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Twelve Ravens thoughts on opening of training camp

Posted on 19 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens holding their first full-squad workout on Thursday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Much has been made about the risks of a longer training camp, but John Harbaugh believes it provides the opportunity to extend the normal three-day acclimation period to try to curtail early-camp injuries. We’ll see how it works out, but easing key veterans into action certainly makes sense.

2. With Joe Flacco conducting off-site passing sessions with his receivers last week, when do the playoff tickets go on sale? In seriousness, there’s no downside to doing it and the optics are favorable, but I’ve always filed this over-discussed topic more into the eyewash department than anything moving the meter.

3. You could have made good money if you’d wagered last December that Jimmy Smith would be taking part in 11-on-11 drills on the first day of training camp. The oft-injured cornerback turns 30 next week and enters a critical season as he carries a $16.175 million cap figure in 2019.

4. Harbaugh wouldn’t confirm ESPN’s report that the organization will pay Breshad Perriman his $649,485 roster bonus, but the 2015 first-round pick practiced Thursday and drew groans from fans when he dropped a routine pass during an individual drill. As I wrote recently, the Ravens hate giving up on early picks.

5. Inside linebacker depth behind C.J. Mosley and Patrick Onwuasor is a concern with Albert McClellan coming off an ACL injury and Bam Bradley’s return from his own ACL tear not imminent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baltimore explore a veteran addition, especially if Kenny Young is slow to develop.

6. It appears Matt Skura will get the first chance to nail down the starting center job. His 12 starts at right guard last year provided valuable experience, but he must prove he can be physical enough and won’t lose ground as a pass blocker up the middle.

7. Tony Jefferson labeled last year a learning experience and believes new defensive coordinator Don Martindale will effectively use his strength of playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Dean Pees didn’t always use Jefferson correctly, but the high-priced safety still needs to show much more this year.

8. Maxx Williams made a nice sideline catch off a Jefferson tip during an 11-on-11 session on Thursday. With rookie tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews in the picture and Nick Boyle a better blocker, the 2015 second-round pick needs a strong and healthy summer to maintain his roster spot.

9. One of Thursday’s highlight defensive plays was Chuck Clark intercepting a Lamar Jackson pass that either went off Hurst’s hands or was tipped by Tavon Young in tight coverage. Clark could push Anthony Levine for dime snaps, especially with the latter missing much of the offseason with a foot injury.

10. Alex Collins being a veteran excused from practice early a year after he was cut by Seattle was surprising, but it speaks to the need to keep the undersized back fresh. After playing at 200 pounds last year, he’s carrying five extra pounds to see how his body responds.

11. The other quarterbacks in camp receive all the attention, but Josh Woodrum threw a beautiful deep touchdown to DeVier Posey in an 11-on-11 drill. I’ll set the over-under on my remaining mentions of Woodrum this summer at 3.5.

12. Speaking of quarterbacks, seeing Flacco, Jackson, and even Robert Griffin III throw the football reminds me how painful it was to watch Ryan Mallett with Flacco sidelined all last summer. It’s no wonder the passing game was an utter disaster over the first half of the 2017 season.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts counting down to start of training camp

Posted on 12 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning full-squad training camp workouts in less than a week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Alex Collins was no fluke in 2017, but he hit the 20-carry mark in just two games and averaged only 3.8 yards per carry over the second half of last season. His slighter 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame still suggests a need for an impactful complementary back like Kenneth Dixon to emerge.

2. I believe Michael Crabtree offers the highest floor and John Brown the highest ceiling of the wide receiver newcomers, but Willie Snead is my sneaky choice to stand out the most. Joe Flacco has been at his best when he’s had reliable slot options like Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.

3. For those inclined to blame Flacco for all of the offense’s problems, Pro Football Focus recently noted the 2017 wide receiver group generated the lowest rate of positively-graded plays and the highest rate of negatively-graded plays in the league last year. Yuck.

4. Speaking of 2017, I’m interested to see how Mike Wallace fares in Philadelphia after somewhat rebooting his career in Baltimore. Many say Flacco doesn’t elevate the play of his receivers, but wouldn’t these guys go elsewhere and at least do as well? Torrey Smith and Kamar Aiken, anyone?

5. Given the untapped youth and long-term questions at both inside and outside linebacker, John Harbaugh is showing great faith in new linebackers coach Mike Macdonald. Veterans Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley will be huge assets for the 31-year-old assistant, who was hired by the Ravens in 2014.

6. I’m curious to see who plays center on the first day of full-squad workouts next Thursday. Ryan Jensen topped the depth chart on the first day last year — even as John Urschel surprisingly retired — and never relinquished the spot. Will it be Matt Skura or Alex Lewis?

7. The Ravens ranked 24th in PFF’s preseason offensive line rankings. Whether you agree or not, the publication is spot on saying the group’s upside rests on Marshal Yanda. Is it realistic to expect him to be the same elite player coming off a major injury and being another year older?

8. I’m frequently asked about Lamar Jackson possibly starting over Flacco this year, but I only see it if the Ravens enter December with a 4-7 record and are out of the playoff race. Assuming Flacco and the offense haven’t played well under that scenario, Jackson playing would be a no-brainer.

9. I won’t hide from my criticism of the Ravens drafting a first-round quarterback this year, but that won’t temper my excitement to watch Jackson play this summer. I rarely look forward to “fake” football, but this is easily the most anticipated preseason for this organization in a long time.

10. It’s easy and fair to label Breshad Perriman, Kamalei Correa, Maxx Williams, and Bronson Kaufusi as potential cuts, but the Ravens rarely give up on former early picks until they absolutely have to. The disappointing Terrence Cody was even re-signed for another year. Just keep that in mind.

11. Close to 2,000 fans being able to attend training camp daily will be a plus for an organization needing to reconnect more strongly with its fans. The fallout of leaving Westminster was always going to be felt more at a time when the Ravens weren’t winning as frequently.

12. I get the rationale and advantages of the new digital ticket system, but the collector in me is bummed to see traditional game tickets go away. Hopefully the complimentary programs will continue to be distributed for years to come to appease those still desiring a physical souvenir from the game.

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Ravens must balance opportunity with health in expanded preseason

Posted on 11 July 2018 by Luke Jones

Ravens rookies reported for the start of training camp on Wednesday, just a week after the Fourth of July holiday and two weeks before many other teams in the NFL begin their summer work.

The early start is the result of the Ravens’ first ever appearance in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against Chicago on Aug. 2, which falls a full week before the start of the usual preseason schedule for the rest of the league. Extra practice time is predictably met with lukewarm enthusiasm from most players — particularly veterans reporting to Owings Mills next Wednesday — but an extra week of workouts and the shortening of that summer dead period when players are on their own is any coach’s dream.

The longer training camp prompted head coach John Harbaugh to schedule two sets of joint practices: the first with the Los Angeles Rams in Owings Mills on Aug. 6 and 7 and the other sessions in Indianapolis before Baltimore’s third preseason game on Aug. 20. These will be the first joint practices for the Ravens since they traveled to Philadelphia to work with the Eagles in 2015 and will provide Harbaugh and his coaching staff a useful litmus test, especially against the talent-laden Rams coming off an NFC West title last year.

“We don’t have to pack quite as much into that time,” Harbaugh said last month, “which I think is a plus for us — especially with a young team and a young quarterback and three new receivers. It should benefit us.”

Harbaugh has already confirmed that most veterans will not play in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, but rookie first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson and the rest of a franchise-record-tying 12-man draft class playing in an extra preseason game has value. Considering how poorly the offense played for much of 2017 after Joe Flacco missed the entire preseason with a back injury, the veteran quarterback having an extra week of practice to continue building chemistry with newcomer receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead is a bonus. And even a defense returning all but one player (reserve defensive back Lardarius Webb) from last season will benefit from extra sessions with new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and his revamped schemes.

But that all comes with a risk.

Players aren’t immune to injuries when even working out on their own, of course, but Harbaugh will be tasked with striking the right balance between maximizing the extra opportunities and keeping his team healthy before kicking off the 2018 season against Buffalo on Sept. 9. It’s no secret that injuries have been crippling at times with Baltimore ranking sixth or higher in adjusted games lost in two of the last three seasons, an undeniable factor in not making the playoffs since 2014.

Measures have been taken in recent years to combat health concerns by revamping the offseason conditioning program and installing natural grass at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens had a whopping 13 players on injured reserve by the time the 2017 season kicked off in Cincinnati last September. That number didn’t include tight end Dennis Pitta’s career-ending hip injury in the spring or Flacco’s summer-long absence and preceded season-ending injuries to Marshal Yanda and Brett Urban in the first three weeks of the regular season.

Injuries are inevitable in such a violent game with each competitive rep presenting the risk for something to go awry, whether it’s one player rolling into another’s leg, a big hit, or a simple misstep trying to cut upfield. That’s why Harbaugh will pick his spots as he’s annually done to try to keep players — particularly his veterans — as healthy as possible.

The extended preseason should provide more opportunities for that built-in rest as well.

“More is not always more,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to get more because of the time, but too much more would be too much. The ability to space that out a little bit, the fact that we can go hard and recover a little more because we have a little more time to do that is going to be a plus for us.”

A bigger plus would be a healthier roster when the real games begin, which will require disciplined planning and more luck than in recent years.

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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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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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Ravens officially sign 2018 third-round picks Brown, Andrews

Posted on 17 May 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens officially signed 2018 third-round picks Orlando Brown Jr. and Mark Andrews to four-year contracts on Thursday.

Brown, the 83rd overall pick of last month’s draft, is expected to compete with veteran James Hurst for the starting right tackle job this summer. The 22-year-old was projected by some to be a first-round talent before a poor scouting combine performance hurt his stock, allowing the Ravens to grab him in the third round.

“Everybody knows I’m slow. I’m not the fastest guy — half of you could probably beat me running, honestly,” said Brown, the son of late former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown. “That’s something that I continue to work on and I’m going to have to continue to work on during my career. My weight-room numbers aren’t the best, but football IQ — I’ve been around the game. My dad forced me to learn it.”

Andrews was selected with the 86th overall pick and is expected to compete for playing time in sub packages. Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta has compared him to former Raven Dennis Pitta, which could be good news for quarterback Joe Flacco and his affinity for pass-catching tight ends.

The Oklahoma product isn’t known for his blocking ability, but he has a chance to contribute immediately as a bigger slot option in sub packages.

“I haven’t got a lot of reps at doing [blocking] in college, but that’s something I’m going to learn,” Andrews said. “I think I’m going to thrive at it one day. I want to be a complete receiver, and one day I will be.”

The two signings leave first-round tight end Hayden Hurst and first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson as the only unsigned members of Baltimore’s 2018 draft class.

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