Training camp is our first real look at how rookies, newly added free agents, and returning players will fare on the field with some live contact. Based on these performances, we can oftentimes predict who has a good chance at achieving regular season success or who is at risk of falling off the roster.
The first several days of practice have, without a doubt, exposed some players. Some are not a surprise, while others certainly are. Let’s take a look at the studs and duds of Ravens training camp so far.
Studs – Steve Smith, Terrell Suggs, Torrey Smith, Bernard Pierce, Ray Rice, Marshal Yanda, Timmy Jernigan.
It’s no surprise that Steve Smith has made his mark in practice, as his reputation for going hard 100% of the time is well known. But on top of that he has been making big plays and looking like he has plenty left in the tank, which many people questioned after last year’s drop off in numbers. The elder half of the Smith & Smith law firm will be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder this season.
The other half of the law firm, Torrey Smith, is gathering praise for his work in camp as well. T. Smith has improved as a route runner each season and is eager to prove he belongs in the top tier of NFL receivers. A big season is in the cards, and most certainly a big payday will follow. John Harbaugh has gushed about T. Smith’s work ethic and predicted a breakout for the fourth year youngster.
Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice showed up to camp in remarkable shape and both are fully healthy after last season’s injuries. Both have also looked noticeably faster than last year. It’s great news for an offense that broke down when they couldn’t pick up yards on the ground last season. The run game is an absolutely critical component of a zone read offense.
Paving the way for the ground game is a newly healthy Marshal Yanda, who was plagued by injuries himself last season. Easily one of the best (if not the best) Ravens linemen, Yanda’s presence on the field was sorely missed when he was absent last year. So far Yanda has been the best o-lineman on the field in practice and has consistently hit the second level when run blocking.
Timmy Jernigan was thought to be a bit of a project, as he is making the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. That doesn’t seem to be bothering him, however, as he has been consistently disruptive when he has taken the field in camp. Jernigan could make a nice rookie year impact as a situational pass rusher, something the Ravens desperately need to keep the aging vets fresh.
Terrell Suggs has been a beast so far, racking up 3 sacks in Sunday’s practice and continuously taunting the offense. Two of those sacks came after Suggs beat Pro Bowl left tackle Eugene Monroe, with one coming against Ryan Jensen. Sizzle has consistently been blowing up plays in the run game as well, absolutely crushing Justin Forsett on one particular down. Suggs is in great shape as well and looks like he is out to prove that he still has a lot left in the tank at the “young” age of 31.
Duds – Chykie Brown, Marlon Brown, Dominique Franks, Tyrod Taylor, Keith Wenning.
Chykie Brown has been getting repeatedly burned by various receivers in camp, and it certainly doesn’t appear like he is a viable threat for the third cornerback spot. Brown had a great opportunity in front of him after Aaron Ross went down and while Dominique Franks wasn’t practicing, but responded by falling flat on his face time and time again. And now he has has an injured hamstring, opening up the door for Franks and Asa Jackson to bury him on the depth chart.
Franks showed up out of shape and missed the first three days of practice, which won’t help his shot at a roster spot either. He could certainly turn around and impress, but he couldn’t even stick with the corner needy Falcons, so we wouldn’t hold our breath.
Marlon Brown has seemingly had more drops than catches and looks to be regressing rather than progressing after a promising rookie year. There is a lot of competition at the wide receiver spot, so he needs to get it together quick if he wants to retain a featured role in the offense.
While Joe Flacco has been a little up and down in the new offense, both Tyrod Taylor and Keith Wenning have looked straight up bad. Taylor has been erratic and misses too many throws, which don’t help his roster chances either. What does help is Wenning hasn’t looked much better, but at least he has the excuse of being a raw rookie.
Who are your studs and duds of training camp so far?