The Baltimore Ravens rookies are at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, and they are participating in their first practices under the direction of their new coaches.
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Ozzie Newsome and his staff have added 24 rookies to this year’s team. They also included a number of players on a tryout basis to have over 40 players at this weekend’s camp. It is certain that not all of them have a chance in the NFL, but this impressive group of rookies has all the potential to be one of the better draft classes in recent memory.
The nine drafted players were graded by many as one of the top classes. I gave the Ravens an A- on their draft. Several other “experts” – wait, do I qualify as one? – did the same. They also added an impressive group of undrafted players that have the tools to make it in professional football.
Yesterday, Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com touched on his five things to watch at the Ravens rookie minicamp. Some of the questions he asked are the obvious about the Ravens draft class. Will Breshad Perriman solve his drop issues? Is Maxx Williams really the next big talent at tight end? Will the small school players make that adjustment to playing against stiff competition daily? Will an undrafted player make the roster? These are important questions to ask, and the worries that most fans have also.
Perriman has all the skills to be that No. 1 receiver that Baltimore has been yearning for. Williams has drawn comparisons to Todd Heap, and that is exactly what the team and fans are hoping for. There are some intriguing undrafted rookies that the Ravens have brought in.
Well, Garrett asked those questions already, but that does not mean that there are not five more things to watch this weekend and upcoming season.
Will another Alabama star make the roster?
Ozzie loves his fellow Crimson Tide. He has drafted two Alabama alum with the first pick in two of the last four drafts, but exited this draft process without adding a player from the breeding school of the NFL. That did not stop Newsome from bringing in more talent from Tuscaloosa. Linebacker Trey DePriest and safety Nick Perry are two of the 15 undrafted rookies that will be participating in the minicamp. DePriest was a three-year starter at Alabama and played alongside C.J. Mosley, while Perry has the potential to make the team as a role player in nickel and dime situations. Coming from Alabama, they both have been coached well and have faced elite competition. It will be interesting to see either makes the 53-man roster.
What will the tight end situation look like?
Williams is a shoe-in to make the team, and will get significant playing time in his rookie season. Whether he is the starter Week 1 remains to be seen. A lot of that is due to the unknown future of Dennis Pitta. There is also the possibility that Williams just does not have the playbook down yet by the opening week of the season. Marc Trestman could decide to go with Crockett Gilmore to start, and ease Williams slowly into the mix.
The interesting aspect to the situation was the decision to draft Nick Boyle out of Delaware also. Phillip Supernaw remains on the roster, and like Boyle, is a big target coming from a smaller school. Pitta’s contract is guaranteed, it just remains to be seen if he will be on the PUP list or IR at the start of the season. Williams and Gilmore are locks to make the team. Boyle and Supernaw will fight it out for a final tight end spot, with Boyle being a likely candidate for the practice squad.
Who will backup Justin Forsett?
The Ravens needed another running back after Bernard Pierce predicted his departure from Baltimore following a DUI arrest. Javorius “Buck” Allen was selected in the fourth round (No. 125 overall) and has the tools that Trestman loves in his backs. He is a terrific running back, but also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Lorenzo Taliaferro will likely have the edge to start the season because he is better in pass protection, but it is only a matter of time before Allen is getting most of the touches to spell Forsett. Taliaferro is one of those small school products that struggled at times in 2014. Allen is more of the one-cut runner and has proven he can get it done against the higher competition of the Pac-12. The signs point for Allen to have a big role in Trestman’s offense, and potentially be the starter in the coming years.
Will Carl Davis be the steal of the draft?
Ozzie struck gold in the tail end of the third round with the selection of Davis, a mammoth defensive tackle who also possesses the speed to get after the passer. Many scouts had Davis rated as high as a first-round talent, and this was a perfect case of the “best player available” approach the Newsome has used over the years.
Davis is expected to fill some of the loss that will be felt with the trade of Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions. Davis has work to do to become the elite talent that Ngata was, but he has all the physical traits to be a big time player in the NFL. At the presser following his first practice, Davis was asked about the criticism that he didn’t play hard at times at Iowa, which led to his slide in the draft.
"“I definitely worked my tail off. Whatever they feel is how they feel, and it’s my job to prove otherwise.”"
Ravens fans are hoping he puts in that work because this guy has all the skills to be a force on the defensive line. Teams are going to regret letting this guy slide all the way to the 90th pick.
One of the team’s top undrafted free agents broke his leg on the opening day of minicamp, and he wasn’t alone as many rookies around the leg went down on the first weekend of football.
Former Oklahoma cornerback Julian Wilson will undergo surgery after sustaining the injury Friday afternoon. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost the third overall selection in this year’s draft in Dante Fowler to a torn ACL in his first practice. Panthers first-round pick Shaq Thompson is missing minicamps. Injuries are a part of the game, and the hope is to minimize that risk.
The new labor agreement does not call for contact in these minicamps, but it is difficult to go through a practice without some kind of contact. Fowler’s injury seemed to happen while engaged with an offensive lineman. That is not supposed to happen. It is unknown how Wilson injured his leg, but it is certainly possible that it was during contact as well. The Ravens first practice of minicamp was closed to the media. Let’s hope that is not the case. It is up to the team and its coaches to do everything possible to prevent injuries at this point of the year. This Ravens team has championship aspirations, and even injuries at this point of the season can quickly derail that dream.
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