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What a odd year it has been for running the ball, huh?  

Several teams are not preferring a pass heavy offense by choice, but rather because their running backs just aren’t getting adequate yardage.

It’s not just the running backs not finding good lanes, however.  The offensive linemen this year seem to be lacking in run blocking for whatever reason.  They’ve had a difficult time creating holes for running backs to use during plays.

There has been speculation on the fact that new rules establish that there be less contact practices with pads on during the off season and that this is related to bad run blocking.  Another discussed reason is that the 32 offensive lines (1 per team, obviously) need time to gel and will get blocking assignments down better as the season progresses.

What has not been brought up, that I feel like mentioning, is the influx of new offensive linemen for almost every team during the off season.  Remember how many tackles, guards, and centers were drafted in the first round?  Do you recall the many address changes for high profile offensive linemen?  Isn’t it logical that many teams are at a disadvantage so early because they have brand new personnel on the OL who don’t know all of their team’s plays?  What about the shifting trend in college for so many explosive offensive plays, especially by passing, that leave the rookies totally unprepared for slow developing, short yardage runs?  They get to the NFL where, unlike college, most defensive linemen match up with them in size.

Now into the 4th week of the regular season, the Ravens can look to get back on track with their rushing offense.  They’ve drawn the short straw in that regard, as they faced (in order) the 1st, 7th, and 9th best rushing defenses so far.  For this Sunday, they are faced with only the 30th ranked rushing defense which is missing some of its better starters.

I like Ray Rice as he’s not only a great player but also quite the lucky charm for the Ravens (IMO).  However, he and Bernard Pierce can get the same kind of rushing yards no matter who’s playing.  The different upsides for the two: Rice is a much better receiver & gaining yards after the catch; Pierce is younger and has taken less hits in his career which is very useful for grinding out yards to close out games.

The Bills’ rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will be starting his 4th game as a professional NFL player.  The Ravens historically are very good against rookie quarterbacks.  Had Robert Griffin III not been injured late in the game, we very well might have beaten the Redskins, as the Ravens had no preparation for fellow rookie Kirk Cousins.  Plus, our pass defense has started to come together and dominate since rookie safety Matt Elam & 3rd year cornerback Jimmy Smith had re-entered the starting lineup.

The one area the Ravens have improved very well is in the rushing defense.  The Bills may have starting running back CJ Spiller back from injury, along with the durable backup Fred Jackson.  The Ravens should expect a heavy dose of running plays called against their defense.  Our starting safety James Ihedibo, who was signed for depth last year, has really shined on our team this season.  He is proving himself as a very valuable “last line of defense” to prevent any long runs.  Well, he and new starting MLB Daryl Smith have done amazing Ray Lewis & Bernard Pollard impressions.

In baseball news, I regret to say that the Orioles have been eliminated from reaching the postseason.  However, in my opinion, they ended up just where I hoped (and hoped and hoped and hoped) they could reach last season, where they’re a few games above .500.  So I wouldn’t think of this as a step backward, as, whether we like to admit or not, the Orioles were incredibly lucky last year.  Chris Davis is still leading the league in home runs, Jim Johnson is leading the league in saves (which is not breaking news, as the Orioles almost always have a closer leading that category), and we finally have quite a stable of quality pitchers.  After 14 straight dismal years, the Orioles have suddenly posted back to back winning seasons.  Look out, 2014 season!

The Tampa Bay Rays certainly look like a contender for the coming postseason (and not just because they swept us in that 4 game set…) and will finish their season against the Blue Jays while we square off against the Red Sox for 3 games at home.  I would just love it if the Orioles stay in the 3rd place spot and the Yankees finish in 4th.

Although I love my Orioles, I do normally have to root for secondary teams in the playoffs because of the aforementioned 14 straight seasons.  As I have a lot of family from both Eastern Missouri and Michigan, I’m hoping for a St. Louis/Detroit World Series.  (Although, I bet it will be Tampa vs Atlanta, with Tampa winning 4 games to 2)

Well, make sure to enjoy this weekend and don’t miss the Ravens game (1:00 pm CBS)!  Also, don’t look now, but the Terps are 4-0 in college football.

-CW

 

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