8 Things We Learned From Minicamp
Who looked good? Who has work to do?
Those are some of the popular question from fans as the Ravens wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp. Minicamp brought an end to the overall offseason program, and it was the last chance to see the team on the field before training camp opens next month.
Here are eight key observations from reporters who watched the team in action:
1. Joe Flacco Is Sharp
The veteran quarterback hasn't taken long to soak up the tweaks new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman has made to the system.
"Flacco threw the ball crisply without hesitation, and there were few signals crossed between Flacco and his wide receivers," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown. "Flacco appears to have grown very comfortable very quickly with Trestman's offense. That's a good sign for the Ravens."
2. Matt Elam Taking Big Steps
Coaches have spoken highly of Elam during the offseason, and reporters are also taking note of his improvement. The former first-round pick made plays during minicamp, including a pick-six.
"Elam is much improved," wrote Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun. "In better shape, looks more confident."
3. Watch Out For Jeremy Butler
Butler was the toast of the town after Thursday's practice. He had teammates and coaches singing his praises after making several difficult catches throughout the week.
The competition at receiver is very much up in the air, and Butler has certainly inserted his name into the discussion.
"Butler is a name to watch," Brown wrote. "The Ravens have plenty of competition at wide receiver, but if Butler keeps catching everything, he will be difficult to cut."
4. Terrell Suggs Has Important Six Weeks Ahead
The Ravens outside linebacker was noticeably thicker than previous years, and admitted that he's not yet at his "fighting weight."
"That's OK for now," Brown wrote. "It won't be OK if Suggs does not report to training camp more fit. With Haloti Ngata (Lions) and Pernell McPhee (Bears) no longer a part of the defense, Suggs will be counted on heavily, which means he needs to get a little lighter."
5. Suggs Soaking Up Time He Has Left
Suggs is known for cracking jokes and making subtle jabs during his press conference sessions with reporters. But there was none of that this week – he even had nice things to say about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – and talked openly about how he knows he's getting closer to the end of his remarkable career.
6. Rookie WRs Up-and-Down
Rookie receivers Breshad Perriman, Darren Waller and DeAndre Carter all had their moments during the week, and building consistency will be critical.
7. Perriman Bounces Back Fast
Perriman doesn't let the frustration of a drop linger.
"He never seemed to lose confidence, never stopped working hard, and never made excuses," Brown wrote. "Perriman's speed is impressive, as is his ability to adjust his body while the football is in the air. Even when he makes mistakes as a rookie, Perriman looks like he has the talent and toughness to make plays."
8. Running Game Looks Strong Again
The running game was a strength for the Ravens last season, and the backfield looks poised to build off that.
"Justin Forsett looks like he got younger, not older, during the offseason," Brown wrote. "Lorenzo Taliaferro looks quicker. And rookie Buck Allen showed good hands and good vision."
Oher: 'The Blind Side' Negatively Affected My Career
The Ravens won a Super Bowl with Michael Oher on their offensive line, but the former first-round pick has struggled since then.
Oher left Baltimore in free agency to sign with the Tennessee Titans last year, but they cut him after just one season. The Panthers then signed Oher to be their starting left tackle, but he's off to a rocky start after a fight during minicamp.
Oher, who is best known because of the blockbuster book and movie "The Blind Side" about his life, voiced frustrations after his practice scuffle by speaking out against the movie that made him a household name.
"I'm not trying to prove anything,'' Oher said, per ESPN's David Newton. "People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don't really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That's why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field.
"This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not ... that has nothing to do with football. It's something else off the field. That's why I don't like that movie.''
The Ravens drafted Oher with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2009 draft. He started every game during his time in Baltimore, but never developed into a protector of the quarterback's blindside like the movie title suggested.
"That's taken away from my football," Oher said. "That's why people criticize me. That's why people look at me every single play."
By the way, if you haven't read this before, now is a good time to go back in the vault for this 2013 story from Ryan Mink called "The Real Michael Oher."
How Steelers Plan To Become 'Feared Defense' Again
Ravens fans won't like the sound of this.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have historically featured one of the NFL's top defenses, built first on stuffing the run game. Pittsburgh lost that dominance last year, and finished the year ranked 25th in run defense and 18th in total yards allowed.
Pittsburgh then shook things up in the offseason by parting ways with long-time coordinator Dick LeBeau, and now the Steelers are focused on getting back to what they've traditionally done best.
"Stop the run, get the fear factor back," wrote ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
"The great Steelers defenses could shake the mental toughness of a quarterback by placing him in third-and-longs, then driving shoulders into the chest of that quarterback."
To return to those roots, Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said that new Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler* *plans to put the defensive linemen in more one-on-one situations where they have a chance to cause problems in the backfield.
"I'm salivating," Heyward said. "I can't wait until the season starts."
The Ravens will get their first crack at the new-look Steelers defense in a Week 4 matchup in Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football.
Schaub Sharing Insight With Flacco
It's rare for a backup quarterback to have more experience in the offensive system than the starter.
But that's the case with the Ravens, as backup Matt Schaub has seven years of starting experience in the West Coast system the Ravens run, compared to starter Joe Flacco in his second season.
"Schaub has been eager to share his insight with Flacco as the two learn under Marc Trestman," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli.
There is by no means a quarterback controversy in Baltimore, but the experience Schaub has from running the offense under Gary Kubiak in Houston has been valuable in the meeting rooms this offseason.
"I'm not trying to overload him too much — he gets that from the coaches — so in talking one on one, I just try and do subtle things," Schaub told Meoli. "But he gets it."
- Don't count out cornerback Rashaan Melvin in 2015. Russell Street Report breaks down tape from Melvin's first season in Baltimore to show that the young cornerback could certainly find his way onto the field again this year. [Russell Street Reports]