Ravens looking for players to step up

Ravens looking for players to step up
August 19, 2013, 7:00 am
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Who is winning position battles in training camp?

(Associated Press)

EARLY BIRD: Waking up Monday with the Ravens, in what will be a crucial week for many players.

Two-minute topic: Which players will rise to the occasion this week, with the coaching staff looking to make decisions?

OWINGS MILLS – Decisions, decisions. The Ravens have plenty to make.

Who will be the starting center, Gino Gradkowski, or A. Q. Shipley? Will James Ihedigbo or Matt Elam start at safety?

The wide receiver position is still the most uncertain. Torrey Smith is clearly the No. 1 guy, and Jacoby Jones will have a role as a deep threat and on special teams. But this is a huge week for Brandon Stokley, Tandon Doss, Aaron Mellette, and LaQuan Williams. Hard to picture all of them making the final roster, and Deonte Thompson (ankle) is also in a precarious position, unable to make his case until he gets healthy.

During practices this week, and in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Panthers, multiple wide receivers will see playing time with quarterback Joe Flacco. Coach John Harbaugh wants to see how different receivers respond to playing with the first unit. Call it Separation Week.

“I think it’s starting to clear up, and there’s going to be a lot of things to determine this week, not just in the game, but also in practice,’’ said Harbaugh. “Like to have those battles decided by the time we finish this next game. Then we’ll probably have a few roster decisions to make after the last game. “We’re going to give those young guys an opportunity. Some of the young receivers have done an excellent job. I think we owe it to our team, and owe it to them, to see what they can do with the first group. We’ll practice those guys, and probably play them a little more with the ones this week.”

Tight end Dallas Clark is another player looking to prove he can help the Ravens. Clark admitted Sunday that he was still feeling his way on the practice field. Clark wants to play Thursday night vs. the Panthers, and knows this is a critical week.

“Things are a little easier when you’re in the classroom and looking through the book,” Clark said. “When you’re out here in the fire, and you got everything going through your head, and you got Joe yelling out a call, it’s a little different. But it’s coming. I do some good things, do some bad things. I got to put it all together.

“I want to play as much as I can, especially with the ones. I need the work. It’s not about cutting back. I missed the first couple of weeks of camp. I got fresh legs. I need those game reps.”

Expect some intense practices heading into Thursday’s game, which will be the most interesting of the preseason.

Morning thought: “He’s a smart guy, and he picks up football really quickly.” Harbaugh on rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Hitting the Links

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Battling injuries, both Marshal Yanda and Lardarius Webb could see time vs. Carolina

WATCH: NBCSN analyst Shaun King says Ozzie Newsome is doing an "unbelievable job" this offseason

Around the AFC North: How are teams in the division faring this preseason?

If Aaron Mellette continues to catch touchdowns at the WR spot, will he make the roster?

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