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OTA minicamp reports better than expected for Ravens…

The usual rap on OTA minicamps is you can’t learn much about a player if he isn’t wearing pads or being hit—or at least “worrying” about being hit.

That may be true. But it is possible for each player involved to learn strategic things in OTA’s—and to at least show his ability to grasp new terminology, as well as put himself in good position in the non-contact drills.

Receivers working on agility drills in Thursday’s OTA camp at Owings Mills included Torrey Smith… Smith appears totally recovered from sports hernia surgery.

It is also possible to learn who is healthy and who is not quite ready for the next round of mandatory minicamps in June.

The Ravens are mostly healthy at this point, as only Cary Williams and David Reed were forced to watch from the sidelines because of injury. Williams is recovering from hip surgery and Reed is working his way back from a torn ACL. Torrey Smith, who had offseason surgery to repair a double sports hernia, says he is healthy and doesn’t appear hindered at all. He participated in all of the drills and still has his breakaway speed. Chavis Williams and Ramon Harewood, who both ended last season on injured reserve, were back practicing and participating in all of the drills.

Garrett Downing of the Ravens.com NFL site finally released some impressions of what went down at minicamp this week:

Who’s filling in for Terrell Suggs? ”As expected, Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle and Courtney Upshaw are all getting reps at the rush linebacker position that Suggs plays. They also all worked in at SAM linebacker, which is also open after Jarret Johnson left via free agency, so it’s tough to tell who has an edge at either spot right now. The competition for both of those spots will likely last throughout the offseason.”

Upshaw did perform well against the veterans, and Harbaugh likes what he sees in the Ravens top draft pick. “He’s a very smart player – very football-knowledgeable guy,” Harbaugh said. “He has been very well-coached down there. He understands the game, he works hard. He has been everything that we anticipated he’d be so far.”

Who stands out at wide receiver? “After watching practice, the wide receiver spot may be one of the strongest positions of the roster. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are clearly the top two receivers, but there are a handful of players clamoring for time behind them.”

Jacoby Jones got the bulk of the reps as the No. 3 receiver and he looked good, even though he’s still getting acclimated to Flacco and the offense. His speed is evident and he could certainly bring another vertical threat on the opposite side of Smith. “He’s done really well,” Harbaugh said. “Great attitude. Really hard worker, really, really hard worker. Very fast, big, physical guy.”

How do the rookies look next to veterans?
 ”When the Ravens held rookie minicamp earlier this month, some of the team’s draft picks, like outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, outshined their peers.  When they took the field for OTAs this week, it was a slightly different story, as Upshaw and Osemele didn’t have the same kind of size advantage they did during minicamp.”

Both Upshaw and Osemele still performed well against the veterans, taking a number of reps with the first teams. Fourth-round lineman Gino Gradkowski also worked with the first team at times. They will all likely compete for starting jobs this offseason. Some of the other draft picks like Bernard Pierce, Christian Thompson and Tommy Streeter didn’t have as many reps.

Other impressions:

  • Second-year cornerback Chykie Brown looked good in the secondary, as he had a number of interceptions and displayed strong cover skills. He will likely compete for the dime back position.
  • Jacoby Jones has good hands. He was catching passes out of the jugs machine coming at 35 miles per hour from about five yards away.
  • Anthony Allen appears to be leading the pack to win the No. 2 running back job, ahead of Damien Berry and Bernard Pierce.
  • Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson both look comfortable and ready to build on strong second seasons.

That’s probably the best word for what fans can take away from these voluntary OTA’s—”impressions”… and that will have to suffice until the hitting starts in the summer.

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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