Inside Baltimore Ravens camp
WESTMINSTER, Md. - Here's a look inside the Baltimore Ravens' training camp:
The Ravens hope they found a difference maker at quarterback in first-round draft pick Joe Flacco, but it doesn't seem likely he'll be under center for the season opener Sept. 7 against Cincinnati. Camp insiders believe that if former Ohio State star Troy Smith plays well in his first preseason start Saturday against Minnesota, he will earn the job over turnover-prone Kyle Boller. Elsewhere, the major difference makers are all familiar names, including linebacker Ray Lewis, who enters his 13th season, and free safety Ed Reed, who enters his seventh. Tailback Willis McGahee just underwent arthroscopic knee surgery but is expected to be ready for the opener. His backup, second-round pick Ray Rice out of Rutgers, has been a camp standout.
John Harbaugh, who turns 46 on Sept. 23, replaced the fired Brian Billick to become the third coach in Ravens history. Son of long-time college coach Jack Harbaugh and brother of former NFL quarterback and current Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh takes over a franchise that has not won a playoff game since 2001. The personable, highly enthusiastic Harbaugh was a surprise choice, in that he'd never been an NFL coordinator. After several years in the college ranks - including 1987 at Pitt, when he coached the tight ends under Mike Gottfried - he spent 10 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, the past eight as special teams coach. He started camp with a bang, as the Ravens did more hitting in the first four days than they might have done in two weeks under Billick. Since then, things have tapered off.
After a disastrous stint as the Miami Dolphins' head coach, Cam Cameron, 47, will try to pump some life into a dormant Ravens offense - an offense that, according to Pro Football Prospectus, had the fewest number of screen passes in the NFL last season and has run precisely one screen pass on third down over the past two years. Cameron coached Harbaugh's brother, Jim, at Michigan and was head coach at Indiana in 1997, with John Harbaugh on his staff. Cameron was the San Diego Chargers' highly successful coordinator from 2002-2006. Before that, he was the Washington Redskins' quarterbacks coach and helped make an All-Pro out of Gus Frerotte, so there is hope for Baltimore's quarterbacks.
Rex Ryan, 45, interviewed for the head coaching jobs in Baltimore, Miami and Atlanta. After falling short on all three, he considered other offers but decided to stick with Harbaugh, who gave him the additional title of assistant head coach. The two worked together at the University of Cincinnati in the mid-1990s. Ryan also got a new three-year contract. Son of the legendary ex-Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, Rex Ryan is in his ninth year with the Ravens, his fourth as defensive coordinator. He'll look to increase the team's sack total, which dipped from 60 in 2006 to 32 last season.
On the hot seat
Besides whoever wins the quarterback job, it'll be left tackle Jared Gaither, who replaces retired star and certain Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. Gaither was a fifth-round supplemental pick out of Maryland last year. He moves well for a man so massive (6-9, 330) but injured an ankle early in camp. If he isn't ready for the season opener, Chad Slaughter likely will fill in. Slaughter, who spent six years with the Raiders, had been out of the league for a year and was pouring concrete at his home when the Ravens called a few weeks ago.
Jarret Johnson, left outside linebacker. The sixth-year pro from Alabama faced a ton of pressure last season when he signed a three-year, $13 million deal and replaced All-Pro Adalius Thomas. It took Johnson a while to find his niche in the defense. He returned with increased confidence and is having an outstanding camp. He has dropped 15 pounds and is expected to be more of a pass rusher.
Chris Chester, guard/center. A 2006 second-round pick from Oklahoma, Chester (6-3, 305) was supposed to be entrenched as a starter by now, but observers say he has been far from dominating at camp, and there is no inkling he is being considered for a starting job.
QB Joe Flacco (first-round draft pick); RB Ray Rice (second-round draft pick); FB Lorenzo Neal (free agent, San Diego); CB Fabian Washington (trade, Oakland); LB Brendon Ayanbedejo (free agent, Chicago); Jim Leonhard, S (free agent, Buffalo); Chad Slaughter, T, (free agent).
QB Steve McNair (retired); LT Jonathan Ogden (retired).
Projected starting lineup
QB - Troy Smith/Kyle Boller
RB - Willis McGahee
FB - Lorenzo Neal
WR - Mark Clayton
WR - Derrick Mason
TE - Todd Heap
LT - Jared Gaither
LG - Ben Grubbs
C - Jason Brown
RG - Marshal Yanda
RT - Adam Terry
LE - Trevor Pryce
NT - Kelly Gregg
RE - Haloti Ngata
LOLB - Jarret Johnson
LILB - Ray Lewis
RILB - Bart Scott
ROLB - Terrell Suggs
LCB - Chris McAlister
RCB - Samari Rolle
SS - Dawan Landry
FS - Ed Reed
P - Sam Koch
K - Matt Stover
KR - Yamon Figurs/Ray Rice
PR -- Figurs
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