Ravens Training Camp Notes 2019, Day 2
Who’s In, Who’s Out?
Now, on to training camp notes…
Notes & Observations
“I expect this [style of offense] to change the way offensive football is played in the National Football League. Not that everybody is going to take on this style. But I expect us to create something that hasn’t been seen before. It’s elements and concepts that aren’t new to football. But the way we apply them and put them together and decide how much we use in the course of a game or a season — five step, three step, seven step, play action, RPOs, double options, triple options, downhill runs, all the audibles you can run, directional runs — all of that is part of it. I think we’re going to be in more elements than any team has ever been.” ~ John Harbaugh
I thought about this quote from John Harbaugh that was recently published in a piece by Dan Pompei of The Athletic. In an NFL that is built to pass the football and defend the pass, it makes total sense that the Ravens would want to exploit defenses not equipped to handle a run-first offense. They are flipping the script. And while watching this offense practice in shells, jerseys and shorts when contact is limited and you really can’t gauge how effective a running game is because there is no tackling, you walk away feeling that the defense dominated.
In a way, it’s an optical illusion and you can’t help but be suckered into thinking that the offense is putrid. But there’s more to this story that only the live bullets of NFL games (or the semi-live bullets of preseason games) can truly finish.
We compare what we’re used to, to what we see today. And while Lamar Jackson’s throwing has improved over 2018, there’s still a way to go, and it might not completely happen this season. It’s hard not to think back to Joe Flacco’s consistently tight spirals and compare those memories to Lamar’s passes that at times should be targets for skeet shooting.
Making things even more difficult for the Ravens QB, the defense knows for the most part that Lamar is trying to become a better passer and his reps are 90% focused upon that. And the defense knows it. Subsequently, they have a built-in advantage. When a defense has to account for Lamar, it spreads the field and in doing so, it opens up more one-on-one opportunities downfield.
Overall Lamar had an up-and-down day. Generally speaking his best throws are between the numbers and the hash marks. He struggled outside the numbers on intermediate throws but was decent on deep sideline passes. His best throw of the day was to Seth Roberts who beat Marlon Humphrey down the right sideline. Lamar’s throw traveled about 40 yards in the air but Roberts couldn’t finish the play as the ball caromed off his hands. It should have gone for a 50+ yard TD.
That said, Roberts had a solid day, most of which was spent on the perimeter. During his days as a Raider, the majority of his snaps were in the slot. He was matched up often against Jimmy Smith and competed well. He’s smooth in and out of breaks and accelerates after the catch. Other than the aforementioned drop, he caught the ball cleanly throughout practice.
Speaking of which, Miles Boykin was flawless during the morning session catching the football. He’s a big target, runs well and snatches the ball in flight. It would not surprise me to see him get plenty of snaps fairly early on in the season. More on that in a moment…
Other WR notes…Jordan Lasley’s hands are about as soft as the brick columns at The Under Armour Performance Center. If there was a drop on the field, it was a good chance that it belonged to No. 17. To his credit, the guy gets open but relatively speaking, he makes Jacoby Jones seem like Odell Beckham, Jr. Jaylen Smith struggled as well. His route running really lacks polish and he exhibited little to no suddenness in and out of his breaks. Michael Floyd looks slow but his strength lies in his ability as a blocker supporting the running game. That said, the Ravens don’t really have the luxury of carrying someone like that. Floyd will need to step it up, assuming he can.
Big targets, solid hands – those are the takeaways for Jaleel Scott and Antoine Wesley. Given their respective physical builds, neither is likely to be much of a special teams contributor so if either makes the team, it will be at the expense of the other. Nothing plus or minus to report on as it relates to Willie Snead or Chris Moore.
Again, it’s hard to tell how the running game is progressing but early indications are that the Ravens will have quite a competition in their offensive backfield. Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill are locks. Kenneth Dixon is in much better shape and practiced well – as did De’Lance Turner. All players looked good in the passing game.
It’s too soon to really project a starting lineup as far as the skill positions go but it could be that the Ravens go with a complementary array of receivers. Boykin can get deep and has a huge catch radius while Brown provides explosiveness and can run a full route tree. Snead occupies the slot with determined grittiness. That’s two rookies in the mix but with Lamar on the field, it could force more one-on-one matchups and both rookies can be mismatches if they get off the line. Add in a dominant presence like Mark Andrews to go with their RBs, and the offense could force opposing defensive coordinators to burn the midnight oil.
Adding to the challenges, the RB’s can get isolated on linebackers and with a thinly spread field given the team’s offensive speed, the RB’s could make big plays after the catch, particularly Hill who can giddy-up after sticking his foot in the ground.
But all of this assumes that the offensive line can be a top-15 group. Questions remain at the interior line, most notably at left guard and center. How players progress is key. We’ve seen progression before from past players such as Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen. Could Jermaine Eluemunor or Matt Skura or Bradley Bozeman be that guy in 2019? And on the topic of the O-Line, with Eluemunor and Zeus, Jr. running with the 2’s today, and with Skura out, the starting unit from left to right was: Stanley-Powers-Bozeman-Yanda-Hurst.
Other offensive notes…Trace McSorley seemed to have as many reps as Robert Griffin, III. That seems to suggest that the Ravens are hoping the former Nittany Lion sticks around. McSorley delivered the morning’s best pass hitting Scott on a 20-yard skinny post with authority. The laser enabled some YAC on Scott’s part for a likely TD…With the field spread the Ravens seemed to emphasize some shots downfield outside the numbers. Rarely was there safety help.
One of the team’s biggest concerns – the loss of sack production given the departures of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith, are unlikely to be answered during camp. Protecting the quarterback is paramount and so many times plays continue despite what would have been a sack or QB hit.
Tyus Bowser demonstrated good bend around the left tackle on a couple of occasions. Bowser has the athleticism and work ethic to be a better player. It’s the cerebral part of the game that seems to slow him down and we won’t get a read on that until the fake games begin…Shane Ray was explosive off the edge at times running with the 2’s. It will be interesting to see him compete against Ronnie Stanley…Jaylon Ferguson isn’t a bender and doesn’t possess explosiveness off the edge. He looks like a bull-rusher and given this style of practice, it’s difficult to tell how effective he’ll be at the NFL level as a bull-rusher out of the gate…Tim Williams still has a burst and isn’t as big as he was a year ago.
UDFA Gerald Willis looks to be in good shape and moved well along the interior line…Michael Pierce may have dropped 20 pounds since showing up like a Macy’s Day Parade float during mandatory OTA’s. But he still has a long way to go and moved rather sluggishly…Chris Board ran with the 1’s. He’s in great shape and runs well. Kenny Young ran exclusively with the 2’s…The Ravens base defense looks like it will be the nickel with DB’s Smith, Humphrey, Earl Thomas, Tony Jefferson and Tavon Young. Smith lined up exclusively at right corner while Humphrey manned the left. Smith looks spry and is moving well.
Special Teams Note: Four players are competing for kick returner. They are: Chris Moore, Cyrus Jones, Joe Horn, Jr and Tyler Ervin. Moore is the decided favorite for the moment. He gets out of the gates sooner than the others with a running start.