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One of the big stories resulting from yesterdayâ€™s practice was Kelly Greggâ€™s thigh contusion. Gregg was in attendance but sat out the morning practice as he observed in the comfort of shorts and a t-shirt described by Bart Scott as an â€œuntuckable.â€ Gregg took a helmet to the thigh during practice Tuesday and heâ€™s day to day. Today he walked with a slight limp.
Also day to day is Ben Grubbs who sprained his right knee and was seen in shorts and a brace. He walked without crutches and at this point there doesnâ€™t seem to be any concern. Prescott Burgess recovered from the flu bug that bit him yesterday and practiced fairly well. Perhaps he was a bit too friendly with Sypniewski yesterday who sat out this morningâ€™s session for the same reason.
Also down today were the PUPs: Mike Smith, Justin Green and Dan Cody. Mike Kracalik continues to nurse a sore left ankle.
After stretching the units broke down and were put through the paces by their positional coaches. The secondary started the day practicing stripping the ball from receivers. On DB would run ahead of another and the trailing DB would attempt a number of ways to dislodge the football.
The linebackers were put through the paces by the always feisty Jeff Fitzgerald. The linebackers navigated foot pads to improve footwork and â€œwood choppingâ€, hit a blocking dummy with a swim move and looked for the bouncing ball originating from Fitzgerald. "Don’t lose this opportunity!" In other words recover the football. Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs were flawless. Dennis Haley, Prescott Burgess and Antwan Barnes struggled at times while Jarret Johnson was decent.
Clarence Brooks worked the D-line through a series of hand drills designed to improve their ability to shake free from an engaged blocker. Brooks also stressed to his troops to re-establish the line of scrimmage and make plays a yard into the opponents back field. There appears to be a healthy competition emerging for the rotational position that opened with the departure of Aubrayo Franklin. The candidates that have stood up to be counted thus far are Anthony Bryant, Keyonta Marshall and Atiyyah Ellison.
The offensive line ran through a few punch drills and a variety of blocking drills including recognizing assignments in a zone blocking scheme. Jason Brown has such a strong trunk and his improved mobility makes him dangerous. At times he is a relentless bowling ball.
Mike Johnson practiced with his unit tossing the WR’s errant passes forcing them to contort and adjust their bodies.
The running back and the linebackers collided in a blocking drill designed to improve the protection skills of the RBâ€™s. Corey Ross was no match for Gary Stills nor was Mike Anderson when matched up against the athletic UDFA Edgar Jones. Leâ€™Ron McClain held his own against Ray Lewis, stopping the future Hall of Famer in his tracks as he pursued the blocking dummy that represented the quarterback.
The balance of the practice included a significant amount of two minute offense and 11 on 11 drills with a few 7 on 7 drills. The hit of the day during live contact was delivered by Gerome Sapp who laid out TE Kendrick Ballantyne after a short gain.
More on that action a bit later todayâ€¦
A few of the match-ups that we looked forward to heading into camp havenâ€™t quite yet materialized in an intense way. Mike Flynn is holding serve on the center position as Chris Chester shares some meaningful snaps. Chester has looked solid at right tackle and gets to the second level perhaps as good or better than any other player on the offensive line. Sealing off a block and then slipping downfield to pick up a linebacker are the seeds that sow the fruits of a big McGahee run.
Depth at offensive tackle was a bit of a concern heading into camp but if the first few days are any indication, donâ€™t worry, be happy. Jared Gaither continues to impress. Marshal Yanda has held his own despite giving away inches with his less than ideal reach. He is technically sound, well coached, very coachable and he has a bit of mean streak. Think of him as the Kelly Gregg of the Ravensâ€™ offense.
Troy Smith is seemingly ahead of Drew Olson on the depth charts. He gets about twice as many snaps in practice as the former UCLA Bruin and recent participant in NFL Europe. Smith was much better today than his first two days. He threw the ball well and with a purpose at times, something missing from most of his throws Monday and Tuesday.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment so far has been third round draft pick Yamon Figurs. To say he is raw as a receiver is an understatement. Figurs looks lost running routes and while he is a decoy that commands respect because of his speed, his routes are very ragged and undisciplined. He has also been inconsistent fielding punts. While B.J. Sams doesnâ€™t have the burst and un-coachable speed that Figurs possesses, heâ€™s been far more solid than the former Kansas State speedster.
The Ravens practiced their two minute offense today initially without the defense present and then later against it. Last year at this point, McNair sort of toed the line and did what was asked of him, not fully grasping the offensive system. This summer, McNair is seen often conversing with Billick and making suggestions.
Billick loves to teach and that comes through with each passing practice. His handle on the team this year is firm whereas last season he wasnâ€™t far removed from The Green Mile â€“ Dead Man Walking.
Billick brings his team together often particularly when they are either straying from the efficiency that he demands or just prior to live action. Injuries as weâ€™ve learned can send seasons into tailspins.
More specific attention to detail is being demanded by the Ravens coach. Itâ€™s not as though he didnâ€™t demand that in the past but this season, the Ravens offense is more varied with more sub-packages based upon down and distance. Consequently players on the sidelines need to be ready and on their toes and know what sub-packages they are part of. Any hesitancy could force the team to hurry their cadence or burn an unnecessary time out.
Derrick Mason had a big day making catches all over the field. Long-time teammate Samari Rolle even kidded Mason about being the featured receiver today. Rolle has played well and nearly had a pick at the goal line today. When he missed it, Ray Lewis who has been extremely supportive of Rolle, kicked the ball in frustration and it hit Jarret Johnson right in the stomach. Johnson shook the blow off easily and exchanged a high five with Lewis.
Steve McNair was intercepted twice today. Once he was picked in the end zone during red zone drills by Chris McAlister. The interception was in the same location of the end zone where McAlister picked off Charlie Frye on the road, stepping in front of Braylon Edwards to help set up the Ravens win last year in Cleveland.
Also during red zone drills, Steve McNair completed a short pass in the left flat to Todd Heap. Heap was short of the sticks and Samari Rolle, part of a shallow Cover 4 across the first down mark, converged on Heap. A heckler in the crowd chanted, â€œCome on Rolle!â€ Samari reacted not too favorably as he walked back to the huddle. While the heckler was probably unaware of down and distance, Rolleâ€™s reaction was a bit surprising. It wasnâ€™t a big deal but it is something to watch going forward. Rolle had many voices in his head last season and one has to wonder if he might be a bit too sensitive to criticism this year. Weâ€™ll see.
Back to Mason for a moment, one of the better plays of the day took place when McNair looked and pumped lightly towards the right, drawing the attention of Ed Reed. He then looked to his left and hit Derrick Mason in stride about 25 yards down field beyond Dawan Landry. Landry did intercept McNair earlier this morning when he over shot Todd Heap along the right hash.
Dwan Edwards played very well today and has done so throughout camp. He was surprisingly menacing when rushing the passer.
The hit of the day was delivered by Gerome Sapp as mentioned previously. Sapp laid out UDFA TE Kendrick Ballantyne after a short gain near the right side line. Sapp has played well and is much more involved than a year ago. He certainly brings value to the team since it cost them only a sixth round pick a season ago.
For those clamoring for screen passes, you might finally get your answer. The Ravens are practicing the screens often and the regularity of success is building as everyone embraces their assignments. Yesterday Daniel Wilcox missed his and Billick let him know it. That could be an indication of the importance of a screen in the Ravensâ€™ offensive plans this season.
Overall the offense looked much better this morning. The first play from the first team in the red zone was a skinny post to Mark Clayton for a TD. Mason caught a nice throw from Boller which was intentionally thrown behind Mason while the defender had his back to the quarterback. He ran that play from the slot with Demetrius Williams to his outside left. Rick Neuheisel was excited by the results and enthusiastically congratulated Mason.
During red zone offensive sets that failed to produce touchdowns, the field goal unit was rushed on to the field. For the second consecutive day, Terrell Suggs could be heard chanting STOVERâ€¦STOVER in a way reminiscent of the old chants directed towards Darryl Strawberry.
Boller later hit Clarence Moore on an alley-oop along the left sideline in the endzone. Moore reached over the defender (Oglesby) to pull it in. Moore remains a very one dimensional player and the odds are against him making the team.
The afternoon practice found the team in shorts and soft shells as they installed more of their offensive and defensive sets. Antwan Barnes made the biggest splash during the PM not on the field, but on the trainerâ€™s cart. Barnes sprained his ankle and is day-to-day although he said after practice that he was fine and was still hoping to play in the scrimmage on Saturday. Barnes has been on the field with the first team defense during obvious passing downs.