You’re going to hear a lot of camp reports from today suggesting that the Ravens defense won the second straight day in full pads and the offense is struggling…
Those things are both true.
But here’s my question for everybody who is concerned about the Ravens offense: what are your expectations at this juncture?
Let’s take a quick look at this scenario after a week at Training Camp.
On one side of the ball, the Ravens defense is fully healthy across the board, the core of the unit is a full carryover from the 2020 season, and the rookie pass rushers are making strides. On the other side of the ball, the offense is without starters Lamar Jackson, Hollywood Brown, Nick Boyle, Ronnie Stanley, Kevin Zeitler, Gus Edwards, and has gone without Rashod Bateman for a day here, Sammy Watkins a day there… and to a lesser degree, devoid Miles Boykin and Jake Breeland. For the offense, this means a revolving door filling the Left Tackle void left by Stanley, Ben Powers filling in for Zeitler, and of course rookie LG Ben Cleveland, longtime LT Al Villanueva moving to RT, and rounding out the unit with Bradley Bozeman‘s return to center for the first time since his Bama days… all while the skill positions have been just as much of a carousel.
To simplify my point, you have a healthy, stellar, returning Ravens defense… versus a Ravens offense that is just a scattershot mess of a unit right now.
If the narrative were flipped at the Ravens offense was dominating the defense? That’s a legitimate reason for concern. But the defense dominating the offense should be much ado about nothing.
I’ve been stressing this since the start of camp, but the focus shouldn’t be on outcomes of plays in 7v7 or 11v11- it should be on individual performances and players winning their battles, especially when you consider how much the Ravens like to mix up units and don’t simply play this ‘1st unit, 2nd unit, 3rd unit’ game.
With the focus on individual performances, here’s a few notable bright spots from today’s practice:
- Odafe Oweh continues to shine, blowing by Villanueva a few more times today, netting another ‘sack’ in the process. The kid is consistent, powerful, and showing continued success once the pads went on.
- Fellow rookie pass rusher Daelin Hayes had another great showing today creating a few pressures of his own.
- Calais Campbell looks… more youthful? He’s off the line faster than I recall in the ’20 season, he’s creating chaos in the trenches, and good Lord when that man reaches up he can basically touch the sky with his mitts.
- Patrick Queen was flying all over the field today, creating backfield pressures, running stride for stride with Tyler Huntley down the sidelines for a ‘sack’ (which is just running OOB behind the LOS in camp), and playing sticky on JK Dobbins in coverage.
- Jaylon Ferguson – yes, the guy many expect to be expendable after the Justin Houston signing- showed up a few times today, creating pressure in the backfield, and breaking up a pass covering a tight end downfield. My only caveat here is that Ferg’s pressures were of his usual bull-rush variety. I still think he needs more than that to succeed in games, but at least… for now… it was effective.
- The Ravens secondary was the star unit of the day today, with three picks (Elliott, Dorsey, Humphrey), and constant backfield pressure when blitzing.
Of course, we can’t mention the standouts without discussing the players that struggled today as well, who just so happened to be all offensive players:
- I genuinely believe Cleveland will win the starting LG spot; however, I’m starting to notice how stiff he plays, and how that can be detrimental to reaching the next level in his game. Admittedly, I focused more on Cleveland than others once Ravens OL Coach Joe D caught my eye as he continued to harp on the reps of 66, suggesting he needs to drive more power in his point of attack.
- I went into today with the mentality that Eli Wolf was starting to push Josh Oliver for the final Tight End spot. After all, Wolf has been making the most of his targets (he seems to catch everything) and his blocking looks improved… then he tried to turn upfield today before securing the ball, got popped by ‘second smallest Raven’ Khalil Dorsey (5’9″ to Ar’Darius Washington’s 5’8″) lost the football and turned it into a Huntley pick. Plays like that can cost him all the momentum he’s gained.
- Speaking of Oliver, watching him run routes can be exhausting. It seems like he does almost excessively too much to try and shimmy/shake the defender to gain separation. Might only be a half second added to his route but it’s not overly effective in creating that space.
- Hear me out… Trace McSorley is obsessed with the left side of the field. I’ve never really noticed it until today, but I watched him throw three straight balls to his left, then one to the right, then three more back the left. Towards the end of practice I logged his final ten throws: nine to the left, one in the middle of the field between the hash marks, and nothing to the right. On the day, if he threw less than 80% of his passes to the left side of the field I’d be shocked.
- Tyler Huntley threw three picks in four pass attempts… but let’s highlight how it happened: first was a forced ball (bad pass), second was clear confusion on the offense pre-snap that had guys all out of sorts and led what I assume was QB/WR confusion, and the third was the Wolf drop/knockout. Huntley shoulders some blame, but this is just a microcosm of how out-of-sorts the offense truly was today.
- Sam Koch was 0-for-2 passing today. In all fairness, his targets were running half speed. Sam deserved better.
PLAY OF THE DAY:
Running Back Ty’Son Williams carries the ball around the right side, takes off up the sideline, and meets CB Anthony Averett with a thunderclap of a hit, putting AA on his back and picking up an extra yard.
I know a lot of folks have Justice Hill locked into RB3, but I genuinely think Williams could make a push for the spot with his downhill, physical style of play that we’ve seen thus far. Pass pro will be key (as will special teams).