The crowd seemed a little lighter than last year’s turnout of 20,300, yet the enthusiasm seemed greater as fans of the defending World Champion Baltimore Ravens welcomed their favorite team to Jack Stephens Field at the Naval Academy.
Big ovations were extended to head coach John Harbaugh and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco as they entered the field, narrated by the WBAL broadcast team of Keith Mills, Stan White and Qadry Ismail.
One of the more noticeable differences during camp is the fast pace of the offense. They are in and out of the huddle more quickly and with greater purpose. During two-minute offensive drills the rapid-fire pacing amounts to gassers for the receivers. The approach is a bit reminiscent of former Carolina Tar heels head basketball coach Dean Smith creating so much pressure during practice that the games seem like a coffee break, relatively speaking.
Along those lines, this camp we’ve seen the introduction of “The Blitz”. Dean Pees and his defense will bring blitzers from all directions, the intent of which is to force Joe Flacco and his entire offensive unit to make quick decisions. This is an indication that new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell may be more receptive to working with Pees as part of an effort to improve the team. It may also indicate that there’s more round table discussion in coaching staff meetings where self-scouting leads to growth and better results.
A few of the standout plays during “The Blitz”:
- The Ravens defense tipped their hand a bit too early and Flacco checked to a different play. The result was a slant from right to left with Deonte Thompson on the receiving end of the perfectly delivered bullet. Thompson found ample real estate to navigate and exhibited his top end speed on his way to a touchdown.
- Flacco and Torrey Smith are on the same page. Confronted by a free nickel back blitz from the right slot (defensive left), Flacco had Smith with one-on-one down the right sideline covered by Chykie Brown (who is playing very well). Despite the tight coverage, the pitch and catch tandem connected on a back shoulder throw, proof that when executed properly that throw is nearly indefensible.
- Once again the defense tipped their hand too early and Flacco audibled to a bubble screen to the right with Jacoby Jones the target. The blocking from Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss was spot on paving the way to a very successful result.
MORE NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
Ed Dickson left practice very inconspicuously with a tweaked hamstring and that left Visanthe Shiancoe to take the reps with the 1’s. The Ravens are likely to exercise caution with Dickson, particularly on the heels of losing Dennis Pitta and the departure of Anquan Boldin via a salary cap motivated trade…Harbaugh, Caldwell and wide receivers coach Jim Hostler are waiting for someone to emerge from the pack that includes Doss, Thompson, Tommy Streeter, LaQuan Williams and Aaron Mellette. Yesterday Thompson and Mellette were the best of the group. Thompson was adept at navigating the middle of the field, perhaps as part of an effort to round out his game and not just be looked upon as an outside speed guy. Mellette successfully secured the ball each time he was targeted, including a 33-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor during 2-minute drills.
Streeter is a different story. He’s too one-dimensional and very reminiscent of former Ravens receiver Clarence Moore. Streeter provides nothing in terms of contributions on special teams and at this point, he’s a long shot to make the final 53…Doss didn’t have a very good practice either. During 2-minute drills Flacco rifled a shot to Doss on a deep in-route that initially looked like a completion. However the third-year receiver went T-Rex on his quarterback and dropped the pass, influenced by the oncoming threat of contact provided by Corey Graham. A plus note for Doss – he was seen tossing a pass effortlessly during warm-ups 45 yards downfield. Perhaps there’s a gadget play in the making.
Marlon Brown, a UDFA from Georgia, had a productive afternoon. He moves well for his size (6’5”, 217) and caught everything thrown his way. He’s someone to watch during preseason games and at this point, he’s had a better camp than the 2012 6th-round pick Streeter.
On defense, a few notables…LB Nigel Carr has improved his agility and isn’t as stiff in the hips as he was last year and that should help him in pass coverage where he was very subpar during last year’s training camp…Bryan Hall is trying to transition from a stocky undersized defensive lineman to an inside linebacker. Coverage skills are extremely important for backers in today’s NFL and Hall has a long way to go. If he makes the team, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg will influence it.
UDFA CB Moe Lee looked sharp, particularly during one-on-one drills against the receivers. Without pressure on the quarterback these drills are heavily slanted in favor of the offensive players who are free to go anywhere on the field – essentially a Cover 0 defense. Lee had two passes defensed while matched up against Brown and Smith. Lee has size as well (6’1”, 191)…Speaking of size, Marc Anthony brings it too (5’11”, 196) and competed effectively yesterday. The suspension of Asa Jackson gives the 7th-round pick from Cal a better shot to survive final cut downs… Jacoby Jones faked Jimmy Smith out of his jock on a post corner during one-on-ones. Smith still appears to be very vulnerable to double moves…Albert McClellan and Daryl Smith registered sacks during scrimmaging…Chris Canty batted a ball delivered by Flacco on third down. Get used to that from the 6’7” D-Lineman….Lardarius Webb intercepted Joe Flacco during 7 on 7’s.
Justin Tucker was busy on this clear, comfortable but slightly breezy evening. Tucker was good from 35, 40, 46 & 50 yards out during a rather rapid-fire 7-kick sequence. He missed from 58 (wide left), 65 (yard short) and 68 (just under crossbar, hit the post). Later during 2-minute scrimmaging Tucker connected from 49 and hit the crossbar from 63 yards out.