Week 4 Review: The NFL won’t let me criticize the refs, so….

I hate to be the guy who, after one loss starts whining about his team and bringing everyone down, but after yesterday’s game, I think it’s fair to say that the ravens have some problems that were not properly addressed in the offseason.

Let’s start with the obvious: The Ravens need a stud wide receiver.  Joe Flacco can only elevate this group so much, but even the most perfect throws don’t count for anything unless they are caught. Case in Point: Mark clayton. Our under-achieving wide receiver woke up this morning with a football-shaped bruise around his sternum because that’s where Joe Flacco’s potentially game-winning pass hit him yesterday. For as good a guy as Mark Clayton seems to be, he is neither big or fast and, even more importantly, confident. He has never looked comfortable making easy catches and you can tell it’s a mental thing when he manages to make beautiful one-handed catches under smothering coverage, but can’t catch a simple 5 yard out when he is open and the game is on the line.  There’s a reason  the best receivers are a-holes, because they have to have unfathomable levels of confidence to be good. I play in a kickball league and have switched to the infield because when I play outfield I spend the whole time praying no one kicks the ball to me. I’m pretty confident Mark Clayton feels the same way on the football field, which is why A. He almost never gets open and B. drops easy catches in high-pressure situations. By contrast, if this was T.O., Randy Moss, or this guy: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=reilly_rick&id=4519152 , not only would he have  made the catch but, had the play not been called for him, would have exploded in a post-game interview, demanded a trade, and then accused his coach of murdering kittens for fun. See the difference? It’s nothing personal, but Mark Clayton just is not a viable starting wide receiver.

Speaking of receivers, the ones that are over 5 foot 4 seem to do a pretty good job against our collection of petite cornerbacks. Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth may be built like Darrell Green, but the similarities end there. Watching these guys match up agains the Randy Mosses and Vincent Jacksons of the NFL is like being at a wedding and seeing grandpa dance with cute little Peggy Sue and she is standing on his feet to be taller.The Ravens need a big physical cornerback badly.

Lastly, I’m officially using this blog to call out two players: Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed. Both of these guys look like they’re playing at about 30% effort. Suggs got his big contract this offseason and, unfortunately, it shows. He’s playing like someone with nothing on the line. As for Ed Reed, I’m beginning to ponder the question of which is better– a safety who makes 4 or 5 huge, perhaps game winning plays a season, or one who is consistently solid. Ed Reed looks like all he wants to do is get pick-6’s and if he can’t do that, he’s not even going to bother. I love Reed and Suggs, but John Harbaugh needs to have a meeting with them and find out if their heart is really in it. It’s embarrassing when you have jarrett johnson playing well above his physical capabilities and Haloti Ngata, who i think it is safe to say, would have been able to divert the tsunami that hit the Samoan islands simply by running fast at it, while Ed Reed and suggs are sipping lemonade and have set up lawn chairs in the end zone. Ed Reed made some nice tackles, and Suggs had the nice forced fumble and made a heady play recognizing the Patriots’ fake field goal attempt, but there’s a major difference between one big play and consistently  pressuring the offense, the way that players like Dwight Freeney do.

I’m still optimistic that the ravens are serious contenders, but coach Harbaugh is going to need to really challenge these guys and light a fire. Yestrday’s post-game press conference was a good start, especially the line “well, I’m not allowed by the NFL to criticize officiating, so next question.” Here’s the video:



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