The Ravens released their first depth chart last night and there was nothing particularly noteworthy about it. Crockett Gillmore, who is atop the tight end depth chart, has always been the clear favorite to start. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken, listed as the starter opposite Steve Smith Sr., was more productive than Marlon Brown last year, and unlike Brown and first-round pick Breshad Perriman, he's stayed healthy and had a strong start to camp. Injuries are going to happen that change things, but the Ravens went into camp with only a couple of starting positions unsettled. And those positions – wide receiver, tight end, safety perhaps – are starting to sort themselves out, even this early in camp.
Lorenzo Taliaferro is listed as the No.2 running back behind Justin Forsett, but the second-year player is not included on the depth chart for kick returns. That doesn't necessarily mean a lot. The depth chart, especially the one that comes out before the preseason opener, is more of a projection, and it's produced by the Ravens' public relations staff. Taliaferro has also been returning kicks in practice. I'd like to see him get an opportunity to do it in preseason games. That thought might trouble Ravens' fans, given Taliaferro's ball security issues last season. However, I think it's a good fit. Let the 6-foot, 225-pound back get his hands on the ball, build up a head of steam and get downhill. Taliaferro obviously lacks high-end speed although he looks far quicker and leaner than he did last year. But he has good vision and he can break tackles. The Ravens don't have another returner to match Jacoby Jones' speed and game-breaking ability, so I'd like to see what a guy like Taliaferro could do.
Much has been made about the Ravens' depth along the offensive and defensive lines, but quietly, the organization has assembled a quality group of running backs. That's been extremely evident early in camp. Justin Forsett, Taliaferro and Buck Allen all complement each other very well. Forsett has vision and experience, and does most things, including picking up blitzes and catching the ball out of the backfield, well. Taliaferro is the power guy, and Allen has good hands and is extremely elusive. Some of his cuts and spins have prompted ooh's and aah's from teammates. The Ravens' running game appears to be in very good hands. Now, it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Marc Trestman gets both Taliaferro and Allen involved.
It hasn't gotten much press, but C.J. Mosley's improvement in pass coverage has been noticeable in workouts. It's foolish to make any conclusions this early in camp. However, he's already made more plays on the ball the last few days than I remember seeing last year in camp. If there was a primary weakness to his game as a rookie last season, that was probably it. To his credit, Mosley acknowledged as much, and vowed to improve in that area. So far, so good.
Bad news out of New York Giants' camp as former Raven inside linebacker Jameel McClain is dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck and could be sidelined for a significant period of time. As you may recall, McClain had a career-threatening neck/back injury with the Ravens during their 2012 Super Bowl-winning season, sustaining a spinal cord contusion during a game against the Washington Redskins. It's too early to say how this latest injury will affect his career, but all the best to McClain, who is one of the classiest athletes that I've ever covered.
Speaking of the Giants, they currently have another former Raven, Chykie Brown, working as a starting cornerback. Yes, that Chykie Brown who the Ravens let go last season despite having major injury and production issues at cornerback. And you have concerns about the Ravens' cornerback depth?
I'm late on this, but kudos to John Harbaugh for having his predecessor, Brian Billick, speak to the team earlier this week. Billick was at Ravens camp as an analyst for NFL Network, but he got an opportunity to sit down with team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome and then provide the post-practice message to the players. You could just tell that it meant a lot to Billick to be embraced by his former team and bosses. Another cool scene this week was former Ravens' defensive standouts Jarret Johnson and Michael McCrary catching up in the lobby of the Under Armour Performance Center. Johnson is working as a scouting intern with the Ravens, while McCrary is around the team periodically. Two of the toughest and hardest-working guys to put on a Ravens' uniform.