Eye on the Ravens' training camp

As overflow crowds flow into McDaniel College for the practice session, adults and kids alike are excited to see the 2008 version of the Baltimore Ravens. With veterans, free agents and rookies, training camp is now in full swing and excitement is in the air in Maryland.

Players have had only a few practices together in minicamps for brief periods, but now the real work has begun and everyone on the field knows what's at stake -- a spot on the 2008 Raven roster.

It became apparent early on in the first days at camp that with pads on, running backs and quarterbacks had not taken exchanges from center, and all were a little rusty from their time off. Each quarterback in his own way continues to show signs of the stress of trying to become the starting quarterback on this team.

From fumbling snaps to bad exchanges to interceptions, all of these quarterbacks are struggling to develop their skill levels. Rookie Joe Flacco at times looks nervous and uncomfortable, and is still learning to cut down the speed and velocity of some of his passes. But, he does throw the ball in a way that appears to indicate that he was a good draft selection and could be the future quarterback this franchise has been seeking for years. Kyle Boller again had many inconsistent performances in camp.

Troy Smith is somewhere in between the other two quarterbacks, but seems to be getting more consistent as camp progresses.

Many of the early drills with only quarterbacks and receivers running pass patterns with no actual defensive backs, draws excitement from the crowd for all three quarterbacks. While each quarterback takes his turn with the passing drills, at the other end of the field the rest of the players have contact drills. It appears that in Coach Harbaugh's camp all players are doing something at all times.

Coach Harbaugh has been rotating each quarterback daily in all drills, giving each player his chance to win the starting job. With the first pre-season game coming up next Thursday, the next phase of evaluations will begin with game action against another NFL team.

What we have seen so far in early spring mini camps and training camp this year is Kyle Boller revert back to his first two years in the league - nervous, unsure and inconsistent performances in all phases of his game. It also appears that Joe Flacco will at least early on, be the third guy on the depth chart, and may be brought along slowly in all phases of his NFL Pro football life. The coaches want to make sure that he has his feet planted firmly on the ground and is ready.

Several mini- fights broke out in camp early, but as each day passes, there are fewer occurrences. Nothing significant to report on as this type of activity happens every year in training camp and is hardly worth mentioning.

Many veterans looked in top shape and better than any other training camp. Trevor Pryce and Haloti Ngata look like they have been working hard to get in game shape early this year. The most impressive rookie on the field is Ray Rice who is extremely quick in his cuts, and looks like a great selection by the Ravens in round two.

Willis McGahee, who now is injured and did not come to camp in the best of shape, looks like he is not ready to start the season. Before injuring his knee he did not know the play book very well.

Players of past camps that experienced minor injuries once again have had minor injuries this year. PJ Daniels went down early along with Adam Terry. Neither has practiced for awhile now and may not be ready till late in the pre-season.

You can see big changes in so many ways over previous Raven training camps. There's a much faster pace in everything the coaches are doing with every drill. When the horn sounds, players jog to their next designated area and are ready to go in minutes. Even with mass substitutions every few plays everything, runs quickly and smoothly.

The play clock is being used on every play and each quarterback is calling and running plays in game conditions. Kyle Boller is having the most problems getting off the plays in the 25 seconds allowed, and at other times holds the ball too long in the pocket.

Coaches blow their whistle, stop the play and tell Kyle that he would have been sacked at that point. These are the same problems Boller has had in each of his four years in the league, and most likely will cost him the starting position by the time this season rolls around.

The Offensive play calling also shows early signs of major changes with many quick passes to backs, tight ends and wide receivers almost at the snap of the ball, no long counts by quarterbacks. The Defense, at times, is not ready when a play has been executed because of how quickly the offense is getting the play off. Many times a quick throw for a 5-8 yard gain was accomplished. Good crisp running plays are also being accomplished in a timely manner. No long counts by quarterbacks like last year that allows the Defense to set up and adjust their position or defensive calls.

Coach Cameron has the Offense setup quickly, call a play, always is in a fast, offensive, aggressive play mode, and with a great mind set. This is a totally new approach on Offense that Raven fans have never seen before with a new spark and liveliness. The entire team appears to have a new energy level even with all the contact drills and early injuries.

Coach Harbaugh is impressive with all he has accomplished in his short time as head coach. With his organizational skills he has the players responding well to his new approach to building a winning football team here in Baltimore.

For the fans and their families, especially the kids who come up to Raven camp, there is plenty of fun and excitement with all the activities the Ravens have for them to do. It is truly a great place to spend a summer day. Make sure to call or check to see what the Ravens have scheduled on the day you are planning to visit training camp. You can check the Raven website for that information.

With the first pre-season game on Thursday August 7th against the New England Patriots, time is moving very quickly toward the beginning of the 2008 season. This team looks like it will be fun to watch and enjoy all year.

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