Two weeks of OTAs have now passed for the Baltimore Ravens, leaving just this week until OTAs are done. The busy schedule of the NFL offseason is in full swing though, with the Ravens holding their mandatory minicamp June 11-to-13.
This year's OTAs provide an intriguing look at a team that has lost nearly a quarter of the players responsible for winning Super Bowl XLVII. Any hope of a repeat will rest on this new group gelling together and OTAs are a crucial part of that, even though it's not the same as lining up on the field for an actual game.
OTAs bring both good and bad news for fans during a time when not much else is going on in the football world. The Ravens have had their share of bad and good news during these OTAs.
Here, I'm going to focus on some of the players whose stock is up after two weeks of OTAs. Some are aspiring starters, others may just be looking for a roster spot. Regardless, these are players to watch during the remaining practice sessions over the summer.
OTAs are a crucial time period for rookies, who now get to show if they can keep up with the older players. This is especially true for players like third round pick Brandon Williams, who is vying for a starting role as nose tackle.
So far in both the rookie minicamp and in OTAs, Williams has showcased an impressive amount of strength. This shouldn't be surprising considering that at the combine, Williams lifted for 38 reps at 225 pounds. This performance tied Margus Hunt for the most reps of any player at the combine.
Williams has shown his strength in spurts throughout OTAs. One of his more impressive plays came when he stopped Ray Rice on a stretch running play, according to Tony Lombardi of Russell Street Report.
With his huge weight and surprising amount of athleticism, Williams looks to be a player who could make a serious case for playing time over the summer.
Although he only hit free agency because of a bizarre fax-machine fiasco, Elvis Dumervil is embracing his role with his new team. The Ravens' marquee free-agent signing of the 2013 season has worked hard on getting involved with his new team.
John Harbaugh has high praise for Dumervil, saying that he hasn't missed a thing since his arrival in Baltimore, according to Matt Zenitz of The Carroll County Times. Dumervil's constant appearance at the Ravens' facility has also helped the coaching staff to see how he will fit in their defensive system.
The eight-year veteran looks to be one of those players who leads by example. In Denver, Dumervil was known as a hard worker who provided leadership on defense. In a year where both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone, the Ravens could use someone like Dumervil to step up as a leader.
With the departure of Anquan Boldin, the Ravens will need someone else to step up at the receiver position. So far they have opted against calling an experienced player in for help and instead they are looking at the promising group of mostly second and third-year players currently on the roster.
If OTAs are any indication, Deonte Thompson has the leg up over the other young players. An undrafted free agent last season, Thompson overcame the odds by making the roster and even getting a few receptions late in the regular season.
Thompson is also possibly the fastest player on the roster, having ran a 4.23 40-yard dash at his pro day last season. Ravens offensive coordinator was liberal in his praise for the young wideout, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
While both Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are known for their speed, it never hurts to have too much speed on the team. With Smith, Jones and Thompson all lining up, the formerly slow Ravens' pass offense could force teams to frequently guard the deep ball in 2013.
The precipitous fall of Ed Dickson was one of last year's more underrated stories. Remember that for his first two seasons, he was ahead of Dennis Pitta on the depth chart. All indications seemed to show that it would be Dickson, not Pitta, who would be the successor to fan favorite Todd Heap.
Yet the late-season connection between Joe Flacco and Pitta in 2011 proved to be prophetic. Pitta had a major breakout season in 2012 with 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. Dickson meanwhile never really recovered from an early shoulder injury and, as a result, his numbers were down from his breakout season in 2011.
Although Dickson was an after thought in the passing game late last season, he now has a chance to become prominent again. Someone will need to replace Anquan Boldin's production and right now it looks like both Dickson and Pitta could be the players who stand to benefit the most.
The main complaint with Dickson has been his problem with drops. If he can fix that though, he can stretch the field and line up in the slot like Boldin used to.
So far, Dickson has done well at OTAs. He's finally healthy and he's also showing off strong hands in the short passing game during practice, according to Ryan Mink of baltimoreravens.com.
Jimmy Smith's first two years in the NFL have been largely disappointing. He's mostly had to stay on the bench during that time thanks to injuries such as a high-ankle sprain his rookie season and sports hernia surgery last year.
Yet Smith still has a lot of promise, something he's clearly demonstrated with his play during the playoffs. In the 2011 AFC Championship Game, Smith had a crucial interception of Tom Brady. He also made one of the biggest plays in last year's Super Bowl when he defended a pass intended for Michael Crabtree.
Smith looks to have a shot at a starting role for 2013. Both he and Corey Graham will compete for the second cornerback spot across from Lardarius Webb.
Smith seems to know that year three will be a crucial one for him. He'll have the opportunity to compete with Corey Graham for the No. 2 cornerback spot. Smith has responded by taking up a boxing regiment with the intent of losing weight and getting in the best shape of his NFL career, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com.
It'll be a tough competition.