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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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Ravens spank Redskins in preseason opener

Posted on 14 August 2009 by Luke Jones

In a thoroughly dominating performance, the Baltimore Ravens upended their neighbors to the south, beating the Washington Redskins, 23-0.

Though the starting unit failed to put the ball in the end zone, quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense moved the ball consistently against the Redskins’ defense.  Flacco finished his night going 9 of 15 for 103 yards.

His longest pass came on a 34-yard completion to Ray Rice out of the backfield.  Rice and Willis McGahee both looked strong running the ball, combining for 48 yards on only nine carries.

“I thought they ran hard,” coach John Harbaugh said.  “You know they got the ball north and south.  It’s good to see the checkdowns [from the quarterbacks].”

Despite moving the ball deep inside Washington territory twice, the Ravens had to settle for two Steve Hauschka field goals.

“The three penalties in the first half hurt us,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said.  “We can correct those.  We held the ball and moved the ball early, but we have to score touchdowns, not field goals.  Ball security was good, and we’ve worked hard on that.”

The Ravens finally found the end zone at the end of the first half when backup quarterback Troy Smith hit a wide-open Justin Harper for a 19-yard touchdown.  Harper had dropped two passes before redeeming himself on the scoring play.

“I thought that was pretty tough coverage,” Smith said.  “It was a key catch he made.  Harper can catch anything that he puts his mind to.”

The Ravens finished the night with 500 total yards, including 399 in the air.  Smith finished with 200 passing yards while John Beck added 105.

The defense—regardless of whether it was the first-, second-, or third-string unit—dominated the Washington offense throughout the night, holding the Redskins to only 11 first downs and 196 yards of total offense while forcing two turnovers.  It was a stellar debut for new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who was presented the game ball by Ray Lewis at the end of the game.

Jameel McClain led the team in tackles with six while Tavares Gooden added five stops.

“I don’t think we’ve skipped a beat,” defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said.  “The goal is to always get off the field as fast as possible.  It makes things that much better when you see your offense drive the ball and get first downs.”

The black mark on an otherwise satisfying performance was the number of penalties committed throughout the night.  The Ravens had nine penalties, costing themselves 70 yards in the process.  Harbaugh voiced his displeasure with the miscues after the game.

“We have to find a way to work it out,” Harbaugh said.  “All types of penalties.  And that’s probably the most disappointing thing.”

First-round pick Michael Oher had a stellar debut at right tackle, despite sustaining a gash on his forehead early in the game.  After receiving two stitches he returned to the field and even took some reps with the second offense.

“He’s ready to play,” Rice said.  “He’s physical.  He got out there and got a jump on people.  He just needs to continue to get better each game.”

In the second half, the defensive dominance continued as Paul Kruger and Tom Zbikowski added sacks and Derrick Martin picked off a Colt Brennan pass in Baltimore territory.

Rookie running back Cedric Peerman added a seven-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the Ravens up by 23 points.

Despite the positive outcome of the preseason opener, the Ravens took another hit at the wide receiver position, as Marcus Smith went down with a serious knee injury.  Harbaugh speculated that the injury involves the ACL.  Smith will have further examination on the knee.

Smith was in the mix to compete for the third or fourth receiver spot on the roster, but his season now appears in jeopardy.

In the kicking game, Hauschka gained the upper hand, making field goals from 21 and 37 yards.  Graham Gano hit a 39-yarder in the third quarter but missed a 28-yard attempt as time expired.

Harbaugh savored the win but emphasized how much improvement is needed between now and the regular season opener on Sept. 13.

“It was a good start, and obviously we have a whole lot of work to do.  Our guys realize that.”

The team will take tomorrow off before returning to Westminster for practice on Saturday morning at 8:45 a.m.  The practice is open to the general public.

Injury Updates:

In addition to Smith going down with a knee injury and Oher sustaining a cut on his forehead, safety Haruki Nakamura suffered a stinger and Beck left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury to his throwing shoulder.

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Live from the Purple Crab Cake: Ravens blank Skins, 23-0

Posted on 13 August 2009 by Luke Jones

11:11 p.m. — Just a few injury notes to pass along.  John Harbaugh confirmed that Marcus Smith sustained a severe knee injury in tonight’s game, speculating that it could be an ACL.

Troy Smith re-entered the game late in the fourth quarter after John Beck had an undisclosed injury.  Harbaugh does not believe the injury is serious.

Safety Haruki Nakamura suffered a “stinger” but should be fine.

10:35 p.m. — Gano misses a 28-yard field goal as time expires.  Tough break for the rookie in the kicking competition.  Final score:  Ravens 23, Redskins 0.

10:28 p.m. — Troy Smith is back in at quarterback.  This is definitely an interesting development.

After Jason Cook recovered a fumble, Matt Lawrence just picked up 14 yards and a first down.

10:26 p.m. — The Redskins continue to look terrible offensively and are in danger of being shut out.

Ernie Wheelwright nearly blocked the punt.

10:24 p.m. — Paul Kruger just picked up the sack on Brennan, showing great speed off the edge.

I’ve been singing his praises during training camp, so it’s nice to see him deliver in his first preseason game.

10:19 p.m. — Beck just completed a 64-yard pass to little Jayson Foster.

Peerman scores the touchdown from seven yards out, as he made a nice cut to get into the end zone.

Ravens 23, Redskins 0

10:12 p.m. — Just to give you a picture of how much better the depth in the secondary is, Frank Walker, a starter in the AFC Championship game, is playing in the fourth quarter of a preseason game.

This is no knock on Walker, but it shows how deep the secondary is, and the team still awaits the return of Samari Rolle.

10:06 p.m. — On first down, Beck is nearly picked off by defensive end Jeremy Jarmon.

He then hits Peerman on second down for a gain of six yards.

Harper just dropped another pass on third down.  He needs to use his hands to catch the ball instead of trying to trap it with his body.

The Ravens go for it on fourth down, and Beck throws one at the feet of Ernie Wheelwright.  Washington takes over at their own 38-yard line.

10:00 p.m. — Beck just completed a 13-yard pass to sixth-round pick Cedric Peerman, but it’s seven yards shy of a first down.

Sam Koch punts it down to the six-yard line, leaving the Redskins with poor field position to start another drive.

9:58 p.m. — We’ve reached the end of three quarters, and the Ravens hold a comfortable 16-0 lead over the hated Redskins.

9:55 p.m. — Cousins was just called for a holding penalty and continues to have a tough night.

The Ravens definitely need to explore a veteran option at the tackle position to back up Jared Gaither and Michael Oher.

9:54 p.m. — John Beck is now at the helm for the Ravens offense.

Smith finished 12 of 28 for 188 yards and a touchdown.  While the completion percentage isn’t very good, Smith did a great job running the two-minute drive on the team’s lone touchdown of the night at the end of the first half.

9:51 p.m. — Colt Brennan is sacked by Tom Zbikowski on third down, forcing a Redskins punt.

9:44 p.m. — Derrick Martin just picked off Colt Brennan.  The former corner is adjusting to the safety position, and the interception will certainly help his case for a spot on the 53-man roster.

9:41 p.m. — Cam Cameron was not satisfied with his starting offense settling for field goals instead of touchdowns.

“The three penalties in the first half hurt us.  We can correct those.  We held the ball and moved the ball early, but we have to score touchdowns, not field goals.  Ball security was very good, and we’ve worked hard on that.”

9:39 p.m. — Greg Mattison had some halftime thoughts on his defense.

“The turnover at the end of the second quarter was big, and our offense took it right down the field for the touchdown.  Before that, we were sound.  We need more pressure on the quarterbacks, especially in passing situations.”

9:36 p.m. — The action is moving quickly in the second half, as the Ravens begin a drive at their own 23-yard line.  Jalen Parmele is shaken up, and we have an injury timeout.

9:33 p.m. — Here are a few quotes about the Ravens’ performance in the first half:

Flacco:  “It felt great to be out there.  As an offense, everything felt really good.  I was happy with the way our receivers and running backs were moving.  Our line did a heck of a job for being their first time out there.”

Kelly Gregg:  “It was a little nerve-racking, but it’s really great to be back.  I was just soaking everything up.  There were a few butterflies, but it was a lot of fun to be out here pounding again with the guys.”

Ray Rice talking about Michael Oher:  “He’s ready to play.  He’s physical.  He got out there and got a jump on people.  He just needs to continue to get better each game.”

9:24 p.m. — On 3rd and 15, Smith throws it away.

Graham Gano makes the 39-yard field goal, making the score 16-0.

9:22 p.m. — Smith with a 37-yard completion to Yamon Figurs who keeps his feet in-bounds.  Figurs will need more plays like that to solidify a spot on the 53-man roster.

On 3rd and 5, Smith hits Lawrence for a gain of 11, moving the chains and setting the Ravens up at the Skins’ 16-yard line.

9:20 p.m. — The second half is underway, and the Ravens begin the drive deep in their own territory.

Smith has really been impressive and just threw a first-down completion to Harper.  It’s clear these two have a solid chemistry.

Oniel Cousins gets called for holding, pushing the ball back to the 15.

9:09 p.m. — We’re still trying to find out more about Marcus Smith

Flacco was 9 of 15 for 103 yards.  A solid outing and hopefully enough to sil

9:01 p.m. — Cartwright rushes for 5 yards to close out the half.  Ravens lead, 13-0.

8:58 p.m. — Smith with a great pump fake and throws the 19-yard touchdown pass to Harper.  These two have hooked up repeatedly in Wesminster, and they find the same magic tonight.

Hauschka’s extra point makes the score 13-0.  The Ravens have thoroughly dominated this one.

The drive covers 10 plays, 69 yards, and lasts 107.  You have to be impressed with Troy Smith’s work in the two-minute drill.

8:57 p.m. — On 3rd and 4 from the 32, Smith hits a slant to Harper who makes the catch for the first down and takes it to the 19.  Smith spikes the ball with 19 seconds remaining.

On the next play, Smith tries to hit Harper in the end zone, but it falls incomplete.

8:55 p.m. — Orakpo gets in there again and hits Smith as he tries to throw.  I’m very impressed with the rookie from Texas.

Smith then completes a 14-yard pass to Lawrence, and the Ravens have the ball at the Washington 38 yard-line.

8:54 p.m. — After Smith completes passes to Edgar Jones and Matt Lawrence, the Ravens are all the way up to their own 48.  The Ravens use their final timeout with 59 seconds remaining in the half.

8:53 p.m. — On 3rd and 6 from the 30, Collins does not get the snap off in time and is called for a delay of game.

Now, 3rd and 11 from the 35, Collins completes a pass to Keith Eloi who then gets stripped by Tom Zbikowski.  The ball is recovered by Dwan Edwards.

8:47 p.m. — Fred Davis fumbles the ball after making the catch.  Prescott Burgess forced the fumble.  The Redskins recover at the Baltimore 34, and we’ve reached the two-minute warning.

8:43 p.m. — The Redskins are finally moving the ball after Malcolm Kelly makes a nice catch on third down with Chris Carr defending.  Kelly again snatches one for a gain of seven, setting up 2nd and 3 from their own 48.

8:41 p.m. — Thank goodness we can finally stop talking about the silly Michael Vick to Baltimore rumors.  Vick has signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

8:39 p.m. — Harper fails to bring another pass in on third down.  The Redskins are getting some heavy pressure on Troy Smith.  Cousins is having a difficult time blocking Orakpo, the Redskins’ first-round pick.

The Washington offense takes over at their own 11-yard line.  You know Jim Zorn wants to see a positive drive here.

8:36 p.m. — It’s nice seeing Michael Oher back in the game after suffering a nasty gash to the forehead.

Smith just lofted a nice touch pass to L.J. Smith for a gain of 35 yards.  A healthy L.J. Smith would give the Ravens a nice duo at the tight end position.

8:34 p.m. — The Ravens force the Redskins to go three-and-out, as the second-team defense is now in for the Ravens.

Lardarius Webb returns the 55-yard Hunter Smith punt to the 24.

8:31 p.m. — On third down, Cousins had a difficult time trying to block Brian Orakpo and gets called for holding.  The pass falls incomplete, and the Redskins decline the penalty.

After the punt, the Skins will start at the 22.

8:27 p.m. — Justin Harper can’t come up with a low—but catchable—pass from Smith.  He has blazing speed but needs to show the ability to catch the ball in traffic.

On second down, Smith throws high but Harper cannot rein it in with a defender ready to unload on the young receiver. It certainly isn’t a good start for Harper, a guy whose praises I’ve been singing over the last few weeks.

The Ravens take their second timeout on 3rd and 10.

8:26 p.m. — Troy Smith is your new quarterback.

Flacco finishes 9 of 15 for 103 yards.  A steady preseason debut that hopefully silences some critics.

Campbell was 3 of 6 for 38 yards.

8:25 p.m. — Barnes and Ellerbe combine on the tackle on the kickoff.

Todd Collins is the new Redskins quarterback.  Barnes almost picked off a pass in the flat intended for Eddie Williams.

On third down, Haruki Nakamura punches the ball away from Hagans, forcing another Washington punt.

Carr has some trouble fielding the punt but recovers and returns it to the 32-yard line.

Injury update: Washington’s Lorenzo Alexander has an abdominal strain, and his return is questionable.

8:21 p.m. — After a short pass to McGahee fails to pick up the first down, Hauschka makes the 36-yard field goal.  He’s 2-for-2 tonight.

Not a bad drive from the Ravens, but the Smith drop really hurt.  The drive lasts 14 plays and spans 71 yards.  It took 6:36.

8:19 p.m. — Flacco completes a third-down play to Marcus Smith, picking up the first down.

McGahee displays some nice moves in the open field as he picks up 16 yards.

Flacco with a beautiful pass over the defender that’s dropped by Smith.  That’s a ball that needs to be caught.  After another incompletion to Williams, it brings up 3rd and long from the 26-yard line.

8:13 p.m. — The quarter ends with a five-yard completion to Rice coming out of the backfield.

At the end of the first quarter, Ravens lead the Skins, 3-0.

8:12 p.m. — Flacco’s screen pass to Rice is blown up for a loss after Ben Grubbs could not block Byron Westbrook in the open field.

On 3rd and 9, Flacco hits Washington for a gain of 15 and a first down.  Nice start for the new Raven.

8:09 p.m. — On first down, Flacco hits Mason for a seven-yard gain on the quick out.  Le’Ron McClain lining up in the slot two plays in a row.

Kelley Washington catches a 16-yard pass, moving the chains.  The former Bengal and Patriot has been impressive in camp.

Rice picks up seven yards on first down, as the Ravens are all the way up to their own 40.

8:04 p.m. — On 3rd and 7, Antwan Barnes nearly sacks Campbell, forcing the incompletion.

During the punt return, Jameel McClain is called for holding and will move the Ravens back to their own 10-yard line.  You just know special teams penalties drive Harbaugh crazy.

8:02 p.m. — The Redskins will begin their second drive at their own 23.  Campbell completes a 15-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El.  The Ravens didn’t get much pressure up front on the play.

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed already appear finished for the night.

8:01 p.m. — Flacco’s pass is broken up by DeAngelo Hall on third down, intedned for Mason.

Steve Hauschka hits the 21-yard field goal, and the Ravens take the 3-0 lead with 6:15 remaining in the first quarter.  The highlight of the drive is the 34-yard completion to Rice coming out of the backfield.

You have to be pleased with the Ravens’ opening drive.  It lasted 13 plays, covered 67 yards, and took 5:47 off the game clock.

8:00 p.m. — Oher has been taken to the locker room with a gash on his forehead.  It appears he will need stitches after taking a shot to the head just a few minutes ago.

Joe Reitz has checked in at right tackle for the Ravens in Oher’s absence.

7:58 p.m. — After the timeout, the Ravens give it to McGahee straight up the middle for the first down.  Michael Oher comes off the field bleeding.

On 2nd and goal, Flacco cannot connect with Mason and throws it out of the end zone.  On 3rd and goal from the 3, Washington takes their first timeout.

7:52 p.m. — Willis McGahee has checked in at running back and takes the hand-off for a gain of five yards.  Despite Rice’s strong showing in training camp, the coaching staff is pleased with McGahee’s work in Westminster also.

Flacco keeps it on 3rd and 3 and takes a pretty good hit but comes up just short of the first down.  It will be 4th and 1, and John Harbaugh will use a timeout to ponder what to do.

7:48 p.m. — Rice just caught a short pass over the middle and galloped 34 yards to the Washington 17.  The 5-7 back provides so much versatility in the backfield, and it’s easy to see why the Ravens are so high on the former Rutgers star.

After Rice rushes for two yards, Kedric Golston is slow to get up for Washington.

7:46 p.m. — Flacco’s first-down attempt is batting in the air at the line of scrimmage by Andre Carter.  The ball helplessly falls incomplete.

On second down, Ray Rice shows good speed getting to the edge and picks up six yards.

Kelley Washington lines up as the No 3 receiver on third down before Demetrius Williams catches a slant for an 11-yard gain.  It’s nice seeing Williams on the field and contributing.

7:44 p.m. — The Ravens’ offense will start their first drive of the season from their own 30-yard line.  It will be interesting to watch how well Oniel Cousins performs in Jared Gaither’s absence.

Cousins has had a strong training camp so far.

7:43 p.m. — On 3rd and 6, the Ravens bring the pressure as Campbell throws incomplete, intended for Marques Hagans.

Chris Carr is back deep to return the punt.

7:39 p.m. — The Redskins’ opening play results in a first down in a swing pass to Ladell Betts.

Two plays later, Jason Campbell completes an 11-yard pass to Cooley.  Skins moving the ball well early.

7:39 p.m. — Dannell Ellerbe immediately makes his presence known by bringing down Rock Cartwright.

7:37 p.m. — The Redskins win the toss and elect to receive.

Steve Hauschka will handle all kicking duties in the first half.

7:36 p.m. — Ravens’ captains are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Kelly Gregg, Matt Birk, Justin Bannan, and Trevor Pryce.

7:27 p.m. — The starting offense is being introduced to the customary U2 song “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Ray Rice is the first player announced, and Micheal Oher received a nice ovation from the home crowd.

Derrick Mason is the last player announced, and it’s clear the Ravens’ faithful are glad to have him back after a brief retirement.

7:18 p.m. — Tonight’s referee will be Walt Anderson.  Rounding out the officiating crew is Scott Dawson, Phil McKinnely, Byron Boston, Jimmy Buchanan, James Coleman, and Billy Smith.

7:12 p.m. — Looking around the lower bowl of M&T Bank Stadium, there’s a sprinkling of Skins fans but not as many as I thought there would be.

The Ravens are going back to their locker room after warming up.  Fifteen minutes until kickoff!

7:08 p.m. — I’m a bit surprised to see Ed Reed out there tonight after wearing the red jersey for most of training camp.  I figured the Ravens would hold him out until the second or third preseason game.

Mason will play despite dislocating a finger only two days ago.

I’d be surprised if we see Reed or Mason for longer than a series or two.

7:02 p.m. — Oniel Cousins will start at left tackle in Gaither’s place.  Defensively, Paul Kruger will take Terrell Suggs’ spot with the first defense.

Ladell Betts will get the start at running back and Devin Thomas will line up at receiver for Washington.  On the defensive side of the ball, Fred Smoot will start at corner and Kedric Golston will take Haynesworth’s spot at defensive tackle.

6:58 p.m. — The Ravens announced they have waived receiver Thomas White.

6:56 p.m. — The Ravens have released their inactives for this evening, and they include Terrell Suggs, Mark Clayton, Jared Gaither, Marshal Yanda, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Samari Rolle (PUP), Lamar Divens, and Biren Ealy.

Sitting out for the Redskins will be Carlos Rogers, Clinton Portis, Anthony Alridge, Reuben Riley, Jeremy Bridges, Randy Thomas, Santana Moss, and Albert Haynesworth.

6:40 p.m. — The Ravens specialists are out on the field, and Ed Reed is dressed and appears to be playing.

Reed’s status throughout training camp has been a mystery with him sporting the red non-contact jersey for most practices.

6:16 p.m. — Still no word on the scratch list.

The Ravens will be dressed in all white tonight.

5:46 p.m. — Tonight marks the first time the Ravens have opened the preseason at home since 2007 when they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 29-3.

This will be the fifth preseason meeting between the Ravens and their hated neighbors to the south.  The preseason series is tied, 2-2.

In the series that really matters, the regular season, Baltimore enjoys a 3-1 all-time lead.  The most recent meeting was last season’s 24-10 victory for the men in purple on a cold Sunday night in December.

5:24 p.m. — Derrick Mason is out on the field working out and catching passes.  It seems like Mason may attempt to play, but I still suspect we won’t see him for long.

5:19 p.m. — I’m live at M&T Bank Stadium, watching a handful of players warm up—kicking around a soccer ball, no less!—after a heavy rain just passed through the area.  The sun has just peaked out as I type this.

Kickoff is just over two hours away, and we’ll update you on the injury report as soon as we get word.  At this point, Mark Clayton (hamstring) and Terrell Suggs (heel) are the only players ruled out for the game, but there are several players whose status is unknown including Marshal Yanda, Derrick Mason, Demetrius Williams, Todd Heap, Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Trevor Pryce, and Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Stay with us throughout the game, as we’ll be offering analysis, providing injury updates, and answering your questions here at WNST.net!

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A different kind of ‘Dear John’ letter

Posted on 13 August 2009 by Alexander Pyles

Dear Coach Harbaugh,

It’s been a while since we’ve chatted, John, but I still can’t believe how quickly these last several months have passed. It’s wonderful to think that, in just a few hours, I’ll be sitting in M&T Bank Stadium watching your Ravens take the playing field for the first time in the 2009-10 NFL season.

I suppose not much has really changed since we last talked, John. Back in January, I was deliriously happy with the season you led your team on. The entire Raven fan base was proud of you. The only thing, we thought, the only thing, is that we’ve got to find some way to get quarterback Joe Flacco a few more weapons in his sophomore season. We liked the three-headed running back, John. We liked the aggressive, opportunistic and ball-hawking defense. Even in the passing game, we liked the toughness of Derrick Mason and the cool of Flacco.

But, we cried out almost universally, just give the fella a little more help next season.

With the addition of six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk and first round pick Michael Oher, the offensive line appears to have gotten better. Willis McGahee is in camp — and healthy — and Ray Rice is a year older and wiser, making him the current front-runner to get the majority of the carries out of the backfield. Add in Le’Ron McClain’s bruising running and what should be improved blocking skills after a year playing with Lorenzo Neal, and the running backs seem to have collectively improved as well.

But wide receiver is about the same, John.

Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams will be Flacco’s guys outside. Mason’s a pro, he’s proven — but the other two must showed marked improvement if the Ravens are to get through the Steelers in the AFC North. Tonight marks the offense’s first opportunity to show that they have improved from 2008 to 2009.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for tonight, John:

1) Wait. Mason and Clayton are both out for tonight with injuries? Oops. Well, there goes the idea that the offense will have the opportunity to show improvement.

Or does it?

With their top two receivers off the field, Ravens coaches will be able to see which of the remaining wideouts — a group led by the tantalizingly-measurable Williams — are capable of performing well in a game situation. Young guys who otherwise may not have seen the field should be given the opportunity to accrue snaps with the first team.

It may be wishful thinking, but in the quarter-or-less Flacco and the first team is likely to play in this first preseason game, it’d be encouraging to see the QB hook up with a receiver for a long gain. Not only would it perhaps shine the spotlight toward a receiver that could help the Ravens this season, but it’d help ease the fears of some fans who have been reading reports that Flacco has been inaccurate on the long ball for much of Training Camp. One deep strike may be all it takes.

2) It’ll be interesting to see how the running backs are handled. Rice should receive the start, but that doesn’t mean much. How many carries will he be given compared to McGahee and the fullback McClain? In what situations will those carries be given? Last season, Rice was often the third-down back. Does McGahee — a decent receiver out of the backfield — take that role?

The only situation that should be covered is short yardage, where surely Cam Cameron will turn to the 260-pound McClain, who gained more than 900 yards and scored 10 touchdowns last season.

Right, John?

3) If Washington comes out running the ball, we may get to see the impact of Kelly Gregg returning to the defensive line. Gregg missed all of last season with injury, allowing fellow defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to take the spotlight on the line.

Ngata responded by putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season, and is being recognized as one of the top tackles in the league heading into 2009. Adding Gregg back into the mix further strengthens the interior of the defense, already perhaps the team’s greatest strength.

4) You were the special teams coordinator in Philadelphia before coming to Baltimore, John, so let’s talk about your specialty.

Who’s going to return kicks for your Ravens?

Reports have stated that Chris Carr may have a leg up on Yamon Figurs, who started last season as the team’s kick returner. Rice was also catching punts while I watched last Friday’s special teams practice, however.

I’m guessing, John, that Rice is your last choice to be the primary kick returner, given how integral he is expected to be in the offense this season.

Still, there’s certainly a competition taking place right now, perhaps most directly between Carr and Figurs. Figurs may feel he has something to prove after his poor performance in the role last season — he certainly has the speed to make a game-changing play.

It will be interesting to see how touches are handled in punt-return situations this evening.

5) The other special teams point, John, is of course the kicking situation. Reports have second-year man Steve Hauschka and rookie Graham Gano in a virtual dead heat. Both have strong legs and both are making kicks in practice.

Of course, we all know things are different in game situations, John. And in clutch situations.

In a preseason game you won’t be able to simulate the intense pressure of a fourth quarter 40-yard attempt with the game on the line in the AFC playoffs Divisional round. That’s the luxury of having a guy like Matt Stover as your kicker: you’re quite confident he can make that kick against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

With Hauschka and Gano, it’s considerably less certain.

That doesn’t mean you throw in the towel just because you can’t simulate that kind of adrenaline rush. Even though tonight is just a preseason game, the performance and demeanor of Hauschka and Gano in a live situation, in front of 70,000-plus, can still be a telling and educational experience for the coaches evaluating the two kickers.

I’m excited, John, for sure. Let’s get this one kicked off and see where we’re at.

Your pal,

ap

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Live from Brawl-minster: Ravens get chippy in heat, Harbs cancels p.m. practice

Posted on 08 August 2009 by Luke Jones

1:47 p.m. — As fans continue to wonder about the status of Terrell Suggs and Samari Rolle, Harbaugh is not providing much clarity on either player.

“No, nothing really new on that.  They’re both just rehabbing, and that’s where we’re at.”

Suggs injured his heel on Sunday, and Rolle is the only player remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

1:41 p.m. — Harbaugh did not seem upset nor surprised with the morning practice skirmish.  He simply reiterated his preference for the battles in between the whistles.

“We’ve had a lot of scuffles before the whistle gets blown, I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said.  “Those are the scuffles we’re most interested in.  The other ones are irrelevant.  We don’t mind them.  We don’t want them.  We don’t not want them.  We don’t care about them.  The ones before the whistle gets blown—those are the ones that matter.  Our guys have had plenty of those.”

Here are Harbaugh’s comments on the Michael Oher calf situation:

“It doesn’t look serious.  He pinched it, as Bill [Tessendorf] put [the injury report] in there.  It may be a little bit of a calf sprain.  It will be a rehab issue for a little while.”

12:32 p.m. — A few reminders if you’re planning on heading out to Westminster in the next few days.

This afternoon’s practice has been cancelled.  The next practice will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 p.m.  It is open to the public.

Monday morning’s practice is CLOSED to the general public.  The team will have an open practice at 2:45 p.m.

Monday morning’s practice will be open to the media, so WNST.net will have all of the Ravens updates you want and need.

12:30 p.m. — Brendon Ayanbadejo was working out on the other field during practice.  He’s still recovering from a sprained toe.

Suggs walked out to the field for the final moments of practice, wearing sneakers and still limping slightly.

12:27 p.m. — We saw our daily long touchdown to Justin Harper this morning, as Troy Smith threw a deep one to the second-year receiver.  Harper beat Evan Oglesby on the play.

While Harbaugh is pleased with Harper’s ability to stretch the field, he still wants more consistency out of the 6-3 receiver.  He wants Harper to make the tough catches in traffic, an area in which he’s struggled.

12:24 p.m. — Ray Rice continues to show great moves in the open field.  This morning, Rice caught a pass in the flat and put a tremendous move on Jason Phillips, leaving the rookie in the dust.  Rice continues to get the majority of the first-team reps at running back, but McGahee is still right behind him.

McGahee was seen with an ice pack on his left knee yesterday morning, but he was back out there today with no apparent problems.

12:21 p.m. — Tight end L.J. Smith appears to be finding his way in the Ravens’ offense.  He caught several passes today and seems to be regaining his speed after tweaking a hamstring at the beginning of training camp.

If healthy, Heap and Smith have the potential to be a pretty formidable duo at tight end, a major help to Flacco with the uncertainty at the wide receiver position.

12:16 p.m. — As previously reported, it was an ugly day offensively.  Dropped passes and interceptions were the story of the morning before the big fight.  In addition to Walker, Chris Carr also picked off Flacco.

Despite the rough morning, Flacco did have some nice throws including a nice 17-yard out pattern to Marcus Smith (who was playing Mason’s position with the starting offense) and a long, beautiful touchdown to Smith later in practice.  Considering Smith has had a quiet starting to training camp, it was good for him to make some plays this morning.

12:14 p.m. — Cornerback Frank Walker had another good day, breaking up several passes and picking off Joe Flacco during 11-on-11 drills.  Walker is the most physical corner on the roster and has the ability to play bump-and-run coverage, unlike most of the Ravens’ cover corners.

12:09 p.m. — It was an “over 30” day off for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, and Matt Birk.

Harbaugh gave a few injury updates after practice.  Oniel Cousins sustained a sprained left ankle, but the head coach said he should return soon.  Terrell Suggs (heel) and Samari Rolle (shoulder/neck) continue to rehab their respective injuries, but Harbaugh did not update when the two will return.

Oher suffered a right calf strain or “pinch” as Harbaugh described it.  The coach did not seem concerned about the injury, but Oher did not return to practice.

12:03 p.m. — It was a difficult day for Gano, but his morning ended in triumph.  After missing kicks from 35, 48, and 53 yards, Gano had a 36-yard attempt with the afternoon off riding on it.  The rookie kicker hit it, and Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice to reward his team for all of its hard work.

Gano’s leg was tired today, according to Harbaugh.  He came up short from 53 yards, a distance he had easily been making throughout training camp.

Gano did make field goals from 43, 47, and 51 in addition to his 36-yarder at the end of practice.

10:49 a.m. — John Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice today in his post-practice comments. More to come…

10:38 a.m. — Well, we had our first skirmish/melee of training camp in the heat this morning as the offense and defense knocked heads in a team-wide shove-around (apparently started by Paul Kruger and Joe Reitz) with various players involved, including Chris Chester, Jameel McClain & Jared Gaither. It’s hard to say what caused it, but the defense was shoving the offense around pretty good for the second day in a row.

Other morning notes: Michael Oher had a right calf cramp and left practice early. In general, the offense was sloppy and unproductive through much of the morning practice, in front of the usual large weekend crowd here in Westminster. Lots of dropped passes and interceptions.

Perhaps the fight helped matters. After the mini-brawl, the offense looked more focused and was more productive.

Tavares Gooden got limited reps early but didn’t participate later in practice. Jared Gaither was back and took plenty of live reps.

Graham Gano struggled early in the practice (plenty were talking about Matt Stover) but he hit a 36-yarder to end the morning session.

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Getting down to 53: An early projection

Posted on 05 August 2009 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Live from Westminster: Fabian Washington sits out, ‘Over 30 Club’ gets morning off

Posted on 05 August 2009 by Luke Jones

7:23 p.m. — The Ravens have signed a defensive tackle to the 80-man roster.  Nader Abdallah was out on the field during the afternoon special teams practice, wearing No. 61.

Abdallah is a rookie out of Ohio State and is 6-4 and 292 pounds.

5:09 p.m. — Another player slowed by injury is special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo.  The linebacker has battled a toe injury but is now walking around without a protective boot.  He has not tested the toe in cleats, so it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll return to the field.

Ayanbadejo said the toe is very sensitive, and he will take it slow in getting back.

5:05 p.m. — The Ravens will hold practices at 8:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.  Both workouts will include the full squad and are open to the public at McDaniel College.

5:03 p.m. — Harbaugh will not be present for Friday afternoon’s practice as he attends the memorial service for former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. The two men coached for a decade together in Philadelphia, and Harbaugh has referred to Johnson as a “football dad” to him.

Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg will run practice in Harbaugh’s place.

3:42 p.m. — Punter Sam Koch had quite a few reps this afternoon, and he was absolutely crushing the ball.  He continues to use the rugby-style kick to place the ball inside the 20-yard line.  On the last play of the practice, Koch put one inside the 5, but Derrick Martin could not catch the ball cleanly in the air, and it rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

3:27 p.m. — While special teams practices lack the excitement of the full-squad workouts, you will get to see some unique drills from time to time.

The Ravens practiced blocking field goals today by using volleyballs.  The rusher would come around the end with a coach throwing a volleyball from seven yards behind the line of scrimmage–the distance at which the holder will place the ball on a field goal try.  The object for each player was to either catch the volleyball or block it like a football.

Another interesting drill related to blocking kicks involved the use of towels.  The speed rusher coming around the edge on a kicking situation always wants to accelerate in a low position.  To practice this, special teams coach Jerry Rosburg has his players grab a towel on the ground as they accelerate around the edge.

3:23 p.m. — The afternoon practice lasted about an hour with the team working on a variety of drills.

The most compelling part of practice was the fun debate between members of the media, Ray Lewis, and Todd Heap over which sport has the best athletes.

Heap and Lewis logically argued for football, but they also gave credit to basketball, boxing, and hockey.  It was fun hearing the two players’ thoughts on sports other than football.

1:32 p.m. — Lardarius Webb continues to impress the coaching staff with his athleticism and coverage ability in the secondary.  The third-round selection picked off two passes this morning, one from Troy Smith and the other from John Beck.

When also considering his potential in the return game, expect Webb to be a significant factor for the Ravens in 2009.

12:50 p.m. — Rookie Paul Kruger continues to impress as he fills in for Terrell Suggs (heel) with the starting defense.  He’ll undoubtedly struggle when matched up with bigger offensive linemen, but he shows great speed off the edge.  I anticipate Kruger being a major part of the pass rush on third-down situations this season.

12:48 p.m. — Defensive back Evan Oglesby missed the morning practice after sustaining a concussion yesterday.  Oglesby is trying to win a job in a very crowded secondary.

12:45 p.m. — With Graham Gano getting the morning off from kicking, it was Steve Hauschka’s turn to shine, and he did not disappoint.  Hauschka was perfect on his attempts, including two 50-yard attempts.  The highlight of the morning was his 55-yard field goal that easily would have been good from 60+ yards.

For all of the talk about Gano’s strong kicking leg, Hauschka made a pretty strong claim today.

12:43 p.m. — Tackle Oniel Cousins and tight end Davon Drew returned to practice today.  With Adam Terry scheduled to undergo knee surgery and miss the entire season, Cousins now becomes the top reserve tackle behind Jared Gaither and Michael Oher.

12:27 p.m. — One of the best signs from the morning practice was seeing Samari Rolle working out individually during practice.  The veteran cornerback is still on the physically unable to perform list, but John Harbaugh said he could be returning in the near future.

Rolle has groin and shoulder issues dating back to last season and has been seen on the field with electronic stimulation mechanisms on his shoulder.  Today was the first time I recall him doing any real physical activity on the field.

With a healthy Rolle, this Ravens’ secondary might be as deep as it’s ever been.

12:07 p.m. — This morning’s practice lacked the intensity of yesterday’s extensive live hitting, but there were several nice plays during 11-on-11 thud action.  Joe Flacco threw a beautiful corner route to Todd Heap, hitting the tight end right over the shoulder for a touchdown.  It was definitely one of the prettier plays of camp.

Flacco also threw a nice slant to Demetrius Williams earlier in the session.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith threw an interception to safety Derrick Martin and had a difficult morning.  Smith just seemed out of sync but did have a nice sideline completion to Williams.

Not to be outdone, John Beck threw a long completion to receiver Justin Harper, as the young receiver continues to make plays in the deep passing game.

11:57 a.m. — Another morning practice is complete, and the most unexpected absence was cornerback Fabian Washington.  The starting corner has a sore knee and sat out this morning.  The injury is not expected to be serious.

The Ravens’ “Over 30 Club” sat out this morning, which includes Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg and Matt Birk.  The veteran Birk got his morning lift out of the way early, so he could join his fellow offensive linemates on the field.  Justin Bannan is technically part of the club, but his off-day is staggered due to the team needing him on the defensive line.  He will presumably get tomorrow morning’s practice off.

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Live from Westminster: Yanda practices, Reed wearing red jersey (no contact)

Posted on 31 July 2009 by Luke Jones

7:09 p.m. — The Ravens will practice on Saturday at 8:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.  Both practices are open to the public.

5:45 p.m. — Domonique Foxworth had a nice play in the afternoon, breaking up a pass intended for Demetrius Williams.

Foxworth signed a huge contract to come to Baltimore, so the expectations are high for the fifth-year player.

5:40 p.m. — Defensive linemen Trevor Pryce and Will Johnson and receiver Marcus Smith did not practice this afternoon.  Pryce had his foot stepped on in the morning and was even carted off the field, but he should be back to practice as early as tomorrow.  Johnson has a right leg issue, and Smith sat out with cramps.

5:25 p.m. — Despite the rain delay, the Ravens did make it outside to the lower field for practice this afternoon.  Several hundred people hung around to watch the workout despite the terrible storm that came through Westminster in the 2 o’clock hour.

There were two major highlights in the afternoon.  The first was Dawan Landry swiping a Troy Smith pass and returning it for a touchdown.  He looks to be 100 percent healthy and has not shied away from contact in the early going.

The second occurred during punt return drills when Ray Rice broke free and was off to the races.  The second-year back figures to be mostly used at running back, but he definitely shows an ability in the return game should he be needed.

2:45 p.m. — I’m currently in the Best Western hotel waiting out a severe storm.  The team is currently conducting a walk-through and is hoping to go outside at 3:15 p.m if the weather improves.  The area is currently under a tornado watch.

2:20 p.m. — Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron spoke to reporters after practice and talked about the progress of Joe Flacco.  He said that Flacco simply needs to focus on the little things that will make him an elite quarterback.

Cameron went on to say that Flacco will be expected to do much more in his second year as starting quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.

As far as any wrinkles in the playbook, the Ravens ran some plays out of the pistol formation, a shotgun look in which the running back lines up behind the quarterback.  The offense ran the option out of this formation a few times.

2:17 p.m. — In case you’re debating whether to come out to Westminster for the afternoon practice, it is currently pouring as I look out the window of the team hotel.  Looks like it will be a wet afternoon, but I’ll be out there giving you all the updates!

2:09 p.m. — Regarding Ed Reed, Harbaugh explained they do not want to take a chance with Reed’s shoulder and neck.

“Ed knows how to tackle.  He’ll pick his spots a little bit that way, but we want to be smart.”

2:06 p.m. — The coach’s best comments were about Terrell Suggs, who did not participate in Harbaugh’s first training camp last season.

“Yeah, ’55’ is in shock right now.  This is his first training camp in awhile, so he’s feeling his way around.  We’ve assigned a couple of veterans to ‘Sizzle’ to make sure he knows where to go and how to get there.”

Funny stuff from the Ravens head coach.

2:01 p.m. — Harbaugh was very impressed with the huge crowd in Westminster to watch the Ravens’ first full-squad workout.

“I don’t know how many [fans] were here, but the place is absolutely stuffed…Guys are excited about that.  It makes it fun to get out here.  We have great fans.  It’s been a good day so far.”

1:54 p.m. — Michael Oher was the starting right tackle with the first-team offense and was very impressive.  At 6-4 and 310 pounds, Oher is a menacing figure and manhandled defenders on several occasions.  His strength appeared to be run blocking, and he will need to improve his pass blocking technique, but that’s just an early observation after the morning practice.

Overall, you can easily see why the Ravens were so enamored with the rookie tackle.

1:21 p.m. — Just a couple injury updates to pass along to you.  As I reported on The Bob Haynie Show, Trevor Pryce was carted off the field, but it turned out he simply got stepped on, according to John Harbaugh.

L.J. Smith failed to practice again, still bothered by a hamstring tweak he sustained on Tuesday.

1:17 p.m. — It was good seeing Dawan Landry out on the field, going live.  His recovery from last season’s neck injury went well, but you just never know how the neck will respond until he starts going live again.  So far, so good.

With Reed not participating in any live contact, Haruki Nakamura lined up at free safety next to Landry in 11-on-11 live situations.

1:13 p.m. — Tavares Gooden looks to be in excellent condition and simply flies to the football.  He lined up as the starting inside linebacker next to Ray Lewis, and he definitely looks like he belongs.  In an early drill, he filled a hole and stood up Willis McGahee at the line of scrimmage.

If Gooden can play with discipline and not overpursue, he’ll be a youthful asset at the linebacker position.

1:10 p.m. — A battle at kicker is rarely an exciting story, but the showdown between Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka will be crucial this summer.  Gano has the early lead, as he was perfect on all of his attempts.  Hauschka struggled, missing two kicks.  Ravens officials tell me the real evaluation between the two kickers will take place during the team’s preseason games.

1:08 p.m. — Former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders is here and has sat in on the Ravens’ team meetings.  It’s expected that Saunders will join the coaching staff as an offensive consultant.

It will be interesting to see how involved he is with the Ravens’ offensive game plan.

1:06 p.m. — Willis McGahee is off the PUP list and looks very strong.  One of the highlights of the morning was a collision between him and 350-pound defensive tackle Kelly Talavou.  The running back won the battle.

He and Ray Rice shared time with the first-team offense.

12:50 p.m. — Mark Clayton struggled today, dropping a couple passes and being called for pass interference, pushing off Frank Walker during 11-on-11’s.

Staying with the wide receivers, Justin Harper continues to impress, catching a touchdown pass from John Beck with Domonique Foxworth in coverage.

Freshly-signed wideout Biren Ealy made the catch of the day, snagging a one-handed catch with Lardarius Webb covering.

12:42 p.m. — Ray Lewis spoke to reporters after practice and has shed 15 pounds, wanting to be lighter to maintain speed.

He feels blessed to be in his 14th year with the Ravens and still feels a strong passion for the game.

The defensive line is very deep according to Lewis.  He’s happy to have Kelly Gregg back out there in front of him.

12:36 p.m. — The Ravens have completed their first full-squad practice this morning before a lively crowd at McDaniel College.  It was clear to see Ravens fans were waiting for the big names to arrive here in Westminster.

The big news of the morning was Marshal Yanda practicing.  There had been concerns that Yanda would not take part in training camp while still recovering from the severe knee injury sustained last season against Indianapolis.  Yanda did not participate in 11-on-11 live drills, but he practiced individually with his fellow offensive line mates.

Ed Reed practiced in a red jersey, signaling no contact for the All-Pro safety.  Considering Reed’s shoulder and neck issues dating back to last season, this is not an entirely surprising move.

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Ravens kick off 2009 Training Camp

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Luke Jones

The Baltimore Ravens completed their first workouts on Tuesday with rookies, quarterbacks, and selected veterans participating.  The morning and afternoon workouts each lasted an hour and 15 minutes due to a smaller roster needing a smaller number of reps.

“Guys worked hard; it was crisp,” coach John Harbaugh said.  “But it will be a lot sharper on Thursday and Friday.”

The Ravens announced 11 players would be placed on the active PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start training camp.  The players are Lamar Divens, Davon Drew, Yamon Figurs, Ben Grubbs, Willis McGahee, Jason Phillips, Joe Reitz, Samari Rolle, Lou Saucedo, Adam Terry, and Marshal Yanda.

These players still count against the 80-man training camp roster but may come off the list at any time to practice.  Once a player practices, he is no longer eligible for the more commonly-known reserve PUP list that is used in the regular season and requires a player to miss the first six weeks of the season.

“We’ll continue to put these guys through a physical, who have had injuries in the past,” Harbaugh said.  “We’re going to make sure that certain situations react positively to the work before we put them on the regular practice field.”

McGahee was probably the most surprising addition to the list, but both he and the head coach confirmed that it was strictly a precaution to protect the running back’s knee.  He looks to be in great shape and ready to practice in the near future.

“They just want to be sure,” McGahee said.  “We don’t want the same thing we had at last year’s training camp.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco looked sharp in his training camp debut and without veteran receiver Derrick Mason.  Last year as a rookie, Flacco relied on Mason in big situations countless times.  Despite losing a target who caught 80 passes in 2008, Flacco is confident in the passing offense’s ability to move the ball.

Flacco connected with both Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams numerous times during Tuesday’s practices.

“Last year coming in at this time, I had no idea who I was going to be throwing the ball to,” Flacco quipped.  “I didn’t know what Derrick Mason or Mark Clayton even looked like…This year, we’re in much better shape than we were in last year.”

If Flacco is telling the truth, the Ravens will need to have a healthy Williams on the field.  The fourth-year receiver has battled injuries the last two years but will start opposite of Clayton in Mason’s absence.  The receiver looks noticeably bigger and stronger, setting a goal to build muscle mass around the joints.  Williams hauled in a pretty sideline catch over Frank Walker in the afternoon, drawing the cheers of the training camp crowd.

“I think his goal is to become a durable football player, along with becoming capable of doing all the things he needs to do as a receiver,” Harbaugh said.  “He looked good out there [Tuesday].  There was no indication of the Achilles [injury] at all.”

Another player returning from an injury is veteran defensive tackle Kelly Gregg.  Wearing only an ace bandage on his surgically-repaired knee, Gregg participated fully in both the morning and afternoon practices.

With a healthy Gregg, 32, joining Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, and top reserve Justin Bannan, the Ravens are hoping to field an even better defensive line than they enjoyed a year ago.

“I feel great about our defensive line,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said.  “In watching a bunch of film in the offseason, the thing that keeps sticking out is that the front seven gets after it.  They have a lot of pride, and now with [Dwan] Edwards back and Kelly [Gregg] back, you’ve just added depth to that, and it should allow us to rotate guys and keeps guys fresh throughout the year.”

– The Ravens signed wide receiver Jayson Foster, a 5-7 receiver with good speed.  Foster attended Georgia Southern and spent time with Pittsburgh, Miami, and Denver on their practice squads.

Former Maryland Terp Isaiah Williams was waived on Tuesday.  The rookie wide receiver was signed by the Ravens in May.

– Veterans are set to report to Westminster on Wednesday.  Physicals are scheduled for 3:00 p.m.

The first full-squad practices open to the public will be on Friday.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens put 11 on “active” PUP to start camp

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Luke Jones

7:23 p.m. — The Ravens have waived former Terps receiver Isaiah Williams.

6:44 p.m. — Defensive back Derrick Martin made the defensive play of the afternoon, picking off a pass from John Beck during 7-on-7 drills.

Only two offensive linemen practiced today, Robby Felix and Bryan Mattison (the defensive coordinator’s son).  Offensive line coach John Matsko really worked the two linemen hard.

Newly-signed Jayson Foster jumped right in, snagging a pass after signing with the team today.  Foster’s signing was such a secret that many of the assistant coaches had to ask his name on the field.  He wore No. 18 today—with no name on the back.

Though Marshal Yanda is sporting a bulky brace on his knee, he was moving around fairly well on the sideline today.  He wasn’t as active as Ben Grubbs or Adam Terry in his running, but it was good seeing him moving around after the horrific knee injury he suffered in Indianapolis last season.

6:23 p.m. — The afternoon practice was pretty uneventful and similar to the morning workout.  It lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, though rookies stuck around for a little longer to work with special teams coach Jerry Rosburg.

The most exciting moments came from 7-on-7 drills when Joe Flacco connected on a 15-yard fade route to Demetrius Williams over defensive back Frank Walker.  With Williams now the projected No. 2 receiver, it was nice to see him making a play after spending a large portion of last season on injured reserve.

More to come in just a few moments.  Time to make my last Ravens Report of the day.

3:31 p.m. — The Ravens have just signed diminutive WR (hey, he’s 5-foot-7) Jayson Foster. Foster went to Georgia Southern and here’s his mini bio. He spent time in Denver and Pittsburgh and we’re still researching him. Even the PR folks in Westminster don’t know much about him. More to come…

2:52 p.m. — If you’re following WNST on Twitter, you just saw that free agent wide receiver Robert Ferguson told Glenn Clark he wants to play for the Ravens.  Ferguson will join Drew on the Comcast Morning Show on Wednesday at 9:40 a.m.

We give live “Tweets” from the field at McDaniel College throughout the morning and afternoon practices.  You can follow it here.

2:45 p.m. — We have less than an hour to go until the players are back out on the field for the afternoon workout.

Veterans will be reporting tomorrow and are scheduled to take their physicals at 3:00 p.m.  If you’re planning on attending training camp tomorrow, remember it will only be rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans.  The remaining veterans will not be practicing on Wednesday.

1:48 p.m. — A name to keep an eye on during training camp is Jameel McClain.  The Syracuse linebacker came to Baltimore as a rookie free agent last season and really impressed coaches, earning a roster spot and playing time in the second-rated defense in the NFL.  His two safeties—a blocked punt and a sack of JaMarcus Russell—was a franchise record.

McClain has been moved to the inside linebacker position and will compete with Tavares Gooden.  While Gooden is the favorite to start next to Ray Lewis, McClain’s endless motor will make it nearly impossible to keep him off the field.

“The guys that work hard at this program are the guys that do the best and are [guys] who can have a chance to play,” Mattison said.  “That’s a real endorsement to our personnel people.  They saw some great things in him, and he just proved it throughout the year.  And I think he’s going to take off from here.”

1:42 p.m. — We heard from new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison after this morning’s practice.  He is pleased with the mix of experience and youth in his defense.  His top priority is to get the defense to play at the same high level the fans have come to expect every season.

He mentioned the “Raven” mentality and bar that has been set over the past decade.

Mattison also touched on the health of a secondary that had several players recovering from injuries dating back to last season.  He thought several of the players looked bigger and healthy.

12:18 p.m. — McGahee looks trimmer and feels healthy entering the preseason.  He emphasized to reporters that his placement on the PUP list is strictly precautionary.  The running back simply doesn’t want a repeat of last season.

When asked whether he lost weight, McGahee jokingly said “no comment.”  You can check out this interview in the WNST audio vault.

12:02 p.m. — John Harbaugh spoke to the media after the morning practice, describing the first workout as “good” and “crisp.”

Harbaugh talked about the improved strength and size of receiver Demetrius Williams.  It was Williams’ goal to become stronger and build muscle mass around the joints.  Harbaugh was pleased with how Williams looked in the morning.  With Derrick Mason currently retired, Williams is the project No. 2 receiver behind Mark Clayton.

The Ravens coach said the placement of McGahee on the PUP list is strickly a precautionary move after the running back underwent knee surgery in the offseason.

11:54 a.m. — The morning practice was very brief, lasting only 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Players were dressed in shorts, and there was no full-speed contact.

The player who drew the loudest applause from the crowd was wide receiver Mark Clayton who caught a long touchdown pass during offensive drills.  Rookie running back Cedric Peerman also grabbed a nifty one-handed catch.

Quarterback Joe Flacco looked pretty sharp in his first training camp workout, but the keystone moment for the former Delaware Blue Hen was actually an incomplete pass to running back Matt Lawrence who ran the incorrect pattern.  The second-year quarterback corrected his teammate, ran the play again, and completed the pass to Lawrence.  It was a simple example of the leadership Flacco has with this offense.

Veteran Kelly Gregg was back on the field and looks to be in great shape.  The nose tackle’s surgically-repaired knee was only wrapped in an ace bandage, a good sign for Greg Mattison’s defense.

11:43 a.m. — To clarify the PUP list a bit more, this list is referred to as the active PUP list.  These players are eligible to practice any time, and John Harbaugh even said some of them could be ready to go as early as tomorrow.  The purpose of this list is to keep these players eligible for the reserve PUP list—the one where players do not count against the 53-man roster but must miss the first six weeks of the regular season.

PUP list players still count against the 80-man training camp roster, so there is no added roster flexibility in regards to the preseason.

11:21 a.m. — The Ravens initial PUP’ers are Willis McGahee, Lamar Divens, Davon Drew, Yamon Figurs, Ben Grubbs, Adam Terry, Jason Phillips, Samari Rolle, Lou Saucedo, Marshal Yanda and Joe Reitz.

Definition of “physically unable to perform”: This List designates players with serious injuries that will keep them from being able to start a season on the 53-man protected list but may be able to return to the roster during the regular season. The players must be placed on this roster at or before the league-wide 65-man summer roster cutdown to be eligible for this designation, and they must stay on this list for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. After this time teams have 3 weeks to evaluate such players after which each such player must be placed on the 53-man roster, season-ending Injured Reserve (IR) or waivers.

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