Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ravens Passing Camp Notes for June 11, 2008

Today’s turnout at the voluntary OTA’s was pretty thin, particularly on the defensive side of the football. Among the MIA’s: Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Ray Lewis, Antwan Barnes, Terrell Suggs, Trevor Pryce, Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, Fabian Washington and Bart Scott. Scott had perfect attendance over the past two seasons up to this point.

On the offensive side MIA’s included: Willis McGahee and Justin Green. Jared Gaither was at the facility but didn’t practice due to migraines. Jonathan Ogden was not in the building although a report surfaced that there will be a press conference tomorrow morning at 11:30 during which the Ravens’ All Pro tackle will announce his retirement. The Ravens have not confirmed this announcement as of this writing. 24x7 sources also would not confirm the validity of the reported press conference.

The first unit offensive line today consisted of (from left to right) Mike Kracalik, Ben Grubbs, Jason Brown, Marshal Yanda and Adam Terry. All levels of the offensive unit were harassed today by Rex Ryan’s blitz. Linebackers and safeties regularly applied pressure, particularly to Joe Flacco. The running backs need some work picking up the blitz. Later during practice, Cam Cameron was riding Ray Rice a bit. First Rice wasn’t among the 11 on the offensive side when he should have been on one play. This prompted Cameron to emphatically state, “I’m pretty sure they’ll let us play with eleven. C’mon Ray wake up!”

Just prior to the succeeding play, Cameron questioned Rice (who this time correctly stood on the sidelines), “Ray, where’s the protection here?”

On the very next play, Xavier Lee who took reps today as a tight end, adeptly picked up a blitzing linebacker prompting observer Troy Smith to exclaim, “Good job Xaver!”

Early during today's team activities the offense practiced their inside running game, refining their pulling and trapping skills on the line while Ray Rice and P.J. Daniels looked sharp as they patiently allowed the plays to shape properly and then darting through holes as they opened. According to one Ravens’ source who watched yesterday’s practice (closed to the media), Rice looked extremely sharp, once faking out Jarret Johnson so badly that there was concern that JJ might blow out a knee.

Throughout the day Troy Smith again showed precise ball skills during exchanges, adeptly handling fakes while showing some flash with the Statue of Liberty play in the style of the infamous Boise State 2 point conversion (
see play). Boller would later utilize the Statue of Liberty down in the red zone teaming with P.J. Daniels.

At the end of practice John Harbaugh was asked about some of the gadget plays that the Ravens ran today. He credited Cam Cameron for creativity but admitted that some of the gadgetry was simply scout team simulation.

Nevertheless, it does appear that Troy Smith will get an opportunity to showcase his talents even if he isn’t the starter. He could be the Ravens' answer to the Steelers’ Kordell Stewart of the 90’s. I would not be shocked to see Joe Flacco as the starter with spot play from Smith to keep defenses off balance and take some of the pressure off Flacco. Clearly there’s a long way to go before then, but don't be shocked if it shakes out that way.

Snaps for all three QB’s were spread fairly evenly. All quarterbacks had decent outings but the highlight throws once again belonged to Joe Flacco. Lined up on the 15 yard line, Flacco threw a perfect ball to Demetrius Williams navigating the end line from left to right. Initially it appeared that the defender on the play was better positioned but Flacco trusted Williams to get to the ball and he did just to the left of the left upright. Flacco would later deliver another precise dart to Matt Willis for a score from 15 yards out. This time, Willis worked the goal line from left to right and caught the ball just beyond the one yard hash mark on the left. Flacco would later find Willis on a nice rollout play to the right for a 20 yard gain beating Derrick Martin.

Just prior to that catch, Willis dropped a nice, intentionally underthrown pass from Troy Smith away from coverage. The ball caromed high off of Willis’ unpadded chest. Later Smith hit Demetrius Williams with a nice throw about midway through the session. Smith moved outside the pocket to his right and hit a streaking Williams running parallel to the right hash marks. Smith showed great touch on the play, laying the pass beyond the DB marking Williams and the oncoming safety. Earlier Smith hit Todd Heap for a score from 15 yards out. Heap extended nicely and made a fine catch on the run finishing it with a short scamper into the end zone.

Heap looks very sharp and seems to be moving extremely well. Coach Harbaugh commented on that too at the end of practice and shared his thoughts with the tight end. According to Harbaugh Heap replied, “You ain’t seen nothing yet coach!”

Kyle Boller continued his progress in Cameron’s offense, continuing his recovery from a very shaky practice a few weeks back. He hit Mark Clayton on the dead run on a short slant that Clayton took to the house on a long catch and run. Clayton beat his man badly. A confused Derrick Martin asked anyone listening, “What happened?”

Martin was assigned to Derrick Mason on the play and claimed that he had Mason “locked up.” Mason laughed at the notion.

OTHER NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS: LeRon McClain was used today more frequently as a runner. Could be something to keep an eye on in short yardage situations…Dan Cody and Oniel Cousins mixed it up today. On one pass play Cousins positioned at right tackle locked up Cody and as the play proceeded he would eventually take Cody to the ground. A frustrated Cody got up and a heated exchanged of words quickly morphed into a feisty skirmish. Cody ripped the helmet from Cousins head and smashed it to the ground as teammates quickly converged to end the fighting. Overall Cody looked strong while flip-flopping from left to right. It was his most extensive playing time during the 2008 OTA’s…On the day as mentioned earlier, blitzing linebackers and safeties had their way with the Ravens offense. Among those who under game conditions would have registered sacks were Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura, Dawan Landry and Tavares Gooden. Gooden’s movements to the quarterback were reminiscent of Bart Scott's circa 2006.

John Harbaugh is a delegator, allowing his coordinators to run the offense, defense and special teams. However he does chime in when the focus is upon his areas of specialty – namely the secondary and special teams. Today he was seen coaching up the 6’4” CB Lenny Walls who was an active participant today.

Edgar Jones flipped flopped from tight end to OLB/DE and was effective in both spots. Jones had a sack and would later hall in a Flacco pass about 20 yards down field. The play was probably somewhat confusing to the defense because Jones neglected to put on his red mesh cover up over the defense’s traditional white jerseys. It didn’t confuse Flacco who looked right then left to find Jones. After the successful play Flacco pointed and said, “Ninety-one” as if to say nice play to the fill-in tight end…Yamon Figurs hasn’t been getting many snaps at wide receiver…Jarret Johnson was singled out by Harbaugh for his perfect attendance throughout OTA’s and schedule workouts. Johnson according to Harbaugh is emerging as a leader. “Double J” is running very well these days and caught Troy Smith from behind on a rollout to the right. Johnson was coming from the right edge and ran a long way to get to Smith.

Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg had his field goal unit practicing fakes. The plays included a fake during which the holder would catch the ball and run into the line just inside of either tackle. Another fake had the holder feigning the placement, pivoting and rolling – a bit of a waggle play. Holder Sam Koch executed both plays well. He is a strong player who seems to willingly attack the line of scrimmage as a runner and he throws a pretty decent pass. Edgar Jones caught Koch’s only throw of the day off the fake. Conversely, UDFA punter Ben Dato is hesitant running the ball and was scolded by Rosburg twice to “Run hard!” On his attempted pass off the fake, Jarret Johnson dropped the ball bringing a loud roar of disapproval from his teammates along the sidelines.

Free agent offensive lineman Barry Sims is in talks with the Ravens about possibly providing a veteran presence to John Matsko's unit. Sims according to a Ravens official has not yet made a personal appearance in Owings Mills and has not worked out for the club...Jonathan Ogden will make it official tomorrow. He will be announcing his retirement during a press conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m.