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Rookie Courtney Upshaw has yet to impress, but there is time for him to improve

Mike Preston

5:44 PM EDT, August 31, 2012

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Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has struggled with weight and shoulder problems, but he still should be more impressive than what he has shown in the preseason.

When former Pro Bowl players Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs started as rookie outside linebackers for the Ravens, you could see the talent right away. Boulware had a great first step and could dip his shoulders to get inside most offensive tackles when rushing the passer.

With Suggs, he could change direction in almost full stride, but also had enough power to toss any linemen that got into his body or overextended.

I haven't seen any of that in Upshaw. In the final preseason game Thursday night, he only got pressure on the quarterback once.

I don't see explosion or power. He doesn't use his hands extremely well and right now he looks like an average outside linebacker taken too high in the second round of the draft.

There is still time for him to get better. He is only a rookie and has missed extensive time in training camp because of the shoulder injury. Last year, then rookie receiver Torrey Smith had his ups and downs in training camp, but had a break out game in Week 3 against St. Louis.

It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself.

Jimmy Smith needs to be more aggressive

Maybe it's just me, but it appears that second-year cornerback Jimmy Smith doesn't like to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage.

When the Ravens drafted him in the first round a year ago, he was supposed to be a shut down cornerback. Maybe he is a little timid from getting beat the past couple of weeks, but I'm surprised by the lack of physicality in his game despite Smith being 6-feet- 2 and 205 pounds. If a team wants to blitz as much as the Ravens, it's imperative for the corners to hold the receivers at the line of scrimmage for second or two.

Unfortunately for the Ravens, nickel cornerback Cary Williams is playing the same way.

Who should backup Flacco?

Since this is the year for debates, I assume that's why fans keep arguing over whether Tyrod Taylor or Curtis Painter should be the backup quarterback.

That's like asking do you prefer the chair or injection?

It's a no-win situation.

Blessing in disguise for Streeter

The best thing that may have happened to rookie receiver Tommy Streeter is that he sprained his left foot during the third preseason game against Jacksonville, and will get put on injured reserve, according to a team source.

It's highly unlikely that Streeter would have made the 53-man roster, but now he gets some time to stay with the club and build on his 6-feet-5, 220 pound frame.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear Bill Belichick was the Ravens head coach and creating a way to stash Streeter.

Ravens outside linebackers didn't impress

The Ravens played their second and third string players against the St. Louis Rams first units Thursday night, but they had a couple of first string caliber players out there including outside linebackers Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan, inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and defensive tackle Terrence Cody.

Of those players, only McClellan played well. Kruger played poorly in his second straight game and Ayanbadejo played his worst game (pass coverage) in a Ravens uniform.

Even more disturbing was the communication between the linebackers and the secondary. The Ravens didn't just get beat physically, but at times played as if they had not practiced .

The tackling was atrocious.

Veterans will keep pace with no-huddle

There is a concern that some of the Ravens veterans on the offensive line won't be able to keep pace with the team's no-huddle approach, but that won't be an issue.

Just because a team doesn't huddle doesn't mean it has to snap the ball way under the 40-second clock. Offenses stay at the line of scrimmage to also force the defensive coordinator to make quick decisions, and cut down on the influx of the defensive personnel.

In theory, if the no-huddle is run well without a lot of incompletions and penalties, it's less running back and forth for the offensive line. Plus, the pace is more draining on defensive linemen.

"I've never run into any offensive linemen that didn't like it," said former Ravens and Colts coach Ted Marchibroda, who was one of the first coaches in the NFL to employ the no-huddle full-time.

mike.preston@baltsun.com