Baltimore Ravens: Which Players Are Having the Worst Training Camp?
As the Baltimore Ravens training camp approaches its halfway point, things are beginning to become clearer for this team. There's lots of great players who've had great camps and are in the process of solidifying their places on the team in 2012.
Those players may be getting most of the attention but there are also players that have disappointed in training camp. Some of them may spend less time on the field during game day or may even be losing their starting jobs altogether. Others might be in danger of getting traded or cut.
The following Ravens are my candidates for players that are having the worst training camp this year.
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One of this year's most intense training camp battles was supposed to be for the second cornerback position. Last year's starter Cary Williams and second-year player Jimmy Smith were believed to be about equal in terms of playing ability.
That line of thinking may have changed after the first preseason game. To this point, both Smith and Williams have been disappointments but at least Smith has a valid excuse as he's missed time in both the first preseason game and training camp because of a back injury.
Williams got the start against the Atlanta Falcons and he did not play well. He gave up five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown to Matt Ryan in the first quarter of the game. This included two plays of 20-plus yards gained by Julio Jones and Roddy White.
For most of his career, Williams has been in a backup role. It was a big surprise last season that he was able to start all 16 games, which was a career first for him. Though he could still see a good amount of playing time as a backup, it looks probable that Smith will be the Ravens No. 2 cornerback going forward.
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With Ray Rice running as well as any other running back in the entire league, it's important the Ravens get his backup right. They need someone that can spell him several plays a game while also being a capable starter should the worst happen and Rice miss time with injury.
Amazingly, all four of the Ravens backup running backs have two or less years of experience in the NFL. Though they may yet make a move and sign a veteran, chances are that a young guy will be backing up Rice. And now it's looking like that player could easily be Bernard Pierce or Bobby Rainey.
That's really bad news for Anthony Allen but it might be worse news for Damien Berry. A practice squad player from last year, Berry will be less of a priority then a seventh-round pick like Allen, who the Ravens had initially hoped would win the backup job. This means that if Berry does not find a way to distinguish himself, he could be back on the practice squad or even out of a job.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, Berry had an unimpressive performance with seven carries for 17 yards. Berry can do better than that as he is one of the fastest players on the Ravens team. Speed alone will not save him, though, especially with both Rice and Rainey providing plenty of that from the running back position.
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Formerly a guy who was expected to compete for a starting job, Jah Reid has fallen pretty far over this summer. Most of that has been due to injuries, particularly a strained right calf muscle that caused him to be carted off the field during a minicamp in June.
Reid has recently been removed from the PUP list and he's finally healthy enough to practice again. Still, it looks like his opportunity to contend for a starting job is now gone with Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie looking to start at the tackle positions. With a growing number of inexperienced players on their offensive line, the Ravens seem determined to start veterans if at all possible.
At this point in his career, Reid has been too plagued by injury to become a starter. The main way he could get a chance is if someone gets hurt, although, it's still likely that Reid will be behind players like Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski on the final depth chart.
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The kicking competition between Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker has been one of the more interesting training camp battles to watch. Until recently it had been a very close battle but it appears that the rookie may be pulling ahead.
On Monday's practice, Cundiff missed short kicks from 24 and 34 yards. This was clearly a bad day for Cundiff as he's had a solid training camp, making 74 of his 89 field goal attempts. It's just that Tucker has been ridiculously good thus far, making 82 out of 87 field goal attempts in training camp.
Another difference between the two has been Tucker's comfort with taking long kicks. He's even made attempts of 60-plus yards during practice. Last season Cundiff struggled in that area as he missed nearly all of kicks from over 50 yards.
Even though his veteran experience gives him an advantage over Tucker, Cundiff needs to stop missing short kicks. If that happens in any preseason game, it will be too hard not to get flashbacks back to the AFC Championship miss. For Cundiff to keep his job, he'll need to start showing more consistency and not fold under pressure as he has in the past.