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Eisenberg: Ravens Training Camp Facts And Opinions


Fact: It was hard to tell who was bending whose ear, but early in Monday's training camp practice, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and safety Eric Weddle stood alone on the field and conversed for several minutes while other players went through drills.

Opinion: A practice-field pipeline to the head coach is a sign of respect. Back in the day, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would often stop and chat with Harbaugh during workouts, presumably about X's and O's or some pressing team issue. With Weddle, the Ravens have added another player of that ilk to their defense, a thoughtful and engaged leader.

Fact: Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman said last week that running back Terrance West is "much improved in terms of his understanding of pass protection, which is critical to getting him on the field."

Opinion: The last part of Trestman's comment is what caught my ear, stressing how pass protection skills are such an underrated aspect of the battle for jobs and snaps at running back. Yes, what happens when backs have the ball is important, but they won't be on the field, period, if they if they can't pick up blitzes and protect Joe Flacco.

Fact: Asked Monday to assess Justin Forsett's performance in camp, Harbaugh said, "I see the same running back that we had two years ago in terms of his speed, his explosiveness and his vision," referring to the 2014 season, when Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards and made the Pro Bowl.

Opinion: From that comment, it sounds as if Forsett still has a solid grip on the starter's role even though West and rookie Kenneth Dixon have opened eyes in camp.

Fact: Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo said last week that rookie Alex Lewis "will be a starter in the NFL."

Opinion: That's high praise from a veteran coach for a fourth-round draft pick and I think the clock is already ticking on his pronouncement. Lewis is tough, agile, versatile and seemingly already leapfrogging guys on the depth chart. He needs experience, but factoring in potential salary cap and contract considerations with others on the line, I would say he's a year away from becoming a starter here, possibly at left guard or right tackle.

Fact: Although the Ravens complete dozens of passes in camp every day, few, if any, are coming on deep routes. Most are on short throws with a few of medium length mixed in.

Opinion: Even though they aren't working on it, the Ravens surely haven't abandoned their deep passing game. That's why they signed Mike Wallace, after all: to guarantee the presence of a home run threat, which was missing in 2015 when Breshad Perriman was injured. Without that deep threat, opposing defenses could clamp down on the offense, limiting its options. The Ravens don't want to reprise that unfortunate domino effect in 2016. There's no doubt the deep game is coming with Wallace as the obvious target now that Perriman is injured again. We'll see it soon enough, I'm sure.

Fact: In a drill that took place early Monday morning, Ravens assistant coach Scott Cohen spent 10 minutes bashing tennis balls high and deep over the heads of the defensive backs, forcing them to range back, track the ball and grab the "pick", much like a baseball center fielder grabbing a deep fly ball.

Opinion: Watching this unusual drill, I couldn't help remembering the occasions when Ed Reed took batting practice with the Orioles at Camden Yards and then went to the outfield to shag flies. The Orioles were impressed, to say the least, with how effortlessly he glided around the outfield and caught pretty much everything, including balls hit over his head. Reed was one of a kind, of course, but tracking skills could translate into more interceptions and I don't blame the Ravens for working on it.

Fact: Harbaugh said Monday that he had decided whether Flacco would play in Thursday night's preseason opener, but didn't reveal his decision.

Opinion: The Ravens are in a tricky position here. With Flacco coming off a serious knee injury, they obviously need to be extra careful with him; I'm guessing he won't play Thursday, and if he does, it won't be for long. But Flacco also needs to knock off some rust before Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills take aim at him in the regular season opener. Knowing he'll take the last preseason game off, he has three games to get those snaps in. I'm guessing the bulk will come in the third preseason game.

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