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Interesting position battles at Ravens OTAs

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Interesting position battles at Ravens OTAs

The Ravens will have their second open practice of OTA’s on Wednesday afternoon, giving the media another chance to evaluate how the team is shaping up. Here’s an early look at some of the key competitions to watch:
 

Running back

Buck Allen vs. Lorenzo Taliaferro

They’re vying to be the No. 2 back behind Justin Forsett. Allen was a reliable receiver at USC, which could give him an edge. But Taliaferro has a year of experience in the Ravens’ offense. Should be an interesting competition.

Wide receiver

Marlon Brown vs. Breshad Perriman

Other than Steve Smith, which wide receiver will become Joe Flacco’s most trusted target? Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro are among others vying for that role. But Campanaro is currently sidelined with a quadriceps injury and his ability to stay healthy remains an issue. Brown led the Ravens in touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, while Perriman was the Ravens’ first-round pick. Brown and Perriman have a chance to establish a comfort level this spring and summer, working with Flacco in new coordinator Marc Trestman’s system.

Strong safety

Matt Elam vs. Will Hill

HEADLINE - Interesting position battles to watch at OTA's

Free agent pickup Kendrick Lewis is expected to start at free safety, leaving Elam and Hill to vie for the starting spot at strong safety. Elam, a first-round pick in 2013, wants to prove he isn’t a bust. Hill wants to prove the Ravens can depend on him, after his past off-field issues and suspensions. The Ravens hope the competition brings out the best in both, and makes their secondary stronger.
 
Tight end

Crockett Gillmore vs. Maxx Williams
 
Gillmore is the better blocker, with Williams being the more polished receiver. Both will have a role, especially because the Ravens will use some two tight-end sets. Williams could have the biggest impact of any Ravens rookie if he’s a fast learner. Flacco loves throwing to tight ends and last year’s most productive tight end, Owen Daniels, left for the Broncos in free agency. The Ravens also drafted tight end Nick Boyle in the fifth round, and Dennis Pitta is trying to return from his second major hip injury. But at the moment, Williams and Gillmore have the inside track to see the most reps at tight end.

RELATED Veteran journalist ranks Ravens No. 1 in offseason poll

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

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USA TODAY Sports

Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”

 

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