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Late For Work 8/10: Bubble Players Make Case For Roster Spot

Loving Smith’s new tools, Allen didn’t take advantage, replacement ref gets birds confused.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 9:21 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Bubble Players Make Case For Roster Spot

Safety Omar Brown was running back to the sideline after nabbing his second of three – yes three – turnovers when Head Coach John Harbaugh stopped him.

“You’re trying to make this team, aren’t you?” Harbaugh asked.

“Yes, sir,” Brown simply replied.

The Ravens have to be feeling good about their rookie free agent class – which Harbaugh declared the best he’s seen since coming to Baltimore in 2008. Brown wasn’t the only one to make the head coach think twice about cutting him from the roster.

Below are four players – three being rookie free agents – that are longshots to make the team, but had glowing performances in the Ravens’ preseason opening 31-17 win in Atlanta.

Brown:Omar Brown again?” tweeted Matt Vensel after the Marshall alumnus notched the trifecta  in his first NFL game. He recovered two fumbles and nabbed an interception, the first three-turnover game since high school. He also he tied Albert McClellan for the team lead with five tackles. Brown was a key contributor in the Ravens’ ability to come from behind and outscore Atlanta 31-3 down the stretch to secure the victory.

Receiver Deonte Thompson: This Florida rookie free agent’s standout performance didn’t come as a surprise to fans that have been following his buzz in training camp. Thursday night’s performance, in which Thompson led all Ravens receivers with three catches for 53 yards, was just a continuation of what he’s done in practice. He consistently got behind the Atlanta secondary and his biggest highlight was a 22-yard touchdown grab that gave the Ravens the lead for the first time. “[He] wore out the Falcons’ backup defensive backs, who simply couldn’t cover him,” wrote CSNBaltimore.com’s John Eisenberg.

But his bid for a roster spot is still far from over in a crowded receiving corps. In addition to Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams and David Reed, Thompson is also competing against Ravens sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter. Baltimore rarely likes to cut its draft selections. “[Streeter] has the size and speed (6-5, 4.4) that NFL teams covet,” wrote CBSSports.com’s Jason Butt. “But undrafted rookie Deonte Thompson might be leading him at this time in the race for the final receiver spot on the 53-man roster. His speed is unquestioned, and he certainly raised some eyebrows with his play.”

Running back Bobby Rainey: What a night for the compact 5-foot-8, 212-pounder who is competing  with rookie Bernard Pierce, first-year back Damien Berry and second-year vet Anthony Allen for the No. 2 job behind Ray Rice. “[Rainey] won this first game easily,” Eisenberg wrote of the competition.

Not only is the Western Kentucky star built like Rice (same height and weight), but he produced like the Pro Bowler too. He rushed for 36 yards on 12 carries and also caught three passes for 28 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown pass was Rice-like too, pulling in a screen pass and then zigging and zagging his way through defenders for the 18-yard score. Oh, and he added 76 yards on special teams. “Rainey made a case that he should be given some second-team reps next week, that is if third-round rookie Bernard Pierce remains out with a hamstring injury,” wrote Butt.

Quarterback Curtis Painter: The former Peyton Manning backup is trying to convince the Ravens to allocate a third coveted roster spot to the quarterback position. Painter threw three second-half touchdown passes to lead the Ravens in the come-from-behind win. He finished the night completing 7-of-14 passes for 76 yards and a 106.0 quarterback rating. “Curtis Painter, where has this been all training camp?” asked Vensel. For real. If the four-year veteran is going to stick around, he will need to do more of the same over the next several weeks.

‘Loving’ WR Smith’s New Tools

The chemistry between quarterback Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith picked up where it left off last season. The two combined for 43 yards on three catches, one going for 25, in a little more than a quarter of play Thursday night.

But there is something new with Smith – the weapons he’s added to his arsenal. Not only does he have more consistent hands, but he’s showing he is more than just a deep threat.

“I liked – make that loved – how the Ravens used Torrey Smith underneath. Those crossing patterns can be really dangerous,” tweeted Vensel.

“Also, if Torrey learns to run the comeback route half as well as Derrick Mason did, that might be unstoppable with DBs fearing his speed.”

Anthony Allen Didn’t Take Advantage

Thursday night was supposed to be Allen’s chance to separate from the rest of the field in the running back competition.

There ended up being separation, but it was Rainey who was ahead by the end of the night.

“In the battle for the backup running back job, Anthony Allen didn’t take advantage of Bernard Pierce being out with a hamstring injury,” wrote Eisenberg.

The team’s 2011 seventh-round draft pick only churned out nine yards on five carries, an average of 1.8 yards per rush. He also dropped a potential first-down pass in the first quarter while looking to avoid contact, and he gave up a sack.

Bryant McKinnie Didn’t Start, But Looked Good

The Ravens didn’t give incumbent left tackle Bryant McKinnie the start Thursday night, choosing instead to go with Michael Oher in his spot and Kelechi Osemele on the right side.

But that didn’t surprise McKinnie; he knew he needed the reps with the second team.

“Just started back practicing on Monday, only had 1 day n pads. So I needed the extra work 2nite 2 get back n rhythm. Felt good!” the 11-year veteran tweeted.

Not only did he feel good, but he looked good.

“The veteran appeared to move well and handle his assignments easily, with no breakdowns,” wrote Eisenberg.

Granted, the former Pro Bowler was playing against the Falcons’ reserves, but he is on his way.

Quick Hits

  • Replacement referee, Craig Ochoa, just couldn’t get it right Thursday night as he had his birds confused and kept referring to Atlanta as the Arizona Falcons. [NFL.com]
  • @MyMoment_Rainey: I want to thank everyone who came to support me at the game 2night! Thanks! I appreciate that! Felt great playing back at home! Thanks again [Twitter]
  • @_KIDRaven_[CB Asa Jackson]: Tonight was an amazing experience. I couldn’t be more grateful… Thank u God and #Ravensnation for giving me this chance…. Man!!! [Twitter]
  • @RayRice27: Great first pre season win now it’s time to get back to work can’t forget it’s still training camp #Ravens [Twitter]
  • @TorreySmithWR: Had fun playing in a real game again..looking forward to finishing up camp strong….FYI I’m ok stop mixing me up with ED haha [Twitter]
  • @brendon310: Just went head up on chicken sandwiches with Haloti. 3 each. I think he snuck in a 4th when I wasn’t looking. 230 vs 330 lol [Twitter]
  • “Baltimore’s punt coverage team, which ranked 24th last season and gave up two touchdowns, is still a concern,” wrote Jamison Hensley. “The Ravens gave up a 45-yard return in the first quarter after Albert McClellan and Emanuel Cook missed tackles.” [ESPN]
  • Without Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw, the pressure on the quarterback wasn’t there … “The defensive front got little pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, allowing him to throw for 155 yards and a touchdown,” wrote Butt. “Ryan could have done more damage if it wasn’t for a sneaky interception from linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who Ryan never saw. The Ravens’ defensive line failed to penetrate Atlanta’s offensive line, which was seen as makeshift heading in.” [CBSSports.com]
  • @ProFootballTalk: Jared Gaither still can’t get on the field at Chargers camp [Twitter]
  • @mattvensel: Corey Graham has looked good in camp, too, and at least three DBs have pointed out to be me unsolicited how impressed they are by him. [Twitter]
  • Pretty sweet Ravens video set to the music from “The Dark Night Rises.” Created by reed20xhawk. [YouTube]

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