Observations at Ravens' offseason practice
June, 5, 2014
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
The Baltimore Ravens opened their second practice of the offseason on Wednesday and here is what caught my eye ...
- Not surprisingly, the defense is way ahead of the offense. The defensive backs and linebackers were jumping routes so often in team drills that you had to wonder whether they knew what was coming. There are going to be growing pains for the offense as first-year coordinator Gary Kubiak installs his scheme. But the Ravens probably would like more success against a defense that was playing without four starters: linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Chris Canty and inside linebacker Daryl Smith.
- I mentioned in last week's observations that I saw backup Justin Forsett taking most of the first-team reps, and a Ravens official later contacted me to say that wasn't the case. There was no question about who was taking the snaps with the starting offense on Wednesday. Ray Rice was behind Joe Flacco on nearly every play. For the second straight time, Rice showed he could hit that extra gear after getting the ball, especially when catching a pass in the open field.
- Wide receiver Steve Smith is going to be a favorite target for Joe Flacco because of his ability to run slants and the comeback route. Smith also let everyone know he can still get behind defenders. On what was Flacco's best throw of the day, Smith beat safety Matt Elam over the middle of the field and caught a bomb for a touchdown.
- The Ravens are going to make first-round pick C.J. Mosley earn his spot in the starting lineup. Even with Daryl Smith skipping the voluntary practice, Mosley ran with the second team. Josh Bynes teamed inside with Arthur Brown on the first-team defense. It's still a safe bet that Mosley is going to be in the starting lineup when the season begins. He can be a difference-maker inside, and he has a comfort level with this defense.
- Wide receiver Torrey Smith is catching everything thrown his way. He was blanketed by cornerback Jimmy Smith along the sideline and still found a way to come down with the ball by making an adjustment in mid-air. That was part of Torrey Smith's game that I didn't see much of last season.
- Ryan Jensen continues to impress coaches in his move to offensive tackle. He got into a scuffle at one point, and the Ravens like that scrappiness. Rick Wagner is still considered the starting right tackle, but Jensen can make this an interesting battle during training camp. The Ravens' commitment to Wagner and Jensen decreases the chances of adding a veteran like Eric Winston.
- The Ravens have some depth on the interior of the offensive line behind Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele. Who has the upper hand right now? Perhaps A.Q. Shipley. He stepped in at right guard with Yanda not showing for the voluntary practice. The other options are Gino Gradkowski and John Urschel. The Ravens could have more players in the mix, but Jensen is working at tackle and Jah Reid is dealing with a calf injury.
- File this under the "don't do that again" category: Instead of throwing the ball away while running toward the sideline, Tyrod Taylor tossed the ball back over the middle of the field. This is what frustrates the Ravens. Taylor shows flashes but then makes a careless decision that could hurt the team.
- Rookie quarterback Keith Wenning won't floor anyone with his arm strength. There's a noticeable difference when Flacco throws 15 yards downfield and when the sixth-round pick does it. Wenning, though, has a good touch on the intermediate throws. He also seemed comfortable when rolling out, which is a staple of the Kubiak offense.
- Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore is a work in progress as a pass-catcher. There were three instances where the pass bounced off his hands, although he did have a defender draped over him on one play. Gillmore, a third-round pick, has the size to immediately make an impact as an inline blocker.
- Coach John Harbaugh is great about instilling a mindset with the sayings that he has plastered in the locker room and meeting rooms. This time, he was a walking billboard. Harbaugh's T-shirt read: "Ravens football is hustle. Constant hustle." The Ravens and Harbaugh pride themselves on having the most up-tempo practices in the NFL.