Baltimore Ravens Preseason Progress Reports for Notable Rookies
With Week 2 of the preseason here, training camp is nearly over for all 32 NFL teams. At this point, most teams have only three to five camp sessions remaining.
When teams play their second preseason game, they usually don't have any more camp practices left, and from there on out, they treat each week like it's a regular-season game week.
On August 16, the Baltimore Ravens will travel to Texas to face the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in their second preseason game. This will be the just the second live-game action for several notable Ravens rookies.
Over the next few slides, I'll give an updated progress report and grade for every Ravens rookie who was drafted this year and should be expected to make a significant impact on this year's team.
There's time for each of these rookies to improve with a little over three weeks until the start of the regular season. That said, we should be getting a good idea by now of how each rookie has progressed through training camp.
LB C.J. Mosley
C.J. Mosley has done very well through his first NFL training camp. That helped translate to a solid performance in his first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Mosley was on the field for 25 defensive snaps and registered five tackles, one sack and got a 1.1 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That was the seventh-best grade of any Ravens offensive or defensive player.
As soon as Baltimore drafted Mosley in the first round of this year's NFL draft, he was projected to become one of the two starting inside linebackers in the Ravens' 3-4 defense.
He wants more though. Mosley wants to not only start this year, but also win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
"That is one of my goals, but that's just a personal goal," Mosley told Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. "My main goal is to help this team get back to the Super Bowl."
That's the kind of mentality Mosley played with in college with the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he won the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in college football in 2013.
He was also named the Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year after starting all 13 games at inside linebacker while notching 108 tackles, nine tackles for loss and five pass breakups. The Crimson Tide won two BCS National Championships while Mosley was there.
Needless to say, he's used to playing at a high level. Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino said that's helped Mosley's transition to the NFL be easier than it is for most rookies, per Wilson.
C.J. is one of those rare, young players that has a great deal of exposure to a lot of good defense. So, the transition for him mentally hasn’t been very difficult at all. The transition, physically, is one that he’s got to catch up. He’s got a little bit of a curve there, but has made a huge jump just in the first 10 days of practice. So, we’re thrilled where he is right now.
You can only take so much away from how a player performed in practice and in one preseason game, but it was impressive nonetheless. Mosley is continuing to live up to expectations.
DL Timmy Jernigan
Baltimore lost defensive tackle Arthur Jones in free agency this offseason, so it added a pair of defensive linemen in the NFL draft.
The one it expected to contribute as a rookie was Florida State defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who it got in the second round. It also drafted Virginia defensive lineman Brent Urban in the fourth round, but a torn ACL has already ended his rookie season.
While not as a serious, a back injury early in training camp slowed Jernigan's progress initially. That led to backup veteran lineman Terrence Cody getting more reps in training camp.
It came as no surprise when the first depth chart was released that Jernigan was third on the depth chart at defensive tackle behind Cody and Haloti Ngata.
Cody has been with the Ravens for five years now after being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft. That experience on its own gave Cody an edge, so Jernigan's injury only solidified Cody's status as the primary backup behind the All-Pro Ngata.
The tide turned, though, when Cody injured his hip, forcing him to miss several practices, as well as the first preseason game against the 49ers.
That has also helped Jernigan get more reps, including 23 defensive snaps against the 49ers.
Jernigan will need to keep playing well if he wants to climb past Cody on the depth chart and earn significant playing time as a rookie. This may be his opportunity to lock down the backup spot behind Ngata.
When Jernigan has been on the field, he's consistently been able to beat his man and get into the backfield to either tackle the running back or pressure the quarterback.
Here's what Dev Panchwagh of Russell Street Report said when he saw Jernigan practice.
He only knows one speed. He has a live body and is constantly using his hands and different moves to defeat blocks. It was interesting to see Jernigan used all along the line. He played at the three-technique, five-technique, nose, and outside (wide) defensive end spots. For a rookie, he already has a nice swim move and also incorporates the dip to get underneath blocks.
As Panchwagh said, Jernigan is so quick and hard to block that he's been consistently disrupting plays.
Jernigan has performed well in camp when healthy. The back injury was a minor setback, but Cody's injury has helped him get more reps in camp. Still, Jernigan needs to keep playing well to solidify a backup spot behind Ngata.
FS Terrence Brooks
Baltimore had a void at safety after starter James Ihedigbo left in free agency. Florida State's Terrence Brooks was being touted as one of the top safety prospects heading into the 2014 NFL draft.
When Baltimore took Brooks with the 79th overall pick in this year's draft, it seemed like a perfect fit.
This past season, in 13 starts, Brooks registered 56 stops and two interceptions, and he was regarded as a great playmaker in coverage and in the run game.
With Matt Elam slated to start at strong safety, Brooks was thought to be the favorite to start at free safety once he was drafted.
However, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, Brooks has been slow to adjust to the NFL game. That's led Darian Stewart, a free-agent pickup this offseason, and veteran backup Jeromy Miles, a seldom-used special teams player, to get the majority of reps at free safety.
Both of those players have played for four seasons in the NFL but have combined for just 20 starts, with 19 of them coming from Stewart.
Neither of those guys appears to be a long-term answer, but Brooks has been unable to rise past them on the depth chart, where he sits third behind the two veterans.
Brooks did get 20 snaps on defense in Baltimore's first preseason game, but he failed to record a defensive stat. The first preseason game is also when seldom-used backups and players on the roster bubble get the majority of snaps, so that amount of playing time isn't necessarily a good thing.
However, Brooks is slowly improving in camp, and head coach John Harbaugh is taking notice, per Wilson.
"He’s doing great," Harbaugh said. "He’s learning fast. Safeties have a long way to go as rookies, but he’s doing a good job. He’s going to play a lot this year, no doubt.”
While the Ravens were hoping Brooks could come in and become a full-time starter at free safety, they are willing to give him time to adjust to the NFL game. Harbaugh sounds pleased with his progress thus far, and there's still over three weeks until the regular season begins.
TE Crockett Gillmore
The Ravens drafted Colorado State's Crockett Gillmore in the third round of this year's NFL draft to become Owen Daniels' eventual replacement. Daniels is the No. 2 tight end this year behind Dennis Pitta but is only signed to a one-year deal.
Gillmore will likely see limited playing time as a rookie, and to this point, there's been little news on him, other than missing time due to the flu.
He did end up playing in 20 offensive snaps in Baltimore's first preseason game against the 49ers, but he failed to record an offensive statistic.
Gillmore wasn't expected to do much as a rookie, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he's failed to stand out in training camp or the first preseason game.
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
Taliaferro was the Ravens' second fourth-round pick in this year's draft. Though he wasn't expected to do much this year, Taliaferro has looked good in what limited playing time he's gotten in training camp.
Listed fourth on the initial depth chart with Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett ahead of him, Taliaferro was the running back who stood out in Baltimore's preseason opener.
He had a game-high 71 rushing yards on just 13 carries (5.5 yards per carry) against the 49ers. He also did so while consistently powering through defenders to pick up short but tough yards on the ground. His longest rush was only 12 yards, and that reflected the power-running style he displayed.
As John Harbaugh told Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:
That's exactly what you want to see out of a big, physical back. We want to see him in tackling-type action. He played well. I was really happy for him with what he did in the game, but we'll continue to build on that and see what he does next game.
It's possible Taliaferro could become the short-yardage back based on how he's looked thus far. That could earn him meaningful snaps as a rookie.
These are the rookies who haven't gotten enough reps and/or been mentioned enough by beat writers and other national media who've attended Ravens camp. As of now, I don't believe these players can have a fair or accurate grade put on them.
John Urschel, offensive lineman
A fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, it looks as though Urschel is in for a redshirt year as a rookie. He was listed as the third-string right guard on the first depth chart, and then got only five offensive snaps in the first preseason game. That was tied for the fewest snaps by any offensive player.
Keith Wenning, quarterback
A sixth-round pick out of Ball State, Wenning has done little to stand out during training camp, nor has he been mentioned much by coaches and teammates.
With veterans Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor ahead of him, it's going to be hard for Wenning to get any playing time in the preseason. He also got just five offensive snaps against the 49ers, and most of them were kneel-downs to end the game.
Michael Campanaro, wide receiver
Campanaro has found it tough to crack the receiver rotation after Baltimore used its seventh-round pick on him this year. A rib injury early in camp, as well as his problems with press coverage, slowed Campanaro's progress, but he did get 20 offensive snaps against San Francisco.