Is There A True No. 1 WR Out There For Ravens Like Julio Jones?
He looked like a man playing amongst boys.
And this was in the NFC championship game.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones put up a monster 180-yard, two-touchdown performance. The play of the game came in the third quarter on Jones' 73-yard catch-and-run in which he shrugged off two tacklers along the way.
After this play, you could almost hear Ravens fans collectively joining in on my colleague Ryan Mink's prayer, with a grand "AMEN!" to punctuate the request.
That's not meant to slight the receivers already on the Ravens roster. There's potential with Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Michael Campanaro, but one of those Ravens receivers even declared last night that Jones is the best in the league.
With Steve Smith Sr. retired, a frustrated Kamar Aiken heading into free agency and pundits speculating whether Wallace will be released because of an $8 million cap hit next season, there is no true No. 1 receiver on the roster. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Perriman has "a way to go" to reach that status.
There's clearly a need for the Ravens, but does the market supply an answer?
"Ask yourself this, though: Where are they going to find a legitimate No. 1 receiver in his prime?" wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec after the Ravens' season-ending press conference when GM Ozzie Newsome said he's looking for a "complementary" receiver.
"Are you going to roll the dice and try and take the next Julio Jones or A.J. Green with the 16th-overall pick? Good luck. Will there even be a legitimate No. 1 receiver available on the free agent market?"
Some of the top projected free agents included Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Terrelle Pryor, Vincent Jackson, Kenny Britt and Michael Floyd. Zrebiec doesn't see a true No. 1 in that group.
"Jeffery maybe, but he's not without his question marks," wrote Zrebiec. "Jackson is superfluous with Mike Wallace on the roster. Garcon would be a great fit, but he's more a No. 2 receiver. Pryor doesn't have enough of a track record at wide receiver to be currently considered a No. 1.
"By now, I assume you get the point. It's going to be extremely difficult for the Ravens to find that elusive No. 1 wide receiver, and Newsome knows that. I'm just not sure that guy is out there to get right now."
That takes you to the draft, but like Zrebiec said, you're not going to find a true No. 1 with the 16th-overall spot. The Tennessee Titans could very well take the consensus best receiver, Clemson's Mike Williams, at No. 5, so the Ravens would have to trade up a whopping 12 spots.
We haven't seen a team trade up 12 spots or more for a wide receiver since, well, the Falcons moved up 21 spots in 2011 to get Jones. Williams is expected to be a true No. 1, but it'd be hard to say he's the next Jones and risk valuable draft assets to move up that far.
There's another playoff team who exemplified a successful avenue to finding receiver talent. Of course, it's the New England Patriots, who had a dominant 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last night.
Little-known receiver Chris Hogan scored two touchdowns in that victory, and his 180 yards are the best by a receiver in Patriots playoff history. Think about that. The Patriots have been in a loooooot of playoff games. Hogan is an undrafted player out of Monmouth University, where he played football for just one post-grad year. Prior to that, he played lacrosse for three years at Penn State.
The Play That Injured Orr's Back And Led To Finding His Life-Threatening Condition
NBC's Mike Tirico was amazed by the big collision.
It came early in the first quarter of the Ravens-Steelers Christmas day matchup.
"Le'Veon Bell BOWLS over a tackler! HELLO, Zachary Orr."
"It was like a shock went through my body," Orr told MMQB.com's Peter King. "My left side went all numb. I went out for a couple of plays, and it seemed to settle down."
King reviewed the play after Orr announced his early retirement Friday. After beating the odds as an undrafted free agent and becoming the Ravens' leading tackler in 2016, Orr is forced to walk away from the game at age 24 because of a congenital neck/back issue that was discovered as a result of this clash with Bell.
"[Orr] had the kind of collision with Bell that you see 10 times a game," King wrote. "Orr moved off a block by Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert and readied himself, getting his 6-foot frame low for leverage as he prepped for the impact with Bell. Orr weighs 252, Bell 225. But Orr was stationary, and Bell was powering forward out of a crease in the Ravens' defensive line.
"When they met, Bell used his right forearm as a battering ram against Orr's upraised facemask. Orr fell back on the ground. When the play was over, Orr got up, grabbed his facemask, tried to gather himself. Then he walked off the field to be checked by trainers. … Nothing strange. Even on the sidelines, one veteran observer said it was the same thing he's seen a thousand times. Shaken-up player comes off, is checked out by the medics, shows he's fine, returns to game. Orr missed six plays. He played the final 51 defensive snaps for the Ravens, and played well."
In fact, Orr made a game-changing play in the third quarter with a diving interception of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that the young linebacker returned to the 20-yard line and set up a go-ahead touchdown.
His last NFL tackle came on the final series when he stopped tight end Jesse James at the Baltimore 4-yard line with 23 seconds left in the game. After the tackle, Orr bent over in pain. It's the play that set up wide receiver Antonio Brown's game-winning stretch touchdown.
Two days later, an MRI revealed Orr had a herniated disc. The Ravens training staff pushed for more tests, and a full-body CAT scan, where it was discovered that the top of his C1 vertebrae was not fully developed. Doctors told him he couldn't play football.
It was something Orr was born with, and after all these years of playing football and receiving physicals, it was never discovered. King asked an independent spine specialist, who is not affiliated with the Ravens and hasn't treated Orr, how a condition like that could go undetected.
Todd Albert, surgeon-in-chief at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery, said he isn't surprised.
"A CAT scan is a lot of radiation," Albert told King. "There would need to be a reason to get one."
Boston Man Arrested For Pulling Alarm In Steelers Hotel At 4 A.M.
What would the playoffs be without some sort of "gate?"
On Twitter, it's jokingly being called "AlarmGate."
The Massachusetts State Police apprehended and charged the man who pulled a fire alarm in the Steelers' hotel around 3:40 a.m. Sunday morning, according to multiple news outlets, just before they were scheduled to play the Patriots in the AFC championship game.
Police say evidence suggests the pulled alarm was meant as a "prank" against the Steelers. The 25-year-old Boston resident, Dennis Harrison, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and pulling a false alarm. He left after pulling the alarm, but police later found him walking on the hotel property.
"The way to stop childish but significant behavior … is pretty simple: Put the idiot's name on TV and in the papers, and make the perp serve two months in jail," wrote King.
The Patriots had nothing to do with the prank, but Twitter had a little fun with the news, and King made this one of his top tweets of the week: