Some observations from today’s practice:
The offensive line ran through drills intended to promote better footwork and handwork. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster heavily emphasized the importance of proper technique and moving in unison so as not to allow penetrable gaps between linemen. Foerster commented that the line as a whole needs to do a better job of pushing up field in their blocking particularly after the initial contact. Foerster had his unit run through slide and punch drills to drive the fundamentals point home. The offensive line as a whole looks to be in much better shape physically. Ogden, Mulitalo, Brown, Szalay and Terry all appeared to be much more defined and physically stronger.
Derrick Mason was very vocal particularly when he felt that secondary coach Dennis Thurman allowed his corners a little too much latitude to bump at one point admonishing Thurman to remind his rookies that “this isn’t college anymore.” Mason was also very encouraging to the other receivers and he toyed with the heads of the rookie DB’s. Once on a deep out, Mason talked to defender Ronnie Prude throughout the entire route, exclaiming at one point, “Don’t back up!” When Prude did Mason broke off the route to find a perfectly thrown ball by Kyle Boller already in flight.
The turf seemed a bit slippery and didn’t provide much support for hard cuts. Devard Darling had problems with the turf early but seemed to adjust later on during the practice. He caught all balls thrown within his frame – a frame that isn’t as bulky as it was last year. He ran mostly short digs underneath and a few outs. He still struggles to create separation. He seems to tip his breaks and provides an easy read for defenders. Receivers coach Mike Johnson was very encouraging and Darling seemed to respond. Johnson appears to be much more involved and enthusiastic than his predecessor David Shaw.
Traditionally, the Ravens practice with the offense wearing purple and the defense in white. Interestingly, B.J. Sams wore white. Some thought that Sams could see some time as a change of pace/third down back, a role he did practice last season along with playing slot receiver. We’ll keep a watchful eye on this development. Sams did fill in as a dime back last year when the Ravens had a very depleted secondary.
Sams as expected is No. 1 on the depth chart for punt returns. Others who rotated in with Sams included Mark Clayton, Tres Moses and Cory Ross. Clayton glided through drills showing his usual outstanding change of direction skills. He also made a great leaping catch along the far sideline during one on one drills.
Newcomer Corey Ivy was very vocal and filled in for Rolle at CB on the first defensive unit. He was beaten by a step a few times early in practice but rallied later, showing great athleticism to bat down a pass from Brian St. Pierre.
Special teams Coach Frank Gansz, Jr. is extremely vocal and ran through different formations with his punt and punt return units today, paying a bit more attention to the return unit. “7 Man Larry” and “7 man Roger” were shouted often. This simply means that 7 men are lined up inside the box with blockers lined up on the gunners and an extra blocker to the left (Larry) or right (Roger). Once while coaching up the unit, Gansz heard B.J. Ward chatting while Gansz was delivering instructions. Gansz exclaimed, “B.J. Ward, I’m talking…shut the (expletive) up!” This coach is a live one folks!
Dan Cody practiced but didn’t take many reps. He is being eased into the rotation. Cody did not seem to favor his rehabilitated right knee and appears to be in great physical shape.
The Ravens ran through a few running plays, many of which were delays and draws. They also featured the backhanded weak side pitch to the tailback with both Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson. A new wrinkle in the running game is a fake slant pass off a three step drop to a delayed inside handoff. Boller showed decent ball handling skills on the play yet there’s certainly room to improve.
Jamal Lewis doesn’t appear to be as lean as he was last year during Summer Camp and was a bit coy when asked after practiced what his current weight is. He stated that when July 31 rolls around, he’ll be ready to go. More on Lewis’ comments tomorrow.
Musa Smith practiced but was the only player wearing long sweat pants today. His future could be dictated by his special teams contributions and the play of P.J. Daniels.
Kyle Boller looks noticeably stronger and claims to have put on about 15 – 20 pounds. He’s obviously been working hard in the weight room and stated the added muscle is intended to help him absorb hits. He threw accurately on short and intermediate routes when there was no pressure. During 11 on 11 drills, his accuracy fell off dramatically.
Boller fielded the predictable questions about Steve McNair like a media savvy veteran. When asked about the possibility of McNair joining the Ravens Boller responded, "If Steve gets here, or when he gets here, we’ll handle it then. But as far as now, I’m just out here competing and trying to get this offense where it needs to be. I’m going about my business right now like I’m the starter. That’s the only way I can think of it." Boller was eloquent, fair and a consummate professional on the subject of Steve McNair. We will have the complete Boller interview on 24×7 tomorrow along with thoughts from Derrick Mason, Brian Billick and Jamal Lewis on the same subject of Steve McNair.
Brian St. Pierre like Boller threw accurately with no pressure but when pressured, he struggled to throw passes outside the numbers on the field. His arm strength is a few notches below that of Boller.
David Pittman was a bit frustrated today after a couple of blown coverage assignments — all on short routes; DT Justin Bannan ran with the first unit today alongside Kelly Gregg; Mike Smith took Ray Lewis’ spot in the 4-backer alignment.