The Baltimore Ravens held the first of their off-season mini-camps this passed weekend. There is only so much you can take away from these camps as far as what to expect from newcomers and which veterans look to be ready to step up their performance, but nothing causes football fans to salivate more than reports from these camps and the realization that training camp is a little over 2 months away. Here is a look at the positives and negatives from the mini-camp.
The story of the camp was the position switch of tackles Jared Gaither and Michael Oher. Rumors had it that coach John Harbaugh got a talking to from Leigh Anne Touhy about how to best use “Big Mike” on the Ravens line and that he would be more capable of protecting the family. Stronger rumors, however, have it that the Ravens are concerned with Gaither’s continued lack of work ethic and no longer consider him reliable enough to protect QB Joe Flacco’s blind side. The good news is that Oher proved himself more than capable of being a good LT in the NFL during his rookie campaign. As a Ravens fan I just wish the position switch was not as much about the teams lack of faith in Gaither as it was their belief in Oher.
The key to all this will be how Gaither reacts to the switch. The Ravens have been sending messages to Gaither during the off-season, and probably since he became a Raven, about his work ethic. Gaither was criticized for his absence from team workouts in Marh. He was also given a lower tender to protect his restricted free agency status and was reportedly shopped for draft picks leading up to the draft. The Club has clearly established that Gaither and his agent Drew Rosenhouse have over-valued Gaither’s ability. But this still has not seemed to motivate the talented tackle. And of course Gaither sat out the rest of the mini-camp after a foot/toe issue cropped up. Whether the injury is legitimate or not, Gaither needs to get back in the good graces of the coaching staff, or O’niel Cousins could take the RT spot away from him.
Other notable performers over the weekend were Demetrius Williams and Cory Redding. Williams who was much maligned for his lack of preparation and hard work last year has seemingly come out of the off-season stronger and more ready to fight for a spot on the roster. Williams made some nice plays in the passing drills and has added more muscle to his frame. All of which could be attributed to his healthy off-season. It remains to be seen if he actually makes the team, but at least he realizes that the dog-house is pretty crowded with Gaither in there with him. Redding was lauded for his work ethic and no non-sense approach to the mini-camp. Redding shows more versatility than the departed Dwan Edwards and should be a factor in the pass rush as the club looks to eliminate holes in coverage by giving opposing QB’s less time to throw the ball.
It was also good to hear the positive reports about Terrell Suggs getting his burst back. Suggs believes he was helped by spending more time working out with the club this winter. Ravens fans and coaches agree. Hopefully the disappointing 2009 season is all Suggs needs to keep up the conditioning work. Results should follow. Another player who had a good camp at a position of need was CB Cary Williams. Williams was acquired last season from the Tennessee Titans and saw most of his time on special teams. The Ravens need some corners to step up/in while Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb recover from knee injuries. WIlliams could provide some depth and could emerge as a dark horse to play valuable minutes at the start of the season.
Nothing like a few quips from mini-camp to get Ravens fans pumped about the 2010 season. Next week we get to hear even more about how Flacco is looking throwing the ball to Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth. What other notes from the first mini-camp have you excited or worried?