Saturday, August 08, 2009

Camp Notes: Flacco Struggles, Webb labeled "best rookie in camp"

It was over 30 day at Westminster today meaning that the veterans age 30 or older did not participate. Others not participating included: Terrell Suggs (heel); Mark Clayton (hamstring); WR Biren Ealy; WR Thomas White; Edgar Jones (thigh); Ben Grubbs (ankle); and Oniel Cousins (ankle). Tavares Gooden returned to practice after sitting out for precautionary reasons (sports hernia) as did Jared Gaither (trapezius).


OFFENSE: Joe Flacco had a poor outing overall today but managed to sprinkle in a few gems. However judging from the second year QB’s obvious frustration, the bad clearly outweighed the good. During red zone drills Demetrius Williams broke wide open from the right on a post just to the right of the right upright. Flacco’s pass sailed far over Williams’ head after which Flacco screamed an out of character expletive not suitable for children. He struggled throughout the session picking up blitzers, many of which came in untouched off the edges. The nemesis in those situations was often Lardarius Webb. Flacco was intercepted by Chris Carr on third and 7 while trying to squeeze a throw in to Kelley Washington. Frank Walker had a pick of Flacco as well and added another during one on one drills, a relative rarity in such breakout sessions.

Flacco was very impressive with his feet in the pocket and he was decisive and sudden when he spotted room to run…Cam Cameron emphasized the passing game today with running plays coming few and far between, normally only running after the offense hurried to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball to try and catch the defense napping. Results of those efforts were mixed…During 9 on 9 drills designed to install running plays, John Beck’s hard cadence once again triggered false starts on the offense instead of the intended encroachment penalties against the defense. At one point the false starts were so frequent that Justin Bannan pleaded with the offense barking, “Focus!”

Ray Rice caught a swing pass to the right and showcased his excellent change of direction skills, nearly forcing LB Jason Phillips to blow out his right ankle while trying to corral the second year RB…Le’Ron McClain seems to be shedding weight much like he did in ’08. The team appears to be trying to get McClain out in space as a receiver. Once he gets a head of steam, he is a tough tackling assignment... The backs seemed to miss blitz pick up assignments regularly today…Tight end LJ Smith practiced without issue. He stopped suddenly after one short catch to the right and changed direction to avoid Tavares Gooden in pursuit. As a blocker Smith faired decently but was no match for Paul Kruger on a couple of occasions…Davon Drew practiced and caught a few passes although he looked a bit sluggish on one crossing route.

The best wide receiver on the day was Justin Harper. He made a couple of nice plays across the middle on the receiving end of throws by both Flacco and Troy Smith. Harper did drop one nicely placed pass by Smith but recovered on the very next play badly beating Evan Oglesby on a go route down the right side for a 65 yard TD from Smith. Earlier he fought through tight coverage from Domonique Foxworth to muscle his way to a throw from Smith on a comeback route…Marcus Smith’s struggles with dropped balls continues. On one of his perfect throws on the day Flacco stepped up in the pocket and dropped a pass beyond the outstretched arms of defenders and hit a streaking Smith in stride while running down the right hash mark. Smith dropped it.

Smith seemed to run out of gas about halfway through practice although he did haul in another beauty from Flacco splitting defenders Tom Zbikowski and Evan Oglesby on a post that would go for a long score. Overall Smith just doesn’t seem to be a very dependable receiver at this point and he may need to outplay Harper in the preseason games to make the team if that roster spot is driven purely by performance and not the politics of a fourth round pick v. a seventh round pick.

Kelley Washington looked smooth as did Ernie Wheelwright…Eron Riley was sloppy out of his break on a 15 yard out delivered perfectly and on time by Beck. As a result the pass fell incomplete... Demetrius Williams had a rather uninspired practice and dropped a perfect pass from Flacco at the back of the end zone on a 35 yard attempt…Despite the absences of Mason, Clayton, Ealy and White; Yamon Figurs took no reps today at wide receiver. He is completely on the outside looking in at this point.

The offensive line was thin today and consequently their overall performance suffered. Michael Oher left the field without assistance with a slight calf injury. He did not return but the injury is not considered serious. Joe Reitz was singled out by the offensive coaches for a nice pick up during a slick defensive stunt. Shortly thereafter, Reitz was involved in a fight with an unspecified defensive lineman. A large gathering of players circled the combatants shielding the view of all onlookers. Antwan Barnes played the role of village idiot jumping on to the pile in a manner similar to baseball brawls near the pitcher’s mound. Generally speaking Barnes is a bit cocky for a player who has been pegged as an underachiever by some insiders…Reserve tackle Stefan Rodgers made a nice block on the right edge to spring Willis McGahee for a 15 yard TD scamper during 9 on 9 drills.

DEFENSE: It’s almost unfair at times just how good Haloti Ngata is. He had one sack today and on a designed rollout to the right led by Flacco, Ngata pushed his man through the backfield disrupting the play before it could develop…Paul Kruger pressured regularly…Jarret Johnson demonstrated some textbook bull rushing while William VanDeSteeg remains an intriguing prospect…Dwan Edwards is moving well and relentlessly pursues and hustles…Dannell Ellerbe continues to make a push for a roster spot and is well ahead of rookie Jason Phillips at this point…Tony Fein made a nice play in the backfield to drop Cedric Peerman for a 2 yard loss…Gooden seemed to be playing without discomfort.

Frank Walker played well and is far ahead of where he was at this point last season…Haruki Nakamura ran with the first team in Ed Reed’s place and is clearly ahead of Zbikowski on the depth chart…Lardarius Webb is explosive and was extremely effective as a blitzer today. One team official described Webb as the best performing rookie in camp so far. Clearly he was today…Chris Carr played well in coverage while Oglesby struggled…Derrick Martin seems to be growing more comfortable at safety. K.J. Gerard was a surprise during OTA’s but is borderline MIA in Westminster.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Graham Gano by his own admission had his worst day of camp missing from 35, 48 and 53 yards out. He did connect on kicks from 43 and 51. Gano may have some camp fatigue setting in…Steve Hauschka had the day off…Sam Koch boomed his punts towards the end of practice and was effective with his end over end punts intended to die inside the 10.

NOTABLES & QUOTABLES: Jim Hostler to Marcus Smith: “Marcus, get in shape, lose 5 pounds and we’ll be ready to go.”…John Harbaugh thought the team had a good practice and as a result towards the end of the session, he announced to the team that if Gano could connect from 36 yards out, the team would have the afternoon off. Gano connected. Afterwards I asked the rookie kicker if he had an escape route planned had he missed the field goal and he replied confidently, “No, I knew I would make it.”…Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator described both kickers as NFL caliber kickers in practice. He compared practice to singing in the shower. You have to be good at practice before you can take the real stage…The team doesn’t seem to be too concerned about Cousins ankle injury…Harbaugh believes that Foxworth has met and exceeded expectations so far and that he’ll benefit from the defensive mates who study film and really understand opponents.


Anonymous said...

you are right about Webb. I've been out to camp multiple times since the start and he's been the most impressive db period. The guy has enormous speed and can really play the football. Oz has done it again!