Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ravens Mini-camp observations

It was a bit strange yesterday not seeing the tall guy with the straw hat patrolling the middle of the practice field and barking out directions and words of encouragement like, “Take care of each other” and “We need a better tempo”. But those days are gone and a new regime has arrived.

Whereas Brian Billick would spend nearly all of his time with the offense behaving more like an offensive coordinator than a head coach, John Harbaugh observes both Cam Cameron and Rex Ryan in action and is far more prone to assisting special teams’ coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

The offensive players are clearly just beginning to grasp Cameron’s new offense as evidenced by the pre-snap adjustments made by the quarterbacks and receivers. If the first day of mandatory mini-camp is any indication, you will see the Ravens feature the shotgun more often even in the running game.

Other early hints of offensive changes to come…The offense appears more spread out with less bunching outside of the tackles. Todd Heap will be in the slot and flanked more frequently. The guards also appear to be busier and getting out in space a bit more…Yesterday the offense practiced a few plays with short swing passes out to the backs and receivers in motion, both escorted by pulling guards. That might help to explain why Jason Brown has shed some weight. He appears more nimble…It is tough to call which players make up the No. 1 offensive line unit, particularly with Adam Terry being limited due to a recovering left ankle that was heavily taped. The team appears committed to developing Jared Gaither as a left tackle. Marshal Yanda took some snaps at center but it was Brown who appeared to get the most snaps at center with Chris Chester in the mix. The team could be sending a message to Chester to step up his game. Clearly it’s time for the third year second round choice to take it up a few notches…Another message might be on its way to Mark Clayton. Again it’s early but Clayton was an observer on a few plays that featured what appeared to be the first team offense. The No. 2 receiver was Demetrius WilliamsMarcus Smith is an impressive looking receiver in stature and moves well to the ball. He’s one to keep an eye on…Another to keep an eye on is Yamon Figurs. Figurs didn’t appear to be as thin in his torso area and he seems to be running a bit more confidently with the offense. Don’t be surprised to see Cameron employ that speed a bit in ’08…Ray Rice is very shifty and that was even apparent on a slippery surface…Kyle Boller is not a mudder. He has struggled in the past during inclement weather and yesterday was no exception. Granted it is only one practice but Boller continues to make the same kinds of mistakes that he’s made from day 1. I couldn’t help but think that his usefulness may be diminished as he adjusts to Cam Cameron’s playbook and terminology. Boller at least had mastered Brian Billick’s offense. Now one has to wonder with that part of his game taken away, how much he will struggle…Receivers had a tough time hanging on to the football. Several on target passes were dropped.

Other observationsBrendon Ayanbadejo is wearing No. 96. He shows good athleticism and it would not be surprising to see the team put that to use in some defensive situational sub packages. Tavares Gooden moved well and should contribute as he learns Ryan’s defense schemes…Antwan Barnes appeared more involved and that could be due in part to Terrell Suggs’ absence as he awaits a ruling on his grievance filed against the team. He has yet to sign his franchise tender offer…Haruki Nakamura supported the deep sideline route effectively rolling over in time when set up in a Cover 2…Fabian Washington ran with the first unit during 7 on 7 drills subbing for Samari Rolle who was for the most part and observer…Chris McAlister moved well and broke on the ball in time on a few plays to break up passes…During the Billick era the defense always had its way with the offense. Early on there will probably be little to no shift in that balance of power as the offense grows accustomed to Cameron’s teachings. For Ryan’s defense, it’s pretty much business as usual.

For other Day 1 observations click


Anonymous said...

TL - what mistakes was Boller making? You said "the same as day 1" but didn't specify.

Anonymous said...

I'm not TL, but from the info that's already been made available...

1. Boller is still locking onto receivers; that's what made it easy for Ray to read where the ball was going, pick it off, and run it back for a minicamp TD.

2. Boller is still inaccurate, throwing the ball all over the place, whereas Joe seemed to have more accuracy on his throws. (NOTE: It also sounds like some of Troy's throws are still sailing high.)

Tony Lombardi said...

I have always maintained that Boller's best throws are to the sidelines and the intermediate throw to the hash marks just beyond a linebacker's drop and in front of the safeties. But when he needs to look off and/or throw slants in tight spots, he locks in instead because he lacks accuracy in short/tight spaces.

He still cannot hit receivers in stride and as you know, a slant in traffic must be accurate...hence the locking in...

From Day 1 he's done this in my opinion and from Day 1 his accuracy has been inconsistent. Mix in the fact that he's learning a new offense and my guess is he's going to have a difficult time as a starter. I like Boller's commitment to team and his toughness so it's difficult for me to beat up on him. That said he looks like a 6th year rookie to me and take away the familiarity he had with Billick's offense and it could be a long year. Plus he hasn't won a road start since 2004.

His footwork has never seemed crisp to me. One of JO's pet peeves with Boller has been his drops. Offensive lineman want to use angles to their advantage and if Boller takes a 7 or 8 step drop when a 5 step drop play is called, it disrupts the timing with the receiver and a tackle like JO may let a defensive end take a wide angle to the QB because the tackle thinks the QB has only dropped back 5 steps. The result is often a sack, QB knockdown or hurry.

That's why it should be no surprise that the Ravens sacks allowed total increased dramatically in '07. No the line did not have a great year but many of those sacks and knockdowns can be attributed to the instability at QB.

Tony Lombardi said...

When Boller threw that pick to Ray on the very first throw during 7 on 7's this past Friday, it was very reminscent of his very first throw in a preseason game v. Atlanta, I believe 3 seasons ago. It was intercepted by Ed Hartwell, who is not exactly the most effective LB v. the pass in the NFL.

I really believe Boller's career could be extended if he accepts the position of "relief pitcher." We'll see if he eventually concludes the same.

Anonymous said...

Is Kelley Washington there.What is the chancehe makes it