On a day with a spattering of players absent from practice in shells, it was almost as if the grey, overcast, and sometimes drizzling weather this morning was nothing more than a symbolic gesture from the football gods above.
Fortunately, the relatively uneventful practice was salvaged for fans (today being the final day training camp is open to the public) by a few big plays, a scuffle, and a little entertainment.
My primary focus coming into today- other than the injuries and seeing who returned and how that effected the shuffle- was the offensive line units. In early offensive drills the units (left to right) were as follows:
1st Unit: Stanley – Mekari – Skura – Hurst – Brown Jr
2nd Unit: Applefield – Eluemunor – Bozeman – Powers – Prince
3rd Unit: Applefield – I. Williams – Vahe – D. Williams – Prince
The obvious takeaway early on was UDFA Patrick Mekari staying up with the first unit offensive line. Of course, this again could be a function of Marshal Yanda out for the second consecutive day, pushing James Hurst to Right Guard, and Harbs simply choosing to start Mekari over Powers for the second consecutive day. Then again, it could simply be that Mekari is really ‘clicking’ and earning every snap he takes.
It is worth noting that Mekari did not retain exclusive rights to the 1st unit left guard, as Jermaine Eluemunor did alternate series with the rookie as well. At first it appeared to be every other 11-on-11 series, but on this day I’d say Mekari ended up taking 2 out of every 3 series with the starters.
The odd man out at left guard happened be the guy who spent the first week and a half with the first unit- rookie Ben Powers. Why Powers no longer gets those first team reps at left guard is truly a mystery to me. I haven’t seen anything glaring to suggest he is less deserving than Mekari or Eluemunor (if anything, Eluemunor’s penalties push him down for me), but perhaps coaches are seeing something we aren’t? Maybe they’re looking to ‘Big Ben’ as the future heir to Yanda’s throne that’s only locked up through 2020 right now?
How this all shakes out Thursday when Green Bay comes to town will surely be a thing to watch.
As for the overall feel of the practice, I’d say the offense won the day… which is pretty typical for practice in shells when defenders can’t hit.
Lamar Jackson was pretty sharp today, and his velocity through the seams was on display as he hit target after target in the first 11-on-11 session where his only incompletion came when Chris Wormley got pressure on Lamar quickly, forcing an early throw to Willie Snead. Jackson also had to spike the ball on a snap where Terrell Bonds came clean off the edge for a ‘sack.’
In his second series with 11, Lamar took several shots (15-25 yards through the air with some good velocity) connecting with Tight Ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. Hurst has been seeing more reps with the first unit during recent weeks, at the expense of Nick Boyle who has taken more 2nd unit snaps. Lamar again had a few incompletions against 11, one attempt 20 yards downfield to Miles Boykin which drew a flag on the defense for pass interference (Marlon Humphrey) and the other a rushed pass in Justice Hill’s proximity, as rookie Jaylon Ferguson was bearing down on Lamar.
More on Ferguson in a moment.
One more 11-on-11 series for Lamar Jackson started with an LJ run (a rarity in camp), followed by a 3-for-4 showing as he hit all 3 of his tight ends (Hurst, Andrews, Boyle) and his only incompletion in the direction of rookie Hollywood Brown.
Speaking of Brown, it was great to see him out on the field after a day off. I know rampant speculation spread like wildfire questioning whether or not Hollywood had a setback from his recovery, but rest assured- he looks smooth with no signs of discomfort, limps, grimacing, etc.
All looks well.
As for his usage today, I have Brown down for 3 snaps on the 3rd unit, 5 with the second, and 10 with the first. All of the 3rd unit snaps came early on, and the majority of the 1st unit work was in the final 2 11-on-11 series. Personally, I’m not expecting to see Brown come Thursday night, but perhaps he sneaks in for a few looks.
Defensively, a few players stood out for me today, most notably Jaylon Ferguson.
Ferg (I’m not sure how I feel about ‘Sack Daddy’) did get some looks with the first team defense (which was a hodge-podge unit with all of the absentees across the board), and while he did get a pressure on Jackson, that’s not why he stood out for me.
On one particular play, Ferguson came at Ronnie Stanley with a swim move.
It wasn’t effective (Stanley was moved back, but Ferguson didn’t get around him prior to the pass), but to see the rookie working to expand his pass rush moves is a welcomed sign for me.
Other players who managed to get backfield pressure included Tim Williams, Wormley, Tyus Bowser, Michael Pierce, Cyrus Jones (who took over 1st unit slot duties with Tavon Young out), and Otaro Alaka, who almost picked McSorley earlier in practice (hit in the hands).
The biggest moment of the morning came in 7-on-7 drills inside the 10 yard line. The defense had made several great plays breaking up passes and locking down receivers, prompting plenty of cheers and chest beating from the D unit. At one juncture, the units lined up and before the ball could be snapped, Nick Boyle and Chuck Clark started yapping and popping off at each other at the goal line. The two had to be separated and pulled out of the drill.
On the next play, Marlon Humphrey and Earl Thomas converged on Mark Andrews at the 1, forcing an errant throw, low and away by Lamar Jackson. As tempers looked to be at a boiling point again, Lamar hit Hurst at the goal line on the next play for a score, with Hurst bursting into a celebratory spike, ‘LETS GO!’ and flex.
Hurst is really starting to come on strong, and while he certainly won’t be taking the top tight end spot from Mark Andrews, I think he’ll prove to be an integral part of the Ravens passing game (and blocking) in 2019.
Player of the Day
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 13, 2019
Play of the Day
7-on-7 drills inside the 10, and Lamar Jackson drills a pass to Hayden Hurst on the goal line for a touchdown. Hurst spiked the ball (shot up 10ft in the air), bellowed “LETS GOOO!” and flexed like a boss.
Aaron Adeoye timed a leap following a Joe Callahan pass to pop the pass straight up in the air, which CJ Mos… wrong 57… EJ Ejiya came down with. Brynden Trawick also picked off Callahan, timing a sideline shot to Charles Scarff and ripping the ball out of the tight end’s hands before getting two feet inbounds.
Tony Jefferson picked off a deep ball by Jackson that was underthrown (Floyd the intended target)
WR Antoine Wesley showcased his ‘ups’ in an end zone drill, elevating and high pointing the ball with a few acrobatic catches.
The more I see Patrick Ricard set in motion and moved outside as a receiver? The more intrigued I am, and the more I want to see a pass come his way so he can bulldoze his way downfield.
The offensive line strip drill is always fun to watch. Coach puts the ball on the turf and these monster O-linemen stumble onto the ground to recover the fumble. Notably, Jermaine Eluemunor got down to recover and the whole O-line unit came over to poke and prod to recover the ball. Rookie Patrick Vahe pops up from the pile with a triumphant “I got the ball!” after a few seconds.