PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
We are days away from the start of training camp, and BaltimoreRavens.com thinks there is going to be another massive turnout of fans to McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., this year.
Since practices during offseason minicamps are closed to the public, we’ve compiled a list of 10 things you should watch when the footballs are flying.
Joe Flacco, Year 3 Want to know how “Joe Cool” has progressed in the spring and summer heat? Take a look at his actions at the line of scrimmage. Flacco took command of the Ravens’ offense last year as Coordinator Cam Cameron opened up the playbook more, but this season should be the young quarterback’s coming out party.
During OTAs, it was obvious that Flacco was really comfortable. Even with all the new additions, like receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth or tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, learning the offense, Flacco was quick to tell guys where to line up, quick to get in and out of the huddle. Considering he’s held a few throwing sessions with his new targets since the end of OTAs, expect Flacco to look as cool as ever out there.
Going Deep With those new faces, it’s obvious the passing game was a focus. Now, will the Ravens really utilize them? In camp, you’ll be able to see the deep game building. Specifically, keep an eye on No. 18 – Stallworth. He looked speedy in minicamps, showing the wheels he’s been known for throughout his career. The Ravens are hoping he’s one of the players that can stretch the field.
Wideout Rotation Speaking of the receivers, the play of Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams bears notice. Since the Ravens stocked that position this year, there is an obvious roster crunch. Although the Ravens invested draft picks in both Clayton and Williams, the reality is that they must make an impact during training camp to keep themselves in the mix.
Where’s Jared? With Michael Oher permanently taking over the left tackle role, everyone thought Jared Gaither would seamlessly shift to the right side. Unfortunately, he’s been injured and couldn’t practice, giving Oniel Cousins (and Tony Moll at times) reps at right tackle. Gaither’s slotted to start there, but if he can’t practice for a long period of time during training camp, coaches might be forced to make another change on the offensive line.
The Offensive/Defensive Line Battles Watching the big boys duke it out is always one of the more entertaining battles. Since players can’t wear pads and there is no contact in minicamps, this is really the first time to see a guy like, say, 350-pound Terrence Cody really use his physicality. You might need binoculars because the linemen are typically on the far side of the field, but it’s worth it.
Another Kicking Battle Bring your notepad and a pencil to chart each kick from Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham. Unlike the two unproven prospects last year, the current duo of Ravens kickers are established veterans with competition experience. Barring any big foul-ups, the decision will come down to the preseason games. But you can bet that Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg will take practice performance very seriously.
Cornerback Shuffle With Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb likely hitting the physically unable to perform list to open camp, the Ravens have to groom someone to step up. K.J. Gerard and Cary Williams did well in OTAs, and the Ravens signed veterans Walt Harris and Travis Fisher. With Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr getting the minutes with the first team, how will the second shake out?
The Defensive Back/Receiver Battle The corners are interesting even if the Ravens aren’t in 11-on-11 action. The one-on-one matchup of receivers and defensive backs is easily the drill that gets the most cheers from the stands. It’s always good for a diving catch, a one-handed grab or an eye-popping interception. A great seat to see all the action is in the back end zone on the practice field near the stands.
Suggs’ Sizzle While Terrell Suggs told BaltimoreRavens.com that he was at his desired playing weight, he hasn’t been seen since May’s mandatory minicamp. The Ravens are fully expecting him to be in peak shape, which he wasn’t at this time last year. Only the naked eye will tell once Suggs takes the field, but one thing’s for sure, the Ravens need him to boost their pass rush.
Injury Updates In addition to Washington and Webb, at some point fans will catch a glimpse of the several other players whose 2009 campaigns were cut short due to injury. That list includes those who immediately take the field – like running back Matt Lawrence (knee), Gerard (hamstring), safety Haruki Nakamura (ankle), linebacker Jason Phillips (knee), wideout Marcus Smith (knee), and defensive tackles Brandon McKinney (back) and Lamar Divens (hip) – and some late arrivals, such as linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (thigh).