Thursday, September 30, 2010

O's finished with AL East

The O's celebrate their recent series win over the Rays. They should celebrate with some champagne, actually, after having winning records in the months of August and September since 1997.

When looking at the 2010 season as a whole, it's imperative that you label it BB -- Before Buck -- and AB -- After Buck.

And the same goes for the Orioles record against the AL East.

Looking at their season record against the AL East, it's business as usual:

9-9 vs Boston
5-13 vs New York
7-11 vs Tampa Bay
3-15 vs Toronto

24-48 overall

But when you get into the AB version of the schedule, it looks much better:

3-3 vs Boston
3-3 vs New York
5-4 vs Tampa Bay
3-3 vs Toronto

14-13 under Buck

Headed into 2011, it's not out of the realm of possibility to say the Orioles should be close to .500 against the AL East after years of failing miserably against their divisional foes. Here's a look at how the O's have fared against the AL East in the last few years...

2009: 24-48
2008: 22-50
2007: 34-38
2006: 31-44

So while there was no improvement on the surface, they played above .500 for two months of the season, in August and September at that!

And this is yet another example of the difference that Buck Showalter has made as manager of the Orioles. His record as O's skipper keeps improving -- and now it's at 31-22. There was no late-season collapse that Oriole fans could set their clocks by. The team -- gulp -- actually played its best baseball during the last two months of the season -- against the division!

Amazing, isn't it?

The Orioles have fans right where they want them -- anticipating the following season instead of treating it like a trip to the dentist six months down the road. They should be aggressive this winter and upgrade the team.

Maybe the Orioles, under Buck, aren't as far away as we initially thought.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ravens top Browns 24-17

Touchdown! Anquan Boldin celebrates one of his three touchdown receptions in the win over the Browns.

It wasn't pretty, but the Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns at home yesterday, 24-17, to improve to 2-1 and 1-1 in the division.

Joe Flacco rebounded in a big way after his 4 interception debacle in Cincinnati last week, chucking 3 TD's to Anquan Boldin and passing for 262 yards and no interceptions. But the running game failed to ignite the offense and the defense allowed Peyton Hillis of all people to run roughshod for 144 yards.

And the Ravens were lucky to win the game, actually. After trailing 14-3 for much of the first half, the Browns battled their way back before halftime, putting the score at 14-10. And after a scoreless third quarter, the Browns took a 17-14 lead at the beginning of the 4th quarter and sucked the air right out of M&T Bank Stadium.

Were the Ravens, after being shut down in Cincinnati last week, going to blow another divisional game at home against the winless Browns? Was the defense really going to be trampled by the Browns anemic offense?

Flacco and the offense answered that question quickly scoring a little less than 5 minutes later, with Flacco hooking up with Boldin in the endzone for a pretty 27 yard TD and retaking the lead 21-17. A Cundiff field goal put the final nail in the coffin at 24-17.

But the defense was still abused to the tune of 304 total yards and 18 first downs. Hillis ran for 144 yards and a TD. Seneca Wallace completed 75% of his passes. They failed to create a turnover.

While it was a divisional game, and a win is a win, the Ravens have not yet hit their full stride, 3 games into the season. Flacco and Boldin were on fire yesterday, but they were pretty much the only ones. Ray Rice rushed for just 80 yards before being removed from the game in the 4th quarter with a sprained knee. Willis McGahee only ran for 40 yards. And Todd Heap was the only one able to horn some yards, 46, away from Boldin's 144.

So it's tough to take much away from a win like yesterday's. Flacco and Boldin played well, the offensive line kept Flacco upright, but everything else was ho-hum. And that's not going to be enough to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh next week.

The Steelers are chugging along 3-0 after dismantling the Buccaneers yesterday in Tampa Bay, 38-13. Their defense is playing insane and their offense, with Charlie Batch under center, is finally moving the ball and scoring points.

The Ravens still have to get better if they want to beat the Steelers. And hopefully yesterday was a step in that direction.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The fuss about Flacco

Joe Flacco has become a hot button topic in Baltimore. Is a QB controversy brewing? I hope not.

After Joe Flacco turned in his worst game as an NFL quarterback, including throwing a career-high 4 interceptions, it's understandable that fans will be talking about his horrid performance.

Read any message board or tune into any local sports show on the radio and you'll see or hear it.

But some are just taking it too far. They are saying Flacco is holding the team back. They are saying that Marc Bulger should be playing. They are basically writing off Flacco's career -- a career that we're only 34 regular season games into.

In case people have forgotten, the Ravens have gone 21-13 in the regular season with Flacco as the QB since 2008. They have won three playoff games in 2 years. You'd think people would be able to take that into account, but apparently not.

Instead, Ravens fans are harping on Flacco's miserable day against the Bengals -- and even going back and complaining about Flacco's performance in the week 1 over the New York Jets.

Excuse me, but did these people watch the same game I did that Monday night?

The Ravens won that game because of Joe Flacco.

The Jets took away the running game and forced the Ravens to throw -- and they did -- to the tune of 248 yards -- the same number of yards that Tom Brady threw in a week 2 loss to the Jets. Flacco made several great passes to extend drives, especially on the 76-yard drive at the end of the first half that put the Ravens up 7-6.

But it seems that some fans have played too much fantasy football. Not only do they want to win, they want to rack up touchdowns and passing yards. Don't get me wrong, I would love for the Ravens to win like the Colts and Saints have, but let's be real. We aren't those teams. At least not yet.

The Ravens have one of the league's best running backs in Ray Rice. He had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage last season. But so far in 2010, he has only had 37 rushes -- and only received 16 touches against the Bengals despite a 5.4 yard per carry average. So what is the problem with running the ball more -- or using more screens to Rice? It worked last year.

And this is what it comes down to. I believe Cam Cameron is not putting Joe Flacco into the best situation to succeed. Yes, Flacco shouldn't have thrown 4 interceptions last week, and he has a lot of room to improve as a QB. But I don't believe the Ravens are ready to become a pass-first offense, nor do they need to be. Not when you have Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in your backfield.

Flacco should continue improving his numbers during his third year as a QB in the NFL. With Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Derrick Mason and Todd Heap at your disposal, there is no excuse not to. But let's remember that the Jets were the #1 defense in the NFL last year and the Bengals were #4. So it's not like Joe Flacco has struggled to perform against middle of the road defenses so far in 2010. He has struggled against the best of the best.

Now, I would like to see him take those steps and beat a top defense, decisively, but for now, I think we need to scale back our expectations of Flacco and be happy with what we have in him.

The last thing I want to see if Flacco heading to another team the way Drew Brees and Donovan McNabb have.

But it seems like some Ravens fans have already reached that point.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flacco turns in miserable game, Ravens lose to Bengals

Joe Flacco and Derrick Mason are disgusted after the Ravens' 15-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

It was hard to watch.

After so much hope for a new high-flying offense this past offseason, the Ravens have only scored 20 points two weeks into the season.

Yes, the first two games were on the road against two playoff contending teams in the Jets and Bengals. And yes, it takes time for an offense to gel.

But it was still hard to watch.

The Ravens had only 259 yards of total offense yesterday, and couldn't figure out the Bengals defense yet again. In the last 3 games against the Bengals, all losses, the Ravens have been held to 14, 7 and 10 points. Joe Flacco threw 4 interceptions, a career high, which was the difference in the game, as the Bengals had only 253 yards of total offense themselves. Each team had 14 first downs.

Flacco played what was probably his worst game as a pro. He looked slow, both physically and mentally. He threw off his back foot. And he routinely forced passes into double and triple coverage. He finished with 154 yards passing, 1 TD and 4 interceptions for a passer rating of 23.8.


The Ravens fared a little better on the ground, with Ray Rice rushing for 87 yards and a 5.4 yard per carry average. It makes you wonder why offensive coordinator Cam Cameron didn't stick with the run a little more when it was apparent that Flacco was having trouble making his throws. Cameron seems hellbent on making Flacco the next Drew Brees, but clearly Flacco is not ready for it.

In addition to the horrendous Flacco turnovers, the officiating didn't help out the Ravens either. Ray Lewis was called for tripping Bengals QB Carson Palmer when he was blocked and fell over, and Palmer fell over Lewis. Terrell Suggs was called for roughing the passer when he tackled Palmer as soon as Palmer released the ball. It looked like a fine play to this Ravens fan, as well as many fans across the NFL, since many football experts agreed that it was a bad call. But in the end, both penalties prolonged Bengals drives that resulted in field goals.

The Ravens defense played well. They still have not allowed a touchdown all season. They need to get after the QB a little better. Carson Palmer was only pressured intermittently and sacked only once.

Overall it was a game to forget. Despite Flacco's 4 interceptions and the offense's struggles, they still had a chance to win the game. The bad officiating also plays a part, but compared to Flacco's poor play, the bad calls are microscopic by comparison.

Thankfully, the 0-2 Browns visit Baltimore next week. Hopefully the Ravens can fix what went wrong yesterday...because there was a lot that went wrong.

It would be nice for Cam Cameron to shelf his desires to make the Ravens offense a passing offense and return to the run. It worked in 2008 and in the second half of 2009. It's clear this team cannot open up games passing on opposing teams. They still need the run to set up the pass and to set-up the play action pass.

Ugh. There's no other way to describe yesterday's loss. Just ugh.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

O's sweep Blue Jays

Brad Bergesen pitched a complete game in last night's 3-1 win over the Blue Jays. It was the Orioles' sixth series sweep this season.

Before this series, the Orioles were 0-12 against the Blue Jays. But that was before Buck Showalter arrived on the scene as the Orioles manager and said "let there be light".

And since this is a completely different team with Buck as the skipper, the outcome of this series was completely different as well. The O's swept the Blue Jays for their fourth series win in a row. A first for the Orioles since 2004.

The Orioles are now 26-15 with Showalter as the manager. It has even prompted Rob Neyer of ESPN to throw his hat into the "Buck Showalter for Manager of the Year" ring. And why not? Buck is doing something unprecedented. He took over a team on pace for a 48-118 record and has them playing like a team on pace for a 104-58 record.

And Buck's voodoo shows no signs of wearing off any time soon.

The pitchers have responded the most since Buck arrived, and the team's ERA since August 3rd, the day Buck arrived, is a stunning 3.76.

Brad Bergesen, who notched a complete game win last night in a game that barely lasted 2 hours, has been the O's best pitcher in the last 2 months, with a record of 6-2 and an ERA of 2.37.

The schedule remains tough until the end of the season, with the Yankees coming to town for 3 before the O's hit the road for 3 games each against Boston, Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Can Buck keep this team running on all cylinders against the AL East?

Let's hope so. It may finally give the Orioles some confidence against AL East opponents headed into 2011.

I can't believe I am saying this, but I don't want this season to end.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ravens edge Jets for first win

Ray Lewis was pumped up last night, kicking ass and chewing bubblegum. And he was all out of bubblegum.

Between the Jets and the Ravens, the hype alone was enough to power the electricity in the new Meadowlands Stadium last Monday night: many football experts had picked both teams to advance to the Super Bowl this season.

And there was no shortage of bad blood between the teams. The Jets, lead by loudmouth head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, have several former Ravens on their defense including Bart Scott and Jim Leonard. And Ray Lewis, never one to stay silent, returned the Jets' banter and backed it up with his performance.

But despite all the hype, once the tempers had flared, the whistles blew, and the game was played, it was the Ravens who were the better team.

The score of 10-9 won't tell you much. It was a close, defensive struggle for that reason alone. But digging deeper, the Ravens domination of the Jets becomes more apparent.

The Ravens had 282 yards of offense. The Jets 176.

The Ravens had 20 first downs, the Jets 6.

6 of the Jets 9 points came from Ravens turnovers.

Each QB was sacked 2 times.

Neither team did much on offense, but the Ravens did a little more, and that was the difference. If the Jets are "for real" anywhere on their team, it's on the defensive side of the ball where they were ferocious last night. On the Ravens first offensive play, two Jets defenders sandwiched Joe Flacco in a brutal sack and fumble that had Ravens fans everywhere cringing. Flacco was OK, but it was a bad omen to start the 2010 season that way.

After the sack and fumble, the Jets recovered the ball on the Ravens 11 yard line but were held to a field goal. Jets up, 0-3.

On the next Ravens drive, they moved the ball down field well, with Flacco connecting with new-Raven Anquan Boldin for 14 yards, Todd Heap for 16 yards, and Ray Rice for 16 yards. On the Jets 20-yard line, Willis McGahee fumbled the ball, ending a promising drive that had taken 9 minutes and 10 seconds off the clock.

The Jets went three and out on the next drive and the two teams were stuck in a battle for field position for most of the second quarter. The Jets kicked another field goal, to put them up 0-6 with 8 minutes left in the half.

The next Ravens drive was chugging along nicely, thanks in part to a Jets 28-yard pass interference penalty and a Flacco to Derrick Mason 12 yard catch, but the drive ended abruptly when Flacco was intercepted by Jets CB Antonio Cromartie at the goal line and returned the interception 66 yards to the Ravens Ravens 31 yard line. Flacco had been working well with Boldin so far, and forced this pass into coverage.

However, Jets RB Shonne Greene fumbled the ball early in the Jets next drive and the Ravens recovered the ball on their own 24-yard line.

And then the Ravens offense finally showed what it can do, albeit for just one drive.

Flacco connected with Houshmandzadeh for 27 yards. Then found Mason for 9. The Jets were getting angry with themselves at this point, and committed a 22-yard pass interference penalty on Houshmandzadeh that gave the Ravens the ball on the Jets 1-yard line. A McGahee run got nothing. A pass to fullback Le'Ron McClain was overthrown by Flacco. Finally, McGahee found paydirt, putting the Ravens on top for the first time in the game, 7-6.

And the loud Meadowlands stadium fell silent during halftime.

The second half of the game was largely a battle for field position. A nice drive from their own 8-yard line resulted in a Billy Cundiff 25 yard field goal, to put the Ravens up 10-6. On the drive, Flacco connected with Boldin for 38 and 27 yard passes.

The Jets forced the Ravens back against their endzone for a drive that got the Ravens to their own 3-yard line where Sam Koch was forced to punt with his back to the goal post. The Jets got the ball on the Ravens 35-yard line. Their drive only went 5 yards, but it was enough for Nick Folk to kick a 48-yard field goal to make the score 10-9.

The Ravens next drive stalled at the Jets 42-yard line. They pinned the Jets deep on a punt, and the Jets couldn't get past their own 24. With 4:35 left, the Ravens started from their own 26 and Flacco found Heap for a 35 yard gain on the first play of the drive. It was a ballsy move that paid off when most Ravens teams of the past would have elected to run the ball and kill the clock. The drive eventually stalled at the Jets 36-yard line. The Ravens punted, putting the Jets at their own 18 yard line with a minute thirty-seven to drive down field within field goal range.

So it came down to this. Was golden boy Mark Sanchez a good enough QB to drive the Jets down to within field goal range against a stout Ravens defense that had smothered them all game? Was the hype surrounding him premature? Sanchez showed flashes of greatness in his rookie year, especially in the playoffs as the Jets shocked the NFL and advanced to the AFC Championship game before falling to the Colts. But Sanchez had never been that kind of QB who could win the game with his arm. Many think he never will be.

The Jets' drive didn't get off to a good start, when a false start backed them up 5 yards to their own 13. A screen to Ladanian Tomlinson gained 9. Another pass to Braylon Edwards gained 9 more. Then, on 4th and 10 with 0:36 left on the clock, Sanchez passed to tight end Dustin Keller for a 9 yard gain. Keller, either not realizing where he was or unable to overcome his momentum, ran out of bounds one yard short of the first down marker, ending the Jets drive and giving the Ravens the win.

It was refreshing to see the Jets, such a hyped and loudmouthed team beat themselves on that play. Rex Ryan, standing on the sidelines where the play took place, starting clapping, thinking Keller had gotten the first down.

Wrong. More like the loss.

So how did the team perform individually?

Joe Flacco played well against a tough Jets defense that sacked him twice, including that brutal opening sack and fumble. He moved around in the pocket nicely and appeared recovered from his foot injury from last year, and extended many plays by ducking the pressure and stepping up in the pocket. He passed for 248 yards and made on one mistake on the forced pass to Boldin at the goal line that resulted in an interception. The offensive line played well against the Jets front seven, which blitzed early and often. They had their problems, but overall they played nicely.

Anquan Boldin stepped up and showed us why we traded for him this pass offseason, hauling in 7 passes for 110 yards. He was Flacco's favorite target once the Jets unwisely took Darrelle Revis off Boldin. Todd Heap had a good game as well, catching 6 passes for 72 yards. It was nice to see Heap become a part of the offense again.

On the ground, the Ravens had trouble getting the running game going against the tough Jets defense. Ray Rice ran 21 times for 43 yards. McGahee ran 6 times for a total of -2 yards despite the touchdown.

On defense, the Ravens came to play. They sacked Sanchez twice and pressured him when he stood in the pocket too long. Ray Lewis delivered a punishing hit on Dustin Keller over the middle on the final drive of the game, knocking the ball loose at the first down marker. It was a play that embodied the game on defense for the Ravens, and showed that Ray Lewis is still one of the best linebackers in the game at the age of 35.

On special teams the Ravens did what they could with what they were given, and Jalen Parmalee returned 3 kicks for 57 yards, while Tom Zbikowski had one return for 15. The Ravens allowed a few big returns from Brad Smith, including a 32-yard return, but overall, kept the Jets out of the Ravens side of the field for the most part.

It was a close game. A defensive struggle. And it lived up to the hype. But once the Ravens protected the football, they were clearly the better team. They passed a test last night, proving that they should be considered for the super bowl while people may need to reconsider the hype placed on the Jets.

The Ravens travel to Cincinnati this Sunday to take on the 0-1 Bengals.

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 Predictions

It's that time of year again! The weather gets cooler, you pull your jeans and Ravens sweatshirts out of storage, sip an Octoberfest brew, and anticipate another season of Ravens football.

And this should be a good one, folks. It seems like every other media personality is picking the Ravens to win the Super Bowl this year, and rightfully so. With the additions of Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh and the quality draft the Ravens had, this year's Ravens team is finally as good on offense as it is on defense. Maybe even better.

So how should the Ravens do this year? Let's break it down!

@ New York Jets - WIN - The Jets are the other AFC team generating massive hype so far this summer, but for all the wrong reasons. If the Jets were from Jacksonville, you'd hear as much about them as you do the Jaguars. But since they are from New York, have a good-looking young QB in Matt Sanchez, a shutdown corner in Darrelle Revis, and a loudmouth head coach in Rex Ryan, they are media darlings. And while they have a solid defense, their offense is shrouded in question marks. To me they look like the 2004 Ravens: all defense, no offense, and a cocky head coach. Joe Flacco and company may have some trouble moving the ball against the Jets' stout defense, but the Jets should be immobile against the Ravens defense. I see a low scoring affair with the Ravens edging out the Jets for the win. 17-13.

@ Cincinnati Bengals - LOSS - The Bengals swept the Ravens -- and the division -- last season and look to be the Ravens main competition for the division again in 2010. I think the Ravens are too talented on offense to be stifled by the Bengals defense like they were last season, but to overlook the Bengals would be a mistake. They are getting better on defense and they've added some good offensive weapons, starting with Terrell Owens. And with the Ravens riding high from their Monday Night win over the Jets on a short week, I think this could be a stumbling point for the Ravens. 17-20.

Cleveland Browns - WIN - The Browns may be better than they were a year ago, but they still have a long way to go. The Ravens should romp in their home opener. 38-14.

@ Pittsburgh Steelers - WIN - The Ravens lucked out and face the Steelers in Pittsburgh during the last week of Ben Roethlisberger's 4-week suspension. QB Dennis Dixon almost beat the Ravens in Baltimore last year, so this could be a very tough game for the Ravens, but I see the Ravens getting the W. They should have beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh last year if Derrick Mason catches a sure-fire touchdown pass, and the Ravens have only gotten better while the Steelers have taken a few steps back. 24-17.

Denver Broncos - WIN - The Ravens always dominate the Broncos in Baltimore and this year should be no different. The Broncos lost their best offensive weapon, Brandon Marshall, this past offseason and look to be headed for a rebuilding year. I see the Ravens winning easily. 30-13.

@ New England Patriots - LOSS - The Ravens drew a tough hand, getting four very tough road games to start the season and this one is no different. The Ravens went 1-1 in New England last year, but could have easily been 2-0. The Patriots are probably a little better than they were in the playoffs last year with Wes Welker coming back, but their defense is stil suspect and the Ravens' new offensive weapons should help the Ravens move down the field against their defense. But Patriots head coach Bill Belichick rarely gets beaten twice by the same team in a calendar year, so I am going to pick with my head and not my heart for this one. 20-23.

Buffalo Bills - WIN - The Bills are going to be one of the worst teams in the league this year. Even winning a close game would be a disappointment. Blowout city. 40-17.

Miami Dolphins - WIN - The Dolphins are a team on the rise, with the addition of Brandon Marshall, and the Wildcat offense has given strong defensive teams fits in the past. But the Ravens handled them twice in 2008 and should look to handle the Dolphins once more. 26-18.

@ Atlanta Falcons - WIN - To me, the Falcons are a mysterious team in 2010. Like the Ravens, the Falcons have been riding the wave of a new head coach in Mike Smith and a young QB in Matt Ryan, but 2009 was a step back for the team, as they missed the playoff despite going 9-7. Will the Falcons be the Falcons of 2008? The Ravens have added more weapons than the Falcons have, so 2010 is where these two team's eerie similarities should end. But this could be a tough game, either way. 24-17.

@ Carolina Panthers - WIN - The Panthers will always have a strong running attack as long as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are lining up in their backfield. But with Matt Moore as their QB, they should be a one dimensional team in 2010. The Ravens should win this game as long as they can stop the run. 28-13.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - WIN - The Bucs are one of those teams content to go through the motions. Their QB is Josh Freeman. Their RB is still Cadillac Williams and their WR's are filled with guys no one has ever heard of. Their defense is nothing like the one that helped win a Super Bowl and dominate the league for years. The Ravens should win easily. 33-10.

Pittsburgh Steelers - WIN - The Ravens haven't beaten a Ben Roethlisberger quarterbacked Steelers team since 2006. It ends here. 17-13.

@ Houston Texans - LOSS - Everyone thinks the Texans are going to challenge the Colts for the division this year, and they have the offense to do it. Coming off a hard-fought win against the Steelers, the Ravens will drop this one in the closing minutes. 20-24.

New Orleans Saints - WIN - The Saints are a multi-faceted offense much like the Colts that can give the Ravens' defense fits. On defense, the Saints are an all or nothing unit, relying on turnovers to be effective. This could go either way for me, but I think the Ravens will rise to the opportunity after a sour loss to the Texans in Houston a week before. This is a statement game for the Ravens as they look to win the division and head into the playoffs. 30-24.

@ Cleveland Browns - WIN - The Browns have a knack for playing division rivals tough at home regardless of how bad they have been, and just last season they lost to the Bengals by 3 points, beat the Steelers, and the Ravens needed turnovers to score points. I expect more of the same in a Ravens close win. 28-24.

Cincinnati Bengals - WIN - This could be for the division, for the playoffs, for everything -- or nothing -- depending on if the Ravens or Bengals already have their postseason position locked up. But with the Bengals having beaten the Ravens in Cincy in week 2, the Ravens will come out determined to end the losing streak versus the Bengals. 28-21.

Ravens 2010 Record: 13-3.

I would give myself a margin of error of -2, meaning an 11-5 season could be very likely. But I just don't see this team having too many letdowns with the firepower they have on offense and with the talent they still have on defense.

2010 should be a very "super" year in Baltimore. Anything less would be a disappointment.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ravens finalize roster, sign TJ Houshmandzadeh

Hopefully Houshmandzadeh will do his share of celebrating with the Ravens in 2010.

The Ravens trimmed down their roster to 53 players by making some moves that caught fans by surprise. The biggest surprise was the signing of former Bengals WR, TJ Houshmandzadeh.

Housh turns 34 in a few weeks, and shouldn't be counted on to put up numbers like he did in '06 or '07 when he racked up over 1,000 yards receiving. But he will bring depth to a position the Ravens have lacked for so long. And while none of the Ravens WR's are deep threats, they will bring a physical presence to the Ravens passing game.

Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, TJ Houshmandzadeh.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

To make room for Housh, the Ravens traded Mark Clayton to the St. Louis Rams for a conditional draft pick. Clayton, a former second round pick, showed flashes throughout his five year career with the Ravens, but was never healthy or consistent enough to be counted on regularly. The Ravens also cut the oft-injured Demetrius Williams.

The Ravens also traded defensive end Antwan Barnes to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 7th round pick. Barnes, a 4th round pick in 2007 had 3 sacks last year.

And the roster crunch meant that the Ravens released QB Troy Smith, who has since been picked up by the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner and 2007 5th round pick, had a tumultuous 4-year career in Baltimore that felt longer than it really was. As the 2007 season winded down, and Kyle Boller was injured, Smith started the team's two final games, which included a blowout loss on the road to the Seahawks and a win at home against the Ben Roethlisbergerless Steelers. His play in those two games wasn't much to write home about, but it did enough to make the Ravens consider Smith for the starting job in 2008.

And we all know what happened, Boller was injured, Smith caught tonsillitis, and rookie QB Joe Flacco took the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game. Smith would see the field here and there in the next two years in a Wildcat-style offense.

Then, as the Ravens were fighting for a playoff spot late last season, word came via Smith's agent that he wanted to be traded and that he would "crawl from Baltimore". From that point on, it was only a matter of time for Smith. Earlier this summer, the Ravens signed Marc Bulger as back-up, and after Troy Smith failed to impress as he played the entire 4th preseason game this year, he was finally released.

I personally always liked Troy Smith. I felt he had a swagger that the Ravens lacked on offense, and could have become an exciting QB if given the chance. And while I am glad that history went the way it did with Flacco, I'll always wonder what Smith could have done as QB.

Maybe we will, it just won't be in Baltimore.