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Ravens-Cowboys preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-Cowboys preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 15 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will try to build on an encouraging performance in their preseason opener as they travel to Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys in their second preseason game of the summer.

Observers were abuzz over an impressive 10-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown in the starting offense’s only work of the night against San Francisco, but the Ravens have acknowledged throughout the week that they can’t put too much stock into one possession. Even with plenty of strides already taken throughout training camp to grasp new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system, there is plenty of work remaining before the Ravens kick off the regular season against Cincinnati on Sept. 7.

“You have an opportunity to really see progress,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You’re in a crucible, and every single day, it’s all you do. It’s wall-to-wall football. It’s morning to night. You go to sleep and you wake up, and you’re back at football. There’s no escape. There’s nowhere to hide, [and] there’s nowhere to run. It’s all football all the time, so you make progress rapidly, but you have to because you have a long way to go.”

Harbaugh confirmed starters are expected to receive more playing time against the Cowboys than they did against San Francisco, but the first units will receive their most extensive work against Washington in the third preseason game next weekend.

The Ravens are expected to continue giving running back Ray Rice first-team reps along with top backup Bernard Pierce before focusing more on the latter next week with Rice suspended for the first two games of the regular season.

“Normally, in the second preseason game you get a quarter, maybe a little more than a quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Some of that will be individualized for different players; we’ll have some play counts for a few guys, including Joe [Flacco] and some of the defensive players. We’ll see how it goes, but basically, about a quarter is what you’re looking at — maybe more. It could get close to a half; it could even be a half for some of the starters.”

Saturday will be the first preseason meeting between the Ravens and the Cowboys, but Baltimore owns the 4-0 edge in the regular season and will be making its first visit to AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Ravens are 43-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 16-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play in the second preseason game as he’s been sidelined with a lower back injury since July 25.

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

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Will Rackley (head), DT Terrence Cody (hip), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles tendon), DE Brent Urban (knee)
DOUBTFUL: CB Asa Jackson (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Owen Daniels (unspecified)
PROBABLE: LB Daryl Smith (groin), S Brynden Trawick (back), OL Ryan Jensen (leg)

Five players to watch Saturday night

1. C Jeremy Zuttah

While many pointed to the success of right tackle Rick Wagner in the first preseason game, the new Baltimore center appeared to make calls at the line successfully as the starting offense ran the ball effectively and protected Flacco. Zuttah isn’t dramatically bigger than 2013 starter Gino Gradkowski, but he’s held up well physically as a run blocker and in pass protection. The offensive line will remain under heavy scrutiny through the early portion of the series, but the reviews for Zuttah have been positive and the overall concern at the center position last year at this time appears to be a distant memory.

“The thing about Jeremy, he is a professional in every way,” offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. “He is smart, and he studies the game. For him, too, it’s a different technique, and he’s been working very hard at the fundamentals and trying to do the things the way we do it here in Baltimore.”

2. S Terrence Brooks

It was no secret that Brooks was lagging behind in the competition at free safety due to concerns with him grasping the intricacies of the defense, but injuries to Webb and Jackson at the cornerback position have prompted the Ravens to take a look at the Florida State product in the nickel spot, a position he played with the Seminoles. The shift is more of a reflection on how shallow the cornerback depth is at this point, but Brooks may find the nickel and dime packages as his best chance to see the field for meaningful defensive snaps to start his rookie season.

“Everybody is an option right now. We’re just trying to find guys,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees on the No. 3 cornerback spot. “We’re moving guys around a little bit. We have two more games to experiment with where we want to put guys and see where they fit getting ready for the season. The first two games are [about] playing everybody [to] see what we have, and then after that, we have to start honing in. But we’ll move a bunch of guys around. Terrence is playing well; he’s playing hard. He’s a multi-position guy like all of our guys really are. It’s a possibility.”

3. WR Kamar Aiken

The 2013 practice squad member has turned plenty of heads and certainly took advantage of his opportunity in the preseason opener with four catches for 46 yards on six targets and 29 offensive snaps. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout appears to be competing closely with Deonte Thompson for a potential roster spot, but Aiken has outplayed the incumbent member of the 53-man roster and can further improve his chances by building on what he did against the 49ers. Of course, special-teams contributions will play a major part in determining whether Aiken finds himself on the active roster.

“He is explosive and he’s big,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I tell you, in all my years in the league, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as competitive a situation as we have at receiver right now. I would have no chance telling John [Harbaugh] which five or six I would want right now, and that’s a good thing as a coach.”

4. DL DeAngelo Tyson

The 2012 seventh-round pick has been a steady member of the defensive line rotation in his first two seasons, but season-ending injuries to young defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore may force the Ravens to use Tyson more exclusively at the 5-technique spot to spell veteran Chris Canty. The University of Georgia product can play multiple spots on the defensive line, so it will be a blow to their overall versatility in the trenches if Pees must use Tyson outside, but his presence has become much more important with the overall depth taking a hit this summer.

“The next guy will be up, and we’ll find a way to do it,” said Harbaugh about the injuries to Urban and Lewis-Moore. “There are always going to be injuries. You adapt, you adjust and you fill out your positions.”

5. TE Crockett Gillmore

The Ravens insist the veteran tight end Daniels isn’t injured, but it’s clear there are some physical concerns with him missing two straight practices following an off-day and not showing great separation while running routes in practices. These factors could open the door for Gillmore to receive more opportunities with the starting offense against Dallas and beyond. It’s been an inconsistent summer for the Colorado State product as a blocker and as a receiver, but that’s to be expected from a third-round pick who will be counted on to be used to some degree with neither Daniels nor starter Dennis Pitta considered particularly strong blockers.

“Crockett is a good football player,” Pitta said earlier this summer. “He’s a tough kid and he’s big and physical and a great blocker at the point of attack. I think that’s what stood out the most this early on. He’s going to be a valuable asset for this offense moving forward.”


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Dorsey’s Dugout – Ravens vs. Cowboys and Start Blake Bortles

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Dorsey’s Dugout – Ravens vs. Cowboys and Start Blake Bortles

Posted on 15 August 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

 

Ravens Depart to Dallas

The first pre-season match was encouraging for the small sample size that fans got to witness out of the first team units. The defense did allow the 49ers to run the ball successfully on the opening drive, but they held it down when the defense needed to the most. In the first exhibition, it is better to see a defense bend and not break, rather than giving up six from the get go.

What stuck out the most from the game against the 49ers was the Ravens success offensively. All eyes were anxious to see the new look of the Kubiak-ran offense and the fans got a small glimpse of things to come. The use of tight ends stood out the most with the unique misdirection screen to Dennis Pitta. Kyle Juszczyk is not a tight end, but he assumes the H-back type role and looked solid in the first appearance.

As the Ravens head into Saturday night’s matchup in the house that Jerry built, there are a couple of things to look for. Although the sample size will once again be small, there are a couple different facets to observe.

Joe Flacco and the starters got yanked quickly after a perfect first drive that resulted in a touchdown. The choice of pulling the starters after a successful scoring drive against a defense like the 49ers was a smart decision.

The offense should not show any sign of slowing down against the Cowboys due to the fact they are facing a far less superior defense. The Dallas Cowboys arguably have the worst defense in the league, so it is imperative that the Ravens offense keeps the momentum rolling with productive drives from the starting unit.

The passing offense got it done last game, but the ground game is what to watch for this time around. The rush offense was the Achilles heel last season and it will be interesting to see how Kubiak can turn it around. If the offense shows signs of quality gains through the trenches against Dallas, it will be something to build off of.

Another facet to take note of for the upcoming exhibition is how Baltimore will defend the run. The Ravens struggled to slow down the 49ers rush offense, but they are among the best in the league at just that.

Dallas has a solid look in the run game, led by DeMarco Murray. The offensive line features some solid young starters such as Zach Martin and Tyron Smith. With that being said, CJ Mosley is someone to watch in game two.

The first round pick is coming off of a solid first performance and it would be encouraging to see progress in the second game. His natural football instincts will be put to the test to break down the plays and distinguish where the ball may end up.

Facing the Cowboys offense also means a defense is going against a quality air attack. The Ravens glaring depletion is in the secondary, depending on inexperience and lack of depth. The coaching staff is hoping someone can step up to fill that hole as the nickel corner and the Dallas game is the perfect opportunity to put that challenge on display.

 

Note to Bradley: Just Start Bortles

When the Jaguars made Blake Bortles the third selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, it came across that night as a slight surprise. It should not have been because Bortles was clearly the number one quarterback coming out of college.

Once the Central Florida star was drafted, head coach Gus Bradley made it clear that Bortles would sit the entire season to groom him for the future. All that sounded cliché during the off-season because the landscape of that decision could change once the exhibition season begins.

Bortles now has gotten reps in two exhibition games and he has been nothing short of impressive. In his first appearance against the Buccaneers, Bortles went 7 for 11 and 117 passing yards. In the Thursday night showing against the Bears, the former Golden Knight went 11 for 17 and 160 passing yards.

It is nice to see the yards and completion percentage, but the number one thing to account for in watching a young quarterback is decision making. Bortles has not turned the ball over yet in his two brief stints, which is a good sign since ball security at times was a concern in college.

Bradley has not given a lot of action to the rookie quarterback in training camp when it comes to getting first team reps. It is time now to give Bortles the chance with the first team in the next pre-season game.

The third exhibition in the NFL is known as the showcase game for every team as the starters play at least the first full half. It is somewhat of a dress rehearsal and the Jags would be smart to see what the rookie has in him against an opposing starting defense for a full half.

The Jaguars coaching staff already know what they have in Chad Henne. During his career, he has been a decent quarterback who is better served as a backup. He is not a franchise quarterback; he plays the role of a stopgap quarterback for a franchise. It is time that the staff eats their words from the off-season and throw in the rookie quarterback.

You know you have a stopgap quarterback in Henne, but what you do not know in Bortles is if you have a franchise quarterback. Coach Bradley needs to put the rookie in and see how much promise he has. Everything we have seen so far out of Bortles has been great and one play stuck out the most in his second game against Chicago.

It was second down and a good distance for Bortles as the offense was set up at their own five-yard line. They had the lead and a mistake would cost the team a good chunk of the points. The situation of the game would force the Jags offense to just run the ball conservatively, but it was an exhibition game. So the Jags took a risk to see how the rookie could handle it.

Bortles ran a play action fake and rolled to his right side looking up field. The rookie had a defender crashing down on him quickly and Bortles launched a throw on the run. Over 20 yards down the field, Bortles dropped the ball over and in between four Bears defenders to the wide receiver’s arms.

It ended up as an incompletion, but that was not on Bortles. Jon Gruden, the analyst on the ESPN telecast, went on a rant about the bad decision made given the situation of the game. Once the replay was shown, he was quickly scrutinized by fellow commentator Mike Tirico because the quality of the throw.

It was an absolute perfect throw, launched into the breadbasket of the receiver who failed to keep his second foot in bounds. The first thought that came to mind after that throw was simply just Wow.

Bortles has “it” to be the franchise quarterback for the Jaguars. That’s the same kind of throw that he displayed multiple times on film playing at UCF. He makes those “wow” throws that back up him being the real deal. Like the incredible opposite hash throw, deep down the field against Penn State, he has translated some of that magic to the next level.

So note to Gus Bradley, start the rookie because Bortles looks like he is the truth under center. He gives the Jags their best chance to win because of his playmaking ability with his arm and he has shown so far he can be smart with the ball.

With a good defense in place and a potential franchise quarterback, there is reason for optimism in Jacksonville. If Bortles can get the experience this season and continue to show these signs, the Jaguars can be a team to watch out for during the 2015 NFL season.

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Ravens continue to rest veteran tight end Daniels

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Ravens continue to rest veteran tight end Daniels

Posted on 14 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens conducted their final full practice ahead of Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys as veteran tight end Owen Daniels continued to be absent from the field.

The former Houston Texan was absent from practice for the second straight day after offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Daniels was simply receiving a day off on Thursday. Daniels’ two-day absence following the Ravens’ off-day will raise some eyebrows as the 31-year-old has had a quiet training camp thus far.

“We decided to rest his legs a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “He had been going pretty hard, so [we wanted] to [rest him] a little bit. Whether he’ll play in the game, we’ll just decide and see how he feels. But there’s no injury involved there.”

Daniels hasn’t shown great explosiveness when running routes against man coverage this summer after being limited to five games due to a broken leg in his final season with Houston. With starting tight end Dennis Pitta back to full strength after last season’s hip injury, the Ravens don’t need Daniels to handle a full workload, but Kubiak is known for using multiple tight ends in his West Coast offense.

The Ravens continue to be shorthanded in the secondary as cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) failed to practice on Thursday with neither expected to play in the second preseason game of the summer. Offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion) and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (active physically unable to perform list – hip) also continue to be sidelined.

Harbaugh expects starters to see more playing time in the second preseason game than they did against San Francisco last Thursday.

“Normally, in the second preseason game you get a quarter, maybe a little more than a quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Some of that will be individualized for different players; we’ll have some play counts for a few guys, including Joe [Flacco] and some of the defensive players. We’ll see how it goes, but basically, about a quarter is what you’re looking at — maybe more. It could get close to a half; it could even be a half for some of the starters.”

Thursday’s practice was a lighter workout with players working in helmets, shells, and shorts. The Ravens will conduct a closed walk-through on Friday before departing for Texas in anticipation of their first ever preseason meeting against the Cowboys.

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Bovada gives Flacco, Rice long odds to lead league in yards

Posted on 12 August 2014 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

 

Stats Leaders

Who will lead the League in Passing Yards in the 2014 Regular Season?  

Drew Brees                               11/4

Peyton Manning                        11/4

Aaron Rodgers                          7/1

Matthew Stafford                      15/2

Tom Brady                                12/1

Matt Ryan                                 16/1

Andrew Luck                             18/1

Jay Cutler                                 20/1

Tony Romo                               20/1

Philip Rivers                              22/1

Nick Foles                                25/1

Eli Manning                               33/1

Carson Palmer                          66/1

Ben Roethlisberger                    66/1

Robert Griffin III                         75/1

Sam Bradford                           100/1

Andy Dalton                              100/1

Joe Flacco                                100/1

Josh McCown                           100/1

Matt Schaub                             100/1

Ryan Tannehill                           100/1

Russell Wilson                          100/1

Colin Kaepernick                       150/1

Johnny Manziel                         150/1

Cam Newton                             150/1

Alex Smith                                250/1

 

Who will lead the League in Rushing Yards in the 2014 Regular Season? 

Adrian Peterson                        4/1

LeSean McCoy                          9/2

Jamaal Charles                          7/1

Marshawn Lynch                        12/1

Arian Foster                              16/1

Alfred Morris                             16/1

Matt Forte                                 18/1

Eddie Lacy                               18/1

Doug Martin                              20/1

Zac Stacy                                 20/1

Montee Ball                               25/1

DeMarco Murray                        25/1

Giovani Bernard                        33/1

Chris Johnson                           33/1

C.J. Spiller                                33/1

Ryan Mathews                           40/1

Le’Veon Bell                              50/1

Andre Ellington                         50/1

Toby Gerhart                             50/1

Stevan Ridley                            50/1

Trent Richardson                       66/1

Bishop Sankey                          66/1

Ben Tate                                   66/1

Frank Gore                                75/1

Rashad Jennings                       75/1

Joique Bell                                100/1

Reggie Bush                             100/1

Steven Jackson                        100/1

Maurice Jones-Drew                  100/1

Ray Rice                                   100/1

 

Who will lead the League in Receiving Yards in the 2014 Regular Season?              

Calvin Johnson                         13/5

Dez Bryant                                15/2

Julio Jones                               8/1

Demaryius Thomas                    8/1

Antonio Brown                          16/1

A.J. Green                                16/1

Brandon Marshall                      16/1

Alshon Jeffery                          20/1

Andre Johnson                          25/1

Jordy Nelson                            28/1

Victor Cruz                                40/1

Larry Fitzgerald                         40/1

Pierre Garcon                            40/1

Jimmy Graham                          40/1

T.Y. Hilton                                 40/1

Vincent Jackson                        40/1

Keenan Allen                             50/1

Randall Cobb                            50/1

Julian Edelman                          50/1

DeSean Jackson                       50/1

Jeremy Maclin                           50/1

Cordarrelle Patterson                 50/1

Emmanuel Sanders                   50/1

Torrey Smith                             50/1

Roddy White                             50/1

Michael Floyd                           66/1

Mike Wallace                             66/1

Wes Welker                               66/1

Marques Colston                       75/1

Michael Crabtree                       75/1

Percy Harvin                             75/1

Dwayne Bowe                           100/1

Eric Decker                               100/1

Mike Evans                               100/1

Rob Gronkowski                       100/1

Hakeem Nicks                           100/1

Golden Tate                              100/1

Sammy Watkins                        100/1

Reggie Wayne                           100/1

Kendall Wright                           100/1

 

Miscellaneous Props

Odds to Win 2014 NFL Comeback Player of the Year        

Robert Griffin III                         5/1

Aaron Rodgers                          6/1

Julio Jones                               6/1

Rob Gronkowski                       7/1

Eli Manning                               10/1

Percy Harvin                             15/1

Arian Foster                              25/1

Chris Johnson                           25/1

Clay Matthews                           25/1

Demarcus Ware                         25/1

Doug Martin                              25/1

Von Miller                                 25/1

Matt Schaub                             25/1

Michael Crabtree                       25/1

Trent Richardson                       25/1

C.J. Spiller                                33/1

Hakeem Nicks                           33/1

Jeremy Maclin                           33/1

Maurice Jones-Drew                  33/1

Michael Vick                             33/1

Ray Rice                                   33/1

Reggie Wayne                           33/1

Darren McFadden                      75/1

 

Who will be the 1st coach fired?               

Jason Garrett                            2/1

Dennis Allen                              4/1

Joe Philbin                                7/1

Doug Marrone                           8/1

Rex Ryan                                  10/1

Gus Bradley                              12/1

Mike Smith                                12/1

Marvin Lewis                             20/1

Ron Rivera                                20/1

Tom Coughlin                            25/1

Jeff Fisher                                25/1

Marc Trestman                          33/1

Mike Tomlin                              33/1

 

Will any Quarterback break the single season Passing yards record in the 2014 Regular Season?  (Note: The record is 5,477 by Peyton Manning in 2013)

Yes                  3/1

No                    1/4

 

Will any Player record 2000 or more Receiving yards in the 2014 Regular Season?              

Yes                  5/1

No                    1/8

 

Will any Player record 2000 or more Rushing yards in the 2014 Regular Season? 

Yes                  6/1

No                    1/10

 

Will any Team go 16-0 in the 2014 Regular Season?          

Yes                  33/1

 

Will any Team go 0-16 in the 2014 Regular Season?          

Yes                  33/1

 

Will a team win the Super Bowl going 19-0?        

Yes                  125/1

 

Will any player break the single season sack record in the 2014 Regular Season?

Yes                   15/1

No                    1/30

 

SPECIALS – Will Peyton Manning lead the league in Passing Yards, win MVP and Broncos win the Super Bowl?    

Yes                  40/1

 

SPECIALS – Will Johnny Manziel win rookie of the Year and the Browns make the playoffs?          

Yes                  25/1

 

SPECIALS – Will Calvin Johnson lead the league in Receiving Yards and the Lions win the NFC North?        

Yes                  15/1

 

SPECIALS – Will both the Jaguars and Raiders make the playoffs?              

Yes                  66/1

 

SPECIALS – Will both the Broncos and Seahawks miss the playoffs?          

Yes                  14/1

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Pitta slowed by ankle sprain as Ravens, 49ers practice for final time

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Pitta slowed by ankle sprain as Ravens, 49ers practice for final time

Posted on 11 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens concluded their final day of practice with the San Francisco 49ers while tight end Dennis Pitta continued to be limited with a minor injury.

The starting tight end missed Sunday’s workout with what was originally described as a “tweak” by head coach John Harbaugh before suiting up for Monday morning’s practice. Pitta did not do much of anything during the 2 1/2 hour practice and appeared to be limping as he watched from the sideline.

“Dennis has an ankle sprain,” Harbaugh said. “He went for about 30 minutes [of individual work] and then we put him down.”

The Ravens sustained a number of injuries over the weekend with the most severe being the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore. Cornerback Asa Jackson (ankle), safety Brynden Trawick (back), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen were also absent on Monday after getting hurt during the first two practices against the 49ers.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), guard Will Rackley (concussion), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (physically unable to perform list – hip surgery) were also missing from Monday’s practice. Speaking with reporters after signing autographs for fans in attendance, Webb expressed optimism that he’ll be back soon, but the veteran defensive back wouldn’t specify a timetable for when he’ll practice for the first time or whether he’ll play in the preseason since being sidelined with back spasms on July 25.

“I would love to play some preseason, but I’ve been through some injuries,” said Webb, who has suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees in his NFL career. “I’ve been in the same position many times. I hate to say many times. We’ll see.”

With Webb and Jackson out with injuries, the Ravens used third-round rookie safety Terrence Brooks at the nickel position with cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown lined up on the outside during 7-on-7 work and full-team drills against the 49ers. Brooks played cornerback as well as safety during his collegiate career at Florida State, but it’s a clear reflection of how thin the Ravens’ depth is in the secondary.

The Ravens and 49ers practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday after two days wearing full pads. Baltimore players will have the day off on Tuesday before returning to the Owings Mills facility to continue preparations ahead of Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

After much speculation and discussion over whether players from opposing teams would engage in any fighting during the three-day period, the Ravens and 49ers made it through their time together without a single skirmish of significance.

Orioles pitcher Bud Norris attended Monday’s practice in Owings Mills as the California native is a 49ers fan. The right-hander was scheduled to start against the New York Yankees on Monday night.

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Ravens welcome Boldin, 49ers to practice fields in Owings Mills

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Ravens welcome Boldin, 49ers to practice fields in Owings Mills

Posted on 09 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Taking part in joint practices for the first time in the 19-year history of the franchise, the Ravens welcomed the San Francisco 49ers to their training facility Saturday for the first of three practices following their 23-3 win in the preseason opener.

Both head coaches preached the need to take care of the other team in terms of practicing smart and not wanting to cause injuries while putting in the necessary work. The Ravens escaped the preseason opener in great shape from a health standpoint as cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), guard Will Rackley (back), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (active physically unable to perform list – hip) were the only players not taking part in Saturday’s practice, meaning no players missed practice time due to injuries sustained in Thursday’s game.

Safety Brynden Trawick left the field while appearing to be favoring his back and didn’t return before the conclusion of practice. Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen also appeared to be banged up at one point but remained on the field.

“It definitely makes things a little different,” said quarterback Joe Flacco prior to the first joint practice. “I’m sure when we first go out there, we’ll be feeling each other out a little bit and seeing what kind of tempo there is and all that.”

The 49ers offense appeared to get the best of the Baltimore defense in 11-on-11 team work with former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin making several catches in a red-zone period and fellow wideout Stevie Johnson making an acrobatic sideline grab with Jimmy Smith in tight coverage. Veteran receiver Kassim Osgood also lost safety Matt Elam and cornerback Chykie Brown in coverage for a long completion.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs appeared to struggle to create pressure off the edge while matched up against Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley.

Meanwhile, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith continued his impressive summer with a number of challenging catches against the 49ers secondary, including an over-the-shoulder grab on a deep ball down the seam.

Head coach John Harbaugh said the teams intend to practice in full pads all three days, but they will not conduct live drills in which they tackle to the ground.

“We want to take care of the Ravens,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We want to be safe out here, and we need them to do the same for us. That’s the kind of environment where iron sharpens iron. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for good practice work. These aren’t games out here.”

Harbaugh brothers call out media

The Ravens and 49ers made it out of Saturday’s workout without any fights of note as outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and 49ers fullback Will Tukuafu appeared to get heated at one point before order was quickly restored.

Each Harbaugh brother preached to their respective teams about the importance of remaining focused during practices and the consequences of getting into scuffles with the opposition. However, both spoke about the media’s tendency to focus on fights and skirmishes in practices instead of the football side of things.

“What’s interesting to me — and what’s a real indictment on you as the media — is the fact that Jimmy Smith was asked about it, and he said when he sees these things on TV, all he ever sees is fights,” John Harbaugh said. “What does that tell you? How about a little self-check?

“We’re probably going to have 99 percent all great, positive things, but if there is a little shoving match out here, I’m quite sure that that’s what will be on these cameras, and it’ll be countrywide, and that’ll be everybody’s take on how it went, right? Because that’s how it is all the time. We’re going to look for the positive; you all can look for the negative — as usual.”

Flacco sees preseason opener as “good foundation”

After an opportunity to view the film from the strong opening drive on Thursday in which the starting offense traveled 80 yards on 10 plays to score a touchdown, Flacco echoed how encouraged he was to see the offensive line perform at a high level.

The challenge now will be continuing to progress as the first unit receives more extensive snaps in the second and third preseason games. Flacco completed four of five passes for 52 yards before most of the starting offense was pulled after running back Bernard Pierce plunged into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.

“We ran the ball really well and protected really well,” Flacco said. “There is a lot to build on. I think we built a good foundation there. I think each week from here on out, we have to keep showing that improvement and building off what we did.”

Boldin not dwelling on past

Making his return to the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills, Boldin seemed at peace with his former team’s decision to trade him to San Francisco last offseason and spent the early portion of practice greeting old teammates and staff members.

John Harbaugh quipped that he still blames general manager Ozzie Newsome for dealing Boldin away for a sixth-round pick before acknowledging it was a difficult business decision stemming from a tight salary cap. The 33-year-old receiver enjoyed the opportunity to visit his old neighborhood on Friday and has been appreciative for continued support from Ravens fans following the trade.

“I got a chance to see a lot of people I haven’t seen since the trade,” Boldin said. “It’s always good to see those people. I built a lot of relationships in my three years here.”

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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

Posted on 08 August 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

 

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens:

Last season ended up being a disappointment for John Harbaugh and his squad as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time under his lead. There were changes made in the off-season that will assure Baltimore will not be missing the post-season for a second straight season.

The offense got a new look adding new pieces from all angles, starting with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. The long time Houston Texan head coach comes to Baltimore bringing a new style of offense maintaining a zone-blocking scheme.

Baltimore has new faces to dawn the purple and black for the upcoming season, but one particular athlete is difficult to overlook. Owen Daniels is a nice addition to the offense, but Steve Smith is the talk of the town ever since Carolina decided to part ways with the career long Panther.

Smith brings an attitude to the offense and gives the team a physical presence on the outside that they have not had since trading away Anquan Boldin for next to nothing. Once the upcoming season comes to a close, everyone will look back and wonder why more teams were not more aggressive in trying to sign Steve Smith as he will have one of the biggest impacts on his new team around the league.

The Ravens offense struggled running the ball last season due to the offensive line not being up to par and the ball carriers themselves not playing up to their capabilities. That will be sure to change for the better due to some of the moves made to upgrade the line and because the backs are healthy once again.

If there is a concern to have for the Ravens, it is their secondary. Jimmy Smith had a breakout year last season and Webb across the field make for a good pairing. Cornerback depth is where there is plenty of uncertainty; it is up to either Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson to step up and fill the void in the slot.

Matt Elam, last years first round draft pick, moves to the safety position he is best suited to play. Alongside Elam is Darian Stewart, who was an undrafted free agent during the 2010 NFL draft. Not only is cornerback depth an issue, but inexperience on the backend is as well. If the Ravens want to return to the promise land, can this secondary be good enough to defend against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady when it counts?

Breakout Candidate: Kyle Juszczyk

With the new offense Kubiak brings, there will be all kinds of options for Joe Flacco. The fans of Baltimore got a very small sample of that in the first pre-season game against the 49ers. The Smiths, Pitta, Jones, Brown and Daniels will all be targets for Flacco.

The under the radar target that is being overlooked is Kyle Juszczyk. The second year pro is an interesting player in this offense that fits the mold of what James Casey was for Houston years ago. He is capable of coming out of the backfield and picking his spots in the seams of the defense. Look out for the former Harvard standout to be a solid H-back option for Joe Flacco.

Impact Rookie: Timmy Jernigan

The easy answer is the former Alabama linebacker and first round pick CJ Mosley, but the Ravens struck gold in the second round of the draft. Timmy Jernigan is a top 15 talent who fell due to issues before the combine.

Jernigan was a force for the national champion Seminole defense in college football and stood out to the national audience on the big stage. Even though he was winded toward the tail end of the big game, his impact throughout that game was felt. All year long Jernigan created havoc on offensive lines all across college football.

Losing Art Jones to Indianapolis stung for a little bit until the draft concluded. Getting a talent like Jernigan and not having to pay him a $30 million contract is a win-win for the Ravens. Once Jernigan is healthy and can consistently find himself in the rotation up front, he will have a significant impact on the run and pass defense.

Cincinnati Bengals:

All the talk that surrounds the Bengals is the new contract extension that Andy Dalton received. A six-year extension worth over $100+ million seems to be an awful lot for the former TCU quarterback.

It is a lot for Andy Dalton, but that is the market for quarterbacks these days if franchises want to keep them around once their rookie contracts come to a close. The Bengals caught a lot of flack around the national media for this extension, but add some perspective to this deal.

Good quarterbacks are extremely difficult to find these days and are the ultimate factor that separates the contenders from the pretenders. Andy Dalton is a good quarterback that is a fact. Where there is difficulty grasping this extension is Daltons lack of production come playoff time.

If the three-year starter cannot start winning when it counts, the Bengals could find themselves scratching their heads and Marvin Lewis’ job could be in jeopardy.

Its humorous that once upon a time the Ravens front office got criticized for giving Joe Flacco the big $100+ million deal. When he got that deal, he came off of a historic post-season performance as well as winning the Super Bowl. Dalton is yet to win a playoff game and got the big contract; people have some apologies to make to Ozzie Newsome and company.

The Bengals have seen a lot of change in the off-season as both coordinators bolted for head coaching opportunities. Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator and Mike Zimmer left to take command of the Minnesota Vikings.

Zimmer will be the piece most missed by Cincinnati as he has led that good Bengals defense for years. He was regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league for quite sometime.

The defense gets back two primary starters back from injury in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. The only concern for this team is surprisingly on the defensive side of the ball. This unit must stay healthy and avoid the big time injuries they saw last season.

Offensively, there should be no concern as this side of the ball is loaded with talent. There is great depth at tight end and running back with AJ Green still the stud on the outside.

Breakout Candidate: Giovani Bernard

The former Tar-heel running back was a playmaker his rookie season and was used sparingly. Bernard was not the workhorse of the offense as the “Law Firm” took the bulk of the carries.

Bernards playmaking ability will be more visible this season as he will definitely see an increased workload. Bernard is both quick and fast out of the backfield and is an excellent all-purpose back. He is just as good receiving out of the backfield as he is running with the ball.

Hue Jackson will have to get this player involved more to take the pressure off of Dalton and the defense. If there is a play to sum up Bernards ability, look back to his highlight reel run against the Miami Dolphins.

Impact Rookie: Darqueze Dennard

It is simple to look to the first round selection as the impact rookie for any team, but Dennard finds himself in a good situation. With Leon Hall coming off of an Achilles injury and Dre Kirkpatrick only playing 19 of a possible 32 games in his short career, there will be opportunity.

Dennard was regarded as one of the best corners in this past draft and was a leader on the stellar Spartan defense. He is not flashy, but he has shutdown qualities in him that can translate to the big league. Will Clarke, the third round pick out of West Virginia, is another guy to watch out for in the defensive rotation up front.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

It was a big surprise that neither Baltimore or Pittsburgh did not make an appearance in the post-season and both are eager at a chance for redemption. The Steelers were on the cusp of a wild card birth, but fell just short.

Things are looking up for the Steelers as they see their star offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey return to hold down the line. The running game was not consistent last season and the loss of Pouncey was a huge reason why.

The run game will be improved with the addition of LaGarrette Blount and a healthy Le’Veon Bell. The second year pro out of Michigan State looks to be the workhorse for the Steelers and has a lot of potential to be a top tier running back in the league.

The primary question that comes to mind offensively is the passing game. There is no question what Ben Roethlisberger can bring, but he has to have the help around him. Heath Miller has been a good tight end for the duration of his career in Pittsburgh, but his days are numbered. Miller is not the caliber of player he once was when he came out of the university of Virginia.

Antonio Brown filled the void that Mike Wallace left and it is time for another wide receiver to assume the number two role. That void will be up to either second year wide out Markus Wheaton or rookie Martavis Bryant to help out Big Ben.

The Steelers defense will be back to their usual ways as they did a solid job in the off-season adding pieces. With drafting Ryan Shazier, the linebacking corps is filled with superb talent. Timmons, Worilds and second year pro Jarvis Jones make up the rest of the lineup. This will be the best unit on the defensive side of the ball.

Breakout Candidate: Markus Wheaton

Big Ben needs help from another wide out and it will be up to Wheaton to give him the support. Wheaton was a poor mans Mike Wallace coming out of college. The former Oregon State receiver has the speed to open things up all around the field. He has no problem getting down the field, but he must be able to make things happen in the middle. If not Wheaton, the Steelers will need to depend on the rookie Bryant from Clemson.

Impact Rookie: Dri Archer

One of my favorite players in the entire draft was Dri Archer. The speedster star from Kent State is in the exact playmaking mold that Tavon Austin was from West Virginia. The only reason why Archer was not as highly regarded as Austin was due to the college he went to along with the competition faced.

There have been plenty of Kent State playmakers that have made a name for themselves in the pros, most notably Josh Cribbs. Archer comes in to Pittsburgh with a great role on the offense with Blount as the bruiser, Bell the well rounded back and Archer with the speed.

Archer will be a matchup problem for defensive coordinators because of his speed and ability to make plays out of nearly nothing. He can come out of the backfield or play from the slot. If you put a linebacker on Archer, he will burn right by that. If you put a corner or safety on him, Archer will be opening up the field for the rest of the receiving options. Great draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, this kid is electrifying.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns bring in former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to be head coach and he has the potential to fill that role well. The Browns saw some change in the off-season on the defensive side of the ball, his specialty.

They lost safety TJ Ward and replaced him with Donte Whitner. D’Qwell Jackson departed in free agency so Karlos Dansby was brough in to fill that hole. Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall selection, is now paired with the newly wealthy Joe Haden. The secondary is put together nicely and the front seven is not too shabby. The Browns have all kinds of talent on defense; there is no uncertainty about that

The offense looked poise to breakout for the upcoming season until star wide out Josh Gordon ran into more off the field trouble. His suspension appeal is ongoing and it is unknown how long he will be out for. Jordan Cameron is one of the better young tight ends in the league and Andre Hawkins was stolen away from the fellow north rival Bengals.

Cleveland is all excited for their Browns from the draft because of the big first round selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer is the starter for now, but that will not last long. As soon as Hoyer makes a mistake, the noise will be too loud for Pettine to keep sitting Manziel.

Breakout Candidate: Barkevious Mingo

Last drafts sixth overall selection had a solid rookie campaign in the 15 games played. He registered 5.0 sacks and is the kind of playmaker Pettine will be able to work with. Pettine helped Mario Williams take his game to the next level in Buffalo after a lackluster first season after signing a big deal during free agency, so Mingo will be a personal project for the new head coach.

Impact Rookie: Joel Bitonio

Gilbert will have his impact on defense and West will do his part sharing the load with Ben Tate. Bitonio might be an odd choice here, but adding a quality lineman such as Joel to the mix with an Alex Mack and Joe Thomas will pay dividends for the offense. Adding Bitonio will help this offense in pass protection and will open up the holes for the two headed running back monster the Browns have.

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Ravens-49ers preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-49ers preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 06 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A brotherly reunion and Super Bowl XLVII rematch adds a little more spice to the preseason opener as the Ravens welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Baltimore on Thursday night.

As is always the case with the first preseason game, the contest will offer little more than a cameo appearance for veteran starters expected to make the biggest impact this season, but it does provide welcome change for a group of players tired of working against one another after two weeks of practices in Owings Mills. While most veteran starters figure to see little more than a series or two, younger starters figure to see more extensive action in the first half if history holds to form.

“We’re kind of on a standard plan right now, as far as that [goes],” coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t know exactly the number of plays yet, but it won’t be anything we haven’t done in the past.”

Of course, the first preseason game won’t be the standard road trip for the 49ers as they’ll then join the Ravens at their training facility in Owings Mills for three days of practices, providing extra competition as well as opportunities to evaluate just how much improvement has been made to a team that failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007. Much will hinge on the offense under new coordinator Gary Kubiak, who is bringing his version of the West Coast attack to reinvigorate a group that finished 29th in the NFL last year.

Entering his seventh season at the helm of the Ravens offense, Joe Flacco has been all business this summer as Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison have focused on the veteran quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly while improving his footwork. Flacco isn’t the only one who will be under the microscope with the new offensive attack, but even he acknowledges the preseason opener carrying more significance than in past years because of the dramatic changes made this offseason.

Of course, the outcome of the opener won’t provide any definitive answers for questions facing the Ravens on both sides of the football, but the game will sharpen points of emphasis for both coaches and players after facing another team.

“Anytime you’re running a new offense and you think you’re doing it pretty well, it’s always nice to get out there and have a real test,” Flacco said. “Have people hitting you and flying around and going full speed under the lights. It’s probably a little more important.”

Thursday will mark the first ever preseason meeting between the Ravens and the 49ers, but Baltimore owns the 3-1 edge in the regular season and a 1-0 advantage in the postseason after their 34-31 win in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The Ravens are 42-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 15-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play in either of the first two preseason games as he’s been sidelined with a lower back injury since July 25.

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

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Will Rackley (head), DT Terrence Cody (hip), DE Brent Urban (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Daryl Smith (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Michael Campanaro (ribs), CB Marrio Norman (unspecified)
PROBABLE: DT Timmy Jernigan (back), CB Jimmy Smith (back)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. RB Ray Rice

With so much attention justifiably paid to his off-field transgressions, you almost forget the 27-year-old back is coming off the worst season of his career in which he averaged a meager 3.1 yards per carry. Rice was heavy, slow, and banged up during the 2013 season and must play well to not only hold off backup Bernard Pierce but give the Ravens confidence that they can move forward with the three-time Pro Bowl selection beyond the 2014 season. Rice will want to use the first couple preseason games to make a favorable impression on Kubiak with his two-game suspension looming at the start of the season.

“Ray has looked really good,” Harbaugh said. “Comparisons to years in the past, we’ll find all that out during the season. But he’s in tremendous shape. I’m seeing him make good lateral cuts. He has really good burst, acceleration is there, [and] vision is there. He’s been very patient with the zone runs, which is something that I believe to be an improvement over the past — even two years ago.”

2. FS Darian Stewart

Signed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract in the offseason, the former St. Louis Ram has yet to be seriously challenged at the free safety position with third-round pick Terrence Brooks struggling to grasp the playbook in his first season. Stewart isn’t spectacular, but he’s been complimented by Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees for knowing his assignments and being in the right place, traits that shouldn’t be taken for granted considering the Baltimore defense gave up too many big plays a year ago. Stewart isn’t a long-term answer or dynamic player, but the Ravens hope he can be a value signing comparable to when they signed Corey Graham a couple years ago.

“I see a grown, mature, confident guy that I think fits really well in our room,” said secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was Stewart’s head coach for two years in St. Louis. “He’s kind of slipped in there. I’ve noticed he’s taken a backseat, which you have to do when you change teams a little bit, and that was early on. Now, I see his personality coming out. I think that will happen more and more. I think he’s going to be a great leader for us. I really do.”

3. RT Rick Wagner

Perhaps the storyline received too much attention during spring workouts, but there’s been less buzz about the right tackle position than you’d expect with second-year lineman Rick Wagner continuing to be the favorite to start over fourth-year disappointment Jah Reid. The Ravens have been higher on Wagner than most of the outside world all along, but the Wisconsin product will need to prove capable against preseason opponents to put concerns to rest. Wagner doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowl tackle, but he needs to hold his own as the Ravens are too challenged offensively to be forced to constantly provide help in protection on the right side of the line.

“He is doing a lot better,” said linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who often matches up against Wagner during practice. “You’ve got to stay consistent with [offensive line coach] Juan Castillo’s scheme — his protection, his switching it up. But for the most part, he’s just doing a really good job.”

4. DT Brandon Williams

The 2013 third-round pick appeared to be emerging as a contributor in the defensive line rotation last year before wearing down and being inactive over five of the last six games, but the Ravens have shown plenty of confidence in Williams so far this summer by sliding Haloti Ngata back to the 3-technique defensive tackle position and lining up the Missouri Southern State product at the nose. His strength and athleticism have been mentioned frequently, but Williams will need to show those traits translate in taking on interior blockers and making plays in stopping the run. If Williams is not up to the challenge, the Ravens could elect to shift Ngata back to the nose and take longer looks at second-round rookie Timmy Jernigan and third-year lineman DeAngelo Tyson.

“Now, his strength is a lot more functional because he understands the technical part of the game a lot better,” defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. “He understands how we play a lot better and how we want things done. He understands that, and he was able to take his natural strength and work it into what we want. So far, everything is on the upswing.”

5. CB Tramain Jacobs

Most eyes will inevitably fall on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as the Ravens try to figure out who will be lining up at the No. 3 cornerback spot in the regular-season opener, but Jacobs is on a short list of rookie free agents to watch this summer. Playing at Texas A&M, the 5-foot-11, 182-pound cornerback saw plenty of tough competition in college practices matching up against wideout Mike Evans with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel throwing the football. Jacobs has shown good athleticism and a nose for the football to put him in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster. With so much concern over the lack of depth at the cornerback position, Jacobs will have opportunities to turn heads if his play carries over to preseason games.

“Everybody’s getting a good look. It’s a stiff competition right now,” said starter Jimmy Smith, who mentioned Jacobs as someone in contention for the No. 3 cornerback job. “Obviously, we don’t want Webb hurt, but that gives opportunity for [others]. It’s a stiff battle at the third cornerback position right now.”

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Week 2 observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

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Week 2 observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

Posted on 05 August 2014 by Luke Jones

With two weeks of training camp in the books and the Ravens making final preparations to take on the San Francisco 49ers in their preseason opener Thursday night, there’s a new batch of takeaways from the practice field in Owings Mills.

1. We’ve witnessed a quieter Joe Flacco this summer.

This development won’t please fans and critics clamoring for a more vocal quarterback entering his seventh season as Flacco has refrained from trash talking with Terrell Suggs like we saw last summer and hasn’t been very vocal with the rest of his offensive teammates during practices open to media. Those around him have downplayed his quieter demeanor, insisting he’s focusing on fine-tuning his grasp of Gary Kubiak’s system. The new offensive coaching staff has emphasized Flacco having better footwork and getting rid of the ball quickly, two requirements in Kubiak’s West Coast offense. Flacco has been steady but unspectacular in practices to this point, but it’s all about the games that count for the signal-caller at this stage of his career.

2. Matt Elam has yet to stand out in his transition to the strong safety position.

Much attention has been paid to the free safety spot as well as the lack of cornerback depth in the Baltimore secondary, but the 2013 first-round pick hasn’t stood out after moving to the more natural position he played at the University of Florida. In fairness to Elam, there aren’t many full-contact periods in practices for him to genuinely show off his physicality, but he’s made few plays in coverage and hasn’t looked the part of a rising impact defensive player. During Monday’s practice, Elam was spelled by special-teams standout Jeromy Miles on a few occasions, but it remained unclear whether the second-year safety was dealing with a physical concern or the coaching staff was trying to create a little more urgency in Elam by throwing Miles into the mix.

3. Torrey Smith is emerging as a leader in the final year of his rookie contract.

So much focus has been placed on the leadership of Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Ray Rice, and Haloti Ngata since Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed departed, but Smith’s quiet leadership has emerged over the last couple years. He was responsible for gathering teammates to support Rice during his recent press conference and simply carries himself with a maturity that suggests a leader by example. Assuming a contract extension isn’t reached before the start of the season, it will be interesting to see how Steve Smith and a healthy Dennis Pitta impact Smith’s production after his first 1,000-yard season. The University of Maryland product has had a strong camp, making spectacular catches and showing more consistency than in the past. General manager Ozzie Newsome shouldn’t pay Smith like an elite receiver, but his value shouldn’t be underestimated, either.

4. Owen Daniels has struggled to get separation in his first training camp with the Ravens.

The signing of Daniels to a one-year deal was an obvious move given his familiarity with Kubiak’s offensive system, but the 31-year-old hasn’t stood out in practices, struggling to gain separation against linebackers in coverage. Both Daniels and fellow tight end Dennis Pitta thrive in finding open windows in zone coverage, but the former will need to show a little more against man coverage to have the kind of impact the Ravens are looking for. The former Houston Texan was limited to five games due to a broken leg last season, but the Ravens won’t need him to play 75 snaps a game with Pitta ahead of him on the depth chart. You hope his slow start is more about pacing himself than a sign of declining skills like the Ravens saw with Dallas Clark last year.

5. After a very quiet rookie year, Kyle Juszczyk is a sleeper to watch in Gary Kubiak’s system.

A year ago at this time, the Ravens had re-signed Vonta Leach because of Juszczyk’s inability to hold up as a blocker, but his second training camp has been far more encouraging. Listed at 248 pounds, the Harvard product looks stronger and has held up better when engaged as a blocker, but Juszczyk has also shown some explosiveness as a receiver out of the backfield as he displayed in catching a touchdown matched up against Miles in Annapolis Monday night. Kubiak has compared Juszczyk’s skill set to former Texas fullback James Casey, who caught 34 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. It would be a stretch to expect that much production from the 2013 fourth-round pick, but he’s made some nice plays when given chances in practice.

6. Keith Wenning is beginning to look more comfortable in his first training camp.

For the most part, the Ball State quarterback has looked like any other underwhelming third-string quarterback the Ravens have invited to camp in recent summers, but he put on a show in Annapolis, throwing several beautiful deep balls for touchdowns in team drills. It would be a major stretch to expect Wenning to challenge incumbent backup Tyrod Taylor based on what we’ve seen in the first two weeks of camp, but Wenning’s preseason performance could make for a difficult decision when it comes to finalizing the roster. The Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks on the 53-man squad since 2009, but it might be difficult to get Wenning through waivers and to the practice squad if he has more nights like he did Monday in preseason games.

7. Barring injury, the first unofficial depth chart is unlikely to change by the start of the season.

There were few surprises on the first offensive depth chart of the summer as Rick Wagner being listed at right tackle was the only note of interest but wasn’t the least bit surprising. On the defensive side, second-year lineman Brandon Williams is listed as the starting nose tackle with Ngata sliding to the 3-technique defensive tackle spot, which should allow him to take on fewer double teams and provide more opportunities to make plays. Unsurprisingly, rookie first-round pick C.J. Mosley was listed as the starting weakside inside linebacker next to Daryl Smith while Arthur Brown is his backup. Darian Stewart being listed as the starting free safety isn’t surprising based on the struggles of third-round pick Terrence Brooks, and there’s little to suggest that’s changing anytime soon.

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Daryl Smith returns to field as Ravens take practice to Annapolis

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Daryl Smith returns to field as Ravens take practice to Annapolis

Posted on 04 August 2014 by Luke Jones

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Taking training camp on the road to the Naval Academy for their final full practice before their preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens saw inside linebacker Daryl Smith return to action Monday night.

The 32-year-old had been sidelined with a groin injury for the last five days of practice but worked on a limited basis as the Ravens practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts. With Smith having not practiced in a week, it remains unclear whether coach John Harbaugh will want the veteran to play in Thursday’s preseason game. In the Harbaugh era, veteran starters have typically played no more than a couple series in the first preseason game.

“We’re kind of in a standard plan right now, as far as that [goes],” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know exactly the number of plays yet, but it won’t be anything we haven’t done in the past.”

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion symptoms), rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (ribs), and defensive back Marrio Norman (undisclosed) did not participate in Monday’s practice. Webb has all but been ruled out for the first two preseason games and hasn’t practiced since July 25.

The Ravens breathed a sigh of relief with cornerback Jimmy Smith being back on the practice field after appearing to tweak his lower back Sunday and sitting out in obvious discomfort during the second half of the workout. Smith downplayed any concerns about his back following Monday’s practice.

“I’ll be ready to go whenever the time is [here],” he said.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody remains on the active physically unable to perform list and isn’t expected to return to the practice field for at least a couple more weeks, according to Harbaugh.

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