Healthy Burgess Is Also In That Linebacker Line

RAVENS INSIDER

August 18, 2009|By Mike Preston

The Ravens have so much depth at linebacker that the competition for a backup position is just as intense as for earning a starting spot.

It has gotten fierce on the inside, where second-year player Tavares Gooden appears to be a starter but is being challenged by Jameel McClain, also in his second year, and rookie free-agent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.

There is one other linebacker. His name is Prescott Burgess. In his third year out of Michigan, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Burgess has played well running with both the first and second teams at various times at inside and outside linebacker.

Burgess is the forgotten linebacker because he missed a lot of playing time the past two seasons with injuries. But throughout this training camp, Burgess has been playing well.

"Yep, he'll rock you, too," said Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

After practice Monday, Burgess said he didn't care where he played, just as long as he got onto the field.

"They have me in there rotating at every group, trying me at all different kinds of positions," Burgess said. "I feel good about it because they know they can just throw me in and I'll get the job done. I'm going into my third year. The first two years I was injured, and I had a lot of time to get the mental part down. Now, everything is coming along, everything is coming easy."

Keep water flowing

On hot days, a player the size of 345-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata loses 6 to 7 pounds a practice, and up to 10 pounds on really hot days. According to Ngata, the key is drinking a lot of fluids during practice.

"During training camp, I'll lose 10 to 15 pounds, but then gain some of it back after training camp is over," Ngata said. "You have to stay hydrated during practice. On Sunday, even though we didn't have on pads, we went like three hours and it was really hot. There is nothing you can do about it but work through it and drink a lot."

Backpedaling

If you really want some entertainment, watch Ravens defensive end/outside linebacker Paul Kruger drop into pass coverage. Kruger was a pass rusher in college, so all he did was go forward.

Now, he has to backpedal and keep his head on a swivel looking for receivers out of the backfield and tight ends on crossing routes because he is making the transition to linebacker.

Neck pain sidelines Rolle

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said the team is sending nickel back Samari Rolle to a neck specialist. Rolle attended Thursday's game against the Washington Redskins but hasn't been around much during practices, raising a few eyebrows.

If Rolle can't play early in the season, his absence will have a major impact because when healthy, Rolle is still one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL.

Corners covered

Speaking of the cornerbacks, the Ravens will miss former shutdown cornerback Chris McAlister. But the best thing about McAlister not being here is the Ravens know exactly what they're getting in starting cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Domonique Foxworth.

They are both fast, but small. They aren't going to have a physical impact, but they can cover. You can game-plan around them because you know what you're going to get. With McAlister, at least last season, you didn't know what you were going to get from game to game. He made a lot of coaches over at The Castle antsy.

Longer-term project

Second-year left offensive tackle Oniel Cousins didn't have a great game against the Redskins, but that was to be expected. Let's be realistic. When the Ravens drafted him out of Texas-El Paso two years ago in the third round, everyone knew he was going to be a project.

It's going to take three or four years for him to become a solid player. No one knows the timetable for his development, but he wasn't going to become Jonathan Ogden in his second year. After all, a couple of years ago, he was still playing soccer.

Depth at safety

The Ravens will face a little problem with rookie safety K.J. Gerard, a free agent out of Northern Arizona. He has played well enough to be on the developmental squad, but the Ravens have a lot of talent at safety in Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. The Ravens can cut Gerard, and try to re-sign him, but Gerard likely won't clear waivers and will be picked up by another team.

The Ravens could sign Gerard to the regular roster but might have to cut another quality player to make room.

Receiver spots shaping up

It's looking more and more as if Kelley Washington will beat out Justin Harper for the No. 4 receiver spot. Harper dropped a long possible touchdown pass down the left sideline Monday morning, another sign of his inconsistency.

On the next play, Washington caught a 70-yard pass down the middle for a touchdown. Of course, Washington celebrated afterward, but he might have been waving goodbye to Harper in the battle for No. 4.

Lawrence in learning mode

Ravens first-year running back Matt Lawrence had a nice performance against the Redskins, but he certainly won't get bigheaded. The coaches won't let him, even though he averaged 4.0 yards on his nine carries.

"They [the coaches] say I have a lot of improvement to do, and I feel the same way," said Lawrence, out of Massachusetts. "I think I played well, but I need to improve on my foot speed, and my technique and fundamentals in both the passing and running game. I have to work on my blocking and making sharp turns when running passing routes. I have a lot to do."

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