Five things we learned from the Ravens’ organized team activities – Baltimore Sun
The Ravens wrapped up organized team activities last week, a series of nine voluntary workouts more notable for who wasn’t in attendance than who was. This week, the team will focus on the mandatory minicamp, three days of training that will set the stage for the start of training camp at the end of July.
Here are five things we learned from the Ravens OTAs.
Jackson said he would attend the mandatory minicamp. Ravens coach John Harbaugh expects him to show up. The threat of fines — about $90,000 for a three-day absence, under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement — is usually enough to entice players to show up.
But until the Ravens’ most important player shows up at Owings Mills, he’ll be all anyone can talk about. Jackson’s absence loomed over the three weeks of OTA, leaving coaches and teammates accountable for his whereabouts and, more importantly, showing once again how limited the offense can be without him.
With contact frowned upon in offseason practice, the Ravens’ running game is hard to gauge from the sideline. The ups and downs of their passing offense, however, are easier to discern. Tyler Huntley had a handful of field completions in practices open to reporters, but he largely looks like the quarterback who took over from an injured Jackson at the end of last season: happy to distribute the ball but eager to get it out quickly.
With Jackson, the attacking menu expands considerably. Sure, there are playbook considerations at this point in the offseason — offensive coordinator Greg Roman estimated in early June that Jackson knew 80% of the 2022 schedule — but the Ravens only have so many days to figure that out. which could work for Jackson and his receiving corps by Week 1. If Jackson doesn’t show up this week, or if his head is spinning, stuck trying to catch up, training camp becomes all the more important.
In Mark Andrews, the Ravens may have the best tight end in the NFL. As for the rest of their reception hall? With the departure of Marchioness “Hollywood” Brown, there is a bit of a downturn. Last week, Pro Football Focus ranked the Ravens’ wide receiver group as the fourth-worst in the league, ahead of only the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans.
Throughout the OTAs, Andrews led what should be a strong group of tight ends. He was often the best player on the field, winning easily in the middle against cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers. Nick Boyle, who looks lighter and healthier, played like “a new guy” in his return to action. Rookies Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely showed their ability. Even Josh Oliver got a shoutout from Harbaugh last week.
The Ravens’ wide receivers, however, haven’t done much to create a buzz. Rashod Bateman, Baltimore’s 2021 first-round pick who occasionally struggled with falls in college, has had at least one of the team’s three open workouts. Devin Duvernay and Tylan Wallace, who got votes of confidence after the draft from team officials, were mostly anonymous. James Proche II was solid but unspectacular. There were big plays – notably Bateman’s 45-yard touchdown against double coverage – but they were few, somewhat hampered by strong pass defense and Huntley’s limited reach.
Maybe Jackson returns this week and elevates the band to a level not yet reached in the past month. Maybe it’s more of a slow build through training camp and preseason. No one will care how the Ravens look in May and June if they run with cornerbacks in September. But with the Ravens’ recent investment in the wide receiver position, not to mention their bold move to trade their best returning receiver for draft capital, team officials need to show there’s a basis. in place for success.
The Ravens’ 11-man draft class has received rave reviews from analysts and team officials, and nothing has changed in the weeks since to suggest expectations should be dampened.
Safety Kyle Hamilton was one of the most impressive players on defense, flying around the back and showing his potential as a blitzer near the line of scrimmage. Countryman Tyler Linderbaum, whose Iowa quarterbacks were mostly fielded under center, handled the shotgun blasts well and helped keep the Ravens’ inside pass at bay.
On offense, running back Tyler Badie caught just about anything thrown at him, even the passes he didn’t have to make. His explosiveness is evident; Roman called his movement abilities “really good”. On tight end, Kolar and Likely became reliable targets and impressed their teammates with their willingness to learn. Attacking tackle Daniel Faalele’s technique as a pass blocker is far from perfect, but his size makes it difficult to get around. Orlando Brown Jr.’s comparisons are on point.
On defense, defensive tackle Travis Jones and cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams all positioned themselves for rotational roles in Year 1. Jones was one of the best players in minicamp of the Ravens rookies, Armour-Davis notched an interception in the team’s second open practice, and Williams didn’t back down to any receiver.
With punter Jordan Stout learning from Sam Koch and outside linebacker David Ojabo returning from a torn Achilles tendon, the Ravens’ rookie class is expected to contribute in waves this season.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the Ravens’ OTAs was the presence of safety Chuck Clark, who had little to gain by attending voluntary practices but came to practice anyway. He had seen the Ravens sign free agent Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70 million deal and then draft Hamilton with their first pick. He had become a subject of intense trade speculation, even as Harbaugh maintained he was part of the team’s plans.
But Clark was there at Owings Mills, leading the way in the positioning drills. There he was, again leading the defense in team drills.
“Chuck is going to play a lot of football,” Harbaugh said last week. He added, “I consider Chuck a starter.”
It’s still unclear what it might look like in Baltimore. Clark, who never left the field last season, would he continue to carry the green dot as a defensive signalman? “We’ll see how it goes,” Harbaugh said.
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Would the Ravens’ new “core” defense feature three safeties — Clark, Williams and Hamilton — instead of three cornerbacks or two inside linebackers? And where would that leave other safeties like Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone and Tony Jefferson?
Would the Ravens accept trade offers for Clark this season, or would his durability in a secondary that was devastated by injuries last year make him too difficult to part with?
The mandatory minicamp will not answer these questions, and neither will the training camp. But as the Ravens’ secondary looks to rebound from a historically horrific 2021, Clark’s role in Baltimore — if he has one — will have profound consequences for the defense.
Jackson’s return would be important. It would be the same for Calais Campbell and Michael Pierce; both veteran defensive linemen died while attending OTAs. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, whose signing was only finalized at the end of May, has yet to appear.
But even if the Ravens are getting perfect attendance from their able-bodied veterans, there’s still the question of rehabilitating their players. Running backs JK Dobbins (knee) and Gus Edwards (knee) could start training camp on the physically unable to perform list as they return from season-ending injuries. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley’s recovery from an ankle injury, while encouraging, hasn’t brought him back on the pitch.
On defense, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser’s Achilles tendon injury could delay his regular-season debut, while David Ojabo’s injury could sideline him for most, if not all, of his rookie season. Cornerback Marcus Peters (knee) was not cleared to return. Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe returns from a hip injury and goaltender Ar’Darius Washington from a foot injury.
All of this makes projecting the Ravens’ 53-man roster even more difficult than usual. This is of little concern to team officials, who cannot afford to rush recoveries and risk missteps in their injury rehabilitation process in 2021. In an ideal world, general manager Eric DeCosta and Harbaugh would have all hands on deck for their pre-season games. In that reality, they’ll have to be patient with who they have, trusting the depth they’ve built behind their sidelined big names.