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Pollard doubtful; Yanda, Ellerbe, T. Smith questionable for Giants game

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Pollard doubtful; Yanda, Ellerbe, T. Smith questionable for Giants game

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s appearing more likely the Ravens will be without strong safety Bernard Pollard for a second straight game after he missed his third practice of the week on Friday.

Pollard was listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week. He aggravated a chest injury in the Ravens’ 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins two weeks ago and hasn’t practiced since then. The seventh-year defensive back originally suffered a rib injury against Philadelphia and has managed the injury through most of the season.

The Ravens ruled seven players questionable against the New York Giants, including guard Marshal Yanda, wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Albert McClellan, fullback Vonta Leach, and running back Vonta Leach.

Yanda (ankle) was practicing once again on Friday, improving his chances to play against the Giants after he sat out last week’s game with a sprained ankle. Smith also practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day but hadn’t been cleared for contact as of Friday afternoon because he hadn’t taken his baseline neurological test. However, two days of limited practice are a good indication the team is confident that he will be cleared.

Coach John Harbaugh said he was “encouraged” by their progress but gave no indication how good he felt over their chances of playing against New York prior to Friday’s injury report being released.

Doss (ankle) and Pierce (concussion) were missing from practice for the third straight day, making it likely they will each miss Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. Both players watched practice on Thursday but were not on the field during the portion of practice open for media viewing on Friday. Along with Smith, Pierce hadn’t taken his baseline test as of Friday afternoon.

On a more encouraging note, tight end Ed Dickson was listed as probable and appears poised to make his return to action after missing the last three games with a hyperextended knee. He was a full participant during Friday’s practice.

Leach also returned to the practice field on a limited basis after sitting out Thursday with a sore ankle.

Ellerbe declared himself a game-time decision after practicing on a limited basis all week. He has missed the Ravens’ last three games after suffering the ankle injury against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 25.

“I feel like my ankle’s getting better,” said Ellerbe, who admitted he’s still not 100 percent. “I’m hopeful, I’ve got faith that I’ll be healed enough to play and help out the team. I’ve been able to test it a little bit more, but I still have to be smart with it.”

Linebackers Ray Lewis (triceps) and Terrell Suggs (biceps) were also present and working during Friday’s practice. The Ravens aren’t required to list Lewis on the injury report since he is not on the 53-man roster, but they must activate him by 4 p.m. on Saturday for him to be eligible to make his return against the Giants. Linebacker Jameel McClain (spinal cord contusion) has yet to be placed on season-ending injured reserve as it appears the Ravens are holding that roster spot for Lewis’ potential activation.

“Coming along, coming along,” Harbaugh said. “Yes, he is coming along.”

If they decide not to activate the 37-year-old for Sunday’s game against the Giants, the Ravens would likely promote rookie linebacker Nigel Carr from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

Suggs was listed as probable on the final injury report.

Meanwhile, the Giants listed center David Baas, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, guard Chris Snee, and defensive end Justin Tuck as questionable.

Tuck was the only New York player not to participate in Friday’s practice.

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Jameel McClain (neck)
DOUBTFUL: S Bernard Pollard (chest)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Tandon Doss (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), FB Vonta Leach (ankle), LB Albert McClellan (thigh/shoulder), RB Bernard Pierce (head), WR Torrey Smith (head), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
PROBABLE: TE Ed Dickson (knee), S James Ihedigbo (neck), DT Arthur Jones (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), WR Deonte Thompson (thigh), WR LaQuan Williams (thigh)

NEW YORK
QUESTIONABLE: C David Baas (hip/shoulder), TE Travis Beckum (knee), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (knee/foot), S Kenny Phillips (knee), S Tyler Sash (hamstring), G Chris Snee (hip), DE Justin Tuck (shoulder)
PROBABLE: CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (neck), WR Hakeem Nicks (knee), WR Rueben Randle (back)

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T. Smith, Pierce exit Sunday’s game with concussions

Posted on 16 December 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As if the sting of a third straight loss wasn’t enough, the Ravens’ list of injuries grew even longer on Sunday as wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Bernard Pierce both left the game with concussions.

Pierce sustained his concussion in the second quarter while Smith was injured attempting to make a long reception early in the third quarter. Neither player returned to the game.

“We’ll have to check those out later this week,” coach John Harbaugh said after the game.

Smith made just one reception for 14 yards against the Broncos while Pierce carried the ball five times for 20 yards in the 34-17 loss at M&T Bank Stadium.

Wide receiver Tandon Doss suffered a twisted ankle and linebacker Albert McClellan was dealing with a hamstring issue but returned to the game. Neither player appeared to be in bad shape in the locker room following the game.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs return to action two weeks after suffering a torn right biceps, but his impact was minimal as he was forced to leave at a few different points in dealing with pain in the arm. The five-time Pro Bowl linebacker finished with only one tackle as he played 42 of the Ravens’ 77 defensive snaps.

The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year declined to talk to reporters following the Ravens’ third consecutive loss.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game-Ravens/Steelers

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game-Ravens/Steelers

Posted on 04 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Joe Flacco pass intended for Tandon Doss incomplete (4th quarter)

4. Charlie Batch pass intended for Isaac Redman incomplete, Ravens challenge and ruling upheld (3rd quarter)

3. Anquan Boldin called for offensive pass interference after 17 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 11 (3rd quarter)

2. Paul Kruger called for roughing the passer on Charlie Batch 10 yard completion to Mike Wallace (4th quarter)

1. Ziggy Hood recovers Joe Flacco fumble at Baltimore 27 after James Harrison sack (4th quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 02 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-20 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Tandon Doss

4. Haloti Ngata

3. Torrey Smith

2. Terrell Suggs

1. Joe Flacco (Two Slaps)

(Ryan’s Slaps on Page 2…)

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Ravens Grades After a Quarter of the Season

Posted on 02 October 2012 by jeffreygilley

After a quarter of the 2012 season, the Ravens are 3-1.  The three victories have come against the Bengals, Patriots, and Browns with the only loss coming against the Eagles in week two.  The road ahead has some difficult stretches which includes the Steelers in week 11, the Chargers in week 12, and the Steelers again in week 13.

Here are my grades for the Ravens through the first quarter of the season:

Joe Flacco – A.

Statistics: 63.5 completion percentage, 1,269 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT, 95.8 QB rating.

Joe Flacco looks much different this season.  He is more decisive and has a great supporting cast of receivers, tight ends, and running backs.  For the first time in Flacco’s NFL career, he has a receiving core that is complete and showcases his arm talent.  Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are speedy wide outs that have the potential to take the top off a defense.  Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin work underneath and act as Flacco’s security blankets but can also make big time plays when needed.  Finally, Ray Rice can come out of the backfield and even run routes in the slot to give Flacco an extra target.

Flacco is very comfortable in the new no-huddle offense.  If Flacco can keep playing at a high level, the Ravens might find themselves in the Super Bowl.

Offensive Line: B

When considering all the changes the offensive line has gone through, they have been fantastic this season.  Ramon Harewood is by far the biggest surprise and has been one of the Ravens best offensive lineman through the first quater of the season.  He is a talented run blocker and is good in pass protection.  The line has given up 9 sacks which puts them on pase for 36.  This would be tied for the second highest in Flacco’s career.  Even though the line has struggled at times, keep in mind that they are going through a lot of changes and by the end of the season, this line will continue to improve and could be one of the best in the league.

Running backs: B+

Ray Rice Statistics: 64 carries, 317 yards, 3 TD

Bernard Pierce Statistics: 17 carries, 88 yards, 0 TD

Both the Ravens running backs are averaging at least five yards per carry.  Obviously, Rice is the better of the two players but Pierce has provided a good second option and is a very powerful runner.  Rice is averaging just under 80 yards rushing per game but has done a lot for the Ravens in the play-action passing game.  Rice is very valuable to this offense and Cam Cameron is using him very effectively.

Receivers: B

This receiving core is the most complete that I can remember.  Smith and Jones are down field threats but the Ravens also have a myriad of underneath threats that provide good match ups against linebackers and safeties.  At times, the receivers have struggled to get separation but for the most part, they have been fantastic.  Tandon Doss is a name to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.  The third year receiver out of Indiana has recently received a lot of praise from John Harbaugh.  Harbaugh said Doss will be a threat all season after his 39 yard catch against the Browns.  Doss offers a lot of upside but has to compete with Jacoby Jones who is ahead of Doss on the depth chart.

Defensive Line: C+

The Ravens have struggled to create a pass rush throughout the season.  Haloti Ngata is playing at an all-pro level but Pernell McPhee  has not been the force many thought he would be this season.  Luckily, the season is still young so expect McPhee to play at a higher level.  Although they have struggled at times to generate pass rush, they have been great at stopping the run.  They held LeSean McCoy, one of the league’s elite running backs to 81 yards on 25 attempts and have looked been good in the other games with the exception of the Bengals.

Linebackers: C

The loss of Terrell Suggs has been devastating.  Younger players like Paul Kruger, Courtney UpShaw, and Albert McClellan havent been able to get the job done and win one-on-one match ups.     Combined, the three players have only amassed two sacks.  UpShaw has received much more playing time lately and has played much better than he did in the preseason.  Terrell Suggs is expected to return around week seven.  Suggs wont be himself for the first few games but the Ravens really need him late in the season when they play the Steelers twice in three weeks.  If Suggs returns by week seven, which is his target return date, he might be one hundred percent healthy by the playoffs, should the Ravens make the playoffs.

Defensive backs: C

The Ravens have struggled mightily against the pass this season.  They have given up an average of 295 yards in each game and most recently gave up 320 passing yards to rookie Brandon Weeden in Baltimore.  Overall, the weak spot for the secondary has been Carry Williams.  With the exception of the pick-six last week, Williams has struggled.  Teams have been avoiding Lardarius Webb who is one of the better cornerbacks in the league and Jimmy Smith has played well at times.  I would like to see the Ravens play more press coverage to take advantage of the size Smith and Williams possess.

Special Teams: A

The special teams unit has greatly improved from last season.  Corey Graham, Chykie Brown, Deonte Thompson, and Justin Tucker have all played at a high level.  Tucker is the biggest story because he won the kicking job from Billy Cundiff and has only missed one kick.

Overall, I am very optimistic about the Ravens.  They have a favorable matchup this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and then have the Dallas Cowboys who looked dreadful against the Bears on Monday Night Football.  If Flacco continues to play at a high level and Terrell Suggs can return and play well, the Ravens will have a high playoff seed.

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 28 September 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 23-16 win over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Tandon Doss

4. Haloti Ngata

3. Lardarius Webb

2. Torrey Smith

1. Joe Flacco (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Deonte Thompson is Making a Case for a Roster Spot

Posted on 15 August 2012 by jeffreygilley

From day one, Deonte Thompson has been making plays.  The un-drafted free agent from Florida has serious speed and good hands.  Thompson is fighting for a roster spot among group of receivers filled with youth and talent.  Most predict that the Ravens will keep six wide receivers on the final 53-man roster.  Anquan Boldin,  Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones are locks to make the roster.  After those three players, the picture is not so clear.

The players competing for the final three wide receiver spots are LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter, and Deonte Thompson.  Williams and Doss will most likely make the roster because of their production on special teams and their potential at wide receiver.  Although coaches have praised Doss, he has struggled to stay on the field due to injuries.  If Doss can’t stay healthy, the Ravens could surprise everyone and let him go.  While this is unlikely, it is still a possibility.

Every team in the league values players who can make an impact on special teams.  The Ravens are no different.  Therefore, the competition for the final three roster spots could come down to special teams.  Williams and Doss have been good on special teams and are somewhat established players in the Ravens organization.  Therefore, you can really narrow down the competition to be between Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson for the final roster spot at wide receiver.

While Tommy Streeter was a sixth round draft pick and Thompson was un-drafted, Thompson seems to be making more of an impact on offense and special teams.  Streeter is more of a project player and Thompson could produce for the Ravens right away.  Therefore, I think Thompson should make the team.

In addition to his potential role on special teams, I think Thompson could make an impact on the offense.  The Ravens are looking for a fourth receiver and neither LaQuan Williams or Dandon Doss have made significant strides to win that job.  Thompson’s presence in the offense would make the Ravens receiving core one of the fastest in the NFL.

If the Ravens do pick Thompson over Streeter, they can still keep Streeter seeing as they love his potential and raw ability.  Streeter could spend one year on the scout team and come back next year to make the team.  After all, Anquan Boldin will be a free agent and the Ravens might decide not to resign him.  Streeter could, one day, become the number two receiver for the Ravens.  He just needs time to develop.

 

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Ed Reed misses practice; Yanda, J. Jones exit early

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Ed Reed misses practice; Yanda, J. Jones exit early

Posted on 06 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 6:35 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field for the first time since their public workout at M&T Bank Stadium over the weekend, the Ravens were without safety Ed Reed during the opening portion of practice Monday afternoon.

Midway through Saturday’s practice, the veteran appeared to bang his left leg but finished the workout without any apparent concerns. Reed walked out to the field to watch the latter portion of practice while sporting a sleeve on his left leg. Reed received the day off last Monday along with linebacker Ray Lewis but has practiced every other day since reporting to training camp on July 25.

In addition to the laundry list of players missing at the start of practice, right guard Marshal Yanda, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, defensive end Pernell McPhee, and running back Anthony Allen did not finish Monday’s practice. Yanda left the field at the conclusion of the opening special teams period and showed no visible discomfort, but he never returned over the course of a practice that lasted over two hours.

“Jacoby, I pulled him out about midway through,” Harbaugh said. “I just felt like he’d done enough. Marshal, I pulled him out early in the practice and just felt like he’d had enough. And Pernell, I’m not sure about. That wasn’t me, so we’ll have to find out about that one.”

Wide receiver Tandon Doss (hamstring), cornerback Cary Williams, and tight end Ed Dickson returned to the practice field on Monday. Doss had been sidelined since the first week of camp while Williams missed workouts on Friday and Saturday but told reporters the absence wasn’t related to his surgically-repaired hip and he was simply resting. Dickson was poked in the eye during the stadium practice, but the third-year tight end told reporters he would be fine.

In addition to Reed, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu were new absences on Monday. However, each player missed one practice last week.

Others absent included cornerback Jimmy Smith (back), offensive linemen Matt Birk (back) and Jah Reid (calf), linebackers Courtney Upshaw (shoulder), Josh Bynes, and Darryl Blackstock (groin), defensive lineman Arthur Jones (hip), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), wide receiver Patrick Williams (leg), and tight end Dennis Pitta (hand).

Upshaw has now missed seven straight practices and hasn’t worked since July 28 after suffering a sprained shoulder in a collision with Pierce. While the Ravens are eager to see him return to the practice field, Harbaugh reminded everyone there are plenty of reps remaining in the preseason and the team is not deviating from its plan to replace linebacker Terrell Suggs.

“He got lots of reps in the offseason program earlier,” Harbaugh said. “We just need to get him out there participating. Obviously, Sergio’s a big part of that. Albert’s gotten a lot of reps. Paul Kruger’s been out there the whole time. Courtney’s a piece that we need to evaluate and develop, and he’ll be in there soon enough.”

Suggs remains on the non-football injury list while wide receiver David Reed is on the physically unabe to perform list, and both are expected to miss the entire preseason.

The Ravens will practice again on Tuesday before traveling to Atlanta for their preseason opener on Thursday night.

 

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Healthy Boldin poised for best season with Ravens

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Healthy Boldin poised for best season with Ravens

Posted on 30 July 2012 by Luke Jones

Most talk surrounding the Ravens need to improve their 19th-ranked passing game from a season ago has centered around the development of a talented but raw group of young wide receivers.

While many wonder if Torrey Smith will build upon his record-setting rookie season and some combination of Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, and Tommy Streeter can etch out roles in the offense, Anquan Boldin keeps working to remind everyone he’s still the Ravens’ most dependable receiver.

Despite recording only 57 catches — one shy of his career low — and 887 receiving yards in 14 regular-season games, Boldin hopes his postseason performance upon returning from knee surgery is a sign of better things to come in his third season in Baltimore. The 31-year-old registered 10 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown in two postseason games, looking more comfortable than he did at any point in the regular season.

“Last year was tough just because I came into camp with the injury,” Boldin said. “I had a partial tear of my meniscus the entire year. There were times where it swelled up, and it was tough to get in and out of my cuts. But after the surgery, it felt great, and I’ve had the entire offseason to rehab and get a lot stronger. I’m moving around a lot better, a lot quicker.”

It’s no secret that Boldin’s production has been underwhelming in two seasons after the Ravens traded a third and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals prior to the 2010 draft. Boldin struggled to find a rapport in his first season with Joe Flacco since the young quarterback still had familiar targets in Derrick Mason and Todd Heap on which he could rely. Last season, the lockout eliminated the entire offseason, a period of time in which quarterbacks and wide receivers can grow together exponentially.

Boldin averaged a career-high 15.6 yards per catch despite modest numbers last season, but he’s feeling as comfortable as ever  as he begins his third season with Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

“Understanding what the coaches are expecting, what Joe is expecting, [being] on the same page as Joe, seeing what he sees,” Boldin said. “For me and him, we talk after every play. ‘What are you seeing on this? This coverage, what are you thinking?’ I think as we go on, the relationship just grows.”

Entering his 10th season, Boldin is eligible to receive periodic days off as part of coach John Harbaugh’s famed “30-and-over club” to keep veterans fresh, but the wide receiver prefers staying on the practice field, explaining his need to improve and how one player’s absence can upset the rotation at the receiver position.

It’s an attitude that not only sets a shining example for his younger teammates but is also noticed by the coaching staff.

“He still comes in with a mindset he’s going to work every day to get better,” wide receivers coach Jim Hostler said. “It might be a little bit different than the young guys. It might be a little bit more precision. It might be a little bit more detail, but he still approaches it that way. It’s still, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to make this the best year I have ever had.’”

Camp highlights

The offense shined during Monday’s practice as Flacco threw touchdown passes to Boldin and backup tight end Davon Drew during 11-on-11 red zone drills. Drew will now see an increased role as the No. 2 tight end behind Ed Dickson with Dennis Pitta breaking his hand during the workout.

Flacco also completed a beautiful deep ball to Jacoby Jones, who beat cornerback Jimmy Smith down the right sideline.

The quarterback continued his fine start to training camp, picking apart a Baltimore defense that was without defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, linebackers Ray Lewis and Courtney Upshaw, and safety Ed Reed.

At one point during practice, an angry Harbaugh challenged his defense by asking sarcastically if they felt like covering anybody.

The kicking competition between veteran Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker continued on a similar path to what we saw last week. Cundiff connected on field goals from 20, 36, and 52 yards before missing a 55-yarder wide left. Tucker produced the same results, only the former Texas kicker missed his 55-yard attempt wide right.

Fighting words

We’re still waiting for our first fight of training camp, but cornerback Cary Williams and wide receiver Tandon Doss engaged in a verbal altercation that became quite heated during the afternoon practice.

Williams was matched up against Torrey Smith in passing drills, and the wide receiver took exception with the amount of contact on the play. Doss then began jawing with Williams, and the cornerback took exception with a player sidelined with an injury deciding to critique what was happening on the practice field.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed as the horn sounded and the players moved to the next period of the afternoon practice.

 

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Early impressions from Ravens training camp

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Early impressions from Ravens training camp

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning their first full week of training camp after Sunday’s day off, here are five early observations from the first few practices of the summer in Owings Mills.

1. Even if the Ravens are satisfied with Bryant McKinnie’s weight and conditioning, this story isn’t going to go away as quickly as the tackle would like.

His claim that he hurt his back in a fall may explain why his chiropractor contacted the team to let them know he wouldn’t be reporting to training camp on time, but coach John Harbaugh’s comments earlier this week suggest the Ravens are having a difficult time believing the explanation. While McKinnie may have felt embarrassed — especially knowing how closely his conditioning is being scrutinized — failing to talk to the organization himself makes it look like he’s hiding more than a minor back injury.

Plenty of speculation exists regarding McKinnie’s financial problems and how he mysteriously went silent on Twitter a week ago, but you have to wonder how much the Ravens are willing to put up with considering they were already uneasy about his conditioning earlier this offseason. Harbaugh’s hardline stance about Michael Oher being the left tackle until further notice is a loud message that McKinnie is on shaky footing with the organization.

Unlike the way in which Ed Reed’s arrival at camp immediately squashed the discussion that buzzed around the All-Pro safety for weeks, McKinnie won’t just waltz back into camp with all essentially being forgotten. What will help the 32-year-old, however, is the lack of a known commodity at the right tackle position when Oher is on the left side.

Even so, McKinnie has plenty to prove before the Ravens can entrust him with the left tackle job for the second year in a row.

2. It’s remarkable how much better the cornerback situation is from a year ago at this time.

More attention has been paid to outside linebacker and the battles at defensive end and on the offensive line, but the most entertaining competition of the preseason will be between Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith for the starting cornerback job opposite Lardarius Webb. Unlike most competitions where you’re typically desperate to see one player emerge as a viable starter, this is a win-win situation where both players are capable of holding down starting jobs in the NFL.

Smith may have gained a slight upper hand during organized team activities as Williams continued to recovery from offseason hip surgery, but the 2011 first-round pick was dinged up during Saturday’s practice to potentially even the playing field once again. It’s also important to remember Williams played with a torn labrum last season, which is remarkable to think about when you consider how critical hip movement is to the back pedal and changing directions.

While the Ravens certainly envisioned Smith as a starter when they made him their top selection two Aprils ago, they really cannot go wrong with either player as the starter, and the other will still receive plenty of playing time. Williams and Smith will again line up at the cornerback spots with Webb sliding inside to the nickel position to match up with slot receivers in passing situations.

Special teams ace Corey Graham has also been very impressive in coverage and looks like a solid bet to be the team’s dime back, which would push Danny Gorrer down the depth chart after he looked solid in limited opportunities last season. It’s quite a difference from a year ago when the Ravens were depending on banged-up veterans such as Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr to play significant roles before Webb and Williams emerged as starters out of training camp.

3. Don’t sleep on Albert McClellan as the Ravens sort out their outside linebacker situation.

While it’s assumed that Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw will line up as the starting outside backers against the Cincinnati Bengals to open the regular season, McClellan has received plenty of reps with the defense over the first few days of practice. His versatility to line up as a defensive end as well as play multiple linebacker positions makes him a valuable asset, and that’s not even taking into account that the 26-year-old led the team in special teams tackles last season.

The start to McClellan’s career hasn’t been dramatically different from that of inside linebacker Jameel McClain, though the former spent his first professional season on the practice squad. McClain also went undrafted and shined on special teams before eventually carving out a bigger defensive role for himself.

Upshaw clearly possesses more upside, but the rookie’s inexperience and need to get leaner may open the door for more opportunities for McClellan, who surprised everyone with his strong play filling in at inside linebacker when Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe were sidelined against the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night.

4. There isn’t a wide receiver with better hands on the team than Tandon Doss.

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