a max-protect alignment, perhaps keeping as many as eight players in to block, could have success against Baltimore by giving the quarterback time to set up in the pocket and throw to the receiver deep. I think both of Baltimore's cornerbacks, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, have their best days behind them, and while Reed is a very good player, he's at his best when he's playing aggressively, rather than when he's forced to stay back to try to stop the deep pass. The Saints did manage several long completions against Baltimore, and not all in garbage time, either. I also think short passes over the middle to tight ends can exploit the fact that Lewis is a step slow. Finding flaws in the Ravens' defense isn't easy, but the best strategies are the ones that neutralize the stars, and on the Ravens' defense, that means Thomas and Scott.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 01 Nov 2006

41 comments, Last at 27 Dec 2006, 11:12pm by Anthony

Comments

1
by J.D. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 12:17pm

Nice article. A question for fans who have seen a Ravens game this season- why is Lewis playing so much better this year than in the past few? Is it a matter of having a better D-line to keep the blockers off him?

2
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 12:26pm

Why does everyone think that Adalius Thomas is a young player? He has been in the league seven years and is 29. Just because he has only put it all together in the last couple of years doesn't mean that the guy didn't spend several years riding the pine (admittedly behind some pretty good players).

3
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 12:46pm

I didn't realize that Ray Lewis was only 31 - for some reason, I thought he was older. It feels like he's been around for a long time.

4
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 12:57pm

both 2 & 3 are true

if you axed people what's the difference in age between Lewis & Thomas, very few people would say "2"

I would have thought at least 5 off the top of my head

5
by mediator12 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 1:09pm

Great article!

To answer # 1:

The ravens defense is better up front and their versatility from the OLB's and the Safety's makes Ray Lewis's Job pretty easy. Go get the ball carrier.

Ryan's scheme sets up everything to flow into Lewis on the ground and the OLB's keep him from having to Cover TE's and Rb's for the most part in the passing game.

With Nata clogging the middle and being more agile than people think on the edge running plays, the OG's and Center's hardly ever get good angles to block him either.

Ray Lewis is good, but I watched Tatum Bell drag him Five yards with the game on the line in DEN. He is not the playmaker he once was and he is not a guaranteed tackler anymore. He missed several crucial tackles overrunning cutbacks in that game and allowed a couple passing first downs chasing PA fakes and missing his assignments.

The other two guys are flat out awesome and getting better though.

6
by Shannon (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 1:14pm

Well, all that time spent riding the pine doesn't damage your body. Physically he's probably a lot younger.

7
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 1:19pm

Thomas is a young 29 -- he has been a project and special teamer for years who grew into this role. Props to Ozzie and Co., for drafting and developing him into the matchup hell he is these days. (Maybe the Saints should have tried that play with Colston, who at least has a little more size?)

Lewis has been the starting MLB for the team almost since he was drafted in 1996 -- he HAS been around forever. He put on a lot of miles in the "cap hell" years under Marchibroda before he ever got famous.

As for why Ray is playing better -- better health, mostly. I can't say Ngata is an improvement on Keomeatu, but it's close to a wash right now. And the improvement of Scott and Suggs, along with Thomas' presence, means Ray has to do less sideline-to-sideline ranging, which he really can't do anymore. He's playing smarter than he has in the past, because he can't outrun his mistakes anymore. He's not quite the "smart grizzly bear" (my all-time favorite reference, courtesy of Larry Csonka) that Willie Lanier was, but the only chance of running on him is to cut back into his space -- at least you have a chance that way.

8
by Kaveman (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 1:28pm

So Tatum Bell's 19 carries for 92 yards against this D begins to look better and better... :-)

9
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 1:37pm

Re 2, Tom Kelso beat me to it. Although Lewis is a little more than two years older than Thomas, I described Lewis as old and Thomas as young because Lewis has more than 1,000 more career tackles. It's kind of the same reason I might describe Jerome Bettis as retiring when he was "old" while Tiki Barber is going to retire when he's "young." Barber's age at retirement is only two years younger than Bettis's, but when you look at them, Bettis seemed like an old back last year, while Barber seems like a young back now.

10
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 2:09pm

Nice EPC. What's the Raven depth at LB like? Do they have someone who could step in, or is it a case of Terrell Suggs playing LB and a backup DE playing instead?

11
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 2:30pm

re 9

My point was really one about general perception and was not meant as a criticism. Thomas didn't seem to really emerge until after Peter Boulaware and Mike Nolan left (I am unsure if there is a link between those two facts, could a ravens fan help out?). I remember looking through rosters and could never work out why the 270lb linebacker who was supposed to have great speed and athletic ability couldn't get on the field. My guess would be that it has a great deal to do with cap investment in a veteran player and a coach who wanted the experienced guy he trusted in there as opposed to a young player. The need for the defense to carry the offense may have had an impact as there would have been pressure on the whole D not to make the kind of mistakes inexperienced players can make - or Nolan doesn't develop young players well, look out SF fans if that one is true.

When they do use Thomas to man cover a wideout do they give him safety help over the top? I would assume so and haven't seen enough of him playing to tell.

12
by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 2:48pm

An Excellent piece! I have been reading FO for several months now and love the insight that this sight gives. MDS, these articles (EPC) in particular, are absolutely wonderful! I just hope when I next mobilize, I will be able to read this across the pond.

#11 They do give some help over the top...but its your typical help back there. The ravens mix up their coverages quite a bit, so it really just depends on the situation. Thomas' athletic ability is just sick, so he doesn't require that kind of help (except with the exceptionally fast/quick WR's)

13
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 2:51pm

I have to give Nolan credit for helping develop Thomas -- but Ryan gets the most credit for using Thomas to his maximum advantage. Part of that is devotion to Boulware and other vets, sure -- and part of it is that the very similar Terrell Suggs had a higher profile, so he got more attention despite playing a very similar position.

As far as depth, that is a problem right now. Dan Cody has been expected for two seasons now to develop into a Suggs/Thomas type of player, but injuries are making it questionable if he will ever get into a position to do so. Right now, the Ravens' depth at linebacker is mostly a matter of taking players like Thomas and Suggs and limiting their roles -- since the D-line depth is stronger. I don't think that too many teams have the number of versatile players that the Ravens have -- and that's mostly looking for those who fit the Boulware model.

I also think that MDS is right about the cornerbacks -- more so Rolle than McAlister. It makes this Sunday very nerve-wracking indeed. There aren't many teams that can force bad secondary matchups the way Cincy can; maybe only Indy.

14
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 2:59pm

re: 10
Jarret Johnson is a pretty decent OLB/DE who gets a fair bit of playing time. Dan Cody was a 2nd round pick OLB last year but blew out his knee in preseason, so this is his rookie year, and hasn't played much (or maybe at all). Mike Smith is the backup MLB, and he looked good in preseason, for what thats worth.
A great article, but I was hoping for some more info on the Ravens 3rd down blitzing schemes. There is one play in particular on 3rd and long where the front seven is overloaded on one side and just kind of walking around in an amorphous blog type formation, and as soon as the ball is snapped, they will send anywere from 3 to 7 guys at the QB. Its odd to watch, and it must be hard to prepare for since nobody on the Ravens is really set in any position, so it makes it tougher for the OL to call out assignments.

15
by JPS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 3:27pm

Thanks once again, MDS.

16
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 3:50pm

In the preseason someone made the point that there isnt a big reason to expect the Raven defense to get better. They drafted a lineman in the first round, but they also lost a lineman in free agency. So I figure if their defense made this turnaround then Ngata has to be part of it?

17
by J.R. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 4:31pm

#16 The Ravens were 5th in team defensive DOVA in 2005, so its not as they were horrible last year, but they accomplished that with Ed Reed missing 6 games with an ankle injury that was not fully healed when he returned and Ray Lewis missing the last 10 games.

Other than their good health so far, Bart Scott (who filled in after Ray was hurt last year) replacing Tommy Polley at OLB and Corey Ivy/Evan Oglesby/Ronnie Prude replacing the aged Deon Sanders in nickle and dime packages have been upgrades.

The replacements for Will Demps at strong safety: mostly Dwan Landry but also Gerome Sapp in some passing situations have both been pleasant suprises in what was a big question mark for the Ravens defense.

The DT they lost in free agency was Maake Kemoeatu, and they replaced him with Haloti Ngata. Haloti has played well, but differently. He doesn't create the same upfield penetration as Kemo, but seems to do a better job clogging up the middle/protecting the linebackers than Kemo.

Trevor Price has also been an suprising improvement over the departed Anthony Weaver at DE.

re:#10. Gary Stills has played some DE but is ahead of Dan Cody as the OLB backup.

18
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 4:41pm

I can point to a few in the Ravens' defensive success this year. One is health. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed missed 16 games between them. That put Bart Scott at ILB and a rotating crew at OLB that included a worn-out Bouwlare, an undersize Tommy Polley and a miscast Terrell Suggs.

Which is better - A. Thomas, Lewis, and Scott or A. Thomas, Scott and Player X?

Another reason is increased familiarity with Ryan's defense. The more each Raven does his job, the better they are -- and there's still room for improvement here, especially in the back end. But when the front 7 run the scheme right, there are multiple times per game when a rusher comes completely free to the QB. I'm still amazed that Charlie Frye got up after an unblocked Adalius Thomas inverted and planted him during the Cleveland game.

19
by theory (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 5:24pm

Great article... wonder when the rest of the football world will start paying attention to Adalius Thomas.

I'd love to see EPC: Chargers secondary. The Chargers' pass defense DVOA is very good but the secondary is generally regarded as horrible.

20
by John P (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 6:15pm

Excellent topic and interesting insights!

21
by Bruce Anderson (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 6:41pm

Nice article!

FYI: Thomas has been an impact player in Baltimore for a while... even went to the Pro Bowl as a special teams player in 2003. He didn't play much in his rookie season (2000), but he had a couple big plays in the post season that year (batted ball??? Memory is failing me). He's very smart and athletic. What other player has (and can reasonably be expected to play) every single defensive position? Thomas has.

Plus, he's a good egg. Does a lot of work with the local community. Nice to see him get some more positive attention.

Bart Scott really stepped up last year when R. Lewis got hurt. He played well filling in and now has a much larger role in the D. He's taken advantage of that opportunity in a big way. Good on ya Bart!

Ray has lost some after the pounding of 10+ years in the league, but he still is a very decent player from the physical perspective. He's playing better this year than he has in the past couple purely because of health. He's not playing hurt. But while his body may have lost some, he's still playing really smart. And, with his legendary intensity, this makes him a pretty decent guy to have on your team.

The D - line has done a decent (not spectacular) job, but are not generating the QB pressure they need without help from the LBs. The linebackers have generally been superb. Unfortunately, the DBs have been less than stellar. Both Rolle and McAllister has lost a step. Not only that, but the mental game hasn't been on for them. McAllister has been caught several times looking into the backfield, then getting burned. There have been communication problems between players. Teams that have realized they can go deep on the Ravens have been successful.

Bruce

22
by mediator12 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 6:43pm

19. The Chargers have upgraded the secondary with a better Safety in Marlon McCree and Antonio Cromartie has a bunch of talent, but is not consistent Play to play yet.

The real reason the Chargers Secondary gets rated so high is the front Seven and the pass rush. The QB's they face do not have time to run slower developing routes on average and they are able to have closer initial coverage when they do not have to defend the whole passing tree. When it does get stonewalled, they give up big plays for the most part.

23
by Bruce Anderson (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 6:44pm

#18: Absolutely! Charley Frye has got to be one tough nut to take a shot like that, and get right up, ready to play!

24
by Chris Simms (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 9:20pm

Charlie Frye ain't S#*%t.

25
by Ben Roethlisberger (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 9:21pm

Chris, I must say I have to.... oooh, shiny!

26
by 52decleetzu (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 9:25pm

#19 From a Ravens fan,lets hope not,he is a UFA at the end of the year.

27
by theory (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 11:03pm

#22 - You can say that about most teams with a good pass defense, which is why it's so hard to tell whether the DBs are actually doing well or not. Most "good" secondaries get chewed up if the QB has time (like the Ravens or Broncos last week). If the Bolts don't go all the way, the secondary will probably get a lot of the blame, but it might not be deserved.

By the way, Cromartie looks like he's been shutting down slot receivers, and then held Torry Holt to 48 yards (while slot receiver Kevin Curtis suddenly had a big day... hmmm).

28
by DschAf (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 11:27pm

MDS, as a Bengal's fan, your piece brings me great solace on this, the week before we play the Ravens. I have to admit, the piece you wrote on Peppers had me worried, since it came right before the Bengal's played the Panthers. As it turned out, he was a complete nonfactor; in large part due to the brilliant play of Big Willie. Hope the pattern continues....

29
by Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 1:56am

So apparently Bart Scott was quoted gloating about the fact that he injured Reggie Bush. What is it with linebackers being vicious to the point of (perhaps) intentionally injuring opposing players? I recall LaVar Arrington bragging about "assasinating quarterbacks" a few years back... it was his "thing." Lame.

30
by mannie fresh (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 3:22am

Lance Briggs is the most underrated player in the league. If Bears don't lock him and Lovie Smith up, there's gonna be a letdown in my town....

31
by James C (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 8:28am

#26

Thomas IS a free agent after this year, and the Ravens already have $14m tied up in cap room for Scott and Lewis. They do have some guys with big salaries that they could convert to bonuses, but I think that Lewis is angling for a new contract as well (he is dreaming).

32
by James C (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 8:31am

Sorry for the double post but does anyone know what the 07 cap figure will be?

33
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 1:34pm

Re 29:

Aren't most football players like that to some extent, especially tough defensive players?.

You reminded me of the first chapter in The Blind Side, where Lewis is interviewing LT, and he talks about wanting to kill the opposing quarterback. Knock his head off. Break his shoulder. Etc. But when he actually broke Joey Sunshine's leg, LT freaked out. It's total conjecture on my part, but I suspect they put themselves in a surprisingly violent mindset, but after the whistle want everyone to be okay.

Well, maybe except for Scott, who bragged about his "hot sauce" injury of Bush.

34
by BDA (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 1:51pm

#33 and others...
When Scott made those comments, he was talking about what had happened previously in the game and his response to it.

He said that Reggie tried to cheap shot him a couple times. Scott was pissed, especially about this "golden boy of the NFL" playing dirty. He then said that he put a "little something extra, a little hot sauce" on him. Meaning, hitting him hard and then doing stuff like pushing Bush' legs after the tackle. It happened twice that I saw... the last time right before Bush limped off the field. What I saw was not exactly Scott trying to hurt the guy. There was no cheap shot, there was no low block, there was no grab and twist of the legs. Just turned out that Bush twisted his ankle, probably as the two rolled during the (completely appropriate) tackle.

Bruce

35
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 4:23pm

Didn't one of the Ravens 'steal' the interception from another Raven? Who stole it from who?

36
by PJ (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 1:05am

#35 - Chris Mcalister had his hands on Ray's INT and took it to try and run it back but dropped in the end zone for a touchback when he saw the saints converging. Ray may be a step slower than he once was, but keep in mind he was the greatest MLB of all time. His intensity, and intelligence still make him one of the best inside linebackers in the league. I'm happy to have him over any other. Besides he still puts up stats, remember Jacked Up from week one against Tampa. And he's got a couple picks. In regards to the secondary - CMac hasnt lost a step. He had a couple bad seasons the past two and he's turned it around. If you pay attention he's rarely getting beat. KC joyner has him statistically ranked among the top CB's. Plus he's getting INTs like he used to. Rolle has been underachieving this year but he's been hampered a lil by a foot injury in the Oakland game and since then he's starting to get burned.

37
by Trace (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 1:34am

Thomas started a little bit at DE towards the end of the 2001 when Michael McCrary got hurt and has started ever since. Combine that with all the time he plays on ST (gunner on PR coverage), he's probably played more snaps than anyone on that defense over the last five years and is probably among the higher totals of any defensive player in the league. I really wouldn't consider him to be a young 29 at all. That's not to say he's old, though, as he's clearly come into his own the last couple years.

As far as the Ravens secondary, McAlister's gotten off to a great start, but Rolle has struggled and for the second year in a row, communication has been a major problem in the back end.

38
by BDA (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 12:00pm

#36 & 37: RE CMac... he hasn't lost a step physically, but he has not played consistently smart football.

Example: in the game with the Saints, he got caught peeking into the backfield... this allowed Colsten to get open along the sideline. Not only that, but once he caught up with Colsten, he tried to drag him down instead of pushing him out of bounds. The result was an additional 15 + yards of field position.

With his speed, if he had simply stayed with his assignment, the pass would at least have been batted away (if Brees elected to throw to a covered Colsten) or intercepted. Instead, 53 yard reception for the Saints because McAllister didn't honor his assignment and play smart ball.

The guy has the physical gifts to play at the top level, and does a fairly good job. But his inconsistency is maddening!

Bruce

39
by John (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 5:45pm

Great Article - I think Ray benefits from having Ngata eat up blockers and also from Kelly Gregg, probably the most underrated DL in the game. Rolle has been slowed by a foot injury, and it shows in coverage. CMAc has looked good all year, but Reed seems to want to make the big play too much. Even so, this is a good defense that keeps the team in most games.

40
by shaslers (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 9:49pm

Adalius, and Bart Scott for that matter, simply waited their turn in Baltimore's system. In AD's case, he's been impactful as a starter for a couple years now, and it's nice to see him getting notice.

As to where Ray has been, it's been a couple years of bad injuries to the shoulder and hammy. His greatest strength, pursuit, has surely been dampened. but he is better now than at any time than his MVP season, still. Thru film study and savvy he's still very valuable. Akin to a veteran baseball pitcher who loses velocity but still wins with control and smarts.

Concerning depth, forgetaboutit...the Ravens are loaded. Mike Smith, Gary Stills, Dan Cody. Guys who have shined in limited chances, and like Bart and Ad before them, when they get their chances in two or three years, they will excell.

41
by Anthony (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 11:12pm

I'm trying to settle a bet and cant find a clear answer anywhere and thought I could get help here.

Can someone confirm/deny for me.. what base D the ravens play, a 3-4 or a 4-3? Suggs made the pro bowl as a LB but is listed everywhere as a DE. Do the ravens use him as a 'flex' player or is he an OLB?