Players Pumped: 'Oh Yeah Joe, We Got You Another Target'
It was just one practice.
One non-contact practice in shells and shorts.
But after seeing tight end Dallas Clark in action for that one practice (video highlights), Ravens players came away feeling good about their newly-signed teammate.
The 10-year veteran and quarterback Joe Flacco quickly connected for two touchdowns on the first and third play of a red-zone drill.
But the play that really got players going was a glove-less, one-handed catch in the middle of the end zone.
Ooh's and aah's filled the practice field from his new teammates and, per The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, cornerback Lardarius Webb said to Flacco:
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs jokingly responded to all the hubbub, saying "Calm down, there's still only one white tight end!" Of course, that's a term of affection Suggs uses for Dennis Pitta, who may not be done for the year after all.
And despite a drop later in practice, teammates were still focused on Clark's impressive catch after the session.
"You saw that one-handed catch over there with no gloves on?" safety Michael Huff asked. "That's the biggest thing. How does he catch with no gloves on? I couldn't do it. Somehow, someway he does it."
While he had an impressive first day, Clark tempered expectations after practice when reporters asked him if he thinks he'll play in the Ravens preseason home opener.
"I don't know. I'll tell you what: I didn't even know what I was doing out in practice today," he said, inciting laughter among reporters.
And even though Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell was Clark's head coach in Indianapolis, the tight end admits there's still a lot of new terminology and he has a long way to go in learning the details.
"Unfortunately, it's not completely [Indianapolis'] offense where I can just go, 'Oh, this is ...' So, there's a little carryover with concepts and whatnot, but really, it's a new offense and I haven't had this short of a time to learn an offense," Clark said. "So, I've got to put on my thinking cap."
Dickson 'Most Likely' Won't Be Ready For Week 1
An early sign of chemistry between Flacco and Clark is good news in light of Ed Dickson's situation.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen said on "NFL Insiders" Tuesday that the Ravens tight end "most likely" won't be ready for the opener in Denver on Sept 5.
Dickson still hasn't practiced since sustaining his slight hamstring tear, but was seen jogging on the side of the field during the early portion of yesterday's practice. Per The Sun's Aaron Wilson, he was "able to jog slowly off the field," be he was still "favoring" his leg.
If Mortensen is correct, that will leave Clark and another newly signed veteran tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe, as the expected top two tight ends.
"Look for Clark to open the season as Baltimore's 'move' tight end, with Visanthe Shiancoe playing on the line in two-tight end packages," wrote NBC Sports' Rotoworld.
Kruger Never Understood Why He Didn't Start
Paul Kruger is feeling more at home in Cleveland than in Baltimore, says ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Not because he didn't have good relationships with his coaches, teammates, fans or city.
No, the outside linebacker feels more comfortable with the Browns because he's a full-time starter.
"That's what I've been wanting for years now," said Kruger, who was signed to five-year, $40.5 million contract. "I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to be in this situation. A lot of hard work and dedication finally came to fruition."
In his four years in Baltimore since being drafted in the second round in 2009, Kruger only started seven games. He was mostly used as a rusher in passing situations, and was criticized for his run defense. Kruger did come out of last year's training camp as the starter, but lost the role to Albert McClellan.
Still, Kruger never understood why he didn't get more playing time with the Ravens.
"I don't know. I tried to figure it out for a while," Kruger said. "It was just one of those things that you got to trust your abilities when you get the opportunity and make the most of every moment. It could be a number of different reasons why, and honestly it's hard to say. There are some answers that you're never going to get. For me, I felt like I should be on the field a lot more. It is what it is. Now, I'm here in this situation."
He added: "Baltimore was a great experience and an honor to be a part of that team. I had a great relationship with my coaches and all of my teammates. But the playing time was definitely an issue for me. It's in the past and great things happened there."
Caldwell Puts More Fingerprints On Offense
As training camp and the preseason continue, we're starting to see more of Caldwell's fingerprints on the offense.
He seemed to put an even bigger stamp on it with the Ravens' signings of two of his former players, Clark and receiver Brandon Stokley.
"The Ravens, though, wouldn't have brought in Clark and Stokley purely on their ties with Caldwell. They fit what Caldwell wants to do offensively," Hensley wrote. "The biggest change when Caldwell took over for Cam Cameron in December was using the middle of the field. Cameron preferred not throwing in between the numbers because it increased the chances of interceptions. Clark and Stokley have made careers by running crossing and underneath routes."
The Sun's Matt Vensel is seeing similar trends. He says Caldwell implemented more horizontal routes that run across the field, and also use more pre-snap motions, bunches and stacks to help receivers get separation off the line.
Under-The-Radar Ravens Fantasy Move
There's a Ravens fantasy move that may be flying under the radar as the conversation is focused on Flacco, running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith.
With all the additions the team has made to its defense, ESPN's Matt Williamson put the unit in his top 10 fantasy secrets list.
"Currently the Ravens are the 10th D/ST coming off the board, but I see this unit as one of the best five defenses in the game in 2013," Williamson wrote. "They are vastly improved at nearly every defensive area from last season."
Predicting AFC North Records
In their radio segment, "Two-A-Days," Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic previewed the Super Bowl champs and Pittsburgh Steelers as they head into the 2013 season.
The Steelers and Ravens completed their analysis of the AFC North, and this is how they see the division stacking up:
Greenburg: Bengals finish at 9-7 (win the division), Ravens at 8-8, Steelers at 7-9 and Browns at 6-10.
Golic: Bengals and Steelers both at 10-6, Ravens at 9-7 and the Browns at 7-9.
- @RavensInsider: Brandon Stokley one-year deal worth $1.05 million: $940,000 base salary, $65,000 roster bonus. Salary cap $620,000 on minimum salary benefit [Twitter]
- @RavensSalaryCap: With Stokley on books, Ravens are now $4,169,459 under Cap, pending processing of Clark's deal (which will likely look just like Stokley's) [Twitter]
- "New slot receiver Brandon Stokley appeared to be more comfortable than he did Monday during his first practice," wrote Vensel. "And like Clark, he displayed some nifty route-running and made some plays in the red zone. Stokley is not the fastest guy around — nowhere near it, in fact — but he doesn't waste steps and gets open. It is easy to see why quarterback Peyton Manning had so much trust in him in Indianapolis and Denver." [The Baltimore Sun]
- @TorreySmithWR: Trying to be better than everybody that's better than everybody [Twitter]
- @RobertKlemko: Thoughts after departing Green Bay: Packers players play backgammon in the locker room. Ravens play cornhole. Draw your own conclusions. [Twitter]
- "We are now three weeks into camp and veteran James Ihedigbo has yet to relinquish his starting strong safety spot to first-round pick Matt Elam," Vensel wrote. "Elam has not really stood out in a good way or in a bad way during camp, though he did impress in the preseason opener, particularly with his aggressive tackling. The Ravens aren't going to just hand the job to a rookie, regardless of when he was drafted, especially with a steady presence in Ihedigbo on the roster. Either way, though, Elam will have a significant role, perhaps as a jack of all trades in the secondary." [The Baltimore Sun]