Late For Work 12/14: Gaither’s Absence Bigger than Predicted

Plus this person believes Baltimore’s a big threat to the Pats and noteworthy one-liners.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 at 9:40 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Gaither’s Absence Bigger than Predicted

Why write about right tackle Jared Gaither 14 weeks into the season? He hasn’t taken a single snap this season and is currently residing on Injured Reserve nursing a hurt back.

With the Ravens attempting to add a spark to the offensive line by inserting Oniel Cousins at right tackle and moving Marshal Yanda back to guard and Chris Chester to tight end, the Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Van Valkenburg  sees  a void in the running game and pass protection left by Gaither’s absence.

"For the entire complaining fans do about the coordinators or the quarterback, it’s becoming more and more obvious that a ton of the Ravens issues can be traced back to their offensive line," wrote Van Valkenburg. "When they give [quarterback Joe] Flacco enough time, he looks like a pretty good quarterback. When they give Ray Rice lanes to run through, he’s the most electric player on the field. But right now, they’re not doing either particularly well."

Van Valkenburg named a weakness for each member of the offensive line. The Sun writer believes the offense’s struggles to adjust to new defensive wrinkles and to convert first downs can be pinned on the front line.

And while Gaither’s reputation took a hit because of a questionable work ethic and attitude, the hole he left has "created a domino effect" on the offense.

 "I don’t see how this can be blamed on [Offensive Coordinator] Cam Cameron or [Head Coach John] Harbaugh," wrote Van Valkenburg. "Cam Cameron seems to get slammed for every single misfire that occurs on offense, but in fairness to him, this is one of the few positions on the entire team the Ravens chose not to upgrade coming into this year."

For the offense this offseason, Ravens brass drafted two tight ends (Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta) and a receiver (David Reed). They also signed three big-name veteran receivers (Anquan Boldin, Donte’ Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh) and even brought in an insurance policy for quarterback Joe Flacco (Marc Bulger).

They drafted tackle Ramon Harewood in the sixth round, but he went on Injured Reserve before the season started.

"The Ravens front office knew Gaither was a bit of a wild card coming into this year, and they decided not to upgrade that position," wrote Van Valkenburg. "That decision is coming home to roost these days."

Silver: Ravens Are Biggest Threat to Pats

 "After watching Baltimore blow a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter…it should finally dawn on everyone that the Ravens’ once-dominant defense is no longer deserving of that designation."

Well, maybe not everyone, Mr. Don Banks of SI.com.

While many agree with you, including Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, there is another national writer who isn’t quite ready to give up on that label.

Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Silver believes that when something has been so good for so long, analysts tend to have a "hyperawareness toward perceived proof of an impending demise."  From Silver’s point of view, the collapse of the Ravens’ "defensive aura" has not yet occurred.

"That’s because the Ravens, [who] are still very much a championship contender a decade after [linebacker Ray] Lewis led the franchise to its first and only Super Bowl triumph, got defensive when it mattered most," wrote Silver.

Giving up touchdown drives of 95 and 99 yards in the final 11 minutes of regulation, Silver said the Ravens seemed to confirm the notion that they can no longer perform on an elite level. Then, observers braced for what appeared to be an inevitable Texans win after the Ravens’ first punt in overtime.

"Instead, as if fighting for its identity, Baltimore’s pass rush resurfaced with a vengeance," wrote Silver. Under the threat of the advancing Haloti Ngata, quarterback Matt Schaub threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Josh Wilson. "Two quarters’ worth of frustrating futility was magically erased," said Silver.

Not only does Silver still believe in the defense, but he also said the Ravens jeopardize New England’s playoff success. Baltimore pummeled the Pats last year at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs and lost by three points in Foxborough in October.

"The Ravens are also the team that represents the biggest threat to the New England Patriots, who appear to be the class of the league right now," wrote Silver. "At the very least, if they have to go back to Gillette Stadium in January, they will not be intimidated in the least."

He concluded, "Those of you who thought [the Ravens' demise] was already here, will have to take a chill pill. For that sound you hear is the heart of a champion, beating loudly and resoundingly until further notice."

Notes and Quotes

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