Grading Ravens' Projected Starting Units
You've seen projected starting lineups before, but this takes the projection to a new level.
What is the strength of the likely starting units?
That's the question Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus (PFF) set out to answer, and did so in the form of a* *pretty interesting and informative color-coded graphic below.
PFF grades* *every single offensive and defensive snap of the regular season and postseason, and has given an overall grade for each predicted starter for the Ravens 2013 offensive and defensive units.
The package used to predict the Ravens starters on offense is the three wide receiver set because it was used most frequently last year with 43 percent of the snaps. The nickel package is used for the defensive starters, as it was also used on 43 percent of the defensive snaps last season.
Study the graphic (click to enlarge) and I'll highlight a few notes below.
Hornsby noted that the grades given to each projected starter is not a straight take from last year's performance. He extrapolated where he deemed it appropriate, such as in cases of injury or lack of a backup. Thus, he had a difficult time grading quarterback Joe Flacco.
"What to do with Joe Flacco?" Hornsby wrote. "A player who was so average in the regular season he rated below Carson Palmer and Matthew Stafford, but was brilliant when it mattered. In the end I said, 'he turns a corner,' and went 'High Quality.'"
- Elite "Blue Chip" players are the best three or four at the position. The Ravens only have one, and it was guard Marshal Yanda.
- Still, a "High Quality" mark is impressive and can be considered a difference maker. The Ravens had plenty at key positions, including Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs.
- Hornsby noted that Dennis Pitta's "sub-optimal" blocking hurt his versatility and his grade, pushing him to "Above Average."
- Perhaps the most surprising grade was Elvis Dumervil's "Average" ranking. "Dumervil hasn't played really well for a few years now and could go either way," Hornsby wrote. "If he exceeds this level we are looking at a very good defensive line."
- None of the Ravens starters received a "Poor" grade. The three lowest marks of "Below Average" went to Michael Oher, Tandon Doss, Gino Gradkowski, Jimmy Smith and Jameel McClain.
Carmelo Anthony Bleeds Purple And Black
Baltimore native and NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony has stayed true to his Ravens roots even after playing in Denver and New York, two cities who take great pride in their NFL teams.
The former Towson Catholic star was an avid Ravens fan growing up and still bleeds purple and black.
As part of an ESPN video series entitled, "Where Athletes are Fans," Melo talks about his support for his team and the emotions he felt while watching the Ravens pull off a win over the 49ers in the tightly-contested Super Bowl XLVII.
"Growing up in Baltimore, we bleed black and purple. That's what we do," Anthony said. "I felt like I was [in New Orleans]. I felt like I had a uniform on."
Jaws Has Flacco In Top 6 … At Least
You're not going to find a more-respected quarterback rankings list out there.
Ron Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst, is slowly revealing his 32-part "Jaws' QB Countdown," in which he evaluates and ranks all NFL teams' probable starting quarterbacks.
We know that Flacco is at least in the Top 6 as Jaws recently revealed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at No. 7 and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at No. 8. Flacco ranked No. 9 on Jaws' list last year.
The remaining quarterbacks along with Flacco are Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.
What will Jaws' final order be?
Can Smith Handle Opponent's Best Corner?
With Anquan Boldin in San Francisco, Smith becomes the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in Baltimore.
Is he ready for all the defensive attention that comes with that title?
"I got double-teamed last year. It's not going to be a surprise if it happens [again]," Smith told the NFL Network in the video below. "I generally had the best corner guard me last year, so it is no secret. I am ready for it."
As for all the other Ravens losses this offseason – Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, etc. – Smith isn't fazed.
"I think we have the potential to be better than we were last year," Smith said. "We've got trust in the guy up top (general manager Ozzie Newsome). All the young guys we've been developing and working hard over the last few years, it's our time to go out there and do it. We just have to go work. Nothing is going to be given to us. We understand that and we have a lot to prove come the 25th."
Harbaugh No. 3 In Coaches Rankings
Who's the best NFL coach? And who is better: John or Jim Harbaugh?
If you're talking to CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco, the three best coaches in the league are: 1) Bill Belichick, 2) Tom Coughlin and 3) John Harbaugh.
"Any coach with a Super Bowl ring has to be ranked higher than any others, which means John Harbaugh has to be over brother, Jim."
That knocked Jim all the way down to No. 8.
"Yes, John. Not Jim. John has that Super Bowl victory now and his team has been a Super contender for much of his stay in Baltimore," Prisco wrote. "I continue to say that his coaching job in 2012 exceeded the talent level on the field. It was a heck of a job. He's been to the postseason all five of his years with the Ravens, and he's 9-4 in 13 postseason games."
- @BryantMckinnie: Me & my cousin ill_will2012 putting in work, started wit the ropes then pullin sleds backwards [Twitter]
- @JameelMcClain: Respect the weakest and expose who they think is the strongest #mymotto [Twitter]
- Where have elite corners gone? Coaches cite several factors for scarcity of shutdown defenders in NFL. [ESPN]
- @nflnetwork: More likely to make it BACK to the Super Bowl in 2013: #Ravens or #49ers [Twitter]