Tag Archive | "Michael Campanaro"

flacco

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Ravens-Redskins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 29 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The dress rehearsal for the 2015 season has finally arrived as the Ravens welcome the Washington Redskins to Baltimore for the all-important third preseason game of the summer.

With starters expected to play the entire first half in a final tuneup before the season opener in Denver on Sept. 13, head coach John Harbaugh hopes to see a crisp performance after last week’s poor showing in Philadelphia. Most starters will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale in Atlanta as has been the custom in Harbaugh’s eight summers at the helm.

The Ravens will be without three key starters as left tackle Eugene Monroe (forearm), left guard Kelechi Osemele (Achilles), and cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring) are all dealing with injuries. Ryan Jensen, John Urschel, and Rashaan Melvin are expected to start at their positions, respectively.

Normally, James Hurst would have drawn the start at left tackle in place of Monroe, but he was dealing with a concussion and missed extensive practice time this week. Hurst was suited up, but the second-year tackle was not doing much during full-team warm-ups.

Sidelined for nearly three weeks, Webb went through a rigorous pre-game workout on the M&T Bank Stadium field and appeared to be moving well, a strong indication that he’s close to returning. In Webb’s absence, Melvin has received extensive opportunities on the outside with veteran Kyle Arrington continuing to work inside at the nickel position.

Out with a sprained knee suffered on the first day of training camp, rookie wideout Breshad Perriman was on the field catching passes from receivers coach Bobby Engram two hours before the start of the game. For what it’s worth, the 2015 first-round pick did not do any running as he caught passes in a stationary position, another good indication that he will miss the entire preseason.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams will also sit out Saturday’s game after practicing in a red non-contact jersey all week in Owings Mills.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro was the first Ravens player on the field a few hours before kickoff, working on stretching and agility drills. Harbaugh has described the injury that’s sidelined him for more than a week as a “soft tissue” ailment, but he did not go through team warm-ups.

Asa Jackson was expected to start the game as the primary returner, but DeAndre Carter, Aldrick Robinson, Tom Nelson, Buck Allen, and Terrence Magee also fielded kicks prior to the game.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Terry McAulay.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Washington dons its white tops with gold pants.

Baltimore is 47-30 in all-time preseason play and 20-10 under Harbaugh. The Ravens and the Redskins are meeting in the preseason for the ninth time with Baltimore holding a 6-2 record.

Teams are not required to release a list of inactive for preseason games, but below is an unofficial list of Ravens players on the 90-man roster who were suited up to play on Saturday night:

WR Michael Campanaro
WR Breshad Perriman
CB Lardarius Webb
G Kelechi Osemele
OT Eugene Monroe
TE Maxx Williams
LB Steven Means
CB Tramain Jacobs
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
OT Darryl Baldwin
OT De’Ondre Wesley
TE Dennis Pitta
TE Allen Reisner
S Matt Elam
DE Brent Urban

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aiken

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Ravens receivers continue shuffling in and out of practice

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Health at the receiver position continues to be one of the Ravens’ biggest concerns of the summer with players shuffling in and out of workouts.

Monday brought the return of Kamar Aiken (foot) and Marlon Brown (back) to the practice field while second-year wideout Michael Campanaro (undisclosed) joined rookie Breshad Perriman as an absentee. Of course, the most pressing issue has been with Baltimore’s first-round pick, who hasn’t practiced since sustaining a knee injury on July 30.

Head coach John Harbaugh said over the weekend that he still expects Perriman to return during the preseason, but he has missed extensive practice time, making you wonder how prepared he’ll be to play a meaningful role by Week 1. Projected to be the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, Brown has also missed extensive practice time during training camp and only worked on a limited basis on Monday.

Those absences have led to more prominent looks for Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, and Darren Waller, but the Ravens know Perriman is the only wideout on the roster likely to be a high-ceiling threat in the vertical passing game.

“We’re disappointed for him, No. 1, that he can’t be out there to work,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Perriman’s extended absence. “There’s nothing we can do [about] it. We have to turn it into a positive, and the guys do so by understanding they have a great opportunity here to have another rep, another opportunity. We’ve got to continue to work to develop the guys we’re with, and that’s the positive side of it.

“That’s all we can control in this moment. We can’t control Breshad being out there. We’ll just go from there, and we’re very, very hopeful that he’ll be with us soon.”

Monday also brought the return of defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, who primarily worked on an individual basis after missing a week with what Harbaugh described only as a strain.

In addition to Perriman and Campanaro, the Ravens were missing several other key players on Monday including left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Asa Jackson (knee), linebacker Steven Means (knee), and reserve offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion), Robert Myers (concussion), and Jah Reid (undisclosed). Jackson injured his knee in the preseason opener after he was given the first opportunity to return punts and kickoffs against New Orleans.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was pleased with the performance of both Jackson and Campanaro returning punts as the former returned two for 17 yards and the latter registered a 10-yard return. However, both players have dealt with injuries too often in their young careers.

“It’s a long way to go; we have a lot of practice [to go],” Rosburg said. “We get good opportunities again this week against Philadelphia in practice. Then, hopefully, we’ll make them punt a lot and get some more opportunities in the game. We can’t control the injuries; they are what they are. Hopefully, we get them back soon.”

Several players dealt with heat-related challenges throughout Monday’s practice as rookie wide receiver Darren Waller and tight end Maxx Williams both left the field early and did not return. Wideout Jeremy Butler left the field during practice but later returned.

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smithflacco

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Ravens relish Smith’s final season with unproven receivers behind him

Posted on 10 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will gladly reap the benefits of Steve Smith’s final NFL season while knowing the clock is officially ticking for the young group of receivers behind him to grow up.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection’s announcement came as no surprise to the organization after he had contemplated his future following the divisional playoff loss to New England in January. The news may not have any real bearing on the Ravens’ chances for 2015, but it does create a greater sense of urgency for the likes of first-round rookie Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, and Marlon Brown to take significant steps forward by the end of the season.

With Smith being one of just 12 players in NFL history to record 900 catches, 13,000 receiving yards, and 70 touchdown receptions, the group couldn’t have a better example from which to learn.

“If they’re paying attention – it has to rub off, right?” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’d like to think — especially in that receiver room, but really on our whole team — watch Steve really closely and they watch his competitiveness. The guy has been in this league for so many years at such a high level; he’s doing a lot of things right. How can you not try to learn from him?”

From the moment he arrived in Owings Mills last spring, Smith lived up to the reputation he earned as a fiery competitor with the Carolina Panthers for 13 years. Whether reining in passes from Joe Flacco, mentoring young wideouts, or challenging Baltimore cornerbacks during practices, the 36-year-old instantly made the Ravens a better team and is doing so again this summer, regularly looking like one of the best players on the field despite having nothing to prove after the eighth 1,000-yard receiving season of his career in 2014.

While Baltimore’s young receivers will try to act as sponges absorbing Smith’s lessons as he prepares to walk away from a career that will earn him Hall of Fame consideration, the veteran doesn’t plan to do anything differently in his 15th and final season.

“No sense of urgency. Anything I do, it’s not anything underlining,” Smith said. “I still teach those guys, still talk to them, [and] we still have fun.”

As if the pressure wasn’t great enough on the rookie Perriman to establish himself as a vertical threat in the passing game to replace ex-Raven Torrey Smith, Baltimore will now hope he’s ready to step into a No. 1 kind of role by season’s end knowing that Steve Smith won’t be around as a safety net in 2016. For now, Baltimore will settle for Perriman simply getting back on the practice field as he’s been nursing a knee injury since July 30.

Smith’s announcement doesn’t carry the same magnitude as future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis revealing his intentions to retire just before the start of the 2012 postseason, but the Ravens hope to provide him a similar ending with a Super Bowl championship as a retirement gift.

“We want to go out and let him go out the right way,” said outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who was a rookie in Lewis’ final season. “The way he’s so hyped, why wouldn’t you want to play hard for that guy? We want to come together. Let him go out the right way.”

Flacco falters

Monday was Flacco’s worst practice of the summer as he tossed an interception to top cornerback Jimmy Smith during a 7-on-7 drill and was picked off by safety Anthony Levine during a full-team period of practice.

Levine was filling in for starting free safety Kendrick Lewis, who sat out Monday’s practice with a leg issue. The hybrid defensive back broke sharply on a pass over the middle intended for tight end Crockett Gillmore.

Flacco appeared out of sync with many of his throws on Monday while backup Matt Schaub had one of his better practices, a sharp contrast from what we’ve seen through much of the first two weeks of camp.

The eighth-year quarterback did redeem himself with a long strike to rookie Darren Waller, who blew past veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb in coverage during an 11-on-11 period of practice.

Return roulette

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has said he hopes to see as many return opportunities as possible in the preseason as the Ravens seek kickoff and punt returners to fill the void left behind by Jacoby Jones, who was released in the offseason.

In the Ravens’ first depth chart released last week, Michael Campanaro was listed as the No. 1 punt returner and Asa Jackson as the starting kick returner, but both positions remain wide open.

Campanaro, Jackson, Smith, Webb, rookie free agent DeAndre Carter, and wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Tom Nelson all took reps returning punts on Monday. Several of those players as well as rookie running back Buck Allen were also fielding kickoffs.

Rosburg has said the preseason games will hold the most weight in determining who will return kicks for the Ravens this season.

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crockett

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Ravens release first depth chart ahead of preseason opener

Posted on 06 August 2015 by Luke Jones

With their preseason opener less than a week away, the Ravens have released their first depth chart of the summer with few surprises.

The depth chart reflects current long-term injuries, explaining why the likes of Matt Elam, Dennis Pitta, and Terrence Brooks are listed at the end of their position groups.

Despite using their first two picks of the 2015 draft on speedy receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round and tight end Maxx Williams in the second, the Ravens have listed the rookies behind Kamar Aiken and Crockett Gillmore at their respective positions. This comes as no real surprise based on the allocation of practice reps through the first week of training camp as well as the knee injury that’s sidelined Perriman since the first full-squad practice.

Gillmore is noticeably ahead of Williams at this stage of the summer while Perriman continues to miss valuable practice time to close the gap with Aiken, who has had a good start to camp.

Second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is also listed ahead of rookie Buck Allen as the primary backup to Justin Forsett, but both have impressed at various times as they’ve competed in the spring and summer.

There were no real surprises on the defensive depth chart, but Rashaan Melvin being listed ahead of Asa Jackson at cornerback speaks to the latter falling out of grace defensively after he started six games last year in place of injured starters Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith.

Veteran defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson being listed behind Carl Davis and Kapron Lewis-Moore is noteworthy, but Tyson saw his playing time dwindle in the second half of 2014.

As for special teams, Jackson is listed as the starting kick returner while wide receiver Michael Campanaro was designated the starting punt returner, but those positions remain very fluid as a number of players — including Webb and 36-year-old receiver Steve Smith — have worked out as returners. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has said several times that performance in the preseason games will hold the most weight in determining who wins those jobs.

It’s important not to read too much into the weekly depth chart, especially once moving past the first and second string. The depth chart is composed by the Ravens’ public relations staff, but it is based on practice and game reps, giving fans and media a worthwhile guideline.

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webb

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Webb fails conditioning test at start of Ravens training camp

Posted on 30 July 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Convening for their first practice of the summer, the Ravens were only missing one projected starter as cornerback Lardarius Webb was not working on Thursday after failing his conditioning test.

The seventh-year defensive back was a full participant during last month’s mandatory minicamp, but he was not allowed to take part in the first full-squad workout of training camp. The 29-year-old missed all of last year’s training camp and the beginning of the 2014 regular season due to a lingering back injury.

“It’s always a big deal. You want to see guys pass it,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who cited several former players who had failed to pass the conditioning test in previous summers. “The conditioning test measures anaerobic conditioning. It measures the ability to recover, to get your heart rate way up and recover.

“Webby is in really good shape in a lot of different ways. I can see it in the way he moves in the weight room, but he’s not in the kind of anaerobic shape he needs to be in to come out here and practice. The idea being that if I go play after play after play and I begin to get fatigued and I can’t move the way I need to move, I’m going to have a fatigue type of an injury. That’s why it’s part of the physical.”

The conditioning test consists of six timed 25-yard runs in which players run up and back. Veteran newcomers have often mentioned over the years how difficult the Ravens’ test is compared to those of other teams.

In most cases, a player failing to pass isn’t a problem in the long run, but Webb not being ready to practice isn’t a good look after his disappointing 2014 season. For now, the Ravens won’t put too much stock into the delay to the start of his summer.

“He’s a little behind that way certainly, and he’s going to have to make up the ground,” Harbaugh said. “He took it hard on himself. He’s disappointed in himself just like you’d expect. I know he’s very determined to get through it.”

Webb was placed on the non-football injury list until he passes the test.

Harbaugh said defensive tackle Casey Walker was not practicing because he was placed on the active physically unable to perform list due to knee tendinitis.

Two other starters returned to the practice field after spring absences as center Jeremy Zuttah (hip surgery) and right tackle Right Wagner (foot) were working during the opening portion of practice. The Ravens are expected to bring the two along slowly to begin the summer.

Wide receivers Michael Campanaro (quadriceps) and Aldrick Robinson (knee) both returned to practice after suffering injuries during spring workouts.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) and linebacker C.J. Mosley (wrist) were present and working after being limited in the spring.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) were limited to watching practice as they both began the summer on the active PUP list.

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steve

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2015 Ravens training camp preview: Wide receivers

Posted on 24 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning their 20th training camp in franchise history this month, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.

July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists

Below is a look at the Baltimore wide receivers:

WIDE RECEIVERS
LOCK: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken
BUBBLE: Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Darren Waller, DeAndre Carter
LONG SHOT: Aldrick Robinson, Daniel Brown, Cam Worthy

Synopsis: The Ravens feature one of the best receivers of the last 20 years in Steve Smith and a deep group of young wideouts with question marks. Even at age 36, Smith figures to still be a productive contributor in the passing game, but Baltimore hopes 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman is ready to immediately fill the void left behind by Torrey Smith, who had his flaws but was the much-needed vertical threat to utilize Joe Flacco’s talents. Beyond Steve Smith (1,065 yards and six touchdowns in 2014), the Ravens don’t have another receiver on the current roster who caught more than 24 passes last year. Kamar Aiken figures to push Perriman the most for a starting job and is the favorite to be no worse than the No. 3 receiver, but there are other young receivers who carry intrigue despite the uncertainty.

One to watch: Perriman is bigger and has more speed than Torrey Smith, but the Central Florida product will need to prove he can catch the football consistently and run the rest of the route tree beyond going vertical. Some made too much of Perriman’s drops during spring practices without mentioning that he was receiving extensive reps working with the first-, second-, and third-string offenses, meaning he was bound to drop a few more with a greater number of opportunities than others on the roster. Many observers would agree that Perriman is clearly ahead of where Torrey Smith was at this point as a rookie, which bodes well for his ability to contribute immediately.

One on notice: It wasn’t that Marlon Brown had a poor spring under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, but he made few plays when the ball was thrown his way. Sixteen of Brown’s 24 receptions went for first downs in 2014 as he became a solid third-down target, but the 6-foot-5 receiver doesn’t run good routes and rarely plays as big as his frame. It will be interesting to see if Trestman — a fan of tall wideouts in Chicago — finds a way to unleash Brown in the end zone in a way Gary Kubiak never could. Brown’s roster spot is likely safe, but he needs to have a good summer to be relevant in the offense and to stave off younger options such as Jeremy Butler and Darren Waller from pushing him to the bubble.

Sleeper: He may not be a complete unknown after receiving some hype during the spring, but rookie free agent DeAndre Carter should have a nice opportunity to impress the coaching staff if he can prove himself worthy as an option in the return game, an area that remains a huge question mark for Baltimore. Steve Smith probably didn’t do Carter any favors by comparing him to a young Randall Cobb, but the 5-foot-8 Sacramento State product was extremely successful at the FCS level, catching 163 passes for 2,255 yards and 31 touchdowns in his last two seasons with the Hornets. Carter’s best chance to make the roster is as a return specialist, but the college pedigree makes him a dark horse to monitor.

 

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perriman

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Ravens position battles to watch this summer

Posted on 24 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens possess one of the deepest rosters in the NFL entering the 2015 season, but a number of key position battles will headline the summer as they seek their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

After losing the likes of Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, and Pernell McPhee, general manager Ozzie Newsome has done a remarkable job reloading, but several questions must be answered before the season begins in Denver on Sept. 13.

Below is an early look at each competition with the first full-squad workout of the summer set for July 30:

Starting wide receiver
The candidates: Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown
Why to be optimistic: The 26th overall pick in the draft, Perriman was projected to go in the middle of the first round by some and is a faster and bigger version of Torrey Smith on paper while Aiken and Brown are still developing and contributed a season ago.
Why to be concerned: Beyond the 13,000-plus receiving yards from 15-year veteran Steve Smith, the Ravens’ other returning wide receivers made a combined 55 catches last year, making you pray that Perriman is ready to contribute immediately.
The favorite: Aiken is the leader in the clubhouse following minicamp and has developed an impressive rapport with Joe Flacco, but Perriman’s skills are too enticing to pass on him as the favorite to start.

Starting tight end
The candidates: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
Why to be optimistic: Even if we assume Pitta will not be cleared to play in 2015, the Ravens invested a 2014 third-round pick in Gillmore and a second-round pick in Williams this spring for a reason.
Why to be concerned: Gillmore caught just 10 passes as a rookie while Williams did not stand out during spring practices and is still trying to adjust to Marc Trestman’s offensive system.
The favorite: After showing improvement late in his rookie year, Gillmore was a surprise of the spring with a better physique and improved ability to make catches in traffic while Williams was very quiet.

Starting defensive end
The candidates: Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban
Why to be optimistic: Canty and Guy were effective holding down the 5-technique position a year ago despite Urban’s knee injury that derailed his anticipated role in the rotation as a rookie.
Why to be concerned: Canty is entering his 11th year and the Ravens deemed him expendable before bringing him back at a cheaper rate while Urban has been unable to shake injuries going back to his collegiate days.
The favorite: Urban was very active during spring practices and could push the veteran starter, but it’s too tough to pick against Canty, who has started 119 games in his NFL career.

Starting safeties
The candidates: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks
Why to be optimistic: Hill proved capable in handling a starting job in the second half of 2014 while Lewis was signed for his ability to play deep center, something the Ravens lacked in coverage a year ago.
Why to be concerned: Elam was a clear disappointment in his first two seasons while Brooks is still recovering from a torn ACL, creating legitimate depth concerns going into training camp.
The favorites: The Ravens gave Elam some reps with the starting defense this spring, but it would take substantial improvement for the 2013 first-round pick to overtake Hill or Lewis for starting spots.

Return specialist
The candidates: Michael Campanaro, DeAndre Carter, Asa Jackson, Fitz Toussaint, Lardarius Webb, Steve Smith
Why to be optimistic: Campanaro and Jackson have shown flashes in the return game in very limited opportunities while Webb and Smith bring experience to the equation.
Why to be concerned: It’s difficult to buy either Webb or Smith as a serious candidate to handle the job because of their importance, leaving the real competition to players lacking experience or facing questions about their durability.
The favorite: There isn’t one as this competition lacks candidates to really feel good about at this point, making you wonder if the man to handle the job is even on the current roster.

Backup running back
The candidates: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
Why to be optimistic: The Ravens feel very good about Justin Forsett in a starting role for a second straight year and have invested fourth-round picks in running backs in each of the last two drafts.
Why to be concerned: Taliaferro and Allen have a combined 68 carries in the NFL and are the primary backups behind a 29-year-old back who has one year of experience as a full-time back since college.
The favorite: Last month, Allen would have been my choice because of the versatility he showed in college, but a slimmed-down Taliaferro moved well this spring and has an experience edge for now.

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Plenty of intrigue surrounding Ravens wide receivers

Posted on 19 June 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You can easily be fooled by what you observe during spring football practice, but the Ravens’ young group of wide receivers displayed much to like over the last month.

It would be unwise to guarantee that the Ravens won’t experience any growing pains at the position following the free-agent departure of Torrey Smith, but there are many reasons to be intrigued with the upside of the group. More than a few showed their talents before the Ravens wrapped up their mandatory minicamp on Thursday, now turning their attention toward the start of training camp in less than six weeks.

“They come in all different sizes, certainly, and we have them here,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman of the young receivers. “But at the end of the day, it’s the guys that are really specialists that know how to get off the line and get open, and particularly when it’s bump-and-run, because that’s when it’s usually crunch time.”

Of course, introducing the threat of contact will be the real test as countless receivers over the years have shown ability while knowing they aren’t about to be leveled by a hard-hitting defensive back or linebacker over the middle. This time of the year always favors the offense with defensive players lagging behind until the pads serve as the equalizer beginning in late July.

Perhaps the most comforting aspect about the group that allows so much optimism is the man who spent the entire spring mentoring them while continuing to look like the best player on the field in the process.

While other notable veterans skipped voluntary organized team activities and didn’t arrive in Owings Mills until this week’s mandatory minicamp, the 36-year-old Steve Smith spent the last month working with the likes of rookies Breshad Perriman and Darren Waller as well as helping young receivers such as Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown. It’s easy to like your potential at a position when a seasoned commodity with five Pro Bowl selections and 13,000 receiving yards remains at the head of the class.

“He put in the time physically and he put in the time mentally to really grasp the changes that we were making and further enhance how he understood this offense,” wide receivers coach Bobby Engram said. “And, when he pulls a young guy aside, they’re going to listen. And when they see his work ethic, they better listen. His experience and his leadership has been invaluable not only for the receivers but for our entire team.”

While Smith continues to lead the way at the position, there were three young receivers who stood out this spring in particular.

Selected with the 26th overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft, Perriman has been as advertised with his combination of size and speed, and he appears to be ahead of where Torrey Smith was at this point in his rookie season. The Ravens made no secret about their desire to work him hard this spring as the Central Florida product consistently took reps with the first, second, and third-team offenses during practices, often battling fatigue to make sensational catches.

He wasn’t perfect as he suffered some drops from time to time — it hasn’t been a chronic issue — but the 6-foot-2 rookie feels good about his place in Trestman’s offense and adjusted well to the speed of the game when the full squad reported for practices this past week.

“I just like how they have the ability to move all the receivers around,” Perriman said. “For me, I’m decent at going deep, but at the same time, they have the ability to move me around and put all the receivers in different positions. Everyone can be a slot receiver and run different routes. That’s what I like about it.”

Perriman has drawn the outside attention as the team’s first-round draft pick, but Aiken may have impressed the most this spring with his consistency and strong rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco. After rising from anonymity to make last year’s roster, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Aiken caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season while adding another touchdown reception in the playoffs.

It would be premature — and unfair — to label Aiken a poor man’s Anquan Boldin, but perhaps he could be the poor man’s poor man’s version of the former Baltimore receiver, showing good strength and an ability to make catches in traffic. He is the current leader in the clubhouse to start opposite Smith — the Ravens almost always defer to their veterans over rookies to begin preseason competitions — but Aiken figures to be a meaningful part of the passing game, regardless of where he lands on the depth chart by the time September rolls around.

Aiken said this spring that he has never lacked confidence, but last year’s success has made him comfortable in preparing to just be himself instead of trying to do too much to make the roster as he was forced to do earlier in his career. Whether beginning the year as a starter or succumbing to Perriman, Aiken is confident he’s a good fit in a critical portion of the field.

“I like going across the middle, so I’ve never feared a route going across the middle,” Aiken said. “I feel like that’s where you make your money at. But [the coaches] do a lot of good things as far as mix and matching, just putting us in different areas [where we are] able to run different routes.”

While Perriman and Aiken have already become household names for Ravens fans, the biggest wild card could end up being Jeremy Butler, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve after turning a few heads during last summer’s training camp. It wasn’t a coincidence that Baltimore took advantage of Butler’s late-summer shoulder injury to stash him on IR, which essentially gave the Tennessee-Martin product a “redshirt” season to learn and improve.

At 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, Butler earned plenty of praise for his consistent hands over the last month. And while there have been many young players over the years to have good springs before disappearing in training camp and the preseason, it’s worth paying attention to Butler this summer after quiet acclaim from coaches last year and the compliments offered by Smith and Flacco this week.

If anything, Butler figures to offer some strong competition for Aiken in the slot as he occasionally received some first-team reps over these last few weeks.

“He might have had 1,500 yards in a three-day minicamp. He was incredible,” Flacco said. “He caught the ball extremely well. [He has] little things here and there to work on, but the biggest thing is catching the ball, and I think these guys are doing a really good job of that.”

With the ageless veteran Smith leading the way, the Ravens hope they’ll face some difficult decisions as far as how many receivers they will be able to keep. Perriman is an obvious lock and Aiken is an excellent bet, but how the depth chart plays out after that is anyone’s guess.

You’re always waiting for the 6-foot-5 Brown to take the next step after an impressive 2013 rookie season, but he didn’t do much to stand out this spring — good or bad — and you’d like to see him better utilize his massive frame, especially inside the red zone.

Campanaro has flashed potential as a return man and at receiver, but his latest quadriceps injury creates more doubt about his ability to stay on the field.

A sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech, the 6-foot-6 Waller has shown promise, but will he develop quickly enough to justify a roster spot as a rookie?

Can rookie free agent DeAndre Carter stand out as a receiver to augment his chances for winning a roster spot and serving as a return specialist?

Of course, not all of these names will pan out, but it’s tough not to like the Ravens’ chances to break camp with a group of young receivers having room to grow, especially with a franchise quarterback in the prime of his career throwing to them. Smith is looking forward to having a front-row seat for the battles this summer as he prepares for his 15th NFL season.

“It’s very competitive,” Smith said. “I’m actually going to sit back and watch it and just root for those guys and see them make plays.”

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jacoby

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Ravens open to numerous possibilities in return game

Posted on 10 June 2015 by Luke Jones

Of the various position battles expected to take place this summer, the uneasiest ones for the Ravens come at the punt and kick returner spots.

With the Ravens jettisoning 2012 Pro Bowl return specialist Jacoby Jones earlier in the offseason, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg is casting a wide net in trying to find his replacement. If voluntary organized team activities are any indication, numerous veterans and rookies alike will be in the competition mix.

“I think we’ll limit it to keeping the offensive linemen out of there,” said Rosburg as he laughed on Monday afternoon. “We’re not going to let any of those guys go out there, but we are going to have a long line when it comes to that time.”

Younger players such as cornerback Asa Jackson, wide receivers Michael Campanaro and DeAndre Carter, and running back Fitz Toussaint figure to receive plenty of opportunities this summer, but Rosburg has also given veteran wideout Steve Smith some reps this spring and will do the same with veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb during training camp. Smith and Webb have shown plenty of ability in the return game throughout their careers, but the Ravens would obviously prefer not to use key veteran starters to return kicks on any kind of a regular basis.

In a perfect world, the Ravens would find someone to return both punts and kickoffs, but versatility will be critical as they’re not looking for a player to solely be a return man. That’s the biggest reason why the organization cut Jones, whose role as a wide receiver all but disappeared as he struggled with drops in his final season in Baltimore.

“You’d like to see a return specialist do both, and also contribute on offense or defense,” Rosburg said. “My personal philosophy is I don’t want just a return specialist. That’s not enough value to the roster. It doesn’t help the team enough.”

While training camp practices provide opportunities for evaluation, limits on contact during special-teams drills make it difficult for Rosburg to truly determine what he has. It’s easy to know what veterans such as Webb or Smith have to offer, but determining whether a rookie free agent like Carter can handle the job is best assessed during preseason games.

Securing the ball and turning upfield is simple enough on a Wednesday afternoon at the team’s Owings Mills training complex in early August, but doing it consistently when it matters is a different story.

“I like to see guys in games,” Rosburg said. “Practice is practice. It’s really valuable [and] it is important. You see what skills guys have, you watch them play, and you get a feel for them. Having said that, there’s nothing like game reps. Handling a crowd [and] handling a game situation is really important. We’ll make the decision based on who is best in preseason.”

Predicting which candidate that might be at this point is anyone’s guess.

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Which 2014 Ravens draft pick breaks out in second season?

Posted on 01 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The 2014 draft class offered one of the better immediate returns for the Ravens in recent memory.

First-round pick C.J. Mosley became the first rookie in franchise history to make the Pro Bowl, an impressive feat considering general manager Ozzie Newsome’s impeccable track record with selections in the first round over the last two decades. It will be difficult for Mosley to gain much more notoriety than he received in his first year, but a number of other 2014 draft picks appear primed for a breakout second season.

Below are my thoughts on four breakout candidates from last year’s draft and you can vote in our poll:

Which 2014 draft pick is primed to break out for the Ravens in his second year? (Select up to two)

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Favorite: DT Timmy Jernigan
Skinny: The Ravens are expecting the 2014 second-round pick to lead the way in filling the large shoes left behind by Haloti Ngata, but Jernigan dealt with injuries that limited him to 12 games as a rookie. Rookie third-round pick Carl Davis will factor into the Ngata equation as well, but Jernigan should offer plenty as a pass rusher and showed he could be stout against the run in his college days at Florida State. With a 6-foot-2, 300-pound frame, he doesn’t have an overwhelming physical presence, but Jernigan used his strength, leverage, and quickness to fill in admirably when Ngata was suspended last December.

Underrated: TE Crockett Gillmore
Skinny: The Ravens traded up in the second round last month to select Minnesota’s Maxx Williams, but that doesn’t mean Gillmore won’t be counted on to contribute in the passing game after catching only 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season. At 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, Gillmore has the frame to not only be a terrific blocker, but he should be more of a factor inside the red zone in his second season. Williams will receive the attention, but it isn’t always easy for a rookie to adjust quickly to the NFL, which could leave a few more opportunities for Gillmore than most expect, especially early on.

Falling back: RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
Skinny: The Ravens spent a fourth-round pick on a running back for the second straight year when they selected Buck Allen with the 125th overall selection. Taliaferro appeared slimmer and in excellent shape during last week’s voluntary workouts, but he didn’t look fully comfortable last year in Gary Kubiak’s one-cut zone schemes that are expected to be used again under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. He will continue to be a strong option in short-yardage situations, but many consider Allen the favorite to be the primary backup behind veteran starter Justin Forsett.

Sleeper: DE Brent Urban
Skinny: A forgotten man after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in training camp, Brent Urban would have factored heavily into the defensive line rotation as a rookie. Veteran Chris Canty is back with the Ravens, but Urban appears to be a prime candidate to eventually start at the 5-technique defensive end position if he can prove he’s healthy. Because the injury occurred late July, Urban has had plenty of time to recover and should be fully cleared for training camp. The coaching staff will probably bring him along slowly, but the Virginia product is a player to watch this summer.

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