Late For Work 10/24: Another Reason Ravens Won’t Look Past Jags

Hines carted off field; Webb isn’t going anywhere; JJ thought he could’ve been released.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Monday, October 24th, 2011 at 9:35 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Another Reason Ravens Won’t Look Past Jags

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 5-2, that’s why.

Baltimore’s AFC North foe put together its “most convincing win on the road” by decisively beating the Arizona Cardinals, 32-20. The Steelers are breathing down the Ravens’ necks from their second place spot in the standings and if the Ravens don’t take care of business in Jacksonville on Monday Night Football, Pittsburgh will climb atop the division standings with a big grin plastered across its face.

“Some people put a fork in the Pittsburgh Steelers and I don’t know why,” said NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was in a walking boot just a few weeks ago, was elusive in the pocket yesterday and extended plays on key drives just as he usually does. He finished 25-of-38 for 340 yards and three touchdowns. Big Ben also threw the longest pass in franchise history (95 yards).

The Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Cowherd said the Ravens don’t want to lose on tonight’s primetime stage because of “fear of embarrassment.”

“A lot of NFL players, especially the young guys, go into these games praying: Please don’t let me screw up tonight,” he wrote. “Not in front of a national TV audience. Not with my family and friends watching. Not with every person I’ve ever known in my life watching, too.”

While there certainly is an element of wanting to impress the country and league, the Ravens see the bigger picture. The Jaguars are better than their 1-5 record suggests and the Steelers are lurking in the shadows, hoping to mess with Baltimore’s post-season plans.

The goal for 2011 is clear – says’s John Eisenberg – and that’s to get a home playoff game for the first time since 2006. To do so, continuing their three-game winning streak would go a long way.

Do the Ravens avoid getting trapped?” asked Eisenberg. “The last-place Jaguars aren’t the kind of opponent that motivates a team to a special performance, but the Jaguars have a top 10 defense, a Pro Bowl runner and will be inspired to do well at home on Monday night after getting embarrassed on their home field on Monday night last season.

“The Ravens are the better team but need to summon enough fire to put away what could be a pesky underdog.”

The Steelers are heading into a tough stretch of football the next three weeks. They have a home battle next week against the New England Patriots, who will be coming off their bye, followed by a re-match with Baltimore and a road contest against the 4-2 Bengals.

Here’s how the AFC North currently stacks up:

  • Baltimore 4-1
  • Pittsburgh 5-2
  • Cincinnati 4-2
  • Cleveland 3-3

Hines Ward Carted Off Field

Long considered one of the most hated men in Baltimore, receiver Hines Ward was carted off the field at Arizona with an ankle injury.

He sustained the injury in the third quarter, after making three catches for 21 yards, and never returned. Entering the game, Ward was second on the Steelers with 23 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

It’s unclear how long Ward will be out, or if he will play against the Ravens in two weeks.

“The extent of the injury was unknown, but Ward has always been the type of player to play through injuries and pain,” wrote Gerry Dulac of the Sporting News. “If he can’t play Sunday against the New England Patriots, he would be replaced by both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders depending on the offensive package.”

Ravens’ Iron Man Thought He Could’ve Been Released

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson is the Ravens’ iron man, playing in the most consecutive games in franchise history (118).

In the video below, Johnson credited “luck” as part of the reason he has been able to keep his streak alive.

But Double J is simply being humble.

He played through the entire 2009 season with an injured shoulder, putting off surgery to correct the problem until the offseason. Doctors gave him a clean bill of health for the 2010 season after surgery and after his arm was in a sling for six weeks, but he returned to the team 20 pounds under his normal 265-pound playing weight.

Johnson still managed a career best 73 tackles, but “when the Ravens’ pass rush struggled to get consistent pressure last season, and the defense surrendered several fourth-quarter leads, Johnson became a convenient target for frustrated fans,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Van Valkenburg. Johnson notched just 1.5 sacks throughout the season.

The criticism on Johnson was followed by the release of four fellow Ravens veterans: Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee and Kelly Gregg. Johnson admitted he thought he could be next.

“Any time you’re a veteran guy, you’re going to worry,” Johnson told Van Valkenburg last week. “I certainly called my agent when I heard who was getting released to see if I was going to be OK. But the Ravens called right away and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re cool.’”

Whether the Ravens actually considered letting JJ go is unknown, but Van Valkenburg says they “have to be happy” with his presence so far. Through five games this season, Johnson already has as many sacks as he notched last year and appears to be back to full health.

“Johnson continues to be one of the most important cogs in the Ravens’ defense for both his brains and his versatility,” wrote Van Valkenburgh. “He’s the rare player who can pressure the quarterback, run with a tight end in coverage and take on offensive lineman on the perimeter, often holding his edge and forcing running backs to cut back into the flow of pursuit.”

Often times referred to as the Ravens’ most-underrated player, Johnson says he understands fan criticism, but doesn’t let it affect his job.

“I’m so used to it,” Johnson said. “I signed a 5-year deal in 2007, and the week after I signed my deal, I remember reading a big story about how we had to find someone opposite of Suggs to replace [Adalius Thomas]. It’s always been like that. That’s fine. I don’t worry about it. You get used to hearing ‘Oh, he’s a good player, but we’ve got to find somebody else.’

“That’s what fans want because that’s what they understand, two guys getting 11 or 12 sacks,” Johnson said. “And I understand that. Because if you’re not in meetings and you’re not watching film, then the only thing you can judge someone off of is stats. Well, I haven’t had a lot of stats. But I don’t sweat it because I know I’m doing my job.”

Webb Isn’t Going Anywhere

The question continues to come up.

When rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith is healthy and acclimated to the NFL game, who will lose his starting job: Lardarius Webb or Cary Williams?

Here is ESPN’s Jamison Hensley’s take:

“Rest assured, Webb isn’t going anywhere. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens handle the cornerback position once Jimmy Smith gets acclimated to the defense. He’s a talented first-round pick, and he’ll either be starting by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. I’m not sure if the Ravens truly know whether Webb or Williams will be the one who loses his starting job.

“But it doesn’t matter who loses the starting spot. All three will play this year and next because Baltimore plays a lot of nickel defense. Webb is a restricted free agent in 2012, and the Ravens will protect him with a high tender. Good, young cornerbacks are hard to find. Baltimore won’t just toss one aside for another team to pick up.”

Quick Hits

  • Ben Grubbs’ extended five-game absence with a nagging toe injury could damage his free-agent value at the end of the season. [MASN]
  • Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith was placed on injured reserve, which could end his career as the “unsung hero on the dominant Steelers defenses over the past decade.” [ESPN]
  • “Since 2009, when Rice became a full-time starter, he has averaged a league-leading 122.1 yards from scrimmage,” wrote Jamison Hensley. “During that time, he’s produced an NFL-best 25 games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage – which is three more than anyone else in the league (Johnson and Adrian Peterson have 22). [ESPN]
  • The Jaguars have announced that, with the assistance of a 24-hour extension, enough tickets have been sold to lift the blackout for Monday night’s game against the Ravens. [ProFootballTalk]
  • Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, and Mike Tirico preview the Ravens-Jaguars Monday Night showdown. [ESPN]

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