I'm not going to discredit all the work offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has put in with Flacco. I just think after four years, Flacco had hit the ceiling in this offense and Caldwell brought some fresh ideas, including attention to detail, which have helped Flacco and the offense. You can't deny the influence Caldwell has had on the no-huddle and the offense looked like a legitimate NFL offense Monday night.
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Julian: Hey Mike, have the Ravens found their offensive line with Kelechi Osemele and Ramon Harewood starting?
It's way too early to tell, but both turned in solid efforts against the Bengals. The Ravens needed an injection of youth, and maybe they have received it with the two players. We'll have a better picture in the middle of the season, once teams start to scout Harewood and Osemele, and find their strengths and weaknesses. The Ravens might have to replace center Matt Birk soon because he got beat pretty soundly Monday night against the Bengals.
Dr. Ken from Frederick: Mike, as a former Towson Tigers offensive lineman, tell me why the Ravens made the change and went with Osemele and Harewood on Opening Day. Also, why the change with Anthony Allen?
Hi Dr. Ken. They made the change because they apparently felt Osemele and Harewood gave them the best chance of winning. Veteran left guard Bobbie Williams, expected to be the starter, has been slowed by an ankle injury and didn't have an impressive training camp. The insertion of Harewood into the starting lineup was a surprise and he turned in a solid effort. Overall, the Ravens had some communication problems Monday night and I think the Eagles will give them more of a challenge this week. The Eagles have some really good speed rushers on the outside.
As for Allen, he isn't just a running back but can make contributions on special teams as far as coverages.
Richard in Dallas: You gave an 'A' to the O-line, but aren't you concerned that Matt Birk was dominated again (just like last year), frequently being pushed into the backfield to blow up plays or cause a "hurry" or a sack? It seems Gino Gradkowski has the same issue. Also, it seemed to me that Flacco had too much pressure on him for the O-line guys to receive an 'A' (even though they had a better game than I expected).
I gave them an 'A' because the Ravens racked up a lot of yardage, points and played fairly well despite having two players in Harewood and Osemele who were starting in their first NFL game. This group still might struggle, but at least there's an upside to this unit now. The Ravens averaged 6.8 yards per carry against the Bengals. Considering that Cincinnati had a defense ranked in the Top 10 last season, it was a good opening win for the Ravens.
Mark: Do you feel Jameel McClain is more suited to be an outside linebacker? I think we would be better suited with him (at outside) and Dannell Ellerbe alongside Ray Lewis. Your thoughts?
I would make that move with McClain if Ellerbe was a better overall player. Ellerbe is inconsistent, but a better player than a year ago. But let's not just single out McClain. Both starting outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Albert McClellan were non-factors. The entire Ravens defense gave up a lot of yards. Before we start moving players around, I think the Ravens should stay put as far as personnel and see if they can develop some continuity.
By the way, I think McClain can play outside. He covers a lot of range both inside or outside.
Sean Thornton: How about those hits that Ed Dickson took? I can't believe the way he bounced up after them. They were some of the nastiest hits I've seen in a long time. Keep an eye on him this week and let us know if he is feeling them.
Flacco has a tendency to throw high, and sometimes that will get your receivers killed. We've seen that in years past when Flacco has thrown high even on short passes and screens. I suspect Dickson has one word he will remember this week in practice: DUCK.
JFR: Does anyone track red flag challenge calls? It seems to me that Coach Harbaugh seems to be very successful when he throws the flag. Credit to the booth? They seem to give him excellent guidance.
I don't recall what the numbers were last year, but Harbaugh has done well with the challenges. The key is getting good information from the assistants in the press box who are watching games. Also, it's tougher making challenges on the road because those teams are sometimes slow getting replays to the assistant coaches or up on the Jumbotrons.
Surfside Raven: Mike, if I were out and about in town and saw Jim Caldwell, how smart would it be for me to buy his dinner and make him comfortable in this town?
Right now, if there were keys to the city, Flacco and Caldwell, would be getting a pair. As far as Caldwell leaving, I'm not sure he wants to be a head coach again. I think he is happy being an assistant and he will continue in that role with the Ravens for a while.