Players Turning Heads at Baltimore Ravens Training Camp
The Baltimore Ravens are well into training camp now after their first practice on July 24. It's hard for anyone to come right into camp and perform well. These are the first practices in shoulder pads and helmets in over six months for the Ravens.
After they missed the playoffs last year, they've not held a full-contact practice since the first week of January. In OTAs, players were only permitted to wear helmets with no pads, and contact was limited. It's still a bit early to hand out too much praise to those doing well, but there are some players whose performance to this point has been great to see.
Here is a look at three players who've turned heads during training camp thus far.
WR Steve Smith
Steve Smith may be 35 years old, but he has looked like he's back in his 20s at points during camp thus far. The Ravens signed the former Carolina Panthers receiver this offseason to give Joe Flacco another weapon to throw to.
Though Smith is expected to be no more than the No. 2 or 3 receiver, he's still working in camp like he's the No. 1 guy.
He's made some dazzling plays to this point, including one in which he beat cornerback Chykie Brown deep, but because the ball was underthrown, Smith had to jump over Brown to haul in the pass. It was a thing of beauty, and it was just another reminder that Smith still has enough left in the tank to make an impact on offense this season.
On another play, Smith blew past Brown to catch a 70-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Though it's early, it looks like Smith is indeed going to be a key contributor on offense this year.
LB Terrell Suggs
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is arguably the Ravens' top defender, and one of the league's fiercest pass-rushers. He's registered double-digit sacks in three of the past four seasons and has 94.5 career sacks.
Suggs is not someone you want to mess with, even in training camp. He's not afraid to lay out his teammates. In the first few practices, Suggs has done that while also being one of the best players on the field.
On Sunday, Suggs was "far and away the best Raven on the field," according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun. One one play, Suggs delivered a big hit on running back Justin Forsett that sent him to the ground.
The 12-year veteran has made his mark in the NFL by playing violently, but he didn't think Baltimore's defense was violent enough last year. Per Zrebiec, before the start of camp, Suggs spoke on getting back to a faster and more violent style of defense that offenses have to adjust to,
We forget sometimes, people have to stop us," Suggs said. “We’ve always been a very fast and violent defense and we need to get back to that.”
We’ve been playing a certain defense, a certain style, for so long, then maybe we may start to do some of those things – reacting too much to personnel groups or personnel," said Suggs who had a team-high 10 sacks last season but just one of them coming in the Ravens’ final eight games. “Let’s just get back to the basics.
Suggs is speaking and playing like a man on a mission thus far into training camp. His mission appears to be to get Baltimore's defense back among the NFL's most feared units.
QB Joe Flacco
The Baltimore Ravens are expecting big things from their franchise signal-caller this year. After a solid first five seasons in the NFL, Flacco regressed last year.
He threw a career-high 22 interceptions to just 19 touchdowns while being sacked a career-high 48 times. Flacco also completed just 59 percent of his passes, the second-lowest mark in his six NFL seasons.
This offseason, Baltimore made it a point to upgrade the offense by naming Gary Kubiak their new offensive coordinator while also signing several key offensive veterans.
Per Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, so far in training camp, Kubiak has been impressed with what he's seen from Flacco.
I’ve been very impressed," Kubiak said of his offense afterwards. "I want to say that’s maybe 15, 16, 17 practices for us, and if you count all of the offseason and camp, it’s kind of about the third time we’re going through our system in teaching it. I think they’ve adjusted very well."
"He's got to lead the pack. He's done that from day one. He's got total command of what's going on right now. His ability to go through progressions, to me, is exceptional.
This is very good news given how poorly Flacco performed last year, and there's never any certainty a new offensive coordinator will fix things. To this point, it sounds like Kubiak is helping Flacco get back to playing at a high level again.