Thursday marked the first media session of OTAs and the last day of the first wave. With players wearing a helmet and their jerseys with no pads, we got a chance to see the quickness on the field without much contact. In the full 11-on-11 drills, we got our first real chance to see what both sides of the ball looked like and there were big plays from a lot of young players.
The defensive line was a beast yesterday with Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams keeping the lock down on the run game and getting penetration into the backfield to make plays. Even though not a single starter was available on the offensive line, it was amazing to see exactly how fast and strong the defensive line was despite missing Haloti Ngata. You'll hear that a lot this season, but all looks so far seem to show that Ngata might not be missed all that much.
The outside linebackers had an excellent day as well, being fast to the ball during running plays and displaying a bit of speed on the outside blitzes. Courtney Upshaw would have had a massive sack on the day if the players were able to hit and the Ravens would be looking for a new backup quarterback. Upshaw came around the right side of the line untouched and would have planted Schaub into the ground. On the other side Za'Darius Smith is already showing that he is a clone of Pernell McPhee with his dreads flying around behind him. He had great instincts, picking up a screen pass from backup quarterback Matt Schaub, ultimately tipping it into the air for an interception and a rumble all the way for a touchdown.
Jimmy Smith was apparently supposed to wear a red jersey to denote injury with his Lisfranc foot surgery, but refused to put it on, instead tucking it into his waist band and playing full out. Opposite Smith, Lardarius Webb was absent seeing new Raven Kyle Arrington splitting some reps with cornerback Asa Jackson. Further in the secondary, Matt Elam and Will Hill split reps at strong safety while Kendrick Lewis was the free safety. Both Elam and Hill were all over the field, looking fast, and would have made multiple plays in a full contact situation.
Arthur Brown made an appearance on the field, taking snaps at inside linebacker due to C.J. Mosley's offseason wrist surgery. Veteran Daryl Smith led the defense and looked like he might have slimmed down a little bit as he was still showing off his speed at age 33.
The offense had a hit and miss type of day with some players picking up where they left off and others still a little rusty. Flacco was crisp in his passes, throwing a touchdown to Jeremy Butler before calling it a day in the full team drills. Steve Smith had the catch of the day with a leaping reception over the middle of the field from Flacco, going for about 15 yards. Third year wide receiver Aldrick Robinson might be tiny but he displayed incredible speed, going up the middle of the field for an easy touchdown, beating his defender by a few feet.
On the other hand, Schaub had times where he threw the ball on target and looked like he could handle the team for a few games in the unlikely event that starting quarterback Joe Flacco was injured. Then there were times where he threw the ball well behind or in front of his receiver and looked more like a rookie than a veteran addition. Schaub wasn't the only one who had his ups and downs with the receivers bobbling balls all day long, including veteran Steve Smith. While it is still early in the process, the receivers had issues with their hands last season and look like they might need to practice a little more on that front.
Despite not having any of the starters on the offensive line, they did pretty well in pass protection given their opponent. It wouldnt have been the best day to be a quarterback back there, but we've seen far worse from starting units in this league. Run blocking was atrocious with plays only going 2 or 3 yards maximum and there being no real holes to run through. Forsett will be much happier once he gets his crew back in front of him again.
Marc Trestman and Juan Castillo could be heard a few times throughout practice. Trestman regularly talked with his quarterbacks after each play and was only a few feet from the huddle at all times. That type of hands-on approach will be sure to win over their players and should do great things for the offensive production this season.