Projecting How WR Depth Chart Unfolds
The Ravens' first wide receiver depth chart can't come quick enough for curious Ravens fans.
Until then, the next best thing is an educated guess.
Jamison Hensley, the ESPN AFC North blogger who opened up his camp tour in Baltimore, was asked to give his projection on how the receiver battle will unfold. Here's how he sees it:
1) Torrey Smith
2) Tandon Doss
3) Jacoby Jones
4) Deonte Thompson
5) David Reed or LaQuan Williams
Smith, 2011 second-round draft pick
6-foot-0, 205 pounds, 24 years old
Career stats (2011-12): 32 games played, 30 starts, 99 receptions, 1,696 yards, 15 touchdowns
Third-year Smith is a no-brainer as the top dog of the group. He's one of the most experienced and is explosive, stretches the field and is working on becoming a more complete receiver. His route running appears to have come a long way.
Doss, 2011 fourth-round draft pick
*6-foot-2, 207 pounds, 23 years old
Career stats (2011-12): 20 games played, 0 starts, 7 receptions, 123 yards, 1 touchdown
*Why put Doss at No. 2 over Jones and Thompson? Hensley says it's because Doss complements Smith better than the other two. Since Smith is an outside burner that takes the top off defenses, Doss can take over shorter and intermediate routes as a slot receiver, finding soft spots in the defense and getting the tough yards to move the sticks. Smith and Anquan Boldin were a similar complementary duo last season.
Jones, 2007 third-round draft pick6-foot-2, 215 pounds, 29 years old*Career stats (2007-12): 91 games played, 24 starts, 157 receptions, 2,147 yards, 12 touchdowns
*Not only does Doss complement Smith better than Jones, says Hensley, but keeping Jones at No. 3 allows him to be a full-time returner on special teams. Jones notched three touchdowns in punt and kickoff return duties last year, and added one more in the Super Bowl. It could be tough to give up that kind of play-making ability on special teams in order to get more snaps at receiver.
Thompson, 2012 rookie free agent6-foot-0, 200 pounds, 24 years old
Career stats (2012):6 games played, 0 starts, 5 receptions, 51 yards, 0 touchdownsWhile Thompson has created the most buzz this offseason, Hensley's top three naturally pushes Thompson to No. 4. He's another burner, arguably the fastest player on the team. The former rookie free agent out of Florida can work both the outside and the middle of the field, but Doss may have the edge as the possession/slot receiver.
For Hensley, that leaves Reed and Williams clamoring for the fifth and final receiver spot (unless coaches decide to keep more). The ESPN blogger says this is really more of a special teams competition than a receiving battle. Reed has experience as a kickoff returner, but Hensley "gets the feeling" that even if Jones isn't the primary kickoff returner, Thompson will get a crack at the role. Williams' role on special teams has helped him earn a roster spot the last two seasons. He finished with a career-high five special teams tackles last season before being placed on injured reserve in late December.
Regardless of which receivers fill the spots behind Smith, Baltimore Beat Down's Jason Butt explains that many of them will be involved in the passing game because the Ravens appear to be rotating them more than they ever have in years past. Jones, Doss, Thompson and Reed have all gotten reps with the first and second teams.
"More so this year there's going to be more of a rotation based on plays and situations in games with who's going to be in," Doss said, per Butt. "We have a talented group this year and we all bring something different."
Can Ravens Continue Playoff Streak?
Baltimore has enjoyed five-straight playoff appearances since 2008 when John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice came to town.
Is this the year that the streak will be broken? Or can they extend it to six?
That's the question debated by analysts after the team lost tight end Dennis Pitta and eight other Super Bowl starters – the most of any defending champion.
"Ravens naysayers will say, 'Well this streak of making the playoffs has to end sometime.' I guess you're right, but it doesn't have to end this year," CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown said in an interview with ProFootballTalk. "I think the Ravens have done enough defensively certainly to improve that side of the football. Definitely Pitta is a loss that will hurt, but I still believe in Flacco, Rice, [Bernard] Pierce and that the Ravens have enough offensively with their defense to win football games this year."
Brown believes the Ravens' toughest competition in the AFC North will come from the Bengals. And if Baltimore doesn't win the division, he believes it will win a wild-card seed because "I just don't see six teams in the AFC right now better than the Ravens."
Hensley agrees, saying: "While some will accuse me of drinking the purple Kool-Aid, I still believe the Ravens are a playoff team."
In that case, count ESPN's Merril Hoge as the one drinking the gold Kool-Aid for predicting the Steelers as division champs. And Herm Edwards is drinking the orange Kool-Aid because he believes the Bengals will win it.
How does Hoge see the Ravens finishing the season?
"This is going to be about an 8-8 football team," Hoge said. "They'll be good, and I know they have Joe Flacco, but it's still not enough to help them defend a championship, defend a division."
Dickson Has Best Practice Of Training Camp
These are the types of reports you like to hear coming out of camp after losing Pitta for the season.
"[Ed] Dickson may have had his best practice Wednesday, catching pretty much everything thrown in his direction," The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel wrote after yesterday's practice. "Dickson may not be able to fully replace the injured Dennis Pitta, but he certainly appears primed for a breakout year."
Baltimore Beat Down's Jason Butt also believes Dickson had his best practice of the preseason, showing off his ability down the seam and as a check-down target in the flat.
"His presence lined up as an inside receiver looked like it could potentially cause mismatches against slower linebackers," Butt wrote.
Rookie free agent tight end Matt Furstenburg also stood out yesterday, hauling in a deep pass when the defense blew its coverage and putting his speed on display.
"Midway through practice, Furstenburg showed why he had the second-fastest 40-yard dash time for a tight end at the NFL Combine," Butt wrote. "On a seam route, Furstenburg was able to get behind the defense and receive a deep touchdown from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor."
As for newcomer Visanthe Shiancoe, it appears he could play a role similar to the one Dickson played last year, says Vensel. In the 2 ½ practices Shiancoe has participated in, Vensel has seen him primarily in the role of a traditional in-line tight end with his hand on the ground. Meanwhile, Dickson has played Pitta's role from last year, spending a lot of time lined up like a receiver.
"Shiancoe has gotten snaps with the first-team offense, particularly when they used two-tight-end sets with Dickson," Vensel wrote. "He has caught a few balls for short gains, but he hasn't yet done anything particularly awe-inspiring.
"Still, while we are still a long way away from Week 1, we are getting an idea of what Shiancoe's role could be."
Kruger Says Browns Defense 'Right There' With Ravens
Paul Kruger made a statement in Cleveland that apparently wasn't very believable to those listening.
When comparing his new Browns defense to the Super Bowl-winning defense he played with six months ago, Kruger said, via the Canton Repository: "I think (on defense), we're right there with them."
Perhaps getting an incredulous vibe, Kruger followed up, saying, "Honestly."
Ravens Making Elam Earn Starting Job
While 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam is widely expected to start as the strong safety next to Michael Huff, the Ravens will make him earn it, says The Sun's Aaron Wilson.
So far in camp, safety James Ihedigbo has gotten more work with the first-team defense and he isn't going to relinquish the starting role without a fight. The hard-hitting rookie has drawn high praise from Ravens coaches, but Harbaugh loves a good old-fashioned competition.
"Yeah, that's what it's all about," Ihedigbo told Wilson. "CTompetition brings out the best in everybody. Matt is playing great. The best 11 men will be on the field."
"The best guy has to play," Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin said earlier this offseason. "It doesn't matter where you're drafted and how you got here. If you're here and are performing the best, you're going to play."
The Ferrari Is Back!
Here's a behind-the-scenes look at Rice's final workout at Sweat Performance before reporting to Ravens training camp.
"[This is] the last fine tuning before camp," Rice declared at the beginning of the nearly 30-minute video.
"You start out the season as a Ferrari, and by the end of the season [you're] a Chevrolet. So [in] the offseason, you have to figure out how you're going to turn that Chevrolet back into a Ferrari. The Ferrari's back!"
- Orioles Manager Buck Showalter abruptly went off topic when he was talking about starting pitchers by suddenly praising Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens left tackle who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday. [CSNBaltimore.com]
- "Quietly, Anthony Levine appears to be working his way up the Ravens' depth chart at safety," Vensel wrote. "Levine, who played one game for the Ravens last year before going on injured reserve, has been lining up with the second-team defense and playing pretty well. Huff, Ihedigbo and rookie Matt Elam are entrenched as the top three safeties, likely leaving one extra spot. With Christian Thompson facing a four-game suspension to start the season, Levine may have the inside track."
- @GerrySandusky: The new Pro Bowl selection process won't make the game more interesting. The big thing is still making the team, not playing the game.
- @jameelmcclain: U can't stop me from believing from working! And staying true. Because he is on my side always through this journey
- @vleach44: Great first day back at practice felt good to hit someone.
- @BrandonW_66: #TrainingCamp is going well. Love #Competing and striving to getting better every day. #NeverSatisfied with #GoodEnough #PlayLikeARaven
- @mzenitz: John Harbaugh said that Courtney Upshaw is playing well in camp and that his weight is significantly down from what it was during the spring
- @elamvselo: Anybody can fit in but errbody can't stand out, so what you gon do..?! #EatGreedyy