The emphasis of today’s practice revolved around the hurry-up attack and how to defense it. The tempo was fast-paced and scattered at times. That said, players on both sides of the ball responded well, as there were not too many penalties nor blown assignments.
Here are other key observations and notes from today’s morning session:
· Formations and Fronts: After showing vanilla looks through its base packages, the defense finally unveiled some intricate packages.
The dime package was a 1-4-6 look. In this package, Haloti Ngata was the lone defensive lineman; Tavares Gooden, Jameel McClain, Jarret Johnson and Antwan Barnes were the backers, who at times put their hands down; the secondary consisted of three safeties and three corners.
The three safety look was the most interesting aspect of this alignment. Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski were responsible for covering their halves of the field, while Haruki Nakamura was the free-lancer who lined up at linebacker and in the slot.
Meanwhile, the offense operated from a shotgun, spread formation that was usually balanced. Although there were often three receivers on the field, tight end Todd Heap operated from the slot, creating a four-wide look.
The offensive focus was to practice pump fakes and rollout pass plays off of play-action. On the pump-and-go, the pump fake was directed to an underneath tailback, and the pass attempt went to a receiver running a flag route to the back of the end zone. One of the best plays that quarterback Joe Flacco executed was a pump fake before handing the ball off to running back Ray Rice. This is a play that quarterback Brett Favre perfected in Green Bay.
· Who Stood Out?
– Troy Smith: The third-year quarterback had a miserable day. Smith threw a couple of picks and was inaccurate when he had to throw on the run. His mechanics and timing have regressed.
– Haruki Nakamura: Nakamura has been a playmaker since camp began and today was no exception. In the team’s dime package, Nakamura was a blitzing machine who was able to turn the corner and close in on the quarterback. He was used to blitz off the weakside on at least three different occasions. On one play, the speedy safety looped around from the left side to the right side, and came on a delayed blitz, and got past Michael Oher. After torturing the bookends enough times off the edges, Nakamura was turned loose up the middle on delayed blitzes.
– Le’Ron McClain: McClain was active as a pass catcher, and he showed that he can be a devastating open field runner – if he is able to catch the ball in stride.
– Joe Reitz: With the loss of swing tackle Adam Terry, Reitz has a golden opportunity to make the team to fill the same type of role. Reitz has a long extension and he did a nice job of handling a pass-rusher’s second move. Reitz had no trouble stymieing the speed rush.
· Scouting the Rookies
o William VanDeSteeg: The rookie from Minnesota is a tall, lean athlete. He appears to be undersized but he makes up for his lack of power with intelligence and sound technique. VanDeSteeg has done a nice job of staying low to sustain leverage against the bigger offensive tackles he has faced. Moreover, VanDeSteeg has a good bull rush, and he understands when to use it.
· The UDFA Corner
o With Ray Lewis out of the lineup, linebacker Tony Fein got the chance to play with the third string. Fein took some deep coverage drops, playing at almost the same level as the free safety.
Other Rookie Notes
– Linebacker Paul Kruger was schooled by Todd Heap on a touchdown score. Kruger recognized Heap as the slot receiver, slid over to cover the two-time Pro Bowler, but was unable to keep pace on a flag route. Heap got a free release. In the future, Kruger will learn to use his hands to bump a receiver when he is in a similar coverage situation.