AFC North: Kansas City Chiefs

Grading Ravens OT Jah Reid

August, 22, 2011
Baltimore Ravens 2011 third-round pick Jah Reid made his first NFL start last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Ravens are hoping the rookie can be the answer at right tackle.

The AFC North blog studied film of Reid's first half with the starting offense. Points were awarded or deducted on a three-point scale for each play.

Here is what we found:

[+] EnlargeJah Reid
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJah Reid has held up well this preseason, particularly in the running game.
Ravens' first series

  • Baltimore lines up in the I-formation. The Ravens call a power run play behind the left guard and left tackle. Reid is away from the play but makes a decent block against Chiefs defensive end Tyson Jackson. (+1 point)
  • Quick throw to Anquan Boldin results in a gain of three yards. Reid makes good contact again with Jackson but only had to pass protect for a second. (+1 point)
  • Chiefs bring the blitz on third down. Reid correctly picks up the outside linebacker and quarterback Joe Flacco connects with receiver Lee Evans on a slant for the first down. (+2 points)
  • Ravens run another power running play, this time on the right side. Reid holds his block pretty well against Jackson. But the play doesn't go anywhere. (+1 point)
  • On second down, Flacco drops back and the pocket collapses quickly. Reid gets beat by Jackson but Flacco escapes and finds tailback Ray Rice for a first down. Good play but poor blocking. (-2 points)
  • Baltimore gives the ball back to Rice up the middle. Reid holds his block against Jackson until the end of the run. Good base and leg drive by Reid. (+1 point)
  • Ravens set up the deep pass with a nice play-action fake. Reid helps sell the play, but Flacco overthrows Boldin. (+1 point)
  • Chiefs bring a safety blitz that Reid misses. The safety runs by Reid but Flacco quickly finds Boldin in open space for 24 yards. (-1 point)
  • In the shotgun, Kansas City brings three rushers. Reid combines with right guard Oniel Cousins to block Jackson on an incomplete pass. (+1 point)
  • Reid gets help and double-teams Jackson again during an incomplete pass. (+1 point)
  • Reid holds his block on an incomplete pass on third down. Ravens kick field goal. Pretty good first drive for Reid. (+1 point)
Grade for drive: +7 points

Ravens' second series

  • The Ravens run tailback Ricky Williams behind Reid for three yards. Reid gets his first pancake block on Jackson. (+3 points)
  • Baltimore runs Williams again on the right side but Reid whiffs on his block. (-2 points)
  • In the shotgun, the Ravens run Williams for the third straight time. This time the play goes left for a short gain and Reid fails to keep his feet. (-2 points)
Grade for drive: -1 point

Ravens' third series

  • Reid continues to have his way with Jackson in the running game. He blocks Jackson well on the back side for a solid gain by Rice. (+2 points)
  • Flacco throws a quick pass over the middle to tight end Ed Dickson. Reid holds his ground against Jackson. End of the first quarter. (+1 point)
  • Reid gets off the line well and blocks Jackson on a running play to the left. I'm impressed with Reid’s strength. (+1 point)
  • Reid holds his block again on the backside during a Rice run for a first down. (+1 point)
  • Chiefs bring the outside linebacker and Reid doesn't get to the spot quick enough. The defender barely misses the sack. Flacco rushes and throws an incomplete pass. (-2 points)
  • Reid holds his block against Jackson well but pass protection eventually breaks down. Flacco throws the ball incomplete. (+1 point)
  • Reid does his assignment on another incomplete pass on third down. (+1 point)
Grade for drive: +5 points

Ravens' fourth series

  • Reid helps sell another good play-action fake. But the pass is incomplete. (+1 point)
  • Kansas City brings the outside linebacker again and Reid misses his assignment. Flacco still completes a short pass. (-2 points)
  • Flacco connects with Evans for a first down. Reid does a good job holding off the edge rusher on third down. (+1 point)
  • Reid gets beat on a swim move by Jackson, who pressures Flacco to get rid of the ball for a short gain. (-2 points)
  • Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher blitzes and beats Reid. Williams helps Reid with a chip block before another incompletion. (-2 points)
  • Chiefs bring the house on third down. Reid seems confused on which defender to pick up and Flacco gets hit. Blitz recognition is not Reid's strong suit. (-3 points)
Grade for drive: -7 points

Ravens' fifth series

  • Reid blocks well on a running play up the middle for Rice. (+1 point)
  • After a few missed assignments the previous drive, Reid gets help from fullback Vonta Leach, who chip-blocks a defender on an incomplete pass. (+1 point)
  • Reid holds his ground on a nice, 43-yard pass from Flacco to Evans. (+2 points)
  • Reid correctly picks up the inside guy on a blitz. Flacco connects with tight end Dennis Pitta. (+2 points)
  • Ravens are going heavy on the pass. Reid stands up his man during a pass to Leach, who bulls over a defender and loses his helmet. (+1 point)
  • On Baltimore's best running play of the game, Rice gets the ball up the middle, cuts right and runs for a 26-yard touchdown. Reid does a great job on the back side to seal his block and allow Rice to change directions. (+3 points)
Grade for drive: +10 points

Reid's first-half grade: +14 points

AFC North blog analysis: I was encouraged by Reid's potential. He helped his standing with last week's performance. Reid has a strong base and positions himself well in the running game. He's still raw in pass protection. Reid doesn't have quick feet and struggles with blitz recognition. But he should pick up blitzes better with experience. It remains to be seen if Reid will be ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. But Reid already appears to be a better option than Cousins at right tackle.
The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns completed Week 2 of the preseason Friday night.

Here are some observations:

Lions 30, Browns 28

The Good
  • Backup tight end Evan Moore continues to be Cleveland’s secret weapon. Moore capped another stellar training camp this week by leading the Browns with three catches for 40 yards and two touchdowns. Moore was on track to make an impact last season before he got injured. If Moore stays healthy, he could be a matchup problem for opponents.
  • Second-year quarterback Colt McCoy had another solid outing. McCoy didn’t throw for many yards (96) but had three touchdowns. McCoy is seeing the field a lot better this year. He also looks more comfortable in a West Coast system. McCoy has thrown for 231 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions this preseason.
The Bad
  • Cleveland's pass protection was shaky against Detroit. McCoy was getting battered by the Lions' first-team defense. He took several tough shots that should make Cleveland's coaches cringe for a second preseason game. Starting tailback Peyton Hillis did not play, and that impacted some of the team's blitz pickups.
  • Friday night's second half put Cleveland's lack of depth on display. Cleveland's backups blew a 15-point lead by allowing 17 unanswered points to Detroit's reserves. The Browns' starters played well for the second week in a row. But the first team must stay healthy at nearly every position this season for the Browns to remain competitive.
Ravens 31, Chiefs 13

The Good
  • New Ravens receiver Lee Evans made a solid debut. He showed deep speed, good routes and playmaking ability. Evans caught three passes for 68 yards. His best play was a 43-yard reception when he got behind the defense. Evans also made two third-down conversions, on a slant and an out route, to keep drives alive.
  • Baltimore tailback Ray Rice was productive. Rice rushed for 44 yards on seven carries, which included a nifty 26-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter. Rice showed he can make defenders miss once he gets to the second level. Rice was bottled up at the line of scrimmage too often last season because of poor blocking.
The Bad
  • Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco looked off and missed several throws he usually makes. Flacco found himself scrambling around a lot against the Chiefs. He also had a couple of odd plays where the ball slipped out of his hand during a pass attempt. Flacco was 12 of 24 for 124 yards. Ironically, his best throws were to Evans, and they only practiced together for a week.
  • Baltimore's punt returning left a little to be desired. Cornerback Lardarius Webb and safety Tom Zbikowski fumbled punt returns. Webb lost his fumble, and Zbikowski’s was recovered by Baltimore. Ball security will be something special teams coach Jerry Rosburg will look to fix quickly this week.
The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns will continue their preseason games Friday night. Baltimore will host the Kansas City Chiefs, while Cleveland hosts the Detroit Lions.

Here are a pair of storylines for each AFC North team:

  • Will the Ravens improve the offense line? Baltimore allowed six sacks last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Three were against starting tackles Michael Oher and Oniel Cousins. The Ravens moved Cousins to right guard and will start rookie Jah Reid at right tackle against Kansas City. Reid is a raw prospect trying to learn on the fly. We will find out where he stands in his first NFL start.
  • This game marks the Ravens debut of wide receiver Lee Evans. The veteran deep threat was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills. Evans will be the starter opposite Anquan Boldin. Evans is the speedy receiver Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has lacked the past several years. The pair will look to build chemistry in this game.
  • Can Cleveland second-year quarterback Colt McCoy continue his momentum? McCoy had a near-perfect preseason debut last week against the Green Bay Packers. He was 9-of-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown. McCoy also led the offense to two touchdown drives. Detroit should offer a stern test. The Lions' defense looked stout in last week’s 34-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Another fun matchup to watch will be Browns corner Joe Haden against Lions Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson. Both are two of the best, young players at their respective positions. Johnson beat Bengals cornerback Leon Hall for a touchdown last week. Haden will try to prevent "Megatron" from having a big first half tonight.

Notes from Ravens practice

August, 16, 2011
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens continue their final week of training camp in preparation for Friday's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here are some notes and observations from Tuesday's practice:
  • It was "Veterans Day" for the Ravens. Many tenured vets and star players such as Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin were given the day off. All of these vets should be fresh for the last full practice of the week Wednesday leading up to Friday's game.
  • There were several standout plays Tuesday. Baltimore rookie receiver Tandon Doss made a great leaping catch over fellow rookie safety Josh Victorian. Ravens safety Haruki Nakamura also picked off quarterback Joe Flacco in team drills and had a long return. Nakamura might have scored if not for a late fumble, which forced Nakamura to fall on the ball.
  • Baltimore rookie right tackle Jah Reid continues to get a look with the first team. Reid has good size and strength but looks raw with his footwork. More game experience against Kansas City should help with Reid's development.
  • I thought Baltimore rookie receiver Torrey Smith had his best practice of the week. Smith practiced fast and made several nice catches. Teammate David Reed, on the other hand, struggled some with a pair of drops.
  • Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth was limited in practice Monday but did more work in team drills Tuesday. Foxworth is working his way back from season-ending ACL surgery in 2010. Eventually, he will figure into the cornerback mix.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens rookie right tackle Jah Reid is getting reps with the first team, just days after Baltimore allowed six sacks in its preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

That is a lot of pressure for a third-round pick. But the Ravens are searching for answers on their offensive line. They have less than a month to figure it out before their regular-season opener against the reigning AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who led the NFL in sacks in 2010.

"He's in the mix, whether he wants to be or not -- period," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said of Reid. "In my mind he's either going to be playing or one or two plays from playing. So my mind is anything but he's playing until he's inactive. We're trying to get that point across to a lot of these guys. There is no four-year scholarships [for rookies]."

Starting offensive tackles Oniel Cousins and Michael Oher both had down moments against Philadelphia. Cousins particularly struggled and is now getting a look at right guard. Starting guard Marshal Yanda, who missed practice Monday with a back injury, also is a possibility at right tackle. But taking Yanda from guard would weaken that spot.

Look for a lot of experimenting in Baltimore's second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"We're going to try to work out the best five in some combination," Cameron said. "It may not be ideal, but it's probably our best alternative."
Joe FlaccoJim Rogash/Getty ImagesJoe Flacco has been a lightning rod for criticism from opponents and the media this offseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley believes Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will never win a Super Bowl "in this lifetime."

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones says Flacco can't handle pressure and makes too many bad decisions.

NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes says Flacco doesn't work hard enough.

In other words, there has been no shortage of offseason jabs at Flacco, who has become the biggest punching bag in the AFC North during the NFL lockout. The list of detractors questioning Flacco's ability to take the Ravens to the next level appears to be growing every month.

But there is hope for the talented, fourth-year quarterback. Flacco, 26, is still young and entering his prime. So now is the time to put all of those concerns to rest.

With that in mind, here are five ways Flacco can silence his many critics in 2011:

No. 1: Flacco must beat Pittsburgh and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

Analysis: There are no more excuses. Flacco has to beat his biggest rival in a big game. Flacco has two career wins against Pittsburgh but both come with an asterisk. Roethlisberger missed those games due to a concussion in 2009 and a suspension at the beginning of the 2010 season. Flacco is 0-6 in his career against the Steelers with Roethlisberger under center, which includes an 0-2 record in the playoffs. The good news is Flacco doesn't have to wait long for another shot. The Ravens host the Steelers in Week 1, and Woodley has already upped the ante for Flacco, who must perform well. A big win against Pittsburgh early could set the tone for the Ravens, who need to move on from last year's heartbreaking playoff defeat. It also would lift a huge burden off Flacco and could begin to change his reputation as a quarterback who struggles in big games.

No. 2: Flacco must perform well in the playoffs

Analysis: Advancing to the AFC title game as a rookie was one of the best and worst things to happen to Flacco. He did something few rookie quarterbacks have accomplished. But it also raised the bar much higher for Flacco than it is for your typical young quarterbacks. Flacco is 4-3 in the playoffs but played well in only one of those seven games. Other than Baltimore's wild-card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last January, the Ravens have carried Flacco in the postseason. In Flacco's four playoff wins, Baltimore's defense held opponents to just 10 points per game, while Flacco did enough to manage the offense. If Flacco wants to become a great quarterback, that needs to change. The Ravens' defense cannot pitch a near-perfect game every time in the postseason (see recent playoff losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Steelers). There will be times Flacco has to carry the team with his arm in a big game. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers last season was a perfect example of how a hot quarterback makes a world of difference in the postseason.

No. 3: Thrive against the AFC North

[+] EnlargeLaMarr Woodley and Joe Flacco
AP Photo/Tom E. PuskarLaMarr Woodley said Joe Flacco will never win a Super Bowl.
Analysis: There is a reason Woodley and Jones were blunt in their criticism of Flacco. Based on what happened on the field in recent seasons, they both have the right to speak on Flacco's struggles. The Steelers and Bengals have been two of Flacco's biggest nemeses early in his career. Flacco is a combined 5-9 against his two AFC North rivals and has thrown 11 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 14 career games. Regardless of whether you believe Jones and Woodley should have made their comments public, the numbers back up their claims. Flacco has to play these teams at least four times per year and needs to perform better against AFC North competition.

No. 4: Bring back the deep ball

Analysis: Some teams have figured out how to defend Flacco and the Ravens' offense, because Baltimore hasn't thrown the deep ball much the past couple of seasons. Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin are both possession receivers, and when they're not open, Flacco often checks down to running back Ray Rice. The offensive pattern has become predictable and drawn the ire of media and fans in Baltimore. Despite a lot of talent, the Ravens finished a disappointing 22nd in total offense last season. Flacco has one of the prettiest deep balls in the league, and it will be up to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to find more ways to play to Flacco's strengths. The Ravens have lacked a deep threat in the past but hope rookie second-round pick Torrey Smith brings the speed they've been looking for to keep defenses honest. Including playoffs, Flacco only had one 300-yard passing game all last season, and it came against the 2-14 Carolina Panthers.

No. 5: Win a Super Bowl

Analysis: Winning a Super Bowl is the great equalizer. Baltimore's roster is stacked, which is why there is so much pressure and Super Bowl talk surrounding Flacco. Quarterbacks always get most of the credit for the team's success or most of the blame for its failure. So Flacco could silence everyone -- Woodley, Dhani Jones, media and fans -- by finally winning the big game. Even getting the Ravens to the Super Bowl would do wonders for Flacco's reputation.

If Flacco follows these five not-so-easy steps, he will have a much quieter offseason in 2012. Can Flacco accomplish some, or all, of these goals this upcoming season?

Stay tuned.

AFC North third-round update

April, 29, 2011
Three AFC North teams made picks in the third round of Friday night's NFL draft.

The Cincinnati Bengals started the round by drafting Nevada outside linebacker Dontay Moch. The Bengals need help with their pass rush and Moch had 38 career sacks in college. This is also another sign that the Bengals are hoping to move Rey Maualuga back to his natural position of middle linebacker.

The Baltimore Ravens finally addressed one of their biggest needs in the third round by drafting Central Florida offensive tackle Jah Reid. He has good size and athleticism for the position, and the Ravens hope Reid can compete for a starting job opposite Michael Oher.

Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers got a cornerback in the third round. Pittsburgh took Texas corner Curtis Brown with the No. 95 overall pick. The Steelers also had their eye on former Texas teammate and corner Aaron Williams, who went to Buffalo in the second round. Pittsburgh is very thin at the position with Ike Taylor and William Gay pending free agents.

The Cleveland Browns did not have a pick in the third round following Thursday's trade with the Kansas City Chiefs to move up and select first-round pick Phil Taylor.
The Baltimore Ravens reportedly are seeking more than an apology from the Chicago Bears following a trade snafu that cost Baltimore one slot in the first round of the NFL draft.

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Baltimore is expected to contact the league Friday to try to get the fourth-round pick Chicago agreed upon during the botched trade. Both teams were required to call in the trade and the Ravens did their part. But the Bears dropped the ball and forgot to make the call, causing the trade to fall through and the Ravens to miss their pick.

The Kansas City Chiefs quickly turned in their card and drafted University of Pittsburgh receiver Jon Baldwin at No. 26. The Ravens took their target anyway in Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith at No. 27 but remain upset with the chain of events.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo made a public apology to the Ravens Thursday night. But chances are, they don't want to give up an extra draft pick if the trade wasn't made official by the NFL. The Bears still made their selection in their original slot at No. 29 and would prefer to sweep everything under the rug and simply move on.

If you're going by the honor code, the Ravens deserve the pick. The two sides came to an agreement and the Bears were responsible for screwing it up. But the NFL draft is big business where honor doesn't always apply.

It was a rare gaffe by one of the top organizations in football. But the Baltimore Ravens showed poor clock management by missing the deadline with their first-round pick.

The Ravens lost the No. 26 overall pick after running out of time and then took Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith at No. 27. It was an odd scenario in what has been a crazy first round Thursday night.

Smith adds athleticism and potential to Baltimore's secondary but also comes with a lot of character concerns. It will be key for Smith to stay in line and be productive on the field in Baltimore.

The Kansas City Chiefs took the pick at No. 26 and selected former University of Pittsburgh receiver Jon Baldwin ahead of Baltimore. Meanwhile, the Ravens will be expected to provide an explanation of why they missed the pick.
Will Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis be on the "Madden NFL 12" cover?

After receiving millions of votes since last month, ESPN's SportsNation will crown a champion of the 2012 Madden cover tournament on Wednesday. Hillis, a No. 10 seed, is facing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and No. 3 seed Michael Vick in the finals.

Hillis, thanks to the tremendous support from Browns fans, has upset higher seeds four consecutive weeks. Hillis beat Baltimore Ravens tailback and No. 7 seed Ray Rice, Atlanta Falcons quarterback and No. 2 seed Matt Ryan, Kansas City Chiefs tailback and No.6 seed Jamaal Charles and Green Bay Packers quarterback and No. 1 seed Aaron Rodgers to get to the finals.

SportsNation is keeping the results under wraps, and there were no official updates on who was leading last week. Check back with the AFC North blog on Wednesday to find out this year's winner.
Peyton Hillis is one step away from becoming the first Cleveland Browns player to grace the cover of the popular "Madden" video game series.

Hillis's SportsNation announced Monday that Hillis, a No. 10 seed, pulled another upset in the "Madden NFL 12" cover tournament. He garnered 61 percent of the vote to defeat Green Bay Packers quarterback and No. 1 seed Aaron Rodgers. Hillis will face Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in the finals.

This is the fourth consecutive week Hillis advanced against a higher seed. He also defeated No. 7 seed Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, No. 2 seed Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons and No. 6 seed Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs.

In many ways, Cleveland fans have treated this tournament like their Super Bowl.

The rebuilding Browns are just 64-128 since returning to the NFL in 1999 and are coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons. But the Dawgpound has come out in droves to support Hillis, who is coming off a breakout 2010 season where he rushed for 1,177 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns.
Can Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis pull off another stunning upset?

The Final Four of the "Madden NFL 12" cover tournament is heating up, and the AFC North blog checked in with the folks at SportsNation to get the latest update. Although the numbers could not be revealed, we're told that Hillis, a No. 10 seed, continues to lead Green Bay Packers quarterback and No. 1 seed Aaron Rodgers as of Thursday afternoon.

Hillis has run off a string of upsets to make it to the Final Four. Hillis beat No. 7 seed Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, Atlanta Falcons quarterback and No. 2 seed Matt Ryan in the second round, and No. 6 seed Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs last week. But knocking off Rodgers, the perennial favorite coming off a Super Bowl win, would be the biggest upset of the tournament.

If Browns fans want one of their own on the "Madden NFL 12" cover this year, they can click here to vote for Hillis. Even Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals fans can vote for Hillis if they want him to be the latest victim of the dreaded "Madden curse."

In the other bracket, No. 3 seed Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles is facing No. 9 seed Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.

We will have results from the Final Four on Monday.
The string of upsets continue for Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis.

On Monday, announced that Hillis has advanced to the Final Four of the "Madden NFL 12" cover tournament. Hillis, a No. 10 seed, defeated Kansas City Chiefs running back and No. 6 seed Jamaal Charles by garnering 60 percent of the vote.

It's the third consecutive week Hillis upset a higher seed. He also beat Baltimore Ravens tailback and No. 7 seed Ray Rice in the first round and Atlanta Falcons quarterback and No. 2 seed Matt Ryan in the second round.

But Hillis will face his biggest challenge to date trying to upend top-seeded Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. Coming off a Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rodgers is the heavy favorite to win the entire tournament.

The Final Four consists of Hillis, Rodgers, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson.
I knew Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis gained popularity following his breakout season in 2010. But is he popular enough to be on the "Madden NFL 12" cover?

The EA Sports cover tournament has reached the Elite Eight and Hillis, a No. 10 seed and dark horse of the tournament, is in strong standing to pull off another upset against a No. 6 seed, Kansas City Chiefs tailback Jamaal Charles. As of midweek Hillis has 58 percent of the voting, which closes this weekend.

Hillis is putting together a Virginia Commonwealth-like run through the tournament. He's already knocked off higher seeds Ray Rice (No. 7) of the Baltimore Ravens and Matt Ryan (No. 2) of the Atlanta Falcons.

Place your votes if you want Hillis to advance to the Final Four, where he would likely meet Green Bay Packers quarterback and No. 1 seed Aaron Rodgers.