Ravens' quarterback watch

WESTMINSTER -- Our latest deluxe edition of our latest quarterback watch as we analyze the Ravens' competition between Joe Flacco, Kyle Boller and Troy Smith.

Kyle Boller

Positives: Took the majority of the20first-string snaps, connecting smoothly and often with Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason. When he's on rhythm, he still has the capability to make a lot of positive plays.

Negatives: Opening pass was intercepted by Dawan Landry when he stared down his primary read. Still too frenetic in his mechanics and body language, needs to settle down and play like a veteran.

Stock: Rising slightly.

Troy Smith

Positives: Scrambled for two touchdowns on designed rollouts in goal-line drills. In a full-team drill, Smith adeptly pump-faked to a back then hit wide-open rookie wideout Justin Harper for a touchdown.

Negatives: Intercepted by cornerback Corey Ivy when he made it too obvious that he wanted to go to Ernie Wheelwright. Has had passes batted back in his face and some unorthodox moments in the backfield.

Stock: Holding steady, but has still done nothing that shouts out: "I'm the guy."

Joe Flacco

Positives: Lofted a crisp touch pass to tight end Lee Vickers for a touchdown in red-zone work. Threw an accurate intermediate offering to Kerry Reed, but it was dropped.

Negatives: Flacco's arm strength is an asset and a negative, because receivers can't always handle his pace. Timing has to be nearly perfect because it's hard to adjust to a fast, off-target throw.

Stock: Buy it long-term, but has yet to make a power move. Holding neutral.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron

Opening statement: "First, training camp has been outstanding so far. The effort of our guys is as good as I've ever been around. It's probably as tough as any training camp that I've been through. But I'm pleased that Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Jason Brown and Adam Terry – those types of guys – have stepped up. We're getting tremendous leadership out of some guys on offense, and that's what we need at this time of year. But we're just getting started. We're not coming to any conclusions at this point. Camp has been really positive so far and now we have to keep getting better."

On what has made this camp so successful thus far: "I wouldn't say there have been minimal mistakes. There are mistakes being made, especially by young guys, but they're not repeating mistakes. That's the important thing. Guys are coming out and we're trying to get them to not focus one day at a time, but focus one practice and one play at a time so that they can learn from mistakes. That's what I'm seeing. Especially up front, guys aren't repeating mistakes. Receivers have come back in great shape, so mentally they're in great shape and that's the important thing. Mistakes are going to happen, especially this time of year."

On the practices: "Right now it is truly one day at a time and one practice at a time, just trying to get better. Obviously there are no final evaluations. We haven't played any games yet. However, these practices – and this is a credit to Rex [Ryan] and our defense – these practices are very, very game-like. I can't imagine a better environment to develop quarterbacks because the practices are so game-like. We don't need to come to any conclusions right now; we're just trying to get better. They're grasping what we're doing. However, we're going against a freestyle defense and that's just making them better and better."

On the verbal battles with the defense during practice: "I think what you're seeing there is that you have a lot of guys who care about each other. We talk about the Raven Way, and there is a culture here amongst these guys. They care about each other. Obviously there's some noise coming from the defense and some noise coming from the offense, which I think is a good thing. It can go too far, but it hasn't gone too far yet. It's good and spirited. We're a family here and I think they understand that."

On TE Todd Heap: "I'm getting to know Todd better. Obviously, I had a decent feel for him when I got here. He's worked at it. He's a pro. Obviously, as you saw today, we had a critical play on fourth-and-five and Todd makes a play for about six yards. He's a guy we're going to lean on. At the same time we know that everybody in the league knows about Todd, so the other guys have to keep developing. He's a critical component to what we do, but he's not the only guy. Every guy has a role. Every guy is a critical component and I think our guys are starting to understand that. We want every guy involved in this offense. Not one or two guys. We want all 11 guys and probably another handful of guys who are involved in this offense throughout the course of a ballgame."

On the three quarterbacks: "We've mixed them with groups so much that we haven't given a guy that many consecutive reps with one group. That may start to change; we'll let you know. I know John [Harbaugh] will keep you guys posted. But guys, we're just focusing on getting through the grind. It's a little early. They're all competitors and they're all talented in their own way. We're really not tailoring anything to a guy who's in there. We're just inserting plays right now. To get any separation between the three right now would really be difficult, and until we start playing preseason games, how would we know?"

On depth: "Depth is a concern for everybody in this league. As several teams found out last year, you can have depth and it can be gone in a day or in a week. You're always building depth. Is depth a concern at this point in time? We're just trying to get everything we can out of every guy. When the roster comes out, we'll just take a look to see where we are, but you understand that we have to build as much depth as we can."

On the wide receivers: "We talked last night, and you guys have watched out here. We haven't caught the ball as well as we need to. And then today I think they stepped it up and made some plays. We have to continue to improve. At times it's not going to be enough separation against our defense. And they compete. This secondary and these linebackers, they compete for the ball as well as any group I've been around, and our guys just have to continue to be strong around the football. But, we have improved. There's no doubt in my mind in that area."

On rookie WR Marcus Smith: "We think he's just a good all-around football player. We'll carve out a role for him if he continues to improve. He's going through what most rookies go through – ups and downs. Has a good practice, struggles the next practice, then has a good practice for a half and struggles the next half. That's what all rookies go through. He just has to keep grinding and develop some consistency. In my mind, he's definitely a football player. He's almost 220 pounds. He enjoys the game, I think he's bright, and we just have to carve a role out for him."

On RB Willis McGahee: "When he's practiced, obviously he's a guy that we're going to lean on tremendously. He didn't practice much today or yesterday, and it's early. There is a process, and Willis and I have talked. We're in communication in meetings and he is learning the system. He is one of the brighter guys that I've been around as a running back, and that's encouraging. So we just have to keep getting our work in and get him as many reps as we can and see where it takes us."

On the attitude being established at camp: "With the goal-line scrimmage, it was nice to see the ball get in the end zone a couple of times. There's a way, there's a system that John is establishing here and it's about enthusiasm. It's about energy. It doesn't matter whether you're a rookie or whether you're in your 25th year coaching, that's our way. Ray Lewis – if you can't come to practice as a coach – Ray Lewis gets me jacked up. I remember being around some other guys like Junior Seau that can do that. We want to impact these players as coaches, but these players impact us as well. It's nice to see that enthusiasm from the coaching staff and offensively, that starts with me."

TE Todd Heap

On the differences in this year's camp: "There are definitely a lot of differences. Basically, I think it's just the pace of practices right now and how much time we've spent in pads. We've put a lot of work in these first four days. We're getting a lot of reps. We're carrying our pads and getting used to that. Going against our defense in full pad situations this early, as good as we've been doing it, has been fun."

On the quarterbacks: "It takes a little bit of getting used to, but as far as that's concerned, it's only going to be good for our offense. We've got three guys where every play is going to be important to them. The quarterback is the general of the offense, so he has to make sure that he's directing everybody and we're getting their full effort on every play. So when you're out there, you want to make sure that you make that play and that everybody's lined up right, and that's what these quarterbacks have been doing. They're putting a lot of time in and you can tell. You can tell when you're out there. It's only going to be healthy for our offense."

On dealing with different quarterbacks: "It's all the same for us. When you're running a route, there's a specific way to get the job done, and you work on those things. I'd say you change it up more for who you're going against on the defensive side rather than who the quarterback is. But for us, when you're running a certain route, you're trying to change it up to beat that guy in front of you. You're not worried about who's throwing it to you at that point. As soon as you see the ball coming out of their hands, then you're saying, ‘OK, how can I adjust to the ball?' But from snap to then, you're not worrying about that."

On his excitement for the season: "Last year is behind us. But right now I'm feeling great. This is as healthy as I've been in a while, so I'm excited about this year. I'm getting a lot of work in and feeling good with all that. I'm looking forward to this year. I'm looking forward to getting through this training camp and getting as many reps in as possible, getting comfortable with this in a new offense. This is going to be a good year."

On mentoring younger players: "There's no question that's part of [my responsibility]. When I came into the NFL, I had Shannon Sharpe coaching me all the things that he'd learned over the first 11 or 12 years of his career. So I've kind of taken that into my preparation that I've got to help the young guys and help new guys learn our offense as quickly as possible. When you're wanting to be a good team, you have to make sure that everybody knows what's going on.

That's the main focus. When a young tight end comes in – or a receiver or anybody in the offense – you want to make sure they know what's going on and make sure that they're not the guy that's the weakest link. That's kind of what my philosophy has been and my mentality, especially in this training camp. We've got some tight ends that weren't here this offseason that we brought in for camp, and I've been trying to make sure they've been picking up on this offense just as quickly as they can."

On a lack of depth at tight end: "Not a lot of bodies. We were down to two tight ends today, which was tough. But it's only going to get us in better shape. It's only going to get me in better shape, that's for sure. And better shape quicker. I'm usually in pretty good shape come that first preseason game, but I'm going to have to get there a little bit quicker this year because I've done so many reps so far. When you get out there, you know you're going one play or the next play. It's something we've got to adjust to, but you just have to be mentally focused and physically prepared."

On finding time to learn the offense: "We don't have a whole lot of time to think about it. Most of the [free] time has been spent in the hotel room in the bed. That's about it. You have to get in the playbook, too, because there's not a lot of time between practices and we don't have meetings between practices as well, so there's definitely a lot of time spent in the hotel room learning plays. Camp's always a challenge."

On TE Adam Bergen: "He's shown me a lot. He's made a lot of plays out here. He's really picked up on this offense. I think he's been in a system like this before where he knows a lot of the things we're doing out there. So he's acclimated to it quickly and he's definitely got some good hands, quick feet and looks like a good ballplayer."

On not yet winning a Super Bowl: "As far as the Super Bowl, that's your goal every year. That's what we came to camp to accomplish. Obviously, there are a lot of things that we have to do before that. There's a long road to get there and we have to take it one step at a time. But every rep that we take, every practice that we go through, we have to make sure that we're getting better to get to that point."

On Ravens director of player development O.J. Brigance, who is battling ALS: "There's just not a better man around. To go through what he's going through and to handle it the way he has and to be able to step up in front of our team and share his experience and not want the attention – he doesn't want the attention on himself; he's just trying to make sure that he can be the best example that he can be – he's really a man you can look up to."

WR Mark Clayton

On how everyone picks up the tempo and the speed of things as training camp progresses: "We're picking it up pretty good. I mean, of course you're going to have your mistakes and everything, but for us, our thing is that we have to practice mentally faster, and we've been able to do that. We have been able to put our mistakes behind us and just go on to the next play. If we keep doing that, I think we can go a long way."

On whether there is a change in the style of play with each of the quarterbacks: "Everything is the same. We do a really good job with routes in there, working on our timing with our quarterbacks. I mean, out routes are out routes. What the quarterbacks get a chance to do in our routes out there is they get a chance to throw to all the receivers and see who comes out of breaks faster than others, or who maybe gets up the field quicker."

On the tempo of the offense: "We're fast-break. We are up and down. It's all about tempo and being one play ahead at all times. Whatever happened on the last one, let it go, let's go and get in your zone as soon as possible."

On whether he likes Cam Cameron's style of offense: "I love it. Coming from Oklahoma, we probably had about 40 points a game, and it was a fast-break offense. It was up and down the field, and anytime we had the chance to take a shot we would take it. That's the way that Cam is teaching us and conditioning us."

On developing his game: "For me, it's [season] number four, and when they come in there for me I never consider myself a rookie. I know enough to do to get this done. The way [2007] happened is not the way that I envisioned it, but it's just about being confident and knowing that they brought me here for a reason. And when they approach me to my face, I know that I'm not here for no reason. I'm here to be great. I'm just waiting on the opportunity, and when the opportunity presents itself, then I have to take advantage. I have to help this team win ball games by catching balls, scoring touchdowns and doing whatever I can do to put points on the board to give our defense the opportunity to pin their ears back and go get sacks and win it."

On how he is trying to recapture his success from two years ago: "Knowing that I'm capable, I know how to make plays. When the offense is flat, [I must] do something to get everybody up and going, offensively and defensively. Just having that confidence in learning more in the offense – especially having [Derrick] Mason there with his wisdom and everything – it's just about going out, having fun, making plays and making sure everybody else is, too."

On dealing with injuries: "Injuries are tough. I think injuries deal with mental toughness. We're all competitors, and you get injured and you still want to play. I know I don't like watching. That's no fun. I'm sure any of the other guys would say the same. You tell yourself that you can go, and you only can't go when you really can't go. But if you can't, you push through it, and that deals with mental toughness."

On whether he changed anything about his offseason workouts: "No, I was running and running. I know as a receiver my job is to run and catch the ball, and when we don't have the ball, block. Just running and conditioning and kind of over-training [is what I did]. For us, the most important thing is recovery because you run down, you get a route and you're kind of winded. But the faster you can recover, the better you are as a receiver."

On what impresses him about Ravens director of player development O.J. Brigance, who is battling ALS: "Just his strength. We share the same faith, and knowing where he's drawing his strength from is encouraging. There's not a lot to say, but to see a man in this position go about his day like everything's OK, like there's absolutely nothing wrong, is so empowering. That lifts my spirits and anybody else who understands the situation, as well."

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