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Twelve Ravens thoughts following mandatory minicamp

Posted on 15 June 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding their mandatory minicamp to conclude their offseason workout program, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A year ago at this time, tight end Dennis Pitta and cornerback Tavon Young had already been lost for the season. The Ravens are dealing with some minor ailments, but the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith to practice this week further signaled the good health so far.

2. Alex Lewis and John Brown being among those dealing with minor health concerns isn’t as encouraging. These two could be pivotal in determining whether this offense makes meaningful progress from last season, but they must stay on the field.

3. Lamar Jackson was given the keys to run Thursday’s practice from the quarterback position as several veterans rested on both sides of the ball, and he responded with his most consistent passing performance to date. The rookie knows he has a long way to go, but his confidence is impressive.

4. Some pundits have cherry-picked quotes complimenting Jackson while ignoring the parts about him being a work in progress, but anyone who’s watched this spring knows Joe Flacco has been head and shoulders above the other quarterbacks. Ignore any noise from those pushing a quarterback controversy this early in the game.

5. It’s been evident that new quarterbacks coach James Urban has stressed mobility, pocket movement, and footwork timing with Flacco. The quarterback being healthy and another year removed from the knee injury is crucial, but these skills have been lacking since Gary Kubiak was in Baltimore.

6. Linebackers coach Mike Macdonald labeled Tyus Bowser the most productive linebacker of the spring as he even recorded an interception return for a touchdown on a Flacco pass. Bowser making a Matt Judon-like leap from his first to second year would create some much-needed long-term stability at outside linebacker.

7. Meanwhile, Terrell Suggs is again in great shape as he enters his 16th year and comes off his first double-digit sacks season since 2014. He’s entered that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed territory in that the Ravens won’t easily replace what he’s brought to the table for so many years.

8. It’s difficult to evaluate line play in the spring, but Orlando Brown Jr. definitely showed growth from rookie camp until the end of spring workouts. This next month will be critical for him to keep himself in good shape to continue that momentum into the summer.

9. Willie Snead is developing a good rapport with Flacco as they frequently connected over the middle. Flacco complimented the slot receiver for having “a knack for seeing the game the way the quarterback does.” You can see why Drew Brees liked him a couple years ago in New Orleans.

10. I’ve been as critical as anyone about this Ravens offense, but I do believe it has more intrigue and potential than it’s enjoyed the last few years. The problem is there are so few sure things, meaning the floor remains very low.

11. Hats off to John Harbaugh for offering this truth about spring workouts: “This isn’t football practice. This is just getting ready for football practice. … Nobody is going to make a play here that’s going to make the team.” We now return to our regularly-scheduled overreacting.

12. Between Eric Weddle dropping a Wolverine reference about Smith and Wink Martindale joking that Suggs must have done his offseason training in Wakanda, this week’s quotes were a Marvel fan’s dream. You just hope Thanos stays away from the roster when training camp gets underway.

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Ravens getting “creative juices flowing” with Lamar Jackson

Posted on 12 June 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — First-round pick Lamar Jackson remains a work in progress at quarterback, but it’s becoming increasingly clear the Ravens still want the talented rookie on the field this fall.

As Baltimore conducts its mandatory minicamp this week, the former Heisman Trophy winner continues to line up at different positions in addition to taking extensive reps as a more conventional quarterback working with the second and third offenses. There’s hardly a quarterback controversy brewing with the start of the season now less than three months away — veteran starter Joe Flacco has been head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterback group this spring — but the Ravens are walking the line between trying to win now after missing the playoffs in four of the last five years and preparing for the future.

“If we put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense?” head coach John Harbaugh. “That’s what we try to figure out, so [Jackson’s] back there throwing the ball, he’s back there doing other things. Then, Joe has to do some other things, too, if he’s throwing the ball.

“It gets to be — I don’t want to say challenging — but it gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they’ve worked hard at it.”

It’s an unconventional strategy with few modern examples from which to draw. However, hearing players continue to marvel at Jackson’s combination of special athleticism and arm strength makes you understand why offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and assistant head coach Greg Roman have embraced the challenge.

An offense that’s lacked play-makers for years should be exhausting every avenue for an edge, and even his defensive teammates have taken notice of Jackson’s skills.

“Once he gets out of the pocket, it’s like watching a young Michael Vick. It’s amazing to watch,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “When you’re defending him, you just have to act like you’re tagging off. You don’t want to be on the highlight reel. It’s fun to watch him.”

The experiment doesn’t come without risk.

The league’s 29th-ranked passing offense from a year ago is already trying to assimilate three new veteran wide receivers atop the depth chart as well as two rookie tight ends expected to play significant roles. When an offense tries to extend itself with too much change and innovation, it runs the risk of mastering too little, leaving the unit incomplete and unproductive. Striking a balance between a more traditional offense with one quarterback on the field and implementing a Jackson package of plays over the course of a game requires strong feel as a play-caller, a trait Mornhinweg hasn’t always been credited with having during his time as Baltimore’s offense coordinator.

Perhaps even worse than the potential drawbacks to the 2018 offense could be the impact of Jackson’s usage as a hybrid player on his overall development. The Ravens clearly have designs of Jackson being their quarterback of the future — whenever that time might come — but his uneven play from the pocket this spring reflects the need to improve his footwork and accuracy in addition to the general challenges any young quarterback faces entering the NFL.

Part of that process for a mobile quarterback is learning how to be judicious using his legs in an effort to keep himself healthy as much as being a successful passer for the long haul. Might that learning curve be stunted by asking Jackson to focus too much on going all out as a runner or even a receiver in more of a non-quarterback role right now?

“This is a little unique; you have the ability to put two quarterbacks on the field at one time,” Harbaugh said. “There are a lot of considerations that go into that, and everybody has an opinion. I’ve read a few that people might have, and there are a lot of ways to look at it, and we’re aware of that. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys.”

Bridging the gap between the present and future on offense will continue to be one of the biggest story lines going into the 2018 season, but the Ravens are embracing the creativity and the risk that comes with it.

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Ravens sign quarterback Lamar Jackson to rookie deal

Posted on 05 June 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have signed first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson to his rookie contract.

The four-year deal includes a fifth-year club option for the 2022 season, a factor that led general manager Ozzie Newsome to trade 2018 and 2019 second-round picks to Philadelphia to move up to the final pick of the first round to select Jackson and secure that extra year. Only first-round picks carry a fifth-year team option with their rookie deals.

First-round tight end Hayden Hurst is now the only unsigned rookie of the Ravens’ league-high 12 picks from April’s draft.

Despite much discussion and speculation about when Jackson might replace veteran Joe Flacco, Baltimore has made it clear that the latter remains the starter, a proclamation reinforced by the distribution of reps during spring workouts. The talented rookie from Louisville has often worked with young players on another field while Flacco and veteran backup Robert Griffin III have worked with the first- and second-team offenses during organized team activities.

“He’s a talented guy; he’s practiced well every practice he’s been out here,” said head coach John Harbaugh about Jackson two weeks ago. “But the toughest thing for him is calling the plays right now. He’s never been in that kind of a system. I would say he’s made a big jump in calling the plays and annunciating the offense. He’s done well with that.”

Jackson was the third quarterback to be drafted by the Ravens in the first round in the 23-year history of the franchise, joining Flacco in 2008 and Kyle Boller in 2003.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts from second open OTA workout

Posted on 02 June 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding their second week of organized team activities, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The accuracy of Joe Flacco’s strong throwing arm has left something to be desired in recent seasons, but that hasn’t been the case this spring as he’s thrown countless deep strikes, including a few that receivers haven’t caught. Pushing the ball down the field more effectively is an absolute must.

2. Chris Moore made the plays of Thursday’s session with a deep one-handed sideline catch against Brandon Carr and a leaping touchdown grab in the back of the end zone. His continued development isn’t as critical after the offseason additions, but he showed some growth late last season.

3. On the flip side, Breshad Perriman hasn’t flashed in the same way he would in past springs, dropping passes and not having good awareness along the sidelines and in the end zone. A fresh start for him elsewhere might be what’s best for both parties at this point.

4. C.J. Mosley’s attendance at OTAs really speaks to his level of commitment to the organization. I wouldn’t have blamed him for skipping voluntary workouts since he’s still without a long-term contract extension, but his presence is a plus for new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.

5. John Brown has shown the impressive speed employed in his 1,000-yard season for Arizona in 2015, but his 5-foot-11 listing looks generous. It will be critical for a red-zone target beyond Michael Crabtree to emerge with rookie tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews being obvious candidates.

6. Lamar Jackson worked extensively with other rookies on a separate field from the first-team offense. Improving his footwork remains a priority as he still has a tendency to make flat-footed throws that sail and lack accuracy. It’s a process.

7. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Willie Henry take on a starting role this season with Brandon Williams shifting from the starting 3-technique spot back to the nose and Michael Pierce moving to a rotational role. This says much more about Henry’s improvement than any disenchantment with Pierce.

8. With Anthony Levine still sidelined from offseason foot surgery, second-year safety Chuck Clark has an opportunity to state a case for more involvement in the dime package. He dropped what could have been a pick-6 on a Flacco pass intended for Hurst on Thursday.

9. You wouldn’t know Tavon Young was only a year removed from his ACL injury by watching him practice. He’s the favorite to handle the nickel, a spot where he excels. Maurice Canady currently being hindered by a knee issue is allowing Young to take even more first-team reps.

10. Much was made about Alex Lewis getting his first look at center, but the offensive line alignment used during mandatory minicamp in two weeks will provide more meaningful insight on what the Ravens are thinking at the center position. Matt Skura is still very much in the conversation.

11. Uncertainty exists at every spot beyond left tackle and right guard, but Ronnie Stanley said how confident incumbents are in their second year with offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and assistant head coach Greg Roman, who did admirable work with a patchwork unit last year.

12. Yes, the wide receiver group had some drops on Thursday, but I caution about drawing too many conclusions — good or bad — from a limited sample this time of year, especially with rookie players. This becomes a bigger concern, of course, if it’s still occurring regularly in training camp.

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Veteran receiver Crabtree embracing “new start” with Ravens

Posted on 31 May 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco developing chemistry with new wide receivers is nothing new in the spring, but these efforts have been severely hindered in recent years.

It’s reflected in the overall results.

Baltimore drafted Breshad Perriman in the first round of the 2015 draft to replace free-agent departure Torrey Smith, but the rookie injured his knee on the first day of training camp and missed the entire season, leaving Flacco and the passing game without a viable deep threat. Unfortunately, Perriman still hasn’t gotten his career on track three years later.

In 2016, Flacco missed spring workouts while recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery, hindering what would still turn out to be a solid rapport with free-agent newcomer Mike Wallace. The speedy veteran posted his first 1,000-yard season in five years, but the passing attack finished just 28th in the NFL in yards per attempt as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

Last year, of course, Flacco missed all of training camp and the preseason with a back injury and logged only a few practices before starting the opener in Cincinnati, leading to a poor first half of the season for the Super Bowl XLVII MVP. Making matters worse, accomplished veteran Jeremy Maclin had only arrived at the end of spring workouts and never got on the same page with Flacco, leading to his disappointing campaign for Baltimore’s 29th-ranked passing attack.

For an organization that’s frequently — and deliberately — built its offense with a small margin for error, these extenuating circumstances have all but guaranteed mediocrity. But the Ravens hope 2018 will be different with Flacco healthy and throwing the ball exceptionally well this spring. General manager Ozzie Newsome followed through with his offseason promise to revamp the pass-catching positions with veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree headlining the group of additions.

The 30-year-old’s skill set resembles that of former Raven Anquan Boldin with his ability to make contested catches on third downs and make plays inside the red zone despite lacking great speed or overwhelming size. Quarterbacks and wide receivers building chemistry is a never-ending process with the spring and summer particularly valuable for both fine-tuning and experimentation.

How long has it taken Crabtree to feel that unspoken connection with quarterbacks at previous stops?

“You only see it in the game. You’d say the first game,” said Crabtree, who’s played with Alex Smith, Derek Carr, and Colin Kaepernick in his career. “Practice is what you practice, and then the game is show time. Once you see it in the game multiple times, then you get comfortable. It is what it is.”

Crabtree has attended voluntary workouts regularly after signing his three-year, $21 million in March. In addition to getting a head start in building timing with Flacco, the former Oakland Raider is aiming to rebound from a disappointing 2017 campaign in which he recorded just 618 receiving yards, his lowest total since 2013 when he played in only five games due to a torn Achilles tendon.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver has only two 1,000-yard campaigns in his career, but the Ravens hope he’ll serve as a reliable possession receiver and continue his streak of three consecutive seasons with at least eight touchdowns. Crabtree isn’t taking his spot for granted this spring despite Baltimore returning only two wide receivers — Chris Moore and Perriman — who caught a single pass last year, only adding to the competition at the position.

“I guess it’s a little more intense because you’re learning the playbook, have a new quarterback, new offensive line, new receivers — just new guys period,” Crabtree said. “It’s definitely beneficial for me to be here early. That way, by the time camp starts, we’re rolling.”

His presence has also been a positive for a young wide receiver group. The other two veteran receivers signed this offseason — John Brown and Willie Snead — aren’t household names and are each coming off injury-plagued seasons in which they combined for 391 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

The Ravens shouldn’t expect Crabtree to suddenly become a Pro Bowl receiver in his 10th season, but they need him to be a steadying presence both on and off the field.

“‘Crab’ has done a great job. He’s a really hard worker,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a great feel for the game, a lot of the tricks of the trade he understands, and he’s willing to share with those guys. He’s been great for our locker room, for our meeting room.”

Crabtree has stood out in spring workouts with smooth route-running ability and was singled out by Flacco last week when he was asked for impressions of the new wide receivers. His speed may pale in comparison to the likes of Brown and Perriman — he wasn’t particularly fast even going back to his college days at Texas Tech — but Crabtree says he’s competing like he’s 21 again.

Newsome betting on a veteran receiver having a chip on his shoulder after a disappointing year is nothing new, something he’s tripled down on this year. Of course, the Ravens envision Crabtree being more Boldin or Steve Smith and less Maclin or Lee Evans.

“Hearing most of the new receivers’ stories, we’ve all had our ups and downs,” Crabtree said. “It just feels good to have a new start and keep things rolling.”

Flacco will hope things keep rolling through the spring and summer without interruption.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts from first open OTA workout

Posted on 25 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens holding their first open organized team activity session on Thursday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Most attention was on what Joe Flacco said in his first press conference since the draft, but the 11th-year quarterback looks leaner and is moving better than he has in quite some time. He threw the ball well and is pleased with the efforts made to improve the pass-catching spots.

2. Lamar Jackson connected on a beautiful back-shoulder touchdown to fellow rookie Jaleel Scott during a red-zone drill, but he later threw a bad interception to safety Kai Nacua in the flat. Patience is needed with his development, but he’s sure fun to watch when he takes off with the ball.

3. Many wide receivers can look great this time of year — Breshad Perriman has fit that description in the past — but Michael Crabtree stands out in a way similar to when Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin first arrived in Baltimore. You can tell Flacco is happy to have him.

4. Many players have cited new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale offering more freedom and flexibility within schemes, and John Harbaugh even used a military analogy to describe the changes (11:59 mark). It’s an interesting concept, but with great power comes great responsibility.

5. Kenneth Dixon could still stand to shed a couple pounds — Harbaugh acknowledged he hadn’t been in the best shape returning from last year’s knee injury and suspension — but he showed shifty moves in the open field. He remains a wild card for this offense if healthy and committed to football.

6. Kamalei Correa is again working at outside linebacker after attempts to make him an inside linebacker, but Martindale — formerly the linebackers coach — said last fall he envisions him in an Albert McClellan role being able to play all positions. That’s his best path to a roster spot.

7. Willie Snead looks the part of a slot receiver, using his running back-like frame to quickly change directions. I don’t expect him to put up huge numbers in this offense, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a productive addition.

8. Harbaugh said Patrick Ricard will continue to be used as both a fullback and defensive lineman, but his build more closely resembles a nose tackle now rather than the hybrid player he was as a rookie. He definitely got bigger this offseason.

9. Marshal Yanda won’t take part in spring workouts, but he watched part of practice and continues to work his way back to full strength. The muscle atrophy in his lower left leg is still noticeable, but the Ravens remain confident he’ll be ready well in time for the season.

10. The new kickoff rule drew praise from Harbaugh, who sees the potential for bigger returns with the kicking team no longer allowed a running start. The former special teams coordinator says teams could counter that by booting the ball into the end zone for touchbacks more frequently. We’ll see.

11. With Jimmy Smith still on the mend and carrying a $15.675 million cap figure next season, the Ravens would be wise to begin viewing Marlon Humphrey as their No. 1 cornerback. It’s easy to see the potential for him to be a special player sooner than later.

12. I liked seeing Ed Reed speak to the Ravens rookies during OTAs, but how could the timing not remind you of his annual flirtations with retirement and desires for a new contract this time of year? Those good old days also brought one of my favorite tweets of all time:

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Flacco’s eyes on present while acknowledging uncertain future

Posted on 24 May 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — This time of year has typically been uneventful for longtime Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Other than his rookie season or two years ago when he was still rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee back to full health, Flacco has taken part in organized team activities with no topic of discussion more significant than adjusting to another offensive coordinator or a new wide receiver or two in Baltimore. Aside from his contract season of 2012 in which he famously bet on himself before leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl title several months later, the 33-year-old has been entrenched as the franchise quarterback with no serious discussion about his future.

Of course, that changed last month when Ozzie Newsome used the final first-round pick of his illustrious run as Baltimore’s general manager to select Louisville quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Members of the Ravens brass have stated more than once that Flacco remains the guy at quarterback, but the 11th-year veteran knows that Jackson’s addition clouds his future. He remains under contract through the 2021 season, but the Ravens could move on from the Super Bowl XLVII MVP as soon as next season if willing to endure $16 million in dead money on their salary cap.

“I don’t want to say I was surprised,” said Flacco, whose yards per attempt average has declined in each of the last three seasons. “Obviously, when you pick a quarterback — when you pick anybody in the first round — it means something. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know exactly what it is, but that’s not my job to worry about what it is. My job is to keep my approach exactly what it’s been for the last 10 years and help our team go win football games.”

Flacco says his focus is on the present, citing the work to be done to get on the same page with a new batch of wide receivers and tight ends to improve the league’s 29th-ranked passing game from 2017. He took special interest discussing Michael Crabtree, citing his unique style and craftiness in running routes that reminds many of former Raven Anquan Boldin.

But questions from media on Thursday predictably centered around Jackson with Flacco being asked about the lack of communication between the two in the days following the NFL draft. He called it “unfortunate” that the story was blown out of proportion and said their early interactions have been positive, adding that new quarterbacks coach James Urban has even joked with the two about the faux controversy.

“Everybody just wants to talk about it and act like I’m holding some grudge, and that’s not how it is,” Flacco said. “I think you guys have been around me for a long time and you know the way I am. We welcome Lamar here with open arms, and that’s the same for me.”

It remains to be seen how head coach John Harbaugh and the offensive staff will handle Jackson’s development, but the Ravens intend to include the rookie in this year’s offense when appropriate. The challenge will be striking the appropriate balance between maintaining the rhythm of the “traditional” offense under Flacco and identifying spots to utilize Jackson’s talents as a runner and passer.

Unlike five years ago when former offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell used backup Tyrod Taylor in some “Wildcat” plays, Flacco doesn’t seem inclined to push back on the idea of Marty Mornhinweg mixing in some special packages or gadget plays for Jackson. Of course, Flacco doesn’t hold the same clout to complain as he did then when he was less than a year removed from winning the Super Bowl.

“Listen, I want to win football games. Whatever is going to help us win,” Flacco said. “I’m probably going to maintain that I think myself under center is our best chance to win football games, but whatever helps us win football games, man, I’m game.”

He handled himself well speaking for the first time since the Ravens drafted their perceived quarterback of the future, something that couldn’t be said about Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after the Steelers used a third-round pick on Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Considering the Ravens’ poor efforts in putting offensive talent around him in recent years, Flacco could have shared a similar sentiment to his AFC North counterpart by saying the Jackson pick could have been used on another offensive player providing a greater immediate impact.

Flacco has been described as nothing but a good teammate over the years and figures to maintain that reputation with the young quarterback. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be doing everything he can to keep his new competition on the sideline for as long as possible.

That starts with winning more games and leading the Ravens back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“You pick guys in the first round — whenever you pick guys — you pick them for a reason,” Flacco said. “I don’t know what the plan is. I don’t exactly know what’s going to happen, but I’m worried about right now. I’m worried about myself getting these guys ready, winning football games, and nothing is ever promised.

“That’s the reality of it for me.”

It’s a different reality than he’s used to.

OTA attendance

Fourteen players were not taking part in Thursday’s voluntary workout as the Ravens concluded their first week of OTAs.

According to Harbaugh, wide receiver John Brown was excused to deal with a personal matter while linebacker C.J. Mosley (ankle) and cornerback Maurice Canady (knee) were resting minor ailments. The coach also said wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo would begin the season on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing an unspecified surgery on his left leg earlier this month.

The following players were not participating due to injuries sustained last season: guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon) and Jaylen Hill (knee), and linebackers Albert McClellan (knee) and Bam Bradley (knee).

Defensive ends Brent Urban (foot) and Carl Davis (shoulder) took part in the early portion of Thursday’s session before leaving the field while guard Nico Siragusa (knee) was also a limited participant.

Safeties Eric Weddle and Anthony Levine, cornerback Brandon Carr, and fullback Christopher Ezeala were also absent from the field. Linebacker Terrell Suggs has regularly been at the team’s Owings Mills training facility this offseason and is said to be in great shape entering his 16th season, but Harbaugh is keeping him off the practice field until mandatory minicamp for the second straight spring.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts prior to start of organized team activities

Posted on 15 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens set to begin organized team activities in Owings Mills next week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens won’t be at full strength when they begin organized team activities next week, but OTAs provide the first real look at the 2018 team. Observations will be blown out of proportion, but it’s another welcome checkpoint on the road to the start of the season.

2. Next week will hopefully conclude the ridiculous opening chapter of the Joe Flacco-Lamar Jackson saga in which some have tried to make you believe Flacco has ignored the rookie’s calls and texts, stolen his dog, and even asked Thanos to snap his fingers and make him disappear.

3. The coaching staff should do what it can to utilize Jackson’s explosive athleticism without disrupting the rhythm of the offense or hindering his long-term development. Flacco doesn’t have the rope this time around to balk at the notion of a “high school offense” like he did several years ago.

4. Baltimore returns all but one player — Lardarius Webb — who played a defensive snap last season. That’s a remarkable level of defensive continuity in the era of the salary cap. Now it’s up to new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to take this group to another level.

5. It’s easy to forget about Tavon Young after he sustained a season-ending knee injury nearly one year ago, but he ranked 30th among qualified cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ grading system during his rookie season in 2016. This secondary has so many options.

6. Kenneth Dixon was a quiet winner during draft weekend when the Ravens didn’t select a running back. Baltimore could really use his play-making ability to complement Alex Collins, but Dixon needs to prove he’s healthy and committed to being a professional after his knee injury and two drug suspensions.

7. I’ll buy stock in Martindale utilizing Tony Jefferson more effectively than Dean Pees did, but restructuring his contract is questionable after his underwhelming first season in Baltimore. As others have suggested, this makes you think the extension with C.J. Mosley that would have cleared needed cap space isn’t close.

8. Bradley Bozeman had quite the career at Alabama and could one day develop into a productive player, but this isn’t a diamond in the rough at a small school that was simply overlooked. Suggestions that the sixth-round rookie could be the starting center are premature.

9. I’m curious to see what Nico Siragusa’s level of participation will be this spring after he suffered such a serious knee injury last summer. He would be an interesting name to throw into the center mix if he’s fully recovered, but little has been said about his status.

10. Quincy Adeboyejo was already far from a lock to make the 53-man roster, but the second-year wide receiver underwent surgery on his left leg Tuesday and didn’t exactly comment as though it were something minor. You hate seeing injuries, especially this time of year.

11. With the Ravens not using meaningful draft capital or free-agent dollars on a pass rusher, either Tyus Bowser or Tim Williams needs to take a big step forward in the way Matt Judon did a year ago. You can’t expect Terrell Suggs to continue leading the way forever.

12. A rookie quarterback and a large draft class should benefit from both a longer training camp due to the Hall of Fame Game as well as joint practices with the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis, but John Harbaugh must strike the right balance in keeping players healthy and fresh.

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Ravens sign all eight Day 3 draft picks

Posted on 05 May 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have wasted little time signing most of their team-record-tying 12 draft picks to four-year contracts.

Baltimore announced agreements with eight selections on Saturday, a list comprised of fourth-round cornerback Anthony Averett, fourth-round linebacker Kenny Young, fourth-round wide receiver Jaleel Scott, fifth-round wide receiver Jordan Lasley, sixth-round safety DeShon Elliott, sixth-round offensive tackle Greg Senat, sixth-round center Bradley Bozeman, and seventh-round defensive end Zach Sieler.

The Ravens must still sign first-round tight end Hayden Hurst, first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson, third-round offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and third-round tight end Mark Andrews, but those tasks are considered little more than formalities with the structure of the current collective bargaining agreement in place since 2011. As first-round selections, both Hurst and Jackson will carry fifth-year options the Ravens will have the choice to exercise for the 2022 season.

General manager Ozzie Newsome had the entire 2017 draft class signed by May 17 last season.

Doubling up on joint practices

The Ravens hadn’t conducted any practices with other teams since 2015, but they’ll double up in ending that drought this summer.

Asked about his team’s already-announced plan to practice with the Los Angeles Rams for two days ahead of the Aug. 9 preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium, head coach John Harbaugh revealed the Ravens will also practice in Indianapolis ahead of their Aug. 20 contest at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Both of those coaches called us,” said Harbaugh, referring to Rams head coach Sean McVay and new Colts head coach Frank Reich. “We have the longer training camp this year with our extra preseason game with the Hall of Fame game [on Aug. 2]. The way the training camp laid out, it looked like it would be good for us to create some breaks in the schedule where we could go against somebody else and organize the practices appropriately. We have to do a good job of that.”

The Ravens hosted joint practices with San Francisco in 2014 and practiced against the Eagles in Philadelphia in 2015.

Odds & ends

Nine days after being drafted, Jackson said he hasn’t yet talked to starting quarterback Joe Flacco. … Harbaugh said he was impressed with Jackson’s accuracy and “natural arm talent” during rookie minicamp. … Andrews having Type 1 diabetes wasn’t a consideration in the Ravens’ decision to draft him, according to Harbaugh. … Several players noted the challenge of the temperature rising north of 90 degrees on Friday, but Harbaugh was pleased with the rookies’ conditioning level and noted there were no major or soft-tissue-related injuries during the minicamp.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 2018 draft

Posted on 03 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens now finished with the draft and looking ahead to rookie minicamp this weekend, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. An organization that’s struggled to remain relevant nationally in recent years will have plenty of buzz as the Lamar Jackson watch begins. This will easily be the most interesting spring and preseason the Ravens have had in a long time.

2. Joe Flacco declining to speak to local reporters Saturday was much ado about nothing, but the Ravens created this situation and need to be prepared to handle it. Every national reporter coming through Owings Mills this year will be asking the veteran about the quarterback of the future.

3. I’m already seeing the annual overhype about the receiver competition as the Ravens added three veterans who combined for 87 catches for 1,009 yards last year and can point to Demetrius Williams as their greatest fourth- or fifth-round success story at the position in the 21st century. Pump the brakes.

4. With that said, I do like the diversity in skills and physical traits of the pass catchers added by general manager Ozzie Newsome. Even the surest thing, Michael Crabtree, coming off a down season makes you nervous, but there is enough potential and upside in this group to be hopeful.

5. Willie Snead was impressive in his press conference earlier this week, taking accountability for his difficult 2017 season without pointing any fingers for his disappearance in the New Orleans offense. Now we’ll find out if he was a byproduct of Drew Brees and Sean Payton or a productive slot option.

6. Drafting Anthony Averett gave Baltimore 11 corners on the preseason roster with as many as seven of those held in high regard. Health will factor heavily into the makeup of this group, of course, but the possibility of a late-summer trade to address another position of need still seems plausible.

7. Tight ends frequently struggle in their rookie season and his age could limit his overall ceiling, but I have little doubt that Hayden Hurst will be as good as he’s capable of being after reading this terrific piece by Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei. He’s already dealt with failure admirably.

8. Since many have cited Marty Mornhinweg’s work with Michael Vick in Philadelphia to endorse the first-round selection of Jackson, I’ll note that Flacco’s numbers began declining as soon as Mornhinweg took over as his quarterbacks coach the year after arguably the best regular season of his career.

9. I’m curious to see how DeShon Elliott fits at the NFL level as Pro Football Focus views him as a free safety while others envision him playing more in the box. The Ravens hitting on a late-round safety after using so many resources at the position recently would be helpful.

10. Jordan Lasley is the kind of prospect on which a team should take a chance in the fifth round. His off-field issues were far from egregious, but the key will be whether his issues with drops are correctable. I still like the pick at a position lacking any long-term answers.

11. Considering their impeccable track record with undrafted free agents, the Ravens tying a franchise record with 12 picks in the draft was surprising. You just hope they didn’t miss out on some quality players in the name of adding so much quantity in the later rounds.

12. With Baker Mayfield going first overall to Cleveland, Jackson being the final pick of the first round, and first-round hopeful Mason Rudolph sliding to Pittsburgh in the third round, ESPN would have a good “30 for 30” topic if the quarterback future of the AFC North comes to fruition.

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