I hate the idea of a training camp closed to the public... but difficult to argue with the results from last season's closed camp, if it had anything to do with the Ravens' ultimate won-loss record and near-victory in the AFC Championship Game...
Still, the good will among Ravens fans was something special at the open training camps in Westminster. It was a joyful outing for fans and their families, not to mention the players seemed to enjoy the interaction, too.
But for now, Ravens Training Camp is a corporate affair with tight security...
For the players, it will be hot and humid...that part has not changed.
Ryan Mink of the Ravens NFL.com site sums up the Quick Preview Guide to the 2012 Ravens camp at the team's training facility in Owings Mills, Maryland---
1. Will Ed Reed participate?
It appears likely that safety Ed Reed will be in attendance on the first day considering he was at the Under Armour Performance Center last Thursday. Reed also said he always planned on playing this season and intends on reporting to camp on time. Still, outsiders will have their doubts until they actually see Reed on field because of previous cryptic comments about retiring and playing.
2. How strong will the offense look?
The Ravens offense sparkled during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp with Joe Flacco under center. It will be interesting to see whether that continues now that the defense will be allowed to do more hitting. The unit has benefitted from a year’s experience after infusing youth at receiver and tight end positions before last season.
3. Can the Ravens stop the run without of Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson?
With full contact
permitted, outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw will get their taste of setting the edge against the Ravens’ running game. This is an essential ability considering the injury to Suggs. It will be the run defense’s first challenge against a full-go offensive line. The Ravens also need to work on getting more pass rush with their leading sack artist out.
4. Is Flacco taking the next step?
Perhaps no NFL player has
been debated more this offseason than Flacco. It started with the quarterback’s statement that he believes he’s the best quarterback in the league (which is the attitude he thinks all signal-callers should have). It was widely considered that Flacco outplayed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the Ravens’ AFC championship loss, but he has yet to take his team to the Super Bowl. Coaches and teammates were impressed with him in practices earlier this summer. Will fans and media see a different Flacco in camp?
5. How’s the offensive line coming together?
A position group of concern among fans, the offensive line will be under a microscope during camp. It has to integrate
new veteran Bobbie Williams and rookies Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie’s waistline will also be monitored.
1. Jimmy Smith vs. Cary Williams
One of the best competitions will be for the starting cornerback spot opposite Lardarius Webb. With Williams out this summer after a hip procedure, Smith got all the first-team reps. But Williams says he’ll be back for training camp, so this should heat up.
2. Bobbie Williams vs. Kelechi Osemele vs. Jah Reid
The starting left guard spot in the absence of Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs is a big hole to fill. Williams provides the Ravens an experienced, top-notch option that has given Baltimore fits over the years. He took the first-team snaps in minicamp, but he’ll still have to win the job.
3. Jacoby Jones vs. Tandon Doss vs. LaQuan Williams
Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will be the top two wide receivers. But who the third will be is still up in the air. Jones was signed this offseason and would give the Ravens another deep threat, but Baltimore’s second-year duo of Doss and Williams are also strong contenders. Williams was impressive in OTAs and minicamp and Doss has great hands.
4. Bernard Pierce vs. Anthony Allen vs. Damien Berry
Ricky Williams was an excellent backup to Ray Rice last season. With him retiring, there are a lot of handoffs to be taken. Pierce, the third-round draft pick, showed his burst and understanding of the scheme this summer. Allen is last year’s seventh-round pick, but he may be the leader heading in. Berry added bulk this offseason and has looked strong.
5. Billy Cundiff vs. Justin Tucker
Former Pro Bowler vs. rookie undrafted free agent. On the surface, it wouldn’t look like much of a battle. But there’s added pressure on Cundiff to come back and prove himself after the AFC championship miss. Tucker is confident, has a big leg and showed his clutch kicking ability at Texas.
There's a bunch of veterans and free agents to watch as they try to make the Ravens Final 53, too, including cornerback Chykie Brown, and of course the inevitable survival challenge for undrafted rookies---and late round picks like WR Tommy Streeter. Stay tuned...