The 2019 Baltimore Ravens: Yeah, I whiffed; we all did

The 2019 Baltimore Ravens: Yeah, I whiffed; we all did

Coming into the 2019 season, the Baltimore Ravens were a team in transition. They officially made the transition from quarterback Joe Flacco after 11 years and countless playoff wins and a Super Bowl title, to the young quarterback Lamar Jackson. They also named Greg Roman the offensive coordinator to help out the quarterback from Louisville. Roman had previous experience working with the likes of Tyrod Taylor and Colin Kaepernick. The team added Mark Ingram, and Marquise Brown to an offense that was going to be this unorthodox style rarely seen in the NFL. The one thing that was needed was Jackson had to improve vastly as a passer.

On defense, the unit was also going through changes. Losing C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle and future hall of famer Terrell Suggs to free agency. Despite adding Earl Thomas and holding one of the best secondary’s in the NFL, the unit was a giant question mark. Questions at middle linebacker, a pass rush outside Matt Judon and the team had lost stud cornerback Tavon Young before the season due to injury.

Everything with this team, and their schedule, had many feel cautious about them. At best, they were a 7-9 or 8-8 football team. At worst, they were 5-11, where I had them at. With the roster questions, Jackson having to take a big step in his development, and the schedule, the team looked like they were in for a trying season, and no one would’ve blamed them. Little did we know we were in for a ride. However, it didn’t necessarily start out that way. As a matter of fact, it kind of began where we expected.

The Ravens started off 2-2, and other than the Miami Dolphins week 1 blowout where Jackson threw for five touchdown passes, the offense was inconsistent, and the defense was downright dreadful. Kyler Murray even went into Baltimore and threw for 349 yards, something no rookie does. The next week in Kansas City, Jackson struggled with his accuracy and the defense got torched by Patrick Mahomes for a second consecutive year. The following week against the Cleveland Browns was one of the worst losses the Ravens ever had as Cleveland ran all over Baltimore in a 40-25 shocker. After that game, it felt like the tide had turned in the AFC North and again, no one would’ve blamed the Ravens for taking a step back. The next week in Pittsburgh however, changed everything.

While the offense struggled again, the defense stepped up in a big way. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey made the play of the season for Baltimore by forcing a Ju Ju Smith Schuster fumble in overtime, setting up a Justin Tucker game winning field goal to win the game 26-23. If the team was 2-3 and losing to a Steelers team without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the morale of the Ravens would’ve been even lower than the week before. At 3-2 however, and with momentum on their side and feeling good about themselves, the Ravens would go on a run of dominance.

Baltimore is currently riding a ten-game winning streak. The offense, other than against the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills, has been close to unstoppable, Lamar Jackson has been a human highlight reel, and the defense has gone from being one of the worst in the league to one of the best. The defense has been spearheaded by guys stepping up and new acquisitions like cornerback Marcus Peters making big impacts.

That schedule I mentioned before being a factor in my 5-11 prediction? The hardest part was during this win streak. They not only won those tough games, it wasn’t even close. They defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle picking off Russell Wilson for the first time all year. They blew out the Houston Texans, defeated the 49ers and Bills, and the Super Bowl 53 participants? They blew them out by a combined score of 78-27. The win over the Patriots was the moment all of us said “Oh, this team is really good.”

Lamar Jackson, while still having his moments of inaccuracy, and the Ravens having a passing attack ranked in the low-20s, and are at the bottom of the league in passing attempts, has still improved immensely and is probably going to win the MVP. The Ravens rushing attack and offensive line has been the engine of the offense and is the primary reason why it’s the best in the league. The defense’s improvement has been just as impressive to me and you could make a case is a bigger reason they are where they are right now. They have come up with big play after big play during this ten-game winning streak from Marcus Peters’ pick-six off Russell Wilson, the fourth down stops against the 49ers and Bills, shutting down Deshaun Watson and the Texans, to creating and scoring off a Julian Edleman fumble that switched the momentum of that game back to the Ravens.

The Ravens have always been at their best as the underdog. They’ve thrived off of it, and they’ve done it again this season. They knew not many thought they would be a decent team this season, and they set out to prove everybody wrong. Now at 12-2 after another dominate win over the New York Jets, the team is one win away from sealing up home-field advantage in the playoffs. Baltimore has been to the playoffs eleven times in their history, and they’ve never been able to get home-field in the postseason. Ironically, the team that stands in their way is the same team that last defeated them, the Cleveland Browns. Since that game, the Browns and Ravens have gone in completely opposite directions. The Ravens are not a 5-11 team, far from it; they’re a Super Bowl caliber team.

The Jets and Giants need winners at head coach

The Jets and Giants need winners at head coach

The New York Jets and New York Giants both made bold, but unpopular decisions when they hired Pat Shurmur and Adam Gase. The Jets and Giants were moving away from head coaches who had previously never done it before in Ben McAdoo and Todd Bowles, and replaced them with guys who had experience at the positions. Gase spent three years as the Miami Dolphins head coach, and Shurmur was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2011-2012. Shurmur also finished the 2015 season as the interim Philadelphia Eagles head coach after the firing of Chip Kelly, as well as being the offensive coordinator during Case Keenum’s magical run in 2017. They were hired for their offensive minds, and were supposed to bring offensive football back to New York. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t worked out that way. It’s all just one simple problem; they don’t know how to win.
Shurmur and Gase are offensive coaches in an NFL filled with them and is a league that’s always looking for more. While Gase and Shurmur have done well as offensive coordinators, they’re head coaching resumes are not the best, far from it. After the Giants latest loss to the Green Bay Packers, Shurmur is now 17-44 as a head coach, and 7-22 as the head of Big Blue. Meanwhile, Gase is now in the middle of a disastrous season that just saw the Jets lose once again to a team without a win, falling to the Cincinnati Bengals 22-6 in Cincinnati, dropping the Jets to 4-8 on the year after winning three in a row. The loss puts Gase’s record to 27-33 in his career, and considering the expectations for the Jets this season, it is an absolute failure the team is where it’s at and has losses to Miami, Cincinnati, and the Jacksonville Jaguars to boot.
Both Shurmur and Gase are also at the helm of young franchise quarterbacks in Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold. Jones has shown flashes of brilliance, but is also miring with rookie mistakes and turnovers. Gase, granted, lost Darnold for three games due to mononucleosis. When Darnold returned, he went on a rough three game stretch that saw him throw eight interceptions, all resulting in Jets losses. Darnold proceeded to play extremely well the following three games by scoring nine total touchdowns as part of the three game winning streak. The streak ended in Cincinnati and Darnold ended up taking a beating thanks to the offensive lines worst game of the year, and he suffered a foot injury as a result. Gase’s play-calling and gameplan was also poor.
Their offenses rank at 25th (Giants) and 31st (Jets) in the NFL this season and for two offensive coaches, that isn’t acceptable. It’s true that both New York offenses need offensive line help desperately and need a number one wide receiver for Jones and Darnold, but the problems go far beyond the offense. Shurmur and Gase don’t bring a winning atmosphere and foundation to neither New York team. They have a history of struggles and it doesn’t give you any confidence they can turn around teams that are a mess.
The Giants won two Super Bowls under Tom Coughlin, and even made the playoffs in McAdoo’s first season in 2016, but ever since Super Bowl 46, the Giants have been a microcosm of failure aside from 2016. They’re 49-75 since defeating the New England Patriots for the second time in a Super Bowl, and are well on their way to having yet another top draft pick in 2020. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, and they haven’t defeated the Patriots at Gillette Stadium since their big playoff upset of New England in the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs.
There needs to be a sense of direction for both teams, and neither of it looks like it will happen with Gase and Shurmur. Shurmur is on the hot seat now, and Gase’s seat figures to be hot again after the loss to the Bengals. If the Giants and Jets are both searching for head coaches again in 2020, even if it means switching coaches and offenses again for their young quarterbacks, they must find a coach who can create a winning atmosphere. Only then can they get the most out of their players, and especially Jones and Darnold if they are to succeed in the future.

Has Sam Darnold saved Adam Gase?

The New York Jets made a not so popular decision when they chose former Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase to be the new leader of Gang Green this offseason. The reason for caution was warranted. Gase finished his three-year tenure in Miami below .500 as a head coach, while only taking the Dolphins to the playoffs once in the 2016 season. While he is known as an offensive coach, his offenses in Miami were always among the worst in the league, with the unit being 31st in total offense in his final year in South Beach.
While a lot of the blame went to him, there were some that felt Gase was still a decent head coach in the league and felt he never found a franchise quarterback in Miami. Ryan Tannehill struggled with injuries, and Gase started the likes of Jay Cutler and Matt Moore in his place. So when Gase came to the Jets, it seemed he had finally found his guy in Sam Darnold. Unfortunately, Darnold would be lost for three games with mononucleosis, and when he returned, the team hit a three game skid that saw Darnold struggle mightily. Add up the fact the Jets had embarrassing losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and a Dolphins team that had yet to get a win before defeating the Jets in Miami. Darnold had thrown eight interceptions during this stretch, the team was 1-7, and Gase was on the hot seat yet again and was looked at as a guy who was stalling Darnold’s progression. However, something has clicked as of late.
After the loss to the Jaguars, Darnold reportedly sat down with Gase and went over the offense. Over the last three games, Darnold and the offense have been one of the best in the NFL and the Jets signal-caller has thrown for 838 yards, scored nine total touchdowns and has compiled a 117.2 passer rating. All three games have resulted in Jets victories, with a big statement win this past Sunday against the AFC playoff-contending Oakland Raiders. Since the meeting with Darnold, Gase has given more control of the offense to New York’s franchise quarterback and the results have paid off immensely. So much so, that it might’ve saved Gase’s tenure with the Jets.
If Darnold didn’t sit down with his coach, a coach that he himself wanted, then the team might still be floundering, especially on the offensive side of the football. Questions about Gase would’ve continued at a rapid rate, along with if Darnold was indeed the answer at quarterback for the Jets. Gase was riding a short leash at 1-7, but now the team sits at 4-7 having won three in a row with a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, and a rematch with the Miami Dolphins at the Meadowlands coming up. As always with the Jets, caution is always the best way to look at things since this team has previously lost to Miami, and the Bengals are another team they will face that does not have a win as of now.
New York still has a lot of momentum right now, and it all goes back to a potential turning point when the second-year quarterback out of USC decided he had to talk to his coach about the direction of his unit. If the Jets finish the season strong, and go on to do bigger and better things in the coming years, that meeting will be looked at as the moment the Jets finally found their franchise quarterback, and the moment Gase became the right choice at head coach for the Jets.

Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes takes batting practice

The New York Mets enter the offseason looking for answers regarding their bullpen, outfield, third base and a starting pitcher with the potential departure of Zack Wheeler. There is another situation regarding the Mets in 2020, Yoenis Cespedes.

Cespedes missed most of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season with heel and ankle injuries requiring surgery. The status of Cespedes is up in the air for 2020, but the team got a very good sign about their superstar outfielder.

 

Yesterday, Cespedes was taking batting practice with former Met and current Brooklyn Cyclones coach, Endy Chavez

https://mobile.twitter.com/SNYtv/status/1196836333450383361

While there is still a long way to go until the Mets can find out when exactly Cespedes will return to the field, but him already taking batting practices is good news. That alone is big, because there hasn’t been much good news for Cespedes these last two years