Blogger on Blogger: BSL's Chris Stoner talks Ravens football

August 25, 2011|By Matt Vensel

Baltimore is blessed with a bunch of talented sports bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. I often link up to these local writers in my morning Coffee Companion posts, but instead of just exchanging anti-social links with them, I have decided to be slightly less anti-social by exchanging emails with them in a somewhat regular feature called Blogger on Blogger.

With the NFL regular season less than three weeks away, it’s time to check in with one of our local Ravens bloggers, Chris Stoner, who writes the Baltimore Sports and Life blog. The blog isn’t limited to the Ravens, though. Stoner also writes about the Orioles, the Terps and more. His writing has gotten him appearances on local radio stations, and he won multiple awards in our annual Mobbies blog competition last year. He hopes to parlay his success on the blog into a position covering sports for a local media outlet. Hopefully he doesn't take my job.

MV: We're a few weeks removed from the release of four popular veterans and Ozzie Newsome has had time to make moves. Are the Ravens better off from a personnel standpoint than they were in 2010?

CS: I'm excited by the prospects of the Ravens being a more athletic team in 2011, and I do think the Ravens can be better overall. I thought Kelly Gregg had little push last year, and I'm looking forward to Terrence Cody replacing him on the line. Todd Heap had the highest yards-per-reception average of his career last year, but I'm comfortable with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta replacing him.

A lot of Ravens fans are seemingly down on Derrick Mason for the comments he made as a member of the Jets, but I have nothing against him. Like Heap and Gregg, Mason had a great career in a Baltimore uniform. Mason was obviously Joe Flacco's safety blanket on the outside, and he put up numbers across the board nearly identical to Anquan Boldin last year. That said, I'd prefer to have Lee Evans vs. Mason.

I'm pleased with the addition of All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach, but it should be noted he is replacing two-time Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain. Overall, I think that is close to a wash. Leach might be the better pure blocker, but McClain is probably the better runner, and might be the superior pass receiver out of the backfield. Willis McGahee to Ricky Williams is another wash.

I think Bernard Pollard over Dawan Landry is another upgrade.

MV: Which one addition will have the biggest impact in 2011?

CS: Sergio Kindle. I don’t expect the Ravens to use Kindle much on first or second down, but I do expect Kindle to be sent on regular seek-and-destroy-quarterback missions opposite of Terrell Suggs on third down. If the Ravens get some pass rush going opposite of Suggs, that will only increase the odds of Suggs being able to maintain the level of play he had after the bye week last year.

MV: The Ravens overhauled their offense (again) to try the most out of Joe Flacco. The fourth-year quarterback took a lot of flack in the offseason from players and media. What's your take on him, and what must he do for this to be considered a successful season for him?

CS: The three primary reasons of criticism for Flacco’s play are his limitations over the middle of the field, his propensity for checking down, and that he does not get rid of the ball quick enough. Each of those critiques might be fair, and I myself have regularly spoken about the need for Flacco to improve against Cover 2. That said, I think there is often not enough focus on all of the positives Flacco brings to the table. … I don't think he is in the ultra elite group of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger; but I think he compares with anyone at the top of that next tier. … If he maintains the level of play he has already shown, that would be a successful season. Of course, you want to see further maturation in his game, and I do think he has yet to reach his ceiling.

MV: Through two preseason games, have you liked what you have seen from the defense, particularly young pass rushers such as Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle and Pernell McPhee?

CS: The national media is still running with the story that the Baltimore defense is aging and slow. When that media gets a hold of some game tape, they are going to be surprised by what they see. The Ravens spent an awful lot of time playing a “bend but not break” philosophy under Greg Mattison last year. Simply going to a more aggressive scheme under Chuck Pagano will make the Ravens appear quicker. We've talked about Terrence Cody, Jimmy Smith, and Kindle adding fresh legs to the defense. Kruger obviously looks more comfortable in his role. You have to be pleased with the ability McPhee has shown off the edge during these two exhibitions.

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