Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about day three of the minicamp, rookies, and injured players. (Kenneth K.Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
Nothing that happened this week at the mandatory minicamp altered the perception that the wide receiver competition will once again be the most interesting one in training camp. With Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman and Michael Campanaro all sidelined, the team's other seven receivers – Daniel Brown doesn't count because he's now primarily playing tight end – got a lot of repetitions. Kamar Aiken and Mike Wallace worked as starters and did their part. Keenan Reynolds still has a ways to go in his transition from a college quarterback to a wide receiver, but he got better and more comfortable every practice. Kaelin Clay made a lot of plays this week, and Chris Matthews also shined at times, particularly in yesterday's session. Jeremy Butler and fourth-round pick Chris Moore showed up in spots. The Ravens aren't going to be able to keep four or five of the above-mentioned names, but as things stand, there's not one guy who you can eliminate as having little to no chance to make the team. I may have included Clay in that category several days ago, but he had a very good week and he might be the Ravens' best return man.
Maybe, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is turning over a new leaf. During Wednesday's practice, he loudly admonished tight end Nick Boyle for a missed assignment, shouted instructions to his offense and praised one of his running backs. His voice was audible over everybody else. Trestman downplayed an increased comfort level in year two, but I don't recall him being anywhere near as vocal last year as he was this week. It was difficult to evaluate Trestman's first season, given the number of injuries to key players on offense and how many times the Ravens were forced to play from behind. With better personnel and another year of familiarity for Trestman, this year should reveal a lot more about how good a fit the offensive coordinator is for the Ravens.
I can see how quarterback Ryan Mallett can frustrate his coaches. He'll make some head-scratching decisions and errant throws and then come back moments later and drop a perfect pass right into the chest of a receiver. He threw a touch pass to Maxx Williams right over the outstretched hands of Arthur Brown and into the corner of the end zone on Wednesday. On Thursday, he hit Matthews in stride with a bomb along the right sideline. Those might have been the two best throws of the week.
I'm sure safety Matt Elam is excited to be back on the field again after missing all of last year and he knows this is a make-or-break season for him. However, Elam isn't going to make any friends – or make the Ravens' roster – by taking cheap shots at teammates. This week, Elam took an unnecessary shot at fullback Kyle Juszczyk and Boyle. Both players restrained themselves from going after Elam, who was lucky Steve Smith Sr. wasn't on the field.
Converted wide receiver Darren Waller, who came on this week, is probably fifth on the tight end depth chart behind Crockett Gillmore, Benjamin Watson, Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams. Boyle would be ahead of Waller too if he wasn't suspended for the first 10 games of 2016. The Ravens don't normally keep four tight ends, never mind five, but it would be foolish to dismiss Waller's roster chances. The Ravens build the back end of their roster with special teams in mind and Waller shined on special teams last year.
I was hoping the Eugene Monroe-Ravens saga would be put to bed by now, but speculation persists that the offensive tackle's tireless advocacy for medical marijuana was behind his release Wednesday. Harbaugh defended the organization from that charge, saying the move was "100 percent" a product of "football circumstances." What Harbaugh didn't do – and I'll fill in the blanks – is cite the extensive evidence that pointed toward Monroe's exit long before he aggressively took up the medical marijuana cause this offseason. Monroe started just 17 of 34 games since getting a big contract, and started and finished just three games all of last year. He turned down a simple contract restructure, which is his right, last offseason when the Ravens needed salary cap flexibility. Monroe never warmed to offensive line coach Juan Castillo's teaching or bought into what the team describes as the "Raven way." In January, general manager Ozzie Newsome said that Monroe was currently the team's starting left tackle only because Kelechi Osemele was a free agent. That "tepid" endorsement came well before medical marijuana talk became a constant on Monroe's Twitter feed. A month later, the Ravens made an aggressive free-agent offer to Osemele with the intention of playing him at left tackle. They used their sixth-overall pick a couple of months later on left tackle Ronnie Stanley. The signs were there for many months that the Ravens were preparing to move on from Monroe. The holdup was Monroe getting cleared medically, Stanley proving what he can do in the various minicamps and the Ravens gauging if there was any trade market for the veteran tackle. Certainly, Monroe's passionate stance had to make some Ravens' officials uncomfortable and rub others the wrong way. But the primary factor behind his release? It makes for a juicy story. It just happens to neglect months of indications that Monroe's days in Baltimore were numbered since late last year.
The Ravens have roster room if they want to sign veteran offensive lineman Todd Herremans or any of the other five tryout players from this week's minicamp. Monroe's release leaves them with one opening and the Ravens also have some options with three of their injured players: running back Trent Richardson (knee), defensive back Jumal Rolle (Achilles) and undrafted rookie defensive tackle Michael Pierce (undisclosed). Pierce hasn't participated in any of the team's minicamps, while Rolle is out for the year.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who was a constant at the minicamp driving around the perimeter of the fields in his golf cart, is doing his part to make sure Eric Weddle is comfortable in his new surroundings after the safety played his first nine seasons in San Diego. Bisciotti had three of Weddle's four young kids, who were watching on a nearby hill, join him on his golf cart. He then took the kids on a joy ride around the outside of the facility before finding a spot along the sidelines that would get the kids closer to their father in action. It was a nice touch by the Ravens' owner.