Breaking Down First Official Depth Chart
The Ravens released their first official depth chart yesterday, which has been analyzed by many on the web, but it's important to note a few disclaimers before we dive in.
First, as many have mentioned, including The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, the chart is not set in stone because many position battles are still going strong and spots are still very much up for grabs.
Second, packages greatly affect who is on the field at any given time so the "starters" at some positions have to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the defensive depth chart reflects the Ravens 3-4 defense, but the Ravens also play a 4-3. At times Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw and Elvis Dumervil will be on the field at the same time, but only two starters will be listed. The same goes for the cornerback position.
Third, as Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said yesterday, the Ravens expect players to know multiple positions to give the team flexibility, creativity and versatility. The Ravens are still in an experimental phase.
"Again, first depth chart doesn't mean much," Zrebiec tweeted.
That said, the early depth chart can be used as a guide heading into the preseason and may indicate who has an edge in some position battles. With that, let's take a look, and then pull out some interesting tidbits.
- Thompson behind T. Smith; Tandon Doss behind Jones: "The receiver depth chart, in particular, should be written in pencil. Jones has had his moments in camp, but will be pushed for playing time," wrote The Sun's Aaron Wilson. "Unless someone separates himself from the pack during the preseason games, this is shaping up as a committee approach."
- Gradkowski ahead of Shipley: "This is one of the Ravens' better competitions, but Gradkowski, as expected, has the initial edge," Wilson wrote.
- Ngata listed at nose tackle: "[M]oderately interesting but not entirely surprising," wrote Zrebiec. Agreed, especially because Ngata has been practicing there most of training camp.
- Elam behind Ihedigbo; A. Brown behind McClain and Bynes:As has been noted before, the Ravens are going to make their top draft picks earn starting jobs.**McClain, who hasn't yet been cleared for football activity, is still listed as a starter. "Another nod to a veteran who's a returning starter," wrote Wilson.
- *D. Smith is the starting middle, "Mike," linebacker: *"That's no shocker considering the former Jacksonville Jaguars starter's experience level and how he's performed," wrote Wilson.
- Upshaw – OR – Dumervil at strong side, "Sam," linebacker: "Dumervil routinely runs with the first defense after signing a $35 million maximum value deal this offseason, and Upshaw rotates into the base defense," says Wilson.
- *Webb and Graham over J. Smith: *All three will often be on the field together considering this is a passing league and teams play three wide receiver sets frequently. That said this is "the pecking order," per Wilson.
McKinnie Attributes Weight Gain To Lifting
Since being held out of the first day of practice for reporting to training camp overweight, left tackle Bryant McKinnie seems to already be turning things around after a week of action.
Head Coach John Harbaugh has been pleased with his progress, and McKinnie has spent a majority of practice reps with the first team.
McKinnie and Harbaugh both said he reported to camp in shape, but just with too much weight. McKinnie attributed the extra poundage to lifting weights.
"I'm back in the swing of things," McKinnie said Thursday, per CBSSports.com's Jason Butt. "I was a little over the weight I was assigned. It wasn't the conditioning, I was just overweight from the assigned weight. We wanted to spend that first day doing cardio to get that down. I'm 10 pounds over my weight. My assigned weight is 346.
"Lifting kind of bulks me up and makes me heavy. I haven't been lifting this camp, just doing cardio. My strength was never an issue. I did lifting because that's what we were supposed to do. I stopped lifting to get down to weight and focusing mainly on cardio."
Ozzie Newsome's Second Act
Ozzie Newsome has already entered the Hall of Fame as a tight end, but his success in the NFL didn't end as a player.
He followed it up with a "second act" on the personnel side of football. And now his first pick ever as a general manager will be inducted in the Hall of Fame Saturday. With Jonathan Ogden's induction, NFL Network takes a look at Newsome's success as the man in charge.
Lots Of Three Wide Receiver Sets
Whether it's because the Ravens have lost tight end Dennis Pitta or it's been a part of the plan, The Sun's Matt Vensel has noticed the Ravens have spent "a lot of time" in their three wide receiver set with one tight end and one tailback the last couple of practices.
"It was their most frequently used personnel grouping in 2012, and Flacco appeared most comfortable last season when the Ravens went three-wide and no-huddle," Vensel wrote. "And versatile athletes such as Dickson and running back Ray Rice give the Ravens formational flexibility in that grouping."
Five Reasons To Be Confident And Concerned
Pro Football Focus' Gordon McGuinness gives five reasons Ravens fans should be confident as their team embarks on defending the Super Bowl championship. But there are also five reasons he gives to be concerned.
Why be confident:
- Jim Caldwell turning things around for Joe Flacco: Flacco had a PFF grade of 3.2 under Cam Cameron, and a 13.2 under Caldwell.
- A dominant interior offensive line? McGuinness specifically points to Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda.
- Replacements for the old guard: "[O]n paper, the Ravens are a better team defensively" without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
- Two-headed monster at running back.
- The return of Lardarius Webb.
Why be concerned:
- Tough AFC North.
- Trouble in the slot: McGuinness says the pressure is on someone like Doss to step.
- Can Jimmy Smith step up?
- Can the offensive tackles be trusted?
- Is this the real Joe Flacco?
- @torreysmithwr: Our practices are tough..we work..we get better...and we have fun...love this team [Twitter]
- @ravens: #Ravens Special Teams Jerry Rosburg on Pro Bowl eliminating kickoffs: "Why even play it? Just have a banquet." Ha! [Twitter]
- @ravenscommunity: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti welcomes the MD National Guard today at training camp. @MDNG #Ravens [Twitter]
- @mzenitz: Omar Brown (Baby Ed Reed, as some teammates call [him]) had two INTs today. After one, Terrell Suggs screamed out twice, "He's the greatest" [Twitter]
- @jeffzrebiecsun: Dennis Pitta, on crutches, also returned to building, watching some of the practice inside. [Twitter]
- @ravenssalarycap: Visanthe Shiancoe's contract is a straight 1-year, $940K deal. No bonus $$. Under Miminum salary benefit rule will count $555K against Cap [Twitter]
- "Guard Kelechi Osemele and defensive tackle Arthur Jones, two of the most impressive players during training camp, went one-on-one in a blocking drill Thursday," Vensel wrote. "Osemele, who still appears to be a little limited by the hamstring he tweaked earlier in camp, pancaked Jones on one rep, latching onto him and wrestling Jones onto his back." [The Baltimore Sun]
- Is Michael Oher a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle? "While it's debatable whether Oher can become a Pro Bowl tackle, I believe everyone can agree that right tackle is his best spot. It was proved last season," wrote Jamison Hensley. "If Oher truly wants to elevate his game to a Pro Bowl level, he has to play more disciplined. In his four seasons, Oher has committed 45 penalties, including 21 false starts." [ESPN]