Late For Work 12/30: Ravens Pro Bowl Analysis

Plus choosing between Gaither and Reed, Heyward-Bey a longshot to play and Hauschka signs.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 at 8:49 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Ravens Pro Bowl Analysis

Congratulations to Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Le’Ron McClain, Haloti Ngata and Ray Rice for being voted into the 2010 Pro Bowl by fans, fellow NFL players and coaches.

Baltimore has to be feeling good about sending five representatives – especially considering that the AFC North division champion Cincinnati Bengals were shut out of Miami.

Even the 4-11 Browns have two representatives in the Pro Bowl: return specialist Joshua Cribbs and left tackle Joe Thomas. Two Steelers were also honored with a bid (outside linebacker James Harrison and nose tackle Casey Hampton), while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was left out.

ESPN’s James Walker divided his analysis of the AFC North Pro Bowlers into three categories: “Perfect Sense,” “Made It On Rep,” and “Got Robbed.”

Ravens first-timers Rice and Ngata made perfect sense to Walker, but Reed…not so much.

“I wondered if enough people recognized the special season Rice is having rushing the ball and catching out of the backfield,” Walker said. “He didn’t win the fan vote but gained enough respect from players and coaches to make his first Pro Bowl. I also liked the recognition of Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who is coming into his own and will be a dominant force for years to come.

“Made it on rep: Baltimore’s Ed Reed is arguably the top safety in football, but this season was not his best. He’s been banged up and Baltimore’s pass defense was shaky all year. With just three interceptions, Reed’s having one of his least productive seasons. But a decent, albeit not spectacular, year from Reed still is better than 80 percent of NFL safeties. Some may want to add Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis and/or Steelers defensive tackle Casey Hampton to this group, mainly because of their age. But I thought both players had productive seasons.”

Walker went on to say that the two AFC North players who were robbed of the Pro Bowl honor were Roethlisberger and Bengals running back Cedric Benson.

One other Raven that deserves a mention is outside linebacker Jarret Johnson. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that JJ got robbed simply because of the competition at the position (James Harrison, Elvis Dumervil, etc.), but he is one of the Ravens’ most underrated players and is a major force on the NFL’s third-ranked defense.

Reed Will Try to Return in Week 17’s Jason La Canfora is reporting that Reed will try to play Sunday at Oakland barring any setbacks, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

“Reed, a former Defensive Player of the Year, had been unable to practice or run normally last week, but began feeling better during warm-ups before the game against the Steelers,” said La Canfora. “Prior to that, there had been some concern on Reed’s part that the pain would not dissipate to the point where he would be able to play again this season”.

I’m not sure this is big news since Reed, who has been out four games with a hip/groin problem, has attempted to play in each game of the season. He simply just wasn’t well enough. We’ll see if the outcome is different in Baltimore’s last regular season contest.

Jared Gaither or Ed Reed?

In a question and answer session, a fan asked the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston, if he had to pick, who would he choose to have back for next week’s game (or the playoffs) – Jared Gaither or Ed Reed?

“I would choose Jared Gaither,” Preston said. “The offensive line is the most important unit on a football team. It was obvious that the Steelers picked on, and won their battles against the Ravens tackles over the weekend. Meanwhile, the secondary has played reasonably well without Reed since the Green Bay game. I think Tom Zbikowski has been doing an excellent job filling in for Reed and has improved the play of the secondary as a whole by playing his assignments.”

Luckily, the return scenarios are not mutually exclusive. It’ll be interesting to see what the status of each player is when the week’s first injury report is released later this afternoon.

Heyward-Bey a Longshot

Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed the past four games due to a foot injury and is a “longshot” to return against Baltimore, according to the Sporting News.

In the months leading up to the 2009 Draft, Heyward-Bey, an alumnus of the University of Maryland, was a local favorite for the Ravens’ No. 23 pick. Up to this point, however, the rookie has not lived up to his billing.

“Heyward-Bey said he isn’t learning anything from the sideline,” said Steve Corkran. “Well, based on his lack of production this season, he must work hard to get much playing time next season.”

“[He] will get a lot of chances because he was drafted so high and the Raiders paid him $23.5 million guaranteed. However, he must show improved pass-catching and route-running skills before he can be relied upon.”

Hauschka signs with Atlanta

Kicker Steve Hauschka was signed by the Atlanta Falcons yesterday, according to the team website. Hauschka, who was cut by the Ravens after missing four field goals in nine games, joins the Falcons after kicker Matt Bryant pulled his hamstring in last week’s contest.

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