CAMP NOTES: Troy Smith expanding his role in offense?

Camp Notes CAMP NOTES: Troy Smith expanding his role in offense?

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There were a significant number of no-shows today but that according to John Harbaugh was by design.  After practice Harbaugh informed the media that there were 30 players who were asked to skip today’s workout so that some of the players further down the depth chart could take a higher number of reps. Among the missing: Kelley Washington, Yamon Figurs, Ed Reed, Samari Rolle, Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Frank Walker, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Ray Lewis, Matt Birk, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Demetrius Williams, Mark Clayton, Trevor Pryce, Haloti Ngata, Dwan Edwards, Justin Bannan, Jarrett Johnson, Lamar Divens and Kelly Gregg.

Some of the 30 players (who were not named) asked to sit out the practice, practiced anyway.

Among those sitting out with injuries were: Adam Terry, Jason Phillips; WR Edward Williams, Lardarius Webb and Cedric Peerman were among those who were limited and participating in individual drills; surprisingly Marshal Yanda was in shorts, jersey and helmet working with trainers through some individual drills…Yamon Figurs had a screw inserted into an injured foot but he’s expected to be ready for training camp.

Willis McGahee participated in drills and surprisingly he didn’t wear a red shirt over his purple No. 23. He looked rusty dropping a pass and looks a bit thick in the mid-section. He has been recovering from a scoping procedure on his knee and that could at least in part explain the questionable conditioning. When asked about McGahee’s participation after practice John Harbaugh had very little to say and quickly moved on to the next question. McGahee was later seen returning a kickoff during special teams drills. He ran the kick back the entire way spiking the ball after crossing the goal line. It should be noted that this drill was practiced at half speed with very little contact. The guess here is that McGahee was involved as part of an effort to get his endurance back and to shed the added weight.

The mood at practice was particularly spirited. While it is just June, the team does seem focused and it’s hard not to notice the collective confidence of the squad.  After practice Harbaugh summarized the effort by saying, “[We had a] lot of laughs and got things done.”

OTHER NOTES & OBSERVATIONS

It’s hard not to focus on Paul Kruger during these practices.  Today he was consistently penetrating the backfield and competed very effectively against Jared Gaither (on the left) and Michael Oher (on the right). He closed in on the quarterbacks regularly and batted a couple of passes away at the line of scrimmage. Kruger is athletic and was used as the receiving tight end during the special teams’ fake field goal reps…Speaking of special teams, Harbaugh and special teams coach Jerry Rosburg are trying to create pressure during practice on their kickers.  To do so, they are simulating a game winning field goal from 48 yards out.  Pre-snap, the coaches are allowing players not participating in the field goal attempt to gather around the kicker, scream at them and mock them – even throw jerseys in their line of vision to distract them. Both Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano connected despite the heavy dosage of ploys intended to disrupt their concentration.

Edgar Jones who was chronicled in a fine report from Aaron Wilson earlier today here on 24×7, gave the team a bit of a scare today. During a crossing route Jones was accidentally hit squarely on what looked like his right knee by CB Evan Oglesby who somehow slipped on the play. Jones went down hard but managed to get back to his feet and return to the field just a few plays later.  Jones played on both offense and defense today and was quite respectable on both ends…Ernie Wheelwright was also gimpy after some minor contact following a completion…Those looking for some news on Eron Riley, UDFA WR from North Carolina, here’s a bit – he looked a little lost. Prior one snap, Flacco had to twice re-direct Riley yet on the play, Riley beat Tom Zbikowski on an “in and up” (think post-to-go route starting from inside the right hash marks). Joe Flacco overthrew the wide open Riley.  Later during special teams drills, Riley was chastised a bit by Assistant Special Teams Coach Marwan Maalouf…CB Anwar Philips had a pretty decent day breaking up a few passes but was burned on a sideline streak later in practice by the former Terp Isaiah Williams for a score from John Beck.

Perhaps the most intriguing development at today’s practice was the involvement of Troy Smith in the passing game on the receiving end. Smith was often positioned in the slot and showed poise, awareness and nice hands while catching passes. He caught one pass from Joe Flacco running a go route from the right slot just over the outstretched arms of Haruki Nakamura. After practice Harbaugh confirmed that we could see more of Smith at receiver in addition to the Suggs Package…another Smith, LJ practiced today and looked smooth in and out of breaks.  He is however still donning the red protective jersey…another Smith, Marcus looked strong early in practice but made a couple of mistakes down the stretch.  On a third and short conversion attempt Smith waited on the ball a bit too long instead of attacking it with his hands. That enabled defender Evan Oglesby to wrestle the ball away for the incompletion. A couple of plays later, Smith jumped early while Joe Flacco attempted to draw off the defense with a hard cadence.

The offense focused of a few details in the third and fourth and less than 5 drills, most notably the hard cadence and hurrying up to the line of scrimmage on fourth and 1 for a quick snap before the defense is set…Joe Flacco had a scramble that could have gone for a long score. Flacco knew it too as he started to raise the ball over his head to start his TD celebration.  Flacco exudes confidence on the field and the difference between ’08 and ’09 is marked…Jalen Parmele dropped a swing pass to the left, while looking over his left shoulder to snag the Troy Smith toss on 4th and 4…Ben Grubbs was back in action after recovering from some minor offseason surgery on his ankle.  He seemed a bit sluggish and looks to be thicker in the mid-section, like McGahee a byproduct of inactivity.  Le’Ron McClain also carried some additional flesh around his waist but if last season is any indication, McClain will work his way into playing shape during camp…Ray Rice was elusive as a receiver…Davon Drew caught a long TD pass from Troy Smith beating UDFA CB K.J. Gerard.

A few defensive notes…Derrick Martin is battling and the competition for roster spots at corner will be particularly interesting when camp gets into full swing in late July. After practice Harbaugh admitted that the Ravens have more capable corners than they have roster spots. Perhaps the Ravens could trade a player down the road as rosters around the NFL begin to take shape and teams can discuss deficiencies and excesses. Frank Walker, a player who played well down the stretch for the Ravens comes to mind. Walker has a $2.225 million cap number in ’09 and the Ravens could cut that down by $1.6 million if he is released or traded…Haruki Nakamura is flying around and playing with a ton of confidence…

Jameel McClain showed very nice coverage skills batting away a pass from Troy Smith intended for Parmele. The RB acquired last season after his release from the Miami Dolphins, circled out of the back field and down the right sideline. The touch pass from Smith was nearly perfect but McClain showed speed and nice open field coverage skills while isolated on Parmele to spoil the promising play.

During kickoff drills, Gano was consistently deeper than Hauschka today as both kickers fought a steady left to right crosswind.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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