Two WRs Standing Out Among 12-Man Competition
This wide receiver competition is living up to its billing.
The Ravens have a whopping 12 receivers on the roster now, and none can afford to blink without the threat of being outshined by his teammate. Well, no one except Steve Smith Sr. The 15-year veteran's spot as the top dog is secure, and he's been connecting with quarterback Joe Flacco an awful lot.
Among the remaining 11, a couple are starting to separate from the pack through the first days of practice. The two are Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Butler, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"Aiken made difficult grabs on two Matt Schaub passes that sailed behind him while running across the middle," Hensley wrote after Saturday's practice. "Butler made another one-handed reception (the second straight day he's done so), and he pulled in a nice sideline catch from Schaub."
And that was written before Aiken came up with this beauty in Sunday's practice:
WATCH Kamar Aiken snag a long bomb in slow motion: http://t.co/w4YwtjSIOP https://t.co/fRPoejv72D — Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 3, 2015
Oh, don't get it twisted. This thing isn't over yet. It's just that Aiken and Butler took advantage of their reps with first-round pick Breshad Perriman sitting out with a bruised knee (he's considered day-to-day) and Marlon Brown was sidelined Saturday with a back injury (he was back Sunday).
Of the dozen receivers on the 90-man roster, only half are expected to make the cut to 53 on Sept. 5, says Hensley. The makeup of the group is unique. Outside of Smith Sr., nobody is older than 26 years old.
"The Ravens' receiving group is composed of one Pro Bowl player (Smith), two rookie draft picks (Perriman and Darren Waller), two returning backups (Brown and Michael Campanaro), two veterans who previously played elsewhere in the league (Aiken and Aldrick Robinson), two undrafted rookies (DeAndre Carter* *and Daniel Brown), one first-year player coming off injured reserve (Butler) and two converted receivers (Tom Nelson was a safety and Trent Steelman was a college quarterback)," wrote Hensley.
Should fans start to worry about Perriman now that he's missed three straight days of practice, which is more than initially thought? In terms of his injury, it really does seem like he will be fine even if it takes a couple more days to get back on the field.
"Although the injury isn't considered major, sources said it may sideline the speedy first-round draft pick longer than the Ravens had initially hoped and he could be out as long as a week," reported The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
So his health should be fine, but missing time does hurt the rookie in other ways.
He is missing valuable reps that would help get a better feel for the offense and technique, and develop more chemistry with Flacco. Also, giving precious reps to his competition allows them to outshine him like Aiken and Butler did this weekend.
"At the end of the day, he needs to practice as much as he can," Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman said. "It's not his fault that he's not practicing …* *but you can't overestimate the importance of him being on the football field, and hopefully, he'll be back as soon as possible, because he needs to practice, he needs to work, and he needs to work on the timing. That's the obvious, and when he's not there, he can't do it.
"Ultimately, we need to get him out here as soon as we can, and as soon as the doctors and the trainers OK that, he'll be back on the field and we'll get him back up to speed."
Once Perriman does return, expect him to use size and blazing speedy to make more grabs like these to show Aiken and Butler that this competition isn't over.
Elam Expected To Be Done For Season
Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't mince words when saying he's "not optimistic" for Matt Elam after he injured his bicep on the first day pads came on Saturday. The team is still waiting for Elam's MRI, but things aren't looking good.
David J. Chao, an Orthopedic Surgeon and former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline experience says the diagnosis is "easy" even without the MRI and expects Elam to miss the season.
While Elam hasn't yet lived up to the enormous expectations that come with being a first-round pick, your heart has to go out to him. After General Manager Ozzie Newsome publicly challenged him, it appeared Elam was responding in all the right ways.
Even if Elam didn't beat out Will Hill for the starting role, he still would have provided strong depth on an injury-prone secondary. His absence will be noticed in the defensive backfield.
"Elam and Ravens coaches had built up a considerable amount of hope that the strong safety would have a resurgent year following two disappointing NFL seasons," wrote Wilson. "Although Hill was regarded as the frontrunner to win the starting position, Elam had made progress and figured to receive significant playing time, regardless."
At this point, the safety position is a little thin and Baltimore Beatdown's Matthew Stevens wonders if the Ravens will turn to the free-agent market to bring in new blood.
"T]he fact that there had been a competition means that the Ravens were not 100% sold on Will Hill as the starter for a reason,” Stevens wrote. “We'll see if the Ravens [make any moves in the coming days to secure more depth at the safety position or if they feel comfortable enough with who they have at this time."
Campanaro Taking Up Yoga To Prevent Muscle Injuries
In just one year in Baltimore, receiver Michael Campanaro has developed a reputation for leg muscle pulls. A quad injury took him out of offseason practices in the spring, and a lingering hamstring injury in part limited him to four games as a rookie.
So, Campanaro is heeding the advice of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and Ravens trainers and strength and conditioning staff, and has taken up yoga and Pilates with the hope that he will avoid such injuries in the future.
The idea behind it is to strike a balance with his upper body and lower body. He's trying to figure out if there were any strength and flexibility imbalances that were causing a strain on his leg muscles.
"Yeah, I'm just getting balanced up and finding out what hasn't been working for me in the past and the things that are going to work for me now," Campanaro told Wilson. "The whole offseason I've been working here with the staff. I'm feeling good, but I've got to keep stacking days."
Training Camp Observations
Several reporters are publishing their observations from training camp, and below are some that stuck out to me:
***Jernigan explodes on Yanda:*** "The most impressive play of the early portion of practice belonged to second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who on a run play during full-team plays pushed back Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda several steps before shedding him and taking down running back Lorenzo Taliaferro in the backfield. He's not the space-eater defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was, but with pass-rush ability like that, run plays like this one can make him an every-down lineman." – The Sun's Jon Meoli
***Taliaferro impresses***: "Taliaferro, the second-year running back competing for time behind Justin Forsett, has continued his strong summer after impressing in organized team activities. He has hit holes hard all three days, caught the ball well out of the backfield, and looks even more physically imposing in full pads than he did out of them." - Meoli
Rookie Carl Davis gives the defensive line a***nasty three-headed monster**** with Jernigan and Brandon Williams:* "The massive rookie looks more like a power forward than a defensive lineman. For checking in at roughly 320 pounds, he has a lean build. It's amazing to think he can easily add another 20 pounds and the added weight wouldn't hamper his explosiveness. During running drills, Davis' power and speed was on display. He was able to consistently surge into the backfield, flying off the ball with a quick first step. Davis also overpowered John Urschel on a play in which he used one arm to shed the block and charge through the gap." – Russell Street Report's Dev Panchwagh
Kyle Arrington leaving strong first impression: "I really like what I have seen from Kyle Arrington as an outside corner. He has played physical and hasn't given up much space in coverage. During a two-minute drill, Arrington was challenged by Flacco on a jump ball to Michael Campanaro which he nearly picked off. On another play earlier in practice, he maintained inside leverage to cut Kamar Aiken off, then high-pointed the ball to disrupt the play." – Panchwagh
Nick Boyle takes a licking and keeps on ticking:"In the] first padded practice, #Ravens LB Courtney Upshaw gave a couple of shots to TE Nick Boyle. But [Boyle didn't back down. Showed toughness." – Hensley
Asa Jackson falling down depth chart? "Quinton Pointer, a three-year journeyman CB, got some reps with the first team. He could be passing Asa Jackson on the depth chart." – Hensley
- The Ravens are "taking a cautious approach" with injured outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who has now missed three days of training camp practice with tendinitis. [ESPN]