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Late For Work 11/8: Under Armour Lights 'Unbelievable' Ray Lewis Title Tanks

Posted Nov 8, 2013

Concern with Suggs missing practice? Texans bench Reed. Zone run scheme not new in B-more. Week 10 picks.


Under Armour Lights ‘Unbelievable’ Lewis Title Tanks

“Un-believable,” Ray Lewis said as the lights came on.

The pitch black skyline and waterfront was suddenly glowing with three gigantic murals of the future Hall of Fame linebacker, Michael Phelps and Cal Ripken Jr.

Wednesday night, Under Armour flipped the light switch on what are now known as the “Title Tanks,” three molasses storage tanks that neighbor the company’s waterfront headquarters near the Inner Harbor. The sports apparel company’s home is Charm City, making it fitting that three Baltimore sports heroes were chosen to set fire to the sky.

Lewis won two Super Bowls and was the face of the Ravens franchise for 17 years. Ripken and Phelps are both Maryland natives. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time (22 medals), and “The Iron Man” is a World Series champion and played for the Orioles for 21 years.

The Baltimore Sun video below (mobile users tap “View in Browser”), captured Lewis and Phelps’ immediate reactions as the murals were revealed. Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank was with the group.

“Wooooooow,” the group collectively said.

Check out photos and video of the brilliant scene below (courtesy of Matt Rybczynski):

Suggs Misses Practice With Foot Injury. Concern?

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs unexpectedly turned up on Thursday’s injury report, the first time he’s made the list this season.

He missed practice with a foot injury after practicing fully Wednesday.

The injury “increases concerns” about a banged-up defense as it prepares to take on the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, says ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. Linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (groin) and Corey Graham (calf) all missed practice Thursday as well.

“The Ravens can't afford to lose Suggs, who is fifth in the NFL with nine sacks and second on the team with 60 tackles,” Hensley wrote. “But durability has been a strength of Suggs. He hasn't missed a game in eight of his 10 NFL seasons.”

While losing Suggs would be a major blow, The Sun’s Aaron Wilson predicts he will be on the field against Cincy.

“[I] would be very surprised if Terrell Suggs is sidelined for Sunday's game due to foot injury that kept him from practicing today,” tweeted Wilson.

Texans Bench Future Hall Of Famer Ed Reed

The Houston Texans started last Sunday’s game against the Colts with future Hall of Famer Ed Reed, their offseason expensive free-agent acquisition, on the bench.

Instead, the team went with rookie D.J. Swearinger and Shiloh Keo, who both logged more defensive snaps than Reed. Swearinger played all 62 snaps, while Keo played 48 and Reed 32.

Reed missed the Texans’ first two games of the season due to injury, and since he has returned to the field, Houston has yet to win a game. He has yet to get his hands on a single pass this season, as has no deflections or interceptions.

“Among the many disappointing aspects of the Texans season — and they are legion — the money they seem to have wasted on Ed Reed is among the most stark,” wrote ProFootballTalk.com’s Darin Gantt.

Reed decided to join the Texans over the Ravens this offseason, signing a three-year deal reportedly worth $15 million.

Ravens Have Used Zone Runs Since Harbaugh Arrived

With the Ravens having one of the worst run games in the NFL so far this season, many have placed the blame on a “new” zone run-blocking scheme.

While there have been some tweaks to the run-blocking scheme with the arrival of Run Game Coordinator Juan Castillo, The Sun’s Matt Vensel points out that the Ravens have used zone runs since Head Coach John Harbaugh arrived in 2008.

The frequency increased in 2011 with the signing of fullback Vonta Leach. With that scheme in place, and running on inside and outside zone plays, Rice set career highs with 1,364 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, Vensel explained.

But with Rice and Bernard Pierce struggling to get the run game going this season, the zone scheme has been scrutinized.

“[T]hey have been building a zone-blocking running game over the past few years that relies on precision as much as it does power,” Vensel wrote. “Zone blocking is a basic concept used by most, if not all, NFL teams to some degree.

“Instead of blocking assigned defenders, the offensive linemen and tight ends move together in the direction of the run. Each one blocks any defender who crosses his path, sometimes with the help of another lineman. If possible, he slips off his block and heads downfield to make another.”

If the Ravens have had success with the scheme in the past, what is the problem this year?

CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco studied the tape of four Ravens games this season, and found five different issues, bolstering the sentiment in Baltimore that it is a complex problem. Prisco said that 1) the players look uncomfortable in the scheme, 2) all the offensive linemen have had breakdowns, 3) the running backs have missed holes, 4) tight ends have missed blocks and 5) there aren’t enough threats in the passing game so defenses are using a lot of eight-man looks to stop the run.

The Ravens have added new wrinkles to try to jump start the run game, but nothing has seemed to work thus far.

“In recent weeks, the Ravens have used more single-back formations and experimented with zone runs out of the pistol formation in the 24-18 loss to the Browns,” Vensel wrote. “Regardless of the formation, for the Ravens to replicate the kind of success they had with zone runs in years past, they need the blockers to work together and execute.”

Week 10 Picks: Bengals vs. Ravens


Ooofff. There’s not a lot of faith in the Ravens out there.

PFT.com’s Michael David Smith even predicted that after this week’s loss against the Bengals, “we can pretty much write off the defending champs.”

There are some that think the Ravens will pull off the upset at home. Only 14 of the 43 analysts (25 percent) below are picking Baltimore over Cincy.

The Baltimore Sun: 2 of 7 pick the Ravens
Jeff Zrebiec (Bengals 27, Ravens 23): “Until the Ravens figure out their myriad offensive problems, it's hard to foresee them being able to beat a quality team, even at home, even with all the Bengals' defensive injuries.”

Monique Jones (Ravens 26, Bengals 23): “Call me crazy, but this could be the turnaround game the Ravens have been waiting for. There is plenty on the line for the Ravens as they sit at 3-5. If the Dolphins could beat the Bengals on a safety, the Ravens can squeeze out this win.”

ProFootballTalk.com: 1 of 2 pick the Ravens
Michael David Smith (Bengals 20, Ravens 17): “The Bengals are going to struggle down the stretch because they’re missing their two best defensive players, tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall. Unfortunately, the Ravens can’t get out of their own way on offense, and with this loss we can pretty much write off the defending champs.”

Mike Florio (Ravens 27, Bengals 20): “The Bengals are a different team away from home, and the Ravens now have their backs firmly against the wall.  I’m still not ready to give up on a team that has made it to the playoffs five straight times.”

Sports Illustrated, Don Banks: (Bengals 23, Ravens 17):
“The Bengals can't clinch anything, but they can effectively end much of the drama that's left in the AFC North race for Baltimore if they can win at the house of the defending division champions. But that makes the Ravens dangerous, in that last-stand sort of way. Baltimore's offense hasn't found its stride this season and if the running game doesn't return to reliable form, it's not hard to envision John Harbaugh's team missing the playoffs for the first time in his six-year coaching tenure.”

CBSSports.com, Pete Prisco: (Bengals 23, Ravens 20):
“The Ravens might be playing for their playoff lives here. The Bengals, though, are playing consecutive road games. And they will be without Geno Atkins the rest of the way. But that Ravens offensive line isn't good. The Bengals front is good. That's a mismatch. Bengals take it on a late field goal.”

NFL.com, Elliot Harrison: (Bengals 24, Ravens 21):
“This is a big game for both teams. The Ravens need a dubya this week, or they're done for in the AFC North. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, who have been running like Frank Caliendo behind Baltimore's inconsistent line, were unproductive again Sunday, combining for 28 yards on 17 carries against the Browns. (We don't have any numbers on Caliendo.) While the Bengals aren't nearly as desperate for a win as Baltimore, they do need to prove they can beat the Ravens in games that matter (last season's Week 17 victory did not count, as both squads already had clinched playoff spots). How much doubt will creep both in and out of that Cincinnati locker room if the Bengals drop this game? To be one of the best teams in a conference or even a division, you have to take tough games on the road. It's proof-in-the-pudding time. The key to this one is what the Ravens can do on the ground against a unit missing its best player in Geno Atkins. Joe Flacco lacks the firepower to pull this out on his own. #CINvsBAL”

The Sporting News, Vinnie Iyer: (Bengals 20, Ravens 17):
“The Ravens defense is doing its darndest to help their offense take games, but issues with the line and running game have added up to frustrate Joe Flacco. The Bengals have had a while to prepare for their AFC North rivals, and are ready to pull the division title away from them. The fact [that] they have a lot more pop with the run and pass will leave Flacco and friends just short again.”

ESPN.com: 4 of 13 pick the Ravens
YahooSports.com
: 0 of 2 pick the Ravens
USA Today
: 4 of 7 pick the Ravens
CBSSports.com
: 3 of 8 pick the Ravens

Quick Hits

  • @jeffzrebiecsun: Here's a sobering fact about the #Ravens: they haven't held a lead in a game since Oct. 6. That was the Week 5 victory over the Dolphins. [Twitter]
  • @mattvensel: Sam Koch said he is trying to be too perfect sometimes, which has led to poor kicks. He has been inconsistent with his directional kicks. … Koch on his recent struggles: "It's very frustrating. I put all the time and work and effort into to trying to make that perfect game." [Twitter]
  • @RavensSalaryCap: Too much dead money to cut Rice or Ngata.....   MT @cmorris_28 what would our cap look like if we cut Rice, Ngata, Koch, Leach & McClain? [Twitter]
  • @RavensSalaryCap: Yes, very possible.  RT @Sz0ACiiDRaiN: @cmorris_28  Koch, Leach, and McClain are good candidates to get cut this offseason probably [Twitter]
  • Will the Ravens use running back Bernard Scott this season? “They feel more comfortable now about implementing Bernard Scott since his knowledge of the playbook has increased markedly since joining the team,” Wilson wrote.  “It's going to come down to injuries at other spots given that Jimmy Smith is still sidelined today with a groin injury. With the struggles that the Ravens are experiencing with running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, it would be a good idea to get someone new involved. Scott has the speed to stretch the perimeter and has pass-catching skills, so using him makes sense. Whether they'll do it, we don't know yet.” [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Drops are an issue that Bengals receivers want to correct. [ESPN]
  • Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is following a similar path to Joe Flacco.  [The Baltimore Sun]
  • The Ravens now have 100-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. [Bovada.com]

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