Even before Organized Team Activities (OTAs) began, it appeared the Ravens would have some difficult decisions to make when it comes to wide receiver.
After Wednesday's fifth OTA practice, it's clear that what looked strong on paper transfers to the field (at least while there's no contact). Wide receiver looks to be one of the team's strongest and deepest units.
It's difficult to glean too much considering defensive backs are told to back off and not physically challenge throws, but the receivers shined under those circumstances.
Here are notes from Wednesday's practice:
- Kamar Aiken put on a show for much of practice. Aiken has picked up right where he left off from a breakout season a year ago when he had 24 catches for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Aiken caught everything his way, including a long bomb over the top, a tough tiptoeing sideline catch, a lunging fingertips grab over the middle and a jump ball in the end zone. Don't count Aiken out for a starting job; he was running with the first team opposite Steve Smith Sr.
- Another receiver not to forget about is Jeremy Butler. The undrafted Tennessee-Martin product is in his second year. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve (shoulder) after having a strong camp a year ago. Like Aiken, Butler excelled running every kind of route and showed reliable hands. He's quicker than his 6-foot-2, 218 pounds would suggest.
- Rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman returned after missing time last week due to the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. He adjusted well to haul in a pass down the seam and split two defenders. Perriman consistently explodes off the line of scrimmage, even when pressed.
- Sixth-round wide receiver Darren Waller continues to catch everything. He went up the ladder to snag one lofted pass, showing he uses his massive 6-foot-6 frame to its fullest potential.
- The praise for undrafted receiver DeAndre Carter will continue after he made a nice catch falling to the turf. The player Smith compared to Green Bay's Randall Cobb continues to make plays. He did have one drop earlier in practice, however.
- Safety Matt Elam had a couple nice plays. He made a leaping interception against quarterback Matt Schaub on a pass over the middle during 7-on-7 drills. He also left his feet to knock away a potential touchdown pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore.
- Fifth-round rookie tight end Nick Boyle isn't allowed to get after it as a blocker during non-contact OTAs, but he showed he has something to offer as a receiver. Boyle gets open on intermediate routes and even hauled in a deep out route for a 25-yard gain. He catches the ball with confidence.
- Safety Will Hill can't wait to hit, but he also made a good play running with Aiken on a long pass down the seam. Hill turned his head and batted away the pass before Aiken could come back for it.
- Quarterback Joe Flacco is humming. On one red-zone play, it was easy to see Flacco go through all of his progressions before finding Boyle for a touchdown pass over the middle. Flacco and the first-team offense looked very sharp.
- Kicker Justin Tucker hit an absolute bomb during one field-goal session. Reporters were standing near the end zone, so they couldn't see the exact distance, but it appeared to be from beyond 60 yards in wet conditions.
- Left guard Kelechi Osemele returned to practice, and there was a clear difference. The defensive linemen weren't in the backfield nearly as much as last week. He's the only returning starter who participated, putting James Hurst at left tackle, Ryan Jensen at center, John Urschel at right guard and Jah Reid at right tackle.
- Cornerback Jimmy Smith sat out Wednesday's practice as he continues to rehab, and fellow starter Lardarius Webb also remains out. Rashaan Melvin, Kyle Arrington and Asa Jackson were the top three corners.
WR Aldrick Robinson Has MCL Sprain
Head Coach John Harbaugh confirmed reports that wide receiver Aldrick Robinson suffered a knee injury during Tuesday's practice.
Robinson has a Grade 2 MCL sprain and should be ready for training camp, Harbaugh said.
Robinson, a former sixth-round pick of the Redskins in 2011, is battling for one of the last spots at wide receiver. He had a long touchdown reception during OTAs last week.
It marks the second injury at wide receiver in as many weeks as Michael Campanaro suffered a quad tear last Wednesday and is also out till camp.
Harbs Worked Out Dates With Chip Kelly
Harbaugh and Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly have ironed out the majority of their training camp practice schedule.
Their preseason game in Philadelphia is on August 22, so the teams will have joint practices at the NovaCare Complex leading up to the game. The exact days and times haven't been announced yet.
"Chip and I got together," Harbaugh said. "We've got the practices pretty much finished. We'll be practicing against them. It will be fun and I'm looking forward to it. I haven't thought much about it."
West Coast Trip Moving Forward
The Ravens are in the process of making a final determination on whether they will be staying out west for one or two of their road trips.
The team could stay in San Francisco-Oakland between their Week 1 game against the Denver Broncos and Week 2 game against the Oakland Raiders. They could also remain away from home between their Week 6 game against the San Francisco 49ers and Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The benefit is not having so many cross-country flights, which can be tiresome and throw* *off athlete's sleep schedules. The downside is having to find a home away from home for extended periods of time.
"We haven't made a final decision yet," Harbaugh said. "[Sr. Vice President of Operations] Bob Eller and [Director of Travel] Joan Fennekohl went out there and visited the different hotels and things. We're meeting on that Thursday. So we might have some decisions here by the end of the week."