Practice Report: Ravens' D Still Learning BasicsPosted on July 29, 2013
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- The final practice of the camp-opening five-day stretch – the longest skein of consecutive practice days in camp mode, which ends Aug. 13 – was held the afternoon of July 29 in clear, sunny weather. Humidity was almost non-existent, as was the cloud cover. Players were in pads for a third straight day.
After the off day July 30, the team will practice July 31-Aug. 2 before breaking again Aug. 2. Here are a few highlights from the July 29 session:
- The Physically Unable to Perform list has one player remaining on it, linebacker Jameel McClain (back) -- team doctors still have not cleared him to practice. Guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and safety Anthony Levine have been taken off PUP; Levine has been on the field each day since, while Yanda has yet to appear.
- The offensive line situation got further compromised with the news that rookie sixth-round center Ryan Jensen incurred a broken foot and will miss at least 10 weeks after surgery. But substitute left tackle Kelechi Osemele (hamstring strain) did return to practice after missing several days. Wideout LaQuan Williams (Poly, Maryland), is still battling an arm issue, and wideout Marlon Brown (unknown) missed another day. Also out were guard/tackle Ramon Harewood (knee) and linebacker Spencer Adkins (unknown).
- Defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee) continues to show up on the field each day; he tore knee ligaments while playing for Notre Dame during its 2012 Bowl Championship Series national championship loss to Alabama, and is the only player on the team's Non-Football Injury list. There are 89 total players on the roster, one fewer than the allowable maximum.
- Wideout Jacoby Jones showed a lot of the smooth route-running and hand skills he said he had gained from his work on "Dancing with the Stars." But cornerback Jimmy Smith wasn't fooled by a Tyrod Taylor play-action fake, and knocked away a sideline pass intended for Jones.
- On several occasions, linebacker Terrell Suggs showed a sharp upfield rush against tackle Bryant McKinnie, but the bulky lineman managed to push Suggs past the quarterback pocket more often than not.
- Receiver Tandon Doss dropped a pass in the flat with Smith closing in on him, but made several good catches in traffic later during the practice, including one when he leaped over seventh-round rookie Marc Anthony along the sideline.
- When Taylor engineered a fake into the line before running outside, four players were caught up in the wash and fell to the ground in a frightening pile. But none was hurt or injured.
- Defensive end Arthur Jones flushed Joe Flacco to his left, then his right, before he forced the Super Bowl MVP to misfire on a flat pass to Ray Rice.
- Fullback/tight end Kyle Juszczyk continues to get treated roughly. After a pass intended for him fell incomplete, linebacker Daryl Smith knocked him to the ground anyway.
- As Chris Canty came inside on a pass rush, he nearly knocked over both Suggs and tackle Michael Oher, who were hand-fighting in the trenches at the time.
MASTERS OF DISGUISE?: One of the ways any defense can be most effective is by masking its coverages and pass-rush tendencies.
The Ravens certainly like to do that, bringing blitz packages from all angles, overloading one side, dropping mobile linemen into zone-blitz areas to disrupt the vision of opposing quarterbacks, and using twists and stunts up front.
But, at least early during camp, the Ravens haven't done too much of that, instead working their new veteran acquisitions and young upstarts into their rotations -- not to mention the playbook -- slowly.
The creativity will come later, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
"Time will tell," he said. "I don't think you can talk about being creative until you learn how to play base defense. We will see how everybody plays.
"We will see what everyone's talents are, and then as a [coaching] staff … we will sit down and will try to put them in the right spots and use their talents to the best of their ability."
But in light of the Dennis Pitta injury, the defensive creativity and flexibility for which the Ravens have become known may have to be accelerated a bit.
"As long as we have [Joe Flacco], it's going to be a great offense," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "But we're defense. We're a defensive team. If you look at the line up front, it's amazing. …
"We have a great defense, and we're just getting better and better each day."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Even though tight end Ed Dickson will certainly be asked to step up his production in the wake of Pitta's injury, he seems to be realistic about how much effort he can put into creating better chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco.
"The bond [Flacco and Pitta] had was on and off the field," Dickson said. "They eat breakfast and [do almost] everything together.
"So, I'm not going to stalk Joe and follow him around, but I'm going to be right in his pocket."
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: Here's the question we asked you earlier this afternoon:
When one considers how consistent the Ravens have been in recent years, one would think that a 10-win season would automatically guarantee the team a playoff berth.
But during the 2003, 2005, 2010 and 2012 seasons, 13 teams posted at least 10 wins apiece, meaning that one of them missed the playoffs each time.
Can you name the teams that missed the playoffs each of those years, despite getting 10 or more wins?
Last season, the Ravens posted 10 wins, but won the AFC North division only because of a better divisional record than the Cincinnati Bengals. That's how fine the line is between evaluating a season as either successful or underachieving.
The Ravens and Bengals were both 10-6, but so were the Chicago Bears, who did not play in the postseason despite allowing the second-fewest points in the league (277), just four fewer than the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
In 2010, a freak scenario played out, with two 10-win teams -- the New York Giants and Tampa Bay -- missing out on the postseason despite their records.
That's partially because Seattle won the NFC West at 7-9, but also because the three-team wild-card tiebreaker went all the way to the fifth and final scenario (strength of victory), giving the Green Bay Packers, the eventual Super Bowl champions, the sixth and final NFC seed. The teams Green Bay beat combined for a .475 win percentage, while the Giants' beaten foes accrued a .400 rate; the Bucs were next at .344.
In 2005, Kansas City was the odd team out, but its 10-6 record was no match for Denver's AFC West-leading 13-3 mark or Pittsburgh's 11-5 record, which earned the Steelers the sixth seed. The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.
Two years before that, the Miami Dolphins went 10-6, recording the same mark as the North division champion Ravens. But the Dolphins were not only four games behind East champion New England, their 7-5 conference record wasn't good enough to win the tiebreaker against Denver (9-3).
Posted July 29, 2013