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Getting down to 53: The final days of training camp

Posted on 18 August 2009 by Luke Jones

We’re in the final week of training camp in Westminster, but the Ravens do not need to make any cuts until Sept. 1, when they must trim the roster to 75 players.  The team must then narrow down to the regular season number of 53 by Sept. 5.

For those begging for help at the wide receiver position, the late cut dates mean any veteran receiver that could possibly shake free and help the cause in Baltimore probably won’t be available until right before the regular season.

I’ve listed the number of players I predict the Ravens to keep at each position in parentheses. This list does not include the practice squad of eight players the Ravens will keep in addition to the 53-man roster.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Troy Smith, John Beck
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Cleo Lemon, Drew Willy
Skinny: It’s been an interesting week regarding quarterbacks, but Cam Cameron made it clear the Ravens are still committed to Beck as the No. 3 guy.  Smith’s play in the preseason has further cemented his status as the backup to Flacco.

RUNNING BACKS (5)
LOCK: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain
BUBBLE: Jalen Parmele, Matt Lawrence, Cedric Peerman
LONGSHOT: Jason Cook
Skinny: Parmele is a favorite of Cameron, and Lawrence impressed during the preseason opener last week.  Peerman appears to currently trail these two on the depth chart.  Despite being the only other fullback behind McClain on the roster, Cook appears to be a candidate for the practice squad at this point.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
LOCK: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Kelley Washington
BUBBLE: Justin Harper, Yamon Figurs, Jayson Foster
LONG SHOT: Biren Ealy, Bradon Godfrey, Eron Riley, Ernie Wheelwright
Skinny: Losing Marcus Smith for the season is a major blow to the special teams units, an area in which the second-year receiver thrived.  Williams’ inability to remain healthy continues to frustrate the staff.  Harper has a ton of potential but is very inconsistent.  Foster has put his name into consideration with a good performance against the Redskins and an ability to make plays during practice.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
LOCK: Todd Heap, L.J. Smith
BUBBLE: Edgar Jones, Davon Drew
LONG SHOT: Isaac Smolko
Skinny: Drew continues to be very quiet on the practice field.  Jones is a good special teams player and has played some H-back during camp.  His ability to play linebacker if needed makes him a valuable commodity on the 53-man roster.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, Michael Oher, Marshal Yanda, Oniel Cousins
BUBBLE: David Hale, Tre Stallings, Joe Reitz
LONG SHOT: Robby Felix, Stefan Rodgers, Bryan Mattison
Skinny: The team should definitely look to add a veteran tackle, because Cousins is too inconsistent as the third tackle, but he’s improved from last season. Hale’s ability to play both guard and center will likely land him on the roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)
LOCK: Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, Justin Bannan
BUBBLE: Dwan Edwards, Brandon McKinney, Kelly Talavou
LONG SHOT: Will Johnson, Nader Abdallah
Skinny: Edwards and McKinney are the favorites to land the final two defensive line spots on the roster.

LINEBACKERS (10)
LOCK: Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Tavares Gooden, Antwan Barnes, Jameel McClain, Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbadejo
BUBBLE: Jason Phillips, Dannell Ellerbe, Prescott Burgess
LONG SHOT: Tony Fein, Will VanDeSteeg
Skinny: Ellerbe’s knee sprain was a disappointment considering how much he’s impressed over the last two weeks.  Burgess has been around for a couple years, but will it be enough?

CORNERBACKS (6)
LOCK: Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Samari Rolle, Frank Walker
BUBBLE: K.J. Gerard, Evan Oglesby, Derrick Martin
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Rolle’s health continues to be a concern.  Walker is probably safe because his physical style is much different than the other pure cover guys in the secondary.  Considering how many talented, young linebackers are currently on the roster, I predict the Ravens will go with 10 backers and only six corners.  If they go with seven corners, Gerard, Oglesby, and Martin are all in the mix.  Martin has seen reps at both safety and corner this summer.

SAFETIES (4)
LOCK: Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura, Tom Zbikowski
BUBBLE:
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: No drama at this position.  These four are locks.

KICKER (1)
LOCK: None
BUBBLE: Graham Gano, Steve Hauschka
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: It’s been a very close race so far, with Hauschka possibly holding the slightest of edges.  There are still three preseason games to clarify the picture.

PUNTER (1)
LOCK: Sam Koch
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Koch practiced some field goals this week to be prepared in an emergency situation.

LONG SNAPPER (1)
LOCK: Matt Katula
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Ngata is the backup field goal snapper, and McGahee is the No. 2 long snapper for punts.  Let’s hope neither has to be called into action.

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Live from Westminster: Rolle to see another specialist for neck, still on PUP list

Posted on 16 August 2009 by Luke Jones

6:57 p.m. — The Ravens will hold two practices on Monday, a morning session at 8:45 a.m. and an afternoon workout at 2:45 p.m.  Both practices are full-squad sessions and are open to the public.

WNST’s Glenn Clark will be providing all of the coverage including hourly reports, blogging, and Twitter updates, so be sure to follow WNST.net for all of your Ravens training camp coverage!

6:50 p.m. — One of the last drills of practice involved some pressure situations late in the half.  The first and second offenses were presented with different scenarios in which they would have to run a play, kill the clock (if necessary), and line up for a field goal.

The starting offense struggled mightily in this drill with a few dropped passes, batted passes (courtesy of Antwan Barnes), and even a Flacco stumble and fumble while trying to escape pressure.

It was clear that Harbaugh was not thrilled with the way his offense played during this portion of practice.  Ed Reed was talking trash and reminding the offense they were still out there.

6:46 p.m. — I’m really starting to think Ed Reed is just trying to mess with people—including the media.  After playing in Thursday’s game and not wearing the red jersey during Saturday morning’s practice, the All-Pro was back in the red jersey this afternoon even though the players practiced in shorts and shells.

It’s clear the coaching staff is giving Reed the freedom and input to decide when he wants to engage in contact, but it’s impossible to really gauge his health with the constant change in jersey color.

6:43 p.m. — Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Mark Clayton (hamstring) did not practice, but both players were out on the field, wearing spikes, and working on conditioning individually.

I watched Suggs run up the steps to the McDaniel College gymnasium, and he looked very mobile and had little trouble doing it.  I think he’s pretty close to getting back on the practice field, but that’s just my opinion.

I still haven’t received any signals of concern from the organization regarding the Pro Bowl linebacker.

6:40 p.m. — Landry continues to have an excellent camp, as he nearly picked off Flacco during 7-on-7 drills this afternoon, deflecting away the attempt.

With the emergence of Jim Leonhard in Landry’s absence last season, the strong safety is out to prove he’s a strong force in the secondary, and if his play during camp is any indication, I like his chances.

6:37 p.m. — Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka once again faced off in a series of field goal attempts this afternoon, with the latter appearing to have a slight edge in the early kicking portion of practice.

Hauschka made field goals from 31, 39, 41, and 48 yards.  On the 31-yard attempt, Harbaugh even tried to rattle him by signaling a time out much like an opposing coach would do in a pressure situation.  Hauschka made the attempt after the “timeout.”  Hauschka missed an attempt from 53 yards away.

Gano made kicks from 39, 48, and 53 yards but missed tries from 38 and 51 yards.

6:32 p.m. — Cameron pulled out a couple of gadget plays this afternoon to keep practice fresh.

On one play, Flacco hit Kelley Washington on a 10-yard curl with the receiver immediately lateraling to Ray Rice who was trailing on the play.  The ol’ hook and lateral was executed to perfection.

The offense also worked on a play with a series of laterals, mostly between the skill position players, but left tackle Jared Gaither even took one and quickly got rid of the ball.

6:29 p.m. — It was an inconsistent practice for Justin Harper.  The gifted receiver made an amazing one-handed catch on a pass thrown by Joe Flacco but was then chastised by Harbaugh later in practice for not using two hands to make catches.

The coaching staff wants to see more consistency with the 6-3 receiver, as the speed and size are certainly there.  It’s not a lack of effort with Harper, but it’s more about paying attention to detail and using good technique to catch the football.

6:28 p.m. — Jayson Foster appears to have worked his way up the depth chart after his impressive performance against Washington, lining up as a second-team receiver and catching several long passes during practice today.

At 5-7, Foster is undersized, but he’s fun to root for and shows ability in the return game.  I’d still say he’s a long-shot for the 53-man roster, but we’ll see if he can continue to demand notice from the coaching staff.

6:24 p.m. — ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was in Westminster today, and the Ravens’ PR staff presented the NFL reporter a key to training camp.  The fans loved the gesture, and it was a fun moment.

6:20 p.m. — The Ravens have signed veteran quarterback Cleo Lemon, giving them five quarterbacks on the current roster.  The team brought back rookie Drew Willy yesterday, but it appears he won’t be in Westminster for long after the Lemon signing.

Lemon has worked with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in San Diego and Miami.  The veteran quarterback—who was originally signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2002—was the starting quarterback that led the then-winless Dolphins to a victory over the Ravens in the 2007 season, hitting Greg Camarillo for a 64-yard touchdown pass in overtime.

Today was also Lemon’s 30th birthday, so it was clearly a nice present for the veteran quarterback to find his way on an NFL roster.

6:17 p.m. — John Beck was dressed to practice and took part in the walk-through portion of practice but did not throw any passes of real substance during the session.

I spoke to him after practice, but he deferred to the coaching and training staff regarding his injured shoulder.  He did confirm there was nothing broken or torn.

Beck expressed hope to throw later this week, but he said it isn’t up to him.  Harbaugh also implied that Beck’s injury was not as serious as speculated and his recovery wouldn’t be too long.

6:11 p.m. — Today’s practice was the longest of the summer, lasting over two and a half hours, and it also came on one of the hottest days of the summer here in Westminster.

Despite the heat, it is no excuse for media members to sit or lay down on the sideline, a violation of team rules and a policy held by most teams in the NFL.  A couple national media members learned this rule the hard way today.  After noticing the media members—no, they weren’t “big” names—laying on the ground, Harbaugh threw them out of practice.

All I can say is I’m glad it wasn’t me!

6:08 p.m. — Yamon Figurs limped off the field toward the end of practice, as he continues to recover from foot surgery earlier this year.  Figurs has stepped up his play recently at the receiver position, so hopefully this minor setback with the foot will not keep him out of practice.

Wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright left the field after banging knees with Dawan Landry during passing drills.  He did not return to practice.

6:05 p.m. — Jarret Johnson (back spams), Chris Carr (back spasms), Demetrius Williams (hamstring), and Dannell Ellerbe (knee sprain) all missed practice this afternoon.

Harbaugh said Ellerbe’s knee sprain could keep him sidelined for a week, and he may miss next Monday’s preseason game against the New York Jets.

5:56 p.m. — Perhaps the biggest news from today’s training camp was John Harbaugh revealing that Samari Rolle will see another specialist regarding his injured neck that has had him on the PUP list since the start of training camp.

Harbaugh said they simply want to be sure about the cornerback’s health, but the head coach had expressed optimism two weeks ago that Rolle would be returning within a couple of days.  Clearly that hasn’t happened, and the injury is still a concern.

Rolle has been seen on the field receiving electronic stimulation and has worked on conditioning on the field on several occasions.

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Jonathan Ogden chats with Kelly Gregg

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Live From Westminster: Mason dislocates finger, causes a scare

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:06 p.m. — With Harbaugh not revealing any plans on which injured players will suit up and play on Thursday, here are some thoughts on the players in question.

Demetrius Williams will play if he feels good during the team walk-through tomorrow.  He’s pushed through a hamstring issue for most of camp.

Todd Heap’s lower back has tightened up over the last couple days, but there’s still a chance he’ll play.  Heap had not missed a practice before sitting out yesterday.

Jared Gaither is still bothered by the shoulder/neck issue, but he took part in plenty of live reps yesterday morning.  He wants to play on Thursday, but it’ll depend how he feels during the walk-through.

Derrick Mason suffered a dislocated finger this morning during practice.  I’d be surprised if he plays, and if he does, I’ll predict he’s nothing more than a decoy.

Ben Grubbs continues to battle an ankle issue dating back to the offseason.  He participated in the early portion of practice today, but David Hale took his place at left guard.  He’s questionable.

Marshal Yanda was given the day off today and is far ahead of schedule compared to where most people predicted he’d be at this point.  However, the team has emphasized they want to take it slow with Yanda.  He’s questionable.

Trevor Pryce has a foot issue, and his status is unknown.  It did not appear serious, so we’ll see how the veteran defensive end is feeling by Thursday.

Terrell Suggs (heel) and Mark Clayton (hamstring) will not play and have not practiced since Aug. 2.  Clayton has been on the field the past two days doing some light conditioning work.

Honestly, the only injury to really be concerned with at this point is Clayton’s.  As much as Ravens fans want to beat Washington, a preseason game on Aug. 13—even against the hated Redskins—is meaningless in terms of wins and losses.  The goal is to get these players ready for Sept. 13.

I suspect that most of these players would be playing if it were the regular season.

4:00 p.m. — In preparation for their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, the Ravens will hold their walk-through on Wednesday.  The walk-through is closed to both the media and general public.

3:30 p.m. — Chris Carr is still listed as the No. 1 punt and kick returner and looks very fluid while returning kicks.  After watching him work in Westminster, it’s easy to see how he became the Oakland Raiders’ all-time leader in kickoff returns.

3:27 p.m. — The special teams practice lasted an hour and 15 minutes, and the focus of the afternoon was the punt and kick return teams.

Sam Koch was booming his punts and looks to be in mid-season form.  He continues to use the rugby-style kick for placing punts inside the 20-yard line.

Steve Hauschka did an outstanding job kicking off, consistently kicking the ball inside the 5 with great hang time.

Rookie Paul Kruger received praise from John Harbaugh on several occasions.  It looks like the second-round pick will be a major part of the special teams units this season.

1:56 p.m. — As expected, Derrick Mason’s injury appears to be a dislocation and not a broken finger. He’s probably doubtful for Thursday night at this point and it looked painful when it happened.

1:46 p.m. — Today was Baltimore football alumni day at training camp, and we saw a number of Baltimore Colts including Art Donovan, Lenny Moore, Jim Mutscheller, and John Mackey.

Among the former Ravens was wide receiver Michael Jackson (taking us back to the early days of the purple!) and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.  We had a chance to chat with J.O. for a short time, and you can check that out in the WNST.net audio vault.

Ogden spent some time catching up with his former teammates on the sideline during practice.
Jonathan Ogden chats with Kelly Gregg

1:38 p.m. — It’s been a very quiet camp for Ray Lewis, but the 34-year-old linebacker has been very active on the field, talking to the offense and competing as he always does.  Lewis came into camp trimmer this season, wanting to maintain his speed as he begins his 14th season with the Ravens (hard to believe, isn’t it?).

Here’s a shot of No. 52 working on his hands at the jugs machine.
Ray Lewis

12:51 p.m. — Graham Gano appeared to have a much stronger leg this morning and kicked with much more confidence.  Unofficially (there were no officials underneath the goalpost, so it was difficult to confirm a few), Gano hit field goals from 35, 43, 47, and 51 yards.  He did appear to miss one from 38 yards, but it was very close—again, no official underneath the goalpost.

Steve Hauschka appeared to have the morning off after taking most of the reps yesterday.

12:48 p.m. — With the finger injury to Derrick Mason, there’s a good chance Harper will be starting on Thursday night, and the young receiver made another long catch this morning.  Troy Smith lofted a 30-yard pass to Harper who beat Walker on the play.

12:31 p.m. — Despite all of the injury updates, there were some highlights this morning I wanted to share.  Domonique Foxworth had an impressive pass breakup in the end zone as Mason tried to make the catch.  Foxworth has been very steady in the secondary, and I am eager to see him play on Thursday night.

Chris Carr picked off Troy Smith this morning during passing drills.  Carr continues to work as the Ravens’ nickleback in passing situations.  He’s only 5-10, but he tends to play with a pretty physical style—a good thing as long as it’s within the rules of the game.

Yamon Figurs beat Evan Oglesby for a long completion from John Beck.  In order for Figurs to make the 53-man roster, he will need to show the same playmaking ability in the four preseason games.

Figurs also got into an altercation with Frank Walker on the sideline during 11-on-11 drills.  Figurs hauled in the pass and was then thrown to the ground by Walker.  The two players took swings at one another, but the fight was quickly separated and cooler heads prevailed.

12:29 p.m. — Ed Reed once again tossed away the red jersey this morning and was sporting the white one like his fellow defensive mates, but don’t read too much into it.  When asked about it, Harbaugh said Reed wears the white during non-contact days, so quarterback Joe Flacco cannot pick him out in the secondary as easily as he does in the red shirt.

Harbaugh would not reveal any new information on Reed’s status, so it’s a mystery whether he’ll play against Washington on Thursday night.

12:24 p.m. — The Ravens continue to run single-back sets with Le’Ron McClain lined up on the wing as a tight end and often going in motion.  I imagine we’ll see this look on Thursday night, especially with Heap’s uncertain status.  McClain has also shown an improved ability to catch passes coming out of the backfield so far this summer.

12:17 p.m. — Harbaugh was very tight-lipped when asked which injured players would play on Thursday night, saying the media could probably figure it out.  With that being said, I would predict we’ll see an offensive line (going left to right) of Oniel Cousins, David Hale, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, and Michael Oher.  Gaither had returned to practice yesterday, but it appears the shoulder/neck is still bothering him, and the team will also bring Yanda along very slowly.  Grubbs may see some reps, but I would think Hale gets most of the time with the starting unit at left guard.

Defensively, we’ll have to wait and see on Pryce’s status, but Dwan Edwards took his place on the defensive line today.  Rookie Paul Kruger will take Terrell Suggs’ spot in the starting lineup, but we’ll see Antwan Barnes get some time at the position.

12:15 p.m. — Despite several players missing practice this morning, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo once again practiced and took reps with the second-team defense.  He has been slowed by a toe injury since the beginning of camp and just recently began working out with the team.  While he’s still not 100 percent, he looks much better moving around on the field than he did last week.

12:11 p.m. — Ravens fans will continue to hold their collective breaths as we wait for further news on Derrick Mason.  Harbaugh did not sound too concerned, but Mason will have an x-ray taken on the finger, and I’ve heard some rumblings about it possibly being dislocated.

If Mason and Williams cannot play on Thursday, the Ravens would likely start Kelley Washington and Justin Harper at wide receiver—a scary proposition if it were the regular season.

12:00 p.m. — If Tuesday’s practice is any indication of who will be suiting up for the Ravens on Thursday night, quite a few players will be missing from the starting lineup.  Jared Gaither, Marshal Yanda, Trevor Pryce, Todd Heap, and Demetrius Williams did not practice this morning.  Heap and Williams were dressed to practice, but they did not participate in any team drills and observed most of the practice from the sidelines.

Cornerback Fabian Washington sat out the latter portion of practice with Frank Walker taking his place in the lineup.  Washington has battled tendinitis in his knee for the last week.

Left guard Ben Grubbs practice and took reps in the early portion of practice, but David Hale took his place on the line, and Grubbs was not present at the end of practice.  It will be interesting to see if Grubbs plays on Thursday night, as he continues to deal with the same ankle issue that landed him on the PUP list at the start of training camp.

11:04 a.m. — John Harbaugh just met with the media and said that Derrick Mason will get his hand X-rayed but he didn’t seem too concerned. More to come…

10:15 a.m. — Derrick Mason just left the field with trainer Bill Tessendorf. He appears to have jammed some fingers on his right hand. More to come…

10:01 a.m. — David Hale also getting reps at left guard. Ravens are going to be careful with Ben Grubbs’ ankle.

9:53 a.m. — Yamon Figurs and Frank Walker get into a little altercation on the sideline after the catch.

9:31 a.m. — Art Donovan, Lenny Moore and some other Baltimore Colts are at camp today. Jonathan Ogden also!

9:18 a.m. — L.J. Smith is taking the first team reps. Todd Heap is dressed to practice but not doing much.

9:10 a.m. — Demetrius Williams is not doing much so far.



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Getting down to 53: An early projection

Posted on 05 August 2009 by Luke Jones

We’re a week and a half into training camp, so I thought I would give my VERY early look at the 53-man roster.  Keep in mind, injuries are bound to occur and will change the makeup of the roster considerably.

The first preseason game will take place against the Washington Redskins next Thursday night, but here’s my roster projections based on my early observations in Westminster.

I’ve listed the number of players I predict the Ravens to keep at each position in parentheses. This list does not include the practice squad of eight players the Ravens could keep in addition to the 53-man roster.

And, remember, I’m not John Harbaugh, nor will I ever claim to be.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Troy Smith, John Beck
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Though Smith and Beck will continue to battle for the No. 2 job, there are no other quarterbacks currently in camp to even compete.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
LOCK: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain
BUBBLE: Cedric Peerman, Jason Cook
LONGSHOT: Jalen Parmele, Matt Lawrence
Skinny: It will most likely come down to special teams in determining whether Peerman and Cook find their way on the roster. Cook would give the Ravens a backup fullback, but Cam Cameron could elect to use the tight end as a fullback in certain packages. The team could obviously choose to keep both, but we’ll see how it plays out in the preseason.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
LOCK: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith
BUBBLE: Kelley Washington, Justin Harper, Yamon Figurs
LONG SHOT: Biren Ealy, Thomas White, Eron Riley, Ernie Wheelwright, Jayson Foster
Skinny: The team still could elect to sign another veteran receiver, especially with Mark Clayton out with a hamstring injury. Washington probably makes the team since he’s a strong special teams player, and Harper has been very impressive in the early stages of camp. Considering Figurs is no longer a lock to return kicks, his roster spot is in serious jeopardy. Riley could be a candidate for the practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
LOCK: Todd Heap, L.J. Smith
BUBBLE: Edgar Jones, Davon Drew
LONG SHOT: Isaac Smolko
Skinny: The fifth-round pick Drew has been a disappointment so far after failing the initial running test at the beginning of camp and then injuring his ankle. Drew has returned to practice, but he’s currently behind Jones on the depth chart.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, Michael Oher, Marshal Yanda, Oniel Cousins
BUBBLE: David Hale, Tre Stallings
LONG SHOT: Robby Felix, Stefan Rodgers, Bryan Mattison, Joe Reitz
Skinny: The Ravens will likely bring in a veteran tackle to replace Adam Terry who will miss the season with a knee injury. Hale has backed up Birk at center during camp, but Chester has the ability to play center in the event of an injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)
LOCK: Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, Justin Bannan
BUBBLE: Dwan Edwards, Brandon McKinney, Kelly Talavou, Lamar Divens
LONG SHOT: Will Johnson
Skinny: This unit is very deep, and the Ravens will inevitably have to part ways with a very talented player.

LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Tavares Gooden, Antwan Barnes, Jameel McClain, Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbadejo
BUBBLE: Jason Phillips, Dannell Ellerbe, Will VanDeSteeg, Prescott Burgess
LONG SHOT: Tony Fein
Skinny: This is another deep unit. I could envision the Ravens finding a mysterious “injury” with one or two of these young guys and stashing them on injured reserve.

CORNERBACKS (7)
LOCK: Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Samari Rolle
BUBBLE: Frank Walker, K.J. Gerard, Evan Oglesby
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Are you noticing a theme here at the defensive positions? Once again, the Ravens will have to part ways with some talented corners, but the numbers won’t allow them to keep everyone.

SAFETIES (4)
LOCK: Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura, Tom Zbikowski
BUBBLE: Derrick Martin
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Martin is giving himself a chance to make the roster by shifting over to work at safety, so the team could conceivably carry him on the roster if he proves effective at his new position. Otherwise, he’s squarely on the bubble at the cornerback position, too.

KICKER (1)
LOCK: None
BUBBLE: Graham Gano, Steve Hauschka
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: This battle will last through the entire preseason. Numerous Ravens officials have told me the four preseason games will carry the most weight. Both kickers have hit 50+ yard field goals during camp, but Westminster is a far cry from a Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium or Heinz Field.

PUNTER (1)
LOCK: Sam Koch
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Koch is one of the better punters in the league, and his ability to place the ball inside the 20-yard line is a major asset. He also runs a mean fake punt play. Just ask the Cowboys.

LONG SNAPPER (1)
LOCK: Matt Katula
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Katula is one of the most anonymous players on the team, because he does a great job. The Ravens hope it stays that way.

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Live from Westminster: Suggs, Clayton do not practice

Posted on 03 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:51 p.m. — One player I haven’t discussed too much is tight end Todd Heap.  The veteran has looked good out there with no lingering effects from the back injury apparent.  He looks quick getting in and out of his cuts and is hoping to once again become a major factor in the passing game.

“Todd has done a really good job in the offseason getting himself ready,” coach John Harbaugh said.  “He looks like he’s getting himself ready to have a really good season.  He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s got a lot of work to do betwen now and then, but he’s done well.”

4:45 p.m. — Dannell Ellerbe is a player to keep an eye on if you’re going to make your way out to Westminster.  An undrafted rookie inside linebacker out of Georgia, Ellerbe was considered a mid-round draft prospect before battling knee issues in 2008.  Ellerbe was 2nd team All-SEC in 2007.

He has been so impressive that he received a few reps with some of the defensive starters at the end of practice this morning.  While he clearly won’t challenge Ray Lewis or Tavares Gooden for a starting spot, he could be making a strong case for the 53-man roster, especially if he can perform well on special teams.

4:02 p.m. — One offensive lineman looking strong during camp is Oniel Cousins.  After largely being considered a disappointment last year, the 2008 third-round pick has impressed.  However, his kryptonite on the defense is linebacker Antwan Barnes.  Whenever the two face off, whether in individual drills or live 11-on-11 situations, Barnes seemingly gets the best of Cousins every time.

With Terry still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and on the PUP list, Cousins is making a charge for that third tackle spot behind Michael Oher and Jared Gaither.

3:56 p.m. — Just to recap the Ravens’ injury situations, the big names missing from this morning were Terrell Suggs (left heel) and Mark Clayton (left hamstring), both considered day-to-day.

Lamar Divens, Davon Drew (right ankle), L.J. Smith (hamstring), and Brendon Ayanbadejo (toe) were other significant players not practicing today.

Samari Rolle (groin/shoulder), Adam Terry (knee), and Yamon Figurs (foot) are still listed on the physical unable to perform list.

3:47 p.m. — The kick returner competition will also be another interesting battle to follow.  Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb appear to be the early favorites with Yamon Figurs still on the PUP list with a foot issue.

Carr fits the mold of a Jim Leonhard-like returner.  He won’t be a home run hitter back there, but he’ll field kicks cleanly and gain positive yardage.  Webb shows outstanding speed and returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week.  He has great instincts and will be interesting to watch when the Ravens get into the preseason schedule.

When you consider that both players can contribute to the secondary’s depth and Figurs is rather limited as a wide receiver, I think Figurs may have a difficult time winning this job, even when he finally is healthy.

3:40 p.m. — The afternoon practice is complete, as the Ravens focused on their special teams on the upper fields at McDaniel College.  The team spent a considerable amount of time working on kick return blocking assignments.

While these practices aren’t the most exciting to observe if you’re a fan, this is the area where those fringe players can stake a claim for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Moving to the kicking battle, Graham Gano had the opportunity to get the reps—with Steve Hauschka having the day off—and he did not disappoint.  Gano was perfect on five attempts, hitting from 33, 36, 45, 47, and 53 yards.  I spoke to him after the afternoon session, and he was really please with how he was hitting the ball.

12:48 p.m. — The highlight of the morning was a long completion to Demetrius Williams from Joe Flacco the sideline, drawing the loud cheers of the Westminster fans.  Defensive back Chris Carr was guarding closely, but Flacco dropped the ball right into Williams’ hands as he reached over the defender.

Another highlight came when the offense was practicing its goal line sets.  Willis McGahee took the hand-off to the right side and was met by Ray Lewis who wrapped him up and appeared to have the running back stopped.  McGahee kept fighting and crossed the goal line, giving the offense a touchdown on the final play of the drill.

Both Ray Rice and McGahee continue to impresse onlookers, as both men have run with strength in the early stages of training camp.

12:20 p.m. — Ben Grubbs was hobbling around toward the end of practice and was not participating in team drills.  He had previously been on the PUP list with an ankle injury.  Justin Bannan did not practice this morning, but the reason was not disclosed.  Brendon Ayanbadejo continues to recover from a toe injury but was not wearing a walking boot as he walked out to the field at the end of practice.

12:07 p.m. — I have some other injury notes to pass along.  Tight ends L.J. Smith and Davon Drew did not practice, as Smith continues to recover from a hamstring strain and Drew has a right ankle injury.  The rookie tight end Drew was walking with a significant limp today, so it may take some time for him to get back on the field.

Antwan Barnes suffered a mild concussion on Sunday morning, but he was back on the field practicing today.

Samari Rolle, Adam Terry, and Yamon Figurs are still on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Jason Phillips was cleared to practice yesterday and is off the list.

11:52 a.m. — The morning practice has come to an end, and there were two notable absences from the field.

Terrell Suggs has a sore left heel and will be out for a short period of time.  Both Suggs and coach John Harbaugh told reporters after practice that the injury was not serious.  Harbaugh expressed little concern with Suggs missing some time, pointing out that he had three solid days of reps in a row before the heel flared up on Sunday.

Suggs had been seen walking through the hotel Sunday afternoon with a walking boot.

Mark Clayton also did not practice, still recovering from a hamstring tweak.  Harbaugh said the team will be extra cautious with it, citing Clayton’s history of hamstring issues.  It is not believed to be a major strain, but the training staff wants to play it safe for at least a couple days.

Rookie Paul Kruger took Suggs’ place on the starting defense while Demetrius Williams, who had his own hamstring issue yesterday, took Clayton’s place with the starting unit.

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Live from Westminster: Derrick Mason ends retirement, returns to Ravens

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Luke Jones

8:39 p.m. — I had to chuckle when I came across this on JOCKlife, the site that broke the news about Mason retiring on July 13.

While Baltimore will undoubtedly welcome back Mason with open arms, the way this “retirement” was initiated will leave a black mark on Mason’s great career.

8:00 p.m. — Earlier I had said the Ravens would need to make a roster move in order to place Mason back on the active 80-man roster, but they will not have to do this since they were at 79 players on the roster.

Sunday’s practices will take place at 8:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.  Derrick Mason is expected to be on the field and practicing Sunday morning.  He will talk to the media after the morning session.

2:29 p.m. — The Ravens will take Mason off the reserve-did not report list and place him back on the active roster.  The Ravens placed Mason on the list in order to gain the roster spot on the 80-man limit.

We’ll let you know what that move is as soon as we find out.

2:16 p.m. — There will be no press conference today, but Mason will speak to the media after the morning practice tomorrow, according to Kevin Byrne.

2:03 p.m. — Mason will play under his existing contract, a significant note considering he was clamoring for a new contract earlier in the offseason.  The 35-year-old has one year remaining on the original five-year deal he signed with the Ravens in 2005.

1:56 p.m. — Mason made a statement to the Ravens’ official site saying this:

“It was a tough decision, but I think it was a good decision for me to come back,” Mason said. “I needed to evaluate my life, football and my career. The last several weeks thinking about it and talking with my family was an important time for me and them.

“I still have an intense fire inside me, and I want to play. My family and I wanted to finish it out the right way. I felt like I had left something undone, and I wanted to finish it. I believe this is a good example for my son and my daughter on how to be thoughtful and also follow through.

Mason’s return was anticipated by many, but it solidifies the Ravens’ concerns at the wide receiver position.  He will undoubtedly reclaim his spot as the No. 1 receiver with everyone else sliding down a spot on the depth chart.

1:47 p.m. — Derrick Mason will send a letter to the NFL today stating his intentions to return to the Baltimore Ravens.  According to the Ravens, Mason is very enthused to rejoin his teammates and play football.  He has been working out and will take the physical and conditioning test today, because he wants to practice tomorrow morning.

Mason called Steve Bisciotti this morning to tell the owner that he wants to return to the Ravens.

1:44 p.m. — It’s official.  Derrick Mason is back.

1:34 p.m. — Jamison Hensley is reporting Mason will end his retirement, according to a league source.

Mason is in Westminster and met with Newsome earlier.

1:25 p.m. — According to Mike Duffy’s Twitter account, Mason will give Ozzie Newsome an answer by the end of the day.

1:20 p.m. — Interesting Tweet from Jared Gaither:  “Ohh he back like jordan in 45.”

Could he be referring to No. 85?

1:18 p.m. — Reports are flying that Derrick Mason is in Westminster, as you received via the WNST text service.  According to The Sun, he met with Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh.

12:39 p.m. — The best news for Ravens fans from the morning practice is that there were no apparent injuries.

12:37 p.m. — While I’m passing on some funny moments, I thought I’d add one about Terrell Suggs.  With some NFL officials currently at camp to get some work, T-Sizzle thought he would lend a hand when Gano and Hauschka were kicking field goals.

He joined the two officials underneath the goal posts and helped them signal whether each kick was good or not.  The move drew major laughs from the large crowd on hand in Westminster.

12:35 p.m. — The funniest moment of the morning came after practice when Ray Lewis was signing autographs for the Ravens Rookies section filled with kids.  As he was signing, Flacco was doing an interview.  When several kids started yelling for Flacco, Lewis joined in, yelling for his quarterback to come over and sign with him.

Lewis really enjoyed interacting with the young Ravens fans and was one of the last players to leave the field in terms of signing autographs.  Flacco came over to give Lewis relief.

12:29 p.m. — Ray Rice continues to show excellent moves in the early going, and though Willis McGahee has looked strong in his reps, it appears the Ravens are really trying to establish Rice as the feature back.

Despite this, Cam Cameron emphasized yesterday that it will be a by-committee approach, much like last season.

12:27 p.m. — Both kickers are adjusting to the slope of the field at McDaniel College.  It’s causing kicks to hook left, according to Gano.

12:25 p.m. — The kicking battle gave a slight edge to Steve Hauschka this morning, as both Graham Gano and Hauschka for 3-for-4 in a series of consecutive kicks.  Gano’s miss came from 39 yards, and Hauschka missed from 48.  Later in the practice, Gano missed a 50-yard attempt wide left.

Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg said after practice that he sees the competition coming down to the final preseason game.  According to Rosburg, Hauschka has refined his technique considerably while Gano shows outstanding athleticism and foot-eye coordination.

Gano showed that athleticism when he caught returner Lardarius Webb at the 10-yard line on a long kickoff return.  I asked Gano about his speed after practice, and he claims to have run a 4.5 40-yard dash at Florida State.  Sounds like the making of a trick play there if Gano does win the placekicking job.

12:23 p.m. — We saw our first near-fight take place this morning when Haruki Nakamura picked off a Troy Smith pass.  As Nakamura returned the ball down the defensive players’ sideline, Smith gave him a little shot out of bounds.  Antwan Barnes and Terrell Suggs got up in Smith’s face, but the players were quickly separated and cooler heads prevailed.

12:17 p.m. — The Ravens have concluded their morning practice and made it through the session without any apparent injuries.  Trevor Pryce returned to the practice field after a scare yesterday morning.  L.J. Smith sat out again, still feeling the effects of a strained hamstring.  Defensive linemen Will Johnson also missed a second-straight practice.

The passing game was the focal point of the practice, with both the offense and defense turning in sterling plays.

The star of the morning was Dawan Landry who picked off Joe Flacco twice during 11-on-11 passing situations.  The second interception came after a poor decision by Flacco to throw off his back foot.

The morning was not a complete disappointment for Flacco as he completed a 50-yard pass to Demetrius Williams, beating Domonique Foxworth on the play.  Williams continues to show no ill effects from the Achilles issue that ended his 2008 season.

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Harbaugh kicks off his second training camp with questions at receiver

Posted on 27 July 2009 by Luke Jones

Less than 24 hours after newly-signed receiver Drew Bennett abruptly announced his retirement, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was disappointed but reiterated the Ravens would move on with the players they already have.

Bennett retired after an arthritic condition caused his knee to swell up after working out and signing a contract with the Ravens on Friday.  The eight-year veteran spent most of his career with the Tennessee Titans but spent his final two seasons in St. Louis with the Rams.  Bennett is the second Ravens wide receiver to retire in the last two weeks, though Derrick Mason’s absence clearly has a much bigger impact on the offense.

“I think that’s why you put guys through a workout at this stage; it’s to find out how they recover the next day and what not,” said Harbaugh.  “[Bennett’s] knees just didn’t calm down…And it is time for him to move on.  He didn’t feel like he could get through a practice, let alone a season at this level.”

Harbaugh reiterated the Ravens would be adding a wide receiver but did not mention any specific name, saying it could be a veteran or younger player.  The Ravens have signed receiver Biren Ealy to replace Bennett on the roster.  Having only one career reception, Ealy is probably not the last addition to the wide receiver position.

While the Ravens were adding Ealy to the roster on Monday, they also waived tight end Quinn Sypniewski.  The former fifth-round draft pick out of Colorado had struggled to recover from a horrific knee injury dating back to last season.  Harbaugh said the young tight end was still in the team’s plans, but the organization could not afford to keep him on the 80-man training camp roster at this time.

Harbaugh has not had any further communication with Mason since meeting with him in person last week.  Mason retired two weeks ago, though he has not submitted the official league paperwork.  The star receiver was previously seeking a contract extension this offseason.

The second-year coach is more concerned with the players that will be taking the field at McDaniel College this week.

“We’re not talking about any specific players or anything like that,” Harbaugh said.  “Everybody knows the situation.  We’ve got a job to do today, our guys can’t wait to go to work, and that’s it.  And that’s what training camp is about.”

The other big story of the day is the absence of first-round pick Michael Oher.  The right tackle from Ole Miss is the only draft pick yet to sign from the Ravens’ 2009 class.  Only four of the NFL’s 32 first-round picks have signed contracts as of Monday afternoon.

Should Oher fail to report by Monday evening, he would become the first rookie holdout since Haloti Ngata in 2006.

“The agent wants to make sure he does the right thing by Michael, and we want to make sure that we do the right thing by Michael, too,” Harbaugh said.  “We want to get the best contract we can for him as soon as we can.  It should happen pretty soon.”

Despite the questions at wide receiver, the head coach is ready to kick off the Ravens’ 14th summer at McDaniel College.

“Everybody that I have talked to is excited to go to training camp,” Harbaugh said.  “They’re excited to go to work.  I know the coaches feel the same way, and the players feel that way.”

– The Ravens also waived guard Brian Johnson, a member of the practice squad last season.

– Veterans that reported to training camp on Monday include Willis McGahee, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Marshal Yanda, Adam Terry, Samari Rolle, Kelly Gregg, Dawan Landry, and Antwan Barnes.

The Ravens will announce the players to be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Tuesday.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens waive Sypniewski & sign WR Biren Ealy

Posted on 27 July 2009 by Luke Jones

8:32 p.m. – Ealy’s dismissal from the New Orleans Saints stems from an arrest back in May.  You can read about it here.

5:57 p.m. – If you’re on the WNST text service, you just learned the Ravens have signed wide receiver Biren Ealy.  Having only one career catch, I’m not sure Ealy would be the signing to “replace” Drew Bennett, but he is another warm body here in Westminster.

Ealy played his college football at Houston and played four games with the Tennessee Titans in 2007.

5:42 p.m. – Willis McGahee just walked into the lobby of the Best Western, joining veterans Samari Rolle, Adam Terry, and Antwan Barnes among the select veterans reporting today.

McGahee looks to be in good shape, but we’ll get our first look at the former Hurricane tomorrow morning on the field.

He was second behind Ray Rice on the depth chart during OTAs, as he was recovering from offseason knee surgery.

As I type this, I just saw Kellly Gregg walk through the door.

5:14 p.m. – Lardarius Webb is really excited to get going and says that the sore hamstring that plagued him during OTAs is now 100 percent.

He mentioned how much he’s learned from just observing Ed Reed—his hero growing up—and how he’s looking forward to playing with him.

4:01 p.m. – Ozzie Newsome was overheard in the hotel lobby shooting down any chance of Michael Vick becoming a Raven.

“We have a quarterback,” he said.  “We have three quarterbacks.”

3:17 p.m. – The John Harbaugh press conference was very brief.  It will be available in the WNST audio vault shortly.

* Harbaugh described Bennett’s condition as an “arthritic” knee.  The veteran receiver just didn’t think he could do it anymore.

* There are some “irons in the fire” regarding the wide receiver position.  Harbaugh said the Ravens would be adding a receiver but did not name anyone specifically, speculating that it could be a veteran or a young player.

* Regarding Michael Oher’s contract status, he said the rookie right tackle wants to be in camp on time but understands his agent needs to get the best deal possible for him.  Harbaugh pointed out that very few first round picks have signed contracts and how the slotting process delays negotiations.

The deal should happen “pretty soon” according to Harbaugh.

* Harbaugh insists that Quinn Sypniewski—waived earlier today—is still in the team’s plans, but the organization could not afford to keep him on the 80-man training camp roster.

The surgery on Sypniewski’s injured knee did not work last season, and he is recovering from another procedure.

* Harbaugh said the team would make decisions on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list tomorrow but would not disclose any players who would be on the list.

2:20 p.m. – I just spoke to third-round pick Lardarius Webb, and he’s very excited to finally be at training camp.  He actually spent the last month here in Baltimore, continuing to train and work out at the Ravens’ facility.

2:10 p.m. – If you’re looking for another person who isn’t sure of Derrick Mason’s status for this season, look no further than his quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco today said he spoke to Mason last week, and the 35-year-old receiver did not “sound too sure” about the prospects of returning to the Ravens.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about the Mason situation this afternoon when Harbaugh speaks to the media.

1:48 p.m. – The news of Quinn Sypniewski being waived is not very surprising given the state of his surgically-repaired knee that cost him the entire 2008 season.  The young tight end had experienced some setbacks this offseason in getting the knee back into football shape.

With Todd Heap, L.J. Smith, Edgar Jones, and rookie Davon Drew in the fold, the Ravens have plenty of capable tight ends to compete this summer.

1:12 p.m. – Other players making their way to Westminster include Paul Kruger, Jason Phillips, Jason Cook, and Graham Gano—who was sporting a new buzz cut.

I had the chance to talk to Gano about his battle with Steve Hauschka for the kicking job.  He’s confident and says he’s kicking better than he ever has right now.  The interview is available in the WNST audio vault.

12:06 p.m. – I just had the chance to chat with John Harbaugh in the lobby.  He will make his official statement about Drew Bennett at 3:00 p.m., but he was surprised to hear about the veteran receiver’s retirement.

Bennett’s decision seems to be completely about the poor health of his knee.

Harbaugh confirmed that he met face-to-face with Derrick Mason last week.  There had been some confusion in the media over whether their discussion was over the phone or in person.

11:47 a.m. – The players are starting to trickle in slowly.  I just spoke to sixth-round pick and running back Cedric Peerman.  He’s refreshed and ready to go for his first training camp as an NFL player.

Antwan Barnes has also walked through the lobby, the first “select” veteran to make an appearance.

10:59 a.m. – I’m here at the Best Western in Westminster, waiting for the Ravens rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans to report for training camp here at McDaniel College.

It’s been a very quiet morning with the only noteworthy appearance being made by assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, walking through the lobby.

The news on everyone’s mind is obviously the surprising retirement of veteran wide receiver Drew Bennett two days after signing a contract with the Ravens.  The announcement leaves the Ravens exactly where they were two weeks ago when Derrick Mason announced his own retirement.

John Harbaugh will speak to the media at 3:00 p.m., and the wide receiver position will surely be the hot topic of discussion.

Will the Ravens now turn their efforts toward D.J. Hackett?  The former Seahawk and Panther was among four receivers who tried out on Friday—along with Bennett, former Lion Chris Hannon, and rookie Justin Brown.

Hackett was also scheduled to try out back in May along with Kelley Washington, Jerry Porter, and Tab Perry but chose to try out with the Houston Texans instead.  The Ravens decided to go with Washington.

Hackett’s best season came with Seattle in 2006 when he caught 45 balls for 610 yards and four touchdowns

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Training Camp Preview: 5 Under-the-Radar Players

Posted on 21 July 2009 by Luke Jones

With only a week to go until the first practices for the Ravens’ quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans, it’s time to consider what players flying beneath the radar could play a major part in the 2009 season.

Undoubtedly, injuries will occur, and the coaching staff will look to the next man waiting to step into a larger role.  One can simply look back to last season to see how critical it is to have these types of players.

Fullback Le’Ron McClain, safety Jim Leonhard (now with the New York Jets), and guard Chris Chester were little more than afterthoughts entering training camp but went on to make major contributions to an 11-5 season that ended with the Ravens coming up short in the AFC Championship.

Who are this season’s players currently flying under the radar that could be key contributors this season?

Here are five names to keep an eye on this summer:

1.  Chris Carr

Though this free-agent signing lacked the local appeal of Domonique Foxworth (Maryland and Western Tech) or the pedigree of Matt Birk (six Pro Bowl selections), Carr will play a critical role with special teams and the secondary.

The fifth-year defensive back provides exceptional return ability, an area in which the Ravens struggled outside of the departed Leonhard.  In his three seasons in Oakland, Carr became the Raiders’ all-time kick return leader with 4,841 yards (24.1 avg).  In 2008, his only season with the Tennessee Titans, Carr ranked fourth in the NFL with a 28.1 kickoff return average.

In addition to his return skills, Carr will provide more depth in the secondary, a plus considering the Ravens’ projected starters, Fabian Washington and Fabian Washington, lack the experience of last year’s Week 1 starters Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister.  Along with Rolle and Frank Walker, Carr can provide starting experience should Washington or Foxworth falter.

Carr recorded 31 tackles and one interception in 2008.

2.  Marcus Smith

With the sudden retirement of No. 1 receiver Derrick Mason and no major acquisitions imminent, the coaching staff will look to Smith to emerge in the passing game.  The 2008 fourth-round selection saw playing time in six games but did not record a reception during his rookie season.

Smith has good size—6-1 and 215 pounds—but will need to show more consistent hands to give the passing game a boost.  His experience playing running back at the University of New Mexico gives him more ability to run after the catch than most receivers, and his blocking ability is a strength.  He was also a solid contributor on special teams in 2008.

The coaching staff became more impressed with Smith’s efforts toward the end of OTAs this offseason.

Regardless of whether Mason returns in 2009 or follows through with his retirement, Smith will need to provide another option for Joe Flacco and the passing game.  With Mason, Mark Clayton, and Demetrius Williams all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents following the season, Smith has a distinct opportunity to secure a future role in the Ravens’ offense with a strong 2009 campaign.

3.  Antwan Barnes

After showing much promise in his rookie season in 2007, Barnes’ sophomore campaign was largely quiet, recording only five tackles from scrimmage and no sacks in 13 games.  The former Florida International standout missed the entire postseason with a shoulder injury.

Even before the injury, Barnes was receiving less playing time than the surprising rookie free agent Jameel McClain.  With McClain shifting to inside linebacker this offseason, Barnes will have the opportunity to contribute more in new coordinator Greg Mattison’s defense, especially as a rush end in passing situations.

With the Ravens’ selection of defensive end-linebacker Paul Kruger in the second round of this April’s draft, Barnes will need to show more versatility to fit into the team’s long-term plans.  Barnes has shown a good motor and an ability to rush the passer but has been slow to learn the other skills needed in a 3-4 outside linebacker.  Despite his one-dimensional play on defense, Barnes has demonstrated strong special teams play, recording nine special teams stops in 2009.

4.  Kelley Washington

After signing Washington after a tryout during OTAs, the Ravens hope the veteran can bring some depth to a thin receiving group.

Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2003 draft, Washington has never realized the potential he showed at the University of Tennessee when he caught 70 passes for 1,080 yards and seven touchdowns as a 22-year-old freshman (he spent four years playing minor league baseball before enrolling at Knoxville).  A neck injury in 2002 hurt his draft status, and he has never shown consistent playmaking ability at the professional level.

Washington spent four years in Cincinnati and the last two with the New England Patriots, recording 73 catches, 896 yards, and nine touchdowns in his career.  His best season came in 2004 when he caught 31 balls for 378 yards and three touchdowns.

Largely forgotten as a receiver during his time in New England (only one reception in 24 games), Washington was applauded for his strong special teams play.

Much like Smith, the 6-3 Washington will have the opportunity to provide another receiving option for Flacco, especially with the unknown status of Mason.

5.  Brandon McKinney

A complete unknown when the Ravens signed the defensive tackle in October of last season, the massive McKinney was a strong contributor in short-yardage and goal-line packages, recording 19 tackles in 11 regular season games with the Ravens.  A fourth-year player originally signed by the San Diego Chargers, McKinney also played in all three postseason games, making three stops.

The Ravens have created a tradition of finding low-profile players who pay big dividends on the defensive line, including the likes of Lional Dalton, Kelly Gregg, and Justin Bannan.  McKinney can add his name to that list with another strong showing in 2009.

With Gregg, Bannan, and Trevor Pryce all 30 or older, McKinney brings youth and more size (6-2 and 324 pounds) to the Ravens’ defensive line rotation.

*****

WNST.net and AM 1570 WNST is your place to turn for full training camp coverage.  We’ll be providing live updates, interviews, audio, video, and blogs from McDaniel College.

luke@wnst.net

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How the draft shapes the current roster

Posted on 27 April 2009 by Luke Jones

We’re exactly three months away from rookies and quarterbacks reporting to McDaniel College in Westminster for the start of training camp.  With the 2009 NFL Draft complete and the names of undrafted free agent signings beginning to leak, we will start to get a better idea of how the training camp roster will look.

Much can change between now and July 27, but here is a look at the Ravens’ selections and how they affect the competition at their respective positions.  Listed in parentheses is the projected number of players kept at the position.  Since undrafted free-agent signings are not officially announced until minicamp, I have excluded them from the current breakdown.

Round 1 (23rd overall):  Michael Oher (Mississippi), OT

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4)

Locks:  Jared Gaither, Michael Oher

Bubble:  Willie Anderson, Adam Terry, Oniel Cousins

Longshot:  Joe Reitz, Tre Stallings

Analysis:  The selection of Michael Oher immediately transforms offensive tackle from a position of weakness to one of depth.  Gaither is firmly entrenched on the left side, so the real battle will take place on the right side between Anderson and Oher.

While Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta currently envision Anderson as a mentor for the rookie, he could be released to clear cap room if the Ravens pursue other veteran free agents that could be released before training camp.  Cutting Anderson would reportedly clear close to $3 million from the cap.

If Anderson remains on the team, Terry and Cousins would figure to battle for the last tackle spot.  Terry has the edge in experience, but Cousins can play both guard and tackle and was the team’s third round pick last year.  He is raw but promising.

*****

Round 2 (57th overall):  Paul Kruger (Utah), OLB/DE

Round 5 (137th overall):  Jason Phillips (TCU), ILB

LINEBACKER (8 or 9)

Locks:  Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Tavares Gooden, Paul Kruger, Jason Phillips, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Jameel McClain

Bubble:  Antwan Barnes, Edgar Jones

Longshot:  Prescott Burgess

Analysis:  Though the Ravens hope Kruger can put on the necessary weight to eventually move to defensive end when Trevor Pryce retires, he will likely be a hybrid-rush end in his rookie season.

Phillips will provide depth at inside linebacker after the departure of Bart Scott.  The Ravens envision him eventually becoming the replacement for Lewis in the starting lineup in a few years.  In the mean time, he will push Gooden for playing time at the other inside spot.

Despite showing much promise in his first two seasons, Barnes will need to show more versatility to make the 53-man roster.  He has great speed off the edge but fell behind McClain in the rotation last season.  Jones will be moved back to linebacker with the signing of L.J. Smith and selection of Davon Drew at tight end.  He must continue to contribute heavily on special teams to stay on the roster.

Burgess appears to be a longshot with the drafting of Phillips.  As always, special teams play will figure heavily in deciding the final spot or two.

*****

Round 3 (88th overall):  Lardarius Webb (Nicholls State), CB

CORNERBACK (6)

Lock:  Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Samari Rolle, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb

Bubble:  Frank Walker, Derrick Martin

Longshot:  Anwar Phillips, Evan Oglesby

Analysis:  The selection of Lardarius Webb further increases the likelihood of Walker being cut to clear cap room in case a veteran free agent shakes loose at another position.  Releasing Walker would reportedly save $1.6 million against the cap.

Martin missed most of last season with a shoulder injury but showed promise in 2007, making three starts and grabbing two interceptions.  He would be a cheaper alternative to Walker.

Phillips and Oglesby do not figure to seriously challenge for a roster spot after the signings of Foxworth and Carr pushed them further down the depth chart.

The team could elect to keep an extra corner if they view Carr or Webb as a primary returner over Yamon Figurs.

*****

Round 5 (149th overall):  Davon Drew (East Carolina), TE

TIGHT END (3)

Lock:  Todd Heap, L.J. Smith

Bubble:  Davon Drew, Quinn Sypniewski

Longshot:  Isaac Smolko, Edgar Jones

Analysis:  Heap and Smith are obviously safe, so the real battle will be between Drew and Sypniewski.  The Ravens like Drew’s potential, as he’s only spent a few seasons as a tight end.  He could eventually develop into an H-back in the offense.  Sypniewski showed promise in his first two seasons but missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Jones will have to make the team as a linebacker and special teams contributor.  Smolko will be little more than training camp depth.

*****

Round 6 (185th overall):  Cedric Peerman (Virginia), RB

RUNNING BACK (4 or 5)

Lock:  Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Cedric Peerman

Bubble:  None

Longshot:  Matt Lawrence, Jalen Parmele

Analysis:  McClain figures to play more regularly at fullback in 2009, but he will still get carries in short-yardage situations and the fourth-quarter jumbo formation.  Peerman provides more depth at running back, allowing Cam Cameron to move McClain back to the more traditional fullback spot.

The team has reportedly signed undrafted free agent Jason Cook, Oher’s teammate at Ole Miss and described as a traditional power fullback.  Veteran Lorenzo Neal does not fit in the team’s current plans, but that could change in August.

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