CAMP NOTES: WEEK 1 IN REVIEW

Camp Notes CAMP NOTES: WEEK 1 IN REVIEW

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Here’s a look back at Week 1 of Training Camp 2007 by position:
 
QUARTERBACK
 
Steve McNair is noticeably more comfortable with the offense and moves smoothly through his progressions.  Last summer at this time, he was a sponge trying to absorb as much as he could from the playbook and from the instructions of Jim Fassel and Brian Billick.  This summer, things are more natural and McNair’s athleticism isn’t slowed by too much thinking.  He is in control.  He looks fitter this year and his arm is livelier.
 
Kyle Boller had an above average week and seems more poised heading into his fifth season with the Ravens.  He still shows signs of inconsistency and can still lock in on receivers.  His accuracy on deep throws has improved although he still struggles with mechanics in short areas.  His intermediate throws of 15-25 yards have been zipped and they’ve been accurate.  During those throws is when he shines the most.
 
Troy Smith has been a model of inconsistency.  It would be interesting to see how he might fare playing with the veterans.  He’s admitted that he has struggled a bit throwing to spots instead of simply leading the receivers after their breaks.  Given the inexperienced group of receivers that he works with, trust is a factor when delivering the ball to spots…Drew Olson seems destined for the practice squad at best.  He lacks Smith’s mobility and arm strength while sharing a similar body that isn’t that of a prototypical NFL quarterback.
 
 
RUNNING BACK
 
One of the offseason objectives of the club was to improve the running game.  Part of that is on the ball carrier and the other part is on the offensive line. 
 
Two things are apparent when watching Willis McGahee.  First he slips, slides and slashes his way forward while navigating space created by the line.  He hits the space quickly and while maneuvering to make a big play he’s gaining positive yardage and he isn’t hesitating behind the line of scrimmage.
 
The other thing that is noticeable about McGahee is his natural pass catching skills.  That is something Steve McNair will exploit, given his history of doing just that with Eddie George in Tennessee.
 
Mike Anderson has a clear edge so far on Musa Smith for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.  Anderson has looked sharp and like McGahee seems to weave his way well through traffic making positive yardage when it may appear that there’s little space to do so…Musa Smith has been one of the disappointments so far this camp.  He has not shown anything close to the burst that he showcased last summer.  He has dropped passes in practice and he whiffed on a block at the goal line during the Ravens scrimmage yesterday resulting in a QB knockdown that sent Kyle Boller’s alley-oop pass to Demetrius Williams flying wildly out of bounds…P.J. Daniels has practiced well and is pushing Smith…Corey Ross is a long shot…Le’Ron McClain renders Ovie Mughelli’s departure meaningless.
 
WIDE RECEIVER
 
The big three look better, quicker, faster and more in synch with Steve McNair.  After Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason and Demetrius Williams, the production falls off dramatically.  The more Demetrius Williams is used as a jump ball target in the end zone, the more Clarence Moore falls off the radar.  Moore can’t stay on the field, he doesn’t block, he starts slow and that makes him rather useless in short areas.  He seems to be allergic to the middle of the field and he doesn’t contribute on special teams.  Given the depth on the Ravens roster, he is not worthy of a roster spot.
 
Devard Darling at times looks like he’s starting to come on but as he has during past summer camps, he disappears at times.  He is running with the first team in 3 wide sets when one of the big 3 sits out.  He’s also worked hard on special teams…Yamon Figurs is a major project at receiver.  Judging from the way he runs routes, it’s my guess the only thing Kansas State asked him to do was flank out wide and go deep. The only thing consistent about his hands is that they are consistently inconsistent…Matt Willis and Romby Bryant have outperformed Figurs but it’s doubtful that they have a chance at anything more than the practice squad…Speedster Leo Bookman has struggled holding on to the ball.
 
 
TIGHT END
 
Todd Heap looks better than he has at any point in his career and the rapport he shares with McNair grows daily.  Daniel Wilcox has a knack for finding holes in a defense and McNair trusts him to be in the right spot.  He almost always is.  Quinn Sypniewski is a bit clumsy getting downfield but he has been consistent with his hands and is reliable in short areas…Marcus Freeman is up and down.  He did get a bit bashful on one Kyle Boller throw in traffic at the goal line during live drills.  Not a good sign for a tight end…Kendrick Ballantyne has been decent and he’s shown some toughness.  (Video of Heap from Ravens v. Redskins scrimmage.)
 
OFFENSIVE LINE
 
The unit is beginning to mesh and its versatility should pay dividends over the course of a long season.  Chris Foerster has a few interchangeable parts that will give the roster depth at the position.  One such part is Marshal Yanda who during the first week of camp has shown that he does have some potential as an undersized tackle.  He’s held his own running with the first team although of late he’s seen more time with the second team. 
 
And that’s not because Yanda has slipped.  It has everything to do with the meteoric progression of supplemental draft pick Jared Gaither.  One Ravens official said that Gaither is 7 for 7 against Suggs on passing plays.  Gaither looks very polished dropping back and using his reach to keep rushers at bay.  He looks a bit lost at times in run blocking but that is certainly to be expected as he tries to absorb the playbook.  His emergence coupled with Yanda’s refined skills under the tutelage of Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz will place extreme pressure on Keydrick Vincent and Brian Rimpf.
 
Ben Grubbs’ knee injury is a slight setback but prior to the MCL sprain, he played as advertised.  Chris Chester has played well and Jason Brown has been a beast at times.  Mike Flynn looks a lot like the Mike Flynn of ’06 and less like the Flynn from ’05.  That said, he was manhandled a few times by the Redskins.
 
DEFENSIVE LINE
 
Arguably the best unit on the team, the D-Line has picked up where it left off a year ago. Enhancing the play of this unit is Justin Bannan who arrives in better shape than a year ago and he’s benefited from the increased snaps given the thigh injury to Kelly Gregg.  Dwan Edwards has played very well and he’s been a regular in the backfield during passing plays.  Anthony Bryant and Atiyyah Ellison have competed well and they might have a chance to be part of the Ravens DT rotation given the departure of Aubrayo Franklin.  Haloti Ngata’s mobility has been put to the test by Rex Ryan.  Ngata on a couple of snaps vacated his down position pre-snap and went in motion to assume the MLB position before timing the snap and blitzing up the gut.  Ngata attributed that to Ryan’s playfulness but don’t be surprised if you see it in the preseason.
 
LINEBACKERS
 
Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott have picked up where they left off last year and they all arrive in the best shape of their respective careers.  Scott has spent considerable time with LB coach Jeff Fitzgerald particularly in pass coverage.  The assumption here is that he’ll be assuming some of AD’s former responsibilities. 
 
Jarret Johnson is leaner and perhaps even meaner.  He plays with an attitude and fights to the whistle (sometimes even after). His improved mobility has helped him refine his coverage skills but don’t expect him to morph into AD any time soon…Antwan Barnes is explosive and has been running with the first team in certain passing down sub packages…Prescott Burgess plays hard and is showing up on tape.  It will be difficult to keep him off the roster…Gary Stills remains one of the team’s hardest hitters and continues to show an ability to get after the quarterback when called upon…Dennis Haley and Joe Martin have been decent.  Neither has shown that they are better special teamers than Mike Smith but Smith better hurry and get on the field soon otherwise he could be cut or put on IR for the season…UDFA Edgar Jones has played well and could earn a practice squad spot.
 
SECONDARY
 
Samari Rolle has practiced well although he was beaten in 7 on 7 drills yesterday by James Thrash for a long TD throw from Jason Campbell.  That was certainly not a confidence builder. Dawan Landry has picked up where he left off in ’06 and looks even more comfortable than last season.  He seems to be playing more up in the box and he is a dangerous blitzer…Ronnie Prude has been better in camp than he was during OTA’s and he’s played well contributing a few interceptions and had a knockdown in the scrimmage…Derrick Martin has stepped up noticeably and is making a far greater impact than in ’06…On the other hand David Pittman hasn’t been very noticeable.  He shows great coverage technique in one-on-one drills but hasn’t been all that involved during scrimmaging and his snaps are usually with the third team…Evan Oglesby and Jamaine Winborne have been solid, the later taking some snaps at safety.  Oglesby has been abused a bit on end zone jump balls…Willie Gaston and Terrell Maze are long shots at best…At safety Ed Reed has been Ed Reed while Gerome Sapp has had an excellent first week…UDFA’s Donnie Johnson and Bobby Blackshire have a shot to make the club with Johnson slightly ahead…Corey Ivy has been menacing and flat out hustles and gives you everything he’s got every practice…Chris McAlister has played very well particularly in the red zone.  He’s been noticeably calmer thus far this summer.
 
 
SPECIAL TEAMS
 
Matt Stover has missed a few FG’s to the left but few if any have concerns with the man many refer to as “Money.”…Sam Koch much like last summer camp, has had a day or two when he lost his rhythm.  That said, he’s been far more consistent than backup Brendan Carney…Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd is having work visa issues and hasn’t arrived yet…B.J. Sams is clearly the leader as the return specialist.  Yamon Figurs has shown inconsistent hands.  Figurs needs to pick it up in a big way.  If week 1 is any indication, Figurs is not as advertised.
 
P.U.P. LIST
 
Justin Green, Mike Smith, Dan Cody, Mike Kracalik and Jonathan Ogden remain on the physically unable to perform list.
 
Video courtesy of Sam Skidmore

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Tony Lombardi

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Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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