Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie is in town and will be at the Under Armour Performance Center today, but it’s still too early to assume that he will regain his starting left tackle spot. That is because the Ravens have to find out whether he’s healthy enough and in good enough condition to get out on the field. Remember, that was the issue with McKinnie all along before the big left tackle’s absence prompted all sorts of theories about why he didn’t report for training camp. And now, not only will he have to pass the conditioning test and show team officials that he’s in good enough shape, he’s also going to have to prove his back is healthy. McKinnie told reporters the past few days that he hurt his back in an accident at home, and that’s why he didn’t show up for the first full-team workout last week.
Because a lot of you have asked, there’s not a whole lot available in terms of free agent offensive tackles as one might expect on July 30. The best of the list – at least from what I could tell – are Kareem McKenzie (New York Giants), Chad Clifton (Green Bay Packers) and Marcus McNeill (San Diego Chargers). McNeill is just 28 and one of the league’s best left tackles when he’s healthy but he’s had neck issues that triggered his release from San Diego and I’d have to think he’s not ready to play for him to still be available. Clifton, 36, had back issues that accelerated his departure from Green Bay while McKenzie is 33 years old and would be a fit only at right tackle.
Five guys that stood out to me after first week of training camp: 1. WR Tandon Doss – It’s not exactly a secret that Doss has good hands but the second-year receiver, who barely got on the field last year, impressed with his ability to gain separation and make circus-like catches; 2. CB Corey Graham –Known for his prowess on special teams, Graham has been extremely physical and gotten great breaks on the ball. If he is the team’s fourth corner – and the opportunity to fill that role was the main reason he signed here – then the Ravens are in really good shape in the secondary; 3. OLB Sergio Kindle – You can’t fairly talk about how much time Kindle spent in the backfield last week without pointing out that he was often facing the second or third-team offensive line and specifically getting blocked by an undrafted rookie, but just seeing him out there active and making a difference had to be a huge lift for the Ravens; 4. WR LaQuan Williams: Last year’s training camp standout is at it again as he continues to make plays and get noticed. There is a long way to go and the Ravens have a ton of receivers but I think it’s going to be hard to deny the former Poly and University of Maryland player a spot; 5. K Justin Tucker: Let me say first that I still think Billy Cundiff will win the kicking job but it appears that Tucker will at least make the Ravens make a tough decision. Not only has the undrafted rookie not missed a field goal, but the ball certainly has a different sound coming off his foot.
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Five other quick observations: 1. He’s 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, but rookie Kelechi Osemele is not one of those big and sloppy offensive linemen. He’s a physical specimen who can really move and run, much like Michael Oher; 2. It’s probably too early to start handicapping position battles but the cornerback competition after the top four (Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith and Graham) will be really interesting. It could be Asa Jackson, Danny Gorrer and Chykie Brown battling for one or two spots; 3. Curtis Painter is going to have to play a lot better than he did the first week for the Ravens to keep three quarterbacks, but he deserves some slack considering he’s still learning the offense; 4. For a guy only in his second training camp with the Ravens, safety Bernard Pollard has emerged as a defensive leader; 5. Assuming Bobbie Williams stays healthy, I think he’ll be considered one of the better under-the-radar pickups by season’s end.
I wish the people who have questioned whether Joe Flacco has the necessary fire and intensity to be a top quarterback and a team leader would have gotten the opportunity to watch him in practice last week. Not only was Flacco pretty sharp overall, but he’s into every play and he’s one of the more vocal guys on the field. He’s also not afraid to mix it up, chastising Ray Lewis at one point for missing a tackle and accusing him of pass interference on another play. And after throwing an interception Sunday, Flacco took off and chased Graham nearly 70 yards before finally easing up. He never caught him, but the point was made.
While the McKinnie situation might hog the headlines early this week, I think the biggest story worth watching is whether Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is able to return to practice by week’s end. It’s too early to worry about Ngata, but he admitted that he wore down a little last season. He also did not take part in any of the voluntary mini-camps and then at the mandatory mini-camp, he admitted that he had put on some weight in the offseason. Then, he hurt his hamstring last week during the conditioning test. The Ravens need him out on the field.