OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens opened another offseason practice to the media on Tuesday. Here are some observations I made during the two-hour workout:
Wide receiver Steve Smith was the star of practice. It was impossible to cover him on slants over the middle, which should become a staple of the offense. When defenders were able to stick with Smith, like the time Asa Jackson was draped on him, the 35-year-old still made the catch in the end zone. Smith likes to spin the ball after every big catch in practice. On Tuesday, the ball was spinning a lot.
The one play this offseason where running back Ray Rice really showed off his speed was a pitch to the left. Rice not only beat everyone to the corner, but he didn't get touched until he was 10 yards down the field. It's difficult to evaluate the running game because hitting isn't allowed. What you can evaluate is Rice's ability to outrun everyone to the edge.
Unlike the first two practices open to the media, there were no interceptions made. The defense should have come up with one when cornerback Chykie Brown made a nice break on the ball. But the pass bounced off Brown's pads, a familiar sight the past couple of seasons. Brown went to the ground to do push-ups, which is the traditional punishment for Ravens defensive backs. Someone remarked that Brown gets the most on-field exercise of anybody on the team.
Ryan Jensen went back to working at guard on the second team. Jensen, who was a backup center and guard last season, had been practicing at right tackle behind Rick Wagner the previous couple of weeks. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Jensen's move back to the interior was based on need. Guards Marshal Yanda (absent) and Jah Reid (calf) aren't at practice. With offensive tackle Eugene Monroe skipping the practice, undrafted rookie James Hurst lined up at left tackle with the first team.
The athletic ability of first-round pick C.J. Mosley stands out even in individual drills. All of the Ravens inside linebackers were asked to backpedal and then jump up to knock down the pass. Mosley was fluid moving backward and easily leapt higher than anyone in the group. It wasn't even close.
The pecking order in the backfield remains the same: Rice, Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro. You sometimes have to do a double-take when watching Taliaferro. He's wearing No. 34, the number worn by Ricky Williams during his one season in Baltimore. Taliaferro, a big back as well, fills out that jersey just like Williams.
It's still unknown whether Tyrod Taylor can be a quality NFL quarterback. But he's definitely the Ravens' best player in a game of tag. He made three defenders miss badly when he decided to pull the ball down and scramble.
Last week I made the observation that the defense was still ahead of the offense. On Tuesday, you could see the gap begin to close. The offense is gaining a comfort level with the new scheme and is taking a positive step every week.