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â€œBetter send me flowers in the morning because you screwed me today.â€
That was the message from Brian Billick to his team after a rather uninspired start to practice this morning. Billick was alluding to the fact that he gave the team a break by scheduling a walk-thru this afternoon in lieu of the previously scheduled practice. After delivering the not so subtle message, the team responded particularly when it was accompanied by a threat to cancel his player-friendly scheduling alteration.
The team took the field today in shorts and soft shells and for the most part they ran through the script for tomorrowâ€™s scrimmage and they ran through more of the same situational plays that they featured in Thursdayâ€™s practice (goal line, 3rd & 1, 2:00).
Three NFL officials visited McDaniel to help the players with a few nuances of the rules offering suggestions on how to avoid penalties. According to one of the officials (Tony Veteri No. 36) they visit one camp per summer.
Leâ€™Ron McClain returned to practice today and showed no linger effects of the cramping that gripped him yesterday. He moved extremely well. Kelly Gregg, Ben Grubbs, Justin Green, J.O., Antwan Barnes, Dan Cody, Mike Smith and Mike Kracalik all remain sidelined. None are expected to go tomorrow against the Redskins.
There was a momentary scare during goal line drills when Todd Heap fell to the turf and came up limping. Daniel Wilcox took Heapâ€™s spot on the field as the star TE walked off a bit gingerly. Heap returned later in practice and showed no lingering signs of the nick.
Heap as reported in previous camp reports has looked as smooth as ever and the rapport with McNair builds with each practice. Interestingly, from a distance when flanked in an upright position, Heap and Quinn Sypniewski look similar in stature and unless you are close or can spot the six in Heapâ€™s number, it is difficult to tell them apart. As soon as they begin running, it is immediately obvious if it is Heap or Sypniewski.
Heapâ€™s strides are fluid. Most Ravens fans are familiar with the little pattern he runs during waggle plays. Without the rollout, Heap ran a similar route but gave Ray Lewis a double move during 7 on 7â€™s and turned it into a post which left Heap with plenty of separation and made him quite an inviting target for Steve McNair.
During the first week of camp, both Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason have had their days when they stood out. Today it was Demetrius Williamsâ€™ turn. He made the catch of the day in the left hand corner of the end zone when he leaped over CB Willie Gaston and snatched the fade pass from Troy Smith in his mitts before managing to get his feet down in limited space. Williams is developing a knack for executing that play and his ability to do so on a consistent basis could spell the demise of the extremely one dimensional Clarence Moore.
Leading into camp, the battle for the No. 4 receiver spot was thought to be one of the more interesting ones to watch. Instead, it seems like a battle that no one wants to win. Of the combatants, Devard Darling seems to have the edge but that is more by default. Moore just canâ€™t create separation in short areas and he remains hesitant in traffic. Yamon Figurs is just flat out clueless at the moment and has done very little.
What may end up happening is that the Ravens use Heap and/or Wilcox as the No. 4 receiver. Wilcox has a knack for finding soft spots in defenses and looks to be on the same page as McNair when the Ravensâ€™ QB needs a check down option.
Other observations: If practice is any indication, Rex Ryan has successfully implemented one sub-package that mitigates the loss of Adalius Thomas. Gerome Sapp enters as the nickel and can play up in the box. Heâ€™s added weight and muscle mass without sacrificing speed. His presence and cover skills also allow Reed or Landry to creep up into the box and both have been effective timing snap counts and coming in from the defensive right edge unabated to the quarterback. That looks to be one way that the Ravens will pick up the sacks they lost when A.D. departedâ€¦Both the first team and second team offenses ran through the 2:00 drill beginning at their own 35. The first teamâ€™s drive ended with a field goal while the second teamâ€™s drive ended abruptly after a promising start when Gerome Sapp jumped a route and picked off the Kyle Boller fastball and took it the other way for a score. Sapp has had a very solid week of practice.
At this time last year, one of the surprises of camp was Musa Smith. Entering the preseason schedule, Smith was the best looking back the Ravens had combining speed and power with polished receiving skills. This summer Smith looks quite different. He seems a bit heavier and heâ€™s nowhere near as quick to the hole as last summer. Today he even dropped an easy toss from McNair when they were attempting to execute a screenâ€¦Drew Olson has seen little action and that which he has seen has been relatively unimpressive. Today Olson tried to force a pass in the end zone during red zone drills. The ball was tipped by UDFA linebacker Joe Martin and intercepted by S Bobby Blackshire.
Jared Gaither continues to impress. One interesting battle featured him going up against UDFA Edgar Jones. Jones initially appeared to have a step on Gaither and the huge tackle used his long reach to keep his QB clean. The Ravens have to be tickled by the efforts of Gaither during his first week of practice. It will be interesting to see how he holds up during the preseason gamesâ€¦It will also be interesting to see how Edgar Jones plays. Jones is a tweener of sorts. Heâ€™s list as an outside linebacker but he appears to be more like a poor manâ€™s Peter Boulware. While he doesnâ€™t possess that initial burst that enable Boulware to become a regular Pro Bowler, Jones is athletic and it would be no surprise to see him stick on the Ravens practice squad and then brought along next year in a reserve role.
As mentioned earlier, Leâ€™Ron McClain returned to practice. Look for him to be used in a way similar to Ovie Mughelli in â€™06. McClainâ€™s pre-snap stance is interesting. He sits in a crouch much like a catcher in baseball and then springs forward. Weâ€™ll keep an eye on this to see if he sits that way when his number is called for a short yardage dive to see if heâ€™s tipping plays at allâ€¦WBALâ€™s Stan White was on hand today. He told me that his son just suffered a high ankle sprain during Bengalsâ€™ camp and that could really make him a long shot to make the final 53 man roster. Our best go out to Jr.