We posted the following on Facebook, Twitter and our Message Board. Only one fan responded, Kevin McNelis. His observations from Saturday night’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium can be found below and like many other observers have reported, Miles Boykin was a standout!
Thank you, Kevin! ~ Tony Lombardi
FIRST TIME EVER! Are you going to The Bank tonight to watch the Ravens practice? For the first time ever, we will accept YOUR camp notes…the practice through your eyes. Send your observations to TL@russellstreetreport.com and we’ll publish them in a 100% fan-centric article. Will the next Ravens beat writer please stand up!
Lamar’s first offseason getting first team reps shows him picking up where he left off: taking advantage of his chemistry with Mark Andrews. They connected a few times during the team drills and looked very comfortable on quick throws, finding gaps in the middle of the defense. Willie Snead also looked very confident in single coverage situations and seemed to adapt well even with RGIII and Trace McSorley throwing.
Miles Boykin looks like a fantastic fit with the offense and seems like he’ll be a very viable deep threat. He’s a big, sure-handed target that may not have breakaway speed but has shown the ability to out-battle a defender and to go up and get a contested pass. The initial impression was that he and Lamar are going to connect a lot this year. The combination of Boykin’s strength and size versus Marquise Brown’s elusiveness and speed are going to create a ton of options for this passing game.
Gus Edwards looked confident stepping back into his role as the starting RB, and looked especially good on cutback moves getting to the next level of the defense. Justice Hill seemed to flourish in plays powering through contact but struggles at times making defensive players miss. Look for him on red zone plays and on short down and distance scenarios. Mark Ingram’s conditioning looks top-notch, and he looks to be able to spell both of these guys well, especially in third-down situations. It didn’t look like any of them were especially prevalent in passing plays, but I would imagine Gus and Justice will mostly be the featured backs on check-downs and RPO plays.
The major knock early in the practice on the offense would have been the pressure allowed by the O-Line and drops from some of the receivers looking to crack the 53-man roster. The defense, in large part, ran the show in the early going, but the offense was able to make some nice adjustments and find their stride. Their main focus needs to be adjusting to opponents with mobile, aggressive defenses and adapting to the plays that are shown in the early going (think about the way they struggled against the Chargers but pulled it together late in the game). The major upside of practicing against one of the best defenses in the NFL is that it will make most opponents look like Pop Warner kids in comparison.
The major knock on the defense last year was their conditioning late in games. The defensive linemen seemed to struggle as practice went on with maintaining pressure on the quarterback, but they did very well early on and forced a few throw-aways from Trace and Lamar.
They’re going to benefit from being able to rely on the secondary, which was nothing short of fantastic in practice. Brandon Carr and Tavon Young played strong interior defense on passing plays and looked much-improved from last season. Tony Jefferson maintained his level as an elite safety, shutting down a ton of plays on his side of the field, and he appeared to be reading the offense very well. Earl Thomas doesn’t appear to have lost a step at all in his recovery from last year’s season-ending injury and looked like he was playing angry. He put on a couple of solid hits, and his aggressiveness hyped up his fellow defensive players. Being able to motivate the squad is a huge need after the departure of defensive leaders from last year in Mosley, Suggs, and Weddle, and the safeties appear to have that X-factor.
The middle of the defense figured to be the area that would suffer the most from those departures, and the growing pains showed from the vulnerability over the middle. Jaylon Ferguson and Patrick Onwuasor did look strong but will need to adapt quickly with the added responsibility this season.
Overall, the team looks to have improved from last season, and the versatility of the offense is going to be one that will surprise a lot of defenses. The key to their success will be not becoming complacent in the early weeks against sub-par defenses, and not taking unnecessary risks against faster defenses. Defensively, conditioning needs to be a major focus in the offseason, but the combination of pass rush and deep pass coverage will mean that the defense can feature the blitz heavily this year without major risks of being burnt downfield. If the linebackers can step up and play at a high level, this could be a very daunting defense.
Submitted by Guest Blogger Kevin McNelis