NFL Nation: Rashaan Melvin

One of the reasons why the New England Patriots are so successful is their ability to tailor the game plan to attack a team's weakness.

The Patriots went with a power formation all game and ran on the Indianapolis Colts. They then went empty backfield and threw on the Detroit Lions.

And, in Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game, the Patriots went after Baltimore Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin again and again.

Melvin allowed 12 catches on 15 passes thrown his way (80 percent), giving up 224 yards and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. That represented 55 percent of the Patriots' passing yards.

It was a horrible way to end what had been an impressive season-ending run for Melvin.

"You live and you learn," Melvin said. "You go out there and you give all you got. You win some and you lose some."

There is a reason why Melvin had a bulls-eye squarely on him. This was only the fifth career game for Melvin, who hadn't suited up for a regular-season contest before Dec. 14.

Before being signed by the Ravens, Melvin had been on two practice squads this season and was out of football for five weeks. The Ravens went with Melvin after Jimmy Smith, Danny Gorrer and Asa Jackson suffered season-ending injuries, and Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown were ineffective.

Melvin had raised expectations for himself by the way he had played for the Ravens. In his previous four games, he had given up 10 receptions on 22 passes thrown at him (45 percent) for 106 yards and no touchdowns. Tom Brady and the Patriots more than doubled that total. The Patriots had a passer rating of 150.9 when throwing at Melvin. The other four quarterbacks only posted a 60.0 rating against Melvin.

Melvin's two biggest mistakes were allowing the game-tying and winning touchdowns in the second half.

In the third quarter, Melvin anticipated a bubble screen when Brady lateraled a pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman, so he started to go toward Edelman. That allowed wide receiver Danny Amendola to get behind Melvin and catch a 51-yard touchdown that tied the game at 28.

"You get caught in situations like that sometimes, and you make sure it doesn't happen again," Melvin said. "You should be aware of everything that is going on. That was a good call on them, and it worked to their success."

In the fourth quarter, Melvin ran stride for stride with wide receiver Brandon LaFell, but failed to turn around to make a play on the ball. LaFell pulled in the 23-yard touchdown that gave the Patriots their first lead of the game.

"I'm going to learn from it and get better," Melvin said. "I can't wait for next season and be the greatest player I can be."

Melvin, 25, is an exclusive rights free agent, which means the Ravens can keep him by tendering him a contract. He will likely battle for a backup job on the team in 2015.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Baltimore Ravens' 35-31 loss at the New England Patriots:

 Flacco remained aggressive: Joe Flacco carried the Ravens for most of the game, but he came up short at the end. Down by four points, Flacco was intercepted in the end zone when he decided to throw deep on second-and-5 with just under two minutes remaining. "They had a new corner in there [Logan Ryan] and that safety [Duron Harmon] was cheating that way a little bit," said Flacco, who finished with 292 yards passing and four touchdowns. "But I thought I might be able to sneak the ball in there and take a shot at the end zone and get us some points on the board there, with Torrey [Smith] on a good matchup, even though they were cheating to his side a little bit. So, I took my shot, and it just didn’t work out. Didn’t get it there."

Ravens caught off guard by trick play: One of the biggest plays in the game was the creative play call in the third quarter, when wide receiver Julian Edelman took a lateral from quarterback Tom Brady and hit wide receiver Danny Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown. It tied the game at 28 and left the Ravens scratching their heads. "At that time in the game, it was a great call on their part," said cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who let Amendola run free behind him. "As defensive packages, you always have to make sure your head is in the game and make sure you don't get beat."

Harbaugh proud of his team: Ravens coach John Harbaugh commended his team for reaching the divisional round despite the Ray Rice scandal, numerous injuries and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata getting suspended. "I've never been around a team that handled distractions and those kind of things with minimal drag like this team has," Harbaugh said. "They focused on the important things. They became the best football team they could be. That's what this team did. That's what you're proud of as a coach. That's what they should be proud of."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Houston Texans aren't revealing who is starting at quarterback, and the Baltimore Ravens are remaining silent on who is starting at cornerback.

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said the team hasn't decided on who is going to replace starting cornerback Asa Jackson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Sunday.

"We're still evaluating it," Pees said. "We've got a few candidates out there, and we'll kind of see how it goes. In different packages, it may be different guys."

Here are the candidates:
  • Rashaan Melvin: He's the least-experienced option. Melvin has played in one NFL game, and he was surprisingly good in his debut. In four passes thrown his way, Melvin allowed one catch and broke up another. The Ravens signed him off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad last month.
  • Anthony Levine: The converted safety started three games this season. Levine began strong after making the position switch, but soon struggled. Quarterbacks have completed 75 percent of their passes against him and have thrown two touchdowns.
  • Antoine Cason: A four-year starter in the NFL, he's the most experienced choice. Cason was released by the Carolina Panthers this season after giving up six touchdowns in 12 games. Unlike some of the other Ravens cornerbacks, he does make plays on passes, picking off 16 throws in his seven-year career.

Cornerback has been undergoing change on a weekly basis. The Ravens have started six cornerbacks this season and have had 12 on their 53-man roster this season.

"After a while, you kind of get numb to it," Pees said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh gave secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo a game ball after Sunday's 20-12 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens' defensive backs broke up six passes and sealed the win with safety Jeromy Miles' interception.

"It just seems like in this business -- probably like any other business -- there are just going to be challenges," Harbaugh said. "There are going to be tough things that are going to come up. It’s not a matter of 'if,' it’s a matter of 'what' they’re going to be specifically. This year, it’s the corners."

Harbaugh added, "No, we’ve never lost this many corners before, but it’s always something every year, and different teams have different amounts of injuries. We’ve been hit especially hard this year, but that’s just the way it goes. We just have to deal with it. So, it’s been challenging."

Bobby Rainey to start for Doug Martin

September, 14, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- As expected, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin will sit out Sunday’s game with St. Louis due to a knee injury.

Martin had practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable. In Martin’s absence, Bobby Rainey is expected to get the start. But Mike James also should get playing time.

Aside from Martin, the other inactives for the Bucs are cornerback Rashaan Melvin, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive end Michael Johnson, tackle Kevin Pamphile, guard Rishaw Johnson and guard Kadeem Edwards.

With Johnson out and Adrian Clayborn going on injured reserve Friday, the Bucs are expected to use Da’Quan Bowers and William Gholston as their starting defensive ends.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Coach Lovie Smith pulled a bit of a surprise and put an unexpected end to the training camp portion of the preseason Tuesday. The Bucs are off Wednesday. When they return Thursday, they’ll be practicing without pads and preparing for Saturday night’s preseason game with Miami. Smith said he was pleased with camp overall. “I thought it was good," Smith said. “We practiced in the heat of the day most of the time. It’s draining. It’s draining just going through a walk through in Tampa. But the guys got through it. We haven’t had any major injuries. We felt we got about the proper amount of physical contact that we need to get ourselves in position to play the game. I like the work that we’ve done. Most of the guys have made a lot of progress throughout. We just need to kind of take steps now. We want to see improvement in the games."
  • Smith singled out several under-the-radar players that have given themselves a chance to make the roster with strong training camps. He mentioned fullback Jorvorskie Lane, linebacker Danny Lansanah and defensive lineman Scott Solomon. Smith also said rookie receiver Robert Herron has come on strong in recent days after having some problems holding onto the ball earlier in camp.
  • Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was given most of the practice off. Smith said that was a coach’s decision and a reward for a strong camp by McCoy. Nose tackles Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence each got some work at McCoy’s three-technique position.
  • Tuesday was “legends" day. The Bucs welcomed 50 former players to watch practice. That was a nice gesture and a change from former coach Greg Schiano, who didn’t always welcome former players. “I think we’ve made it known that they’re welcome," Smith said. “Not just on legends day, but any day coming back to their football team. What we’re doing, we hope that they see, is we’re trying to get it back. Most of the guys that came here had success while they were here, and that’s what we plan to do."
  • The Bucs signed defensive end T.J. Fatinikun.
  • There is no practice Wednesday. The Bucs are scheduled to practice Thursday at 2 p.m. Although Smith isn’t calling it training camp anymore, the practice still will be open to the public, team officials said. This will be the last open practice of the preseason.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Early in camp, the defense clearly was ahead of the offense. That’s not the case anymore. The offense had a good showing at Friday night’s practice at Raymond James Stadium. The first- and second-team offenses each drove for successful field goals in the two-minute drill. “It’s about scoring points, and that’s what the offense was able to do," coach Lovie Smith said. “Somebody can’t look good in that situation. Most games come down to that two-minute drive at the end of the game. (Quarterbacks) Josh [McCown] and Mike [Glennon] both did a great job with us."
  • Many fans had to be pleasantly surprised by their first look at coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. It didn’t look nearly as conservative as what the Bucs have run in recent years. The play of the night was a trick play. Running back Mike James took a pitchout and threw a touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson. The deep passing game also looked good, with Chris Owusu catching a long touchdown from Glennon in an 11-on-11 drill.
  • Center Evan Dietrich-Smith missed practice with a foot injury, and his absence was obvious. The one blemish for the offense was that three snaps between center and quarterback were botched. “One time on the ground is too many," Smith said.
  • The practice drew just under 15,000 fans, according team officials. “It’s a fanbase that deserves to see a good football team on the field, and we plan on giving them that," Smith said.
  • The Buccaneers have the day off from practice Saturday. Smith and many team employees will travel to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to attend the induction ceremony for Derrick Brooks. The team will return to practice Sunday at 4:30 p.m. “All week, I’ve been thinking about Derrrick going in," Smith said. “I can’t wait to get up there tomorrow. A special day for him. You know Derrick Brooks. Who deserves to be in the Hall more than him? It’s a special time for his family, and we can’t wait to get there.’’

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • There might not be a player on the roster who has been more maligned than defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. A second-round pick in 2011, Bowers has contributed very little in his first three seasons. But it sounds like Bowers is making the most of a fresh start with a new coaching staff. Coach Lovie Smith continues to sing Bowers' praises. Smith isn't saying Bowers is going to suddenly turn into a superstar. But he is saying Bowers can be a valuable role player as a guy who can play defensive end and defensive tackle. "As a general rule, we'll normally carry three inside guy and three outside guys (on the game-day roster)," Smith said. "That's six. You'd like that seventh guy to be able to do both. That's what you have in a player like Da'Quan. He's big enough to rush inside on third downs and a good anchor outside on first down. It gives us some flexibility."
  • The Bucs worked the 2-minute drill for the first time this camp Thursday. "That's always fun," Smith said. "About half the games come down to what you do at the end of the game in a 2-minute situation, that last drive determining the outcome of the game. It's important that we convert on the offensive side and on the defensive side play smart ball. There's no better time to take the ball away. We did some good things on both sides of the ball."
  • Smith had the line of the day when asked if Thursday's practice didn't seem as intense as Wednesday's. "Sometimes it's not your wedding night," Smith said. "It's just a normal day that you go through. It was business at hand today. There wasn't as much false chatter. But, still, we got good work. Some days, you just have to keep grinding one play at a time and that was the case today. We'll pick it back up tomorrow."
  • The Bucs continue to be banged up at cornerback. Mike Jenkins was added to the injury list Thursday. Jenkins sat out practice with a leg injury. Fellow cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Rashaan Melvin have missed the last several days.
  • Rookie Robert Herron got some work with the first team as a slot receiver. But Herron had a drop, which isn't going to help his chances of significant playing time.
  • The Bucs will hold their first -- and only -- camp practice at Raymond James Stadium on Friday. The practice will start at 7:30 p.m and is open to the public at no charge. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow night," Smith said. "It's one thing to practice on the practice field. When you go to the stadium, it's a different feel. Our players are excited about getting the feel for Raymond James Stadium. For a lot of them, it will be the first time going out there."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' injury update

September, 6, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just announced guard Carl Nicks is out for Sunday’s season opener against the New York Jets.

That’s not a surprise because Nicks, who is recovering from a staph infection, hasn’t practiced all week. But, as recently as early Friday afternoon, coach Greg Schiano said he wasn’t ready to rule Nicks out. Reserve tackle Gabe Carimi has gotten most of the first-team work at Nicks’ left guard spot.

The Bucs also are listing tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle) as out and cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hamstring) as doubtful. Running back Mike James (eye) and fullback Erik Lorig (calf) are questionable and cornerback Darrelle Revis (knee) and tackle Demar Dotson (back) are listed as probable.

Projecting the Buccaneers roster

August, 30, 2013
Roster cuts don’t have to be made until 6 p.m. Saturday. But let’s have a little fun in the meantime.

Let’s take a look at my best guess as to how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 53-man roster will shape up:

Quarterbacks (3): Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Dan Orlovsky

Analysis: A rough outing by Glennon in the preseason finale might have convinced the Bucs it’s best to keep Orlovsky around.

Running backs and fullbacks (5): Doug Martin, Brian Leonard, Mike James, Peyton Hillis and Erik Lorig

Analysis: Hillis is very much on the bubble. The fact he doesn't play special teams could hurt him. But he also could stick around because he has the size to be a backup for Lorig at fullback and could be a valuable short-yardage rusher.

Tight ends (3): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree and Nate Byham

Analysis: The Bucs may have to keep Danny Noble if Crabtree’s ankle injury is going to keep him out for an extended period.

Wide receivers (5): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Eric Page

Analysis: Page has emerged as the return man and that should earn him the final roster spot.

Offensive line (9): Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Demar Dotson, Jeremy Zuttah, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen, Jamon Meredith and Cody Wallace

Analysis: The Bucs could carry an extra lineman if it looks like Nicks will be out for an extended period.

Defensive line (10): Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence, Adrian Clayborn, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Da’Quan Bowers, Gary Gibson, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means and Derek Landri

Analysis: The last few spots are very competitive and the Bucs could look to bring in a defensive tackle from the waiver wire.

Linebackers (6): Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Dekoda Watson, Jonathan Casillas, Adam Hayward and Najee Goode

This position is pretty clear-cut unless the Bucs bring in someone off waivers.

Defensive backs (9): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Michael Adams, Rashaan Melvin and Cody Grimm.

Analysis: Melvin and Grimm are very much on the bubble.

Specialists (3): Michael Koenen, Andrew Economos and Rian Lindell.

Analysis: Kicker Lawrence Tynes still is recovering from a staph infection and could end up on injured reserve.