Over the first week of training camp, the receiving group has established itself into tiers.
The first tear features just one player -- Torrey Smith. Smith is the only one that's solely ran with the first team during practices, and he's impressed with a some nice catches. Perhaps his best catch of camp came Wednesday, when quarterback Joe Flacco lofted a perfect throw just in between cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Michael Huff, which Smith caught over the shoulder with his best Willie Mays impersonation.
The receivers are a talented group, though none outside of Smith have proved consistency in games. It should be a battle that goes down to the end of training camp.
Once again, here's an updated projection for Baltimore's 53-man roster.
Quarterback (2): Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor; Out: Caleb Hanie
Analysis: Flacco's among the game's better and most durable quarterbacks. Taylor's a capable backup. The Ravens don't need anyone after these two, or otherwise they're taking a roster spot from someone else more deserving.
Running back (2): Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce; Bubble: Anthony Allen, Bobby Rainey; Out: Damien Berry
Analysis: With the Ravens bringing back Vonta Leach, it might cost a third running back a roster spot. Allen was the frontrunner due to his abilities as a lead blocker on special teams. Now that Leach is back, rookie Kyle Juszczyk could fill that role as he played special teams in college at Harvard.
Fullback (2): Vonta Leach, Kyle Juszczyk
Analysis: As mentioned above, both fullbacks will make the roster. Leach is a traditional, lead-blocking fullback. Juszczyk is a receiving, H-back type that could wind up splitting out as a tight end or receiver, as well as running routes out of the backfield. It's an intriguing group that offers a ton of versatility when combined with Rice and Pierce.
Wide receiver (6): Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, David Reed, LaQuan Williams; Bubble: Aaron Mellette, Tommy Streeter, Marlon Brown; Out: Gerrard Sheppard, Rashaad Carter, Marcus Rivers
Analysis: For whatever reason, it's easy to forget just how deserving Williams has been the last two years to make this roster. Once again, he's proving why he belongs. After returning from a shoulder injury Wednesday, Williams made quite a few catches on the practice field. On one occasion, he needed help stretching the shoulder out as it was apparent it bothered him some. After the stretch, he went back in and continued to work. He'll be a tough one to beat out come September. Baltimore may hope it can sneak Mellette, Streeter and Brown -- or at least two of them -- on the practice squad.
Analysis: If there was one guy to watch during preseason games, it would be Furstenburg. With Pitta out for the season, the Ravens could use a second receiving tight end. Shiancoe hasn't shown much in that regard in practice, though Furstenburg has been able to sneak past the second-team defense on occasion. By no means is Shiancoe's spot safe, though there's still the chance Baltimore goes with four tight ends.
Offensive line (8): Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, A.Q. Shipley, Ricky Wagner, Jah Reid; Bubble: Ramon Harewood; IR Candidate: Ryan Jensen; Out: David Mims, Jordan Devey, Antoine McClain, Jack Cornell, J.J. 'Unga, Reggie Stephens, Rogers Gaines, Jack Cornell.
Analysis: Now that McKinnie is finding a groove in practice, he's seeing the majority of the first-team reps at left tackle again. Gradkowski has taken most of the first-team reps at center. The pre-camp projection featuring Shipley was dead wrong as he's the clear second-team center, even before Jensen broke his foot. If Jensen didn't break his foot, the Ravens would probably keep nine linemen. Now, Jensen is an IR candidate based on his prognosis (10 weeks). The Ravens could always put McClain, who's filled in on some first-team duties with Yanda missing practice, back on the practice squad and call him up if needed.
Defensive line (6): Chris Canty, Arthur Jones, Brandon Williams, Haloti Ngata, Marcus Spears, DeAngelo Tyson; Bubble: Terrence Cody; IR candidate: Kapron Lewis-Moore; Out: Will Pericak, Cody Larsen
Analysis: Cody needs to prove he's able to generate a consistent push at nose tackle on a more consistent basis if he wants to return for the 2013 season. Williams' emergence has been noted, as the rookie nose tackle has been impressive early on. Ngata is also seeing some time at nose tackle, which could ultimately push Cody out.
Outside linebacker (6): Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Pernell McPhee, Courtney Upshaw, John Simon, Adrian Hamilton; Out: D.J. Bryant, Meshak Williams
Analysis: Hamilton has generated some solid pass rushes of late, which is a reason why he's been elevated from the bubble to being in. He's also someone the Ravens think can contribute on special teams, which is a valuable quality for this coaching staff. The other five outside linebackers -- Suggs, Dumervil, McPhee, Upshaw and Simon -- are safe and have had solid camps.
Inside linebacker (5): Arthur Brown, Daryl Smith, Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan, Jameel McClain; Bubble: Bryan Hall, Nigel Carr; Out: Brandon Copeland
Analysis: McClain has yet to practice and could open the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. If so, that, for the time being, would allow the Ravens to keep Hall or Carr on the roster until a further decision is made on McClain. Carr still has practice squad eligibility but Hall would be a tough player to cut. He's worked his tail off to slim down to 255 pounds and appears to be grasping the inside linebacker concepts better than he did early on after making the position switch from the defensive line.
Cornerback (6): Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, Marc Anthony, Asa Jackson; Bubble: Moe Lee, Chris Johnson
Analysis: The top three corners will be Webb, Graham and Smith, with Smith trying to prove he belongs as the second corner in the base defense. Brown has played like a starting cornerback in camp so far and will likely open the season as fourth on the depth chart. Anthony and Jackson have done enough to make the roster, though Lee is one to watch when preseason games kick off. He's quietly made some plays on defense and could have special teams value.
Safety (4): Michael Huff, Matt Elam, James Ihedigbo, Christian Thompson; Bubble: Omar Brown; Out: Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick, Gary Walker
Analysis: Thompson gets the edge this time based on his special teams abilities. Brown is still eligible for the practice squad and could wind up there for another season. The top three safeties will all get playing time it looks like. Elam has been cross training at free safety and Ihedigbo has been the predominant starter at strong safety. It's a sound group with a good mix of veteran leadership and young talent.
Special teams (3): Sam Koch, Justin Tucker, Morgan Cox
Analysis: It's just practice and the field goal block units aren't running at full speed. But you get the feeling that Tucker may get a chance to tie or break the NFL record of a 63-yard field goal at some point. In practice Wednesday, he made field goals from 61 and 64 yards out. He missed by about five yards from 71, to which Harbaugh jokingly said he was "disappointed" about.
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