Hello all, I hope you’re having an especially lovely Tuesday. Today, rookies have begun their practices, and Terrence Cody failed his conditioning test. He wasn’t permitted to practice, so now the two guys who we’d been most looking forward to seeing (Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody), are not even practicing with the rest of the rookies.
Regardless, we’ve compiled a list of the keys to this year’s training camp for the Ravens as a staff. Casey, Justin, and I collaborated to come up with this list, and we’ll revisit it a couple times to see if our predictions were right, if our questions were answered, and whatever other things we can follow it up with.
Click “Continue Reading” to see what the staff feels are the keys to the Ravens’ training camp this season.
Basically how this works is the key is in bold, the explanation follows, and then the author is cited at the end. Their full name will be shown on their first key, but it will be initials after that. Not only is this a great post to get knowledgeable about training camp with, you get to see the different styles of our writers, all in one post. This is split up into two pages (you’ll switch after a little bit), because it’s chock full of content.
These are in no particular order of importance, by the way. Enjoy.
Ray Rice maintaining last year’s level of performance- Without Ray Rice, the Ravens wouldn’t have made the playoffs, it’s that simple. While the addition of more offensive weapons around him may be something that reduces his yardage, can he still be as threatening and dangerous on every play again this season? (Joe Barnes)
Ken Hamlin stepping in for Ed Reed- This may be the biggest loss already for the Ravens heading into the season. Knowing Ed Reed will be out from the start of training camp may be the best thing for the Ravens. With the addition of Ken Hamlin to sure up the safety position the Ravens are getting a former Pro Bowl talent and a man who’s been there and done that. However, don’t overlook Tom Zbikowski, who came on strong last year filling in for Ed Reed when he was absent from the lineup. He proved to be a tough, hard-hitting, hard-nosed player. If Reed does in fact miss the Ravens’ first six games, look for it to stand out most against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, as Reed’s hard-hitting, ball hawking skills will be sorely missed against the most physical wide receiver in the NFL, Hines Ward. (Justin Silberman)
Elevator Use Mandatory- Sergio Kindle was expected to be an instant impact starter, much like many rookie linebackers who can step in and look like a seasoned veteran, and without him, the Ravens’ pass rush may remain mediocre. With a secondary prone to injury, a good pass rush is essential, that way Domonique Foxworth isn’t chasing Senor Ochocinco 40 yards across the field every play. Kindle apparently got up in the middle of the night and was out of sorts in the dark, causing him to tumble down a couple flights of stairs, and that resulted in a fractured skull. He is expected to miss all of training camp, but beyond that, not much is known. Head injuries are tricky and very serious, so look I and the rest of Purple Nation can only sit back and hope his cranium heals quite nicely come week 1. One other thing to look out for: How does this change his contract negotiations? Is he still worth as much? (Casey Durkin)
Kickers- The kicking game was a wreck last year. Hauschka was terrible, Cundiff was only a bit better. Hopefully Shayne Graham is his old self and splits the uprights regularly. With several tough games on the schedule, namely New York and New Orleans, not even mentioning the AFC North games, a field goal or two may be the difference between a win and a loss. (JB)
Clarence Brooks- What more can we say about this defensive line guru? Since taking over duties as the Ravens’ defensive line coach in 2005, the Ravens have ranked in the top 5 in rush defense every year. Brooks also knows how to get the most out of all of his players, whether its experienced veterans such as Trevor Pyrce and Kelly Gregg, or young fresh talent such as Haloti Ngata. Brooks somehow finds a way year in and year out to get the most out of his vaunted D-line. (JS)
Zbikowski is Winning?-Up until this point, it has been assumed that if Ed Reed isn’t commanding the Ravens’ defensive backfield, that ex-Pro Bowler Ken Hamlin would be. But now there is the possibility of 3rd year FS Tom Zbikowski getting the starting nod, writes Ken Murray of the Baltimore Sun, “”If passing camps meant anything, Zbikowski is ready to step in. He showed better quickness and more understanding of the defense this summer than in either of his previous two seasons with the Ravens.” And according to ESPN’s player profiles, as of July 24th, “Zbikowski will likely open the season as the Ravens’ starting free safety should Ed Reed (hip) end up on the physically unable to perform list.” So where does this leave Hamlin, who is making a good deal more than Zbikowski this year? Look for the competition to be intense and important. (CD)
The Gaither/Oher Situation- With all signs pointing to the move of Michael Oher to the left side, Jared Gaither may feel like the organization is disrespecting him. After a solid season last year guarding Flacco’s blind side, Gaither may grow a grudge against Oher if he gets moved, and anything of that sort would be bad for team chemistry. It will be important to see during camp if Gaither gets moved, and if he does, how he adjusts. (JB)
Donte Stallworth- If this talented stud at the wide receiver position can keep his head on straight, there’s no telling how much he could do for the Ravens offense. I feel like Anquan Boldin won’t be as much of a vertical threat as Stallworth, but the two of them could make an incredible duo. With Aquan Boldin, you know what you’re gonna get, a guy who will take double coverage away from Derrick Mason, go across the field and pick up yards after the catch, which will then allow the Ravens to spread the ball around the field more and give Joe Flacco more chances to go deep, which is where Stallworth will come into play this season. Look for the offense to practice that a lot in training camp and the preseason. (JS)
Ending all Troy Smith talk- People on Jersey Shore. People who talk during movies, especially when they have seen the movie already. Dane Cook. People still trying to advocate for Troy Smith to be the starting quarterback over Joe Flacco. Those four things are the most annoying things, ever. Joe Flacco is who we are going with, all of our chips are in on #5. Flacco had led the Ravens to two AFC Championship games. JOE FLACCO IS OUR MAN. We have surrounded him with brand new shiny weapons. Now it is time for him to blow up opposing defenses, this will be the year when we really see what it was that we traded up to draft. (CD)
Move on to the next page for more keys to training camp.