For fans, preseason games may be a waste of money and boring – for those looking to impress and pop out on coach’s film, it’s their Super Bowl.
Currently, the Ravens have 26 rookies on their roster and with minimal contact rules in the newest CBA, it’s hard to really gauge with a high degree of certainty how well a player is doing until the threat of live contact is introduced.
After spending every day out at Training Camp 2012, here is a viewer’s guide to who you should take a close look at in order to take some of the watching-paint-dry boredom out of the preseason games.
Summary: Even with four quarterbacks on the roster, the Ravens are limited in depth under center. Tyrod Taylor has guided the second-team offense throughout camp and looks to be nothing short of a guarantee to back up Joe Flacco for the second straight season.
Tyrod Taylor- Watching how Taylor handles a play once it breaks down will be interesting. His style is much different than Flacco and when Flacco would typically dump the ball off to Ray Rice, Taylor relies on his feet to make plays.
Curtis Painter– After starting eight games for the Colts last season, Painter proved that he is no Peyton Manning. Now with the Ravens, the only thing that Painter has in common with the former Colts’ great is the “Manning shuffle” – the trademark toe-tapping footwork made famous by the four-time MVP. Painter is still in search of his first NFL win as a starter. The odds of him finding that in Baltimore are extremely prohibitive. His chances to make the team aren’t far behind.
Summary: In what was supposed to be one of the most heated competitions in camp, the Ravens backup running back job opening has been anything but a competition.
Third-round draft pick Bernard Pierce has spent just as much time off the field as he has on it. Coming into his second season, Anthony Allen appears to have disappointed coaches in his progression and constantly runs into defenders right off the line of scrimmage.
There have been two notable backs in camp so far, they are:
Damien Berry- After spending last year on the practice squad, Berry has fine tuned his game and his body to better his chances at cracking the Ravens 53-man active roster.
Compared to last season, Berry is stronger and faster than before. In drills and scrimmages, he’s been elusive and gets outside of his tackles very quickly. Given Pierce’s injured hamstring, Berry should see a heavy dose of action in this game.
Bobby Rainey- During practice, you could switch Ray Rice and Rainey’s jersey and have a hard time telling the pair of diminutive backs apart. Rice obviously is a better player but his similarly built counterpart has turned a few heads during camp.
It’s too early to tell but there is a chance that Rainey could find himself on the Ravens practice squad this season. During his collegiate career at Western Kentucky, Rainey accumulated over 4,500 yards; he’ll definitely command some attention during his first NFL game.
Torrey Smith has looked like a clear-cut #1 wide receiver so far at training camp. After getting off to a slow start in a lockout shortened preseason last year, Smith has emerged into one of the NFL’s premier deep threats.
The acquisition of Jacoby Jones balances the Ravens with speed on the outside and will put Anquan Boldin in the slot more often than not this season.
The top three spots on the depth chart seem to be all but set, but here is who is making some noise further down the pecking order:
LaQuan Williams- As an undrafted free-agent last season, Williams’ performance last preseason secured his spot on the 53-man roster. As he returns to the field for his second season, Williams is all but a lock to make the team. He is pushing Jacoby Jones for the third spot on the depth chart.
All camp long, Williams has made others around him take notice of his development. Besides his former Maryland teammate Torrey Smith, Williams is one of the most balanced wide outs in camp and has been catching everything thrown his way, which is a lot since he’s been targeted quite a bit during scrimmages. Williams has been one of the best success stories from camp so far.
Deonte’ Thompson- The undrafted free-agent rookie from Florida has been getting a lot of mentions by the media so far from camp. Thompson is only six-feet tall and a rocket. He is quick and has good hands, which makes him a downfield threat.
The knock on Thompson is that he has often been a great practice player but rarely showed up on Saturdays as a Gator.
Tommy Streeter- The only reason Streeter is highlighted in this segment is because the rest of Ravens fans will finally see what he’s been showing in practice- he’s raw and definitely still a project.
Streeter’s 6’-5” frame is enough to get any coach to drool but catching the football is the primary job of a wide receiver and that’s one of many areas where Streeter struggles. It’s still early but for the moment Streeter is a long shot to make the 53-man roster.
Davon Drew- Dennis Pitta’s injury was bad news for the Ravens but great news for Drew’s career. Drew has exhausted his practice squad eligibility and is out of options. It’s sick or swim time for the former East Carolina quarterback and 2009 fifth round pick.
Kelechi Osemele- When the Ravens first drafted Kelechi Osemele (pronounced: kah-LETCHee oh-SEM-uh-lee), most people scratched their heads because his name wasn’t exactly household material. Now Osemele, or “K.O.” as his coaches and teammates call him, may have been the best pick of the Ravens 2012 draft.
Osemele will eventually be considered a mauler and is very aggressive on the offensive line. After playing tackle at Iowa State, the Ravens brought Osemele in to compete for the left guard position vacated by Ben Grubbs.
Due to some offensive line shakeups, Osemele has been seeing time at both left guard and right tackle. Osemele seems to be well balanced and has been effective in both positions. During camp we’ve witnessed K.O. somewhat regularly pushing his opponent into the second level – even after the whistle.
Jack Cornell- Once again, you’re probably saying, “Who?” Cornell drew public praise from team owner Steve Bisciotti on 105.7 The Fan and apparently Ozzie Newsome is very fond of him as well. Cornell has received a lot of playing time at both tackle positions and has taken ample reps with the first-team offensive line.
Cornell will get a workout during the game and could provide depth to a line that has been the focus of a lot of criticism this early into camp due to some missing pieces.
Anytime you can turn an undrafted free-agent into reliable depth on the offensive line that’s a healthy return on a modest investment.