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5 Players Creating A Buzz In OTAs


Real football doesn't start for a few more months, but teams around the NFL are getting prepped for training camp with offseason practices.

The Ravens are two weeks into their organized team activities (OTAs), which include daily practices without any full contact drills. The nature of the practices limits some of the conclusions that can be drawn, but some observations are evident as soon as players step on the field.

Here are five players who have created a buzz during the first two weeks of OTAs:

WR Steve Smith Sr.

The veteran newcomer has made a splash during his few months in a Ravens jersey. He has attended the entire offseason program, which is rare for a 14-year veteran. Smith isn't just showing up, either. He has consistently made impressive plays on the practice field, catching everything thrown his way and beating the younger defenders in drills. The Ravens wanted Smith to bring toughness and intensity with him to Baltimore, and that's exactly what he has done thus far.

LG Kelechi Osemele

The health status of the third-year offensive lineman was a big question heading into the offseason after he finished last year on injured reserve because of a back problem. Osemele appears to have eased the concerns about his back with a bigger test coming when contact is introduced. He could emerge as one of the Ravens' best linemen. He has been a full participant in practice, and he's working so hard that his teammates have joked they need to slow him down at times. The Ravens like what they see from him at left guard, and he is currently expected to anchor the left side of the line along with tackle Eugene Monroe. If Osemele is able to stay healthy and continue at this pace, then he is primed for a bounceback season in 2014.

RB Ray Rice

Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the start of OTAs that the football field is a "safe haven" for Rice after dealing with off-the-field issues this offseason. And Rice looks right at home on the practice field. He is noticeably slimmer from last season, which was a focus coming into the year. Rice has shown no lingering signs of a hip injury that hindered him throughout last season, and he appears to have re-gained his explosiveness out of the backfield. Rice may have to deal with a suspension from the NFL to open the season, but he appears to be putting himself in good position to make a significant impact when he does get back on the field.   

S Matt Elam

Elam has been universally praised for the progress he has shown going into his second season. The biggest difference with Elam is the vocal role he's taken in the back end of the defense, and veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb said that the second-year safety has the respect of his peers. "If he makes a call, that's the call, and you're going to play it," Webb said. Elam deferred to veteran safety James Ihedigbo to make the calls last season, but now Ihedigbo is gone and Elam has become the leader.

DL Kapron Lewis-Moore

The 2013 sixth-round pick never took the field in his rookie season because he was recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered in the final game of his college career. But now he's poised to make an impact in Year 2. Lewis-Moore is fully recovered from the knee injury, and he has taken reps with the first-team defense. The Ravens need a lineman to fill the spot vacated by Arthur Jones when he left in free agency, and Lewis-Moore in putting himself in that conversation. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman is a big-bodied defender built to stuff the run, and he has also shown quickness off the ball when rushing the passer. He is making the most of his reps during OTAs.

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