Welcome to another edition of a new feature here on EbonyBird.com called “Straight Outta Westminster”. If you don’t understand the pop culture reference, you’re obviously a loser. Staff writer Justin Silberman is a frequent attendee of Ravens training camp at lovely McDaniel College in the lovely town of Westminster, Maryland. He’ll be sharing what he sees and takes out of training camp each time he goes.
What this post will normally encompass is the best performance(s) of the day, the worst, and an additional noteworthy story. You know you’ll always be in for a treat when Justin evaluates players’ performances, as it’s tough to find a more passionate fan. Enjoy.
The Good- With all signs (well at least Wednesday’s) pointing to Tom Zbikowski as the odds-on favorite to be returning punts for the Ravens, I must say Zbikowksi looked very strong in the return game. He went back on balls receiving them cleanly and hitting the holes set up by the special teams blocking like a rocket out of a bottle. Zbikowski, who has returned kicks and punts briefly for the Ravens in his three year career is competing against the newly acquired Donte Stallworth and the lackluster talent in Mark Clayton, who is just fighting to keep his spot on the roster. At this point, it looks as though it’s Zbikowski’s job to lose and with no signs of Chris Carr in the picture, at least not yet, it is very doubtful that the likes of Stallworth or Clayton will overtake Zbikowski, as they both would be better utilized in the passing game.
The Bad- Ken Hamlin on special teams?!? Yikes. Hamlin, who was mainly brought on board by the Ravens to be an insurance policy to safety Ed Reed, hasn’t had anything come easy for him yet in training camp. Throughout the day, Hamlin looked a step slow. Whether it was punt blocking drills or punt coverage, Hamlin was looking out of it on each and every play. With fellow safety Tom Zbikowski looking superior to Hamlin (especially on special teams), it may be Zbikowski who turns out to be that Ed Reed insurance policy. It is looking more and more with each passing day that Hamlin may be the team’s third string free safety behind Ed Reed (when healthy) and Tom Zbikowski. The bottom line is that the way Hamlin has been practicing is very mediocre and he hasn’t been doing things “The Raven Way”. If this continues, look for Hamlin to be sidelined until something drastic changes.
Noteworthy- Donte Stallworth and Mark Clayton were out very early in the afternoon for special teams practice; stretching, jogging, and making trouble. Considering Stallworth and Clayton have not been huge pieces in special teams over the years I was surprised to even see them out on the field at all. The veterans who did appear such as Ray Lewis, Kelly Gregg, Jarrett Johnson, and Terrell Suggs, among others, went out for light worksouts and were back inside the cool air-conditioned confines of McDaniel College before long. However, to see Clayton and Stallworth out there on special teams was a pleasant surprise and really showed me that they are buying into the whole idea of training camp. Every championship team needs their most talented veterans working just as hard as the undrafted rookies, and Clayton and Stallworth did that today. Hats off to them.