Camp Mode Ending, Ravens' Objectives Still Same
NOTEBOOK: 'MEGATRON' HAS SPLINT; LEAGUE MVP ODDS
By Joe Platania
On the outside, things won't change much.
The Ravens' training-camp mode ends when the final practice-closing air horn goes off at about 5:10 p.m. Wednesday, bringing to an end that period of the NFL calendar year when players are put through their most arduous team-making tests.
Because Baltimore, like most teams, is now conducting training camps at its own year-round facility, one would expect that once camp mode ends, the same routines would still take hold: the same practice, walk-through and treatment times, the same meeting times, etc.
But that won't necessarily be the case.
During previous years, the schedule changes that come with the end of camp mode have been subtle, but evident. Although practices have continued, they are sometimes held earlier during the day and might not last as long.
Media access is curtailed to the point that reporters can at least see which players are practicing and which aren't, a process that takes about 20-30 minutes -- observers are at the mercy of some veterans who like to arrive at the field as late as possible before they are reprimanded -- before the the session is closed.
Game-planning for preseason opponents is still not a huge priority, but formulating the roster is.
This time of year, coaches walk a fine line between wanting to see a good team performance against a different-colored opponent and developing the unknown quantities on their own sidelines.
That's why the preseason-opening 31-17 win in Atlanta last week left such a confusing taste in the mouths of many, what with the first string performing in such subpar fashion on both sides of the ball and the underlings winning their portion of the game, 24-0.
"I've played in enough games in 40 years of football that they have scored on the first drive, and we won the game, 41-7," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "So, you have to also let that go and it’s over with and done. You make corrections on the sideline. You come back and win the game. But, it’s certainly not the way we want to start. But, I wouldn't say it's all [the fault of the] secondary. We need to put more pressure on the quarterback in those situations.
"It's never one thing. You see a guy getting beat deep because that's what you see, but if there was pressure, that might have been a situation where we could have pressured. You never know exactly what happened up front."
So, in lieu of worrying about what another team could possibly surprise them with during a preseason game, the Ravens have their own home-grown standards about what constitutes success and failure in August.
"I can't remember the exact numbers, but two years ago, it was like 140 drives against us during the season, and only three times did a team score on us without a big play or penalty aiding them," Pees said. "So, to me, that's a big thing.
"If you think about the other night [in Atlanta], we give up a 37-yard pass. To us, a big play is any pass over 20 yards or a run over 15. We didn't give up the runs, but we gave up a couple passes, and I think we also had a penalty in there right in the two-minute [drill] right before the half. We had a holding call on defense, and they got an automatic first down on that and kicked the field goal.
"So, those are the two things we’ve really focused on – really three things: starting fast, don't aid them, they don't need any help. They are good enough without us helping them."
But this time of year -- whether operating on a training-camp-type schedule or not -- teams have to know whether they're good enough to help themselves.
WHAT'S NEXT: With training camp officially over, here is a look at the probable Ravens schedule for the next few weeks (some dates are subject to change):
Wednesday, Aug. 15 -- Regular practice, TRAINING-CAMP PERIOD ENDS
Thursday, Aug. 16 -- NO PRACTICE
Friday, Aug. 17 -- PRESEASON GAME No. 2: Detroit at Ravens, 8 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium (WBFF-TV, WIYY-FM)
Saturday, Aug. 18 -- NO PRACTICE
Sunday, Aug. 19 -- Practice: Mustang Stadium, Stevenson University, 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 20 -- Regular full-team practice, time TBA
Tuesday, Aug. 21 -- Regular full-team practice, time TBA
Wednesday, Aug. 22 -- NO PRACTICE
Thursday, Aug. 23 -- PRESEASON GAME No. 3: Jacksonville at Ravens, 7:30 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium (WBAL-TV, CSN, WIYY-FM)
Friday, Aug. 24 -- NO PRACTICE
Tuesday, Aug. 28 -- First cutdown date (75-player roster maximum)
Wednesday, Aug. 29 -- NO PRACTICE
Thursday, Aug. 30 -- PRESEASON GAME No. 4: Ravens at St. Louis, 8 p.m., Edward Jones Dome (WBAL-TV, CSN, WIYY-FM)
Friday, Aug. 31 -- Final cutdown date (53-player roster maximum)
Sunday, Sept. 2 -- Eight-man practice squads may begin to be formed at noon ET
Monday, Sept. 3 -- Team begins regular-season operating schedule
Monday, Sept. 10 -- RAVENS' 17TH REGULAR SEASON OPENER, vs. Cincinnati Bengals, M&T Bank Stadium, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: Today's question:
After one game, it's not unusual to see previously obscure names leading any given preseason statistical category. For example, Deonte Thompson and Bobby Rainey are among the Ravens' co-leaders in receptions, with three each.
Can you remember who led the Ravens in receptions during the 2011 preseason? (HINT: He made a major contribution much later during the season.)
The answer will be revealed at the bottom of Wednesday's post-practice entry.
FOE FRONT: When one thinks of the Detroit Lions, this week's Ravens preseason opponent (8 p.m., Friday; WBFF-TV; WIYY-FM), one's thoughts immediately go to former Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson.
But the man known as "Megatron" isn't exactly indestructible, as he has been dealing with a finger issue serious enough for him to wear a splint on his left index digit.
Johnson, third in the NFC and fourth leaguewide with 96 catches last year, wore the splint when he returned to practice on Tuesday at the team's Allen Park training facility.
The 6-foot-5, 236-pound wideout led all wide receivers with 16 touchdowns in 2011, but that was one fewer than the league leader, tight end Rob Gronkowski of New England.
Still, Johnson's production was more than enough for quarterback Matthew Stafford to be one of several quarterbacks to throw for more than 5,000 yards, a previously inconceivable barrier.
It's highly unlikely that Johnson, Stafford and the rest of the Lions' first string would play any more than a quarter during the Lions' second straight preseason game against an AFC North Division foe; the team lost to Cleveland last week, 19-17.
That would probably suit them just fine, for on the occasion of the Lions' most recent visit to Baltimore in 2009, it made for a long afternoon of bad memories.
The Ravens tied their team records for most points scored during a single game (48) as well as biggest victory margin (45) during a 48-3 romp against Detroit on a day when it was otherwise rainy and miserable.
As for Johnson, he was held to just four catches for 37 yards that day, as the Lions fell to a 2-11 record with that loss.
FOR THE BETTOR: Because John Harbaugh's motto is "Team, Team, Team," he probably won't mind hearing about this next item.
Bovada's odds board on the league's Most Valuable Player award has been released, and because it is an individual award, it's no surprise that there are no Ravens within striking distance of the top.
Predictably, the shortest odds on the chart belong to a pair of quarterbacks, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (11-2) and New England's Tom Brady (13-2).
In fact, a quartet of quarterbacks is right behind them: New Orleans' Drew Brees (9-1), Denver's Peyton Manning (10-1), Philadelphia's Michael Vick (10-1) and the Ravens' guest this week, Detroit's Matthew Stafford (12-1).
You have to get all the way down to the 25-1 level to find Ray Rice, the only Raven on the list. The longest shot on Bovada's board is New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow (100-1).
As far as Offensive Rookie of the Year is concerned, it should come as no shock that Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck is the 5-2 favorite. There are no Ravens at all on this chart; the longest shot is San Francisco wideout A.J. Jenkins at 35-1.
On the defensive side of the ball, we were mildly surprised to see that Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne -- a product of a solid college program whom the Cowboys traded up to get -- was only the second choice on the board at 6-1.
The favorite is Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly at 4-1, with former Alabama teammates Courtney Upshaw (Ravens) and Dont'a Hightower (New England) even at 12-1.
Posted Aug. 15, 2012