King Declares Ravens Super Bowl Contenders
Peter King isn't just on the Ravens' bandwagon.
He's driving it.
After crowning Baltimore with the top spot on his offseason power rankings, the reporter of Sports Illustrated and MMQB fame has now declared the Ravens as a Super Bowl contender after watching them in just one training camp practice.
"I've often said it's hard to draw any conclusions watching a team early in camp with little contact," wrote King. "And the very young receiver group will have to mesh early with Joe Flacco. But this team is a Super Bowl contender in my eyes."
That's some legitimate respect for a team that routinely flies under the radar … until they make the playoffs and threaten the so-called favorites.
As King wrote, there's a reason why New England – another perennial Super Bowl contender – respects Baltimore so much. They've met four times in the postseason. All four were in Foxboro. The Ravens won half, but cumulatively outscored the Patriots by 27 points. The two Baltimore losses were excruciatingly close, including last January's divisional playoff game where the Ravens fumbled away two 14-point leads.
Now that he's had six months to reflect on that loss, how does Head Coach John Harbaugh view last season and how it ended?
"I'm pissed, but I'm proud," Harbaugh told King.
"Translation: We had a great season overall, but there's no excuse—not even injuries—for blowing two big playoff leads on the road," wrote King.
"The Ravens hope a healthier secondary makes the difference if they meet again this postseason. Of course, that means important but brittle pieces like Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb must stay upright at cornerback for Baltimore."
This year, the Ravens don't want to fall short again. Their goal is to get some home playoff games to potentially make for a smoother postseason road. That means they'll have to win the division.
"Yes, we want home playoff games," Harbaugh told reporters yesterday. "We definitely [want] multiple home playoff games. That's what we're looking for, and it doesn't matter what division we're playing against, outside the division or whatever. If we win more games than anybody else, we'll get them all at home. That's the goal."
The Ravens have won the AFC North twice during the Harbaugh era. They finished 12-4 in 2011, leading to an AFC championship berth. Baltimore went 10-6 in 2012 and went on to win the Super Bowl.
It won't be easy, especially during the front half of the schedule. Five of the Ravens' first seven games are on the road, with two back-to-back trips to the West Coast.
King can't remember an East Coast team ever having four games west of Denver. He "doubts" it's ever happened.
"What team has a tougher first seven weeks than Baltimore?" asked King. "If Baltimore survives that run 5-2, the Ravens will win the division. If they start 4-3, they'll make the playoffs. Maybe even with a 3-4 start."
King Just Happy Ravens Let Him Back In Building
Speaking of King, he's grateful the Ravens let him back into the Under Armour Performance Center after a mishap last time he visited.
King accidentally set off an emergency alarm, and now he's noticed the Ravens have taken extra precautions against another potential accident.
Klemko: Steve Smith An All-American Bada$$
Steve Smith Sr. let his presence be known on the first day of training camp practice, making a diving, one-handed grab after getting past cornerback Rashaan Melvin and cutting in front of safety Matt Elam.
Smith, of course, polished the play off with his patented ball spin.
The five-time Pro Bowler is entering his 15th season and has nothing to prove, but he certainly let the youngsters know what's up.
"Who doesn't like Steve Smith?" asked theMMQB.com's Robert Klemko. "Here’s reason No. 43,547 Steve Smith is an All-American Bada$$.
"You think Smith doesn't know what he's doing, diving for 20-yard receptions in shells on the first day of practice? Steve wants a ring, and he's making sure everyone in Owings Mills is on board."
He obviously kept things going well after practice let out at 11:15 a.m. It doesn't get dark these days until 9 p.m., right?
Lombardi: Webb Running Out Of Excuses
Yet another Raven has fallen victim to Harbaugh's brutal conditioning test.
Some of the Ravens' best and/or fastest have gotten bit by it (including Haloti Ngata* *and Jacoby Jones), and now it's cornerback Lardarius Webb, despite previous reports saying everyone passed.
Harbaugh conveyed to reporters that Webb was disappointed and hard on himself. Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi was pretty hard on the seven-year veteran, too.
While Lombardi understands this could ultimately be a non-issue, he also feels there is always an excuse for sub-par play. Webb's2013 season was a result of a hangover ACL injury in 2012. In 2014, the problem was lingering back injuries.
"So what's the excuse now?" Lombardi asked. "[O]n the heels of some of the worst secondary play in team history, Webb led everyone to believe he was healthy and that his physical wellness would propel him to have a great 2015 training camp which would eventually produce results in the coming season. Well so much for that optimism.
"The Ravens are counting on Webb to make a statement this season. So far the statement reads: 'I'm not ready!' And now some will ponder, 'Will he ever be?'"
Lombardi recognized that this could be a small blip on Webb's 2015 resume. After all, as former Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington tweeted yesterday, Webb may be in great shape but may have just run it the wrong way.
"You can be in great shape and fail the Ravens conditioning test," Washington wrote. "It's all about how you run it. If you go too hard on the first 3 you'll be dead on the last 3."
Another former Raven attested to the how difficult the test is.
Mosley Fully Cleared After Wrist Surgery
Second-year linebacker C.J. Mosley took snaps with the first-team defense yesterday following offseason wrist surgery.
He has been fully cleared to play and is "nearly completely recovered," according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. Mosley wore a brace on the left wrist, but wasn't under any physical restrictions.
"I got my X-ray done before I came back and the bone is pretty much healed," Mosley told Wilson. "I'm getting my strength back. I'm fully cleared for everything."
Would Ravens Fans Ever Troll Steelers Like This?
This one will be remembered for a loooooong time.
Some New York Jets fans paid for a plane to fly over the New England Patriots' practice with a "CHEATERS LOOK UP" banner.
That's cold, Jets fans. REAL cold. (I imagine it was pretty expensive, too.)
It got me wondering whether Ravens fans would ever to go to such lengths. And if you would pony up the cash, what would your message above Steelers camp be?
Classic 'Joe Cool' Moment
Other than some of the sweet connections quarterback Joe Flacco made with Smith and rookie receiver Breshad Perriman, Klemko will most remember the following story from his visit to Owings Mills Thursday.
"Flacco dropped his helmet on the grass path to the door, strolled towards the media hub, answered seven harmless questions, chatted with a reporter or two and went inside. Twenty minutes passed. Players signed autographs for screaming kids lined up behind ropes on their way into the building, and soon there was no one left outside but a handful of media packing up gear," wrote Klemko.
"And there was Joe's helmet, resting on the ear fitted with Flacco's all-important audio speaker linking him to coaches. Most of the quarterbacks I've met are cool on the outside and secretly neat-freak perfectionists at heart. I can't imagine Peyton Manning or Tom Brady standing at a locker and not noticing or caring his helmet was missing. But that's Joe. Maybe that's what makes him so pedestrian in the regular season and so damn money in the playoffs; Joe cares when it counts."
Flacco Wearing Same Trunks Since 1985
Here's an excellent #ThrowbackThursday post from Flacco, with a "money saving" tip.
Flacco jokingly posted a side-by-side, then-and-now photo of him wearing the same swim trunks that he wore to the Jersey Shore in 1985 as a toddler.
I don't know why the $120 million quarterback needs to save $30 on a new pair of trunks, but I don't know why he celebrated his record-breaking contract at McDonald's either. That's just (our) Joe.
Player Coaches Are Excited About: Carl Davis
When asked which player Ravens coaches are most excited about, King named rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis, calling him "Mr. Versatile."
"The off-season has not dimmed the Ravens' enthusiasm for getting versatile Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis with the 90th pick in the draft," wrote King. "At 6-5 and 320, Davis should be a rotational piece on a strong defensive line (even without Haloti Ngata) immediately."
- "Gut feeling about this team as I left Baltimore],” wrote Klemko. “[They’ll win the AFC North, but what's next? Do they get past Indianapolis or New England, or both? Earning home field advantage deep into the playoffs is critical." [The MMQB.com]
- "The one name on the roster I'd forgotten about. Kyle Arrington," added Klemko. "Smart pickup for a couple of reasons: Baltimore is short on corners, as previously discussed, and Arrington fits a need for a quick-twitch nickel corner who can lock down the slot."