Tag Archive | "Kelley Washington"

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Two weeks notice: The long offseason is almost over

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Luke Jones

After a long and eventful offseason, we’re exactly two weeks away from the start of the NFL season when the hated Pittsburgh Steelers host the Tennessee Titans for the Thursday night opener.

In Baltimore, an impressive 2-0 preseason start has only raised expectations for the Ravens entering the 2009 regular season.

With two preseason encounters remaining before the Ravens kick off against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13, much has gone well, but questions still remain before the real games begin.

Here are my purple thoughts as we approach the Ravens’ meeting with the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night.

– Receiver Mark Clayton returned to practice yesterday after missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury.  Though he won’t play against Carolina, it’s definitely a positive sign for him to be practicing more than two weeks before the regular season opener.

Considering his history with hamstring issues, the Ravens will be extremely careful with Clayton.  If his hamstring responds well to practice, he’ll likely play against Atlanta to get some game reps next Thursday night, but don’t be surprised to see the Ravens limit his reps into the early stages of the season.

It helps that Clayton had an entire offseason to work with Joe Flacco, but the two will need to regain their timing.  As WNST’s Glenn Clark has mentioned, Clayton’s absence has opened the door for Kelley Washington to become a factor in the passing game, and the veteran has responded well.

Staying on the injury front, you have to be a little more concerned with Terrell Suggs’ injured Achilles tendon than a week ago when the team was still “roughing” it in the Westminster heat.  Throughout training camp, we received reassurances that the heel injury was not serious, so most assumed it was a convenient excuse for the Pro Bowl linebacker to cruise through training camp.

But with the Ravens back at their comfy facility in Owings Mills this week, Suggs remains sidelined and has been since Aug. 2.  If he doesn’t play against the Falcons next Thursday, one would have to question his status for the start of the regular season, not just in terms of the Achilles but also his overall conditioning.

– Is Samari Rolle’s career over?

Whenever you learn about a football player dealing with a neck injury, it’s never taken lightly, and Rolle’s long stay on the physically unable to perform list only adds to the concern.

On Aug. 5, John Harbaugh said he expected Rolle to return to the practice field in the “next day or two,” but since then, the veteran corner has seen a second specialist regarding his injured neck.  There is no timetable for his return, and the organization has been very quiet regarding any specifics of the injury.

At this point, it seems likely Rolle will begin the season on the reserve PUP list (and not counting against the 53-man roster), keeping him sidelined for the first six weeks before the team must decide to activate him within a three-week window or place him on injured reserve.

Considering the Ravens have good depth in the defensive backfield, they will be patient with Rolle, especially since he would not count against the active roster.

Rolle dealt with two previous neck and spine injuries in his career, so you have to wonder if the cornerback has reached the end of the line.  If the current condition is as serious as it seems, why put his long-term health at risk?  Despite the appeal of playing on a team with Super Bowl aspirations, no one would blame the veteran for walking away from a very impressive NFL career.

– Much has been made about the Ravens’ difficulty in stopping the run on Monday night in their 24-23 victory over the New York Jets, but I still have a difficult time getting worked up over a small sample size in a preseason performance.

While the defense had difficulty with Leon Washington and—to a lesser extent—Thomas Jones, most of the breakdowns appeared to be related to hitting the wrong gaps when blitzing.  Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison confirmed this on Thursday and did not seem to be overly concerned with the lapses.

It did not surprise me to see the Ravens struggle with a shifty back like Washington, especially when you remember NFL teams do not game-plan for preseason opponents like they do in the regular season.

Keep in mind that despite the Ravens’ impressive run defense last season (third in the NFL), the unit struggled against Dallas’ Tashard Choice in Week 16 (17 carries, 90 yards) and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (11 carries, 72 yards) in the playoffs before the rookie left the game with an ankle injury late in the first half.

In other words, the defense is very good—but not invincible—in stopping the run.  Shifty backs can match up well against the Ravens’ scheme, but I’m not ready to raise any red flags until we see the same breakdowns happening in the regular season.

– While most continue to focus on the uncertainty at the wide receiver position, the Ravens would also be wise to acquire a veteran offensive tackle.  Jared Gaither and Michael Oher are clearly the starters, but an injury to either would throw second-year tackle Oniel Cousins into the starting lineup, a potential disaster in the making.

Cousins has improved from a season ago but still commits too many penalties and is too inconsistent.  Though the coaching staff could shift Marshal Yanda to right tackle if something would happen to either Oher or Gaither (Oher would then slide to left tackle), a veteran tackle would not only add depth but would be a positive influence on the very talented—but young—starting tackles.

Perhaps there will be another Willie Anderson floating around next week, and the Ravens will give their offensive line depth a boost.

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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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Ravens 23 Redskins 0 (Preseason Games Merit No Clever Nickname)

Posted on 14 August 2009 by Derek Arnold

Whether starters or backups, veterans or rookies, none of the Ravens had much problem disposing of the Washington Redskins last night in the first preseason action of 2009. There was plenty of good that comes from a double-digit shutout win, of course, but there was also some bad sprinkled in. Here’s what I noticed:

Michael Oher = BEAST.

Michael Oher

Wow, what a game this kid had. We knew he was going to be solid, but he came out and absolutely mauled people from the start. Any of you picking up Madden today, let me know what Oher’s run-blocking rating is – because anything less than say, a 95, isn’t giving the man-child his due. He straight up pancaked at least two Redskins.

Now, if only we could get the guy a helmet that fits.

Oher lost his dome-piece twice, the second time right before he bashed heads with the Skins defender, and was a bloody mess as a result. After going into the locker room to get three stitches to close the gash (and some saran wrap around his noggin to hold on the gauze), Oher was right back on the field.

Looks like another great pick by the Ravens’ front office.

Quarterbacks Effective

Joe Flacco was a quiet 9/15 for 103 yards. Joe Cool didn’t do anything spectacular, but he was efficient in going through his reads, avoided any sacks or turnovers, and led two 60+ yard scoring drives. Unfortunately, both drives stalled in the red zone (Deja Vu alert). Perhaps Flacco’s best throw of the night, a sideline pass to Marcus Smith, bounced off Smith’s chest.

Troy Smith saw the most action last night, throwing 30 passes and completing 14 of them for 200 yards and a score. He was impressive in his ability to sidestep pressure and extend plays, but Smith still has a tendency (as I noted here) to lock on to his primary reciever. It didn’t hurt hit against the Redskins’ 2nd-teamers, but against a starting NFL defense, methinks it would be a different story.

John Beck wasn’t bad either, going 5/9 for 105 yards. He may give Troy some competition for the backup job, yet. He looks too good to be a #3 QB in the NFL, though.

All 3 quarterbacks benefited from…

YAC

Ray Rice caught a short check-down from Flacco in the 1st quarter and turned it into a 34-yard gain. Near the end of the game, Jayson Foster grabbed a quick out from Beck, dodged a defender, and raced 64 yards before being pulled down just short of the goal line. Foster likely earned himself a closer look as camp continues.

This is an area where Ravens receivers have struggled year-after-year, and it was nice to see somebody step it up, even if it was just a RB and a likely-to-be-cut WR.

Kickers

I mentioned that the kicking game would be interesting to keep an eye on. Steve Hauschka was 2/2, hitting from 21 and 37 yards, and put one of his kickoffs into the end zone, though not deep enough to garner a touchback. Gano hit from 39, but banged a 28-yard attempt off the right upright as time expired. He probably wishes Coach John Harbaugh had just let the clock run out.

Rex-Less Defense

As promised, new DC Greg Mattison ran most plays out of his base 3-4 defense, going light on the blitzing. He admitted after the game that he was not satisfied with the amount of pressure the Ravens were able to get on the QB while only rushing four, so it will be interesting to see if his tactics change at all moving forward. While Kelly Gregg, Justin Bannan, and Haloti Ngata are all extremely effective D-linemen, getting to the QB has never been any of their bread-and-butter. The return of T-Sizzle to the lineup will obviously help, but there were times watching the game when Ravens fans, more accustomed to an aggressive scheme, wanted to see more bodies flying towards the pocket.

Still, the Ravens racked up 3 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery, and ended the day +2 in the turnover department. We’ll happily give Mr. Mattison’s debut a favorable review.

Return Game

Did veteran return man Chris Carr have a few butterflies in his first appearance in purple? He called for a fair catch on a punt return when nobody was within about 12 yards of him (although, as pointed out by the RaveTV broadcast team, this could have been due to his noticing that the Ravens had already been flagged on the play), and dropped another punt before scooping it up and gaining positive yardage.

Jayson Foster had the best punt return of the night, a 21-yard gain.

Ledarius Webb, a guy we have big hopes for here at the Nest, had returns of 6 and 10 yards, an unspectacular start.

Yamon Figurs, widely considered the odd man out of the group, did nothing special on punt returns either. However, he did have two receptions, one of which went for 42 yards. He’ll likely need a couple similar performances catching passes in the coming games to make the opening day roster.

Speaking of Receivers…

Ravens wideouts had an up-and-down night. Marcus Smith dropped a couple, including the aforementioned sideline throw from Flacco. He tried to redeem himself by making a tackle on special teams, but he injured himself in the process, and is rumored to be seriously hurt.

Justin Harper, the star of training camp so far, had 4 catches for 57 yards, including a 19-yard TD, but had at least 3 drops of catchable balls. Some consistency would be very nice to see.

Kelley Washington and Demetrius Williams, two guys who will likely see plenty of the field (barring injuries) in 2009, combined for 3 catches for 42 yards. We’ll excuse Washington for doing the Chad Pennington “air stab,” because he looked -300% as dorky doing it as Chad does.

Ravens 23 Redskins 0

Just wanted to type that one more time, because hey…kicking the crap out of the skins is always fun, even if it is just practice.

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Ravens-Redskins: Keys to the Game and Players to Watch

Posted on 13 August 2009 by Luke Jones

While Ravens fans undoubtedly are excited for tonight’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, maintaining enthusiasm for an exhibition game can be difficult.  Despite paying regular season ticket prices,—and that’s another issue entirely—we’ll likely see Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and the rest of the starters for a quarter at most.

And let’s face it; few will remember the outcome of this one by this time next month.

Keys to the Game

1. Health

The ultimate goal of any preseason game is to keep players healthy. The Ravens are already dealing with injuries at wide receiver and the offensive line, so they won’t want to add to the list.

The team certainly wants to play well in their first live-game action but not at the expense of any key players. Regardless of the game’s outcome, coming out of it healthy will be a victory in itself.

Expect a vanilla game plan on both sides of the ball.

2. Establish the run

While Ray Rice appears to have the inside track at the running back position, the Ravens will continue to use a by-committee approach with Rice, Willis McGahee, and fullback Le’Ron McClain sharing carries.

Rice will get the start but expect offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to give some carries to McGahee and McClain with the first team. The coaching staff certainly wants to improve the passing game in 2009, but this team will clearly maintain their run-first approach this season.

Pay attention to rookie Michael Oher’s work at right tackle. His run blocking has been very impressive during training camp, so we’ll see how well it carries over against the Redskins.

3. Completions

Cameron has emphasized a desire to see the quarterbacks complete more passes than last season, whether it’s a 25-yard strike or finding a running back in the flat.

Depending on who’s available on the offensive line and at wide receiver, expect the Ravens to use plenty of two-tight end sets and maximum protection to keep Flacco upright. The offense wants to establish a good tempo, so look for more conservative passing early and perhaps a shot or two down the field before Flacco exits after a quarter.

With the Ravens’ top three receivers banged up, tonight is a golden opportunity for Kelley Washington, Justin Harper, and Marcus Smith to establish themselves as viable options for Flacco. L.J. Smith will also need to have a good night, as Todd Heap is battling tightness in his lower back.

4. Defensive Intensity

Ravens fans are anxious to see new coordinator Greg Mattison’s imprint on a defense that ranked second overall in 2008. With the departure of Bart Scott to the New York Jets, Tavares Gooden is the top candidate to take his place next to Ray Lewis.

Gooden flies to the football and is a tremendous athlete, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy. After missing most of 2008 with a hip injury and undergoing sports hernia surgery in the offseason, he’s pushed through some soreness in training camp but has performed very well as a member of the starting defense.

Ray Lewis probably won’t play much longer than a series, but he’ll undoubtedly have his defense flying to the football in the early stages of the game. Even with Mattison’s intention to run more base defense, the Ravens will strive to pressure Jason Campbell and the other Washington quarterbacks.

5 (really 6) Players to Watch

1. Justin Harper

The 2008 seventh-round pick has been one of the early stars in Westminster this summer after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. Harper has beaten just about every defensive back on the roster for long completions at some point during training camp, but performing in game situations is another story.

Harper needs to prove he can catch the ball in traffic, as he has a tendency of trying to make catches with his body instead of his hands.

2. David Hale

After being regarded as a disappointment in his rookie season, Hale has proven to be one of the most versatile offensive linemen on the team during camp, lining up at center, guard, and even tight end during tackle-eligible plays.

Hale will definitely see some reps with first unit but will probably play a good portion of the game. Considering the Ravens will probably keep three reserves for the regular season, a versatile—and effective—Hale would be a valuable depth guy to have

3. Lardarius Webb

The Nicholls State rookie has been very impressive in Westminster, both in the secondary and as a kick returner. He shows good football instincts and is very active in the special teams units.

Some members of the organization view Webb as a potential shutdown corner in the future, so we’ll get our first look at the defensive back in a game situation. He has one of the key intangibles that make a quality cornerback—resiliency. When he has been beaten in coverage during camp, he shakes it off and responds by making a strong defensive play almost immediately thereafter.

4. Dannell Ellerbe

Perhaps the most impressive undrafted rookie on the roster, Ellerbe has received some first-team reps at linebacker when Gooden missed practice last week. His draft status plummeted last season due to a knee injury at the University of Georgia.

Ellerbe was a second-team All-SEC player in 2007 and led the Bulldogs in tackles. He brings an impressive football intellect for a rookie and is a hard hitter in the traditional inside linebacker mold.

He and Jameel McClain are the top candidates behind Gooden in the inside linebacker competition.

5. Steve Hauschka/Graham Gano

All eyes will be on both kickers tonight as they get their first true test in the battle to replace Matt Stover as the Ravens placekicker. Both have performed well during camp, with Hauschka likely holding the slight edge at this point.

Hauschka will handle all kicking duties in the first half with Gano auditioning in the second half of tonight’s game.

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Ravens-Redskins Preview: Conservative will be the Theme

Posted on 12 August 2009 by Luke Jones

For the first time since coming up short in the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh last January, the Ravens will take the field at M&T Bank Stadium in their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

While doubts surround the wide receiver position and an elite defense adjusts to a new coordinator at the helm, expectations run high for a team that finished 11-5 a year ago under first-year coach John Harbaugh.  Second-year quarterback Joe Flacco will look to build upon a remarkable rookie season that included two road playoff victories and is expected to take a larger role in the offensive game plan.

Thursday will be the first—albeit small—step in gauging Flacco’s progression from  rookie to incumbent starter.

“In the preseason, I want [Flacco] to throw completions,” offensive coordinator Cam Camerson said.  “That could be up the field [or] underneath.  I want to see completions inside the numbers, up the field, sideline to sideline. That’s what we’re going to try to do this preseason. For us to improve our offense, we’ve got to throw the football better. Obviously, it starts with the quarterback.”

It will be difficult to get an accurate picture of the passing offense considering the injuries at the wide receiver position.  Starting wideout Mark Clayton (hamstring) will not play, and Derrick Mason (dislocated finger) and Demetrius Williams (hamstring) are questionable for the preseason opener.  These injuries could mean newcomer Kelley Washington and second-year camp standout Justin Harper will line up in the starting offense—not exactly a duo that will strike fear in an opposing secondary.

Coupled with the injuries at receiver is a battered offensive line.  Center Matt Birk, guard Chris Chester, and rookie tackle Michael Oher are the only sure bets to play Thursday as tackle Jared Gaither (trapezius) and guard Ben Grubbs (ankle) have recently battled injuries and are questionable.  Guard Marshal Yanda has made great progress in returning from a horrific knee injury last season, but the team plans to bring Yanda along slowly in the preseason.

These factors likely mean a conservative approach from the Ravens’ offense against Washington.  The team figures to use a heavy dose of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee and plenty of max-protect blocking schemes in the passing game.

“It’s an opportunity to keep growing as a football team and growing as individual players,” coach John Harbaugh said.  “We’re not game-planning for the Redskins. They’re not game-planning for us.  We’re just going to come out and run our basic stuff—see how guys play, how they play together and how they execute.”

Of course, the first preseason game is hardly the time to open up the playbook, so a conservative game plan is not a poor approach, but what should we expect from new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s defense?

Much of the same, apparently.

Pointing to the depth of the defensive line, Mattison suggests we’ll see less blitzing than what we saw for years with Rex Ryan’s defenses.  The return of Kelly Gregg will bolster an already impressive line that includes Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, and Justin Bannan.  The biggest question will be whether this group can pressure the quarterback without the aid of blitzing—something Ngata and Gregg have not done consistently in the past.

“Our philosophy is we think that this year we can play base,” Mattison said.  “You know, I feel like we’ve got the players that if they play like they can—and they will—you don’t have to be real exotic all the time. You should be able to get pressure with a four-man front, and with our secondary [and] the way they’re practicing, you feel confident that we should be able to cover people without bringing overloads and pressures all the time.”

The defense will be without linebacker Terrell Suggs (heel) and may not have Pryce (foot) and safety Ed Reed—whose status for the preseason is unknown as he battles the same shoulder and neck issue from last season.  Cornerback Domonique Foxworth (former Maryland Terp and Western Tech grad) has had an impressive training camp and will be expected to play at a high level after signing a four-year, $28 million contract to join the hometown team.

While most football fans tend to focus on the offense and defense, the Ravens’ kicking situation might be the most intriguing story of the preseason.  With Matt Stover currently a free agent and not a part of the Ravens’ plans, the organization now looks for a placekicker for the first time in its 14-year history.

Last season’s kickoff specialist Steve Hauschka and rookie Graham Gano will compete for the job, and both players have impressed during training camp.  However, the Ravens will tell you the competition will ultimately be decided by how well each performs in the four preseason games.

The Ravens plan to use Hauschka in the first half for all kicking duties, with Gano kicking in the second half.

Regardless of the likely conservative nature of the preseason opener, players are eager to take a break from the rigors of training camp and compete against another NFL team.  It’s the first step in building upon a promising 2008 season.

“I’m definitely excited,” Rice said.  “Football is football.  If you get out there and see another color and don’t get excited, I don’t think you should be playing this sport.  I’m excited just to get out there again.”

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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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Live from Westminster: Practicing in the heat, no celebs in the morning

Posted on 10 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:53 p.m. — Harbaugh was wearing what appeared to be a new shirt this afternoon at practice.  The phrase “Mighty Men of Baltimore” appears on the front.  This was a phrase Harbaugh began using last season, and I’ve even seen one or two players wearing the same shirt walking through the hotel lobby this afternoon.

4:22 p.m. — The team will hold their last full day of workouts tomorrow (8:45 a.m. full squad and 2:00 p.m. special teams) before the first preseason game against Washington on Thursday night.  Both practices are open to the public.

The Ravens will have a walk-through on Wednesday, but it is closed to both the media and the general public.

The team will then be back to practice in Westminster at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday.

4:19 p.m. — Ed Reed again sported a white jersey in the afternoon session, as he did yesterday, but I wouldn’t read too much into it since there was no contact.  Reed was wearing the red jersey this morning.

4:17 p.m. — Jerry Rosburg and the special teams spent a good portion of practice working with the hands team unit.

While we’ve mainly focused on the field goal side of the kicking game, kickoffs and onside kicks will clearly factor into the competition.

4:16 p.m. — In Williams’ absence, Justin Harper took most of the reps starting opposite of Derrick Mason with the first offense.

When the Ravens ran three-receiver sets, Mason, Harper, and Kelley Washington lined up with the first team.

4:09 p.m. — The afternoon practice was a brief, hour-long workout, as the coaching staff tried to keep the exposure to the Westminster heat at a minimum.

The players practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts with Todd Heap (back), Demetrius Williams (right hamstring), Jared Gaither (left shoulder/neck), Willis McGahee, and Ernie Wheelwright getting the afternoon off.

Mark Clayton (hamstring) walked out to the field near the end of practice, but I did not observe him doing any running.

Prescott Burgess left the field early in practice and was holding the right shoulder/chest area.  There was no real contact this afternoon, so it’s unclear what happened to him.

Another player to watch on Tuesday morning is Trevor Pryce.  He appeared to have some type of issue with his foot for a brief time in the morning, but he then returned to practice.  I don’t want to call it an injury at this point, but we’ll see if the veteran defensive end is out there tomorrow.

2:01 p.m. — Being brand new to the Baltimore media, it was an absolute honor talking to Vince Bagli this morning.  He was out in the sweltering heat watching the Ravens practice this morning, but he was in good spirits as always.  At 82 years old, Vince still looks great and was excited for the new football season to kick off.

1:43 p.m. — The afternoon’s full-squad practice will take place at 2:45 p.m. and is open to the public.  If you’re coming out to McDaniel College, please bring plenty of fluids and sunscreen.  I just looked at the updated Westminster forecast, and they’re predicting temperatures in the low- to mid-90s.  It actually looks a little better than this morning when they were predicting triple-digit temperatures.

1:24 p.m. — Le’Ron McClain will undoubtedly remain a big part of the running game despite being moved back to fullback. In the first live play of the morning, McClain rushed for 6 yards against the starting defense and looked quick hitting the hole. The coaching staff wants to see him drop a few more pounds by the start of the regular season, but he has looked good in the first two weeks of camp.
Le'Ron McClain warms up on Monday morning

1:22 p.m. — Despite the brutal heat this morning, the Ravens continued to show why they’re one of the finest organizations in the NFL, staying after practice to sign autographs for the Ravens fans in attendance.  Here’s a shot of Chris Carr talking to some of the Ravens Rookies this morning:
Chris Carr signs autographs in the heat

1:15 p.m. — Ray Rice spoke to the media after practice—available in the audio vault at WNST.net—and talked about his increased role with the starting offense.  Rice took most of the starting offense’s reps this morning with Willis McGahee mostly working with the second offense.

Rice continues to look smooth catching passes out of the backfield, but McGahee continues to work hard.  Cameron complimented McGahee’s work ethic—quite a change from last season when the coaching staff was questioning his dedication.

1:12 p.m. — Fabian Washington had the defensive highlight of the morning, picking off a Joe Flacco pass inteded for Kelley Washington.

Despite some concerns over Flacco’s interceptions during training camp, Cameron defended his quarterback, even saying he’d be concerned if Flacco wasn’t throwing interceptions.  This is the time for Flacco to experiment, with his own limits and his receivers’ abilities.

Cameron even shared a story dating back to his time in San Diego with quarterback Philip Rivers.  He recalled Rivers throwing interceptions on four consecutive throws but assured head coach Marty Schottenheimer that Rivers was fine.  The Chargers quarterback then threw a touchdown pass and has had a very promising start to his NFL career.

1:07 p.m. — Steve Hauschka received most of the field goal attempts today, as it was obvious Graham Gano was dealing with a tired leg on Saturday.  Hauschka was unofficially four out of six this morning, missing attempts from 40 and 54 yards.  Hauschka made field goals from 49, 44, and 39.

Gano made field goals from 40 and 49 yards but also missed from 54 yards.  Both kickers came up short from 54 yards, as previously reported.

12:45 p.m. — Marcus Smith had a rough morning, dropping a few passes, as he continues to fight Justin Harper and Kelley Washington for playing time with the starting offense.

With Mason and Williams lining up as the starting receivers, Washington and Harper are receiving most of the reps at the No. 3 spot with Smith mostly working with Troy Smith and the second team offense.

Smith will surely get plenty of opportunities in the preseason games, but, for right now, he appears to trail Harper on the depth chart.

12:40 p.m. — With Heap sitting out practice, L.J. Smith and Edgar Jones shared reps at tight end with the starting offense.  Smith continues to work his way back from the hamstring tweak he sustained at the beginning of camp.  He’s looking more comfortable in the offensive system and has been more active in the passing game in recent days.

An unlikely player to line up at tight end was offensive linemen David Hale.  The Ravens were working on some tackle-eligible plays this morning, and Hale even ran a pass pattern at one point.  Flacco did not throw it to him.

I would expect the Ravens to continue to show many of the unbalanced line looks we saw throughout the 2008 season.  Michael Oher has lined up next to Jared Gaither on several occasions, and it will be interesting to see how well these two can open up the running lanes while working side-by-side.

12:22 p.m. — With Demetrius Willliams sidelined for a good portion of practice, it gave Kelley Washington and Justin Harper a chance to line up with Derrick Mason in the starting offense.

Washington continues to impress, as he is able to play any of the receiver positions.

The key for Harper is his ability to catch the football in traffic.  He has proven over and over that he can stretch the field against any defensive back on the roster, but the coaching staff wants to see him go over the middle and catch the football.  This will be one of the more interesting players to watch during the four preseason games.

12:16 p.m. — One of the more positive notes from the morning was the improving health of the starting offensive line.  Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, and Michael Oher all practiced without incident, a good sign with the preseason opener against the Redskins just three days away.

Cameron spoke glowingly about new center Matt Birk, calling him an outstanding leader.  The young offensive linemen have really responded to Birk’s veteran presence.

Considering Chris Chester is the next longest-tenured linemen on the roster—and only in his fourth season himself—Birk’s presence is an absolute necessity.  And, oh yeah, the six Pro Bowl appearances are also a plus.

12:13 p.m. — Players resting on a knee was a common scene this morning, as you can see here with Domonique Foxworth and Dawan Landry.
Foxworth and Landry rest in between reps.

11:55 a.m. — Todd Heap sat out practice with what Cam Cameron described as some tightness in his lower back.  Heap battled a back injury—sustained against the Titans in the playoffs—for most of the offseason.  I spoke to Heap after practice, and he did not seem concerned and described it as more of a precautionary measure taken by the coaching staff.

Heap had not missed any practice time before this morning and has looked healthier than he did last season.

As reported earlier this morning, Demetrius Williams was seen with an ice pack on his right leg and sat out the second half of practice.  Williams has pushed through a hamstring issue for most of camp, and Cameron gave him credit for playing through it.  The offensive coordinator said they wanted to give Williams some rest in the conditions and wanted to be careful with the receiver’s health.

11:51 a.m. — The morning practice has concluded as the players are certainly trying to escape the heat for a few hour before getting back on the field at 2:45 this afternoon.  Hydration was the buzz word for this morning, as John Harbaugh built in a few water breaks into the morning practice.

The overall pace was slower than normal, but that’s to be expected with the sweltering conditions.

10:48 a.m. — Much to the dismay of the local media, there were no celebrity sightings at this morning’s practice.

10:14 a.m. — It looks like Todd Heap has an ice pack on his back. He’s resting on one knee.

9:58 a.m. — Shaky day of long-field goal kicking:  Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano both come up short from 54 yards.

9:45 a.m. — Demetrius Williams resting on the cart. He looks to be getting ice on his right leg.

9:26 a.m. — The notable missing players today are Mark Clayton, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Terrell Suggs. Also, Todd Heap has not been very active so far this morning. He’s been resting on one knee with L.J. Smith and Edgar Jones taking the reps at tight end with Joe Flacco and the first unit.

9:19 a.m. –The heat is already taking its toll. Several players are doing the “one knee” thing between plays. Also, Ed Reed is back in the “red” no contact jersey this morning.

8:51 a.m. –Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Ray Rice will meet the media at the end of the practice today. It’ll be interesting to hear their thoughts about the progress of the team over the first two weeks of camp, especially given the defense’s daily domination of the offense.

The entire offensive line is dressed and ready to practice today. It’s toasty out here!

8:42 a.m. — It’s a boiler out here in Westminster this morning and the morning practice is closed to the public and open only to the sponsors and suite holders. There have been a myriad of rumors regarding more celebrities appearing at McDaniel College today but nothing could top Snoop Dogg’s appearance in the mist last week. (Or could it?)

With the Michael Oher movie trailer making the rounds and Sandra Bullock’s involvement, there have been rumors about an appearance. Others have opined that Tim McGraw could be involved. They are the co-stars of the Oher movie “The Blind Side,” which is set to be released Nov. 20.

Obviously, at this point these are just rumors and we’ll keep you in the loop as to the facts.

What’s more important is hydration out here today as the temperature is expected to get to three digits on the main field. As you know if you’ve been to Westminster, there’s not much shade out here.

Follow our Tweets and we’ll continue to keep you in the loop via our live blog.

Just two more days of practice and the Redskins will be here on Thursday night.

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Live From Westminster: Cousins carted off field in AM practice

Posted on 07 August 2009 by Luke Jones

6:39 p.m. –The Ravens will hold two practices tomorrow, a morning session at 8:45 a.m. and an afternoon workout at 2:45 p.m.  Both practices are expected to be full-squad.

Just a quick note to anyone planning to head out to Westminster on Monday to watch the Ravens in action.  The morning practice will be closed to the public.  The afternoon practice scheduled for 2:45 p.m. will be open for fans to attend.

3:24 p.m. — Despite the defense thoroughly dominating this morning, there were a few highlights for the offense.  Flacco threw a long touchdown pass to Mason during a 7-on-7 drill, beating Frank Walker in coverage.

Justin Harper also made another spectacular one-handed catch.  Harper must still prove he can hold onto the ball when getting hit, but he certainly has shown an ability to stretch the field.  He continues to share time at the No. 3 receiver spot with Kelley Washington with Mark Clayton sidelined with a hamstring injury.

3:17 p.m. — The special teams practice lasted about an hour, as the team focused on kick return and punt team alignments.

Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Ray Rice, and Jayson Foster worked on returning kicks.  Punt returners included Carr, Yamon Figurs, Rice, and Foster.

Tavares Gooden was present but did not participate in the special teams workout.

1:20 p.m. — Here’s a fun story from today’s practice:  Derrick Mason had joked during his return press conference on Sunday that the team did not have a marching band or the girl scouts come out to celebrate his return.  A local girl scouts troop from Westminster came out to practice this morning, and Mason greeted them and even conducted an interview with the girls after practice.

The audio is up in the WNST vault if you’d like to take a listen.  Mason also talked about his health and the other wide receivers in camp.

1:19 p.m. — We did see our first “fight” of the camp this morning.  Frank Walker and Evan Oglesby mixed it up a little bit, but it wasn’t exactly Ali-Frazier.  With the first preseason game still six days away, these players are definitely getting tired of hitting each other and are ready to hit an opponent.

12:51 p.m. — I just saw Oniel Cousins walking around the hotel.  He was walking with a limp, but there was no apparent wrap or support or anything of that nature on his left leg—definitely a good sign.

12:49 p.m. — The kicking battle was fairly even again, as it has been for the better part of camp.  Graham Gano made two kicks beyond 40 yards but missed from 53.  Steve Hauschka missed from 42 but hit from 45 and 53 yards.

I continue to be impressed by both kickers.

12:46 p.m. — Domonique Foxworth is really starting to settle in with his new team.  On a deep pass attempt to Demetrius Williams, Foxworth was step-for-step with him as the pass fell incomplete.  Ray Lewis was heard praising the new cornerback, the calling card of knowing you belong in the Baltimore defense.

12:28 p.m. — One of the more intriguing stories of the morning was the player lining up next to Ray Lewis in Gooden’s absence.  While most would have expected Jameel McClain, rookie free agent Dannell Ellerbe was running with the first team.  I mentioned Ellerbe earlier this week, but he is clearly making an impression with the coaching staff.

McClain was lining up at inside linebacker with the second unit, so it appears Ellerbe has passed McClain on the depth chart—for now.  It will be interesting to see what happens if Gooden is out for any extended period of time.

12:22 p.m. — Prior to sitting out with an ice pack on his left knee, McGahee displayed some nice moves in the open field after catching a screen pass from Flacco in 11-on-11 thud.  McGahee has had a solid camp, so hopefully the ice pack is just a precautionary measure.

Speaking of running backs, Le’Ron McClain displayed some nice cuts during live action this morning.  Despite the fact that McClain will be used as a fullback this season, I still expect him to receiver his fair share of carries along with Ray Rice and McGahee.

12:09 p.m. — With Gaither not participating in any live drills, Michael Oher once again lined up at left tackle with Marshal Yanda shifting to right tackle on the starting offensive line.  David Hale took Ben Grubbs’ place at left guard.

The Ravens are incredibly thin on the offensive line right now with Grubbs and Gaither out and the left leg injury to Cousins this morning.  They’re fortunate to have Chester, who can play both guard positions and center, and Yanda to play both guard and tackle.  If not for the versatility of these two, a bad situation would be even worse.

Considering the Ravens were in need of another tackle before Cousins’ injury, you would have to think the Ravens will bring in another tackle to camp.

10:39 a.m. — Morning highlights were ALL defense. Todd Heap dropped one into the hands of Ed Reed who returned it for a TD. Ray Lewis rocked Jalen Parmele at the line of scrimmage that got a big “ohhhh” out of the crowd. And — either good or bad news depending on your view — the defense sacked Joe Flacco three times when going live for a series. It’s been quite the defensive show, but the Cousins injury was bad news this morning. We’ll see how he progresses.

10:34 a.m. — Oniel Cousins just went down on the field. He walked over to the cart and is now being carted off the field. There will certainly be more to come…We just sent a WNST Text on this. Join our text service here…

10:10 a.m. — Frank Walker has been subbing in for Fabian Washington this morning.

10:06 a.m. — Willis McGahee has now joined Jared Gaither in the “ice club.” McGahee is icing his left knee.

10:01 a.m. — Jared Gaither is on the field with an ice pack on his neck and shoulder. We’ll know more when the practice is over. John Harbaugh is NOT speaking to the media today. He will be leaving immediately following the morning practice for Philadelphia to attend the memorial service for his good friend and former Eagles defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson.  More with Bob Haynie in a little bit…

9:17 a.m. — Jared Gaither appears to be limited on the field this morning, not participating in the 11-on-11 right now. But he is on the field and looks to be mostly fine.

8:46 a.m. — Jared Gaither is back on the field practicing this morning. Demetrius Williams is also on the field this morning, a beautifully cool summer day.

There are three noticeable Ravens missing today: Terrell Suggs, Ben Grubbs and Tavares Gooden.

I’ll be tweeting today (Twitter seems to be down or slow again today) as well as checking in at 9:30, 10:30 and all day at WNST AM 1570 with Drew and Bob.

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Ray Lewis and Snoop Dogg in Westminster

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Live from Snoop-minster: Pics & vids of Snoop Dogg in the hizzouse at Ravens camp here!

Posted on 06 August 2009 by Luke Jones

7:46 p.m. — Practice will get underway at 8:45 a.m. on Friday morning.  The team will have a special teams practice at 2 p.m. with special teams coordinator/assistant head coach Jerry Rosburg running the show.

Harbaugh will be attending the memorial service of former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.  The two men coached together in Philadelphia for a decade before Harbaugh became the head coach of the Ravens in 2008.

5:28 p.m. — Happy birthday to Frank Walker.  In honor of his 28th birthday, he was allowed to break the team huddle at the end of the afternoon practice.

How did he celebrate?  Walker worked on his conditioning by running laps around the field after practice.

5:19 p.m. — Just when we thought Marcus Smith’s weight fluctuation problem was settled, the wide receiver did not practice this afternoon, though he was running on his own out on the field.

With Smith having problems staying on the practice field and Clayton sidelined for the next few weeks, Kelley Washington and Justin Harper will both get looks at the No. 3 position.  Washington is a little more polished while running his routes, but Harper continues to stretch the field unlike any other receiver on the roster.

5:10 p.m. — Another interesting competition to watch this summer is the battle for the kick and punt returner jobs.

At this point in camp, Chris Carr is No. 1 on the depth chart at kick returner and punt returner, but we’ve seen a plethora of other players returning punts, including Ed Reed, Yamon Figurs, Jayson Foster, and Lardarius Webb.

Much like we’ve seen over the last couple years, Reed continues to lobby to return punts, but it’s hard to envision the coaching staff allowing him to do it on a consistent basis.

Webb has been more of a factor returning kickoffs

4:51 p.m. — The Snoop Dogg video of the “What Time Is It?” is here…

4:32 p.m. — In Gaither’s absence, rookie right tackle Michael Oher shifted over to the left side with Marshal Yanda lining up at right tackle.  David Hale (in for Ben Grubbs) and Chris Chester were the guards with Matt Birk at his customary center position.

Oniel Cousins lined up at left tackle for the second team.

4:29 p.m. — The other significant name not to practice was Tavares Gooden.  The inside linebacker was not participating at the very end of the morning session, but I asked him about it after practice (The interview is up in the WNST.net audio vault), and he downplayed it as simply getting some rest and allowing some other players to get some first-team reps.

While we have no official word on any injury, he did appear to be favoring his right leg as he walked up the steps and back into the McDaniel gym.

4:25 p.m. — The afternoon practice lasted a little over an hour, as the team completed what was little more than a glorified walk-through.  Players were dressed in shorts, helmets, and shells, and there was no contact.

Gaither did not practice but was out on the field for the afternoon session.  Right now, we’re speculating that it has something to do with his left arm or shoulder, but we have received no further word from the Ravens on any injury.  Harbaugh said after the morning practice that Gaither was not on the trainer’s report, but it looks like there’s a little more to this story.  We’ll see if he’s out on the field tomorrow morning.

2:55 p.m. — Tavares Gooden and Jared Gaither are not practicing this afternoon. Demetrius Williams is out on the field. Brendon Ayanbadejo is also on the field with a helmet but hasn’t participated as much.

12:13 p.m. — Harbaugh continues to allow his special teams roots to shine.  At the end of practice, Harbaugh sported a yellow helmet beanie over his cap and sprinted down with the kickoff team, earning the cheers of the crowd and his players.

It’s easy to see the passion that Harbaugh has for the game, and it’s contagious with his players.

12:06 p.m. — Domonique Foxworth made one of the finer defensive plays of the morning, picking off Flacco as he tried to get the ball to Marcus Smith.

Staying in the secondary, Frank Walker had a nice day, breaking up passes on several occasions.

12:03 p.m. — The kicking battle was fairly equal today, but I’d give the slightest edge to Hauschka.  Early in practice, both kickers were perfect in a series of attempts from inside 40 yards.  As they moved further out, Gano missed a 40-yard attempt but made one from 49.  Hauschka hit a field goal from 44 but missed from 54 yards out.

11:59 a.m. — Justin Harper continues to impress on a daily basis.  Today, he battled for the football with Fabian Washington but wrestled it away for the reception.  Later in  practice, he beat Lardarius Webb for a long touchdown pass from John Beck.

Time and time again, we’ve seen Harper beat a plethora of defensive backs on the deep ball over the first two weeks of camp.

11:54 a.m. — The team spent some time early in practice working on the no-huddle offense.  On the very first play, Joe Flacco’s pass was batted up in the air and intercepted by Haloti Ngata.  Despite his massive size, Ngata is very active at the line of scrimmage as we saw last season.

Flacco rebounded after the miscue and completed a nice timing route to Derrick Mason.

The highlight of Flacco’s morning was a touchdown pass thrown to Kelley Washington on a nice fade route.  Washington worked out as the No. 2 receiver today with Clayton and Williams both missing from practice.

11:52 a.m. — Justin Bannan received the morning off since he is in the “Over 30” club.  Due to the Ravens needing him on the defensive line for practice, his off day is staggered from the rest of the veterans who were off yesterday.

11:44 a.m. — Grubbs will be out for a few days as he rehabs the ankle to get back on the field, according to Harbaugh.

11:42 a.m. — Samari Rolle worked out in shorts and a helmet this morning and appears to be working his way back to getting on the practice field.  He will sport a red jersey and will not participate in contact drills, much like Ed Reed.

11:21 a.m. — Jared Gaither limped off the field during the morning practice, but John Harbaugh said he was not on the trainer report after practice, so he should be fine.  Demetrius Williams did not practice this morning after suffering a mild concussion when he landed hard during drills yesterday.  Ben Grubbs sat out practice as he continues to deal with the same ankle issue that landed him on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp.

Harbaugh also said Mark Clayton’s injured hamstring will keep him sidelined for at least two or three preseason games.  He had some significant bleeding in the hamstring, according to Harbaugh.

11:03 a.m. — Snoop Dogg and Ray Lewis made their way over to the media area. It’s been quite the scene.

Ray Lewis and Snoop Dogg in Westminster

10:38 a.m. — Our favorite line so far about the Snoop Dogg appearance here: “It’s the Westminster Dogg Show!”

Ray and Snoop

10:34 a.m. — Snoop Dogg is apparently a guest of Ray Lewis this morning in Westminster. It has been said that he will not be meeting with the fans or the media. We’ll see how he sneaks off the field. Everyone here knows he’s here and he’s had way more eyeballs than anything on the field. And, we’re sure you’ve noticed, it’s not the greatest weather day here at camp.

Fabian Washington is back on the field after a minor tweak earlier in practice. Jared Gaither has limped off the field and Ben Grubbs did not practice this morning.

10 a.m. — First things first…Twitter is screwed up this morning. No one can get on to tweet the biggest news of camp: Snoop Dogg is standing on the sidelines, running between the raindrops. He played at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night and WNST.net’s own Ray Bachman was in hizzouse. Now Snoop is at McDaniel College.

Also: in an unrelated, non-celebrity note of football, cornerback Fabian Washington pulled up lame today and sat out for a few plays but is now back on the field.

I’ll be on every :30 after the hour today on AM 1570. Check out my reports from Snoop-minster!

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