NFL Nation: Deonte Thompson

CB Webb out again for Ravens

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
7:35
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- The Ravens will be without their top cornerback for the second consecutive game.

Lardarius Webb won’t play tonight against the Steelers because of a back injury. Chykie Brown will start at left cornerback in the 8:25 p.m. ET game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Webb is the only starter who won’t play in the first Steelers-Ravens game of the season.

The Steelers are without No. 3 wide receiver Lance Moore (groin) and rookie running back Dri Archer (ankle) because of injuries.

Joining them on the Steelers' inactives list are wide receiver Martavis Bryant, nose tackle Daniel McCullers, guard Chris Hubbard, offensive lineman Wesley Johnson and quarterback Landry Jones.

Joining Webb on the Ravens’ inactives list are linebacker Arthur Brown, guard Jah Reid, wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Michael Campanaro, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi and guard John Urschel.

The Baltimore Ravens ran over the New Orleans Saints in a 22-13 win Thursday night in the preseason finale for both teams.

Rookie running backs Lorenzo Taliaferro and Fitzgerald Toussaint combined for 191 yards rushing, as the Ravens sat most of their starters. Toussaint, who is likely headed to the practice squad, rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries. Taliaferro, who could be the Ravens' No. 2 or 3 running back to start the season, gained 88 yards on 25 attempts.

The Ravens didn't play their top three running backs: Ray Rice, who will soon start a two-game suspension; Bernard Pierce, who didn't make the trip to New Orleans because of a concussion; and Justin Forsett, who was given the night off.

This marked the first time since 2009 that the Ravens (4-0) finished the preseason undefeated.

Here are some other thoughts in the Ravens' final preseason game:
  • Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor continued to put up points. He led the Ravens for scores on four of five drives. For the preseason, he has produced points on 12 (four touchdowns, eight field goals) of 21 drives. His worst throw was chucking the ball downfield into double coverage and getting it intercepted. Taylor finished 10-of-17 for 105 yards and one touchdown. Two of Taylor's passes were batted down at the line while the Ravens were in Saints territory.
  • It's going to be difficult to keep wide receiver Deonte Thompson off the 53-man roster after he scored a touchdown in his third straight game. He took advantage of a coverage breakdown to catch an 8-yard pass from Taylor in the end zone. Rookie seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro, who had 153 total yards, and Kamar Aiken, who led the Ravens with 57 yards receiving, also are in the mix at wide receiver. Could the Ravens keep seven receivers?
  • Second-year linebacker John Simon was the best player on defense. He set the edge against the run and had a handful of quarterback hits. Simon, a fourth-round pick from a year ago, needed a big game to make the roster. He entered the preseason finale on the bubble and put an exclamation on his strong night with a fourth-quarter sack.
  • Undrafted rookie Tramain Jacobs made a costly mistake when he ran into the kicker. Derek Dimke, who had missed the 54-yard field goal attempt, then hit from 49 yards to end the first half. Jacobs is still likely headed for the practice squad.
  • In the fourth quarter, cornerback Derek Cox, who was signed a day before the preseason finale, made an open-field tackle and broke up a third-down pass while covering the slot. It was impressive for a player who hasn't even practiced with the Ravens.
  • Backup guard Ryan Jensen, who is battling rookie John Urschel for a roster spot, was flagged twice for holding, although the last one was questionable. Still, Jensen needed to shine in this game after falling behind Urschel on the depth chart. Jensen was later hurt in the fourth quarter.
  • Justin Tucker was in midseason form, kicking field goals from 36, 27, 45, 32 and 24 yards. His only mistake was throwing his shoulder into a returner and making a tackle on kickoff coverage. Who cares if the Saints scored a touchdown in a preseason game? The Ravens can't afford to lose Tucker to an injury.

W2W4: Baltimore Ravens

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
12:00
PM ET
The Baltimore Ravens (3-0) and New Orleans Saints (3-0) face off in the preseason finale Thursday night (8 ET) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

1. Wide receiver battle. The Ravens have four players (Michael Campanaro, Kamar Aiken, Deonte Thompson and Jeremy Butler) fighting for one or two spots. It all depends on whether the Ravens are keeping five or six receivers. At this point, Campanaro and Aiken have the edge. The Ravens traded back into this year's draft to get Campanaro, so it's obvious the team likes him. Aiken had an impressive training camp, and he is a valuable special teams player. But Thompson could force his way onto the team by scoring a touchdown for the third straight preseason game. Butler seems headed to the practice squad unless he puts together a tremendous performance in the finale. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the wide receiver battle remains bunched up. "It’s still very competitive because all those guys are doing so well," Harbaugh said. "Nobody has dropped out of the race, and they’re all proving they can play.”

2. Pecking order at cornerback. Newly signed Derek Cox is expected to play, and when he gets on the field, it could indicate where he initially stands with the team. For the past two preseason games, Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks have started and rookie safety Terrence Brooks has worked at nickelback with the first-team defense. Cox hasn't practiced with the team, so the Ravens may bring him along slowly in this game. But, if Cox cuts into the playing time of Brown or Franks, this would be a sign that the Ravens want him to play meaningful snaps to start the season. As I wrote Wednesday, Cox isn't the answer at cornerback for the Ravens.

3. Keith Wenning's status. The rookie sixth-round quarterback appears headed to the practice squad. Will the Ravens give him a chance to prove he deserves to be on the 53-man roster? No one really knows. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor is starting the final preseason game because the Ravens are sitting Joe Flacco. It's possible the Ravens will let Taylor finish the game because he doesn't get many live reps during the regular season. Wenning has only appeared in one preseason game, and he looked very shaky in his three drives. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 23 yards and fumbled after getting sacked. Harbaugh said the decision to keep two or three quarterbacks is not difficult. "You just decide who your best 53 players are," Harbaugh said. "If the third quarterback is in the top 53, he’s on the team. If he’s not, he’s not. It’s simple.”

The Baltimore Ravens scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in a sloppy 37-30 preseason win at the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night.

The Ravens held a 14-7 lead in the first quarter before quarterback Joe Flacco even touched the ball. Touchdowns by outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (26-yard fumble return) and kickoff returner Deonte Thompson (108-yard return) staked the Ravens to an early advantage.

After shaking off a slow start (1 of 5 for four yards), Flacco finished strong by completing eight of his final 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown as the Ravens improved their record to 2-0. His 19-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith put the Ravens ahead 24-10.

Here are some other thoughts on the Ravens' second preseason game.
  • Injuries continue to give the Ravens reason to worry. Cornerback Jimmy Smith (chest)) and running back Ray Rice (shoulder) both left in the first half and didn't return. X-rays to both players were negative. Without Smith, Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) at cornerback, the Ravens went with Chykie Brown and Dominque Franks (who was beaten by Dez Bryant on a touchdown) on their first-team defense. That's not reason to worry. That's reason to panic.
  • This was the worst tackling effort from the Ravens in recent memory, especially in the defensive backfield. The first-team defense once again struggled to contain the outside runs and failed to get consistent pressure on the quarterback beyond Pernell McPhee. The Ravens believe they can be a top-five defense. In two preseason games, they don't look like a top-20 one. The defense did get two turnovers: a fumble recovery by Upshaw (on a gift from Tony Romo) and an interception by Brynden Trawick.
  • Deonte Thompson made his strongest statement of the summer to make the team. He's been awful in training camp, and he's the unofficial leader in dropped passes. But he showed off his speed in Dallas, returning kickoffs for 108 and 50 yards. If Thompson doesn't make the Ravens' final roster, another team will look at him for his return ability.
  • The Ravens once again put together a powerful and explosive running game. Bernard Pierce, who started in place of Rice (who is suspended for the first two games), averaged 7.8 yards per carry. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro gained 58 yards on tough running in between the tackles and scored a 3-yard touchdown. The biggest concern is holding onto the ball. The Ravens' running backs fumbled twice for a second straight game. In total, three backs (Pierce, Taliaferro and Justin Forsett twice) have coughed up the ball this preseason.
  • Tyrod Taylor is a great athlete but continues to be a below-average backup quarterback. He finished 6 of 8 for 59 yards, but he missed two big plays. Taylor threw a laser pass high to a wide-open Kamar Aiken in the end zone instead of making an easy lob to him. He also ran out of the pocket when he had tight end Nathan Overbay open downfield. Third-string quarterback Keith Wenning had a rough start, fumbling and getting sacked on his first two drop backs. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 23 yards.

Breaking down Ravens 2014 camp

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
9:00
AM ET
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens wrapped up their 19th training camp, one that will be remembered for Steve Smith's spectacular catches, Jimmy Smith's deflections, Kelechi Osemele's pulverizing hits and a couple of season-ending injuries to the defensive line.

Looking to rebound from their worst season since 2007, the Ravens believe they're a much better team than the one that began camp three weeks ago.

"That's the beauty of training camp -- you have an opportunity to really see [the] progress," coach John Harbaugh said. "You're in a crucible, and every single day it's all you do. It's wall-to-wall football. It's morning to night. You go to sleep and you wake up, and you're back at football. There's no escape. There's nowhere to hide, [and] there's nowhere to run. It's all football all the time, so you make progress rapidly, but you have to because you have a long way to go. We just have so much work to do still between now and then, and that's what we have to focus on.”

With 24 days until the season opener, this is what stood out in this year's training camp:

Osemele
Most impressive player of camp, offense: Left guard Kelechi Osemele. If he dominates this way in the regular season, the Ravens could have another Pro Bowl guard. He put so many defensive players on their backs that I'm surprised IHOP hasn't signed him to an endorsement deal.

Most impressive player, defense: Cornerback Jimmy Smith. He has carried all of the momentum from last year into this summer. Smith was the only defensive back who repeatedly won in one-on-one drills, and he regularly knocked down the few passes thrown in his direction.

Most disappointing player, offense: Wide receiver Deonte Thompson. He never resembled a player who had made the Ravens the past two seasons. His continual drops have pushed him on the wrong side of the bubble.

Most disappointing player, defense: Cornerback Chykie Brown. He entered camp as the front-runner for the No. 3 job, and he's now the biggest concern on the defense after allowing a deep pass on nearly every day of camp. Injuries to Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson have put Brown on the first-team defense by default.

Smith
Best play: Wide receiver Torrey Smith. He provide the highlight of camp during a red-zone drill at M&T Bank Stadium, where he skied in the air over cornerback Asa Jackson and hauled in Joe Flacco's pass with one hand.

Worst play: Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on the second day of joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers. It's a scene that won't soon be forgotten, from his gut-wrenching screams while laying on the ground to players from both teams kneeling down to pray around him.

Best addition: Wide receiver Steve Smith. It's hard to remember a day when you weren't by a catch he made.

Daniels
Most disappointing addition: Tight end Owen Daniels. Unlike Steve Smith, Daniels looked like a player who doesn't have much left.

Biggest sleeper, offense: Wide receiver Kamar Aiken. After being cut by three teams, Aiken has impressed the Ravens with his strong hands, which has helped him go from a long shot to someone who is inching closer to a roster spot.

Biggest sleeper, defense: Cornerback Tremain Jacobs. The undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M has become a favorite of the coaching staff. He isn't going to be the No. 3 corner this year, but he has the potential to develop into one in future years.

Most improved player, offense: Fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Last year, the Ravens re-signed Vonta Leach because Juszczyk wasn't ready as a rookie. Now, Juszczyk is primed for a breakthrough year as a lead blocker and a receiver.

Most improved player, defense: Linebacker Pernell McPhee. Don't be surprised if he matches his six-sack total from his 2011 rookie season because he's healthy and looks more explosive.

Ravens Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
4:15
PM ET
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:
  • If inside linebacker C.J. Mosley wasn't on the team, the most impressive rookie would be defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. He was disruptive again, finding his way into the backfield. The second-round pick is backing up Haloti Ngata, but the Ravens need to find a way to get him on the field.
  • One criticism of third quarterback Keith Wenning has been his arm strength. He is now throwing the ball more decisively and with more pop. There was an intermediate throw to Mike Willie where you could hear the ball hit the wide receiver's hands.
  • Wide receiver Deonte Thompson is hurting his chances of making the team with each passing day. He has to be the unofficial leader in drops this training camp. Another one came Wednesday when he let Joe Flacco's 55-yard touchdown pass go through his hands and bounce off his chest.
  • The Ravens got through three days without fighting with the San Francisco 49ers. They just couldn't stop fighting amongst themselves. In the Ravens' first workout since the joint practices, linebacker Nicholas DiMarco and center Reggie Stephens got into the biggest altercation. The players wrestled to the ground and then had to be separated by teammates.
  • Inside linebacker Arthur Brown has slid down the depth chart since the start of training camp, but he was very active during drills Wednesday. There's no questioning Brown's speed. He often gets lost among the big bodies inside.
  • In a rare occurrence, Justin Tucker missed wide right on a 41-yard field goal. He then hit from 46 yards on his next kick.
  • In a one-on-one drill in the red zone, undrafted rookie cornerback Sammy Seamster picked off a pass in the end zone. It came against Jacoby Jones, who isn't known for fighting for the ball.
  • Schedule: The Ravens have one more practice (Thursday at 11:45 a.m. ET) before ending training camp.
  • Injury wire: TE Dennis Pitta (ankle) had his first full practice after missing the previous two days. ... G Ryan Jensen (ankle) and SS Brynden Trawick (back) also returned after missing some time. ... CB Lardarius Webb (back) missed his 13th straight practice. He last practiced July 25. ... CB Asa Jackson (ankle) was sidelined for his third straight practice. ... G Will Rackley (head) remains out ... DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) is scheduled to have season-ending surgery by the end of the week. He tweeted out: "Bright side of this that Achilles doesn't take as long as a ACL." ... ... NT Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list. ... DE Brent Urban (torn ACL) is out for the season.
video Jimmy Smith became the fifth Baltimore Ravens player arrested this offseason when he was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct late Saturday night.

The embarrassment for the Ravens isn't the individual arrests, per se. Three players were arrested for misdemeanors, and none may go to trial on any of the charges.

Five years from now, the lasting black eye from the Ravens' trouble-filled 2014 offseason will likely be running back Ray Rice's incident and the cumulative effect of the arrests.

The numbers are nearly unbelievable since this year's Super Bowl:
  • The Ravens have had five players arrested, and the other 31 teams combined have had 14 arrests. This means one out of every four NFL players arrested this offseason have been Ravens.
  • There are only three other teams with multiple arrests (San Francisco, Buffalo and Chicago), and none has more than two. The Cincinnati Bengals, who have been known for making headlines for arrests in the past, have had only one off-field incident.
  • The Ravens' five arrests have been in a five-month span this year and are one more than they had in coach John Harbaugh's previous six seasons.

Most of these legal issues have been resolved. Rice (felony aggravated assault) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (misdemeanor battery) have both been accepted into pretrial intervention programs, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (felony possession of marijuana) had his case dismissed.

Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (misdemeanor destruction of property as well as drunk and disorderly) has a July 31 court date, and Smith will have a court date assigned.

While many want to point a finger at the Ravens for not having a tighter rein on their players, all five arrests occurred when the players were on a break from offseason workouts. In fact, all but Smith's arrest occurred outside Maryland. There is only so much a team can do to keep an eye on all 90 players on its roster.

The good news for the Ravens is that the offseason is almost over. There are only 10 days until the entire team reports for training camp. The Ravens can only hope they don't add to this police blotter of an offseason before then.

Another arrest, another black mark on the Baltimore Ravens' image.

The arrest of backup offensive lineman Jah Reid on two misdemeanor battery charges was the third involving a Ravens player in 22 days. That is nearly one per week since the middle of February.

Embarrassing? Without question. Have the Ravens become the NFL's bad boys again? You could make that argument.

All you have to do is bring up Ray Rice's TMZ video and the mug shots for Reid and wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Some will say it's unfair to put that label on the Ravens because two of the three players are backups and might not be on the team when the 2014 season kicks off. But the casual football fan will remember "three Ravens arrested in less than a month" and not the names of those players.

The Ravens have made significant strides to repair their image since the days of Ray Lewis pleading guilty to a obstruction of justice charge in a double murder and Jamal Lewis going to jail on a federal drug charge. I remember going to games in 2005 and seeing fans at opposing stadiums wearing orange jump suits with the name "Lewis" on back of them.

Coach John Harbaugh made it a focus to make over the Ravens' bad boy persona, even going as far as shelving the all-black uniforms to avoid "playing into everyone's stereotypical thinking." In Harbaugh's first six seasons, only four Ravens had been arrested. None were starters, and linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested before even putting on a Ravens uniform.

Even though there has been a spike in arrests, it's hard to blame Harbaugh, because he can't be following 53 players to Atlantic City or Florida. It's also difficult to blame the Ravens, because Rice, Thompson and Reid had never been arrested before in their NFL careers. It's not like you can accuse the Ravens of keeping repeat offenders.

But it's hard to alter the national perception when the headlines have been about another Ravens player arrested. Bad news is bad news. This was already going to be a challenging offseason for the Ravens, who were coming off their first non-winning season under Harbaugh. The Ravens have to rebuild their offense, part of their front seven on defense, and now their image.

The Ravens were atop the football world a year ago as Super Bowl champions. Now, it feels like their image is at the bottom of it.

No surprises with Ravens' inactives

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
7:28
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- There were no surprises with the inactives for the Baltimore Ravens, who play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night (8:30 ET, NBC).

Defensive end Chris Canty, who was probable with a shoulder injury, is active and will start. For the second straight week, the Ravens decided to go with wide receiver Brandon Stokley and defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, and they made wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive lineman Brandon Williams inactive.

Here are the Ravens' official inactives: safety Brynden Trawick, linebacker John Simon, defensive lineman Brandon Williams, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, running back Bernard Scott, safety Omar Brown and center Ryan Jensen.
The Baltimore Ravens cut wide receiver Brandon Stokley on Saturday and re-signed tight end Billy Bajema.

Parting ways with Stokley shows the Ravens are more confident in their young receivers like Marlon Brown and Deonte Thompson. In fact, Thompson's strong showing in Buffalo (four catches for 50 yards) likely prompted the move.

The Ravens signed Stokley during training camp because they wanted a sure-handed veteran who could move the chains on third down. But the Ravens are now going with more speed and big-play ability by opting for Thompson over Stokley. Cutting Stokley is also an indication that Thompson was cleared to play Sunday after suffering a concussion last week.

Even though four wide receivers are listed as questionable, the Ravens are getting healthier at that position. Thompson made his 2013 debut last week after missing the first three games with a foot injury. Jacoby Jones has a chance of playing Sunday after sitting out the past three games with a sprained knee.

Stokley had been banged up recently. He was inactive last Sunday because of a groin injury and didn't practice Friday. Stokley caught nine passes for 79 yards for the Ravens in three games.
There were no changes to the Ravens' injury report Thursday.

Four players didn't practice: wide receivers Jacoby Jones (knee, already ruled out) and Deonte Thompson (foot); nose tackle Brandon Williams (toe); and center Ryan Jensen (foot).

Defensive lineman Arthur Jones (illness) and backup running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) were limited again. Offensive tackle Michael Oher (ankle) had full participation for a second straight day.

"(Oher) is an unusual guy -- extremely tough, extremely dedicated and disciplined," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said Thursday. "He has a very, very high tolerance for pain. He’s been able to get back out. He’s obviously committed to this team, and he’s working at it extremely hard.”

The Baltimore Ravens could be without wide receiver-returner Jacoby Jones for four to six weeks, according to multiple reports.

Jones reportedly has sprained his medial collateral ligament in his right knee after undergoing an MRI on Friday. He was injured when undrafted rookie Brynden Trawick, who was playing in his first NFL game, ran into the Pro Bowl returner on a punt return in Baltimore's season-opening 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos Thursday night.

The Ravens can't put Jones on the injured reserve-designated for return list because they used that on tight end Dennis Pitta. And, given the possibility of Jones returning in a month, Baltimore wouldn't have used that designation, which sidelines a player for at least eight weeks, on Jones.

Here's the impact of not having a triple threat like Jones:

Wide receiver: Minimal. Jones was the No. 2 receiver for the Ravens, but it's debatable whether he's the second-best receiver on the team. You can make the argument that undrafted rookie Marlon Brown is a better pass-catcher right now than Jones. In the season opener, Jones had three catches for 24 yards in a little over one quarter of work, while Brown had four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. Brown's size and ability to make catches over the middle is an asset to this offense. So, in the big picture, Baltimore is going to miss Anquan Boldin (traded in the offseason) more than Jones.

Punt returns: Moderate. It looks like the Ravens are going to have cornerback Lardarius Webb fill in for Jones here. Jones scored a critical touchdown off a punt at Pittsburgh last season, but he ranked 15th in the NFL in punt returns with a 9.2-yard average. Baltimore may not lose much with Webb, who is an experienced punt returner. In 2011, Webb had a slightly better average (10.0) than Jones and had a 68-yard touchdown. The biggest problems deal with injury. The Ravens ideally wouldn't want to put too much on Webb, who is 11 months removed from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, and wouldn't want to expose their best cover corner to getting hurt on special teams.

Kickoff returns: Big. This is the role where Jones excels the most. Jones earned his first Pro Bowl nod primarily for leading the NFL with a franchise-record 30.7-yard kickoff return average. He is the only player in NFL history to record two kickoff return touchdowns of at least 105 yards, and he did so in a four-week span last season. Jones also had a Super Bowl-record 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. The Ravens went with Bernard Pierce on kickoffs after losing Jones on Thursday night, although the injured Deonte Thompson (foot) is listed as the No. 2 kickoff returner on the depth chart. Whoever takes over, the Ravens won't have the same explosiveness as they did with Jones.
Here is the Baltimore Ravens' injury report for Thursday's game in Denver:

OUT: DT Art Jones (non-football illness).

DOUBTFUL: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe).


PROBABLE: TE Ed Dickson (hamstring), DE Pernell McPhee (knee).
Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson had his second full practice, a sign that he'll play in Thursday's regular-season opener in Denver.

Dickson has been dealing with a hamstring injury throughout the preseason. On Monday, Dickson sounded optimistic about his chances of suiting up.

"I’d go with what Ed said," coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. "He knows himself as well as anybody, and he’s had good practices.”

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), nose tackle Brandon Williams (toe) and center Ryan Jensen aren't expected to be available after missing Tuesday's practice. Linebacker Pernell McPhee was limited with a knee injury.

Starting defensive end Art Jones, who was ruled out Monday with an illness, addressed his situation on Twitter on Tuesday.
"As many of you know i'm having personal health issues. Please respect my privacy. We as athlete's go through real life problems also.Thank You all for your love and support. Ravens fans are the best!! See you all on the field soon!!! : ) #Onelove"

Harbaugh said he would leave it to Jones to discuss the specifics of his illness.

"It’s not anything that’s life threatening or anything like that, but it’s non-football related," Harbaugh said. "We’ve just got to get some tests done to make sure he’s OK. And until the tests come out the right way, he’s not going to be able to play. It’s something that I’ve been told now that they can’t tell you how long it’ll be. It could be a week. It could be indefinitely. We don’t think it’s going to be the second part of it, but he’s going to see a specialist here on Wednesday."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't waste any time to set the theme for the defending Super Bowl champions' training camp.

"First post-practice press conference of the 2013 season," Harbaugh told reporters last week, "so I guess that means that 2012 is behind us, right?"

No one in the organization is wearing a Super Bowl ring. The two Lombardi trophies won by the Ravens aren't sitting in the lobby of the team's headquarters. Even two of the most prominent players in franchise history -- Ray Lewis and Ed Reed -- are gone.

This is more than distancing themselves from a Super Bowl hangover. The Ravens have undergone a Super Bowl team makeover. This is a new team with new challenges. In many ways, this is a new era.

When you factor in the season-ending injury to tight end Dennis Pitta, the Ravens will take the field in 2013 with 10 different starters from the team that beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl in February; six on defense, four on offense. How drastic is this change? No previous Super Bowl champion has lost more than five starters the following year.

The Ravens can't say this was part of some grand scheme to be revolutionary. A salary-cap crunch forced some tough decisions and even tougher divorces. Many have counted out the possibility of a Ravens repeat because of these losses. The Ravens, though, believe they remain a title contender because of the players who will replace them, such as pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, defensive lineman Chris Canty, safety Michael Huff and first-round pick Matt Elam.

“Every move we’ve made is what’s best for our football team to be the best team we can. Period. ... We’ll just see where that takes us,” Harbaugh said. “I’m pretty excited about it. I think we can be a very good football team. But we have to prove it.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Figuring out the No. 2 wide receiver. The one move that the Ravens will second-guess is trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick because he refused to reduce his $6 million salary. This leaves the Ravens with Torrey Smith as the No. 1 wide receiver and a bunch of question marks.

The favorite at this point is Jacoby Jones, but team officials won't just hand the job over to him. Jones will have to win it. You get a feeling that the team would like one of its young receivers to take over the No. 2 spot, which would allow Jones to focus on his true strengths. Jones was a difference-maker in the playoffs as a field-stretching No. 3 receiver and a returner. But there's no proven experience beyond Smith and Jones, the only two wide receivers on the Ravens' roster who have caught more than seven passes in a season.

"I will play whatever role they want me to play," Jones said. "If they want me to hand out the water, I will be the best water boy there is."

The other receivers are making an impression early in camp. Tandon Doss, who is considered more of a possession receiver since being a fourth-round pick in 2011, looks more explosive. Deonte Thompson, who went undrafted a year ago, has the talent to develop into a starting receiver in this league, but he has to be more consistent. And David Reed, who has been an afterthought in this competition, has bulked up.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Jones
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJacoby Jones looks to move up the depth chart following the departure of Anquan Boldin.
All four receivers have rotated into the starting lineup in the first week of camp. “That’s exactly the plan,” Harbaugh said. “We’re rotating those guys by period usually, and we’re giving them all a chance to work with the first group and work with Joe [Flacco].”

2. The state of the offensive line. Most of the players blocking for Flacco right now likely will not do so in the regular-season opener in Denver. Right guard Marshal Yanda (offseason shoulder surgery) is on the physically unable to perform list. Left guard Kelechi Osemele is sitting out some practices after tweaking his hamstring. And left tackle Bryant McKinnie is working himself back into shape.

The only starters in front of Flacco right now are right tackle Michael Oher and first-year starting center Gino Gradkowski, who has to prove he's strong enough to be a center at this level. As a result, Flacco isn't getting much time in the pocket, not even on his three-step drops. Although none of these injuries is serious, the Ravens need to get this group together as quickly as possible to get their chemistry back.

The reason the Ravens believe this offensive line will be better than last year's group is Juan Castillo. His title is run game coordinator, but make no mistake, he's running this offensive line. Castillo is a respected offensive line coach from his days with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he's also one of the more motivated coaches in the league after being fired following two tumultuous seasons as the Eagles' defensive coordinator. Several teams were interested in adding Castillo to their staff, but Harbaugh had an edge. He's known Castillo since he was in fifth grade.

3. Availability of inside linebacker Jameel McClain. The original prognosis was that McClain would be sidelined for six months after suffering a spinal cord contusion. Nine months later, McClain still hasn't been cleared for football activities. This is a big deal for the Ravens, even though McClain is hardly a big name around the league. While the spotlight has been on Lewis for years, McClain has been an underrated force in the middle for Baltimore.

McClain's slower-than-expected recovery hasn't put the Ravens in a vulnerable position. Already knowing the team had to replace the retired Lewis, Baltimore drafted Arthur Brown in the second round, and the team has been impressed with his ability to run sideline to sideline. Then, after the team's first choice at inside linebacker, Rolando McClain, abruptly retired, the Ravens signed Daryl Smith, a free agent from the Jacksonville Jaguars, on June 5.

If McClain is unable to return for the regular season, Smith would start at inside linebacker with Brown. The Ravens had been monitoring Smith throughout the offseason, but they wanted to wait until June to sign him so he wouldn't count against them getting an additional compensatory pick next year.

“Daryl is a very intelligent player,” Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “You can tell he’s a veteran. He plays smooth. He’s got heavy hands. He’s a tough guy. I really love his personality -- fits right in with our room."

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeElvis Dumervil
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyPass-rusher Elvis Dumervil is one of the Ravens' high-profile offseason acquisitions.
On paper, the Ravens have a better defense than a year ago. That's not saying much. A franchise known for stopping the run and picking off quarterbacks, the Ravens finished 17th in the NFL in yards allowed (5,615) last season. Baltimore improved its pass rush by replacing Paul Kruger with Dumervil. The Ravens upgraded their defensive line with Canty. They also added two well-rounded safeties in Elam and Huff to fill the void left by Reed, who struggled with tackling, and Pollard, who struggled in pass coverage. Plus, the Ravens get back their best cornerback in Lardarius Webb, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in October.

Offensively, the Ravens have the potential to improve if Flacco has truly turned the corner. Last season, after Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator, Flacco averaged 283.8 yards per game with 15 touchdowns and one interception. If Flacco can carry this over in 2013, the Ravens will have a top-10 offense.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

There are always going to be doubts about Flacco because he hasn't been able to play at a high level for 16 games in the regular season. The pressure will be on Flacco to produce after he signed a $120.6 million contract this offseason. He'll have to validate that contract with not much of a supporting cast this season. He lost his top two targets from a year ago in Boldin and Pitta. They accounted for 36 receptions in the postseason, which was nearly half of Flacco's completions.

Where Flacco will miss Boldin and Pitta the most is in the red zone. The Ravens will be vulnerable if they are scoring field goals instead of touchdowns. There will be little room for error for the Ravens, who have to hold off the upstart Bengals to win the AFC North for a third straight season.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • One apparent change since Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator was moving Flacco out of the pocket more. It was more of the same in the first couple of practices in camp. Flacco, though, doesn't want to be the next RG III. "You hope that you have some room in there to move around and look for guys," Flacco said. "But I’m not going to make a living doing it. And if I was to do that, I’d probably be out of the game after like four of them and on the sideline for the rest of the season."
  • Terrell Suggs has never been a workout warrior, but he took his training to another level this offseason. He reported to training camp in the best shape of his 11-year career. Some of the motivation comes from the fact that he wants to reclaim his title as best defender in the league after an Achilles injury slowed him down in 2012. He also wants to prove his worth to the Ravens considering his base salary in 2014 jumps to $7.8 million.
  • Another veteran who is in much better shape than a year ago is Haloti Ngata, who is working at a new position at nose tackle. The addition of Canty allowed Ngata to move inside, where Ngata is more comfortable and effective. It's clear Ngata is carrying fewer pounds when you see him run down the line and disrupt the stretch running plays.
  • Let's not write off Ray Rice too quickly. There's been a clamoring in the Ravens' fan base for backup running back Bernard Pierce to get more carries because he had a stronger finish to last season than Rice. Although the Ravens are wise not to overload Rice, he's still the best playmaker at running back. Look at fourth-and-29 in San Diego if you need a reminder. Pierce has shown the ability to get yards on defenses after the Ravens have worn them down. He's not in the same league as Rice yet.
  • Rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk has to prove himself as a lead blocker, especially in short-yardage situations. Some have already been calling for the Ravens to re-sign Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach. But Juszczyk has been effective as a receiver. One local reporter nicknamed him "Little Pitta."
  • The natural assumption is that the signing of Dumervil will reduce playing time for outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. That may not be true. The Ravens like Upshaw's impact on run defense and his ability to set the edge. It wouldn't surprise me if Upshaw played a majority of the early downs, which would keep Dumervil fresh as a pass-rusher.
  • It was last year at this time when the Ravens were deciding between Justin Tucker and Billy Cundiff at kicker. Harbaugh made the right move in going with Tucker, but it was far from a no-brainer. Tucker was an undrafted rookie and Cundiff was a year removed from being a Pro Bowl kicker. Tucker didn't convincingly win the battle, but it was enough to beat out Cundiff, who had that painful miss in the AFC Championship Game the previous postseason. Tucker converted 30 of 33 field goals (90.9 percent), the second-best success rate for a rookie in NFL history. He made a 58-yard field goal in training camp this year. Cundiff, meanwhile, is with the New York Jets, his third team since getting cut by the Ravens in August 2012.

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