OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens opened up their first organized team activity to the media on Thursday and here are some observations from the two-hour, non-contact workout:
New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is very engaged with the players. He is always a few steps away from the huddle and could be heard speaking to players as they were running their routes. This is a different approach from Gary Kubiak, who took on more of an observer role in practices. Many players have complimented Trestman on his communication, even though he has only been able to talk about football for the last month.
It had to feel like a bad case of deja vu when backup quarterback Matt Schaub threw, of all things, a pick-six near the end of practice. Schaub did a good job of handling a bad shotgun snap but then made the ill-advised decision to attempt to throw over rookie Za'Darius Smith, who leapt for the interception and easily ran it back for the score. This was not the way to get to a fresh start for Schaub, who threw five interceptions for touchdowns the previous two seasons.
Tight end Dennis Pitta didn't participate in any drills with the team and instead worked off to the side with an assistant. There was a scary moment when Pitta planted hard to change directions in a cone drill and fell hard to the ground. Pitta, who has had two hip surgeries the past two years, got back up and continued the drill. There is still no word on whether he plans to play in 2015.
With the entire starting offensive line absent for the voluntary OTA, it provided a possible glimpse into the future as John Urschel lined up at center. Urschel, who made five starts at guard last season (including two in the playoffs), is certainly smart enough to handle the job. He's a published math scholar who won the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is often referred to as the academic Heisman. This is a good note to remember considering the Ravens traded their top backup at center Gino Gradkowski this offseason and can create $2.1 million in cap room if they cut starting center Jeremy Zuttah next year.
There will be a lot of focus on how the Ravens fare against the run after trading defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and rightfully so. But the Ravens had to feel more confident in how they will hold up after watching Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams spend most of the afternoon in the offensive backfield. It should be noted again that this was a non-contact practice and the offense had all backups on the offensive line. Still, the athleticism and power of Jernigan and Williams to get around blocks can't be discounted.
As written before, this is an important offseason for the top two picks of the Ravens' 2013 draft -- safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown. Both got chances to run with the first team defense at times Thursday. Elam rotated with Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis, and Brown filled in for C.J. Mosley, who was held out of team drills after having offseason wrist surgery.
There's always a saying that the biggest jump for players is between their first and second years because they get a full offseason in the team's conditioning program. This could be the case with backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. He noticeably shed some weight since the end of last season and looks sleeker running the ball. Taliaferro is expected to battle rookie Buck Allen for the primary backup job behind Justin Forsett.
There were 18 players not present on the field Thursday, which is one-fifth of the 90-man roster. Three of the Ravens' top rookies (wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams and running back Allen) attended an NFL Players Association event in Los Angeles, and defensive end Brent Urban went to his grandfather's funeral. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (quad) didn't practice because of injury, and undrafted rookie cornerback Julian Wilson (leg) was injury-waived, which means he will go on the team's injured reserve if he passes waivers. Notable players who were absent for the voluntary camp included: Zuttah (hip), right tackle Rick Wagner (foot), guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, left tackle Eugene Monroe, linebackers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Albert McClellan, defensive end Chris Canty and cornerback Lardarius Webb.