Training camp is a little under a week old and the Baltimore Ravens are progressing as expected.
There have been highs and lows as there are each and every year, but for all the offseason issues facing a team that went 8-8 and missed the postseason for the first time under head coach John Harbaugh, things are going very well so far. The team is focused on making every rep count.
Here is a look at some of those highs and lows:
Quarterback Joe Flacco has the offense operating at a much faster pace than in years past. The work he has put into righting his footwork is paying off. In both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, Flacco has been getting the ball out quickly and on target. Though it seems many of the reports fail to mention it, Flacco is having himself a great start to training camp.
The wide receiver corps has stood out during the first week of training camp. Free agent acquisition Steve Smith Sr. has shined, bringing his fiery personality to the field while forming a nice connection with quarterbacks Flacco and Tyrod Taylor. On multiple occasions, Smith Sr. has made some incredible receptions over the first team defense. His speed, coupled with his sure hands seem like a perfect fit for a Ravens offense that struggled for much of last season. Undrafted rookie Jeremy Butler is making his claim to make the 53-man roster; the former Tennessee-Martin standout could be this year’s “diamond in the rough.”
The oft-mentioned offensive line is taking shape and is getting better each and every day. Many questions have surfaced about the right tackle position and the play of second-year lineman Ricky Wagner. Wagner has had some solid practices and his pass protection skills have been tested. While he has given up a few sacks to Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, Wagner, for the most part, has seemingly held his own.
With the team knowing Ray Rice will be suspended for the first two games of the season, the Ravens have been splitting first team reps between Rice, Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett. Rice and Pierce are both in shape and look comfortable in Kubiak’s new offense. On several plays, both Rice and Pierce have looked extremely fast and decisive in hitting their gaps. Forsett looks as if he will be a capable replacement for Rice with his play on the field and his knowledge of the offense. He has also showed solid pass protection on third down drills. Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has improved and has been capable of moving the chains during short yardage during 11-on-11 drills.
The defensive line has been one of the brightest spots so far during camp. The mixture of youth and experience is yielding positive results for defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee and rookie second-round draft pick Timmy Jernigan have been impressive. Jernigan and McPhee have both disrupted the offense in the backfield on several snaps.
The linebacker corps is fast and powerful and could be the best the Ravens have had in years. Suggs has wreaked havoc against the offense while rookie C.J. Mosley is showing exactly why the team grabbed him in the first round of the draft. On seemingly every snap, Mosley can be seen running sideline to sideline and chasing down ball carriers.
The Ravens secondary is perhaps facing the most questions as the summer is wearing on. While Jimmy Smith has picked up where he left off last season, the rest of the Ravens cornerback unit remains a mystery. Lardarius Webb has proved to be a shutdown corner when healthy but has missed three straight days of practice (Sat – Mon) with lingering back spasms.
The battle for the third cornerback position is open and has yet to have anyone stake a claim. Chykie Brown has struggled locating the football and has been burned on multiple occasions for touchdowns. Asa Jackson has been up and down, allowing big plays only to come back with some nice defensive plays of his own. Aaron Ross was lost for the season after suffering a tear to his Achilles during his conditioning test, while Dominique Franks is finally able to practice after passing his conditioning test. Undrafted rookie Tramain Jacobs has been impressive and making plays on second and third team defenses, but struggled when inserted with the starters on Monday.
Nose tackle Terrence Cody is still recovering from offseason hip surgery and has yet to take a snap all camp. Inked to a new one-year deal in March, Cody will have an uphill battle to make the roster given the new talent on the Ravens defensive line. Cody recorded just 15 tackles in 12 games last season.
Those are my highlights and disappointments. Based on the reports we’ve been giving you here at RSR, what are some of yours?
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