The Ravens will finish up the first of three voluntary offseason team activities today, though they’ll do it outside the glare of the media. Yesterday was the one day for media availability, and while no big news came out of it, it was still good to see some action after so much attention has been placed on off-the-field stories over the past couple of months. Making any conclusions after a two-hour practice -- which did not include some of the team’s top veteran players, including running back Ray Rice, linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, and featured most of the players in jerseys, gym shorts and no shoulder pads -- would be foolish. However, I think it is appropriate to make a couple of observations:
Ravens coaches rotated everybody around pretty regularly, so to say, ‘This guy practiced with the first team or this guy was with the second team’ would be sort of misleading. The offensive linemen, especially, were moved around. Rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele was getting most of his snaps at left guard, where there figures to be a nice competition in training camp for the starting job vacated by Ben Grubbs. But that’s not necessarily where he was for Tuesday’s practice. Jah Reid told reporters that he got extensive reps at left guard that day. Justin Boren and Gino Gradkowski also got looks with the projected first-team guys. Barring the signing of a veteran, I still say that it will be a two-man competition at left guard between Osemele and Reid, but it’s a little too premature to suggest one has the edge based on how they were used the first week of OTAs.
One thing that does appear clear – Paul Kruger said as much – is that he is more likely to line up at the rush linebacker spot, normally held by the injured Terrell Suggs. That would leave rookie Courtney Upshaw as the strong-side linebacker, a position long occupied by Jarret Johnson. Upshaw and Kruger moved around as well, but Kruger has now said on two occasions that he’ll likely rush from Suggs’ spot after replacing Johnson for much of last season in third-and-long situations.
I’ve already heard and read several critiques of sixth-round draft pick Tommy Streeter and I’m not going to argue with them. We’ve only seen him over two practices and the reasons that he dropped to the sixth round despite averaging 17.63 yards per catch and scoring eight touchdowns last year for the Hurricanes have been on full display. He looks raw with his route running and he’s also dropped quite a few balls. But let’s remember that those same criticisms were being lobbed at Torrey Smith when he was struggling during training camp last year, and I’d say his rookie year worked out just fine. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not comparing Streeter to Smith, who was a second-round pick. I am suggesting it’s far too early to label somebody a project or a bust. The game is moving fast for all these guys right now. The Ravens may not have a game-breaking No.1 wide receiver, but they have gathered some depth at the position. With Anquan Boldin, Smith and Jacoby Jones, along with second-year wide receivers Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams, the Ravens may not need immediate contributions from Streeter.
Billy Cundiff’s locker attracted more reporters than any other Raven yesterday, and that’s hardly surprising being that his missed kick against the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game was essentially the final play of the 2011-12 season. However, despite all that’s been written and said about his job security, there is something to remember: the Ravens don’t have another kicker on their roster. Justin Tucker, an undrafted free agent out of Texas, was at the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month but he has not been signed as of yet. That could change, as Tucker put on his Twitter page late yesterday afternoon that he was headed to Maryland next week, presumably back to the Ravens’ facility. However, he’s since deleted the tweet and it isn’t clear if he’ll return on a tryout basis or he’ll be signed to the roster. There’s also not a clear veteran free agent alternative unless you consider Dave Rayner, who has kicked for eight different organizations and converted just over 72 percent of his career field-goal attempts. Bottom line, Cundiff’s job looks pretty secure at this point.
It was pretty interesting to watch the interaction between Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and his new position coach, Jim Caldwell. We obviously weren’t close enough to hear exactly what they were saying but I think these two will develop a pretty good rapport. Caldwell has a real nice demeanor about him. He looks calm and focused, and I think he’ll be a good match for Flacco’s personality. And before it’s brought up, Flacco was interacting with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron as well. But it’s probably a little too early to resume the daily analysis of their relationship.
The Ravens asked left tackle Bryant McKinnie to come into training camp in better shape and the early indications are positive. I wouldn’t say that McKinnie looks drastically different by any means, but he did look in better condition than I remember seeing him at any point last year. Another guy that looked a little leaner to me was linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who I think could be a key player this year if he stays healthy. An offseason in the weight room appears to have done Doss and Williams some good as well.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times