SETTING THE SCENE: Thursday's outdoor practice started at 2:30 p.m. and ended at 5:05 p.m. The weather was overcast at first, but the sun came out midway through practice. Temperatures were in the low 80s. Players were in full pads for a fifth straight practice.
NOW THAT WAS FUN: Thursday was easily the most competitive and entertaining day of training camp so far. There was a lot of action, big plays and playful trash talk between the two sidelines, and the defense rallied late to overcome a significant deficit on coach John Harbaugh's scoreboard. Overall, the team looks much sharper than it did a week ago. Quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense are executing more efficiently, and the defense is countering with quality pass coverage. A week into training camp, the coaches have to be pleased with how the team looks.
CAUGHT IN HIS WEBB: Cornerback Lardarius Webb is being eased back into the mix as he returns from offseason knee surgery, but he made his presence felt in one seven -on-seven drill in the red zone. Webb knocked down a pass in the right side of the end zone after Deonte Thompson tried to shake him on a quick out route. Two plays later, Webb picked off Flacco in the end zone for his first interception of the summer. They were only a couple of plays, but they were encouraging.
DICKSON CONTINUES TO SHINE: Tight end Ed Dickson has really come on the past few days of camp and is seizing an opportunity after Dennis Pitta dislocated his hip. In one team drill, Dickson sprinted straight up the field, found a seam between a pair of defenders and caught a laser from Flacco. He ran untouched to the end zone. On another play, Dickson made a nice diving grab in the end zone.
OMAR BROWN DOING OMAR BROWN THINGS: Safety Omar Brown became a minor fascination last summer because of his penchant for picking off passes and having fumbles bounce into his lap. He was back at it Thursday, intercepting two passes. On the first, he sprinted forward from his deep zone to jump a pass thrown by Tyrod Taylor. Later in practice, he leapt to pick off Taylor again, prompting linebacker Terrell Suggs to yell, "He's the greatest!" over and over.
NGATA GETTING NOSY: Haloti Ngata has spent a lot of time at nose tackle in camp so far — enough to make it seem he could be a mainstay in the middle of the defensive line this season. He has been a handful for centers Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley, and if he can stay healthy and get back to collapsing the pocket this season, the team's pass rush could be very good.
SPREADING IT AROUND: It might have been a part of the plan for camp all along, or maybe the Ravens are adapting to life without Pitta, but they have spent a lot of time in their "11" package — three wide receivers, a tight end and a back — the past couple of practices. It was their most frequently used personnel grouping in 2012, and Flacco appeared most comfortable last season when the Ravens went three-wide and no-huddle. And versatile athletes such as Dickson and running back Ray Rice give the Ravens formational flexibility in that grouping.
TOMMY STREETER SIGHTING: Every few days, wide receiver Tommy Streeter sneaks behind the defense, catches a long pass and reminds you that he is still involved in the wide receiver competition. On this day, he ran past rookie cornerback Moe Lee to catch a well-thrown deep ball by quarterback Caleb Hanie.
HEAVYWEIGHT MATCH: Guard Kelechi Osemele and defensive tackle Arthur Jones, two of the most impressive players during training camp, went one-on-one in a blocking drill Thursday. Osemele, who still appears to be a little limited by the hamstring he tweaked earlier in camp, pancaked Jones on one rep, latching onto him and wrestling Jones onto his back.
INJURY REPORT: Rookie cornerback Marc Anthony, who left Wednesday's practice with a strained shoulder, participated Thursday but was limited. Guards Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ramon Harewood (knee), as well as linebacker Jameel McClain (bruised spine), remained sidelined.
OVERHEARD: "Go back to Foot Locker, man!" — safety James Ihedigbo to one of the officials after what appeared to be an interception for Asa Jackson in the end zone was called a simultaneous catch and a touchdown.
twitter.com/mattvenselCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun