As training camp officially concluded on a largely tepid practice day, several answers emerged that weren’t present at the start of training camp. We now know who is unequivocally manning the starting right tackle position going forward (Ricky Wagner). We know how the new-look, Gary Kubiak offense fits the present offensive personnel. And we have a good idea of which rookies are leaving their mark and what their roles should be going forward.
Here is a breakdown of four noteworthy items that consistently stuck out throughout three weeks of training camp:
The hype is very real for the Juice
On the very first day of training camp, we reported that the “Juice is on the loose,” and Kyle Juszczyk’s role in the offense was set to expand like a hot air balloon. He was the principal move guy in many of the team’s offensive sets, flexing back-and-forth from the backfield to the slot to the X and Z outside spots. Throughout camp, he continued to make his presence felt as either an underneath safety valve or a dedicated target on plays designed to get him a favorable one-on-one matchup.
We still don’t know if he can carry the ball at all; but it doesn’t really matter at this point. His receiving skills are more than good enough to make up the difference. Expect him to be the Ravens’ version of Shane Vereen or Danny Woodhead in this offense.
Michael Campanaro is too good to ignore
There were some rumors floating around somewhere in the air that Michael Campanaro might be designated as an IR candidate to avoid a tough roster decision. I can’t see that happening (my vote for the perennial IR selection is rookie John Urschel). Like Juszczyk, Campanaro brings a very unique set of skills to the passing game that hasn’t consistently been there, unless you count the cup of Royal Farms coffee Brandon Stokley grabbed last year.
It’s gotten to the point where the rookie from Wake Forest may need to be worked into certain packages and perhaps rotate with the big four (the Smiths, Brown, and Jones). He’ll also get his chances as a punt returner backing up Jones. He needs to see the field somehow.
The Kubiak offense has a mind of its own
All of the things we anticipated seeing from the Gary Kubiak offense have been on display every single day at camp. The motion and misdirection is prevalent. There is more use of the tight ends, especially on seam patterns and rollouts. The drop steps for the quarterbacks are much more defined, with plenty of movement off of play-action. And not to be forgotten, as Terrell Suggs so eloquently explained to CNNSI writer Don Banks in describing the offense, “there are so many angles to watch out for, and so many things to do out of it, and yet it all looks the same coming at you.”
Yet there are other tendencies you see beneath the surface.
For instance, the offensive linemen are consistently moving to the second level on their blocks in the running game. The second level of the defense was like the demilitarized zone a year ago. Additionally, screens of all types were on display throughout camp. When is the last time you heard the word “screen” and “Ravens offense” in the same sentence? Get used to it this year.
This rookie class has the chance to be special
Training camp and preseason games can turn rookies into heroes overnight, only to be torn down when the real games begin. So any prognostication on the rookies as a whole is certainly a dicey proposition. But just based on the eye test at camp, this group is going to contribute right away compared to last year’s group. They have the chance to be impact guys down the road.
I’ve already touched on Campanaro, who could turn into a regular slot receiver for the team in the near future. C.J. Mosley is the real deal and has all of the makings of the next great player at his respective position. For a rookie, he already understands playing with sound technique and doesn’t make many mistakes.
With the injuries to Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is set to be one of the main rotation players behind the starting front three. With his motor and ability to make plays in the backfield, he could turn into the playmaker the line needs to replace Art Jones.
Safety Terrence Brooks is coming around after a slow start in camp. Given his versatility and athleticism, he has the chance to gain more playing time in the sub packages as a slot nickel corner and third safety. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro looks like a natural one-cut runner in the zone scheme. And he has the power to be a bulldozer in short-yardage and goal line opportunities.
Lastly, tight end Crockett Gilmore has emerged as a ferocious in-line run blocker. As a receiver, he still needs to work on his route running, but he is sure to see snaps in the two tight end and three tight end sets during the regular season. In fact, I can see him supplanting Owen Daniels at some point as the regular No.2 behind Pitta. He’s just too good of a blocker to keep on the sideline.