Under-the-Radar Baltimore Ravens Ready to Break Out in 2012
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It is that magical time of the year...training camp is in full swing and the Ravens' first preseason game is just a few short days away. Can you believe it?
The Baltimore Ravens have many stars and well-known players that will almost undoubtedly perform at a high level this season. Ray Lewis will likely be among the lead leaders in tackles. Recently extended running back Ray Rice will pace the offense and play at a Pro Bowl level. The list of players of that stature could go on and on.
Besides the obvious stars, there are many players on the roster who are not household names, but still have a chance to make some noise this season.
Recently signed cornerback/special teams ace Corey Graham has impressed in camp thus far. Graham is known more for his stellar play on special teams. He earned a Pro Bowl appearance because of it.
So far Graham has done more than just stick people on coverage teams. The former Bear has collected at least four interceptions in camp and believes he is more than capable of making an impact on defense.
The Ravens appear to be strong in the defensive backfield with depth at both corner and safety. Graham could play an important role in nickel and dime coverages, which are important formations in today's pass-happy league. Regardless, Ravens fans will hear his name often when the special teams are on the field.
On the offensive side of the ball, watch out for undrafted rookie Dorian Graham. The Syracuse product is small with a slight frame (5'9", 188 lbs), but possesses outstanding speed. Graham posted a 4.34 40-yard dash time at his pro day according to NFLdraftscout.com.
Why was Graham undrafted? The former Orangeman posted modest numbers during his college career where he finished with 24 receptions and 260 yards. Despite modest size and numbers, Graham has turned some heads in camp. He also could compete on special teams. He averaged 23.6 yards per kickoff in college.
The top three receiver roster spots appear to be set with Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. There could be room for Graham on the roster, but it will be a tough competition with LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss and sixth-round draft pick Tommy Streeter in the fold. If he cannot force his way onto the roster, look for the Ravens to try to hide Graham on the practice squad.
Another undrafted rookie making a lot of noise is kicker Justin Tucker out of Texas. For those fans who would like to see Billy Cundiff kick elsewhere, Tucker may make that happen. According to a recent Baltimore Sun tally, Tucker has made 50 of 53 field goal attempts in camp. He has easily out-kicked the former Pro Bowl kicker Cundiff.
Will Justin Tucker beat out Billy Cundiff?
Still, it is training camp so it will be interesting to see how Graham does in game situations. The question is, if Tucker out-kicks Cundiff, will John Harbaugh go with an unproven rookie kicker instead of the veteran Billy Cundiff?
Other players to keep an eye on include center Justin Boren and tight end Devon Drew. With Matt Birk sidelined with injuries, Boren will get plenty of playing time. Standing in his way is fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski.
Drew was drafted by the Ravens in 2009. He has spent time as a backup and practice squad member. With Dennis Pitta out with a broken hand, Drew has a perfect opportunity to show that he belongs on the roster.
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