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Ravens’ depth equipped to endure disappointing Urban injury

Posted on 09 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were intrigued with defensive end Brent Urban’s upside for 2015, but a deep defensive line appears equipped to overcome his second serious injury in a little over a year.

As was the case last summer prior to Urban tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the Ravens anticipated the 2014 fourth-round pick being an important part of the rotation with the potential to eventually move into the starting lineup. However, the presence of veterans Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, and DeAngelo Tyson makes the injury easier to stomach despite the disappointment for the talented 6-foot-7 defensive end.

“That’s why coaches [always talk about] the next person to come up and execute and step up,” nose tackle Brandon Williams said. “We’re ready to go. We definitely wish him the best going in with his biceps and all, but the show must go on.”

A pair of offseason decisions now carry more significance in the aftermath of the Urban injury as the Ravens elected to re-sign both Canty and Guy after they hit the open market. After starting 24 games for Baltimore over the last two seasons, Canty was cut to save salary cap space this offseason before eventually being re-signed at a cheaper rate.

Some had believed the Ravens were prepared to get younger at the position before deciding to reunite with the 32-year-old. Now, they’ll need Canty to hold off Father Time a little longer after he contemplated retirement over the winter.

“Chris Canty is playing like a kid. He’s running around out there,” Harbaugh said. “I saw him chasing down a crack toss. He came under a block and was picking up his knees and chasing the thing down the line of scrimmage like he was 23 years old again. He looks good.”

Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks stresses the importance of his players being versatile enough to line up at multiple positions, but the Ravens’ biggest strength will be their sheer numbers in the trenches as there are eight linemen who project to have a reasonable chance to make the 53-man roster. The likes of Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Christo Bilukidi now see their roster chances likely improve with Urban’s injury.

Harbaugh didn’t give any indication that the Ravens would actively seek defensive line help after losing Urban, who has yet to play in even a preseason game in an injury-riddled start to his career. The group’s ceiling is likely lower without Urban, but the Ravens defensive line remains in good shape.

“We’re really deep in the [defensive] line, so I like the guys we have,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a deep group, and I’m really confident those guys will step up.”

Receiver concerns continue

The Ravens could be inching closer to getting rookie Breshad Perriman and the 6-foot-5 Marlon Brown back from injuries, but they continue to be hamstrung at the wide receiver position in the meantime.

In addition to the pair being sidelined, veteran starter Steve Smith was excused from Saturday’s practice due to a family matter and Kamar Aiken was given the day off due to being “fatigued,” according to Harbaugh.

With Baltimore’s top four receivers missing from the workout, Jeremy Butler, Michael Campanaro, and Darren Waller took most of the reps with the starting offense. Overall, the trio struggled to get consistent separation when competing against the starting defense.

The receiver absences created an opportunity for under-the-radar wideouts to make a statement, and rookie free agent DeAndre Carter caught a touchdown pass from backup Matt Schaub with cornerback Cassius Vaughn in coverage. Meanwhile, former Washington Redskin Aldrick Robinson was the opposite of impressive, dropping several passes over the course of the afternoon.

Harbaugh wouldn’t rule out Perriman for the preseason opener just yet, but it appears highly unlikely that the first-round pick will be ready to play on Thursday with only one partial practice under his belt to this point in the summer.

Meanwhile, Brown appears closer to returning as Harbaugh said his back is feeling better, but the Ravens are still waiting for his hamstring to improve, meaning he is unlikely to play against New Orleans, either.

Mosley in coverage

One of the more encouraging developments early in the summer has been the improved pass coverage from second-year inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

In what was an otherwise standout Pro Bowl season as a rookie, Mosley struggled in pass coverage a year ago, but he’s been much sharper covering tight ends and running backs so far in training camp.

Early in Saturday’s practice, Mosley broke perfectly on a Joe Flacco throw to Crockett Gillmore in the flat, intercepting the pass from the starting quarterback. However, the starting tight end got the best of Mosley later in practice, catching a touchdown during an 11-on-11 red-zone period.

Injury report

In addition to their top four receivers being absent, the Ravens were without offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion) and Robert Myers (concussion), cornerback Tray Walker (hamstring), and linebacker Zach Thompson (undisclosed) due to injuries on Saturday. Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) both observed parts of practice while remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

Tyson missed his second straight practice, but Harbaugh said he was unsure of there being an injury, adding that “something must have cropped up.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith and right guard Marshal Yanda were given the day off, according to Harbaugh.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot) suited up to practice before leaving the field early in the session. He missed two days of practice after being stepped on during Wednesday’s workout. Tight end Maxx Williams practiced for a brief time after sitting out Friday, but he was still feeling the effects of being poked in the eye on Thursday.

With Yanda and Osemele both absent, Ryan Jense and Jah Reid worked as the first-team guards.

Free safety Kendrick Lewis tweaked his leg early on Saturday and observed the rest of practice from the sideline, an indication that the injury was unlikely to be serious.

Cornerback Chris Greenwood (hamstring) returned to practice.

Suggs on Schaub

Saturday was another difficult day for Schaub, who was repeatedly off-target with a number of throws.

At one point in practice, veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs took notice of Schaub’s errant passing before finally yelling, “Hey, Matt, your guys are the guys in purple!”

The offense dons purple jerseys while defensive players wear white during practices.

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Ravens defensive end Urban suffers biceps tear

Posted on 08 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Having already lost safety Matt Elam to a torn biceps last week, the Ravens have lost a second young defensive player to a similar injury.

Second-year defensive end Brent Urban suffered a torn biceps during Thursday’s practice and will undergo surgery, which is expected to keep him out for at least three months. Head coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens will decide at the start of the regular season whether to place Urban on season-ending injured reserve or give him the designation to return.

The 24-year-old confirmed being injured via his official Twitter account on Saturday morning.

A fourth-round selection from the University of Virginia in last year’s draft, Urban missed his entire rookie season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in his first training camp. The Ravens had hoped that Urban would step into a meaningful rotation role at the 5-technique defensive end spot and as a situational pass rusher.

The 6-foot-7, 295-pound defensive end was listed behind veterans Chris Canty and Lawrence Guy on the first depth chart of the summer, but Urban had impressed so far in practices this summer.

“I was really counting on him,” Harbaugh said. “I thought he would really shine, and I still think he will. He’s had four straight years where he’s had serious injuries. That’s been a bugaboo for him that he’s going to have to overcome.”

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Twenty Ravens players missing from Friday’s practice

Posted on 07 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were missing 20 players from their 90-man preseason roster as they practiced in shells and shorts on Friday afternoon.

A handful of veterans appeared to be awarded the day off as head coach John Harbaugh periodically does, but several notable players continue to nurse injuries.

Wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back) remain sidelined as the Ravens offense has worked without two of its top four wideouts for most of training camp. The first-round pick Perriman has missed seven straight practices after injuring his knee in the final 20 minutes of the first full-squad practice of the summer while Brown has now sat out five of the last six workouts.

Tight end Maxx Williams was also absent on Friday after being poked in the eye and leaving Thursday’s workout early.

Baltimore continues to deal with injury problems at the guard position with starter Kelechi Osemele (foot) and backups John Urschel (head) and Robert Myers (head) all out. Urschel and Myers both left Thursday’s practice with concussions, according to Harbaugh.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson and Brent Urban were new absences due to unspecified reasons. Cornerbacks Tray Walker and Chris Greenwood remain out with hamstring strains.

Outside linebacker Zach Thompson (undisclosed) was also missing again.

The list of veterans believed to be receiving a day off on Friday included wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Justin Forsett, cornerback Lardarius Webb, linebackers Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs, and defensive end Chris Canty.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

Already out for the season with a biceps tear, safety Matt Elam rounded out the collection of 20 players not participating in Friday’s workout.

 

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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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Harbaugh “gets a little crazy” during tough practice on Thursday

Posted on 06 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nobody was safe from John Harbaugh on Thursday as the Ravens held their toughest practice of the first week of training camp.

After the practice officials were slow to blow the whistle on one particular play, the eighth-year head coach chastised them from the middle of the field, screaming, “Get your [stuff] together! You’re getting lunch and you’re getting paid!”

Of course, they weren’t alone as Harbaugh challenged his young defensive linemen to be tougher and quicker firing off the ball during 11-on-11 short-yardage drills during the first half of practice. The coach singled out rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis and second-year defensive end Brent Urban at different points, but the coach said the ranting was calculated in trying to challenge young players the Ravens figure to count on heavily this season.

“It was a very physical, very tough practice,” Harbaugh said. “The guys fought through it really well. It’s always the one where — at least in my case — this coach gets a little crazy, because it’s a tough step to take from the hitting level of intensity to this level of intensity.

“For me, it’s more of a feel thing than anything. If I think I go too far, then I try to let them know I went too far. If I don’t go far enough, I have to grab them again. You always circle back and try to have communication.”

The motivational tactics appeared to work as the defense dominated the trenches by taking advantage of an offensive line without starting left guard Kelechi Osemele or reserve guards John Urschel and Robert Myers.

Second-year inside linebacker Zach Orr and rookie safety Nick Perry had tackles for losses in run support, standout plays for two players fighting for roster spots this summer. In Orr’s case, his emergence as more of a factor at linebacker could put former second-round pick Arthur Brown’s roster spot in jeopardy. After Matt Elam’s season-ending injury, the Alabama product Perry figures to have a better chance to enter the conversation for a reserve safety spot with a strong summer.

On a day with few offensive highlights, quarterback Joe Flacco’s long touchdown pass to Jeremy Butler was a bright spot as Butler beat cornerback Quinton Pointer in coverage.

Thursday was another difficult day for veteran backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw an interception returned for a touchdown and also fumbled a snap.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle has shown more ability as a receiver this summer than many anticipated, but he had two bad drops.

 

Walking wounded

The Ravens had an extensive list of injured players missing from the practice field at the start of the session before three more left with injuries.

Harbaugh said Urschel and Myers were being evaluated for potential concussions suffered during practice and they will be conservative with both linemen. Urschel’s injury was particularly concerning as he was down on the field for several minutes before ultimately walking to the locker room with assistance.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams also left practice early after being poked in the eye.

Harbaugh said Osemele was given Thursday off after having his foot stepped on a day earlier and veteran cornerback Kyle Arrington was given the day off to rest.

Players missing at the start of practice included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back), cornerbacks Tray Walker (hamstring) and Chris Greenwood (hamstring), and linebackers Steven Means (ankle) and Zach Thompson (undisclosed). Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks remain on the active physically unable to perform list, but both watched portions of Thursday’s practice.

Hands-on Harbaugh

In addition to trying to light a fire under his younger players, Harbaugh took a hands-on approach to test Asa Jackson as a returner, trying to distract the fourth-year cornerback by bearing down on him while trying to field a punt.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was particularly amused by the coach’s activity as he yelled to Jackson, “Run his ass over!”

Have a catch

During a special-teams portion of practice, top cornerback Jimmy Smith took some time out to play catch with a handful of young fans in attendance Thursday’s practice.

It was a nice way for a standout player to spend a period of practice in which he wasn’t participating anyway.

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Billick’s speech to Ravens should be step toward Ring of Honor

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A familiar face addressed the Ravens after Wednesday’s practice in Owings Mills.

Of course, Brian Billick may not be as easily recognized by current Ravens players — Terrell Suggs, Sam Koch, and Marshal Yanda are the last holdovers from his nine-year tenure — but it was still a feel-good scene when the former head coach and Super Bowl XXXV champion spoke to the Ravens at the request of John Harbaugh. It’s been more than seven years since Billick was fired at the end of the 2007 season, but Harbaugh asking his predecessor to address the current team just felt right.

“Here’s a coach that coached a lot of bad-ass Raven football teams around here,” Harbaugh said. “It was pretty fun to listen to him coach, and I think it meant something to him. It meant something to all of us. He did a great job, and we’re proud to have him back.”

Billick was in Owings Mills as part of the NFL Network’s training camp coverage, but one can only hope the invitation to speak was an important step toward a much-deserved honor for Billick. Some time needed to pass before the subject was finally broached, but now seems an appropriate time for the Ravens to add Billick to the Ring of Honor.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with the decision at the time, it’s difficult to argue with owner Steve Bisciotti’s dismissal of Billick when you see how successful the Ravens have been under Harbaugh, but that shouldn’t take away from the accomplishments of the former. In 1999, Billick took the reins of a team that only knew losing in its first three years before leading the city of Baltimore to its first NFL championship since Super Bowl V in his second season as head coach.

He wasn’t perfect as his inability to develop a franchise quarterback ultimately led to his downfall, but a Super Bowl championship, two AFC North titles, and four playoff appearances in nine years comprise a resume that’s worthy of a spot on the M&T Bank Stadium facade. And he will surely be joined by Harbaugh one day, just as the two stood side by side on Wednesday.

Seeing Billick speak to the Ravens was not only a fun trip down memory lane, but it was a reminder of what needs to happen sooner rather than later.

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Ravens hoping they’ve finally found stability at safety

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In the 30 months since the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, no position has experienced more change than safety.

Free agents like Michael Huff and Darian Stewart have come and gone and draft picks such as Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks haven’t worked out exactly as planned — at least not yet — as the only constant in the back end of the defense over the last few years has been flux.

This was never more evident than a year ago when five safeties played at least 245 defensive snaps, leaving a weekly guessing game of who would line up for defensive coordinator Dean Pees on a given Sunday. More attention fell on the list of cornerbacks going down with injuries in 2014, but the constant rotating and unrest at the safety position was a major factor contributing to the Baltimore pass defense finishing 23rd in the NFL.

“We rotated because we had to rotate. It wasn’t because I sometimes wanted to,” Pees said. “I don’t really care, but I really do think that if you have two guys that establish themselves, they get used to playing together, they get used to communicating together, and guys get used to hearing the communication from them. When that’s a rotation all the time, guys communicate differently.”

The Ravens are hoping they’ve finally solved that problem with the free-agent signing of Kendrick Lewis in March. The former Houston Texan and Kansas City Chief doesn’t carry overwhelming credentials, but the 27-year-old started 66 games in his first five seasons and has been praised for his intelligence in both the meeting room and the field.

Communication was a major problem in 2014, often leading to long pass plays over safeties’ heads. Lewis is viewed as a better center-field defender than the ex-Raven Stewart or any of the safeties still on the roster, which should allow cornerbacks and linebackers to play more aggressively in coverage.

The Ravens secondary has spoken at length this spring and summer about developing more trust than the group had a year ago when a new combination of cornerbacks and safeties was lining up almost every week and there was often more finger-pointing than plays being made.

“Those are the things we talk about when we’re watching film,” Lewis said, “whether we see something, [we’re] communicating, ‘Hey, listen, I’m jumping this one. Protect me here.’ That’s the type of chemistry we’re building in the secondary when we’re in meetings going over the [film], preparing and transferring it to the practice field.”

While the Ravens hope Lewis will bring stability to a free safety position they haven’t been able to fill adequately since the free-agent departure of Ed Reed, strong safety Will Hill might be the bigger factor in determining how much the secondary can improve. A year ago at this time, Hill was just learning his way around the Ravens’ Owings Mills training facility while waiting to serve a six-game suspension, but a full and trouble-free offseason has the 25-year-old primed for a breakout season.

Even before the season-ending biceps injury suffered by Elam on the third day of training camp, most expected Hill to win the competition for the starting strong safety job based on his solid play in eight starts last season.

Hill’s talent has never come into question as the New York Giants only parted ways with the University of Florida product after he drew the third suspension of his young career, so the Ravens are eager to see what the 6-foot-1, 228-pound safety can accomplish with a full year in Baltimore under his belt. His combination of size, speed, physicality, and ball skills is a recipe to become an impact player in the secondary as long as he keeps himself on the field.

“Last year, I just came in and had to hurry up and learn quick, quick, quick,” Hill said. “I had a whole offseason to learn the plays. In training camp, it’s just picking up as we go along. I’m just trying to be that assertive guy out there that they need and [to] produce.”

With so much turnover at the safety position over the last couple years, the Ravens have often relied on players lacking experience or the necessary credentials to lead the secondary. But they hope Lewis’ experience and Hill’s upside will finally bring stability for the foreseeable future while younger players such as Elam and Brooks recover from injuries.

After being spoiled by having a future Hall of Famer at free safety for the first five years of his tenure in Baltimore, head coach John Harbaugh likes what he’s seen from Lewis’ leadership.

“You don’t hear him talk too much,” Harbaugh said. “You see him, and the thing that strikes me is I see him on tape, and he knows what he’s doing, and he has been in this defense for just a couple of months now. He and Will are really taking charge in the back end. I love our communication back there. We’re a lot better than we were last year with that, and we just have to keep building on it.”

It remains to be seen how well this latest safety combination works as the Ravens seek their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years, but the secondary isn’t shying away from its stated goal of creating more turnovers after it came way with just 11 interceptions in 2014. Illustrating how little impact the defensive backfield had in making game-changing plays, the 350-pound Haloti Ngata and rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley led the team with two interceptions apiece while no defensive back had more than one.

Lewis has made it clear to the rest of the secondary in his short time in Baltimore that interceptions must become a part of what the Ravens defense creates again. And there can be no excuse for missed opportunities.

“‘You’re dropping that money. You’re leaving that money on the field,'” said Lewis about the urgency to pick off passes during practice. “We feel like there’s money in [those] balls. Those are money balls — that’s what we call them. You drop one, you owe us 10 pushups, and that’s money you left out there on the grass.”

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Ravens wideout Marlon Brown undergoes MRI for back issue

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued to be shorthanded at the wide receiver position with Marlon Brown and Breshad Perriman once again sidelined during Wednesday’s practice.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Brown underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam for a back issue that’s now cost him three practices in the first week of training camp. The third-year wideout sat out on Saturday and was limited during Sunday’s workout before sitting out the Ravens’ last two practices.

Brown initially twisted his back while reaching for a pass and aggravated it during Saturday’s practice.

“We were a little bit worried about it,” said Harbaugh about Brown undergoing an MRI. “There’s nothing in there as far as any kind of a disc [problem] or anything like that. There’s a nerve root issue of some kind. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I hope not very long.”

Perriman missed his fifth consecutive practice while dealing with a knee sprain suffered on the first day of full-squad workouts. Harbaugh initially projected the 2015 first-round pick to only miss a day or two of practice, but the Ravens are being conservative with his knee.

Those injuries have left the Ravens without two of their top four projected receivers as they continue to adjust to new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s system.

“It’s just how he gets the range of movement going in there with the bruise and everything like that,” said Harbaugh, who estimated it will take a couple more days until Perriman returns. “I’m anxious. I want him out here right now. He wants to be out here, but [the trainers] are holding him back. It’s probably smart. They’re smarter than Breshad and I are about it — I know that.”

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil returned to the practice field after missing four straight days with Achilles tendinitis. The veteran pass rusher was limited during Wednesday morning’s workout.

Cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hamstring) also returned to practice while fellow cornerbacks Tray Walker (hamstring) and Chris Greenwood are “close” to returning to practice, according to Harbaugh. Outside linebacker Zach Thompson also sat out Wednesday’s practice.

Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen tweaked his foot on Wednesday and will be evaluated further, according to Harbaugh.

The Ravens also made a roster move on Wednesday, waiving defensive tackle Casey Walker and signing Micajah Reynolds. Walker had just been activated from the physically unable to perform list on Monday while Reynolds spent last summer with the Miami Dolphins.

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Ravens shift training camp to M&T Bank Stadium on Monday

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Giving many rookies their first exposure to playing in an NFL stadium, the Ravens conducted an open training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night.

With an announced 22,111 attending the workout for free, the Ravens were still missing linebacker Elvis Dumervil (Achilles) tendinitis) and rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) as both missed their fourth straight practice. The secondary continues to be banged up as well as rookie Tray Walker (hamstring), Rashaan Melvin (hamstring), and Chris Greenwood (undisclosed) were all missing from Monday’s workout.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed after practice that safety Matt Elam would miss the season after suffering a torn biceps on Saturday that will require surgery.

Despite returning to the practice field on a limited basis on Sunday, wide receiver Marlon Brown missed his second workout in three days as he’s nursing a minor back ailment.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) remains on the active physically unable to perform list, but he was running routes in shorts and a t-shirt before the start of Monday’s practice. Safety Terrence Brooks (knee) also remains on the active PUP list.

Defensive tackle Casey Walker (knee) was activated from the PUP list and took part in his first practice of the summer.

Practice highlights

Cornerback Kyle Arrington had a strong night, drawing the ire of Steve Smith after the veteran receiver took exception to the former New England Patriot’s tight coverage on an early pass play. The pair jawed at a couple different points over the remainder of Monday night’s practice.

Despite expectations that he would serve as Baltimore’s nickel back, Arrington has seen extensive on the outside with starter Lardarius Webb moving into the slot when the Ravens use three cornerbacks. Arrington also had an impressive breakup against Kamar Aiken in 1-on-1 drills.

Backup quarterback Matt Schaub continued his early-camp struggles by heaving a pass into triple coverage that was intercepted by rookie free agent Nick Perry.

The Ravens limited No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith’s reps on the stadium turf, but he registered an interception on a Joe Flacco pass that was intended for Michael Campanaro. The starting quarterback was not happy that Campanaro drifted on his sideline pattern, allowing Smith to undercut the route.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams had arguably his best practice as a professional in beating Arthur Brown in coverage to catch a long touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Bryn Renner. However, Williams later dropped what would have been a touchdown despite having a step on starting linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Kicker Justin Tucker drew one of the loudest ovations of the night when he drilled a 64-yard field goal.

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Aiken making most of chances and other early Ravens observations

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens continue to have high hopes for rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but Kamar Aiken has made the most of his early opportunities in training camp.

Already expected to share starting reps with Perriman opposite veteran Steve Smith this summer, Aiken has caught mostly everything thrown his way, including impressive catches on consecutive Matt Schaub passes thrown behind him during Saturday’s workout. Aiken may not impress you with his speed, but all he needs is a hint of daylight to make plays, an encouraging trait for an NFL wide receiver.

With Perriman missing three straight practices due to a minor knee injury, Aiken has looked the part of a starting-caliber wide receiver in this very early stage of camp. I’ve heard more than one person compare Aiken’s skill set to that of Anquan Boldin, which is unfair but it shows how much the Ravens like the young 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver.

Aiken has also developed a really strong rapport with Joe Flacco, which always helps in any competition.

* Speaking of wide receivers, the Ravens could have an interesting decision on their hands with sixth-round rookie Darren Waller.

Upon being drafted, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Waller was certainly viewed as a project after playing in Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack at Georgia Tech, but he shows better route-running ability than you’d expect and looks like a promising red-zone target. It would be a stretch to expect him to play an extensive role as a rookie, but his jump-ball ability might be too appealing to pass up.

In a perfect world, the Ravens would probably like to stash Waller on the practice squad since they have an extensive list of young receivers in camp. But a strong preseason might make him difficult to hide, which could force the organization to keep him on the 53-man roster or find a way to stash him on injured reserve as teams around the league are known to do with developmental players from time to time.

* The Ravens lacked quality depth at cornerback long before a slew of injuries turned a problem into a full-blown crisis in 2014, but the state of the position is much improved a year later.

It goes without saying that Baltimore needs starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb to stay healthy, but the addition of veteran Kyle Arrington and the presence of young corners such as Rashaan Melvin, Tray Walker, and Quinton Pointer make the Ravens better equipped to endure some health issues than they were a year ago.

Despite his reputation for being a cornerback who should strictly operate in the slot, Arrington has performed well in outside coverage, which could allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to use Webb at the nickel spot where he’s excelled in the past. The Ravens could also use the 6-foot-2 Melvin — who they really like despite his poor showing against Tom Brady in the playoffs — outside if they’re matching up against an opponent with taller wide receivers.

It’s a far cry from a year ago when the Ravens were hoping that the combination of Asa Jackson and ex-Raven Chykie Brown would be enough depth behind Webb and Smith. Now, Jackson is firmly on the bubble with other young cornerbacks showing intriguing upside.

* It probably should come as no surprise after registering 41 receptions out of the backfield in his final season at USC, but rookie running back Buck Allen looks very smooth catching the football in Marc Trestman’s offensive system.

He has made some rookie mistakes, but Allen should find a way to get on the field in some passing situations if he can improve his pass blocking. A simple look at Matt Forte’s numbers over the last two years in Chicago shows how much Trestman likes throwing to running backs, so Allen would appear to be a good fit as a backup and potentially a starter down the road.

Justin Forsett is the clear starter, but the Ravens appear to have two viable options behind him in Allen and second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.

* The depth along the defensive line was no secret entering training camp, but it’s remarkable to see how many NFL-caliber players are competing in this unit.

Expected to start with Haloti Ngata now in Detroit, Timmy Jernigan showed much ability as a pass rusher last year, but he’s played the run effectively early on in camp, even getting the best of the great Marshal Yanda on more than one occasion. He and rookie Carl Davis should eventually form a potent 1-2 punch at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot once occupied by Ngata.

Defensive end Brent Urban has returned from last year’s season-ending knee injury and looks like someone who could wreak havoc in sub packages and even push for Chris Canty’s starting job before the season is over.

The Ravens believe they have 10 defensive linemen in camp who are all capable of playing in the NFL, which will lead to some interesting decisions at the end of the summer.

* Rookie tight end Maxx Williams has looked better in the first week of training camp than he did in the spring, but he still has a lot of work to do to beat out Crockett Gillmore for the starting job.

Gillmore has gotten bigger and has shown improved ability as a receiver while continuing to be a superior blocker. In contrast, Williams needs to get stronger and hasn’t matured physically as he just turned 21 this spring.

Williams will have his opportunities to make plays in the passing game — he made a nice catch on a sideline pass on Saturday as safety Bryden Trawick bounced off him — but he may not be ready to be an every-down player as a rookie. The good news is Gillmore appears poised to take on a much larger role in his second season.

* Schaub has had his moments here and there, but there’s a dramatic drop-off watching him throw compared to Flacco, only confirming that the Ravens will pray that their franchise quarterback remains healthy.

The idea behind signing Schaub was that the offense wouldn’t need to change dramatically in the event of a Flacco injury compared to when Tyrod Tayor was the backup, but his physical tools just aren’t at a level where he needs them to be. In contrast, the Ravens may have been able to steal a win or two with the element of surprise in unleashing Taylor in the right situation at any point over the last few years.

You hope it’s a moot point and that Flacco continues his streak of never missing a game, but Schaub hasn’t inspired much confidence with his play in practices.

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