Baltimore Ravens Training Camp: Week 1 Stock Report
The Baltimore Ravens have just started training camp, but it’s not too early to make some preliminary judgments about certain players. This stock report will break down three players who have impressed so far, as well as two players who have given us some cause for concern.
The duo of Steve Smith Sr. and Joe Flacco both make the cut, with their “stocks” trending upward. Despite facing a number of questions (age for Smith, a poor 2013 season for Flacco), the tandem has performed extremely well and the two have been the stars of training camp.
Defensive players make up the rest of the list, with both “stock downs” coming from the secondary (although one of them is due to injury).
Most of training camp is still yet to come, but these are the early takeaways from the action.
Stock Up: Steve Smith Sr.
Steve Smith Sr. has been the star of training camp, despite learning a new offense and trying to build chemistry with his new quarterback. Actually, maybe chemistry isn’t part of the learning process for the veteran receiver—something he made clear in one of his training camp press conferences (h/t to Jamison Hensley of ESPN):
Honestly, for me, I’ve been catching passes for quarterbacks for a lot of years, and I’ve been running routes for a lot of years. If you throw me the ball, there’s no chemistry. You throw me the ball [and if] it’s catchable, I’m going to snag it.
That’s what practice is going to be there for. Practice is there to make mistakes, to understand what I need to do and how Joe operates. Then, my job at the end of the day is to make him look good.
Smith has certainly been making his quarterback look good by reeling in everything that’s thrown his way. He’s burning cornerbacks (including Lardarius Webb), running beautiful routes and has looked very comfortable working with Flacco.
Those expecting a dip in performance as he enters the season at age 35 will be disappointed. Smith may not have the juice left to haul in 80 catches for 1,200 yards, but he’s going to be a wonderful go-to target for Flacco.
Stock Down: Chykie Brown
Jamison Hensley of ESPN was taking notes from training camp, and he hasn’t had many good things to say about cornerback Chykie Brown:
One of the lasting images of the first three days of camp has been Brown getting beat on deep passes. It happened twice Saturday, when Jacoby Jones and Steve Smith both caught throws downfield against Brown.
On the first big play allowed, Brown got burned by Jones, who outran him for a 65-yard touchdown. On the second one, Brown ran with Smith but couldn't finish the play.
Those big plays were specifically mentioned by defensive coordinator Dean Pees as an area where the Ravens defense has to improve, and it’s hardly been the start to camp that Brown was hoping for.
With the No. 3 cornerback spot completely up for grabs after the departure of Corey Graham, Brown entered the offseason as the favorite to earn the job.
He failed to impress in OTAs, forcing general manager Ozzie Newsome to look outside the organization and sign free agents Dominique Franks and Aaron Ross. Ross has since torn his Achilles and is now out for the season, but Baltimore went out and worked out Maryland native Brandon Driver, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
The team is clearly concerned about the lack of cornerback depth, and Brown’s rocky start to the offseason (and now training camp) is a primary reason for those fears.
Stock Up: Joe Flacco
Following a terrible season in which he was second in the league in interceptions, everybody is watching how Joe Flacco is adjusting to the new offense in training camp. This is still a bare-bones version of football, but the gunslinger has looked very impressive—especially considering how early it is in the process.
Count his new coordinator, Gary Kubiak, as one of his biggest fans. Kubiak made a number of extremely complimentary comments about his new QB in one of his press conferences (h/t to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun):
It's kind of the third time we're going through our system, teaching it, and I think they've adjusted very well, but the most important thing is [Flacco] has adjusted extremely 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. Obviously, we've got to cut the sacks down a great deal this year. It's a big point of emphasis. The best way to do that is with your quarterback getting rid of the ball.
There were some concerns about how Flacco would adjust to a scheme that placed a greater emphasis on shorter throws and necessitated a slight change in his footwork, but the former Super Bowl MVP has excelled in both of those aspects so far and looks poised for a tremendous 2014 campaign.
Stock Down: Lardarius Webb
This isn’t a reflection on Lardarius Webb as a player, because he’s performed very well this offseason. Unfortunately, however, his fictional “stock” is trending down right now because of a worrisome back injury that has kept him out of the last few practices.
It was originally reported that Webb was experiencing back spasms, and the injury wasn’t supposed to keep him out for an extended period of time.
That hasn’t been the case, however, and head coach John Harbaugh addressed the issue after the team’s open practice at M&T Bank Stadium (h/t to Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com):
We’re going to see about Lardarius. He’s got some back things that we’re looking at right now. Backs are a little weird. At first it was no big deal. It’s lingering a little bit, so we’ll find out what’s going on.
Hopefully, it turns out to be nothing major that carries forward into the regular season. But for now, it is a concern in Baltimore—especially when you factor in the total lack of depth at cornerback behind Webb and Jimmy Smith.
Stock Up: C.J. Mosley
I hope you invested in that C.J. Mosley stock early, because it has been skyrocketing since the NFL draft. Mosley impressed coaches at rookie minicamp with his intelligence and leadership. Then he played so well in OTAs that he earned the right to run with the first team.
He has continued to generate excitement early on in training camp, showing that his athleticism isn’t tainted by putting on the pads and that he is physical enough to be a starter from day one.
A number of his teammates and coaches have voiced their pleasure about his progress, according to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com.
Joe Flacco, for example, called him “a natural” and marveled at how much ground Mosley was able to cover. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was more impressed with the pace of his mental development.
One of the men who will be leading Mosley on the field, Terrell Suggs, was impressed by the whole package:
[He’s] very lean, very quick. Just from the little bit I caught in minicamp, he can catch on really fast. He caught on to the defense really fast. His attention to detail is very intriguing.
It took me two years, three years, to really feel like I got the grasp of NFL football, and it looks like C.J. is not going to have a problem with that.
Mosley has impressed at every turn, and Ravens fans should be gleefully awaiting his debut in Week 1, because it could be the beginning of a special career.