One of the reasons that NFL teams find it so difficult to stay alive during the post season on a regular basis is that successful teams have their rosters poached.
Success breeds greater contractual demands and when teams can no longer afford the escalating salaries due to cap constraints they are forced to say goodbye to developing players looking to score on their second contracts.
They then look towards the next man up.
The quality of that next man up often is determined by the skill sets of the men seated in a NFL team’s draft day war room. And fortunately for the Ravens those men shine consistently.
One of the team’s selections in the 2012 NFL Draft was Asa Jackson, a smallish corner from a relatively small school (Cal – Poly).
Jackson has been impressive since the day he arrived in Baltimore. Team officials believe that he could be a productive nickel in the future. His progress could eventually change Cary Williams’ status to former Raven.
Next man up!
Williams according to a team source, has been offered an extension in the $4-5M per year range. The offer was declined.
Given the team’s investments in corners Lardarius Webb ($50M) and Jimmy Smith (1st Round Pick), the offer seems more than generous particularly when most expect Smith to be the starter on opening night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
But that doesn’t mean that Williams won’t get his fair share of snaps. Look for Williams to be on the field whenever the Ravens line up in a nickel package and when they do, Webb will drop down inside with Williams and Smith manning the edges.
Staying with the secondary another player that has impressed insiders is FS Christian Thompson. Team officials are pleased with his speed and physicality. The club doesn’t expect a lot of production from Thompson as a safety in 2012 outside of special teams but he could develop and be more noticeable as a defender by 2013.
Another newcomer to the secondary is former Bear and special teams ace Corey Graham. Although Graham is listed as a corner he was brought on more for his special teams acumen. Don’t look for him to be in the Ravens secondary much and if he does show up there on Sundays it will be to fill the role of backup safety.
The Ravens first pick in the 2012 draft Courtney Upshaw, is carrying about 285 pounds these days. The Ravens would like to see him get down to 270. He’s thick, and his build at the moment is a lot like Pernell McPhee’s. He seems to carry the weight fairly well but if called upon to cover a tight end in space, his rigid midsection could make him vulnerable to offensive opponents with good change of direction skills. He has however, impressed the team with his ability to drop into coverage.
That said, there is some mild concern about his burst as a pass rusher. And let’s not forget this – rookie seasons are challenging on many levels. The wear and tear from the last season in college combined with prep time for the combines, individual player workouts, the draft, OTA’s, learning a new playbook and adjusting to the speed of the NFL is very taxing and understandably leads to that “rookie wall” later during the season. Having to shed weight in season can be another drain on a player’s stamina.
It will definitely be something to keep an eye on.
Gino Gradkowski is said to be tough and extremely bright yet a bit undersized. Matt Birk is noticeably bigger than Gradkowski. Bobbie Williams is a bulldozer and a smart player with leadership skills. The Ravens like fielding heady leaders at the offensive guard positions particularly if such characteristics aren’t that well defined in their tackles. Such is the case with the Ravens’ offensive line bookends.
The Ravens did work out Eric Steinbach on Tuesday and a source indicated that the workout went very well. Yet there are lingering concerns about the health of Steinbach’s back. His injury kept him out the entire 2011 season.
And here’s an interesting tidbit. Steinbach’s agent is Jack Bechta who also represents Head Coach John Harbaugh. Could it be that Harbaugh was throwing a bone to his agent to help drive up Steinbach’s market value?
OTHER TIDBITS: No word yet on whether or not the league has approved the hearing aid insert for Sergio Kindle. Kindle has lost most if not all of his hearing in his left ear and that could limit where on the field the Ravens place him…The competition for backup running back should be fierce but the question is, do any of these competitors have what it takes to assume the reins should Ray Rice miss some time? Word is that the pecking order for No. 2 on the depth charts goes like this…Pierce, Allen, Berry. As he so often does, Ozzie Newsome could make a move for a veteran free agent during camp. Would it shock anyone to see Cedric Benson added to the roster late during camp or sometime after Week 1 if these youngsters don’t perform well?
Don’t look for Jah Reid on the practice field for a couple of weeks. He pushed a tweaked calf a little too hard during OTA’s and now the injury is a bigger concern. Losing all of that time while competing for a new position (left guard) will prove very costly…Kelechi Osemele could be on the field as early as this week…
David Reed has probably played his last game as a Raven. There isn’t much organizational confidence in him. The guess here is he’ll stay on PUP and when healthy enough there will be some kind of injury settlement.
Joe Flacco has thrown the ball very well. One insider does not think that the contract will affect Joe’s play because he’s not built like that. He trusts that his agent (Joe Linta) will eventually get the deal done. Linta has a decent relationship with the club.