Dallas Cowboys: Ray Rice
Murray is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. He was named to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns, and catching 53 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown. When Murray has played well and been given a chance to carry the ball, the Cowboys have won.
In 2008, the Cowboys signed Marion Barber to a seven-year deal worth $45 million that included $16 million in guarantees.
Those days are long gone.
The best free-agent deals for running backs so far have been to Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart, who received three-year, $10.5 million deals from the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. Brown has never rushed for more than 645 yards in a season. Gerhart has never rushed for more than 531 yards, though he was playing behind Peterson.
Knowshon Moreno is joining the Miami Dolphins on a one-year, $3 million deal after rushing for 1,038 yards in 2013 for the Denver Broncos. Rashad Jennings received a three-year, $10 million deal from the New York Giants after rushing for 733 yards last season with the Oakland Raiders.
Murray had his best season in 2013, but he missed two games and has yet to play a full season. But his advisors have to see how the market is going for running backs. There wasn’t a running back taken in the first round last year. The top running back chosen in 2012, Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall), was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Murray will make $1.406 million in 2014 as part of his rookie deal.
The Cowboys could lock him in for another three seasons at a good number and still have plenty in reserve for Smith and Bryant.
The Cowboys have had serious drafting issues over the years, but 2008 represents two misses in the first 25 picks.
The Cowboys could have had Chris Johnson, Ray Rice or Matt Forte with the 22nd overall pick but took Jones in part because he came from a two-back system in Arkansas and showed he could do more with less. Johnson has had a 2,000-yard season and has had more than 1,000 yards in every season. Rice and Forte have four 1,000-yard seasons apiece.
Jones topped out at 800 in 2010 and the Cowboys chose not to re-sign him after the 2012 season.
The Cowboys moved up to get Jenkins with the 25th pick in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.
Jenkins is remembered more for tackles he chose not to make rather than gutting out a 2011 season in which he played with a badly damaged shoulder. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009 after he had five interceptions.
The Cowboys signed Orlando Scandrick to an extension in 2011 and moved up to take Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick in 2012 as Jenkins rehabbed from the shoulder surgery mostly away from Valley Ranch. The Cowboys made no effort to re-sign Jenkins, and he ended up with a one-year deal from the Oakland Raiders in 2013.
Teams can’t miss on first-round picks. They have to get two contracts out of them, but the last first-round pick they have extended with a multiyear deal before the rookie deal expired was DeMarcus Ware (2005). Anthony Spencer, their first-rounder in 2007, was given the franchise tag in back-to-back years but is a free agent this March. Dez Bryant (2010) figures to break that trend soon.
Kiper had the Cowboys choosing wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who went No. 205 overall to the Indianapolis Colts, and defensive tackle Kendall Langford.
The Garcon pick is interesting because it likely would have meant the Cowboys would not have dealt for Roy Williams in the middle of the 2008 season and thus saved themselves from a disastrous deal. Langford has been solid for the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams.
Fear not, however, because the Cowboys do have Kiper’s No. 24 pick on their roster. He had Brandon Carr, who was a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, going to the Tennessee Titans. Of course, Kiper also mentioned Carr’s play the past two seasons has been “middle of the road.” Among the players Kiper also considered for the first round was wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was an undrafted free agent by the Cowboys that year.
So there’s that.
|ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins joins Galloway & Company to discuss the latest from the NFL owners meetings, Tony Romo's contract situation and much more.
"We've got to look at the backup backfield," Jerry Jones said. "You can't dismiss Felix. I don't want to dismiss him from our thinking."
The backup running backs to DeMarco Murray currently are Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar.
"Dunbar is pretty impressive when you look back (on his season)," Jerry Jones said. "When he got his chances, he did real well. He was in some pretty critical situations. He's got a real receiver knack. He can find the soft spot. He gives us an alternative. He's going to have to make the contribution on special teams. It's hard not to have that third back be a special teams contributor."
Felix Jones is not a special teams contributor, but he's someone, if healthy, who could have an impact.
"I didn't expect Felix to have some of the physical limitations that he's had," Jerry Jones said. "I know how hard of a worker that he is, and I know what his motor was when he came out of Arkansas. The facts are he did some good things for us last year. I would have hoped with those two No. 1 picks, Felix could have been the one. But of course, Murray had something to say about that. But the big thing with Felix has been his health. That's been the most disappointing thing."
The owner wouldn't call Felix Jones a bust, but compared to the other running backs drafted in 2008 -- Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles -- there is major disappointment.
"I'm disappointed that Felix hadn’t been healthier," the owner said. "But I know that when he first joined our team, we were proud to have him with that No. 1 pick. And, as late as last year, I was proud to have that No. 1 in (Mike) Jenkins, the other first-round pick that year. But it's five years down the road now."
Position: Running back
Summary: For only the second time in his five seasons, Jones was able to play a full season. But he was banged up throughout the season. Jones started seven times after DeMarco Murray suffered a sprained foot, but he never had more than 100 yards rushing in a game. He finished the year with 402 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 111 carries. He also caught 25 passes for 262 yards and caught two touchdowns. With a chance to change perceptions in a contract year, Jones came up short.
Why keep him: The Cowboys need a backup running back behind Murray and one with the ability to start, considering Murray's health issues. Jones would be cost efficient, as well. He knows the offense and has familiarity with the coaches.
Why let him go: Jones is a reminder of just how wrong the Cowboys were in 2008 when they drafted him in the first round over backs such as Ray Rice and Matt Forte. He has a difficult time staying healthy and he is just not an instinctive runner.
Follow the rest of the series here.
In discussing the state of the Cowboys' running game, Calvin quotes coach Jason Garrett saying this:
"We have to do a better job running the football, and you’ve heard me say this a lot, that balance is critical," coach Jason Garrett said when the season was over. "You want to be able to attack defenses a lot of different ways. DeMarco Murray was out for a large portion of this season, but having said that, you have to put the next guy in there and you have to be effective running it."
In theory, that makes sense. But if Calvin's point is that many of the teams having success in the playoffs are strong in the running game, I submit that they're strong around a reliable central figure who takes all of the snaps and the hits and keeps on grinding. Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. Ray Rice in Baltimore. Arian Foster in Houston. Denver got lucky, when Willis McGahee went down in the second half, it was able to turn to a former first-round pick in Knowshon Moreno and keep going.
The problem in Dallas is Murray has an injury history that starts in college and has drastically impacted both of his pro seasons. And as a result, the Cowboys don't know for certain that they can count on him going forward. They not only need to improve their depth around him, they need to see if they can find a running back capable of handling a full-time workload in his absence.
There was a similar problem in New York, where the Giants wanted to give Ahmad Bradshaw the chance to be the lead back this past year but he couldn't hold up physically either. Recurring issue with Bradshaw that has the team thinking about moving on and going with 2012 first-round pick David Wilson in a "lead dog" role. Can that work? You hope so, certainly, when you take a guy in the first round. But the Giants don't know. Issues with Wilson include ball security (famously) and pass protection. And it's not necessarily that Wilson can't pass-protect, but rather that Bradshaw's the best in the league at it, so if you're going to switch from Bradshaw to anyone as your "lead dog" your offense will have to adjust somehow.
The Cowboys and Giants both went into this season thinking they had solutions at running back, but they came out of it with questions -- some fresh and some old. Expect both teams to address this position in some meaningful way this offseason.
1. The return of center Phil Costa from a back injury proved to us he was missed. On his Tuesday morning radio show, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Costa is one of the smartest players on the offensive line. Against the Ravens, the Cowboys sent a bulk of their running plays toward the middle of the line. Costa played with power and took his blocks to the second level, much like fullback Lawrence Vickers, who had his best game of the season.
2. Jay Ratliff also returned to the field after missing the first four games with a high-ankle sprain. Ratliff participated in 37 snaps and the Ravens weren't afraid to run at him. Baltimore ran six plays toward the middle of the line of scrimmage on their opening drive of the game. Ratliff faced single and double coverage at times and he even dropped back into coverage once.
3. Dez Bryant had a solid game for the exception of his drop of a two-point conversion pass. But one thing the Ravens did a nice job of with Bryant was tackling him. Bryant got open against press coverage, something he attributes to his practice work with Brandon Carr. However, when you look at Bryant's 13 catches, he averaged just 7.3 yards a reception. It makes you second guess Jason Garrett's decision even more to throw a slant to Bryant late in the game knowing he couldn't get free for big yards. Yes Bryant has done that in the past, but given how the Ravens were good at open field tackling, maybe Tony Romo should have directed his pass elsewhere.
4. Where was DeMarcus Ware on Sunday? He recorded just one tackle, one sack and a quarterback hurry. The Ravens ran away from Ware and made sure they had a defender on him at all times. Sometimes the Ravens slid a guard over to help the tackle. But Ware was taken out most of the day by a strong front and sometimes he got chipped by Ray Rice.
5. In Monday's news conference I asked Garrett could Andre Holmes get more playing time. I'm not saying Holmes replaces Miles Austin or Bryant, but maybe Kevin Ogletree. There were numerous penalties on Ogletree and of course he dropped a sure touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Holmes' recovery of the onside kick could push him to see some offensive snaps because Garrett always wants players to make plays to earn playing time. Olgetree seems to have regressed from that season-opening victory against the New York Giants. Holmes had a knee problem that's cleared up. It will be interesting to see if Holmes gets more snaps than Ogletree in practice this week.
Notes: Jason Witten was the only offensive skill position player to play every snap, 89, outside the offensive linemen and quarterback Tony Romo. ... Felix Jones played a season-high 49 offensive snaps. ... Dan Bailey had made two previous field goals heading into the direction of his 51-yard miss toward the end of the game. ... Carr is great at press coverage, but when he plays off defenders he doesn't seem to have the speed to catch up when there's separation. That's a concern going forward.
On Sunday at Baltimore, the Cowboys played full press coverage eight times. They were full off 13 times and played half press 20 times.
Carr’s strength is his ability to press, but he played off far too much.
On the first drive he was off twice on Jacoby Jones and was beaten for first-down catches of 5 and 8 yards. On Anquan Boldin’s 20-yard catch in the second quarter he was off and went for the ball and missed. In the fourth quarter he played press-bail on Boldin’s 13-yard catch and on the 31-yarder he jammed Boldin at the line but slipped.
Boldin is not going to run by any defensive backs, but why not get on him at the line and disrupt the timing. Flacco and Boldin played pitch and catch way too much.
** Let’s take a look at the pressure the Cowboys used Sunday. They had three-man pressure four times and it resulted in the only sack of Flacco by DeMarcus Ware. They rushed four players 15 times and were able to get four pressures or hits on Flacco. They rushed five or more six times and had two Sean Lee pressures.
** The longest play the Cowboys allowed was a 43-yard dump off to Ray Rice. I wonder if Lee was supposed to go after the quarterback or just make sure Rice did not get off into a route on that play. Rice almost appeared to let Lee scrape by him, knowing the middle of the field was open. With the corners in man coverage there was not a defender within 15 yards of Rice. Jenkins had the first attempt on Rice at the Dallas 48 and missed.
Here’s a three pack of special teams’ observations:
** The Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return. It’s difficult to blame the placement of the kick when it’s 8 yards deep, but Jason Garrett mentioned it on Monday. Bailey’s kick was down the middle of the field and gave Jones a lot of room. Dan Connor got his arm on Jones at the 11 but the returner was not touched after that. Alex Albright was caught too far inside. Andre Holmes was double-teamed (possibly held). Danny McCray was blocked well, too, leaving a big alley.
** Do hashmarks matter for a kicker? Bailey said no but his field goal attempts from 42 and 34 yards in the same direction came from the right hash and the wind pushed them over to the middle of the uprights or middle left. His 51-yard attempt came from the left hashmark and the wind caught it and blew it left two feet. From the right hashmark, that kick is good.
** Field position is a huge part of the game and the Cowboys missed a chance for better field position after the Ravens punted from their 9 in the third quarter. But cornerback Orlando Scandrick did a miserable job on blocking gunner Chykie Brown, giving him a free shot on Dwayne Harris. If Scandrick blocked even a little, then Harris has a chance to take the return into plus territory. He didn’t and the drive started at the Dallas 45.
** Phil Costa played a great game in his return from a three-game absence with a back injury. You can’t help but wonder if there were some different calls made by Costa that newcomer Ryan Cook didn’t make. The line was downhill all day at Baltimore. But Costa made one error that led to Tony Romo’s pick. The Ravens brought five rushers at Romo on the play. Nate Livings was beaten by linebacker Dannell Ellberbe but Costa was slow to react to his left, giving Ellerbe the chance to hit Romo as he was throwing to Kevin Ogletree. Romo wasn’t able to stick the throw and was inaccurate, leading to Cary Williams’ pick.
** On Felix Jones’ 22-yard TD run, Costa did a great job of turning tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu to create a hole. Livings ate up Ray Lewis and Jason Witten and Tyron Smith sealed the left edge. That left Jones on safety Bernard Pollard alone and Jones made him miss. That old Jones’ burst also appeared down the sideline and he was able to run through Ed Reed at the 2 before crossing the goal line. If the Cowboys can get that Jones to show up again, then DeMarco Murray’s absence might not be that bad.
|Despite the loss, Cowboys DB Brandon Carr is taking away positives and says the team has something special and once they turn the corner they'll be able to hang with the best teams in the league.
It seems the defense played pretty well.
"We're better than pretty good," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "It's too many points (31), we've given up too many points the last two games (65) and that’s not the way. We're way better than that and we have to execute every play. We got to call a smarter game on defense to give us a chance to execute and then we have to step up and be great."
The Cowboys got a boost from the return of nose tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Kenyon Coleman, who had both been injured. But the team lost backup defensive end Sean Lissemore to a high-ankle sprain and his long-term status is unknown. As a comparison, Ratliff missed six weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
"Just gonna keep working our ass off until we keep winning," Ryan said.
What bothered Ryan the most was the last scoring drive of the Ravens in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens used a no-huddle offense for the bulk of drive as they tried to protect a 24-23 lead. Joe Flacco completed deep passes of 13 and 31 yards to Anquan Boldin. The 13-yarder was a diving catch by Boldin and on the other, Brandon Carr fell down after jamming Boldin at the line of scrimmage. Vonta Leach picked up seven yards on a catch in the flat and jumped over Morris Claiborne for a big play on the drive.
A second-and-goal play from the 1 had DeMarcus Ware put pressure on Flacco, forcing an incompletion. But on the next play, Ray Rice scored from the 1 pushing the Ravens lead to 31-23.
"We had our moments," Ryan said. "We just didn't execute on that last drive, it's disappointing."
What galled linebacker Sean Lee most was the Cowboys’ work on third down. The Ravens converted on third down 60 percent of the time (6 of 10). Two third-and-long situations stuck with Lee most.
Ray Rice picked up 43 yards on a dump pass on third-and-7 that preceded his 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and Anquan Boldin picked up 20 yards on third-and-14 that helped lead to Torrey Smith's 19-yard TD grab.
“That’s stuff we normally don’t do,” Lee said, “and they were able to continue drives on us. We just have to find a way to get off the field on third-and-long. We can’t allow them to extend drives and make big plays.”
The Ravens couldn't stop the Cowboys from running the ball down their throats. The four Cowboys tailbacks combined for a Baltimore opponent-record 227 yards on 42 carries. The Cowboys entered the game ranked 29th in the NFL with an average of 67.8 rushing yards per game and nearly matched that on the opening drive, which was capped by Felix Jones' 22-yard touchdown, his first score since the 2011 season opener. The oft-criticized offensive line and fullback Lawrence Vickers consistently opened huge holes for DeMarco Murray (14 carries, 93 yards) and Jones (18 carries, 92 yards). The only negative as far as the Dallas running game went Sunday were the injuries sustained by Murray (foot) and Jones (calf).
Dez Bryant and Jason Witten ate up a Ravens secondary that lost arguably its best player, cornerback Lardarius Webb, to a knee injury early in the game. Bryant caught a career-high 13 passes for 95 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season, but his drop on a two-point conversion prevented the Cowboys from tying the score with 32 seconds remaining. Witten had his second consecutive strong game after a horrible start to the season, catching six passes for 88 yards. Tony Romo threw an interception on an ill-advised pass, but he played well enough to put the Cowboys in position to win, completing 25-of-36 passes for 261 yards and two scores.
The Cowboys did a decent job containing Ray Rice, one of the NFL's elite running backs, in the running game. He scored two touchdowns, but he averaged less than four yards a pop, gaining 63 yards on 16 carries. Outside linebacker Alex Albright did a solid job filling in for injured run stuffer Anthony Spencer on most downs in the base defense. Albright's stop of backup running back Bernard Pierce in the backfield forced the Ravens to settle for a field goal on their first drive. Sean Lee was credited for only five tackles, but he was impressive enough for 200-game veteran center Matt Birk to call Lee "one of the best linebackers I've ever played against."
The Cowboys are starving for playmaking in their secondary. Dallas' defensive backs still don't have an interception this season. Mike Jenkins dropped a pass that hit him in the numbers, an especially costly missed opportunity considering Ray Rice had a 43-yard catch and run the next down, the key play in a touchdown drive. This marked the second consecutive game that $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr got beaten on a deep ball, this one a 31-yard catch by Anquan Boldin that set up the Ravens' last touchdown. The Cowboys didn't get enough pressure on Joe Flacco (17-for-26 for 234 yards and a TD), with DeMarcus Ware recording Dallas' lone sack.
Special teams gaffes are killing the Cowboys this season. Baltimore's Jacoby Jones tied an NFL record with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. "That thing spread like the Red Sea," Jones said of the Cowboys' coverage on the play, when Jones went untouched after Dallas special teams captain Danny McCray got blocked to open up a big lane. Dan Bailey's first missed field goal of the season was a 51-yard attempt with the game on the line. The Cowboys recovered an onside kick to give them a chance to win the game, but that doesn't make up for giving up a touchdown.
Give Jason Garrett credit for a terrific offensive game plan. This was one of his best performances as a play-caller, too, as the Cowboys racked up 481 total yards against the formerly feared Ravens defense. That, however, was overshadowed by Garrett mismanaging the clock at the end of the game, much like he did in last season's loss to the Cardinals. It is inexcusable to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt with the game on the line after allowing 15 seconds to tick off before calling a timeout. The Cowboys' 13 penalties -- the third time this season they've had that total -- also reflects extremely poorly on Garrett.
After a Dan Bailey field goal with 8:22 left in the game cut the Ravens’ lead to 24-23, the Cowboys' defense allowed Baltimore to drive 73 yards on 10 plays, ending in Ray Rice’s second touchdown of the game.
The Ravens had to convert only one third down before getting to the Dallas 1, and that was a third-and-1 at their 48, where they picked up 4 yards on a carry by Rice. Joe Flacco completed 4-of-6 passes for 60 yards, including a 31-yarder to Anquan Boldin after cornerback Brandon Carr slipped.
“I won’t complain about being on the field three times (in the second half)," Carr said, "but those three times you have to take advantage of the situation.”
Feeling good: The Cowboys aren't as bad as they looked two weeks ago in that Monday night loss to the Bears. But because they haven't played since, that's the impression the rest of the world has of them. Prior to the second half of that game, the Dallas defense was playing as well as any in the league. And especially with nose tackle Jay Ratliff expected back from injury for this one, there's no reason to believe it can't get back to that level against Joe Flacco and the Ravens. They also have a chance to get DeMarco Murray and the run game going against a Baltimore defense that's allowing 118.4 yards per game on the ground. The matchup isn't as prohibitive as a lot of people seem to believe it is.
Cause for concern: Ray Rice. The Baltimore running back is the key to the Ravens' offense, as both the run game and the passing game operate through him. He must be Dallas' primary concern, and he presents a tough task for star inside linebacker Sean Lee. If they have to bring safeties up to help play the run, they could leave themselves vulnerable to a downfield strike from speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith, but it may be a risk worth taking, especially given the faith they have in their cornerbacks. Stopping Rice is that important.
That's fine, because when it comes to the football field, Jones hasn't been important. His role with the team is hard to explain and his overall production is terrible.
On the season, Jones has rushed for just 13 yards, coming on a nifty 13-yard gain in the Week 4 loss to Chicago. On kick returns, Jones is averaging just 21.5 yards.
Jones hasn't had an impact, if at all with the Cowboys in 2012.
Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, Jones must look across the field and watch a man taken in the same draft class, Ray Rice, and wonder what might have been.
Or maybe why.
Jones was a first-round pick and Rice a second-rounder.
Here's Rice's career in a nutshell: Second all-time in Ravens history with 4,796 rushing yards, a franchise record 15 touchdowns in 2011, a two-time Pro Bowler, and in 2012 he's second in the league with 609 yards from scrimmage. Since 2009, Rice leads all NFL players with 6,494 yards.
Here's Jones' career in a nutshell: Injuries to toe, hamstring and knee, zero Pro Bowls, played in 16 games just once, 2010, his 148 rushing yards against Philadelphia in the 2009 playoffs were the third-most rushing yards in a postseason in franchise history.
When the Cowboys drafted Jones it was mainly to back up Marion Barber. Jones was asked to be a change of pace to the power of Barber. It never happened. The Cowboys never used Jones the right way. In some ways the Cowboys should have used Jones the way the Philadelphia Eagles used LeSean McCoy. When Brian Westbrook was the starter, McCoy was the third down back.
The Cowboys tried to do that with Jones, but it didn't work.
In the 2008 draft class, the Cowboys college staff projected Jones as a first-rounder and Rice a second-or-third-round pick. It's OK, because most NFL teams had it the same way.
You can't blame the college staff for how they projected Rice because they were right. The NFL coaching staff didn't know how to use Jones. And so when the 2012 season ends, Jones will leave and sign with another team, while Rice will forge ahead with a big money contract with the Ravens.
Jones' career with the Cowboys has been a failure.
Sunday when the Cowboys and Ravens meet, maybe Jones can provide the coaches with a small glimpse of what they wanted him to be. Then again, DeMarco Murray is the lead running back now and all Jones can do is hope for his chance on kick returns and on third downs.
Maybe at some point on Sunday afternoon, Jones will help the Cowboys. But that's a big maybe.
We do know Rice will help the Ravens. There's no maybe about that.
Archer: Aside from last week's game at KC, it appears as if the Ravens have an offense that can take pressure off the defense. People always ask this nebulous question about the "next step," but has Joe Flacco taken the next step? If so, why? How?
Wilson: What has changed about Joe Flacco is he's been granted greater command of the offense in terms of ability to audible and they implemented a no-huddle offense and have emphasized the shotgun formation, all things he did more of in college at Delaware. His deep-ball accuracy still isn't excellent, but it's much improved. He still has a tendency to stare down his primary read, which is what's happened on virtually all of his four interceptions. While Flacco has definitely improved overall, he still has a tendency to have inconsistency, on the road particularly, and will get into cold streaks where his fundamentals lapse. In Philadelphia, the pass rush of Trent Cole and Jason Babin affected him to the point where he was throwing off his back foot. Flacco seems to still be in the very good category with all the skills and capability to be great and is knocking on the door of getting to that point. He's just not totally there yet despite better personnel outside than he's had in the past. This isn't on Flacco, but his offensive tackle tandem of Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele are holding back the offense a bit. They gave up a total of four sacks and eight quarterback pressures to Kansas City Chiefs edge rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. That could be a problem obviously against DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
TA: Are we seeing a different Ravens defense? The Chiefs ran all over them. Is Ray Lewis slowing down finally? How much do they miss Terrell Suggs?
AW: The defense is much different, and not in a good way. Traditionally stingy against the run, they were gashed by Jamaal Charles for 125 yards in the first half primarily through the use of the zone stretch play. Dean Pees' halftime adjustment of walking up the linebackers and shifting the defensive linemen wider was an effective strategy as Charles had only 15 yards on 10 carries after halftime. However, middle linebacker Ray Lewis looked slow in his reactions and got stuck to blocks. He had one hard hit, but that was in the fourth quarter on Cyrus Gray. Lewis has had some solid games this year, but he's also 37 years old. And it shows. Although he's lighter at 235 pounds, he's not as explosive as he used to be and doesn't get enough depth on his pass drops, which makes him vulnerable to tight ends' patterns. As tough and smart and great a tackler as Lewis is, he's been getting overpowered at times at the point of attack and beaten to the outside by faster runners like Charles and Trent Richardson. Terrell Suggs is definitely missed. The Ravens had no sacks against the Chiefs. Pees creates pressure by blitzing primarily. Other than Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, one of the most disruptive interior forces in the game, hardly anyone is defeating blocks and getting to the quarterback. Ngata is commanding double-team attention regularly and still getting penetration. Without Suggs, this has become a bend-but-don't-break defense that still excels at getting turnovers and being stout in the red zone.
TA: The Cowboys took Felix Jones in 2008. The Ravens took Ray Rice. Clearly the Ravens made out on that one, but just how vital is Rice to that offense?
AW: Ray Rice is the centerpiece of the offense even though the Ravens are transitioning to a passing outfit. Rice is a dynamic open-field runner who plays bigger than 5-foot-8, 212 pounds. He's also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and has good hands. This guy is tough, durable and fast. The Ravens are trying to preserve him as much as possible and not wear him out, but he rarely takes a hard hit because he's elusive.
TA: Jason Garrett nearly got the Baltimore job a few years ago. Any idea how close he came to getting it over John Harbaugh?
AW: The Ravens offered Garrett the job, showed his wife the local real estate listings and it was his for the taking with a fairly high salary offer. However, he declined the offer and it seemed like his tour of interviews was just him going through the motions and he had an arrangement or understanding all along with owner Jerry Jones to become the Cowboys' new head coach. The sense many got from Garrett during his visit is that he wasn't enthralled with the idea of coming to Baltimore. John Harbaugh wasn't the Ravens' first choice, but he impressed owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome during the interview process and was vouched for by Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. They liked his personality and leadership qualities and unconventional special-teams background. He was unproven then and had never been a head coach before, but he has made the playoffs every year and won at least one playoff game and made two AFC championship game appearances. Harbaugh had to win over a tough locker room at first, too. The Ravens are happy with how things worked out, but they definitely respect Garrett and held a high opinion of him to give him that offer before later hiring Harbaugh.
TA: The Ravens haven't lost at home in a long time. Is it the team? Is it the venue?
AW: It's loud at M&T Bank Stadium, and the Ravens just seem to play with more confidence at home. On the road, they aren't the same team. They use the no-huddle less. The defense seems more vulnerable. At home, Joe Flacco has been markedly more accurate and efficient. Like most good NFL teams, they seem to thrive on a home-field advantage. It's a matter of intangibles, but the numbers don't lie since they've won 15 games in a row at home, including the postseason.
The Chiefs lost Sunday but held the Ravens to nine points. Joe Flacco threw for 187 yards, was intercepted once and sacked four times. Ray Rice had 102 yards on 17 carries.
After Monday’s practice, Carr said he had yet to reach out to anybody.
“But that phone call will probably go out today,” Carr joked.
The Ravens have become a more varied offense this year with Flacco – the game against the Chiefs aside. Flacco has Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith at wide receiver, with two solid tight ends. But the running game with Rice remains Baltimore’s strength.
“You know they’re going to be physical,” defensive end Marcus Spears said. “They play that way. That’s their style. Big O-line, like they’ve always had. Ray Rice is probably one of the top backs in the league. So it’s a lot to defend.
The Cowboys hope the extra time to prepare because of the bye week will help.
“We know what they like to do, but depending each week teams vary as far as game plans and how they are going to attack you and scheme you,” Carr said. “Still some uncertainty, but for the most part we had a lot of time to break these guys down and get a hang of what they do on offense.”