Observations after Ravens' third OTA

The Baltimore Sun

The voluntary team activity portion of the Ravens’ offseason schedule officially ends today. The Ravens will have their mandatory veteran minicamp from Tuesday through Thursday next week. That will be the final organized on-field workouts until training camp starts in late July. Below are a couple of observations/opinions following the third open OTA session:

A week after offensive coordinator Cam Cameron made a point to note that Joe Flacco is having his “most consistent” offseason, Ravens coach John Harbaugh finished his opening statement with unsolicited praise of his quarterback. “Joe has been playing great,” Harbaugh said. “Everything he has done, hard work-wise in the offseason, is really showing up in these practices.” I don’t think Cameron and Harbaugh are just providing lip service here to build up their much-scrutinized quarterback. Flacco, as a quarterback of his experience level and talent should be in these kinds of workouts, has looked in complete control. During the workouts open to the media, Flacco has taken a ton of reps, thrown plenty of nice balls and been extremely active talking and working with his young receivers. The pressure on him will only increase as we get closer to the season, but just watching how Flacco is going about his business these days, it’s easy to believe him when he says that his contract situation is not on his mind. The arrival of his first child – Flacco’s wife is due to give birth in less than two weeks – probably is, but you wouldn’t know that by watching him either.

In this space last week, I mentioned that undrafted free agent linebacker Nigel Carr has opened some eyes during the OTAs and I labeled him as a player to watch come training camp. If I was going to put that same designation on an offensive player, I would use it on undrafted free agent wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Once considered one of the nation’s top recruits, Thompson landed at Florida and had a relatively disappointing career before leading the Gators with 38 catches in his senior year. But he has stood out in the workouts open to the media, primarily because of his speed, which landed him a spot on Florida’s track team. Thompson, who saw some time as the third receiver alongside Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones yesterday, has also apparently gotten the attention of Flacco, who was working and communicating with the receiver after different plays and drills. Ravens wide receiver coach Jim Hostler is very highly thought of and he appears to have plenty to work with in Thompson.  The Ravens have a ton of receivers but it wouldn’t surprise me if Thompson proves a keeper.  

I also wrote last week how it’s unfair to criticize players who weren’t on the field during the open OTAs because we don’t know the circumstances surrounding their absences. For example, young cornerback Jimmy Smith, who drew some criticism when he wasn’t participating last week, had a personal matter to deal with, but he was back yesterday and he’s been a fixture at the team facility this offseason. Defensive end Pernell McPhee, who hasn’t participated the past two weeks, has also been at the facility and he’s mentioned several times on Twitter that he’s been getting treatment. That suggests that he’s not been practicing due to an injury that he’s rehabbing. I haven’t heard anything specific about guard/tackle Jah Reid, but he’s not been a stranger at the team facility either.

The Ravens’ workouts next week are mandatory, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be in attendance. It still would be a surprise if running back Ray Rice, whose agent continues to work on a long-term contract extension for him, makes an appearance. He, however, wouldn’t be subject to discipline because he has yet to sign his franchise tender for the 2012 season.    

We simply haven’t seen enough of 2010 sixth-round pick Ramon Harewood to know if he’ll develop into a reliable offensive tackle. He’s spent the past two seasons, after all, on injured reserve. However, Harewood appears to have the necessary mean streak to play the position. Last week, Harewood got into it after a play with linebacker Albert McClellan. Yesterday, Harewood and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe were involved in a loud collision that resulted in some words being exchanged by the two players. Harewood and Ellerbe later slapped hands, but not before the young offensive lineman, who worked some yesterday at left guard, proved again that he wouldn’t back down.

I’ve seen Courtney Upshaw over the course of four practices and it’s obvious how much he’s absorbed during the workouts. There are still plenty of lessons to come, but Upshaw’s comfort level grows with each week on the field. … Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a really strong practice yesterday, making plays both with his arm and his feet. It will be fun to watch him during preseason games to get a better idea of what the Ravens have … Cary Williams, who had hip surgery in February, getting on the field a little for workouts is a good sign that he’ll be ready for training camp … Rookie Tommy Streeter’s hands have been highly scrutinized, so it seems only fair to mention that he made some tough catches yesterday.

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