There is not too much that reporters can take away from one day of watching Ravens rookie minicamp. Players are still feeling their way around a little bit, learning the plays and getting to know their new teammates and coaches. In past minicamps, we raved about Brandon Williams, Deonte Thompson and Nigel Carr, questioned Torrey Smith’s hands and wondered whether Murphy Holloway could become the latest player to go from a standout college basketball player to an NFL tight end. Holloway was cut by the Ravens the next day. The point is, it’s foolish to make any definitive conclusions so early in the offseason program. However, there is nothing wrong with making a few observations.
We’ll see how first-round pick C.J. Mosley looks when the pads go on and the intensity picks up. But it was still impressive to hear the inside linebacker barking out orders and making some presnap adjustments. His football IQ and recognition skills were two things that the Ravens loved about him in evaluating Mosley before the draft. If he’s able to quickly pick up the defense – and defensive coordinator Dean Pees and inside linebackers coach Don Martindale praised him several times for his presnap adjustments during Saturday’s practice – there’s no reason to believe that he can’t immediately start.
Third-round pick Crockett Gillmore may not be one of those tight ends who is a big vertical threat and can stretch the field. But my initial impression of him was that he has really good hands, and he’s plenty athletic enough to become a viable target underneath. His blocking is what’s going to be the determining factor in whether he gets on the field early, but he does seem more than capable of being a factor in the passing game.
Second-year wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard (Towson) was eligible to participate in the minicamp because he spent last season on the practice squad, and he was far and away the most active offensive player. That shouldn’t be a big surprise considering Sheppard practiced with the Ravens all last year, and he was competing against cornerbacks who have been in the NFL for less than a week. Still, Sheppard has clearly improved. His big challenge come training camp is that the Ravens have 12 wide receivers under contract and only five or six will make the team.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he liked what he saw from the four undrafted cornerbacks. The one who stood out to me probably a bit more than the others was Sammy Seamster, who played in college at Middle Tennessee State. Seamster broke quickly on several passes and made a couple breakups. Unless the Ravens acquire a veteran cornerback, Seamster, North Carolina A&T’s Deji Olatoye, Oregon’s Avery Patterson and Texas A&M’s Tramain Jacobs all have to feel pretty about their chances of going to training camp and making the team.
After finalizing deals for Timmy Jernigan and Brent Urban on Saturday, the Ravens are left with just two unsigned draft picks: Mosley and third-rounder Terrence Brooks. Both of those deals should come together rather quickly and could be done this week. I’m sure agents and draft picks disagree, but you have to love the new slotting system that was part of the collective bargaining agreement in 2011. It leaves little room for negotiations and all but eliminates the potential for an extended rookie holdout. There are a lot of complaints about the CBA rules and how teams have less offseason time with their players in the building. Well, this is one part of the CBA that gets players in the building and out onto the field earlier.
It didn’t get a whole lot of attention during the rookie minicamp, but it at least bears mentioning that Cody Larsen, a defensive tackle on the Ravens’ practice squad last season, was working as an offensive guard. I don’t know when the last time Larsen played on the offensive line was, but Ravens coaches obviously think he’s capable of making the transition. Plus, it makes plenty of sense for Larsen to give it a try. It increases his versatility, and it was going to be nearly impossible for him to make the team on defense with the depth the Ravens have already acquired along the defensive line.
It’s funny. Every time a wide receiver is let go, like Greg Little was this week by the Cleveland Browns, or a receiver questions his current situation, like the Houston Texans’ Andre Johnson did recently, the tweets and emails start rolling in about how the Ravens should be interested in that player. Johnson is one of the game’s best and toughest players, and he obviously has an extensive background with Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, so I understand the connection there. But beyond that, it makes little sense. Even if the Texans were interested in trading him – and there’s been no indication of that - Johnson still has three years and more than $30 million remaining on his current contract, a hefty number for a Ravens team that is trying to re-sign current wide receiver Torrey Smith to an extension and is always up against the salary cap. Johnson also will be 33 in July. The Ravens already acquired a veteran receiver in Steve Smith. They have a solid top four receiving core in Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown, along with two proven pass-catching tight ends in Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels. They also have a number of younger receivers who will press for playing time in training camp, a group that includes Aaron Mellette, Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and Deonte Thompson. A veteran cornerback or a more established offensive tackle are legitimate needs. Another veteran pass-catcher is not.