Thursday, May 29, 2008

Passing Camp Notes: Troy Smith sets the pace...McGahee shows leadership

The Ravens convened for the first of a series of three voluntary passing camps on Wednesday in what would later prove to be a rather uneventful practice. No-shows included: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Trevor Pryce, Jonathan Ogden, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. Adam Terry was very limited as was Dan Cody. Mike Smith continues to be sidelined with lingering shoulder problems and at this point is an extreme long shot to make the team. Reserves who willingly stepped in for their absent mates were Nick Greisen, Jim Leonhard, Fabian Washington, Corey Ivy, Justin Bannan, Jared Gaither, Gary Stills and Dwan Edwards.

My focus points during practice centered upon the tight end position, offensive line and quarterback.

Todd Heap took a significant amount of reps given the injuries to Quinn Sypniewski (season ending knee injury), Dan Wilcox (foot) and Lee Vickers (undisclosed but in attendance). Volunteering his services to give Heap a break was DE/OLB Edgar Jones. Jones was an accomplished tight end in high school and he did nothing to dispel those reports during practice yesterday. While not the primary receiver during most routes, Jones while wearing a red mesh jersey to cover his white No. 91 defensive jersey proved to be a quick study of Cam Cameron’s offense and ran decent routes while finding open spaces to be a viable check down option. Jones caught four passes during practice, one for a touchdown during 7 on 7 drills

The first team offensive line from left tackle to right tackle included Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Jason Brown, Marshal Yanda and Oniel Cousins. It seems as though the Ravens’ coaching staff will force Chris Chester to step up his game if he has any plans to crack the starting lineup.

Behind the first team offensive line throughout practice was Troy Smith. If there was a star in this relatively workmanlike practice it was the former Heisman winner from Ohio State. Smith looked poised and appeared to know where to go with the football when his primary passing option was covered. His ball skills were sharp during exchanges with Willis McGahee and he sold the play action effectively. Three passes that stood out during practice were as follows:

Smith to Figurs on a 15 yard sideline route to the left between two defenders…Smith dropped the ball over the defender covering the short zone outside the left hash and in front of the safety rolling over in coverage.

Smith to rookie Justin Harper…Harper was able to get behind two defenders, one of which was fellow rookie Haruki Nakamura. The completion went for a 20 yard score just to the outside of the numbers on the right side of the field. Smith’s throw had touch dropping into the outstretched arms of Smith and away from any defender.

Smith to Todd Heap…Stepping up in the pocket to avoid outside pressure from the left, Smith delivered a perfect strike to Todd Heap who was working his way towards the right hash mark from the right flank about 20 yards downfield. Smith placement couldn’t have been any more precise as he avoided the shallow defender (linebacker) and the deep defender (safety) to hit the tightly covered Heap in stride.

Kyle Boller took all of his snaps with the second unit and for the most part Boller had a pretty miserable day. He didn’t force any throws into tight coverage or commit turnovers but he was high, wide and late throughout the day. Passes deep down the right sideline were thrown over the receiver’s outside shoulder and out of bounds. One deep ball down the left sideline fell short of an open Marcus Smith and was intercepted just shy of the goal line. Boller’s ball skills have never been very good and nothing seems to have changed there. His body language was that of a player who recognized that Troy Smith was creating some space in the race for the starter’s job. Boller had a tough time particularly with backs circling out of the backfield and dragging towards the middle of the field from right to left. Pro Bowler Willis McGahee stayed late and worked with Boller on that route under the guidance of Cam Cameron.

Joe Flacco was missing from practice due to the NFL/NCAA rule that allows only one practice for a collegiate player whose graduating class has not yet graduated.

McGahee looked sharp and is playing in a spirited way. Cam Cameron has made it clear that McGahee will be a focal point, if not THE focal point in the Ravens offense and the second year Raven appears eager to accept the challenge. On a day when several other Raven Pro Bowlers and high profile starters were missing the voluntary practice, McGahee was focused and determined while practicing with purpose.

OTHER NOTES & OBSERVATIONS…Demetrius Williams was limited and ran routes on the field adjacent to the main practice field, hauling in passes from Kyle Boller and Brad Roach. Williams ran his routes half speed at best, nursing a sore Achilles. The injury isn’t believed to be serious…Running in the No. 3 receiver slot for most of practice was rookie Justin Harper who appears to have an early lead on fellow rookie Marcus Smith. Smith dropped a 10 yard in route from left to right delivered on the money and with plenty of juice by Kyle Boller. Smith later struggled to gain separation on Ronnie Prude despite plenty of time to throw on the very slow developing play…Two things that are noticeably different with the receivers in Cameron’s offense. 1) They are very conscious of yards after catch (as John Harbaugh would emphasize later after practice) and; 2) More attention is being placed on downfield blocking after the catch or in support of a running back that breaks free. On one screen to McGahee on the outside right, Harper provided outstanding blocking to seal his man to the outside while enabling McGahee to navigate an ample amount of real estate…On the other side of the ball, Rex Ryan has his troops seemingly more determined than ever to pick up loose balls another indication of the head coach’s feistiness. After each incompletion that bounces off an offensive player’s hands, defenders swarm to the ball until they hear the whistle…Earlier in practice when the offense and defense were split Cameron had his unit fine tuning the nuances of an effective reverse. Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton were most often the ball carriers on those reverses…Ray Rice will be a fun player to watch particularly if Cameron can get him out in space in the short passing game. Defenders will regularly whiff on the rookie out of Rutgers…David Pittman was an observer during practice. He’ll need to develop a sense of urgency very soon or he’ll be playing elsewhere…The Ravens are utilizing a 40 second clock during practice. Harbaugh has credited that to Cameron and believes that it helps to speed up the tempo of practice…Several of the Ravens participated in a team bonding fishing trip yesterday arranged by Kelly Gregg and Jarret Johnson…The team will practice again today in Owings Mills. Practice is not open to the media.


Football jonesing said...

Just like your camp reports in the summer, this is unmatched in Baltimore. Nice job TL.

Mikenap06 said...

Keen observations make me come back for more. Keep at it TL.