Owings Mills-Saturday marked the first full-padded, contact practice for the Baltimore Ravens in training camp for 2014, but even before the hitting occurred, the team is already missing several veterans from their secondary and could be an early concern for the team in the first few weeks of training camp.
After having already lost CB Aaron Ross on the first day of camp to an Achilles injury suffered in his conditioning test, the Ravens were still down two defensive backs Saturday as CB Lardarius Webb (back) and CB Dominique Franks (PUP; conditioning test) were not present on the field.
DT Terrence Cody (hip surgery; PUP) and T Parker Graham also did not practice.
Webb, who suffered the back injury Friday but walked off the field, is not believed to be serious, but with the injuries to Webb, Ross, and Franks’ absence, it has pushed Chykie Brown into action with the starters on defense.
Brown, who was expected to compete for the 3rd CB in camp, had a rough outing on Saturday. Early in practice, WR Jacoby Jones burned Brown for a TD on a double-move, while WR Steve Smith also beat Brown on a fade-route down the field.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees reiterated the fact that Brown-and the rest of the defense-can’t allow that to happen if they are going to return to the playoffs.
“We can’t give up big plays,” Pees said. “We’ve even given up too many here in the early days of camp.”
OG Kelechi Osemele, whose 2013 season ended with a herniated disk, showed no signs of the injury that plagued him a year ago. He dominated DT Haloti Ngata in several drills, and was impressive blocking down the field with the team’s screen game, including putting a devastating block on FS Darian Stewart down the field on one Ray Rice swing pass.
Training camp is also the first opportunity for the fans to see offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s new offense, and so far, we’ve seen a physical nature from the offensive line, backs and receivers, which Kubiak says he wants the Ravens to return to in 2014.
Kubiak, who was hired by John Harbaugh back on January 27th during Super Bowl Week, has been a constant presence chattin with his skill players in camp, most notably the Super Bowl MVP QB, Joe Flacco.
It looks like we are going to see that continue to occur during the season, as Kubiak said after practice today that unlike last year’s offensive coordinator in Jim Caldwell, he would be calling plays from the sideline as he did when he was the head coach of the Houston Texans while QBs coach Rick Dennison will be his eyes in the booth.
Kubiak said that Flacco has been great to work with, and he’s been really impressed with the way he’s handled the learning aspect of a new offense.
“I’ve worked with some good ones,” Kubiak said, “Joe’s been great in getting down the footwork. There isn’t a throw he can’t make.”
But at the same time, Kubiak re-iterated that once the 11 guys take the field, teaching can only go so far and Flacco needs to take more of a leadership role in the huddle.
“Joe has to lead the pack,” the Ravens OC said. “He has full control…that’s the way it should be.”
Kubiak spoke highly of his veteran players being leaders on the field, including Marshal Yanda on the offensive line, Steve Smith in the receiving corps, and Ray Rice in the backfield as the decision-makers in each skill group.
He also mentioned that it’s been great to have players that he’s familiar with from his days in Houston being teachers on the field in Jacoby Jones, Owen Daniels, and Justin Forsett.
“It’s been great having [them] here…being coaches.”
The Ravens return to practice Sunday at 1pm.