Young Guns Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard, Baltimore Ravens

Street Talk Young Guns

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This year’s Ravens rookie class already has an advantage over the players selected in the 2020 NFL draft.

More than 20 young playmakers gathered over the weekend at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills and had an encouraging performance.

Both rookie wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace showed poise and confidence and will push some of the veteran players for playing time. 

The two defensive ends, Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes, appeared to thrive with the speed of Don Martindale’s defensive scheme. 

Even several undrafted players, such as safety Ar’Darius Washington and linebacker Blake Gallagher, showed an upside and could make a push to make the roster. 

Offensive lineman Ben Cleveland has gained national notoriety for eating squirrels in his native Toccoa, Ga., where he earned the nickname “Big Country” for his 6-foot-6, 343-pound frame. 

Cleveland could start at left guard if Bradley Bozeman moves to center. 

“I think that’s way too far ahead into the future to look at,” Cleveland said about his role as a rookie. “I’m really focused on today and getting the playbook down and kind of understanding how these new guys work being here in rookie camp. It’s a bunch of new guys. We’re all seeing this playbook for the first or second time. So, right now, I’m really and truly just focused on getting in sync with these new guys and learning this playbook. 

These offseason camps are invaluable to these first-year players, an opportunity the second-year players could not use to their advantage because of the restrictions with COVID-19. 

“It’s been great to get back on the grass,” Harbaugh said. “The guys are excited to be here. The coaches are excited to coach. We had good meetings. We had two good practices, and it’s just a good plus. We like the guys. 

“We’re just getting started. I feel like they’re getting hit with a firehouse right now, in terms of information and expectations, but they’re handling it very well. They’re great guys. Really, it’s just the time to put the work in and go from here.”

This year’s training camp will be one of the most competitive in recent memory. The Ravens have depth and talent across the roster. 

That was the scenario general manager Eric DeCosta envisioned heading into this year’s offseason. The players will have to earn their reps time because there will be pressure from their teammates lower on the depth chart. 

Harbaugh reminded the rookie not to get complacent after finishing their first NFL minicamp.

“We talked to them today about stacking days, stacking drills, stacking meetings, stacking plays [and] stacking weight room reps – one thing that builds off the next,” Harbaugh said. “Try to get 1% better every day, as a symbolic type of way of expressing improvement, and see where it takes you. 

“Don’t get too [high or low]. Keep it simple. Keep it about what’s right in front of you. One of these days, you’re going to look back and see how far you’ve come, and you’ll be amazed.” 

The competition should bring out the best of all the players on the roster. 

 

 

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About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich
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