Baltimore Ravens Training Camp: Week 2 Stock Report
With every passing week of Baltimore Ravens training camp, more players are setting themselves apart from the competition. Unfortunately, that can be in either a positive or negative manner.
The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” league, and that philosophy carries over into training camp where coaches won’t care too much about what players did earlier in the offseason if they’re not doing it right now.
One of the players who has completely taken advantage of the opportunity is wide receiver Kamar Aiken. He came into training camp with zero expectations, but the Ravens are a meritocracy, and he has been one of the better receivers on the roster.
Likewise, Asa Jackson was expected to compete for a roster spot as a special teamer, but he’s capitalized on the struggles of Chykie Brown to get his nose ahead in the nickel corner battle.
It wasn’t all fun and games for other players, however. The growth of Aiken and Jackson has come at the expense of their competitors. Players like Deonte Thompson and Dominique Franks were considered early favorites in those position battles, but that’s no longer the case.
Entering the second week of training camp, here are the biggest winners and losers in Baltimore.
Stock Up: Kamar Aiken
Kamar Aiken was merely an afterthought heading into training camp, but he’s consistently made eye-popping catches and impressed coaches and media members in attendance.
The second-year receiver has the size at 6’2” and 215 pounds, and he’s displayed a pair of strong, reliable hands, which means the ball doesn’t hit the ground too often around him.
One of the reasons Aiken has stepped up is out of necessity. As he told Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, the practice squad is no longer an option for the UCF product, and the extra motivation is pushing him to new heights:
To me, my back is against the wall. There’s no more practice squad eligibility. It’s the 53 or that’s it. I never looked at myself as a practice squad guy or carried myself like that. This offseason I attacked it way differently than I ever have since I’ve been in the league. I spent a little extra money to make sure I had everything in place. That’s just growing up.
Aiken has been hard to miss on the practice field, and he’s firmly in the conversation for one of the last wide receiver spots—which is a definite upgrade over his status entering training camp.
Stock Down: Deonte Thompson
One of the biggest losers of Aiken’s stellar play is Deonte Thompson. After being a favorite to earn a starting receiver job last offseason, Thompson has completely fallen off the radar, and there hasn’t been much commentary on his performance in training camp.
Conversely, there are plenty of young receivers making some noise. The aforementioned Aiken has been the loudest, but Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler and Jace Davis are all impressing to the point that offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak called the positional battle one of the greatest he’s ever seen, according to Ryan Mink of the Ravens official website.
On the one hand, that means there is still plenty of the battle left to unfold, but Thompson entered camp as one of the surer bets to hold onto a receiver spot on the final roster, and now he is anything but a certainty.
Stock Up: Tyrod Taylor
The Ravens haven’t exactly expressed a ton of confidence in Tyrod Taylor this offseason. Both coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome expressed a desire to add another quarterback or two. Initially, they were looking at a few veteran options, including Brandon Weeden, but then they settled on using the draft to add sixth-round pick Keith Wenning to the mix.
Taylor’s contract expires at the end of the season, and his on-field performance has been disappointing. Despite all this, he’s turned in a strong training camp and has at least made a strong case for why he should be Joe Flacco’s primary backup.
He has more experience than Wenning, and he also has the support of Gary Kubiak, according to ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley:
I know his goal is to be a starter in this league, and that’s what you want as a coach. He moves so well [and] keeps people honest when we run the ball that he can boot and do those types of things. But he’s impressed me as a pocket thrower. He’s bought into our steps and how we teach things and is just a bright young man. I feel a leader out there when he’s got our guys, and that’s important. So like I said, I’m very pleased with where he’s at.
At this point, Taylor needs to string together a few strong in-game performances in the preseason, but he’s enjoyed a great start to camp.
Stock Down: Justin Forsett
Justin Forsett’s stock isn’t down because he’s been playing poorly. On the contrary, all accounts of his performance have been complimentary. But two developments since the start of camp have been troubling for his long-term future in Baltimore.
Forsett isn’t in danger of missing out on the final roster because of Ray Rice’s suspension. He is a very good third-down back who will be needed in Rice’s absence. But with the news Rice will only miss two games comes the unfortunate reality that Forsett doesn’t have much time to wow the coaching staff and keep a spot in the rotation once Rice gets back.
Another tough blow for the veteran is the impressive performance of Bernard Pierce. With a history in the zone-running scheme, Pierce has thrived in training camp, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:
Bernard Pierce has been the best running back in camp. He played in a similar running scheme in college, and he has had the best transition to Kubiak's stretch, zone-blocking runs.
Forsett very well may be on the team for the whole season, but these two developments aren’t working to his advantage right now.
Stock Up: Terrence Cody
Terrence Cody is still on the physically unable to perform list, so he hasn’t had the chance to control his stock on the field. Regardless, his stock is definitely up after news broke that rookie defensive end Brent Urban was out for the season after tearing his ACL.
As callous as that sounds, the reality is an injury shuts the door on one player’s season and opens up a roster spot for another. Cody may have made the final roster anyway, but there is a ton of young talent on the defensive line, and it’s possible he may have been squeezed out as a result.
With Urban no longer in the mix, there is more breathing room for the Alabama product. Even though Urban and Cody don’t play the same position, there is so much positional flexibility among the other Ravens linemen that his absence affects the rotation and frees up a spot for Cody unless a free agent is signed.
Stock Down: Arthur Brown
From the beginning of OTAs, it looked like Arthur Brown was probably going to lose the battle for a starting ILB spot to rookie C.J. Mosley. That has been confirmed in training camp, with Mosley running the show with the first team.
That isn’t a huge surprise, but the fact that Josh Bynes was promoted to work with the first team in Daryl Smith’s absence isn’t a great sign.
To be fair, part of that could be related to the fact that Mosley and Brown share similar skill sets and Bynes’ run-stuffing nature was a better complement alongside the rookie.
But even if that was the case, it’s not a good sign for Brown. The Kansas State product has plenty of talent and has improved significantly from last year, but his ceiling will be determined by how well he’s able to play the run.
The long-term potential of a Brown-Mosley pairing is tantalizing, but it looks like Brown isn’t ready just yet.
Stock Up: Asa Jackson
Chykie Brown was the name that had been thrown around the most this offseason as the most logical replacement for Corey Graham as the nickel corner. After Week 1 of training camp, however, it’s been Asa Jackson who has stolen the show.
Secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo talked to reporters in a training camp press conference and had only good things to say about the small-school product:
He has really jumped out there and impressed everybody—players, coaches. He’s doing a lot of things we knew he could do. He’s a feisty player, and people are going to knock him because of his lack of height, but he plays big. He’s been really good.
With excellent quickness and agility, Jackson is more versatile than Brown and has the ability to play both in the slot and on the outside.
With Lardarius Webb nursing a back injury, both Brown and Jackson have had the opportunity to run with the starters, and Jackson has been the more impressive one.
Furthermore, he’s also getting the opportunity to contribute on special teams as a punt returner. Jackson’s versatility has been a great sign for the Ravens, and he’s looked like the most impressive No. 3 corner. He’ll need to build on that momentum in the preseason, but he finally seems to be putting it all together.
Stock Down: Dominique Franks
You may have noticed that Dominique Franks wasn’t mentioned in the previous slide about the cornerbacks. That’s because there hasn’t been much news about him. This is a problem.
Franks was brought in as a veteran who should have had an inside track at the No. 3 job through his experience alone, but he is still acclimating to the defense and hasn’t been too convincing. Coach Harbaugh made the following comment about Franks’ first practice via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:
He didn’t jump out in a negative way. Dominique didn’t, so that’s positive for a corner. And we’re happy to get him out there, because we needed the legs out there, and he’s a talented guy.
It’s a fairly lukewarm sentiment, and failing the conditioning test is hardly a good start for Franks in Baltimore.
With Chykie Brown struggling, the No. 3 job is there for the taking, but it’s been Asa Jackson and not Dominique Franks who has seized the opportunity.
Shehan Peiris is B/R's Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related. For the latest Ravens news, draft analysis and links to episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter:
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