Ravens training camp observations


Aug 3, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Fans gather at M&T Bank Stadium for the Baltimore Ravens Open Practice. A fan stands for a photo with the Ravens signature (Top), Captain Defense poses for the camera (middle left), the 90-man roster was given out to all fans at the gate (middle right), and the Baltimore’s Marching Ravens performs to the tune of “Seven Nation Army” by White Stripes. Photo Credit: Carlos Avent

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 was the true kickoff of the 2015 Ravens season as the team hosted their annual open practice at M&T Bank Stadium in front of 22,111 fans. In attendance with the Ravens and hanging with owner Steve Biscotti was Olympic gold medalist, die-hard Ravens fan, and Baltimore’s own, Mr. Michael Phelps.

A random observation: the 50 of the 50 yard line is colored gold to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl era.

Now on to the team to discuss position battles, highlights and some areas of opportunity from Monday night’s practice.

Position Battles

Who will win the kick and punt returner jobs?

Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (15) runs past Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden (23) and linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) after his catch at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The punt and kick returner jobs are open following the departure of Jacoby Jones, and currently Michael Campanaro and Kamar Aiken are battling for the positions.

My pick: Michael Camparnaro.  He has a low center of gravity similar to a Wes Welker or our very own Steve Smith Sr., thus making it hard to tackle him and easy for him to cut through tight openings.

Who Starts at Tight End?

Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers tight end Maxx Williams catches a pass during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Maxx Williams and Crockett Gilmore both do a good job of catching the ball in traffic and keeping their momentum. However, Gilmore is leading the way at the position. His technique and poise is what gives him the edge over Maxx Williams and his raw talent, which could simply just be the experience level of a 2nd year player versus a rookie.

My pick: Maxx Williams. His catch in the middle of the field Monday night for a first down with 3 defenders on him was very ‘Gronk-like.’

How about those Wide Receivers?

Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken (11) is congratulated by quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the biggest and most important battle this preseason is for the vacant starting job opposite Steve Smith, Sr. It’s shaping up to be fight between Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Breshad Perriman.

This is a big opportunity for Marlon Brown to revisit his rookie year production and Kamar Aiken is showing value on two sides of the ball (as mentioned earlier on special teams).

Breshad Perriman is currently day-to-day after what’s being described as a minor knee injury. Coach Harbaugh expects him back within a week at most.

Speaking of Steve Smith, Sr., he’s not 36 years old. It’s being reported that he’s actually 22 years old. He has been cryogenically freezing himself every offseason since 2001. There is no other way to explain the amazing talent show he’s putting on out on the field.

May 28, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) speaks after the OTA at the Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

However, do not sleep on Darren Waller. This young man is very tall, standing at 6’5,” and weighs in at a stout 245 lbs. He brings value to the WR competition in 3rd down situations and on deep passing routes along the edges.

His height and arm span appear to be a disadvantage for defenders in slot situations. It’s also worth noting that the rookie ran with the 1st team in practice.

Some Training Camp Standouts & Highlights

Timmy Jernigan was hyped! He reminded me of a guy who used to come out of the tunnel to the tune of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” and did this funky dance and gave amazing speeches. If you know his name, let me know.

Justin Tucker is the people’s champion. Cheers erupt when he’s just jogging on the field. But what matters most, he nailed a 64-yard field goal with lots of room through the upright. And three more between 56-59 yards.

Jan 10, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) kicks a field goal as Ravens punter Sam Koch (4) holds the ball during the third quarter against the New England Patriots in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Smith is making his case to be considered in the discussion of the top 5 cornerbacks in the league. It’s evident that he’s using his size more and developing better hands, especially in man-to-man coverage.

Oct 12, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) runs with the ball as Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) defends during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. The Ravens won 48-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kelechi Osemele has always been a standout fixture on the offensive line. Eugene Monroe even said he enjoys how they work together on the left side. It was very noticeable how he’s amped up the intensity considering that he’s in a contract year.

Kapron Lewis-Moore is practicing and moving well since being sidelined for the last 2 seasons with ACL issues. Now healthy and determined, he’s developing quick hands on the line for pass deflection.

Asa Jackson is quite a multi-faceted player. He’s working on special teams as a returner, gunner, and running drills at nickel back.

Newly signed wide receiver Trent Steelman is quick. He performed very well for someone who just walked into the locker room and picked up the playbook roughly 24 hours before the event. Very excited for this young man.

What Concerns Me (a little….)

Arthur Brown is having a quiet but productive camp. That may be the problem. Perhaps he’ll provide some value on special teams, or serve as bait for a team looking for a middle linebacker come trade deadline.

There’s such a difference between Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub and how they throw the ball. There’s too much air under Schaub’s passes, which is what leads to easy interceptions and pass deflections.

More from Ravens News

Situational downs for the offense were a bit of a roller coaster. One particular situation was  described as 3rd down with 8 to go, no timeouts left and down 4 needing a TD. Steve Smith, Sr. Darren Waller, Justin Forsett, and Buck Allen all showed some great production but not until after the kinks were ironed out.

The defense played these situations well but the offense struggled a bit early on, with Flacco throwing a couple of interceptions (the most interceptions he’s ever thrown in camp) and putting up a three and out.

Schaub was sacked twice on the first 2 rotations of its drill. On the bright side, the defense is gonna do very well in these very same situations. We should have no problem protecting leads this year.

In conclusion, Team Joe and the 1st team offense defeated Team Matt and the 2nd team offense by a score of 20-17. But the real winners were the fans. It was a great time for the 20k+ in attendance.

Ravens season is here!

Don’t mind me, just hanging out with Rise & Conquer…

Next: Predicting the first wave of roster cuts

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