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Baltimore Ravens Mini-Camp (OTA/Passing Camp) Notes

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In addition to the great Ravens Front Office people I had the pleasure of being introduced to yesterday at their final OTA/Passing Camp, I also introduced myself to Aaron Wilson, Sportswriter for the Carroll County Times. Aaron covers the Ravens and his writing and radio time has always been fair, balanced, honest and accurate in my opinion. He is easily approachable and is always willing to discuss all things Ravens. We discussed my interviewing him, as he has so much depth of knowledge of the Ravens and his opinions would be very interesting to the readers here on the Beatdown.


In future posts, I will be detailing the locker room interviews I had with placekicker Graham Gano, wide receiver Marcus Smith, safety Haruki Nakamura and a short one with cornerback Fabian Washington. I took a ton of photos, many that you will see in the related posts, but if you are looking for a specific photo of a player, let me know and I’ll try to post it as well if you don’t see it in one of the stories to follow. I also wrote down a lot of notes, detailing what I saw and my impressions of the player’s efforts, progress and health.


To give you an example of the whirlwind of action I witnessed, here is an timeline of my first forty minutes on the sidelines:

10:20am: Dawan Landry looks HUGE!

10:30am: Le’Ron McClain looks big and stocky.

10:40am: After Sam Koch, Graham Gano took his turn punting on punt return drills.

10:44am: Saw Baltimore Colts great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lenny Moore observing practice.

10:45am: Introduced myself to head coach John Harbaugh, who made eye contact and repeated my name!

10:50am: Tavares Gooden looks fit and athletic.

10:55am: CB’s Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington look to be going at full speed.

11:00am: LB Jarret Johnson seen explaining defensive formations to other LB’s T. Gooden and Brendon Ayanbadejo.


You can only imagine the scope of different things going on at different locations on two adjoining fields in such a short time, when the entire practice lasted just over two hours. My head was spinning, my writing hand cramping and I took over 100 photos. I was as worn out as the players….uh…not really.


Some other random notes from observations:


Dawan Landry and Haruki Nakamura were running tandem as first team safeties, followed by Tom Zbikowski and Lardarius Webb. Webb’s dreadlocks were down to his jersey numbers and while he is just a bit shorter than the other safeties, he is lighter and thinner. Interestingly, while Landry is listed a 6’ and 220 pounds in the roster handout, according to Patrick Gleason, Landry is in such great shape that he is down to around 212 pounds, built solid as a rock with incredible definition in his shoulders and neck. I also noted that Landry is lefthanded, not that it matters.


Trevor Pryce, at almost 34 years old, already seems quick off the snap even in drills. Kelly Gregg watched the drills in uniform and looks so stocky and deserving of his "Buddy Lee" nickname. No Ray Lewis to be seen, although he has been at some of the other mini-camps. Willis McGahee was seen earlier in the practice but did not participate in most of the drills. Unheralded RB Matt Lawrence (FA 2008, UMass) seemed to be in a lot of the drills, as much as either reserve RB Cedric Peerman or Jalen Parmele.


11 on 11 Drills: Flacco just barely overthrew Marcus Smith on a long pass. Troy Smith then hit Smith on a similar pass. Le’Ron McClain took a handoff  up the middle and I thought  "pity the poor fool that gets in his way!" Troy then hit on another solid sideline pass. Both QB’s were looking sharp and confident. Wide receiver Marcus Smith seems to be an integral part of the offense and one of the first options for both QB’s. While Derrick Mason took part in later drills, he wasn’t part of the earlier ones. Mark Clayton was not there, and Demetrius Williams had a green jersey on, which we were talking about on the sidelines. We knew the red ones meant avoid contact, but guessed the green ones meant something between that and full speed (limited?). Even with that green jersey, D-Will still looked to be running at full speed, which is encouraging. Kelley Washington made a tough grab in traffic and looked solid and comfortable. With John Beck at QB, he was rushed hard by LB Jarret Johnson and threw incomplete under pressure. I noticed they ran their drills with the 40 second playclock running at all times.


Both kickers, Steven Hauschka and Graham Gano, took turns in field goal drills, looking solid on their long kicks, although Gano’s leg seemed to have a bit more distance today. I’ve heard that this competition is the closest one in all of training Camp and surely will go down to the wire through preseason.


First round draft pick OT Michael Oher is tall and fit, especially for an offensive lineman, with no belly! Jared Gaither is just a massive human being, listed at 6’9" and 334 pounds! Having those two as bookends on our offensive line, with veteran Matt Birk between guards Ben Grubbs and Marshall Yanda, should give every Ravens fan confidence that QB Joe Flacco will be well protected and the RB’s will have gaping holes to burst through all season in 2009 and beyond. We now also have the needed depth on the offensive line with Adam Terry, Chris Chester, David Hale and Oneil Cousins.


The defense seemed to outperform the offense in drills, with Lardarious Webb breaking up a pass and catching a tipped ball for an interception and Tom Zbikowski getting two interceptions, including one by outleaping a group jumping for the ball. Fabian Washington celebrated his birthday by breaking up a pass, and while he is one of the smaller guys in the secondary, he doesn’t shy away from the contact for a second. Reserve QB John Beck hit TE Isaac Smolko over the middle. You might not hear too much about Smolko, but he is a huge target at 6’5" and 260 pounds.


In Red Zone drills, the offense began to click, with Flacco hitting Mason (twice), Washington and even the tall and lanky Ernie Wheelwright with sharp scoring passes. However, Nakamura made his classic edge blitz to sack Beck once and the defense shut down the over the middle goal line passes time and time again.


Unfortunately for me, the final horn sounded, signaling the end of practice. The players slowly made their way to the locker room while Coach Harbaugh prepared to come to the podium to answer questions. After a short session, I made my way to the locker room to conduct one-on-one interviews and observe the major media ones. These interviews will follow in future stories. I could have easily stayed at "The Castle" all day and would love the opportunity to come back and follow the team to Westminster for Training Camp beginning in late July. Hopefully, the Ravens will continue to grant me credentials and access. Keep tuned in for more.