Shaughnessy: Ravens have 'their big-boy pants on'

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Shaughnessy: Ravens have 'their big-boy pants on'

Dan Shaughnessy created quite the stir last week when he (correctly) predicted a Patriots' romp over the Texans in the AFC semifinals.

This week? No bulletin-board material for the Ravens from Shaughnessy. None at all.

"The Ravens, they got their big-boy pants on," the Boston Globe columnist told Lou Merloni on Monday's 'Uno's Sports Tonight. "They're not afraid of the Patriots, they don't turn into a puddle, Ravens coach John Harbaugh knows what's going on, he can go face-to-face with Patriots coach Bill Belichick . . .

"They've got history of beating the Patriots. I mean, the Ray Rice game three years ago (159 yards rushing, two touchdowns in Baltimore's 33-14 win on Wild Card Weekend), the one-point victory in Baltimore this year, and last year they should have won the AFC Championship Game over the Pats in Foxboro. Lee Evans drops a touchdown pass (in the final minute that would have won the game), Billy Cundiff misses a chip shot (field-goal attempt) at the end that would have tied it . . .

"They're cocky. We know they lost four out of five near the end of this year's regular season, we know they're old, there's a lot of reasons they're in trouble . . . But they're serious, serious contenders."

He later concluded: "This is a formidable challenge."

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.