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5 Ravens under the radar when camp opens

5 Ravens under the radar when camp opens

The Ravens officially open training camp next Wednesday and will hold their first practice on Thursday. Over the ensuing five weeks, the annual process of culling a 90-man roster down to 53 will take place. Here, in alphabetical order, are five players who will be under the radar when camp opens but could have an impact on the Ravens this season:

WR Jeremy Butler

The receivers group is going to generate a lot of buzz this camp. Steve Smith Sr. is back from his Achilles injury after all at age 37, Mike Wallace is an intriguing addition and Breshad Perriman might finally get on the field after his latest injury. Then of course a lot of local eyes will be on former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and River Hill product Michael Campanaro. But don't sleep on Butler, who has always produced some of his best work on the Owings Mills practice fields, which is how he ultimately earned a promotion to the active roster last year and produced 31 catches for 363 yards.

CB Will Davis

Davis played just two games for the Ravens last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. But the four-year veteran showed promise in his brief time with the Ravens, who traded a seventh-round draft pick to the Dolphins last September to acquire Davis. With Jimmy Smith likely to be slowed early in camp after offseason foot surgery, Davis should have a lot of opportunity to state his case.

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G Vladimir Ducasse

John Urschel appears to be the front-runner to replace Kelechi Osemele at left guard for the Ravens, and Ryan Jensen and rookie Alex Lewis also could get a look. Ducasse, 28, though, has more experience than all of them; he is a former second-round draft pick who has made 22 career starts, including 11 for the Bears last season.

S Anthony Levine

Levine has been a versatile player in four seasons with the Ravens. He's seen time at cornerback and at safety and has been one of the top special teams players the past few years. During OTAs, Levine even spent some time working with the inside linebacker group. The Ravens will probably continue using him as a jack-of-all-trades utility player.

OLB Victor Ochi

Might Ochi be the next undrafted rookie to make the Ravens? Ochi set a Stony Brook record with 32 1/2 sacks and ranked second in FCS (formerly Division I-AA) football with 13 sacks last season. With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both coming off injuries, Ochi should get plenty of reps in camp. He also is out to prove the doubters wrong after going undrafted; draft expert Mel Kiper predicted he could go as early as the third round.

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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