AFC North: franchise tage
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens completed their first day of veteran minicamp Friday to kick off the 2009 season.
Here are some notes and observations:
- Similar to last year, the Ravens are still running high-energy, up-tempo practices. Everything is fast: the players, the drills, even the way Baltimore gets in and out of its drills. There is little wasted motion in what this team does on the practice field, which is impressive (and fun) to watch. It's a method head coach John Harbaugh learned with the Philadelphia Eagles and he has carried it over to the Ravens. The increased efficiency and tempo served the team well in 2008.
- Second-year player Tavares Gooden played with the first-team defense, and it looks like he will get the first chance to replace Bart Scott at inside linebacker. Gooden is coming off an injury-riddled rookie campaign but showed fluid movement and good quickness on the first day.
- Not to gauge too much on one day, but of the tryout receivers I thought Kelley Washington stood out the most Friday. In a group consisting of Washington, Tab Perry and Jerry Porter, none of them did anything spectacular. But Washington's made a couple of plays and his effort level was consistently where it needed to be.
- Another receiver, Marcus Smith, flashed some ability Friday. He beat starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth twice on a pair of beautiful deep balls thrown by starting quarterback Joe Flacco. On one catch, he outran the coverage, and on the second he out-jumped Foxworth. Flacco also connected with Smith several times in the afternoon session and seems to be developing good chemistry early with the second-year receiver.
- Pro Bowl linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs was not present because he has yet to sign his franchise tender. You can read more about that here. Another absentee was receiver D.J. Hackett, who was expected to be one of the veteran tryouts but decided not to participate at the last minute. Offensive linemen Willie Anderson (knee) and Ben Grubbs (ankle) did not participate because they were recovering from injuries. Anderson's injury opened the door for rookie first-round pick Michael Oher to work with the starters.
- Defensive tackle Kelly Gregg made it through the first day of practices without any ill effects from microfracture knee surgery. He practiced some with the first team and said that he feels good about his recovery.
- As far as the backup quarterback competition goes, Troy Smith is getting second-team reps while John Beck is playing with the third team. It's too early to tell who will take an early lead. Both players had good throws and bad throws Friday, but Beck looks like he is picking up Baltimore's offense very quickly. He ran a similar system with the Miami Dolphins when Cam Cameron was head coach.