The two-minute offense and defense was the area of focus for the afternoon session. The offense was efficient and able to move the chains. The defense had trouble covering quick-hitting pass plays, although there were a few stretches in which it created coverage sacks.
Here are other key observations and notes from Wednesday’s afternoon session:
· Formations and Fronts: The option was installed and executed from the shotgun set. Quarterback Troy Smith led the play, as it took on different forms, including a play-action, option, shovel pass. Smith usually ran the option with two backs off set to his left and right side. Depending on where the play went, one back would either grab a hand-off or act as a decoy off of a play-action fake, while the other back ran with Smith around the edge.
The defense used a heavy combination of cross blitzes and stunts, with solid success. At one point, the three-man line slid to the left to support a heavy strongside blitz geared to slow down the offense, when it went to an empty look.
· Who Stood Out?
– L.J. Smith: He made one of the niftiest snags of the day, as he adjusted to a pass thrown to his outside shoulder. Not only was Smith’s grab impressive, but John Beck’s pass was placed perfectly to get around linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo’s coverage.
– Demetrius Williams: Williams had a rather uneventful day, but he was under spotlight when offensive coordinator Cam Cameron chewed him out for not lining up properly at the split end position.
– Le’Ron McClain: McClain deserved a prize for getting in front of Haloti Ngata in a blitz pick up situation. The massive defensive tackle came charging up the middle and got up in the air to try to tip the pass, but McClain was able to slide and catch Ngata as he was coming down and redirect him laterally. The tough fullback also made a nice catch as a slot receiver operating from an empty set during an 11-on-11 drill.
– Joe Flacco: Flacco had a strong performance, as he was efficient and accurate throughout the afternoon session. Flacco’s best passes came when he dropped the ball in-between linebacker Tavares Gooden and safety Ed Reed to tight end Todd Heap – Heap dropped the ball – and when he zipped the ball past three defenders, hitting Kelley Washington over the middle.
· Scouting the Rookies
o Ladarius Webb: From his first days of camp, the athletic cornerback has developed as a nickel back capable of defending the slot receiver. It is clear that he is more comfortable flipping his hips when he has to turn and run with a receiver. As a blitzer, Webb has tremendous timing and understands how to disguise his move. There were three instances in which Webb either faked the blitz and dropped, or came flying off tackle. When he rushed, he did a nice job of dipping his shoulders in trying to avoid the left tackle’s punch.
· The UDFA Corner
o William VanDeSteeg spent more time rushing from a three-point stance than at any point. The versatile rookie lined up inside as an under tackle in the 4-3 set and as a left defensive end in the 3-4 set. He was at his best as a 4-3 tackle, as he was too quick for the opposing left guard to handle.
o K.J. Gerard nearly missed a golden opportunity to return a missed field goal. Upon fielding the kick, which fell short, Gerard nearly jogged off the field but then quickly turned the corner after his teammates and coaches told him to keep going.
Other Rookie Notes
– There were a couple of instances when Paul Kruger and VanDeSteeg lined up on the same side to rush the passer. On one play, the two faked the rush and dropped into zone coverage.
– Kicker Graham Gano connected on 7-of-11 of his attempts.
– Linebacker Jarret Johnson did a nice job of jolting rookie Michael Oher backward by using a strong bull rush, but Oher was able to recover, maintain his balance and stay with the block. On another play, the emerging right tackle was not fooled by a juke move that safety Haruki Nakamura used to get free at the line. Oher stayed parallel in his positioning and engulfed Nakamura.
– Webb lined up as an edge rusher during punt blocking drills.
Photo by Kevin Moore