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Ravens rookie minicamp primer

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http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-ravens-rookieminicamp-primer-20140514,0,7222542.photogallery

Ravens rookies have been at the Under Armour Performance Center all week, going through light, walk-through practices, taking part in meetings and starting to acclimate themselves to the ways of the NFL.

On Friday, that process will accelerate with the official start of a three-day rookie minicamp. For the organization's top draft picks, a group headed by linebacker C.J. Mosley, the minicamp is a good opportunity to learn the system, gain a familiarity with the way the Ravens do things and develop a rapport with position coaches. For undrafted free agents and tryout players, it is the first -- and in some cases only -- chance to impress team officials and prove worthy of a roster spot.

Here are beat reporter Jeff Zrebiec's five storylines to watch:

Will Mosley and Brooks make early statements?

 

Head coach John Harbaugh won't immediately anoint a rookie as a starter. He wants to make sure they earn it, both with their play on the practice field and their study habits off of it. So, it was predictable when he said that Mosley, the 17th overall pick and viewed as one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft, will get an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

It would be extremely surprising if Mosley isn't the Week 1 starter alongside middle linebacker Daryl Smith. Arthur Brown currently tops the depth chart at weak-side linebacker, but he played sparingly last year and still needs to get bigger. Mosley, on the other hand, has a head start on learning the Ravens' defense because it has many similarities to the defense Mosley played in at Alabama.

Mosley certainly can't win a starting role during the minicamp. But with a solid couple of days, he could send a message to the coaching staff that he's ahead of normal rookies and he's ready to stake his claim to the starting job.

As far as third-round pick Terrence Brooks, he'll likely be competing with Darian Stewart and a host of holdovers for the starting free safety job. Draft evaluators believe the former Florida State standout is ready to come in and contribute immediately despite the fact that he's only been a full-time starting safety for two seasons.

Nobody is questioning Brooks' physical ability. However, he's going to have to prove a quick study in picking up the Ravens' defense and the nuances of the position. Harbaugh has already said that he'd have no problem starting two young safeties in Brooks and second-year pro Matt Elam.

 

What undrafted free agents will shine?

 

At least one undrafted free agent has made the Ravens' regular-season roster every year under Harbaugh and a case could be made that the team's top rookies the past two seasons have been undrafted guys in kicker Justin Tucker and wide receiver Marlon Brown.

The Ravens take the recruitment of undrafted free agents very seriously and love unearthing gems that other teams miss out on. Who will emerge from this year's class?

Offensive tackle James Hurst started 48 games in four seasons at North Carolina and was viewed as a potential early-round pick before he broke his leg during a bowl game in December. Virginia Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins had 165 career tackles for the Hokies and was given the biggest bonus in the undrafted free agent class. The Ravens have only four veteran cornerbacks, which bodes well for Middle Tennessee State's Sammy Seamster (above) and Oregon's Avery Patterson, two of the four undrafted defensive backs that the Ravens signed.

 

How ready is Keith Wenning to challenge Tyrod Taylor for backup job?

 

Wenning was taken in the sixth round of Ball State with the idea that he'd be a good developmental quarterback. Ravens current backup Taylor is a free agent after the 2014 season so Wenning could sit and learn the offense behind Joe Flacco and Taylor for the upcoming year and then take over as the No.2 quarterback when Taylor leaves.

However, the Ravens haven't carried more than two quarterbacks since the 2010 season as Flacco's durability has allowed them to use the roster spot elsewhere. Unless Wenning beats out Taylor for the No.2 job, they'll have a decision to make on whether it makes sense to carry three this year.

Wenning set school records with 11,402 career passing yards and 92 touchdown passes. Scouts like his ability and the intangibles he brings, though there are some questions about his arm strength. This weekend, he'll get an opportunity to put some of those questions to rest.

 

How ready is Keith Wenning to challenge Tyrod Taylor for backup job?

 

Wenning was taken in the sixth round of Ball State with the idea that he'd be a good developmental quarterback. Ravens current backup Taylor is a free agent after the 2014 season so Wenning could sit and learn the offense behind Joe Flacco and Taylor for the upcoming year and then take over as the No.2 quarterback when Taylor leaves.

However, the Ravens haven't carried more than two quarterbacks since the 2010 season as Flacco's durability has allowed them to use the roster spot elsewhere. Unless Wenning beats out Taylor for the No.2 job, they'll have a decision to make on whether it makes sense to carry three this year.

Wenning set school records with 11,402 career passing yards and 92 touchdown passes. Scouts like his ability and the intangibles he brings, though there are some questions about his arm strength. This weekend, he'll get an opportunity to put some of those questions to rest.

 

How will Timmy Jernigan look?

 

Jernigan, the defensive tackle out of Florida State who was selected in the second round, is probably the Ravens' rookie that will be under the most scrutiny. Viewed as a mid first-round talent, Jernigan fell to the second round because of concerns about his conditioning and his diluted drug specimen at the NFL scouting combine.

Jernigan attributed the positive test to hydration issues but he also acknowledged that he's had trouble keeping on weight this offseason. His conditioning was already a topic of discussion after he looked winded for long stretches of the national championship game. He says he's just over 300 pounds now but he's going to have to prove to the Ravens that he can be trusted.

Brent Urban, the other defensive end the Ravens drafted, had ankle surgery in February and probably won't be a full go until training camp.

 

How are Osemele, other injured Ravens coming along?

 

Starting offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele (above) is technically eligible to participate in the minicamp because of him missing most of last year with the back injury. Oseleme, who had the surgery last November, has been working out though it's unclear what his level of participation will be in the various minicamps.

Either way, the reports about his progress have been extremely positive, which is big news for the Ravens who are counting on him as part of their altered offensive line. Harbaugh will speak to reporters on Saturday and he'll undoubtedly be asked about the health of several of his veterans, including Osemele and running back Bernard Pierce (shoulder surgery).

 

 

 

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