A Training Camp Check-in on the Baltimore Ravens' Draft Class
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We've just about reached the halfway point in the Baltimore Ravens' 2012 training camp, and we're just a few short days away from the first preseason game of the year.
As such, there's no better time to check in with the Ravens' draft class and see whose stocks are rising and falling and who has already earned himself the right to get some playing time once the regular season begins.
The Ravens took eight players in this year's draft. Here's how they've fared in camp thus far.
LB Courtney Upshaw
Upshaw will need to figure in heavily this year.
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When the Baltimore Ravens traded out of the first round and smartly picked up outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw at the top of the second round, it seemed like Upshaw could ideally have all the time he needed to familiarize himself with the Ravens' defense and find a spot where he fit best.
At the time, it seemed that Upshaw would be a dark-horse candidate vying for the outside linebacker spot that belonged to Jarret Johnson and, should he not win out, would still see time in the starting rotation as a situational player.
But all that changed once it was revealed that reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs would miss at least part of the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. Add into that a season-ending injury to fellow linebacker Mike McAdoo, and the offseason turned into one in which Upshaw needed to get up to speed quickly in order to be a significant contributor in his rookie season.
Presently, Upshaw is first on the Ravens' depth chart at the rush linebacker position, though Paul Kruger has spent the most time in training camp at the position, even before Upshaw was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
This indicates the linebacker depth chart is still very much a fluid situation, but that Upshaw is very much in the mix. Expect to see him a lot this season, though he may be rotated in and out and at different spots with Kruger and Sergio Kindle.
OG/OT Kelechi Osemele
Osemele could start at tackle this year (Photo: Gannett.com).
What the Ravens desperately needed in this year's draft was a versatile offensive lineman, one capable of playing guard and tackle, on either the right or the left. That's exactly what they got in Kelechi Osemele, and with the Ravens having issues with offensive line depth, Osemele should be quite important to the team in his rookie season.
At the beginning of training camp, Osemele was used as the Ravens' starting right tackle, with Michael Oher shifted to the left while Bryant McKinnie sat out with a back injury. Though McKinnie has passed his conditioning test and returned to the field, he's yet to regain his starting job, working at right tackle so far this week with the second team.
As such, Osemele has remained with the starters at right tackle, and though he may have to be shifted back with the No. 2s whenever McKinnie gets fully into football shape, the fact that he's stepped up and handled the job so well thus far makes it quite possible he holds onto it into the regular season.
McKinnie has been a headache for first the Minnesota Vikings and now with the Ravens, as he's unable to get his weight and conditioning under control. This is likely McKinnie's last chance in Baltimore, and if he's out after this year, Osemele will be the Ravens' unquestioned starter.
RB Bernard Pierce
Hamstring issues have kept Bernard Pierce off the field.
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Running back Bernard Pierce was hoped to finally provide the Baltimore Ravens with a viable backup option to starter Ray Rice, and while he may pan out to be that guy, we've yet to see much of him in training camp.
After a weak showing in OTAs, people still believed the job was Pierce's to lose, considering his competition. He had hamstring issues during the offseason program, however, which continued into training camp, and he's been sidelined ever since.
To Pierce's credit, his biggest competition, Anthony Allen, hasn't been stepping up in camp as hoped. Also in the mix are Damien Berry, who has looked relatively solid thus far, and dark-horse undrafted rookie Bobby Rainey, one of camp's biggest surprises.
Pierce does have a place with the Ravens, but it's not yet known what it is. He needs to get healthy, get back to participating in camp and competing before we can tell just what he's actually capable of.
OG Gino Gradkowski
Gradkowski is starting at center presently (Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty).
Gino Gradkowski is another versatile offensive line pickup for the Ravens this year. Though he was picked up to play offensive guard and compete for the vacant spot on the left side of the line, he's been the first-team center for much of camp while starter Matt Birk continues to battle back spasms.
Considering this is likely Birk's last year in the league, it's good that his potential replacement gets starting reps at the position now.
If Birk is ever off the field during the regular season, it's a certainty that Gradkowski will be taking his place. This isn't something to worry about presently, however, considering that Birk also missed all of training camp last year, but not one regular season game.
Gradkowski supplies depth at two very crucial positions for the Ravens this season. Though putting him with the first team has been somewhat of a necessity, he's managed to hold down the job well, which may make him their starting center in 2013. He'll at least be the first-team starter in Thursday's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
S Christian Thompson
Though Ravens safety Christian Thompson is currently listed as the third strong safety on their depth chart, the belief is that he may separate himself to someday be the successor at free safety to current starter Ed Reed.
That will have to wait, though, as Thompson's greatest contributions in his rookie season are likely to come on special teams.
The Ravens secondary is absolutely stacked with talent, which makes it that much harder to Thompson to stand out and earn a roster spot this year. However, the special teams unit could use some coverage team standouts, and if Thompson can continue to show prowess in that area, he should stick around.
CB Asa Jackson
The Ravens don't shy away from small-school prospects like Jackson.
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Like Christian Thompson before him, cornerback Asa Jackson will have to stand out on special teams to earn a roster spot in such a crowded Ravens secondary.
Jackson's biggest draw is his speed, which is why he's not only currently listed on the Ravens' depth chart as a fourth-string cornerback, but also as part of the punt return team.
Jackson will have to beat out Chykie Brown and Danny Gorrer to secure himself a roster spot come the regular season, but he's had some standout practices in training camp that, combined with his return skills, could jump him ahead of his competition.
WR Tommy Streeter
Tommy Streeter may earn himself a roster spot by default.
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Though sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter is currently fifth on the wide receiver depth chart, that doesn't mean he's in danger of not earning a roster spot this year.
Streeter has looked fairly good in training camp thus far, with his speed and height making him a good red-zone target. However, he still needs to work on his route running, which could result in him getting limited regular-season playing time should he make the roster.
Streeter is up against a Ravens receiving corps that includes Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss, David Reed and undrafted rookie Deonte Thompson.
Though Williams and Doss aren't guaranteed roster spots simply because they've been in Baltimore for a year, Streeter will have to continue to fight and improve in order to steal one of their spots.
Reed, who hasn't yet practiced as he continues rehabbing his knee, is clearly on the bubble.
The Ravens may choose to have six receivers on the active roster, especially if they are concerned that Streeter won't pass through waivers and make it to their practice squad.
DE DeAngelo Tyson
The numbers game may work out in the favor of seventh-round pick defensive end DeAngelo Tyson.
Tyson, who did get some first-team reps while Haloti Ngata nursed a hamstring injury and waited to re-take the conditioning test, is part of a group of four defensive linemen fighting for roster spots.
Ngata, Terrence Cody, Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones are locks to make the roster, while Tyson, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Bryan Hall and Ryan McBean try to secure their futures.
But it's possible, according to CBSSports.com's Jason Butt, that the Ravens keep all eight players on the 53-man roster to provide depth. Tyson is currently on the depth chart as the No. 3 defensive end.