Tag Archive | "deonte thompson"

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Old friend Stokley officially rejoins Ravens at stadium practice Sunday

Posted on 11 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The man who caught the first touchdown in Ravens Super Bowl history officially reunited with the team who drafted him as wide receiver Brandon Stokley was present for Sunday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

The 37-year-old receiver who played in Baltimore from 1999 through 2002 watched practice but didn’t participate as the Ravens held their second public practice of the summer. Earlier in the day, the Ravens officially announced a one-year contract with Stokley and waived wide receiver Marcus Rivers to create room on their 90-man preseason roster.

With the foot injury to wide receiver Deonte Thompson and the questions surrounding the wide receiver position, Stokley’s addition became a no-brainer in the Ravens’ minds.

“It gives us experience,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It gives us a guy who can catch balls in the slot and has done that over a number of years. He’s done a great job of that. It’s an asset for us. More than anything, it’s a need potentially in a certain area, but we still have guys who are in the process of stepping up there.”

Stokley had a solid season with former Indianapolis teammate Peyton Manning in Denver last year, catching 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns.

For the veteran receiver, Sunday felt like a homecoming as Stokley recalled arriving in Baltimore 14 years earlier as a fresh-faced rookie taken in the fourth round of the 1999 draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette. It only took 384 catches, 5,224 yards, and 39 touchdowns for the 15th-year veteran to come full circle.

“This is where I started. A lot of old, good memories,” said Stokley, who believes he can provide the Ravens with a target who can help move the chains and provide another option inside the red zone. “It’s just a great organization, great fans, just all around a great place. I’m just trying to come in here and work hard, do my best, and hopefully help out in any way that I can.”

Of course, Stokley’s first run with the Ravens didn’t include the opportunity to play with a franchise signal-caller like Joe Flacco as Stokley played with the likes of Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer, Chris Redman, and Elvis Grbac. In four seasons with Baltimore, he caught just 60 passes before joining Indianapolis where he caught 139 passes while playing with Peyton Manning over the next four seasons.

Stokley was quite complimentary of Flacco after being reminded by reporters that he was on the opposing sideline in Denver when the Baltimore quarterback connected with Jacoby Jones on the 70-yard touchdown to force overtime in the divisional-round thriller against the Broncos.

“He’s unbelievable,” Stokley said. “You saw what he did last year in the playoffs. That run that they went on was awesome. It takes a special quarterback to do that.”

Thompson out, Pierce possible for Atlanta game Thursday night

Harbaugh confirmed that Thompson’s left foot sprain wasn’t something that will keep him sidelined for an extended period of time but ruled out the second-year receiver for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Thompson injured the foot making a 5-yard catch in the second quarter of the preseason opener against Tampa Bay and didn’t return. He was seen wearing a walking boot following the game and hasn’t practiced since. It appears, however, he will be ready to play in the all-important third preseason game in less than two weeks.

“Deonte sprained his foot. It’s not serious,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to hold him out of this game and re-evaluate him on Friday [to] see where he’s at. I would expect him back for the Carolina game.”

The Baltimore coach also confirmed reports that the injury to running back Bernard Pierce’s knee wasn’t serious, labeling the injury as a bruise. The second-year back tweaked his knee on a 20-yard touchdown early in the second quarter of Thursday’ game and didn’t return.

Despite not practicing over the last two days, Pierce still has a chance to play against the Falcons, according to Harbaugh.

Dickson on mend, no timetable for return

Sunday marked a week since Ed Dickson suffered a slightly-torn hamstring tear and while he’s not ready to announce a date for his return, the fourth-year tight end continues to make progress in rehabbing the injury.

“Every little thing I can do, I’m taking it day by day,” Dickson said. “This type of injury with a muscle, you’ve got to take it day by day. I’m doing all the little things, staying conditioned, and trying to catch as many balls as I can.”

Dickson has taken some consolation in knowing he can take his time recovering fully after the recent veteran additions of Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark, but the 2010 third-round pick said it’s been frustrating being sidelined after the season-ending loss of Dennis Pitta on July 27.

Asked whether he was confident that he’d be ready to go for the start of the regular season as Harbaugh has previously said, Dickson wouldn’t speak in specific terms, only expressing concern that he doesn’t want the injury to linger into the regular season.

“I can’t make any predictions,” said Dickson about his availability for the season opener on Sept. 5, “but I’m working hard to do that. I’m trying my hardest to get back out there. It kills me. I’m hard on myself.”

Absences growing at practice

The Ravens were without 13 players for Sunday’s stadium practice as linebacker Courtney Upshaw was a new absence to add to the list.

Joining him as non-participants were wide receivers Thompson (foot) and Marlon Brown, Pierce (knee), tight ends Dickson (hamstring) and Pitta (hip), offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ryan Jensen (foot), cornerback Chris Johnson (undisclosed), linebackers Bryan Hall (hamstring) and Jameel McClain (neck), and defensive linemen Marcus Spears (undisclosed) and Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee).

Johnson had practiced on Saturday before once again being sidelined for Sunday’s workout.

Odds & ends

Kicker Justin Tucker continued his outstanding training camp as he connected on field goals from 20, 39, 48, 35, 52, and 58 yards. He then proceeded to miss attempts from 64 and 67 yards even though each kick had more than enough distance. The NFL record for the longest field goal is 63 yards. … A day after being chastised for lackadaisical play by Harbaugh, rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette turned in his strongest practice of the summer, making consecutive difficult catches on a slant pattern and sideline route during 7-on-7 drills and topping those receptions with an outstanding leaping catch over the middle for a long gain while working with the second-team offense a few minutes later. … With Thompson sidelined, the Ravens primarily used Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Tandon Doss in their three-wide sets, but David Reed also received some reps with the first-team offense. Harbaugh said after Sunday’s practice that they’re going to take a closer look at Doss in the slot after using him in the slot and on the outside in the first couple weeks of practice. … As he did in his first tour of duty with the Ravens, Stokley will wear No. 80 and plans to practice on Monday. … The Ravens announced approximately 25,000 fans were in attendance for Sunday’s open and free practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

 

 

Comments Off on Old friend Stokley officially rejoins Ravens at stadium practice Sunday

Tags: , , , ,

Thompson, Pierce suffer injuries in preseason opener

Posted on 09 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

In what was otherwise a satisfying 44-16 victory in the preseason opener, the Ravens suffered two injuries of note against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.

The most concerning at this point appears to happen to wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who injured his left ankle making a 5-yard reception in the second quarter. The second-year wideout was in visible pain as he limped to the sidelined and was tended to by members of the training staff. Reports from Tampa indicated he was seen in a walking boot following the game.

The second notable injury was to Bernard Pierce as the backup running back scored a 20-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Pierce took a helmet shot to the hip as he was crossing the goal line and landed awkwardly, appearing to tweak his knee. He was limping noticeably until he jogged to the sideline.

“We look pretty good right now,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who didn’t name any specific injuries. “We’ll have some things we’ll have to see about [Friday] – X-rays, MRIs, things like that. So we’ll have to see.”

Players are off on Friday before they return to the practice field in Owings Mills on Saturday afternoon.

Comments Off on Thompson, Pierce suffer injuries in preseason opener

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Buccaneers preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 07 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

After undergoing more change than any Super Bowl champion in recent memory, the Ravens will offer a glimpse of their revamped roster in their preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.

The contest will offer little more than a cameo appearance for players expected to make the biggest impact in the 2013 season but will also provide welcome change for a group of players tired of working against one another after two weeks of practices in Owings Mills. Sunday’s practice at the Naval Academy in Annapolis provided a much-needed change of scenery, but a trip to Tampa will bring live-game action to a team with high expectations but also a number of veteran newcomers and rookies expected to contribute immediately.

The outcome of the preseason opener won’t determine answers for any of a number of questions facing the Ravens on both sides of the football, but the game will sharpen the focus of preparation for both coaches and players after facing competition in another uniform.

“They really are tired of seeing each other,” said coach John Harbaugh about the monotony of the first couple weeks of camp. “You can’t tackle to the ground, and you have to take care of one another. The game is a little bit different. The game is the game, and we’ll learn a lot. We’ll have a chance to move forward from there because there will be some things we’re expecting to see that we’ll see. But there will be other things that we’ll be surprised about – good and bad – and we’ll have to build off those things.”

Thursday will mark the first preseason meeting between Baltimore and Tampa Bay, but the teams have split the regular-season series, 2-2. Their last meeting came at M&T Bank Stadium in 2010 when the Ravens won 17-10 en route to a 12-4 season that resulted in the third straight trip to the playoffs for a Harbaugh-coached team. The Ravens haven’t played a game at Raymond James Stadium since the 2006 season opener and, of course, won the first of their two Super Bowl titles in Tampa on Jan. 28, 2001.

The Ravens are 40-27 all-time in the preseason and 13-7 in the Harbaugh era. Baltimore has also won 12 of its last 16 preseason games and is 19-14 in preseason road games.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play as he continues to be held out of most 11-on-11 sessions during practices while working his way back to 100 percent following last October’s ACL injury.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: TE Ed Dickson (hamstring), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), LB Jameel McClain (neck), OL Ryan Jensen (foot), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
DOUBTFUL: WR David Reed (groin), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Ramon Harewood (knee), S Omar Brown (undisclosed), CB Chris Johnson (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: RB Ray Rice (ankle), S James Ihedigbo (neck), DT Terrence Cody (hip/elbow)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. WR Deonte Thompson

I’ve been as skeptical as anyone about the offseason praise bestowed on the second-year Florida product, but Thompson has looked increasingly comfortable working in the Ravens’ starting offense over the last week, whether it’s lining up in the slot or on the outside while Tandon Doss works inside in certain three-wide sets. Quarterback Joe Flacco complimented Thompson’s ability to work inside while also possessing unique speed for the slot position.

It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell uses Thompson in the slot as he provides a speed element that neither Anquan Boldin nor Dennis Pitta possessed, but the biggest questions will be whether the former rookie free agent can catch the football consistently — the knock on him during his collegiate career — and whether he’s strong enough to create separation against press coverage. However, Thompson has performed well enough in the spring and summer to warrant extended looks in the preseason.

2. DE Chris Canty

The signings of pash-rush specialist Elvis Dumervil and free safety Michael Huff garnered more attention in the offseason, but Canty will provide the Ravens with a prototypical 5-technique defensive end (lining up over the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle), an asset they sorely lacked last season following the free-agent departure of Cory Redding. Arthur Jones was better suited to play inside and Pernell McPhee battled injuries throughout the year, forcing a banged-up Haloti Ngata to move away from his ideal spot and play outside more often. As a result, the defensive line suffered mightily against the run and getting after the quarterback.

Canty’s unique combination of size, power, and arm length — he’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 317 pounds — is exactly what you’re looking for to hold up against offensive tackles at the point of attack in the running game as well as to get after the quarterback a bit and put hands up to disrupt passing lanes. If Canty can remain healthy, his dirty work upfront won’t always show up in the box score but will be as valuable as Dumervil’s ability to bring down the quarterback and Huff’s work in the secondary.

3. LB Josh Bynes

Veteran Daryl Smith appears to be the overwhelming favorite to man the Mike inside linebacker position, but Bynes is battling Albert McClellan and second-round rookie Arthur Brown for the Will spot with most attention being paid to the Kansas State product for obvious reasons. However, Bynes has taken a large majority of the reps with the starting defense while Brown has primarily worked in sub packages and with the second-team unit.

Bynes missed nearly all of last year’s training camp with a back injury but eventually worked his way back to become a valuable special-teams contributor and filled in admirably after a number of injuries at the inside linebacker position late in the season. He has been complimented by coaches for having a good mind for the game and is strong against the run, making him the early favorite to start over the undersized and inexperienced Brown, who will likely replacing Bynes in passing situations to utilize his pass-coverage ability.

4. C A.Q. Shipley

Shipley’s 6-foot-1, 308-pound frame doesn’t impress you, but his work at the center position has earned him plenty of reps with the starting offense in a close battle with 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski. I’ve maintained all spring and summer that Gradkowski was the favorite, but it appears that Shipley has closed the gap over the first couple weeks of training camp.

The Penn State product graded out well in his first real opportunity to play in the NFL last year with Indianapolis, but neither Shipley nor Gradkowski has great size, making you wonder if either will hold up physically against bigger opposing defensive tackles during the regular season. This might be the closest position battle of any for the Ravens this summer.

5. WR Marlon Brown

If you’re looking for this year’s rookie free agent to come out of nowhere in the way that past individuals such as Thompson or LaQuan Williams or Dannell Ellerbe did, Brown is an intriguing candidate because of his 6-foot-4 frame. His final season at the University of Georgia was cut short due to a torn ACL, which limited his ability to work out for teams during the draft process and contributed to him going undrafted.

Brown doesn’t possess overwhelming speed, but he’s shown a consistent ability to catch the football in practices unlike 2012 sixth-round pick and fellow big target Tommy Streeter, who is clearly behind Brown and seventh-round rookie Aaron Mellette on the depth chart. If Brown can shine while working with Tyrod Taylor and the second-team offense over the first couple preseason games, he could find himself at least in the conversation for a roster spot, especially with the Ravens desperately looking for red-zone targets in the passing game following the season-ending injury to Pitta.

Comments (2)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Training camp observations from Owings Mills

Posted on 01 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

There were no changes to the attendance report for Thursday’s practice from a day earlier, but the workout provided plenty of intrigue in terms of competition as the Ravens inch closer to next Thursday’s preseason opener at Tampa Bay.

The Baltimore public relations staff also released the first depth chart of the year, which shouldn’t be analyzed as anything but an estimate of what we’ve seen at training camp. However, it does support some of the following observations a week into full-squad workouts in Owings Mills:

1. The use of a point-based system to track practices has increased the intensity level between the offensive and defensive units and, more specifically, quarterback Joe Flacco and linebacker Terrell Suggs.

As we’ve seen with the explosion of statistically-based analysis in baseball over the last 30 years, NFL front offices and coaches are looking for more and more data to quantify what talent evaluators are seeing on the field over time. As a result, football video operations coordinator Drew Wilkins and defensive quality control coach Matt Weiss devised a point system to not only track the performance of players and units over time but also create more competition for players with a scoreboard tracking practices in Owings Mills.

The details of the system were too complicated for coach John Harbaugh to spell out Wednesday, but it seems more than coincidental to hear more chirping and gamesmanship than ever between the offense and defense — most of it being good-natured ribbing. Flacco and Suggs have been the ringleaders for their sides as the quarterback has become increasingly vocal over the last couple years and the 30-year-old linebacker is no longer in the shadow of Ray Lewis or Ed Reed as a spokesman for the defense.

During 11-on-11 drills on Thursday, the defense began chanting, “We fight!” after a reserve unit made a stop against the second-team offense. Not to stand by quietly, Flacco shouted across the field, “What are you, a little league softball team with that cheer?”

Suggs and Flacco continued jawing at each other with the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year bragging about having more “swag” before the Super Bowl XLVII MVP fired back that he made more money than his defensive contemporary.

If there were any lingering doubts, it’s quite clear who the vocal leaders are in the post-Ray Lewis era.

2. Questions remain over who will be the starting 11 for a revamped Ravens defense, but coordinator Dean Pees is thrilled with the potential versatility at his disposal.

It’s difficult to get a great read on how the Ravens will ultimately line up in their base defense, but Pees will likely view as many as 16 or 17 players as “starters” in his unit. It’s quite a change from last season when injuries all over the defense and deficiencies upfront forced Pees to simplify his play calling.

The addition of Chris Canty as a 5-technique defensive end — a position the Ravens failed to fill last season after the free-agent departure of Cory Redding — has allowed Pees to shift Haloti Ngata to the nose tackle position where he can use his strength and speed to either overpower or blow past centers and guards. The depth chart currently lists Ngata as the starting nose tackle and Canty and Arthur Jones as the starting defensive ends, but the Ravens will also have the likes of Marcus Spears, Pernell McPhee, Terrence Cody, and rookie Brandon Williams to mix and match along the line.

Regardless of whether he’s able to beat out rookie Matt Elam for the starting strong safety spot, James Ihedigbo will be another versatile piece as a dime back who can also play inside the box as an extra linebacker in certain packages.

Perhaps the most intriguing spot to watch will be the outside linebacker position where nearly everyone assumed Suggs and free-agent acquisition Elvis Dumervil would be the starters. The Ravens have listed Courtney Upshaw and Dumervil as co-starters at the strongside linebacker spot, but Upshaw has received extensive time at the starting “Sam” position in practices with Dumervil being used more in sub-packages and as the backup to Suggs at the rush linebacker spot in some 11-on-11 sessions.

Of course, these are very early observations, but Upshaw is superb at setting the edge and has a clear size advantage over Dumervil that might be more advantageous in early-down situations where running players are more likely. Make no mistake, the Ravens are very happy with Dumervil and he’s looked like a monster getting after the quarterback in practices, but he may be used more as a situational player like Paul Kruger than as an every-down linebacker like Suggs on the other side.

3. Tight end Ed Dickson has impressed in the absence of the injured Dennis Pitta, but the collective group of young wide receivers beyond Torrey Smith has been nondescript thus far.

Many forget that Dickson posted a 54-catch, five-touchdown season in 2011 before Pitta emerged later that season and the former was phased into a supporting role. In a contract year and knowing that Pitta is gone for the season, Dickson has certainly looked like a man trying to make a statement in the early days of practice, catching the football consistently and even working a little more in the slot in the way Pitta would.

Meanwhile, the wide receiver position looks as cloudy as it did before camp as no one beyond Smith looks the part of a deserving starter at this very early stage. Jacoby Jones has filled a role similar to what we saw last year as an outside receiver in three-wide sets, making you wonder if the Ravens are inclined to keep him in that limited capacity offensively to preserve him for his return duties. Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson have received more opportunities than other young wideouts with the starting unit as each has worked primarily out of the slot but also on the outside in some two-wide sets.

In evaluating Doss, Thompson, LaQuan Williams, David Reed, Aaron Mellette, and Tommy Streeter, there has been some good, some bad, and plenty of “meh.”

Perhaps the best way to illustrate my point was the discussion I overheard Thursday between two local media members about which receivers had impressed them the most to this point. One reporter praised two young receivers before the second reporter disagreed and pointed out a series of negative plays from each. The second reporter then offered his thoughts on a couple other receivers that were predictably disputed by the other reporter.

My way-too-early observation of the entire group? The absence of Anquan Boldin sticks out like a sore thumb.

4. In position battles at center, inside linebacker, and strong safety, the coaching staff is giving veterans the early benefit of the doubt.

I still believe Gino Gradkowki has the inside track for the starting center spot, but former Indianapolis Colt A.Q. Shipley has received a large number of reps with the starting offensive line, which could just be a show of respect for his extra experience or a reflection of him pushing the second-year Gradkowski more than anticipated. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell praised both on Thursday and also talked about how important communication would be as the center is responsible for making the blocking calls at line of scrimmage.

Neither Gradkowski nor Shipley are very big, which does make you question if either will hold up as well physically as the retired Matt Birk, who was noticeably bigger at the center spot. As you’d expect, the preseason will loom large in determining who’s snapping the ball to Flacco in Denver on Sept. 5.

At inside linebacker, it’s apparent that Daryl Smith is a heavy favorite to be the starting “Mike” — responsible for making the defensive calls — if Jameel McClain isn’t available at the start of the year. The 31-year-old has been praised for both his leadership and play since arriving on the scene in early June.

Who lines up next to him will be more interesting as the Ravens are clearly making rookie Arthur Brown pay his dues, instead giving most of the first-team reps to Josh Bynes and even Albert McClellan on occasion. Brown may not begin the season as a starter, but at the very least, he’s a good bet to be involved as a nickel linebacker in passing downs to utilize his ability in pass coverage.

Ihedigbo is listed as the current starting strong safety on the depth chart as Elam has worked with the second unit, which is probably the best example of the Ravens deferring to veterans early in camp. It’s difficult to imagine Elam not being the starter Week 1, but Pees loves Ihedigbo’s versatility and both will likely be used creatively in various defensive packages.

Elam has made some good plays in coverage, but his 5-foot-10 frame has been an issue matching up against bigger tight ends on occasion.

 

Comments (3)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Flacco unwavering despite changes all around him

Posted on 22 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco has the Super Bowl ring — or at least he officially will in a couple weeks.

The Ravens quarterback has the lucrative $120.6 million contract and the long-term security it provides.

And he has a heightened level of respect, even if some of his biggest critics now want to see him replicate some semblance of his record-setting playoff run in the regular season.

But an offseason full of changes brings more questions for the franchise quarterback. The retirement of Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Ed Reed have left a gigantic leadership void that many expect the 28-year-old to fill as he enters his sixth season. The exits of center Matt Birk and wide receiver Anquan Boldin suddenly makes Flacco one of the elder statesmen on the offensive side of the football.

Ask anyone in the Baltimore locker room whether Flacco is treating this offseason or his style of leadership any differently and you’ll receive a similar response. The Super Bowl XLVII MVP was already the kind of leader teammates respect, even if it lacks Lewis’ camera-friendly fire or Reed’s outspoken nature.

“Joe has done a great job throughout his career in his own way,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Nothing is going to change Joe. Joe is going to be who he is. I don’t think a change in the roster is going to change Joe [and] who he is. A change in the contract isn’t going to change Joe. Joe is Joe, and that’s what you love about him.”

Flacco is also experiencing his first full offseason with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. While many have wondered what the former Indianapolis head coach can do with the offensive system with ample time to plan after being thrown to the fire last December, Flacco downplayed any notion that the Ravens will look dramatically different on offense in 2013.

Of course, the start of the regular season is still more than three months away, so much could happen, both from schematics and personnel standpoints. The Ravens will hope the dramatic breakthroughs made in December that carried over into their postseason run to a Super Bowl title were only scratching the surface in terms of production under Caldwell.

“We may have changed a couple things here and there, but for the most part, it’s the same,” Flacco said. “He’ll probably add some of his concepts in just because he’s the guy that is driving things for the most part now. So, we’ll have new wrinkles in there, but for the most part, it’s pretty similar.”

Perhaps the biggest change we’ll see between now and the start of the season is at the wide receiver position as the Ravens continue to adjust to life without Boldin as their most reliable receiver. To this point, general manager Ozzie Newsome hasn’t added a veteran receiver with a track record to supplement the outside threats that Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones provide.

Instead of looking at a scrap heap of free-agent receivers headlined by the productive but baggage-heavy Brandon Lloyd, the Ravens appear content with evaluating a cast of young receivers that includes Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, and David Reed. All three saw time working with Smith and the starting offense during Wednesday’s practice as Jones was absent on the heels of his third-place finish in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Asked if outsiders have made too much of the Ravens’ need to add an established wideout to the mix, Flacco sees potential in the homegrown players who have received few opportunities to this point in their respective careers. The three young receivers who’ve been sharing time with the first unit this week have combined for 17 receptions and just 35 targets.

With tight end Dennis Pitta expected to work more from the slot, the Ravens don’t need any of the young options to match Boldin’s impressive production, but they do need at least one to become a viable target. And much of that development will fall on a veteran quarterback entering the prime years of his career. For years, it was veteran pass catchers such as Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, and Boldin nurturing Flacco’s development, but the Ravens believe Flacco can now do the same for younger receivers.

“I like the idea of having guys that we’ve had, we’ve drafted here, or we’ve picked up here and grooming them and getting those guys to become great wide receivers,” Flacco said. “They definitely have the talent to do it; I think we just need to get them some [game-time] reps and their confidence can take off.

“One of the biggest things about Anquan is that he knew he was the man. So, when he went out there, he didn’t care what happened. He was the man. You don’t realize how much that helps out your play and your team’s play. And when these young guys can get to the point where they’re out there and their attitude is that, they have all the ability in the world, and I feel very confident with those guys.”

None of the Ravens’ many youthful options are a sure thing. Doss has drawn the strongest comparisons to Boldin because of his crisp routes and strong hands shown in practices, but those skills haven’t transferred to game action in limited opportunities and he’s struggled to stay healthy. Thompson shows breakaway speed, but the biggest knock on him at the University of Florida was his inconsistent hands. Reed faces questions about both his durability and his hands.

Perhaps a receiver from a second tier of players that includes LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter, and Aaron Mellette will turn heads over the next few weeks and push their way into the conversation.

And there remains a very real possibility that the Ravens make that veteran addition through a trade or by simply waiting until cuts are made over the course of the preseason.

None of these uncertainties seem to faze Flacco, who views change as part of life in the NFL. He simply takes the lessons learned from the veterans before him and passes them along to newcomers. The Ravens hope the confidence Flacco holds in his own ability will hopefully rub off on an unproven group of players in which he sees much promise.

His style hasn’t changed, but his success speaks for itself in terms of how he’s viewed as a leader in the locker room and on the field. It’s a major reason why the Ravens aren’t nearly as concerned about the veteran leadership lost this offseason as everyone else seems to be.

“We’ve always had a locker room where everybody kind of shares roles,” Flacco said. “You have so many guys that are very responsible and know how to go to work, and I think that’s why we’ve been able to continuously have success even though our team has changed a lot. It’s because all of those guys that have been there before us really show us how to do it and then everybody just kind of takes that lead.

“And I think that’s where we are. I think that’s where I am.”

Comments (2)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Cowboys: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 14 October 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Welcoming the Dallas Cowboys to Baltimore for the first time since the 2004 season, the Ravens look to continue their NFL-best 13-game winning streak at home on Sunday afternoon.

After three prime-time home games to begin the season, the Ravens were finally able to settle into their regular routine this week for Sunday afternoon games and will face a Dallas team coming off its bye. Baltimore is 3-0 all-time against the Cowboys, including a 2-0 mark at M&T Bank Stadium.

Veteran Bobbie Williams will start at left guard for the first time this season, replacing third-year lineman Ramon Harewood. The former Cincinnati Bengal was signed in early June with the expectation of starting along the Ravens offensive line, but the 36-year-old dealt with swelling in his right ankle that he fractured in December last season and the surprising Harewood beat him out at the end of the preseason.

Harewood was listed as one of the seven inactives prior to Sunday’s kickoff. With him and Jah Reid both listed as inactives, the Ravens will have only seven offensive linemen available against the Cowboys.

With tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele struggling with edge rushers, you have to wonder if veteran Bryant McKinnie will be the next veteran to regain his spot along the starting line should the pair struggle against Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware on Sunday. Through the first five weeks of the regular season, Williams and McKinnie had been relegated to spot duty and special teams.

In another sign of potential concern for their play at tackle, the Ravens have activated third tight end Billy Bajema, who could assist in run blocking and pass protection.

The Ravens surprisingly deactivated kick returner Deonte Thompson, who fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half last week. This likely means No. 3 wide receiver Jacoby Jones will return kicks against Dallas.

Meanwhile, the Dallas offensive line has struggled immensely this season as it’s been unable to open running lanes for Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (3.9 yards per carry) and consistently protect quarterback Tony Romo, who’s tied for third in the league with eight interceptions in only four games.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with black pants while Dallas wears its white tops with silver pants.

The Baltimore defense will be introduced prior to Sunday’s game, but center Matt Birk will also be announced as he will play in his 200th NFL game.

Here are Sunday’s inactives …

BALTIMORE
G Ramon Harewood
WR Deonte Thompson
DL DeAngelo Tyson
LB Sergio Kindle
DL Bryan Hall
CB Asa Jackson
OL Jah Reid

DALLAS
LB Anthony Spencer
P Brian Moorman
WR Cole Beasley
S Matt Johnson
LB Orie Lemon
OL Ryan Cook
DT Marcus Spears

Follow WNST on Twitter as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live coverage and updates from M&T Bank Stadium throughout the day Sunday as the Ravens try to improve to 5-1 on the season.

Comments Off on Ravens-Cowboys: Inactives and pre-game notes

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ravens facing interesting decisions at wide receiver

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Luke Jones

The impressive performance of rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson during training camp has raised questions about how the Ravens will handle roster decisions at what’s considered to be a deep position.

The top of the depth chart is essentially set with starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and veteran Jacoby Jones locked into the No. 3 spot, but the questions begin after that. Second-year wideout LaQuan Williams appears to have a strong hold on the No. 4 overall spot on the depth chart after an impressive camp while 2011 fourth-round pick Tandon Doss has dealt with a hamstring injury.

Despite being sidelined for much of the summer, Doss’ pedigree and offseason work suggest he’s still a safe bet to make the 53-man roster, pushing the Ravens’ total to five receivers before you consider the surprising Thompson or 2012 sixth-round draft choice Tommy Streeter. Thompson has performed at a higher level overall with his exceptional speed and better-than-advertised hands in practices, but Streeter’s 6-foot-5 height and straight-line speed make him the player with the higher upside despite his limited route-running ability and inconsistent hands.

However, the question of whether the Ravens can keep six — or even seven — receivers involves much more than the passing tree and reining in passes from quarterback Joe Flacco. Many will try to project a number of players at each position that are ultimately kept on the 53-man roster, but those decisions are determined by versatility and what type of contributions players can make on special teams. In that sense, a wide receiver is suddenly viewed as an all-around football player and not an individual with a specific skill set at a given position.

“The best players will be kept on the roster,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. “And you may be heavy at a position, but I know John [Harbaugh] believes that, and Ozzie [Newsome] believes that we are going to keep our best players, and if you have a bunch of receivers that are your best players, that will dictate that. If you have receivers that aren’t, than you probably will not have a lot. I’m confident that we have a really good group of receivers on this offense. How many? We are probably going to have more than maybe we can keep, so we’ll see.”

Thompson may gain the edge over Streeter when it comes to his ability on special teams where he’s working in a number of areas. Though only listed as the fourth kick returner on the team’s most recent depth chart, Thompson has also worked as a gunner on the punt team and is learning multiple jobs on the special teams units.

It can only help his cause when the Ravens trim their roster to 53 on Aug. 31 for the regular season.

“He’s working at a variety of different positions,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “He’s one of those guys that we like to cross-train, and we have this expression: ‘The more you can do.’ So, for example, on kickoff coverage, he’s worked as an inside player, he’s worked as an outside player. And on punt return team, we’ve had him work at the end where he’s rushing punts. We’ve had him work at the vice, where he’s holding up gunners. And so, he’s got enough skill where he can play a variety of positions, so we’re trying to expose him to all those different opportunities.

“Depending on how the roster all works out, and depending on where the opening is, we can insert him there and see what he can do. So yes, his speed and his agility – and he’s a football player – you watch him play offense and you can see that, because he has the ability to get open. He’s got good hands, he’s got good spatial awareness and a football sense, and it shows up in special teams as well.”

Even if Thompson or Streeter — or neither — find their way onto the 53-man roster, both would be ideal candidates for the eight-man practice squad.

Whether they’d make it that far before being snatched up by any of the other 31 NFL teams, however, remains in doubt.

Comments Off on Ravens facing interesting decisions at wide receiver

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday notes from training camp

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Trying to figure out exactly how the Ravens plan to handle their starting outside linebacker positions has been challenging with conflicting information out there since the start of organized team activities.

While fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger and rookie Courney Upshaw are still listed as the projected starters on the first depth chart released earlier this week, Kruger is listed as the strongside — or “Sam” — linebacker while Upshaw is at the rush linebacker spot, which contradicts what Kruger told reporters during OTAs. Further complicating the situation is the shoulder injury that’s sidelined Upshaw since Monday.

Kruger and the combination of Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan — with Kindle getting first-team reps while McClellan worked with the second unit Friday — have manned the outside linebacker spots for the starting defense this week, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees is keeping everyone guessing as Kruger has lined up at the strongside position as well as the rush linebacker spot.

When the starting defense came out in its nickel alignment Friday, Kruger and Kindle lined up as defensive ends with Ryan McBean and Bryan Hall lining up at the tackle positions as Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee are still being brought back slowly after injuries.

Regardless of who ultimately lines up at each outside linebacker position at the start of the regular season, there are question marks over the ability of both Kruger and Upshaw to drop into pass coverage, making it understandable that the Ravens are playing around with as many looks as they can to see what will work best without the services of Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Return game

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg hasn’t offered much in revealing what the Ravens’ plans are in the return game, but veteran wide receiver Jacoby Jones has a strong hold on the punt return job and is listed in the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Jones has taken the majority of reps as the punt returner even though former punt returner Lardarius Webb may occasionally find himself back deep.

However, the kick returner job appears to be more wide open with no definitive player emerging to receive more reps during practices. Jones is listed as the No. 1 kick returner on the depth chart, but backup running backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry as well as rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson received reps returning kickoffs on Friday.

Jones has the clear edge in experience, but you have to wonder if the Ravens will want him to handle return duties for both punts and kickoffs when he is expected to be the team’s No. 3 receiver this season.

We will begin to gain more clarity when the Ravens take on the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener on Thursday.

Highlights from practice

Tight end Ed Dickson continues to have an impressive camp as he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in an 11-on-11 portion of practice.

Matched up across from Kruger at the line of scrimmage, Dickson found a tiny window as Kruger dropped into zone coverage and Flacco threw a beautiful pass into the end zone for the score.

Though Flacco seemed to develop a better rapport with Dennis Pitta over the course of last season, he appears to be on the same page with Dickson during camp, which is good news after Pitta broke his hand earlier this week.

Flacco also delivered a bullet to wide receiver Torrey Smith on a slant pattern that beat cornerback Danny Gorrer and likely would have gone for a touchdown had the whistle not blown shortly after the reception. Smith has looked more comfortable with the entire passing tree through the early portion of camp and appears to be catching the ball more often with his hands instead of his body as he would tend to do last season.

After receiving Thursday off, rookie kicker Justin Tucker was 5-for-6 on field goal attempts as he connected on tries from 46 and 53 yards before coming up just short on a kick from 60 yards away.

Veteran kicker Billy Cundiff was given Friday off as Rosburg told media a day earlier that he would.

Roster move

With Bryant McKinnie returning to the practice field on Friday, the Ravens waived offensive lineman Paul Madsen after they had signed him in early June.

The rookie from Colorado State had previously been with the Buffalo Bills before being claimed off waivers by Baltimore.

He is the brother of former NBA player Mark Madsen.

 

Comments Off on Friday notes from training camp