In my opinion - lateral passes and other ramblings

According to relative motion, Ed Reed threw a lateral pitch to Chris McAlister on Saturday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. After Zach Norton blocked a field goal attempt at the end of the first-half, Ed Reed caught the ball with one hand, glided up the field past all of the Eagles' defenders before tossing the ball backward to Chris McAlister in order to clear the way for McAlister to run into the end zone.

According to NFL rule book, the pitch was an illegal forward pass. Reed pitched the ball when he was at the 39 yard line; McAlister caught at the 40 yard line. Obviously, since the two players were moving at full speed, McAlister caught the ball ahead of where Reed originally released it. Reed was still in front of McAlister when McAlister caught the toss.

The key issue though is that the NFL frame of reference is the yard mark, which makes sense because some objective point of reference has to be used in order to justify the legality of a lateral. A player must receive the football either behind or on the same yard line as where the player who tossed the ball is positioned. Throw out the yard mark as a frame of reference for the officials to use to determine if a ball is thrown on the same line or backward and there would be a lot of questions raised as to whether a pass is thrown laterally based simply on what the referee saw. And there are just too many variables involved with what occurs after a player releases the ball to determine whether a pass is a legal lateral or not based on what a referee sees.

The other issue with the play in question is that both Reed and McAlister advanced past the starting yard line where Reed threw the ball. As such, according to physics and the NFL rule book, the play moved forward.

What is so interesting about the play is that it occurred while two players were moving forward. Normally a lateral occurs when the pitcher is either at rest (another physics term) or slowing down before he releases the ball to someone else. When a play occurs in this fashion, the lateral is legal because more times than not, the receiver will catch the ball either behind or on the same line as the player who pitched at, as the pitcher has a head start before lobbing the ball over his shoulder.

A lateral is designed to allow a player who is in danger of being stopped to keep the play alive.

At no point in time was Reed ever in danger of being tackled by someone in front of or behind him. The only players who were in pouncing position to bring down Reed from behind were the Eagles' kicker and holder. Most of the other Eagle defenders were still muddled near the area where the ball was blocked. Unless either player had more speed than Reed, who is perhaps the most athletically gifted defensive back in the game, neither was going to catch him. Reed should have kept the football and waltzed into the end zone untouched, instead of pitching the ball illegally to a streaking McAlister. On the plus side, while the play did not work, Reed inadvertently opened up a fascinating discussion of physics role in relation to the game of football…

One player who has stood out during two preseason games is Dwan Edwards, albeit against second-string competition. Never the less, Edwards has played hard on every snap. The Ravens' scouts raved about the second-year player's high motor, and that motor has been on clear display against the Falcons and the Eagles. On one play against the Eagles in the third-quarter, Edwards attempted to deflect a pass and after the pass sailed over his outstretched arm, Edwards hustled 20 yards up the field to chase down the ball-carrier.

Edwards has also done a nice job of fighting through blocks, especially in pass-rushing situations. He does not stop moving his feet when driving through a block at the line of scrimmage. If Edwards can keep playing with the type of intensity and passion that a number of other Raven players have not displayed through the preseason, he could ascent up the depth chart…

Mark Clayton's juke-and-slide move against two Eagle defenders was a preview of how dangerous the rookie wideout can be in open space. Like Derrick Mason, Clayton has the quickness and instincts to make the right move to get defenders out of position when they attempt to tackle him. Clayton also seems to have the innate ability to locate the football, no matter where it is placed. If a ball is anywhere within his catching space, he will either make the catch or get his hands on the football to fight for its possession.

Clayton is still a better fit to work out of the slot position, but if he proves that he can defeat press coverage at the line of scrimmage, he should snatch the starting job away from Clarence Moore before the preseason ends…

When the Ravens play the New Orleans Saints on Friday night, keep an eye on Jammal Brown, the Saints' starting right tackle. New Orleans selected Brown with the 13th pick of the 2005 draft.

There were rumblings that the Ravens were so enamored of the offensive tackle that the front office was willing to trade up to acquire him. However, Brown did not fall farther than the team anticipated he might, so the Ravens stayed at their position and drafted Mark Clayton instead.

Last week against the New England Patriots, Brown displayed some of the talent he displayed throughout his career at Oklahoma. Brown moved smoothly out of his back-pedal in pass protecting situations. He had the quickness to stay with linebackers or ends when locked into one-on-one blocking situations. When he had to get into the open field to block for Deuce McAlister on perimeter runs, Brown showed great athleticism and coordination.

It is still early, but Brown looks every bit as good as he looked in college, and he should become one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL.

Dev Panchwagh is a long-time member of the Ravens Insider staff.  Talk to him about this article on the RavensInsider message boards where he posts under the super-secret ID 'dev21'.

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