Clayton Could Have Rare Post-Baltimore Success
TOP RAVENS' PICK IN '05 OFF TO GOOD START
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- The list of players who have left the Ravens and not found the same kind of playing time or success elsewhere is a long one.
Duane Starks, Edgerton Hartwell, Anthony Weaver, Jermaine Lewis and Kim Herring are just a few examples of those who failed to recapture the magic they had when they were wearing purple uniforms.
However, wideout Mark Clayton could be on the verge of breaking that pattern. In four games with the St. Louis Rams, the team to which he was traded Sept. 6 for an undisclosed draft pick, Clayton has hauled in 22 passes (tied for fourth in the NFC) for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Thanks in part to Clayton's new lease on life, the Rams are at 2-2 and are tied atop a weak NFC West Division that could be theirs for the taking after winning just six games over the past three years.
Recently, the Ravens' 2005 first-round draft pick talked to St. Louis radio station KFNS about his newfound success (courtesy Sports Radio Interviews):
On what has made the relationship between he and Sam Bradford work so well
"This is my sixth year just being around three different quarterbacks with (Kyle) Boller, (Steve) McNair and (Joe) Flacco. … The thing that was consistent in all of that was understanding the offense, and then timing is more so than just being in a specific place. Like if you have a route, and you know that it is 12 yards down the sideline, then the quarterback is going to trust that you are going to be 12 yards going out of bounds when he throws it there.
"For us, me being able to get the offense down and understand what we are trying to do and just get to those spots, it has been good. Sam (Bradford) is extremely accurate. He is going to be an exceptional quarterback for a long time, and as long as we the receivers, tight ends and whoever, get to the spot then Sam is going to put the ball there.”
How he would compare Bradford to Flacco in terms of accuracy and arm strength
“Joe has got the arm and he is accurate as well. Sam in just the way that he has grasped the offense and how (Rams offensive coordinator Pat) Shurmur gives him the reins, and he runs the show.
"I know in Baltimore we ran the ball a whole lot more than we threw it, so I know that there is a lot they’re asking from Sam, but he consumes it and he can take it and he can lead. He is doing it at a very high level right now.”
What Sam Bradford is like on gameday when a receiver runs the wrong route
“He doesn’t mind that, which is really good. You want your leader to be fierce and stand up and speak up and Sam, he certainly does that. If something isn’t right, whether it is the offensive line or us at the receiver position, tight ends or backs, he will say what needs to be done.
"That takes a lot of courage as a young player in the league when everybody in the huddle is older than you and has been there longer than you. But because you know what it takes to win, I believe it has a lot to say about the organization from which we came where it was ingrained into us that there was no other option but win.
"If someone is not carrying their load it is just being accountable and letting somebody know that you are better than that, come on step it up, or whatever that is. He does that and that is going to take us a long way this year, actually.”
Whether he would consider the St. Louis trade an opportunity to reestablish his career
“Yeah, no doubt, man. I was excited to come, sad to go because of the relationships that were developed (in Baltimore). … I was so excited to get there, man, and be presented with this opportunity and I was excited about Sam. I actually got to talk to him before he got drafted, went back to school in Oklahoma and didn’t know that we would end up playing together in the same year.
"It has been tremendous just being here and being with this team and growing and building with what we came from, there is no better feeling.”
GETTING YOUR KICKS: There's a bit of poetic justice in Jerome Boger refereeing this week's game. It means the performance of the placekickers could be noteworthy.
The last time Boger worked a regular season game in Baltimore was the day Shayne Graham kicked seven field goals in a 21-7 Cincinnati win.
This Sunday, Denver's Matt Prater will bring to town the second-longest active field-goal streak; he has made his last 16 in a row, second only to Olindo Mare's 25-kick streak.
Prater hasn't missed a three-point try since last December in Indianapolis, converting his last eight kicks of 2009 and his first eight this season. His longest kick was a 54-yarder at EverBank Field in Jacksonville in a Week One, a 24-17 loss to the Jaguars.
The Ravens had gone up against some pretty accurate opposing kickers until Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed missed on two straight in the tricky open end of Heinz Field last week. A total of 15 consecutive regular season field goals had been made against the Ravens until Reed's miscues. However, Reed's misses were from 45 and 49 yards. When it comes to kicks under 40 yards, enemy kickers have made their last 14 against Baltimore, the most recent miss coming from Green Bay's Mason Crosby, a 38-yarder last December.
FOR THE BETTOR: The Bodog.com Super Bowl odds are getting a little crowded at the top, according to this week's list.
The Green Bay Packers are still the 13-2 favorites to take it all when Super Bowl XLV takes place at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas next February. But the co-second-favorites at 9-1 are last year's big-game participants, New Orleans and Indianapolis.
The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't match the Ravens on the field last Sunday, so their odds dropped to 10-1, putting them as co-third-favorites with Baltimore and the New York Jets. As for the AFC North Division, the Ravens are still the 6-5 favorite to finish first, but Pittsburgh is close behind at 3-2. Cincinnati is at 7-2 with the Cleveland Browns a whopping 60-1 despite their obvious improved form.
The real shocker on the list is how short Kansas City's odds have become. The Chiefs began the year as a 90-1 longshot, but they are now down to 35-1.
Here's something to keep in mind with Denver in Baltimore. Quarterback Kyle Orton is on pace to throw for what would be a single-season record 5,676 yards. Yet, the over/under for his season total is currently set at 4,200. The over/under for Broncos rushing yards against the Ravens is 75.5. When the teams met here last year, Denver gained just 66 yards on the ground.
TRIVIA TIME: In Denver's first appearance in Baltimore against the Ravens, the Chris McAlister 107-yard missed field goal return is the most-recalled play from the Ravens' 34-23 Monday night win in 2002. But who was the Raven who ran back five kickoffs for a 28-yard average that night?
ANSWER: Ex-Vikings standout Robert Tate was a sixth-round pick in the 1997 draft out of the University of Cincinnati who averaged just under 23 yards per kick return in the three years he performed those duties with the Vikings.
The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Tate came to Baltimore after the salary-cap purge following the 2001 season and saw his already-mediocre numbers go down even further, averaging 20.9 per runback.
But on the Monday night stage, Tate had perhaps his best return game as a pro, constantly setting up the winless Ravens with good field position as they upended the undefeated Broncos rather easily in front of a national television audience.
Tate did not return to the Ravens in 2003 and spent the season out of football. He went on to play three years in Arizona before retiring.
Posted Oct. 8, 2010
For more on Fabian Washington and notes on the Ravens upcoming matchup with the Denver Broncos, visit CSNbaltimore.com.