Two practices in the books on Friday, and most players are anxious to set the record straight in what will be one of the most heated Black & Gold games in quite a while. Ten practices in total have elapsed since the start of camp and we remain relatively healthy, but for the few players being held back to tend to minor setbacks. The big game will see the offensive and defensive units trying to outclass each other while individually the players will try and prove to the coaching staff why they are just a little better than the other guy. ‘Little better’ seems about the right thing to say at this camp as the talent level is such that releasing players will be a much more difficult task.
Practices today proved that point, even in the pouring rain that nature dealt the players, coaches and fans. The morning session was a very productive one considering the weather, and the coaches didn’t miss a beat in their teaching schedule. There were quite a few players slipping and sliding but overall the practice was quite efficient.
Offensive lineman Damion Cook showed decent foot quickness at left tackle, and daily I have seen the improvement in Greg Randall’s game. Kevin Eakin took most of the reps today and he is looking quite well. JoJuan Armour looked ferocious coming off the edge in blitzing situations, and the special teams units seem to be ahead of schedule.
The afternoon practice was held under much better conditions with no umbrellas necessary. Davon Fowlkes again was prominent in the receiving core, as was Kwame Cavil. Belli showed some speed getting into the backfield on a number of attempts and Airabin Justin is still continuing to have a ‘shut down’ type of camp.
So a lot of practices and now tomorrow it is for real. A number of players are always released in the days following the game, and the coaching staff will probably continue that pattern even though they technically do not have to, considering the different rule change implemented recently whereas teams must now get to 46 players by June 10. This doesn’t include a further 7 players for the practice roster, better known as the ‘Development Roster’.
The Ticats will no doubt rest many of their proven veterans such as Maas, Holmes, Ranek etc., and for no other reason than to prevent injuries to such players that will be critical to the success of the team in 2006. This is a common sense decision, and it also gives us, the fans, the opportunity to really come and see what many of our new players can do against this level of competition. I for one know what the three named above can do on the field, but I am more interested to see the newcomers and whether they can take their game up a notch in a real game like situation.
Having said that, there are a number of battles for positions at camp and here is a primer on what you may want to concentrate on during the game:
QB…We know what Maas can do, but we will probably see a lot of Eakin and then we get a chance to see Ritchie Williams and Patrick Josten. Who will win the third spot on the roster. It looks like Williams at this point, but can he win the battle in a game situation as well?
RB…Ranek and Holmes will sit, and that gives the team the chance to see Anthony Davis a lot. He is doing very well and gets a chance to continue that trend.
FB…Julian Radlein will likely sit, and we get to see the battle between Aidoo, Mullings and Lezi. At this point Aidoo hasn’t lost his backup role, but Mullings and Lezi haven’t looked out of place either.
WR…take your pick. We will see a lighter and quicker Peterson, a sure handed Terry Vaughn, a speed demon in Brock Ralph, the taller Kwame Cavil, the valuable D.J. Flick, and an assortment of rookies and veterans that will keep Offensive Coordinator Joe Paopao from sleeping much when deciding on who gets let go and who remains. Generally speaking, the talent level is really close across the board.
OL…Hudson, Hage and Smith are locks. The battle at left tackle between Powell, Cook and Kosienski will be interesting as will the battle at right tackle with Randall and Donnelly. Fighting for playing time inside will be Filice, draftee Chris Sutherland and free agent camp signee Malcolm Woolridge.
DL…Cotton, Peterson, Belli and Cheatwood look to maintain their starting positions but there is plently of talent challenging them including Demetrios Walker, Claude Sanders, Steve Josue and Shawn Mayne at DE, and Dunbrack, Cunningham and impressive newcomer Rob Schroeder battling on the inside. The line’s production will be fun to watch.
LB…Cox, Augie and Armour look to be in the lead here, but again there is so much talent competing with them. On the outside you have Ray Mariuz, Alex Green, Antoine Sanders and Rob Hitchcock while Corey Dodds who is simply a fierce competitor and bigger sized Bobby Brooks try to win an inside spot. Corey can play outside or inside but is strong enough to battle inside.
DB…Justin, Chris Martin, Shaw, Goss and Cody look to be the first unit, but any of Jykine Bradley, Roderick Babers, Maha Atogwe, Greg Bearman and Tad Kornegay are competitive enough to take playing time away from them. Just today the Ticats added Antonio Thomas as well. At safety, you have a battle brewing between Beveridge and Scott Gordon, with youngsters Eric Nielson and Sasha Glavic pushing them.
P/PK…Should be Boreham at place kicking and Fleming at punter. I don’t think this will change come the end of camp.
So in the end, this should be enough reason for as many of you as possible to come down to McMaster tomorrow afternoon to see this assortment of talent which could easily be labeled the best the team has put together in such a long time. The game starts at 2pm but I would imagine that there will be some people there much earlier than that, so come early to get a good seat in the stands. It will be worth the drive to McMaster.