Wideout Watch 2009

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** Sunday Update

**

In order to further bolster their receiving corps, the Ravens brought in a trio of veterans for a three-day tryout.

Until Sunday, no one had emerged between Jerry Porter, Tab Perry and Kelley Washington.

On Sunday, however, Washington made the best case of the three to stick around.

While the former University of Tennessee star may not have the career credentials and big name of Porter, nor the explosive returning ability of Perry, who set a Cincinnati Bengals franchise record with 1,562 kickoff return yards in 2005, Washington simply brought a workmanlike demeanor to his play, attempting to highlight his sound fundamentals by making several solid catches.

Considering he only had the Ravens playbook since Friday, that was probably a smart strategy.

"All weekend, I've just tried to go out and make some plays," Washington said. "In this type of setting, you have to keep up with the offense as best you can. You're going to make some plays and drop some balls. It's up to the personnel department to evaluate you.

"When I was working with my position group, I just wanted to show that I could catch the ball and run good routes, do the things that I can so when I do know the offense, I can contribute."

Washington, who was a third-round selection of the Bengals in 2003 and is coming off a two-year stint with the New England Patriots, seemed to find a connection with backup quarterback Troy Smith. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver made one diving catch and also beat safety Haruki Nakamura for a long touchdown.

And while Washington wanted to let his play do the talking, he drew attention with a celebratory dance after scoring.

"In five practices, there is only so much you can do, but there are also some little things that you can get evaluated on," Washington said.

Still, it may not be enough to earn a contract with the Ravens.

Head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome have both said that they are comfortable with the receivers currently on the roster.

After Sunday's practice, Harbaugh admitted that the Ravens are aiming to sign one of the three.

"I would say that, to be fair, we would like to sign at least one guy," the coach noted. "But it depends on their situation, what else they have going. It's just hard to predict right now. But, we liked all three guys."

The first minicamp also showed how Marcus Smith and Justin Harper, two members of last year's draft class, could step up and be the next pass-catching threat in Baltimore.

"'Harp,' he did some good things out there throughout the whole camp," said wideout Derrick Mason. "I know he's really impressed the coaches. I saw him make some terrific catches; he's out there competing.

"And Marcus is just getting better. He's really improved over last season. I think he's now really understanding what it means to be a professional. I think they all are."

There will certainly be a lot of reps available for the Ravens to adequately assess their depth at the position because Mason is recovering from a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair his right labrum and scapula.

Mason could only pin opening day down as an estimate for his return. He also hinted at the possibility of missing training camp.

"I don't know [when he'll come back to the practice field]. I really don't," Mason said. "All I can say for certain - well, not even for certain - if everything continues to progress the way it has been, I'll be ready for the first game."

In addition to Mason, both Mark Clayton (undisclosed) and Demetrius Williams (ankle) were limited for the entire camp.

Saturday Update

As Derrick MasonMark Clayton and Demetrius Williams continue to be limited in minicamp, the Ravens are hoping for one among a stable of wideouts to separate themselves from the pack.

So far, Marcus Smith seems to be answering that call.

Through only two days of practices, Smith has been a standout at team headquarters in Owings Mills, Md.

Friday, he made a tough adjustment in traffice to snare a 45-yard bomb from quarterback Joe Flacco in the end zone, wrestling it free from cornerback Domonique Foxworth. He followed that with a difficult catch in traffic that he hauled in around his knees.

Later, he toe-tapped the sideline to grab an 8-yard reception during seven-on-seven action.

Smith, a fourth-round draft pick out of New Mexico last year, is relishing his chance to shine in this receiver audition.

"I definitely think it is a competition," Smith said. "Not only a competition within myself, but with the guys that didn't have a defined role coming into last year. We need to make those plays in order to get a defined role to where we're working with Joe on a regular basis.

"I'm just happy to have the opportunity to make those plays."

For the second consecutive day, Mason, Clayton and Williams donned red mesh tops over their practice jerseys, leaving Smith and the other wideout prospects to most of the reps.

Justin Harper, a 2008 seventh-round draft pick, looked solid while pulling in a touchdown pass Saturday. Kelley Washington, one of a trio of tryout candidates with Jerry Porter and Tab Perry, was promising, although not a revelation.

Other than that, there haven't been many fireworks from the receiving corps.

Still, the Ravens remain committed that there are already enough weapons for Flacco's powerful right arm in the locker room.

"We got to the AFC championship game with the guys that we have," said Mason, who led Baltimore with 80 receptions for 1,037 yards and five touchdowns last season. "You can't satisfy everybody around here. We've had a lot of injuries that kind of derailed some of the things that we wanted to do. Once we're fully healthy, we're just as good as any group."

Smith is familiar with his current role, considering how much practice time he got with the first-string offense his rookie campaign.

Towards the end of the year, Mason was hampered with a shoulder injury that kept him out of many practices, while Williams was sidelined after seven games because of an Achilles' tendon injury.

That left Smith and Calyton as Flacco's primary receivers on a daily basis.

"That helped tremendously, going out there when Derrick and Demetrius were out," Smith said. "I got a chance to see how this offense works."

As for his heroics on Friday, Smith couldn't help but be truthful. He'll let his performance speak for itself, but he does admit that a little luck contributed to his touchdown catch.

"I just knew I had to run," Smith said with a laugh. "I didn't even see the ball until the last 10 yards, because I knew I had to clear the defender. Everyone got quiet when Joe threw the ball, and I turned around and made the catch."

Friday Update

As the Ravens set out to solidify the receiver position with the start of a three-day mandatory minicamp on Friday, many heads were turned towards three practice jerseys that were absent a nameplate.

Those belonged to veteran free agents Jerry Porter (No. 45), Kelley Washington (No. 2) and Tab Perry (No. 35), who joined the team for an open tryout.

While each of them brought promising skills, miscommunication between the new wideouts and Baltimore's quarterbacks was obvious, as the timing of some routes seemed to be off.

Porter dropped a ball on a slant, but made up for it with a sliding grab a few plays later. Washington had a pass broken up on a comeback route during seven-on-seven work. And Perry also admitted to needing some adjustment time.

Those negatives could be attributed to the fact that the trio only received the Ravens' playbook Thursday night.

"I need to look at the film," said Porter when asked to evaluate his performance. "This is pretty much the first time I've played since December, and being on your own, there really isn't a lot you can do to simulate game speed.

"I just got the playbook last night, so I'm trying to play fast," he added with a chuckle.

"You just have to do the things you can to give the coaches the impression that you're learning and getting as much of the playbook in your head as you can," Washington agreed.

They will have to get up to speed quickly if they want to earn a place behind starters Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, who have a logjam at receiver behind them on the depth chart.

The most-likely candidate for the third wideout is Demetrius Williams, whom the Ravens are banking will bounce back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for nine contests in 2008.

After wearing a red mesh top over his purple practice jersey - signifying that he was limited - Williams admitted that he still wasn't at full strength.

Working back from surgery on his Achilles' tendon, Williams said he was "80 percent," but was happy to be back on the field.

"I feel good," he said. "It's good being out there again because it's been a while. We're working to get some chemistry with this team.

"I've been pretty close [to 100 percent], but just started running and have to build the strength back up. Hopefully, with each day it will get stronger."

During what work he could do, the injury didn't seem to faze Williams when he sprinted to shag passes from Joe Flacco. But when he walked, there was a slight hitch in his step.

"Walking hurts more than running, which is funny," Williams stated. "But I think it's because I'm not exploding off it. When I'm running, I think I've trained my mind to not think about and just run smoothly. I'm probably going to walk with a limp for a little while, but as long as I can run, I'm fine."

To help guard against further injury, Williams, who previously carried around 197 pounds on his wiry 6-foot-2 frame, added 10-15 pounds through the Ravens' offseason conditioning program at the suggestion of his coaches.

Williams is leading a group that includes Yamon Figurs, Marcus Smith, Justin HarperErnie Wheelwright and Marcus Maxwell, young talents that were already in house. The Ravens also brought in rookie free agents Isaiah Williams (Maryland) and Eron Riley (Duke).

With so many receivers vying for a roster spot, perhaps Porter, Washington and Perry's best asset is their experience.

Porter became a regular starter for the Oakland Raiders after they picked him 47th-overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

His best season came in 2004, when he caught 64 passes for 998 yards and nine touchdowns. Porter was recently released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who signed him to a lucrative six-year contract last year, after totaling only 11 receptions and one score.

Washington is coming off a campaign where he played 10 games for the New England Patriots, solely on special teams, while Perry is primarily a return specialist who holds the Cincinnati Bengals' franchise record with 1,562 kickoff return yards, set in 2005.

Not one of the veterans has ever participated in a tryout scenario before, but they all are maintaining a positive outlook.

"You have to think that you're part of the team and it's your job to lose," Perry said. "You can't go in just hoping they like you. You need to have the confidence that they will like you, and if they don't, then you have to try harder next time."

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