Know Your Opponent with Joe Lucia
Patrick D. Starr
As the Houston Texans travel up to Baltimore for the week 3 matchup against the Ravens, this week 3 matchup looks very different from 2012's week 7 matchup where the Ravens were trounced by the Texans 43-13. The Ravens are Super Bowl Champions now, but champs with a number of losses and key injuries. How does this shape up for our Texans? We check in with Baltimore Ravens aficionado Joe Lucia, contributing author of www.AwfulAnnouncing.com and managing editor of www.TheOutsideCorner.com. Joe's got the snappy witticisms and confounding insight that let us know the Ravens won't be going down without a fight no matter what obstacles they face hosting the AFC South leading Houston Texans squad.
We'll be continuing to field questions from our readers for our weekly opponent blogger throughout the season so tweet them to @theclairebear23 with the hashtag #KYO and we'll see about getting YOU some answers.
Are Ravens fans still trusting in Ozzie (Newsome, GM) after trading (WR Anquan) Boldin, which in hindsight seems like a mistake? How is the fan base feeling about the gutting of the team? (@hayscountyHT)
The Boldin thing is weird, because he was extremely popular and extremely productive, yet it always seemed like he’d disappear for games. And that’s something that’s popping up already in his career with the Niners: 208 yards on 13 catches in week one, seven yards on one catch in week two. He’s also getting old, and the team got a lot younger essentially replacing him with WR Marlon Brown.
As for the “gutting of the team”...would you have wanted to pay (OLB Paul) Kruger and (MLB Danelle) Ellerbe the money they wanted? Of course not. The only real losses were those two, Boldin, (FS) Ed Reed, and (SS) Bernard Pollard. Pollard’s already getting fined in Tennessee, Reed hasn’t played a down this year, Kruger was replaced by a superior player in (OLB) Elvis Dumervil, and Ellerbe was replaced by an equally as productive, yet much cheaper, (ILB) Daryl Smith. Ozzie moved money around extremely well, and I think it’ll pay off in the long run.
Does it seem as though the team was dismantled so (QB Joe) Flacco could be overpaid? This is the perception by many outside of Baltimore - how do Ravens fans feel?
I’ll answer your question with one of my own: if the Ravens let Flacco walk, who’s the team’s QB this year? Geno Smith? Matt Flynn? Tim...Tim....Tyrod Taylor? It was essential to lock Flacco up after his Super Bowl run, and as the other contracts began to fall for other QBs into place afterwards, Flacco’s contract began to look less and less absurd.
Is there a cure for the tight end woes on the roster outside of Dennis Pitta coming back? (@chiefbaird)
Oh god. Not really. Ed Dickson was actually taken in the same Draft as Pitta, 44 picks earlier. He’s a much worse player, and really can’t do anything well. Dallas Clark has been getting most of the reps at TE, and he’s...well, he’s fine. He’s not the Dallas Clark that was Peyton’s favorite target for years, but he’s nowhere near as bad as Dickson. The thing about Pitta is that him and Flacco had a really good chemistry (something about dorky looking white boys sticking together, I guess), and Flacco had the innate ability to throw passes where only Pitta could catch them. You can’t build that chemistry with someone else in a few weeks.
Are fans looking forward to seeing Ed Reed again or will they boo him? (@j5foun10)
Standing ovation. He didn’t leave with his middle fingers in the air. Reed will be beloved forever, and his #20 will be hanging at M&T Bank Stadium sooner rather than later. Besides, his singing of “Two Tickets to Paradise” might be the highlight of the Super Bowl parade in February.
Which players are not yet household names that the Texans and their fans need to be ready to learn about real quick?
Marlon Brown, who has essentially replaced Boldin as the team’s #2 wideout. Brown’s big and fast, and has already made a huge impact on the team this year. I’ll also throw in a vote for (RB) Bernard Pierce, who has been steadily taking carries away from (RB) Ray Rice over the last year plus, and might be the starter in 2014. He’s a much different player from Rice, with much less pass catching ability and screwing around behind the tackles.
What has impressed you about your Ravens so far in 2013?
The linebacking corps has been a lot better than I expected, given all of the attrition this offseason. (ILB) Josh Bynes and the aforementioned Smith are eating up everything in the middle, while Dumervil and (OLB) Terrell Suggs are coming off the edge with murderous intent. When you’ve got guys up front like (DT) Haloti Ngata and (DE) Arthur Jones that can swallow up a line, the performance of the backers gets amplified that much more.
What has you concerned?
The running game has me worried for the first time in years. Rice is banged up, Pierce hasn’t gotten off to a dynamic start through two games...I’m a little nervous, but deep down, I know it’ll be OK as long as (FB)Vonta Leach is bulldozing paths for each of them. I also have concerns about the secondary. It’s never a good sign when two starters lose their jobs on the two-deep heading into Week 3, but here we are. Jimmy Smith is now starting opposite Lardarius Webb at corner, and he really needs to step up and stop getting burned.
Ray Rice is angry at fantasy football social media users (with good reason) and is questionable for Sunday. What do you see for the Ravens running
game with or without Rice? How lethal can Pierce be? (Jorge Rivas and Mariachi Manning via Facebook) And tell us more about Rice's social media anger, please?
With Rice in the lineup, expect a lot more screens and short passes out of the backfield. He has much more maneuverability compared to Pierce, and the Ravens love to put him in space and let him make plays. Pierce is quick, but he’s more of a bruising north/south runner. The offense will be a lot less cute if Pierce is getting the bulk of the carries.
As for Rice on social media: he’s a very active guy, and a lot of his posts are about his charitable organization and his various volunteer/donation efforts. I think it really irritates him when people think of him as just a jersey on the field as opposed to a person because he works so hard to be a great role model off the field. Wouldn’t it piss you off if people complained about something as insignificant as fantasy points when you spend a lot of your free time working with disadvantaged kids?