The Ravens don’t have the most talented roster in the AFC.
In fact, they don’t even have the most talent in their division.
To overcome that challenge, the coaches and players are going to have to outwork the other teams.
So far, that’s a strategy they’ve been willing to embrace.
Quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III and receivers Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore met earlier this month for a training session. The players did this on their own time and away from the creature comforts of the Under Armour Performance Center.
Jackson lived up to a promise he made during OTAs to continue working hard this offseason.
The Ravens coaches have also burned the midnight oil implementing a new offense that caters to Jackson’s strengths. The new system will help Jackson call plays much quicker in the huddle and maintain a steady pace to the offense.
“We felt like we needed to revamp the terminology,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We weren’t going to use old terminology or old parts to put this new thing together. We decided to put the new parts in place. That’s how you communicate. Say it how you want to teach the techniques and all that and how it all fits together. Now, we’re seeing how we want to blend it.”
Other players who might be fighting for a roster spot are embracing this work ethic. Running back Kenneth Dixon will have to show that he can be a valuable part of the final 53-man roster after dealing with injuries and a suspension over his career.
The former fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft appeared in 12 games and finished with 382 yards on 88 carries with two touchdowns last season. The Ravens signed veteran Mark Ingram this offseason to platoon with second-year player Gus Edwards, who had a team-high 718 yards on 137 carries. General manager Eric DeCosta also picked up running back Justice Hill with the 113th overall selection.
Dixon will have to work his way into that rotation, but he is prepared for the battle.
Offensive lineman Marshal Yanda, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, is ready for his 13th NFL season. Ravens head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders said Yanda separates himself from other players by his preparation.
“That guy comes to work,” Saunders said. “He takes care of himself. He understands it as a vet, and he never lets himself get out of shape. So again, when we talk about building a base, and it just increases year after year, Marshal has, I don’t know, 13, 12 [years], whatever it is, of those under his belt already. So, as long as he avoids that freak happenstance, he’s just getting better and better.
The Ravens are also rewarding players willing to put the work in. This offseason, DeCosta signed Tavon Young to a three-year, $25.8 million extension, making him the highest-paid nickel back in the league.
“He’s earned it,” DeCosta said. “To see him last year overcome the knee injury in the manner that he did, the work ethic, his intensity and desire to be the best, is really impressive, I think, for all of us to see daily, and I’m very excited.”
The Ravens will head into training camp fully focused. They hope that can be the difference in a second consecutive AFC North title and a spot in the playoffs.