RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Kicking competition  will take a while

Street Talk RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Kicking competition will take a while

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WESTMINSTER – The kicking competition between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff appears to be at a dead heat currently, and it’s expected to go all the way down to the wire.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg predicted that the Ravens won’t make their final decision on a kicker until the conclusion of the preseason.
“I think both kickers are really good,” Rosburg said. “We’re going to make it as balanced and fair as we possibly can. Once the dust settles, I think we’ll have our kicker.”
Rosburg emphasized that he’ll put more stock in how the kickers perform during the preseason games than how they kick the football during training camp.
Graham made 5 of his 6 kicks. He was accurate from 20, 30, 39, 44 and 51 yards, but knocked a 50-yarder wide left.
On Saturday, Cundiff connected on 6 of 7 field goals during the first practice.
He hit kicks from 20, 30, 39, 44, 46 and 51 yards with a 42-yarder blocked.
In two days of practice, Graham has made 10 of 12 kicks and Cundiff has hit 11 of 12 tries.
“It’s important that you’re able to kick in game environments,” Rosburg said. “My thinking on that, much like quarterbacks, practice is really good and is valuable. But for kickers, game environments are really valuable. It will express itself.”
McCLAIN IN THE MIX: The starting inside linebacker job next to All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis was thought to be isolated to Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden with Ellerbe expected to ultimately claim the job.
Not so fast.
Jameel McClain lined up with the first-team defense next to Lewis on Saturday morning.
The former undrafted rookie from Syracuse wasn’t expecting to be given the nod, but understands that the status might not be permanent.
“At the end of the day, we’re all out there competing,” McClain said. “This is football. They’re a lot of good, young players here. We all have a lot of different abilities. It’s a good competition.”
Ellerbe ended the season as the starter and was particularly impressive against the Oakland Raiders in the regular-season finale as well as the playoffs. He forced two fumbles Saturday, ripping the football away from Willis McGahee and Ray Rice.
His conditioning has been up and down this offseason.
Gooden is an athletic former third-round draft pick from the University of Miami.
“Call him Tavares ‘Ferrari’ Gooden,” McClain said.
McClain said he isn’t going to relax. He knows he has to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s not a matter of where you start,” McClain said, “it’s a matter of where you finish at the end of the day.”
FIRST FIGHT: The first confrontation of camp ensued as rookie defensive lineman Arthur Jones and offensive guard Bryan Mattison squared off.
Jones tackled Mattison to the ground and the two linemen spent a few moments flailing away before teammates broke it up and order was restored.
Jones’ brother is a highly-ranked professional mixed martial arts fighter.
“We’re out here competing,” Jones said. “I talked to Bryan. It’s nothing serious. It was never any beef or anything. It’s two guys trying to compete and earn a spot on the field and on this roster.
“I think I had him beat and he just kind of drove me out of bounds a little bit after the play was over. You get a little scrappy out there. There’s always fights in camp.
It’s hot out here and nobody wants to be pushed around.”
Mattison emphasized that the conflict won’t be a recurring feud.
“There are no hard feelings,” he said. “We all compete. It’s hot out here, and tempers are just going a little bit.”
Jones laughed when asked if that was his best tackle of camp.
“I guess you could say that,” he said. “There’s plenty more to come.”
TACKLE DEPTH IS THIN: Offensive tackle Jared Gaither remains sidelined with a lower back issue and other medical problems.
The 6-foot-9 blocker is down to 315 pounds, weaker and lighter than the team would prefer him to be.
At this point, it will be a major upset if Michael Oher doesn’t win the left tackle job. Oher is regarded as more reliable and harder working than Gaither.
Meanwhile, offensive tackle Tony Moll didn’t practice in the afternoon after splitting the snaps at right tackle with rookie Ramon Harewood during the morning practice.
Moll had a rough practice, jumping offsides and struggling to keep pass rushers away from the quarterback.
Oniel Cousins (throat surgery) is still on the physically unable to perform list.
The Ravens will probably need to bring in a tackle to help them get through practice sessions.
Reserve tackle Stefan Rodgers has been limping around, too.
HEAP FEELING BETTER: Tight end Todd Heap remains on the non-football illness list with a virus that’s affecting his tonsils.
He has been able to resume light running.
“I’m recovering right now,” Heap said. “I should be back soon.”
Rookie third-round pick Ed Dickson has been working with the starting offense with Heap out.
“The first team is definitely a second faster than the second team is,” Dickson said. “I just go in there and do the things that I know I can do best.”
DREW SIDELINED: Reserve tight end Davon Drew isn’t practicing due to a strained hamstring.
He could be out for at least the next few days and probably won’t be 100 percent until the middle of next week at the soonest.
“I have a leg injury,” Drew said. “My hamstring is affecting me. I got to take some time. I don’t want to force the issue and make it worse for the long run. I should be back in individual drills and dressing out probably by like Monday or Tuesday.”
NO RUSH: Team officials are fielding several inquiries from agents representing free agent cornerbacks, including former Ravens cornerback Frank Walker.
At this time, though, they’re not inclined to make an immediate move.
The Ravens are evaluating newcomers Walt Harris and Travis Fisher, who’s currently starting opposite Chris Carr.
Among the other free agents available: Fred Smoot, Anthony Henry, Ken Lucas, who tried out and wasn’t signed by Baltimore in June, Nick Harper, Deshea Townsend and Shawn Springs.
The Ravens expect to get healthier at cornerback before the first game and are holding out hope that Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb could be ready for the opener against the New York Jets, especially Washington who’s further along in his rehabilitation.
SHARP DAY FOR BULGER: Backup quarterback Marc Bulger had his best day of practice since joining the team,  hitting receivers in stride with tight spirals.
Bulger has kept up with the pace of starter Joe Flacco and is clearly superior to Troy Smith and John Beck.
Bulger hit wide receivers Donte’ Stallworth and Demetrius Williams and tight end Dennis Pitta for touchdowns.
 “There are a lot of little nuances I’m not getting yet, but I’m pretty happy with how I’m picking the offense up,” Bulger said. “I’ve got a long way to go before I line up on Sundays. This offense is based on timing and throwing to spots than it is waiting for guys to get open. Our guy, understand that concept. You just go back and let it loose.”
WASHINGTON LANDS IN PHILLY: Former Ravens wide receiver Kelley Washington, who proved to be a valuable special-teams contributor and receiver last season in Baltimore, has signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Ravens didn’t attempt to retain Washington, who caught 34 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns in his lone season in Baltimore.
QUICK HITS: Not practicing: safety Ed Reed (hip), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), Cousins, Gaither, Moll, Drew, running back Matt Lawrence (knee), Heap and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps). … Cornerback Fabian Washington practiced on a limited basis in the afternoon while wearing a red jersey that signifies he’s off-limits to contact.  … Drew, who gave up his No. 83 jersey to rookie tight end Ed Dickson, said he’s still negotiating compensation with the third-round draft pick from Oregon. “We’re discussing things,” said Drew, who now wears No. 80. “That was his college number, so the number had no value to me. I like the new number.” Added Dickson: “I’ll take him out to dinner or something like that. I’ll take him to a pretty good dinner, and probably his girl. Something like that. In exchange for the number, I’ll look out for him.” … Defensive back K.J. Gerard blocked a Billy Cundiff field goal try and safety Haruki Nakamura returned it for a touchdown. … Jarret Johnson, Brandon McKinney and Albert McClellan all recorded sacks. …The offense was flagged five times and the defense was penalized three times.


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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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