It might have gotten overshadowed a bit by all the Derrick Mason news that broke last night, but the Ravens gave thousands of fans a sneak peak at the makeup of their 2011 roster by holding an open practice at M&T Bank Stadium.
It was just a standard training camp practice, but in front of an announced crowd of 24,078, the Ravens’ defense delivered the type of performance that fans are used to seeing when they enter The Bank.
Safety Ed Reed grabbed an interception - one of three on the day by Ravens safeties - and the front-seven put pressure on quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor all day, resulting in countless sacks from Paul Kruger, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and others.
“We come in here and we light it up,” said Suggs, who had a big day from a pass rush perspective. “We like to have a little bit of fun. The offense has got a lot of new guys. They don’t know what it’s like to actually come in here and play in our stadium in front of our fans.”
“It’s just what we do,” safety Tom Zbikowski added. “That’s what Ravens defense is - getting heat on that quarterback, making him uncomfortable. That helps out the secondary anytime you can make the quarterback uncomfortable.”
Taylor had possibly his roughest day of training camp, as he threw interceptions to Zbikowski and cornerback Cary Williams, and seemed uncomfortable taking a number of his drops on passing plays.
“We had a little bit of fun with Tyrod, but he’s a phenomenal talent,” Suggs said. “He’s going to be a great quarterback in this league sooner rather than later, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do. I think he’s going to have an awesome preseason and I think he’s going to do a good job additionally backing up Joe.”
Taylor did show flashes of the athletic ability that make him an interesting prospect, as he took off on a quarterback draw for a long gain that got the Ravens in field goal range during a two-minute drill, and then improvised in the backfield on a fourth-and-goal play before heaving up a touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams.
While there were a handful of shining moments from the offense, both the first and second-team offensive units continue to lag behind the defense, which is bringing heat on a rusty-looking O-line and making it tough on Flacco and Taylor to get into a rhythm.
There were times yesterday following a rough stretch when Flacco frustratingly spun away after an incompletion or punched his fist in the air when he got whistled down for a sack.
Early-camp struggles are not uncommon for offenses, however, as timing has to be developed between a quarterback and his receivers, and offensive linemen need time to get into a collective rhythm.
“I think always in the beginning, the defense can kind of just go,” Flacco said. “I think that’s always the case, and now we have a lot of young guys trying to get up to speed. They’re doing a great job adjusting to it, but we still have some time to go.”
Overall, players, coaches and fans all seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and experience yesterday, and while the idea of the open practice is to give fans a rare chance to watch their team in action during camp, head coach John Harbaugh said having the experience at M&T Bank Stadium benefitted his players, as well.
“That was a lot of fun - great environment,” Harbaugh said. “Over 24,000 fans; they were loud, they were excited, the guys were excited, and it was really just a great environment. You get in an environment like this and you realize it’s tough. There’s a lot of distractions by design. Now, it wasn’t just for the fans to have the interviews and the music and all that; it was also a great distraction for our players to overcome the noise and all that. That’s part of the idea, to deal with that.”